Normally you can feel the summer movie season coming in the weather, but sometimes online movie previews such as this — and a calendar — are much-needed proof that the season of the blockbuster is upon us.
This year’s movies are pretty diverse, and like last year’s summer slate — one of the best in awhile — pretty low on sequels.
Well, here are 20 other films that I want to call your attention to this summer. I’ve ranked them based on my personal anticipation, public buzz and the expectation that they will deliver some quality. Considering the summer is jam-packed, I’ve also included 10 other films I’m looking at but am highly skeptical of in terms of what the finished product will offer.
A “the story you didn’t know” version of a Disney film through a villain’s eyes has lots of geeky promise, especially with pitch-perfect casting in Angelina Jolie. Yet after the disappointment of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and mixed reaction to “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” this rich CGI fantasy world movie has something to prove.
19. Magic in the Moonlight (July 25 – limited)
Woody Allen’s newest film stars Emma Stone and Colin Firth and involves a swindle of some kind. We don’t know much else as of yet, but as with any Allen film, it could be amazing or a total waste of time.
Director Tate Taylor (“The Help”) will try and change up the pace of the summer once again with this James Brown biopic. How impressive that star Chadwick Boseman can play baseball legend Jackie Robinson and the king of soul? He’s a true talent. This film will have to prove itself more than another by-the-numbers music biopic, but this is the kind of film that could be just what we all need come August.
Fans of TV’s “New Girl” will delight to see Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.) and Nick (Jake Johnson) on the big screen in this comedy about two friends who score authentic police uniforms for a party and soon realize they can get away with impersonating officers. It’s a shot in the dark, but this could be a surprisingly funny comedy.
Horror fans are generally shunned during the summer, but last year’s “The Conjuring” was a rare mid-summer hit. Proven horror director Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”) and stars Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez and Olivia Munn are all good signs this film based on the account of an actual NYC police officer could offer a similar change of pace.
Seth MacFarlane earned carte blanche with “Ted,” but can he strike gold with a comedy Western, a genre that typical falters at the box office? Don’t expect “Blazing Saddles,” but a cast with Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Silverman among others hold promise.
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play a gay couple of nearly 40 years who after finally getting married, are forced to live apart when one is fired from his Catholic school job. Early festival reviews are glowing.
Hiccup and his dragon Toothless won over audiences with charm and sweeping 3D sequences, but that was four years ago. The film will surely be a box-office smash with very few animated movies out this summer — namely no competition from Pixar— but DreamWorks has had a shaky record with sequels in terms of quality. (“Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Madagascar 2” and “Shrek 2” were respectable, but not improvements on their originals.)
Yes, the first one was hilarious, and I like directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller enough to trust in this sequel to some degree, but when was the last time you saw a great comedy sequel? They are so rare, that it’s hard to put high expectations on this movie. The trailers suggest more hilarity in the dynamic between stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, so let’s hope those weren’t the only good jokes.
Adapted from the best-selling novel, this movie features new “it girl” Shailene Woodley (“Divergent”) as a teenager with cancer who falls in love with a fellow cancer survivor. The script comes from the writers of “(500) Days of Summer” and last summer’s coming-of-age hit “The Spectacular Now.” Expect it to be more along the lines of those films and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” than “A Walk to Remember.”
At long last, Robert Rodriguez got around to a “Sin City” sequel almost a decade in the making. It looks like from the teaser that he hasn’t skipped a beat, but we still don’t know much about this movie. On the other hand, it’s star-studded and the buzz will surely grow.
Tom Cruise and sci fi go hand in hand these days. He plays a soldier in the future who relives his death on the battlefield again and again. Eventually he teams up with Emily Blunt, and each day they train harder and harder to change the outcome of the battle. This high-concept action film could get confusing fast or be fascinating – at least the talent is there. Personal bias — this concept is right up my alley, and director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”) is reliable enough.
“The Matrix” directors Andy and Lana Wachowski deliver this ambitious sci-fi/fantasy tale about an ordinary Earth woman (Mila Kunis) fated for greatness and swooped off on an adventure by a genetically engineered Channing Tatum. A film with this much imagination will either be a franchise-starter or a total failure. Warner Bros. usually snags up this mid-July release date for one its major franchises (Christopher Nolan’s “Batman,” and the “Harry Potter” series), so maybe that’s a good sign for “Jupiter.”
A reboot of the infamous Japanese kaiju necessitates some skepticism, but the trailers have been mind-blowing in scale, and director Gareth Edwards’ under-seen “Monsters” offers proof that this version, starring Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson could turn the “cheesy monster movie” stigma around. Fingers have never been more tightly crossed.
It’s not getting raves, but it’s the first summer movie and fans and critics are so far liking this more than the first rebooted chapter starring Andrew Garfield. Concerns about villain overcrowding affecting the script are legitimate, but the entertainment value appears wickedly high.
The 2011 summer hit “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” surprised everyone, and buzz is high for the sequel, which has slowly revealed its cards. The story takes place after the simian virus teased at the end of the first film has wiped out much of the human population. Caesar (motion capture Andy Serkis) and the apes continue to gain dominion over the planet, but a band of survivors who fear them (led by Gary Oldman) perpetuate avoidable war.
This comedy pits frat boys (Zac Efron, Dave Franco) against new parents (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) in a war of getting even when the two become neighbors. The movie has gotten excellent reviews since it premiered at South by Southwest.
This indie project is something film nerds like myself have been following for a long time. Richard Linklater filmed this movie over the course of 12 years to capture the physical growth of a boy and his family. This groundbreaking effort has gotten outstanding reviews at festivals thus far.
Marvel Studios’ summer film comes in unusual, irreverent form with this take on a lesser-known comic about a ragtag group of intergalactic “heroes.” Chris Pratt (“Parks & Recreation”) makes his action hero debut along with Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper voicing a CGI raccoon and Vin Diesel voicing a tree alien whose only line is “I AM GROOT!”
Bryan Singer is coming under heat in his personal life, but Singer the director who made the first two “X-Men” movies is a much-welcome return for the latest installment. Singer got together the original “X-Men” cast with their younger selves from “X-Men: First Class” for what looks like (and from what some critics are saying) and sounds like the biggest and best “X-Men” movie yet. The story involves Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) traveling back in time to stop an event that will lead to the destruction of mutant kind.
10 Summer Films to Be Skeptical About
Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore reunite for the third time, but considering “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates” were actually charming, the cliché doesn’t quite work here. Anyway, Sandler’s films have been awful of late, so the only hope is that he’s gone for more heart given the family tone of this story of a single dad and mom whose families are stuck together on an African vacation.
Movie adaptations of hit musicals are usually awards-season material, so what’s “Jersey Boys” doing in the summer? The music sure is catchy, but the bigger question is can Clint Eastwood bounce back? He hasn’t made an excellent movie in some time now.
With Shia LaBeouf gone and Mark Wahlberg now the face of the franchise, is this the “fresh start” fans wanted or the same big, loud, dumb Michael Bay routine with new actors? These films have always been technically impressive, but the plots have been garbage. And as much as I loved Dinobots as a kid, I’m not sure how that they’ll work in an actual story.
“Earth to Echo” is one of those seemingly new concept films that you’ve definitely seen before. It looks like a combination of “E.T.,” “WALL*E” and J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8” done in the style of the found-footage superhero flick “Chronicle.” There’s no quantifiable talent behind this either. Director Dave Green and writer Henry Gayden are an unknown duo and the entire cast is unfamiliar faces.
Dwayne Johnson is one of few worthy to take on the lion mantle of Hercules on the big screen, but Brett Ratner is far from the ideal director for an epic fantasy action film. The teaser trailer looks good in that “trying to appeal to you the same way ‘300’ did the first time” sort of way, but manage your expectations.
The team behind “Bad Teacher,” including director Jake Kasdan and stars Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz, in the story of a husband and wife whose sex tape goes viral. When the whole reason your movie has a plot is because of “the Cloud,” there’s reason for concern, as easy to enjoy as “Bad Teacher” was.
People were very sensitive and accusatory when word of this reboot first broke given the way producer Michael Bay described it, and with Megan Fox as April O’Neil, few plan to take this reboot seriously. Director Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles,” “Wrath of the Titans”) has a wicked fun eye for action, but his films tend to be pretty empty otherwise. Hmm, sounds like an aforementioned director we know.
Luc Besson has been prolific as a producer, writer and director in recent years, though nothing he’s done (even “Taken”) has managed to outshine “The Professional,” the film that put him on the map. “Lucy” likely won’t either, but Scarlett Johansson will certainly make things entertaining in this story of a woman with a liquid bag of drugs that can unlock one’s entire brain capacity sewn into her — and it’s leaking. I’m cautiously optimistic.
The old action stars are back with the familiar faces and new ones in Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and Mel Gibson as the villain. “The Expendables 2” turned out to be a good bit of fun — more than I’d like to admit — but how many times can you ride these old dogs? We don’t know what to expect from director Patrick Hughes either.
My 7th grade self would’ve been all over this adaptation of the Lois Lowry novel. Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep in supporting roles ought to get everyone’s attention, but it seems the only reason this classic dystopia film got on the fast track is because of “The Hunger Games.” Expect people to take a critical lens to this adaptation.