August may officially be part of the summer movie season, but with the exception of a few titles (“Fantastic Four,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), many of the new films being released this month are very un-summer-like. Not that it’s a bad thing, of course, as audiences are likely experiencing blockbuster fatigue at this point in the year, but while there are some promising movies on the schedule, you probably shouldn’t set your expectations too high. After all, in the past five years alone, there have been only a handful that we’d ever want to watch again.
Who: Miles Teller, Kata Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell What: Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. When: August 7th Why: After going the lighter, more family-friendly route with its first two Fantastic Four movies, Fox has done a complete 180 with this gritty, super-serious reboot from director Josh Trank that surely marks the studio’s last chance to get it right. Unfortunately, that hasn’t shielded the project from the inevitable fanboy criticism, whether it’s the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, or recent rumors of the film’s troubled production. And while the casting debate is a non-starter (not only is Jordan an excellent actor, but he’s a great choice for the role), the latest trailer doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that “Fantastic Four” is going to be any better than its predecessors. Different, yes, but not better.
“Ricki and the Flash”
Who: Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Sebastian Stan and Kevin Kline What: A musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family. When: August 7th Why: On paper, “Ricki and the Flash” sounds like a surefire hit. It boasts Oscar-winning talent in the form of star Meryl Streep, director Jonathan Demme and writer Diablo Cody, and is perfectly positioned as a clever piece of counterprogramming to the barrage of superhero movies and action films. What’s not to like, right? As it turns out, an awful lot judging from the trailer. Not only has the whole rock star/estranged parent story been done countless times before, but nothing about the film suggests that it’ll bring anything new to the table, either. Though Streep’s recent trend of turning bad movies into awards contenders (see: “Into the Woods, “August: Osage County”) is certainly impressive, it’s hard to imagine that continuing here.
After a rather lackluster June with very few major releases (and even fewer that were any good), the summer season kicks back into high gear this July with a trio of highly-anticipated sequels, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a handful of original comedies that could end up being the biggest surprises of the month.
Who: Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke What: After finding himself in a new timeline, Kyle Reese teams up with Sarah Connor and an aging terminator to try and stop Judgement Day. When: July 1st Why: The “Terminator” movie franchise has been limping along for over a decade now, first with the terrible “Rise of the Machines,” and more recently with the failed reboot starring Christian Bale, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from trying to keep the series alive. So what makes this latest attempt any different? For starters, it has James Cameron’s official seal of approval, and it’s easy to see why, since the movie is tied very closely to the first two installments, playing with the time travel aspect in the same way that J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” did to reinvent the franchise. It still doesn’t look very good, but we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because we love watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in full Terminator mode.
“Magic Mike XXL”
Who: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello and Jada Pinkett Smith What: Three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance. When: July 1st Why: One of the biggest complaints about the first “Magic Mike” was that it was a lot gloomier than moviegoers were expecting for a film about male strippers, and Channing Tatum has addressed those issues with the promise that the upcoming sequel will be a much lighter affair. Though it’s sad to see Matthew McConaughey isn’t involved in the project (he was, after all, one of the highlights of the first film), “Magic Mike XXL” doesn’t appear to be short on colorful characters, including bigger roles for supporting players like Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello, and the addition of Jada Pinkett Smith. And if the trailers are any indication, it hasn’t lost its self-mocking sense of humor, either.
After a successful start to the summer thanks to surefire hits like “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and over-performers like “Pitch Perfect 2” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the blockbuster movie season continues with a pair of much-anticipated sequels, the big screen debut of an HBO favorite, and a welcome return to originality from the brilliant minds at Pixar. This month also features its share of Sundance favorites, so you’ll have a hard time not finding an excuse to visit your local theater a few times throughout June.
Who: Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara What: As his first piece of business as Warner Brothers’ new studio head, former super-agent Ari Gold greenlights Vincent Chase’s directorial debut. When: June 3rd Why: It’s been four years since “Entourage” ended its incredible run on HBO, and in that time, there’s been a lot of talk about a potential big screen revival from series creator Doug Ellin, producer Mark Wahlberg and the cast. But now that it’s finally here, does anyone even care? That’s what we’re about to find out, but if “Sex & the City” (which had a similar gap between its series finale and the first movie) is any indication, the studio has nothing to worry about. “Entourage” already has a built-in audience, so the real question is whether non-fans will bother to take the plunge, and perhaps more importantly, how much they’ll need to know about the series to understand the events of the film.
Who: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne and Jude Law What: A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer and prevent diabolical global disaster. When: June 5th Why: Despite starring in some of the worst comedies of the last few years, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of Melissa McCarthy slowing down. For what it’s worth, “Spy” looks like it might be McCarthy’s best starring vehicle to date, although that’s largely due to the other people involved. It’s nice to see Jason Statham finally getting a crack at comedy (even if he’s playing the straight man here), while Jude Law and Rose Byrne are some of the most dependable actors in the business. The movie also played like gangbusters at SXSW earlier this year, and though that’s not exactly the best gauge of its quality, it can’t be any worse than “Tammy.”
Summer is finally here, and what better way to start off the blockbuster season than with the sequel to the biggest film from three years ago: Marvel’s “The Avengers.” Though it may seem like it could only go downhill from there, May has plenty of exciting films on its slate, from the “Mad Max” reboot, to the “Pitch Perfect” sequel, to the shrouded-in-secrecy “Tomorrowland.” And while not every title is guaranteed to hit its mark, there’s enough potential here that 2015 is shaping up to be one of the best summers at the movies in years.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron”
Who: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Don Cheadle What: When Tony Stark’s robotic peacekeeping program goes awry, it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans. When: May 1st Why: Joss Whedon was given the unenviable task of one-upping “The Avengers” (a job made even more difficult on the heels of “Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”), but it certainly looks like he’s done it with “Age of Ultron.” Though there was always the risk that adding more characters to the Avengers roster would cause the movie to feel overstuffed (just look at that cast list!), there aren’t many directors who can handle large ensembles better than Whedon, because he always finds a way to make everyone feel like an integral part of the story. “Age of Ultron” may be Whedon’s Marvel swan song, but if early word is any indication, he’s gone out on a high note.
Who: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara and Robert Kazinsky What: An inept police officer must protect the widow of a drug dealer from criminals and dirty policemen. When: May 8th Why: Pairing Reese Witherspoon with Sofia Vergara may have sounded like a good idea on paper, but this looks absolutely awful. Witherspoon hasn’t made a good comedy since the original “Legally Blonde,” while Vergara has been living off her funny foreigner shtick for way too long. It works as part of an ensemble like “Modern Family,” but just watching the trailer gives me a headache from her incessantly loud and nasally screaming, let alone the thought of having to sit through 90 minutes of it. Hollywood may be desperate to prove that women can be funny, but while there’s no disputing that fact, you’d be better off just waiting one more week for “Pitch Perfect 2.”
Who: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin and Joely Richardson What: A teenage girl becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side. When: May 8th Why: Though the whole zombie subgenre has been played to death (no pun intended) over the past five years or so, Henry Hobson’s “Maggie” offers an interesting take on the subject by spinning those genre roots into a father-daughter relationship drama that feels more like “The Road” than “The Walking Dead.” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return from retirement hasn’t exactly gone the way he hoped, so it’s nice to see the actor stretching himself here with a more subtle turn as opposed to his usual action fare. Whether he has the dramatic chops required for such a role remains unseen, but in a month jam-packed with blockbuster films, this small indie has definitely piqued my interest.
As we edge closer to summer season, you’d think that the quality of films would increase, but one look at the April movie slate suggests the complete opposite. Not only are there a surprising lack of new releases this month, but only a few of them show any sort of promise, like the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise and the directorial debut from Alex Garland, which still doesn’t make up for the fact that a “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” sequel actually exists.
Who: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell and Lucas Black What: Criminal mercenary Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his “family” for the death of his younger brother. When: April 3rd Why: The “Fast and Furious” movies have always been about fast cars, beautiful women and ridiculous stunts, but the upcoming seventh installment in the long-running series has a weight on its shoulders unlike any sequel/prequel before it. The unexpected death of Paul Walker not only effected the film’s production, but the manner in which he died has cast a morbid shadow over the project. As a fan, it’s great that they found a way to honor Walker and still complete the movie, but it’ll be interesting to see how the red-hot franchise continues going forward. If “Furious 7” does end up being the checkered flag at the end of an incredible Hollywood story, at least it’s going out in style with new additions like Jason Statham and Kurt Russell, and what looks to be some of the craziest set pieces to date.
Who: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Sonoya Mizuno What: A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I. When: April 10th Why: Writer Alex Garland has worked almost exclusively in the science fiction genre, so it comes as no surprise that his directorial debut occupies a similar space. The debate on artificial intelligence may not exactly be a novel premise, but Garland has proven with films like “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine” that he’s capable of bringing a fresh spin to familiar material. And while are certain aspects of “Ex Machina” that we’ve definitely seen before, the trailers hint at something much more intriguing, beginning with the stunning design of Alicia Vikander’s A.I character. The movie also garnered rave reviews following its premiere at SXSW, and between Garland’s reputation for thought-provoking sci-fi and the brilliant casting, “Ex Machina” is shaping up to be something special indeed.
Who: Tom Hardy, Joel Kinnaman, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke What: A disgraced member of the military police investigates a series of nasty child murders during the Stalin-era Soviet Union. When: April 17th Why: Based on Tom Rob Smith’s bestselling novel of the same name, “Child 44” isn’t the type of movie you’d normally expect to see released during this time of year. The material seems more appropriate for awards season, which suggests that the film didn’t live up to the studio’s expectations and was dumped instead, because there’s nothing about April that screams Russian period drama. Though it’s hard to believe the movie isn’t any good with such an impressive cast, director Daniel Espinosa has yet to convince me that he deserves to be working with top talent like Denzel Washington (“Safe House”), Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman. It probably doesn’t help that the trailer is a complete bore, because it only highlights the potential issue plaguing the film.