Now that the summer movie season is finally over, it’s time to turn our attention to fall, and more importantly, awards season. Though you don’t normally see many Oscar hopefuls being released in September, over the past few years, studios have begun rolling out potential contenders earlier and earlier in order to get a leg up on the competition, and there are a few films this month that definitely fit the bill. Of course, if you’re still pining for some mindless entertainment left over from the doldrums of August, there’s plenty of that too.
“The Transporter Refueled”
Who: Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Gabriella Wright and Radivoje Bukvic What: In the south of France, former special-ops mercenary Frank Martin must rescue his kidnapped father after he unwittingly helps rob a Russian kingpin. When: September 4th Why: Apparently, the dearth of original ideas in Hollywood has gotten so bad that movie franchises from the early 2000s are now being rebooted, and if that sounds totally ridiculous, it’s because it is. The last two “Transporter” films may not have been very good, but rebooting the series with a different actor is hardly the answer. If the studio wanted more “Transporter” movies, they should have just done another sequel with Jason Statham instead, because this new version with Ed Skrein (who famously quit his recurring gig on “Game of Thrones” to make the film) looks even more terrible than Statham’s final appearance in the title role.
Who: Kathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Olivia DeJonge and Peter McRobbie What: A single mother sends her two children to visit their grandparents for the week, only to discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing. When: September 11th Why: M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been circling the drain for the better part of a decade now, so it’s not surprising to see him reduced to making found-footage horror movies in order to pay the bills. There’s nothing even remotely scary in the trailer to suggest that “The Visit” will be anything other than a disappointment, which is a shame, because Shyamalan used to have a real talent for creating suspense. His last few films were a complete joke, however, and while it would be nice to see him stop the rot with a low-budget genre movie that plays to his strengths as a director, “The Visit” simply doesn’t look the part.
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.