The old adage with “summer movie season” says that it extends roughly from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The kids are out of school, the days are hot, and folks just feel more open to leaving their homes. From a historical standpoint, this has lead to the most lucrative box office intakes occurring over these few months. The studios have responded, as there seem to be more and more “event” movies every summer. Hell, we’re even starting to see darling indies from Sundance get released over the summer as opposed to during awards season.
With that being said, the “summer” season in terms of movies grows bigger every year. This year we’ve seen Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron (which will surely finish the year as the highest-grossers without Jedi’s in them) come out well before Memorial Day. Mad Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2 had an interesting mid-May battle as well. And while studios sometimes hold their big releases back until the holiday season (Star Wars, The Hunger Games), June, July, and August remain the biggest months of the year for Hollywood.
I’m here as your resident move nerd to take you through the major upcoming releases of this summer, providing the lowdown, as well as an argument for and against why each one deserves your $12. I cannot get through every movie being released, so I’ve focused on those that figure to make the most noise.
Studio: New Line/Warner Bros.
Director: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti
Lowdown: After a devastating earthquake hits California, THE ROCK heads right into the destruction to try and rescue his daughter in this disaster epic written by Lost and Bates Motel veteran Carlton Cuse.
Why you should see it: The Rock has actually become a somewhat passable movie star. A Carlton Cuse script means that there may be some logic to it. Fancy disaster CGI, carnage, etc.
Why you should skip it: Because disaster movies are almost always stupid and there doesn’t appear to be much to this showing it could be any different. Also, what happened to Paul Giamatti?
Studio: RatPac/Columbia Pictures
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, John Krasinski, Alec Baldwin
Lowdown: Legendary writer/director Cameron Crowe attempts a career renaissance after 15 years without a good movie in this mature romantic-comedy about a defense contractor (Bradley Cooper) who falls in love with a young lady (Emma Stone) while on assignment in Hawaii.
Why you should see it: Cameron Crowe is great when he’s at his best, perhaps this stacked cast can help him recapture his former glory. Bradley Cooper has three straight Oscar noms and has become one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.
Why you should skip it: Crowe is probably past his prime and the trailer makes the whole movie look like just an excuse to have Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone kiss.
Studio: HBO/Warner Bros.
Director: Doug Ellin
Starring: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrar, Jeremy Piven, a bunch of celebrity cameos
Lowdown: After four really hilarious seasons filled with brilliant hollywood satire and then four crap seasons filled with melodrama, everyone’s favorite bros are finally on the big screen. I have no idea what the hell the story is going to be, but then again, I was basically lost after season 5. Regardless, there will be plenty of attractive women, celebrity cameos and Ari Gold one-liners.
Why you should see it: Ari Gold, Rob Gronkowski funneling beers, and it’s Sex in the City for men.
Why you should skip it: It’s just Sex in the City for men.
Studio: Chermin/Feigco/20th Century Fox
Director: Paul Fieg
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Jude Law
Lowdown: The team behind Bridesmaids and The Heat returns for this surprisingly expansive ($65 million budget) action comedy. McCarthy stars as a CIA paper-pusher thrust into action when other agents (Jude Law, Jason Statham) going missing requires her to go undercover to bust a major arms dealer (Rose Byrne).
Why you should see it: Early reviews are off-the-charts and the McCarthy-Feig combo has scored major hits in the past. Also, Rose Byrne and Jason Statham.
Why you should skip it: Because Melissa McCarthy is a one-trick pony who isn’t very funny and you should stop giving her money.
Love & Mercy
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Director: Bill Pohlad
Starring: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti
Lowdown: This relative hit from last years Toronto International Film Festival tells the story of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson as a young man (Paul Dano), and older man (John Cusack), focusing on the creation of the landmark album Pet Sounds.
Why you should see it: The soundtrack, as well as the score (from Atticus Ross) should be great. Paul Dano is one of the best actors working today.
Why you should skip it: Musical biopics generally don’t turn out that well. Pohlad is a rookie director.
Studio: Legendary/Universal Pictures
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins
Lowdown: Young Canadian talent Colin Trevorrow make his major studio debut with this reinvention of the classic franchise set two years after the original. Chris Pratt stars as a a Velociraptor trainer working in a fully functioning park, but later, something goes wrong and dinosaurs eat people.
Why you should see it: Chris Pratt + A FUCKING MEGALODON.
Why you should skip it: May very well be yet another stale 21st-century remake of a classic created for no other purpose than to sell toys.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Studio: Indian Paintbrush/Fox Searchlight
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, Ronald Cyler II, Jon Bernthal, Nick Offerman
Lowdown: This years winner of both the Grand Jury and Audience prizes at Sundance focuses on two high school friends making a film for their friend Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who’s dying of leukemia.
Why you should see it: MAJOR praise from everyone who saw it at Sundance, could be this years The Fault in Our Stars.
Why you should skip it: Potentially could be another overly-sentimental teenage tearjerker.
Director: Pete Docter
Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling
Lowdown: The latest offering from Pixar and Pete Docter (Monster Inc, Up) is set inside of the mind of a young girl, featuring her emotions as characters. Received serious praise in an out-of-competition screening at Cannes.
Why you should see it: Pixar. Unique concept. Docter is two for two with the studio so far. Strong word from Cannes. Pixar.
Why you should skip it: The last three Pixar films (Cars 2, Brave, Monsters Inc.) haven’t been the achievements we’ve come to expect from the landmark animation studio.
Studio: I am other/Open Road Films
Director: Rick Famuyimw
Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoe Kravitz, Tyga, A$AP Rocky
Lowdown: A surprise success at both Sundance and Cannes from a talented director, Dope focuses on a geeky kid struggling to balance his life in a rough LA neighborhood. The film started a major bidding war and was eventually sold for a large but undisclosed amount.
Why you should see it: Strong early reviews and Hollywood obviously feels like it could be a major sleeper hit. It’s getting heavy promotion.
Why you should skip it: Its critics say it gets racial politics grossly wrong. Oh, and Tyga is in it.
Also opening June 19th are Manglehorn (starring Al Pacino), Infinitely Polar Bear (starring Mark Ruffalo), and The Overnight (starring Adam Scott).
Studio: Media Rights Capital/Universal Pictures
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman
Lowdown: After the all-around failure that was A Million Ways to Die in the West, MacFarlane returns to his bread-n-butter with Ted 2, a sequel to his smash hit about a Boston slacker an his talking, bong-ripping teddy bear. The general premise consists of the bear asking Wahlberg for semen so he can have a baby with his now-wife.
Why you should see it: First one was a smash hit and if you enjoyed it, you’ll surely be in line for part two. There’s also a relative lack of other dude-oriented R-rated comedies this summer.
Why you should skip it: Perhaps you’re like me and are getting sick of Seth MacFarlane.
Also being released June 26th are Big Game and Batkid Begins.
Studio: Skydance/Paramount Pictures
Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, Lee Byung-hun
Lowdown: The once-proud franchise gets a full on reboot with a (mostly) new cast including Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke. Alan Taylor (GOT, Thor: The Dark World) directs a script set in the year 2029.
Why you should see it: Because it’s (hopefully) going to recapture the magic of perhaps the most important sci-fi franchise in cinematic history. It could also be Emilia Clarke’s coming out party.
Why you should skip it: The trailer doesn’t indicate that it brings anything new to the table other than its cast, and I’m not convinced Emilia Clarke is actually a good actress yet.
Magic Mike XXl
Studio: Warner Brothers
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Starring: Channing Tatum, Matt Borner, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash
Lowdown: In the sequel to the 2012 hit, our favorite male strippers take a road trip to South Carolina for a dance contest. Set to feature cameos from Donald Glover, Michael Strahan, and even Ric Flair.
Why you should see it: The first one was a genuinely awesome movie. Steven Soderbergh is still on as the DP and editor. Tatum has proven himself more than capable of carrying otherwise crappy movies with his on-screen charisma.
Why you should skip it: Sadly, Soderbergh didn’t direct this time around and there’s no McConaughey. Could be a cash-grab sequel.
Studio: Illumination/Universal Pictures
Director: Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda
Starring: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney
Lowdown: The scene-stealers from Despicable Me finally get their own movie, finding them in Antartica with Sandra Bullock voicing the chief villain.
Why you should see it: Both Despicable Me films were major successes and the Minions were everyone’s favorite part.
Why you should skip it: It’s a spin-off.
Studio: Gramercy/Focus Features
Director: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Michelle Dockery
Lowdown: Before throwing on the Deadpool costume, Ryan Reynolds stars in this original sci-fi property where a dying old man (Kingsley) tries to transport his consciousness into the body of a young man (Reynolds).
Why you should see it: We hardly get any original, intelligent sci-fi anymore so we should buy in when we do.
Why you should skip it: Director Tarsem Singh doesn’t exactly have a great track record and there’s been virtually no promotion of this film so far, perhaps it’s just not very good.
Also being released July 10th are the horror film The Gallows and gymnastics drama The Bronze.
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena
Lowdown: Paul Rudd stars as convict turned bite-sized superhero in the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that also features Michael Douglas as the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. Despite various development issues (like writer/director/genius Edgar Wright leaving the project), anticipation is quit high and the trailers look good.
Why you should see it: Marvel has become a relatively safe bet for quality films. Paul Rudd seems ready to prove himself as more than just a funny sidekick. Trailers looks good.
Why you should skip it: There’s a sense of dread hanging over it, as after Wright left the project, Marvel quickly hired a relative no-name in Peyton Reed to direct. It may very well be rushed to meet its set-in-stone-years-ago release date.
Studio: Apatow/Universal Pictures
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, John Cena
Lowdown: Written by and starring the hilarious Amy Schumer, and directed by Judd Apatow, this South by Southwest hit seems to have all the makings of comedy gold. Also features Method Man, LeBron James, and Daniel Radcliffe.
Why you should see it: Schumer appears ready for her moment. She’s hilarious, and Apatow may be just the director to help her get to the top. A very interesting all-around cast. GREAT early reviews.
Why you should skip it: Will Schumer’s brand of comedy work on the big screen?
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Jamie Blackley, Parker Posey
Lowdown: This years annual Woody Allen release finds a professor (Phoenix) falling in love with one of his students (Stone). Shot in Rhode Island, the film saw its premiere come at Cannes, and like most Allen films, different people loved and different people hated it.
Why you should see it: Phoenix is the best actor working today and he seems perfect for this character in emotional crisis. Allen has made some great films rather recently (Blue Jasmine, Midnight in Paris).
Why you should skip it: Allen has also made some bad films rather recently (Magic in the Moonlight, To Rome with Love). Is the relative lack of buzz from Cannes a warning sign?
Also coming out July 17 is Mr. Holmes, which stars the great Ian McKellan as a retired Sherlock Holmes.
Studio: Happy Madison/Columbia Pictures
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage
Lowdown: Adam Sandler and Kevin James team up once again (ugh) in this big budget family action-comedy where aliens attack the earth using classic video games as a model. Was pushed back a few months so the effects teams could have more time.
Why you should see it: Chris Columbus has been great in the past, that’s all I can say in favor of seeing this.
Why you should skip it: Where do I begin? It’s (seemingly) a moronic concept, Adam Sandler and Kevin James have just been awful recently, etc.
Studio: Escape Artists/The Weinstein Company
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker
Lowdown: Jake Gyllenhaal packs on the pounds for this boxing drama that was originally set to star Eminem. The Weinstein Company helped produce and is distributing the film, which means that there may very well be some awards season buzz to come from it.
Why you should see it: Gyllenhaal has become a great actor and seems to have really devoted himself to this role. Weinstein’s clearly saw something in the script.
Why you should skip it: It’s been almost fifteen years since Fuqua has made a great film (Training Day). May very well be just another melodramatic boxing movie.
Studio: Marvel/20th Century Fox
Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell
Lowdown: This team of Marvel heroes gets a darker and more intimate reboot featuring an exciting young cast (Michael B. Jordan!!). Footage shown at comic-con was met with acclaim and a sequel is already tapped for 2017.
Why you should see it: Early word is extremely positive in regards to the tone and effects in the film. MICHAEL B. JORDAN.
Why you should skip it: Some bad blood between the studio and director Josh Trank has made its way to the press, which is never a good thing.
Studio: Relativety Media
Director: Jared Hess
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Oen Wilson, Jason Sudekis
Lowdown: The director of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre shoots a script co-written by Danny McBride featuring a stacked ensemble of comedic talent. Set up as a heist comedy.
Why you should see it: Funny cast.
Why you should skip it: Little word thus far and next to no footage released.
Also on August 7th: Meryl Streep’s music comedy Ricki and the Flash.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Studio: Davis Entertainment/Warner Bros.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant
Lowdown: The latest from Guy Ritchie, an adaption of a 60’s television series where secret agents attempt to stop a criminal organization from developing weapons during the Cold War. An action-comedy.
Why you should see it: Interesting cast (Alicia Vikander!!!) and Guy Ritchie films are always entertaining.
Why you should skip it: Guy Ritchie isn’t everybody’s cup of tea (get it? Because he’s British).
Straight Outta Compton
Studio: Legendary/Universal Picture
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr.
Lowdown: This long-in-the-works story of the legendary rap group N.W.A. finally secured a good director with F. Gary Gray. The film will tell the tale of the group’s rise and fall, focusing on the relationships between the rappers.
Why you should see it: F. Gary Gray is a talent and the story of N.W.A. is an interesting one that deserves to be told.
Why you should skip it: From the footage released so far, it looks sort of corny and much like Notorious, something that will only appease hip-hop fans.
While there are some other films coming out, these are the ones that figure to make a box office impact.
Have a good summer at the movies, or not, whatever.