by Philip Price
It's that time of year again, the summer movie season is upon us. As always, this annual commencement of super hero blockbusters and action films galore with high budget comedies and low budget horrors both looking to break out in their respective genres begins with the first weekend in May. As you likely already know with the present media blitz attacking every screen you look at it will be the latest ‘Avengers’ adventure that will be kicking off summer this year, but there is a whole lot more to talk about and a whole lot you might not have heard of yet.
10. ‘Inside Out’
It has been three years since we've received an original Pixar offering during the summer movie season and two years since we've received one at all. While last year’s absence from the still reigning studio of animated features certainly wet many an appetite for their return it doesn't hurt that “Inside Out” looks to be a return to form that has been sorely lacking in the wake of the lackluster reviews for “Brave” and the overall drag that was the two “Cars” movies. Telling the story of 11-year-old Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) the film goes inside her mind to explore the inner workings of her personality by creating personifications for her emotions including fear, sadness, anger, disgust and joy. The rest of the stellar voice cast for the personified emotions includes Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Lewis Black. “Inside Out” opens June 19th.
With a screenplay from “Lost” co-creator and head scribe Damon Lindelof that has been intently kept under wraps and direction from Brad Bird, who has done nothing but prove himself time and time again, I am extremely eager to dig into their collaboration. Described as being about a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius who are bound by destiny and embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space I can't help but feel I should be filled with wonder. That the writer and director have also described the film as one of pure discovery I'm hopeful that means it will present an interesting world to actually explore rather than letting itself become wrapped up in a standard plot. Fingers are officially crossed as I'm really rooting for this one to be a break-out. George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Judy Greer and Keegan-Michael Key star. “Tomorrowland” opens May 22nd.
8. ‘Straight Outta Compton’
From the moment the first red-band trailer for this film premiered back in February I was hooked. I'm a huge fan of old school rap in general (not to mention corny ‘90s R&B as well as awesome ‘70s funk) and so to see NWA get their due in what looks to be a rather exhilarating film is something to be excited for. NWA emerged from the streets of Compton, Calif. in the mid-1980s and basically revolutionized pop culture by introducing their lifestyle and the trials of their upbringing through their music to an entire audience that likely wasn't aware of the truths of their reality. I imagine the film will chronicle the rise and eventual tragedy that struck the group as well as the significance of their cultural impact, but hopefully will do good not to fall into too many music biopic conventions. Directed by F. Gary Gray and featuring a solid cast of up and comers including Ice Cube's real-life son O'Shea Jackson Jr. “Straight Outta Compton” opens August 14th.
No matter what others say I will always be an advocate for Judd Apatow and his directorial efforts that attempt to make something prestigious out of dick jokes. While “Trainwreck” will be the director’s first feature that he didn't also write his critical success this time around hinged on branching out and trying something different so it's good he's at least trying. Written and starring stand-up comedian Amy Schumer the film deals with a woman (Schumer) who was raised to think monogamy was never possible and has become a commitment-phobic career woman because of it. Of course, there is a film about her because she may finally be forced to face her fears when she meets a good guy in Bill Hader. I'm not overly familiar with Schumer's comedy, but the film received mostly positive reviews out of its SXSW screenings last month and, if nothing else, I'm excited to finally see Hader in something of a leading role. Also starring Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton, Marisa Tomei and LeBron James “Trainwreck” opens July 17th.
As of late, Jake Gyllenhaal has been on something of a hot streak. Re-defining his place in the public eye and universe of film as one of the most reliable actors working today. Whether it be in small-scale pictures such as “Source Code” and “Enemy” or in sweeping dramas such as “End of Watch” or “Prisoners,” not to mention last year’s career-defining performance in “Nightcrawler”; the guy has consistently been hitting it out of the park for almost half a decade now. I can only imagine this way of thinking concerning his career will continue into the projects he's chosen next which is highlighted by director Antoine Fuqua's latest. Centered around a boxer who fights his way to the top, only to find his life falling apart around him Gyllenhaal looks to have made another ridiculous transformation. While I initially expected the film to be something of an Oscar-contender I won't complain about getting to see it earlier than expected as it will no doubt be solid counter-programming this summer. “Southpaw” also stars Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent and Rachel McAdams and opens July 31st.
5. ‘Pitch Perfect 2’
The first “Pitch Perfect” was something of a lightning in a bottle experience. For this reason, the fact they made a sequel at all makes me nervous. That said, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I really enjoyed that first film and have seen it more times than I care to admit. Having a certain affection for these characters and basically seeing them do what they do best on a bigger scale surely will be enjoyable if not completely warranted. The real kicker for me here though is the fact Elizabeth Banks will be making her directorial debut with this sequel. Even if I hadn't loved the first film and could care less about collegiate a cappella groups I think I'd be interested in seeing what Banks has to offer from behind the camera as she is always more than appealing in front of it. With the majority of the Barden Bellas returning and Rebel Wilson reportedly already signed on for a third film Universal must either want to milk this cow for all it's worth or actually have a fair amount of faith in this second installment. Let's hope it's the latter. “Pitch Perfect 2” opens May 15th.
4. ‘Fantastic Four’
The dark horse comic book movie of the summer, I can't help but feel this one will be something of a surprise for most. I've been championing this one since last December and for the life of me can't figure out why so many people on the Internet feel so negatively towards it. While the teaser trailer that debuted in January certainly had an ‘Interstellar’-vibe to it concerning discovery and pushing the human race further it looks to truly be a film that is going for something very specific with a clear idea of what it is. With so many super hero films these days conforming to a very strict set of guidelines I can't help but applaud director Josh Trank for seemingly thinking outside the box - I just hope my optimism pays off. The brief synopsis that describes our four young scientists achieving superhuman abilities through a teleportation experiment gone haywire who then use those abilities to save the world from an uprising tyrant doesn't exactly reveal much, but I like the mystery surrounding this marketing campaign and can only see it as a good sign and not one of how bad the film is trying to be hidden from the public. Starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell “Fantastic Four” opens August 7th.
I'm going purely on faith with this one. While “Straight Outta Compton” will chronicle the actual events that made up the culture of the early ‘90s “Dope” seems to be a take on why, in this age of consistent technological advancements, we tend to revert to so much nostalgia. It really is fascinating to see our current culture revel in the past to such an extent. Maybe we always have, but with social media this fact really comes to light and the people behind TV who now have access to that heartbeat of pop culture are certainly taking advantage of it. In short, “Dope” is about a self-proclaimed ‘90s nerd named Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori) who get caught up in a drug deal and must figure out how to recoup the money and stay alive. Unlike “Tomorrowland,” that last bit sounds a little too plot-heavy, but I'm hoping for good things as the tone of this one is hitting a sweet spot. “Dope” opens June 19th.
2. ‘Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation’
When the latest ‘Mission Impossible’ was pushed up from its original December release to late July I could not have been more excited. Not only would we get to see the film almost six months early, but that Paramount/Universal thought the film was good enough to move up rather than delay showed real promise. When the trailer then debuted a few weeks later I only became more excited as writer/director Christopher McQuarrie's take on the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise looks to be as exhilarating and action-packed as any other entry while completely capitalizing on the good will built by ‘Ghost Protocol.’ This time around, Ethan (Tom Cruise) and team (including a returning Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner and introducing Rebecca Ferguson) take on their most impossible mission yet as they attempt to eradicate the Syndicate - an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are and who are bent on destroying the IMF. “Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation” opens July 31st.
1. ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’
There's really no way around it, no way to even escape it. Marvel is a power house and while I may not feel as excited for the next installment of this ongoing series in the lag between each of them, every time it gets close to the release of the next one I remember how much I enjoy going to the movies to see them and the connection they all have with one another. It's like waiting for the next season of a show you really enjoy that you tend to forget some of the details for in the interim. Now being on the cusp of the second ‘Avengers’ I am really beginning to feel the excitement. While the first film didn't hold up as well for me on repeat viewings the early reviews for ‘Ultron’ are nothing but high praise with many commenting on how different it is from the first film. This time around Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, but naturally things go awry and it is up to Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans. Starring Robert Downey Jr.,Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Andy Serkis, Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens May 1.