Follow Brendan Hodges at
With Furious 7 officially kicking off blockbuster movie season (and already reaching a truly staggering billion dollars in no time at all) I thought it was time to look ahead to The Metaplex’s most anticipated movies of summer 2015. The selection, at first glance I’ll admit, isn’t great. It’s front heavy with three of summer’s most hyped releases coming out of the gate in May, but let’s see what we got…
25.) Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Guy Ritchie)
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Elizabeth Debicki and Alicia Vikander
Release: August 14th
Even if you hated the try-hard trailer, remember Guy Ritchie’s track record. Okay, the sequel to Sherlock Holmes wasn’t great (the first wasn’t either but it was fun), but nevertheless, Ritchie’s strong hand style leaves little room for boredom. I miss the days of Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels like the rest of you, but a british spy story laced with a homoeroticism (just check out that poster) is a better fit than an ill-advised update on Holmes. He’s a talent who’s been in a bit of a rut, and this looks like the kind of levity Kingsman: The Secret Service tried to find in the spy genre. Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill and The Social Network’s Armie Hammer co-star, and both are in serious need of showing what they got (so to speak). Let’s hope this is it.
24.) Pitch Perfect 2 (Elizabeth Banks)
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean
Release: May 15th
This is a singular entry on this list for a couple reasons. One, it’s the only musical comedy. Two, it’s one of the only big-name films in 2015 to be directed by a woman. Elizabeth Banks is behind the camera this time around, directing The Barden Bellas, the a cappella group with the forever charming Anne Kendrick as the head, in a worldwide music competition. The first Pitch Perfect was a break-out niche delight, and trailers have given every reason to think the same success will be found here.
23.) Trainwreck (Judd Apatow)
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, and Tilda Swinton
Release: July 17th
After making an impressive name for herself on Comedy Central, Amy Schumer is an ideal choice for co-writing and starring in Judd Apatow’s latest, Trainwreck. The premise alone is worth a chuckle: raised to be allergic to monogamy and commitment, Amy (Schumer’s character) meets a handsome, smiling doctor (Hader) that leads to a re-examination of her life, life choices, and ultimately, herself. Opening to very positive reviews out of the South by Southwest Film Festival, many call this one of Apatow’s best. Sure to be one of the most talked about comedies of the summer, I’m just extra excited to see Short Term 12‘s Brie Larson in anything (who, frankly, needs a big break).
22.) Minions (Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda)
Starring: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm< Michael Keaton< Allison Janney, and Steve Coogan
Release: July 10th
Hot off the fan-pleasing success of Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2, we get out first spin-off and prequel set in a world of dominated by super-villains. Taking place in the 60s, Minions chronicles the origins of the adorable iconic waist-high yellow creatures with big eyes and goggles. They inadvertently killed their super-villain masters, those previously being Dinosaurs, Ghengis Khan, Napoleon and Dracula, and travel to a “villain convention” to find a new one. While spin-offs are usually met with a cautious eye I’m particularly at ease with this one, which has ripe territory to develop into a fun narrative and typically gorgeous animation.
21.) The Gift (Joel Edgerton)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
Release: May 31st
A curious project from star turned writer/director Joel Edgerton (I was surprised he wrote and directed this too), this domestic thriller is about a couple who meet a creepy old friend. He leaves off-putting gifts, shows up at odd times, and his overall off-kilter intrusive demeanor sends them reeling. Edgerton, of course, cast himself in the showy part of the creepy old friend, with Bateman and Hall leading as the couple. Most stars want their directorial debut to be a big buzzy project with huge stars. That Edgerton chose a small-scale Hitchcockian thriller as his first is an excitedly unconventional choice, one I’m eager to see come May.
20.) Terminator Genisys (Alan Taylor)
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, J.K. Simmons, Matt Smith, Sandrine Holt, and Jason Clarke
Release: June 1st
Like Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road, Terminator Genisys has to overcome cinema’s own Curse of the Billy Goat. That is to say, that sequels decades apart, especially with different casts, tend to crash and burn in spectacularly disappointing fashion (I try to forget about Terminator Salvation). This is more of a franchise reboot than sequel, though, adopting 2009s JJ Abrams directed Star Trek “in” of an alt-timeline with timey-wimey goodness. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke is the lead, her first real big film role, and seeing how well she can translate from mother of dragons to kicking ass as Sarah Conner will be a real thrill. Add some eye-catching stunt work (like a bus flipping multiple times mid-air) and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the series, and this ought to be an action romp with a nostalgic bite. I’m cautiously optimistic about this one.
19.) Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, and Vincert D’Donfrio
Release: June 12th
Not even the lovable Chris Pratt can convince me the latest Jurassic Park is going to be any good. The last two ranged from missable to bad and when has a third sequel ever succeeded? Still, writer and director Trevorrow’s heart is in the right place, seeking to modernize and update the Jurassic Park world with relevant themes and strong visual ideas—although I’m not sure how I feel about the rolling spheres instead of jeeps. The analog feel of the original is one of its strengths, and I worry if the new aesthetic might undermine the threat of the dinos. I know this sounds mostly negative, but World is due to be a good time at the movies, and on the off chance it really works, we may have a new classic on our hands.
18.) When Marnie Was There (Hiromasa Yonebayashi)
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, John C. Reilly, Vanessa Williams and Geena Davis
Release: May 22nd (limited)
It was a sad day when the famed Studio Ghibli announced they were closing their creative doors, the Japanese animation studio behind Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Grave of the FIreflies, and so many other beloved classics. The studio is called by many the finest animation house in the world—an opinion I agree with—formerly headed by masterpiece maker Hayao Miyazaki (now retired), and When Marnie Was There is purportedly the final film to be released by the legendary film studio. Already a huge box office success overseas, this is a more solemn and meditative work than some of the more kid friendly fair, telling a story about a sick young girl befriending a blonde haired girl named Marnie. Quality of content time and time again promises their final film to be an anime delight.
17.) Inside Out (Peter Docte and Ronnie del Carmen)
Starring: Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Mindy Kailing and Bill Hader
Release: June 19th
Watch out baby, Pixar’s back and looks as good as ever. A much needed return to form for the famous company that, as bad luck and empty winded sequels would have it, hasn’t released a standout original film since 2009’s Up. Toy Story 3 was great, but Pixar needs to breathe new life into cinemas, and after 50 minutes recently screened to sensational reactions net-wide, it appears they have. For their 15th feature the kid-friendly company turns high concept, with the premise of Inside Out taking place entirely in the mind of a young girl. The characters are each of her five emotions—anger, joy, disgust, fear, and sadness, and together they battle through daily life. It’s an inspired take on a coming of age story. Don’t disappoint, Pixar.
16.) Aloha (Cameron Crowe)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Jay Baruchel, Bill Murray
Far from his origins in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Say Anything, Crowe is making more adult and mediative works, albeit ones with a playful tone. Aloha is a star studded romantic comedy led by Bradley Cooper, an actor on one of the hottest streaks in the history of acting (he’s had oscar nominations the last three years in a row), falls for Emma Stone. There’s a political subtext to boot, with Cooper playing a defense contractor and Stone as an Air Force Pilot, talent behind and in front of the camera makes this perfect for date night.
15.) San Andreas (Brad Peyton)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giammati and Carla Gugino
Release: May 31st
Apparently looking to out-Emerich the movies of Roland Emerich himself, this disaster movie visualizes a cataclysmic earthquake that tears apart Los Angelos, California. Because the visual effects and action scenes need a flimsy excuse to hold together, a divorced ex-husband and ex-wife try and rescue their daughter. Look, I’ll be honest. I’ll see anything with Dwayne Johnson. He’s become a prized commodity for movie fans and probably fans of fun in general. Add to that the fact disaster movies have some of the best eye candy in the biz (and allow for lines like “the Earth will literally crack open” to be brought to life in expensive splendor), San Andreas seems like reliably low-brow popcorn fun.
14.) Pixels (Chris Columbus)
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Monaghan
Release: June 24th
Okay, Adam Sandler is a bad sign. Kevin James probably is one too. It’s the goofy off-kilter premise that spells comedy success: in the 80s NASA sent a space capsule with Earth’s culture out into the cosmos. When aliens find it, they wrongly interpret video games as an act of war, therefore, of course, the logical solution is to invade Earth as the characters from the video games. In essence, this is a movie where Pac-Man invades Earth. Oscar glory isn’t what you look for in a Sandler-James flick, but I’m paying to see this movie, and with Home Alone and Harry Potter director Chris Columbus at the helm, it might actually turn out (half?) okay.
13.) Regression (Alejandro Amenábar)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis
Release: August 28th
This uncharacteristically early-season thriller/horror precedes the typical fall slot, offering mid-year pulp for genre fans (for those looking to get your horror fix now, you can’t do better than It Follows) from director Alejandro Amenábar. His 2001 The Others is one of the best reviewed horror flicks from the past 15 years, and with a Shakesperian ensemble of performers in Hawke and Thewlis, matched by the first dark turn by Emma Watson, this is the rare movie of its type deserving of hype. The setup for the plot is simple: a father is accused of a crime he (claims) he has no memory of committing. I’m most excited to see Watson stretch her acting wings, but the film itself should impress.
12.) Ant-Man (Peyton Reed)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll and Michael Douglas
Release: July 17th
What some will forever think of as sloppy seconds from Cornetto Trilogy writer-director nerd superstar Edgar Wright, who dropped out of the project reportedly due to friction with Marvel’s intense creative control with the project, it might actually have gestated into a solid product. With a strong cast and trailer that was well received, fans have regained confidence in a film that seemed off the rails. Another worrying fact is dealing with yet another origin story for a superhero—not to mention a peculiar, off the wall one one named Ant-man that’s a guy who goes for a ride on The Magic Schoolbus and shrinks down. The irreverent tone might sell it though, and Paul Rudd has the comic chops not to play it straight.
11.) Me & Earl & The Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, Jon Bernthal, Nick Offerman
Release: June 12th (limited)
A Sundance hit, this critically acclaimed coming of age story bears traces of The Fault in Our Stars with a high-school time period mixed with a heartbreaking cancer diagnosis. The festival circuit is build to find and market films like these for the masses, and with hype this fierce it seems asinine not to see a movie some are already calling a classic. Coming of age stories are perfectly suited for summer, and discovering new talent is as exciting for critics as it is for the audience.
10.) Irrational Man (Woody Allen)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, and Parker Posey
Release: July 24th
Woody Allen’s run hot-cold since the 1980s, a trend he almost perfected in the 2000s. 2011s Midnight in Paris is a seminal work many hail as one of his best while breaking through to a younger audience for the first time in years, but flip the coin in 2012 and it’s tails: the followup To Rome with Love was a skunk of a stinker. Flip the coin again, and 2013s Blue Jasmine was acclaimed to the point it won Cate Blanchette a deserving oscar. Little is known of Irrational Man beyond the basics of the plot: a philosophy professor suffers, you guessed it, an existential crisis until he meets a student. Respectively played by Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone. The plot is business as usual for Allen but after last year’s dull Magic in the Moonlight he’s due for a winner, and the idea of a Phoenix collaboration is undeniably exciting.
9.) Slow West (John M. Maclean)
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, and Rory McCann
Release: May 15th (limited)
Already the glorified son of the 2015 Sundance film Festival, this Western has received acclaim from all corners: it has a coveted 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and with particular focus on the sure-handed direction by newcommer John Maclean, and as expected, sure-fire talent of Michael Fassbender. A slow-burn thriller with action on its mind, the narrative’s origins start innocent before turning ugly: a young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) journeys across the 1800s American Frontier with a cowboy (Fassbender) to find his lost love. Early buzz compares Slow West to Tarantino and The Coen Brothers, the kind of comparisons that make you enter a theater with high expectations.
8.) Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg)
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Strurridge, and Michael Sheen
Release: May 1st (limited)
A ye-olde romance in the dignified vein of Charlotte Brontë (who wrote Jane Eyre for those who forgot high-school English), this is an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel of the same name. Set in Victorian England, Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba, an independent woman, who contends over choosing three suitors: all of them are different. While this might not seem ideal for the adrenaline seeking action junkies raised on Bayhem, keep in mind Mulligan’s acting talent is matched only by her beauty, and, of more importance, is the director. With The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg turned a drama about a boy wrongly accusing a teacher of pedophilia into a bare-knuckle brawl of dramatic intensity, spinning an already morally complex tale into a terrifying viewing experience. He’s a powerhouse director, and on those grounds alone—if no others—Far from the Madding Crowd is required viewing.
7.) Fantastic Four (Josh Trank)
Starring: Miles Tellar, Michael B Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, and Toby Kebbel
Release: August 7th
I had little to no interest in this project until I saw the trailer. Another Fantastic Four movie? The project seemed to carry the foul odor of a franchise trying too hard, of The Amazing Spiderman, but the vision, tone, and style of the tease left me floored. Yes, it aped Interstellar’s arrangement and another shot looks like the prologue from The Dark Knight Rises, but the early look was more than anything, a promise ring that if we wait for the movie, and if we see it opening night, we will be rewarded in kind. The found-footage superhero movie Chronicle was a creative riff on anime classic Akira, and I see no evidence of creative slowing down. Plus, Whiplash told us Miles Tellar is a powerhouse performer and the rest of the cast are strong; so I have hope.
6.) Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
Starring: Domhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander
Release: April 10th (limited) And it just went wide this weekend!
The sort of small scale sci-fi we could use more of, this already well-reviewed (it rests at an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes) meditation on artificial intelligence is set to join the ranks as a definitive take on the subject in cinema. We follow a reclusive genius played by soon to be super-super famous Oscar Isaac (he’s the guy in the X-Wing in the Star Wars trailer, though you recognize him from Drive and Inside Llewyn Davis) who meets a young programmer played by another Star Wars star: Domhall Gleeson. Together they monitor, and possibly become compromised by, a gorgeous humanoid android that probably seduces at least one of them. Smart science fiction is rare, and this looks to be an unusually bright summer gem.
5.) Southpaw (Antoine Fuqua)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Rita Ora, Naomi Harris, Forest Whitaker, and 50 Cent
Release: July 25th
Far from “another boxing film” Southpaw follows Billy Hope (a very ripped Jake Gyllenhaal coming off hot after Prisoners, Enemy, and Nightcrawler) struggling to get custody of his child after his wife (Rachel McAdams) is murdered by a stalker. He’s deemed reckless and unfit for parenthood, loses his money, and his only choice is to box his way back into the green. After cult favorite and eternally quotable (and now meme-able)Training Day was under his belt, Fuqua’s directing career has been hit or miss. What he needs is a great creative force on the page to match the bite of his camera, and Sons of Anarchy showrunner Kurt Sutter may be a match made it heaven. Buzz is high on this one, and with Gyllenhaal added to the mix, expect a knock-out performance in a film with an emotional wallop.
4.) Tomorrowland (Brad Bird)
Starring: Brit Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, and Judy Greer
Release: May 22nd
Brad Bird’s second live-action feature after Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, this sci-fi yarn about a young girl that discovers a mystical retro-futurist city (with George Clooney playing the father, no less) looks to be the mystery box film of the summer. That is to say by design we know next to nothing about the plot, best left to be discovered on a mammoth cinema screen and a wall of sound. Admittedly recent trailers haven’t had the wow factor for me, but after The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Ghost Protocol I trust Bird with an open heart to match my open wallet.
3.) Mission Impossible Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and Alec Baldwin
Release: July 31st
Not even HBO’s recent Scientology slamming documentary Going Clear can stop Tom Cruise from being the last genuine movie star on the planet. His screen presence cracks with enough electricity to power a major city and demands to do his own stuntwork, including having missiles shot at him in Edge of Tomorrow, driving a car at hyper speed in Jack Reacher, and hanging off the side of the tallest building in the world in Mission Impossible’s 2011 franchise best Ghost Protocol. The man is insane, not because he’s a Scientologist but because of his outrageous work ethic and determination to bring everything he has to each movie he does. The latest Impossible might not be able to top Brad Bird’s fabulous direction last time around, but it’s destined to be an action highlight of 2015. Cruise is the biggest reason why.
2.) The Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffolo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johanson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, and Elizabeth Olsen
Release: May 1st
Marvel, once the punchline of every joke making fun of the current state of cinema, has legitimized itself with movies that refuse to suck. Quality varies between them but even the series lows (Iron Man 2, Thor) entertain. 2014 was a Hulk-smashing win with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and fan favorite Guardians of the Galaxy, delivering not just the two best Marvel movies, but two of the best movies last year period. Confidence in Marvel is at an all time high, and Whedon has upped the ante considerably from 2012s superhero team-up The Avengers, including an Iron Man vs Hulk sequence early screenings say is sublime. Add on genius out-of-left-field casting with James Spader in the lead. HYPE.
1.) Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller),
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicolas Hault
Release: May 15th
Officially a reboot but more of a spiritual sequel, this is the successor to the hair raising groundbreaking car flipping Mad Max Trilogy. This time we have primal intimidator Tom Hardy in the lead as the often silent titular character, a perfect replacement to Mel Gibson. The series is famous for two things: campy absurdism in a post-apocalyptic old West (and, point of fact, Mad Max practically launched the now dominant sci-fi subgenre of post-apocalyptic storytelling) and wild car chases that set new standards of insane. Footage promises a crazy ride with chases, spiked steel, a disfigured Nicholas Hoult shouting “What a lovely day!”, all on a spectacular stage of wide-screen desert vistas that have made Fury Road’s trailers the best of 2015. If there’s a film to break the long-awaited sequel curse, it’s this.
Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS below: