Posted Tue May 5, 2015 at 10:00 AM PDT by Matthew Hartman
Back when I was growing up, the summer movie season didn't truly begin until the first week of June, when school was finally let out. Gosh, that makes me feel old, but it's true. Nowadays, kids get to enjoy your summer movies at the beginning of May! One could argue that with recent successes the likes of 'Furious 7' or last year's 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' - the summer movie season now begins in April. For the purposes of the High-Def Digest Summer Movie Guide - we're starting with May and rolling all the way up to Labor Day Weekend and the ultimate death of fun summer movies. Here's our look at the biggest, best, and most promising theatrical releases of Summer 2015!
For appropriate theme music, I strongly suggest you plug in Glenn Frey's "The Heat is On" before reading further.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Apparently this is a sequel of sorts to a previous film called 'The Avengers' but not one starring Sean Connery, Ralph Finnes, and Uma Thurman. Seriously, who hasn't heard of this movie? The fact that it's going to be a blockbuster is of little doubt, what will be interesting to see is how well this movie does over the long haul. Already, 'Age of Ultron' has pulled in over $500 million world wide. While it's $191 million opening may not have broken the record, it's impressive and shows that this franchise still pulls in huge crowds. Without much competition the following week, it's easy to predict this one winning consecutive weekends. 2015 is a crowded summer season and this is just the first big tentpole release of many to come.
Now that 'Avengers Age of Ultron' has opened and dominated cinema screens for a solid week in the United States bringing in upwards of $210 million +, smaller fish are going to try and come up to the top and feed off the remains. I strongly doubt any of these releases will overtake 'Age of Ultron' in its second weekend round, but I can see them collectively taking a big bite out of the pie.
This PG-13 zombie flick stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a father determined to protect his infected daughter (Abigail Breslin) from being terminated when she becomes a flesh eating zombie. There was a lot of buzz around this title going into Tribeca, but the film has been met with a lukewarm reception so it's anyone's guess how this one comes out. Fans expecting Arnold to arm wrestle zombies who are clearly pushing too many pencils will probably be disappointed by the films more somber tone. 'The Walking Dead' fans waiting for their 6th season fix may find this interesting, but that all depends on how well people buy Arnold emoting actual emotions.
As a smart piece of counter programming to all of the superheroes and zombies on screen, this Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon starring action comedy has a serious shot at leading the pack of the new releases. The trailer plays like a throwback to Martin Breast's 'Midnight Run' and could prove to be a good bit of fun. I see this one taking in bigger numbers than 'Maggie' only because Arnold's recent ventures haven't seen the best successes of late and anyone curious to see the Austrian Oak on screen are probably saving their money for 'Terminator Sega Genisys' in July.
Mad Max: Fury Road
The road to a new 'Mad Max' film has been a long one to pave. After numerous false starts, rough test screenings, and lengthy reshoots, George Miller's latest entry to the franchise will finally reach screens - but will it light up the box office? Considering the marketing for this film, people are certainly excited to see this one, but will they actually head out to theaters or wait for the Blu-ray? Genre and franchise fans will most certainly be there, but will anyone else? I'll be there, front and center - I'm more than willing to overlook the memories of a lycra clad Tina Turner in 'Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome' and the entirety of 'Happy Feet 2' with the stunt work and practical effects showcased in the trailer. Also its an R rated big budget summer movie - something that doesn't come around very often any more without starring a cadre of aging 80s action icons. If there is a movie that could overtake 'Age of Ultron' for the top spot, it's this one - but then I'm a guy who isn't that interested in seeing 'Pitch Perfect 2'.
Pitch Perfect 2
'Pitch Perfect' was a modest little hit when it was released in 2012, pulling in $65 million domestic. Universal is taking a stab at some summer movie counter programing by releasing this sequel just weeks after 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' and against 'Mad Max: Fury Road.' Given that a third entry to the franchise has already been greenlit with several stars slated to return, Universal clearly has a lot of faith in this movie delivering some sweet box office music. But will it? How well this one does I think is dependent on 'Hot Pursuit.' If that movie is a modest success, it could bleed some bucks away from 'Pitch Perfect 2.' This one certainly has the young teen market locked down, but whether or not it draws in a bigger audience is the question. I wouldn't count this one out for unseating 'Age of Ultron' and beating out 'Mad Max' - it's an underdog movie that could over perform against the testosterone fueled slate of films.
This one has been on a lot of people's radar ever since that first cryptic teaser trailer hit screens. It's got George Clooney, Brit Robertson, and Hugh Laurie in a Disney adventure film written by Damon Lindelof and cowritten and directed by Brad Bird. This movie has "awesome" potentially written all over it. Brad Bird has long been a strong presence at Pixar and proved himself as a worthy director behind the camera with 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.' The real X factor here is Lindelof. If we get a heady and interesting concept that executes, it could be great. If we get another 'Prometheus' where more questions are raised than answered at the expense of characterization - this one could upset genre fans. My money is on Brad Bird bringing this one home in grand style. Plus, with the lengthy holiday weekend, this one could bring in some serious box office numbers.
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, and directed by Paul Feig, this R rated action adventure comedy could prove to be fans first glimpse for whats in store with next summer's Ghostbusters reboot. Melisa McCarthy has been up and down as of late but she's proven herself to be a solid box office draw and adding Rose Byrne and someone with the action chops of Jason Statham, 'Spy' could well turn out to be a sleeper hit… or a gigantic flame out. It's far enough removed from 'Avengers' to draw an audience, but with parents very likely being committed to taking their kids to 'Tomorrowland,' the R rating may prove to be a difficult obstacle towards putting a significant number of people's rear ends in seats. That said, don't count this one out - especially if it pulls solid reviews.
Dwayne Johnson VS Earthquake in this big time summer disaster flick. If you've seen the trailer than you already know you're in for CGI destruction and over-the-top action emotions the likes of which would make Roland Emmerich cry with jealousy. The story of "The Rock" playing a rescue chopper pilot on a mission to save his family after a super earthquake has destroyed California isn't the main draw here. This entire movie rises and falls on the visual splendor spread across the screen in 3D. After 'Avengers: Age of Ultron,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' and 'Tomorrowland' all opening in May, audiences might be experiencing CGI spectacle fatigue. If there's a movie release in May that has the most to lose, it's probably this one.
Insidious: Chapter 3
A strong rule of thumb is never count out the power of a horror movie - even one that is rated PG-13 and is the third entry in a franchise. On the face of the trailer, this prequel that is numbered after the previous installment doesn't look poised to light up the box office. What it has going for it however is the fact that audiences might need a fright. After 'It Follows' and 'Unfriended,' 'Maggie' is the only other recent major horror movie release. People that weren't interested in Skype Killer or Zombie Daughter and Terminator Dad might be itching to see something spookier. Also because it's age appropriate, you can count on this one drawing some of those young kids that are getting ready for summer break.
Another strong rule of thumb is never count out a romantic comedy drama - especially one directed by Cameron Crowe. Granted, 'We Bought A Zoo' may not have lit screens on fire, but fans have been ready for strong comeback for Crowe who hasn't had a true critical hit on his hands since 'Almost Famous.' With stars the likes of Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Bradley Cooper, Bill Murray and Alec Baldwin this could either be a nice little romantic comedy - or something people make fun of on their way to go see 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' for the tenth time. The trailer looks cute and fun, but then again it looks like it could have enough sap to fill a Christmas tree. Fingers crossed this one turns out half way decent.
Fans of the HBO series have been waiting patiently for a very long time to see this one come to the big screen. People interested in the continuing adventures of Vincent, Turtle, Eric, Johnny and Ari will get their chance to see the hit comedy make the leap from premium cable to the big screen, but can it match the success of 'Sex and the City?' Considering the broad audience appeal of the show, my money is on this one making some solid bank. Without any other adult comedies on the slate other than 'Spy,' this should draw in people looking for some easy date night laughs. I've only gotten through a couple seasons of the show, but this trailer makes me want to binge watch so I can get caught up in time for the movie's release.
B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldy Operations
This one should bring in the kids looking for something akin to 'Monsters Inc.' style entertainment. A secret organization is entrusted to keep humans save from evil hauntings. With a voice cast that includes Matt Bomer, Melissa McCarthy, Seth Rogen, Bill Murray, Rashida Jones and Octavia Spencer all playing ghosts, this one could be fun. I say could because it's anyone's guess if it will actually get released. This Dreamworks Animation title is slated to reach cinema screens on June 5th and yet, not a single trailer has been released. For a packed summer, it's doubtful this one holds onto its release slot if they haven't even begun marketing the film with little over a month to go.
Genetically enhanced dinosaurs terrorize people at a state-of-the-art amusement park in 'Jurassic World.' Wait… that sounds familiar? This fourth entry in the series works to re-establish the 'Jurassic Park' brand 14 years after the previous installment. On the face of the marketing, this could be a big win or a big snooze. Universal certainly believes it has a hit since this entry is being designed to potentially kick off a new trilogy of films. Without any other big budget spectacle films surrounding it, 'JW' shouldn't have much trouble winning the weekend, but will it win fans? Until the most recent trailer, fan anticipation has been fairly divided. Even with the presence of last year's breakout star Chris Pratt, I can see strong word of mouth being needed to properly resurrect these dinos.
I'm putting my foot down and calling this one the most charming movie of the summer. Based on the trailers, Pixar looks to have a great piece of family entertainment on their hands that should appeal to kids and adults alike. Giving this one a boost is the fact that it's Pixar's first non-sequel release in quite a number of years. I personally really hope this little tale of emotions wins a lot of hearts. After the announcement of yet another 'Toy Story' film, Pixar could use some encouragement to start generating more original content again. Will this one beat out 'Jurassic World" in its second week of release? Possibly. If it does that would certainly be an embarrassment for that title. I see these emotional characters going neck and neck with the dinosaurs.
With emotions fighting dinosaurs for the top spot, 'Paper Towns' could be the quiet victor. Don't believe me? If this one manages to pull in numbers even close to John Green's previous novel adaptation 'The Fault in Our Stars,' 'Paper Towns' could be a real contender in the weekend boxoffice fight. I personally think this one will pull a close third. The tipping point will be how well this one grabs the targeted young adult audience that could be swayed by a new Pixar entry. Regardless how this one finishes the weekend, I see this one having some long legs keeping it astride.
With the popularity and the success of 'Ted' this should be a no brainer. The trailer looks great bringing that same Seth MacFarlane sense of humor. While this is a safe bet for having a solid opening weekend, its all going to depend on whether or not people remember 'A Million Ways to Die in the West.' If people are tired of MacFarlane's brand of humor, even an inappropriate talking bear they enjoyed two years ago could have a hard time winning back audiences. I want this one to be good, I want more random 'Flash Gordon' references, so here's hoping it works.
Opening in limited theaters and On Demand, this one probably won't be making any waves - which is a shame since it looks like it could be quite the ride. At first, the idea of a kid from Finland helping the President of the United States played by Samuel L. Jackson after Air Force One was shot down seemed like a stupid plot for a run-of-the-mill action kids movie - which it could still be - but man that trailer looks fun. Stupid no doubt, but fun. Since this one was in the can over a year ago and has already opened in several international markets as of this writing, don't expect this it to move far into the top ten for the weekend.
July 4th weekend is traditionally the biggest weekend of the summer bringing in some of the largest releases and reaping some of the giganticest (sorry, I ran out of adjectives) opening weekend hauls of the summer movie season. This year, oddly enough, the two big releases feature naked guys. buff, burly naked guys sent back through time to prevent the robot holocaust and ripped buff dancing guys getting paid to take their clothes off - proof there's a first time for everything! In a parallel universe these two franchises could have been combined into a single crossover movie event, so I gues we should count ourselves lucky to live in our current frame of time and space!
Honestly, it's anyone's guess how this one goes down. The first photoshopped press pictures made this movie look like a joke and the first couple trailers didn't help improve things. Serving as a sequel and timeline reboot much like the J.J. Abrams 2009 'Star Trek,' 'Terminator Genisys' sees series favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger return to the role that made him a star, only this time as a barrel-aged-for-flavor version of himself protecting Khaleesi without her dragons and helpng a new and confused Kyle Reese save the future. How well fans embrace this one is going to entirely depend on word of mouth. Some people can't wait to see it, others are already calling it a complete failure. With this one worked from an idea James Cameron himself supplied, it has a chance to be good. I'll give it that much. With a rumored PG13 rating coming, this could be a huge hit or a massive miss. If its a miss, I don't think any amount of time travel is going to be able to right the franchise. It could also hurt the prospects of Arnold continuing his run as an older battle-hardened Conan The Barbarian, which for me would be the greater loss.
Magic Mike XXL
Three years ago 'Magic Mike' managed to become one of the most profitable movies of the year raking in over $113 million against a $7 million budget. Now can the filmmakers capture lightning in a bottle twice? After 'Jupiter Ascending' descended drastically domestically, 'Magic Mike XXL' is going to be the real test of Channing Tatum's audience draw and star power. With a lot of guys off to 'Terminator,' the ladies get their own action movie this July 4th. Which one will be the big winner of the weekend? I call 'Terminator Genisys' simply because it secures the young male action movie audience. If 'Magic Mike XXL' pulls an upset, I wouldn't expect to see too many more 'Terminator' films any time soon.
After the successes of 'Despicable Me' and 'Despicable Me 2' there is absolutely little doubt that 'Minions' will be a success. With how much kids love those little yellow guys and their undeniable charm, I can easily see this one winning the weekend and knocking out the titan of the 'July 4th' weekend frame. With two weeks distance from Pixar's 'Inside Out' - kids may be itchy for a movie they can enjoy that doesn't involve 68 year old cyborgs and guys that take their clothes off… not that parents would take their kids to those movies. Universal was very smart to give those little yellow guys their own movie as 'Minions' could well end up being one of the studio's bigger hits, plus it gets the weekend all to itself as the single new release.
Just in time for my birthday! Even though 'Pan' opens on the same day, I'm calling 'Ant-Man' the big winner of the weekend. In spite of its troubled production history with all of the drama surrounding the exit of original writer and director Edgar Wright, I can still see fans lining up for this one. It's friggen Marvel for crying out loud! However, If there is a movie that Marvel could bounce on it's this one, but that last trailer seems to have put a lot of people's worries to rest. If the film executes as intended, 'Ant-Man' could well end up being another 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' If this one bottoms out, you can expect to see the size of the role the lead character plays in future Marvel films shrink to microbial size - but I doubt that happening. The gorilla marketing with little tiny 'Ant-Man' banners placed all over cities is certainly peaking people's interest in the film and the 3D trailer got big cheers at my screening of 'Age of Ultron.'
Yes… we're getting yet another Peter Pan origin film. Directed by Joe Wright and starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard the pirate, I can see this one leaving audiences without many happy thoughts to fly away with. It most certainly will be better than the live musical version NBC recently broadcast, and given the fact that it's directed by Joe Wright it will absolutely be a pretty looking movie - but that could be all. Watching the trailers I keep shrugging my shoulders and asking "what's the point?" With all of these live action fairytale films of late - this one could be dipping into a dry well. Or it could be a huge and massive hit. I however always get worried when I read "Experience The Untold Story" in any marketing… there's probably a good reason it wasn't told. Considering this is opening against a new Marvel movie - I just don't see it going very far.
God I hope this movie doesn't take a page from its name. If there is a comedy I want to see work and grab an audience, it's this one. If you haven't seen Amy Schumer do her thing, start streaming her show. Now. Her 'Newsroom' parody left me with a stomach ache from laughing so hard. Add Bill Hader into the mix and 'Trainwreck' could be the adult comedy of the summer. However… Judd Apatow. I love the guy, but he has a tendency to make his comedies entirely too serious to be fun for very long. If this is simply Amy Schumer allowed to rip loose and put her stake in the Romantic Comedy genre, it could be great. If it veers too far into heavy drama - it could go south real quick. Fingers crossed here especially since I'll be taking my wife to this one I want it to be good.
Honestly, it's been a very, very long time since I was this excited to see a movie starring Adam Sandler. I don't know what it is but ever since I got out of the seventh grade I just haven't cared for his movies at all. This one, which reminds me of the many hours of my childhood I spent playing my uncle's Atari 2600 and losing entire allowances to video arcades, has me hopeful it will deliver. With Kevin James and a mulleted Peter Dinklage rounding out the cast in a film directed by Chirs Columbus - this one could kick off the end of summer release frame in grand fashion. The trailer had me laughing a lot more than I'd expected. Just for the sake of 80s nostalgia alone, I see this one taking the grand prize for the weekend.
I'm not someone that is inherently against the idea of Hollywood remaking my favorite movies I grew up and cherished as a child, I just want there to be a point. When 'Poltergeist' was announced I took it as an opportunity for some new blood to take a stab at some old material, freshen it up and make it new and fun again in the wake of bad sequels. It worked for 'Dawn of the Dead,' 'The Hills Have Eyes,' and 'Evil Dead' so why not 'Poltergeist?' Well… if you're just going to remake the exact same movie over again virtually shot for shot… that's a pretty good reason not to. My hope for this one is that it is different than it looks from the trailers. With Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Jared Harris leading the cast, this could turn out okay… but I am very skeptical. The 3D might add some fun, but that's a thin line to hang your hopes on. We'll just have to wait and see if the famed 'Poltergeist Curse' is still in effect.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
With the good Mr. Cruise being rather hit or miss of late, this fifth entry following the Impossible Mission Force and their intrepid agent Ethan Hunt could have a tough time drawing an audience. Aw, who am I kidding, did you see that trailer? IMAX screens are going to have a heck of a run just for the airplane sequence alone. I sincerely hope this one turns out. 'Edge of Tomorrow' was one of my favorite theater going experiences of last year and 'Ghost Protocol' has held up better than the previous entries in the franchise in my opinion. So far the trailers don't give too much away other than some of the big spectacle stunt scene - so hopefully there's a lot more to see with this one beyond Tom Cruise hanging outside of an airplane.
August is typically a hit or miss month for releases. Usually studios drop titles off here at the tail end of summer if they don't feel too invested in them. In recent years, especially after 2014's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' - August is a jump-ball month. The movie could be amazing, or it could be absolutely terrible. Tread with caution when entering the theater.
Ricki and the Flash
Jonathan Demme is bringing a comedy drama to movie screens about a guitar player who returns home to reconnect with her family. How can this one compete with a fire guy, Rock Lord, Stretch Armstrong and a lady you can't see? Meryl Streep. Never bet against Meryl Streep. If the movie doesn't win the weekend you can count on Streep getting another Oscar nomination - its a statistical certainty. Add in a crowd pleaser like Kevin Kline and you have yourself the makings of a summer workhorse; the kind of movie that doesn't start strong out of the gate but will likely still be on screens long over the latest block buster has faded… that is of course if its a good movie. I've been hoping for another solid Demme entry for quite awhile so lets hope this is it.
This is another one of those titles that could go either way. Granted the previous two entries could hardly be considered fan favorites, but this production has been rubbing people the wrong way since the first cast announcements. Personally, I'm rather excited for this one. The trailer looks like it's attempting to blaze a new trail and the young cast look better suited for their individual roles. Whether or not director Josh Trank delivers is yet to be seen. Given Trank's recent departure from the untitled 'Star Wars' anthology film over rumored erratic on set behavior, this movie has a lot of bad press and word of mouth working against it. Even if reviews consider it a "good" movie, audiences may still stay away after being hit by two other "official" Marvel releases this summer.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
If there's a movie I hope is really good this summer, it's this one. I dig Guy Ritchie's work when he's in good form, he can produce some solid flicks. Add this 60s period action thriller comedy starring Superman and The Lone Ranger with Ritchie's cinematic stylings, this one is out to deliver a good time. The trailer has a light-hearted 'Mission Impossible' meets 'Ocean's 11' vibe going for it so that could work well in its favor, or against it considering audiences will have just seen an actual 'Mission Impossible' movie two weeks prior. We'll just have to wait and see how future trailers and word of mouth plays out for this one. If it doesn't work maybe we can finally get an 'Agent for h.a.r.m.' reboot.
When you have an action heist comedy starring Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Zach Galifianakis and directed by Jared Hess, you could have one hell of a bizarrely funny movie on your hands. Or you could have something that completely flops and misses the mark. Supposedly based on a true story, the details of which I don't really care about - this just looks like a fun late-summer comedy. This one looks like it could stray too "stupid criminals" for its own good, but that could just be how this first trailer is cut. Considering it doesn't have a rating yet, we'll have to wait and see how the finished product turns out.
'Sinister' was a modest hit of a horror movie in its own right three years ago, so a sequel was a forgone conclusion. But will fans of the first come out to see the second? Hard to say. After 'Poltergeist' and 'Insidious 3' horror fans may chose to stay away. The trailer looks decent enough but it also feels like a retread of a lot of scares we've already seen. I'm always game for a horror movie but this found footage genre, even if it's found Super 8mm film footage is getting more than a little tiring at this point. Especially now that the genre has now turned to Skype most recently with 'Unfriended.' I'm sure it'll bring in the bucks but I don't see it doing much more than single weekend business.
Hitman: Agent 47
This movie already has two strikes going against it. 1: it's a video game movie. 2: it's the reboot of another failed video game movie. I personally quit playing the games in this franchise a long time ago and I honestly haven't heard the latest entries being even remotely relevant - so even fan interest in this one may be on the wain. I could be completely wrong about that assessment, but the fact that this one is going to be headlining the last true weekend of summer right when kids that would pay to see this movie are gearing up to go back to school, chances are this one doesn't see much action. Also it doesn't help anything when the trailer makes the main character out to be the bad guy?
Ahh the Labor Day weekend, the last ditch effort by studios to bilk movie goers out of their hard earned cash by dumping their waste bins onto theater screens. With four big releases, audiences will either stay away and cook on the grill, or they'll give these a shot. They'll make some bucks, but as with any Labor Day weekend release frame, quality is not guaranteed.
The Transporter: Refueled
I'll give them props for not calling it something like 'The Transporter: Retread', or 'The Transporter: ReEnergiZed,' but seriously - is anyone interested in seeing this movie without original star Jason Statham? Granted this is intended as a series reboot but it just feels entirely too "title recognition cash grab" to be any good. The trailer shows new star Ed Skrein performing all sorts of 'Gymkata' shenanigans, but at this point who really cares? It doesn't look like they're trying to reinvent the franchise in a way that makes it new and fresh. Just more of the same with a different cast.
Vampires VS Humans VS Zombies in this horror comedy starring Vanessa Hudgens and Bob Odenkirk. Without a trailer to speak of, there is a detonator attached to this bomb. There are some behind the scenes production stills floating around out there, but unless something changes soon, this one could well end up straight to VOD and forgotten fast.
Jane Got a Gun
This infamous Natalie Portman starring western is a modern cinematic miracle. After several cast and lead male actors left the project, 'Jane Got a Gun' is lucky to have actually been shot let alone released. This was probably never going to get a wide release, sticking closer to arthouse cinema screens, but still, the fact that it's not opening later in the year closer to key Oscar consideration is rather telling. I love westerns down to my bones, but this one could have a tough time reaching audiences in a meaningful way.
I am very sad to say that this is not a remake of the 1994 classic film starring Ray Liotta. Actually, this thriller stars Owen Wilson and the fifth James Bond as trapped vacationers in Taiwan during a military coup. This one looked like a pretty good movie from the trailer. The only problem is that the trailer shows virtually the entire movie inside of two minutes. So watch that with caution. I dig Pierce Brosnan and Owen Wilson deserves a strong comeback vehicle - I just don't see this one being anything more than a Pinto backing up into a parking barrier. I was interested in this one until I noticed the release date - then I got worried. We'll have to wait and see how it shakes out.
And with that dear readers, I close out this High-Def Digest Summer Movie Guide. As some of these releases are very fluid right now, I'll adjust release dates as I hear of any changes or title swaps by gun-shy studios. Have a happy cinema summer! It should be a great year to spend in a dark air conditioned theater!
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