We are so close to the official start of the Summer Movie Season so Brian and Noah decided to breakdown the 36 most anticipated films of said season. 2015 promises to deliver a very exciting summer; we have the sequel to the second highest grossing film of all time (The Assemblers or something), the return of past franchises long thought dead (Hello Mad Max, Dinosaurs, Four Fantastics, and Arnold), sequels galore (Yay, Minions! Boo, Ted! Yay, Strippers! Wait.), the triumphant return of Pixar (Inside Out or our planned route to the theater), indie festival darlings (90s’ hip-hop and cancer, standard stuff), and everything in between (The Rock takes on the Earth! Ice Cube tells us where he’s from! Paul Rudd is an ant, man! Anna Kendrick is so over cups!)
We say 36 most anticipated but the truth (we lie, but at least we are honest about it) is this list represents the 36 films we know enough about to list. Sure there are movies coming out that we may have heard of (Mr. Holmes, The End of the Tour, The Gift, Digging for Fire, which would be toward the top of the list), but they aren’t on our radar just yet so they remain off.
So… From bottom to top here are the most anticipated films of summer 2015. We start with the worst…
36. The Vatican Tapes (July 24)
35. Hitman: Agent 47 (August 28)
This movie seems absolutely determined to do its part in making sure we never get to see a good movie based on a video game. Let’s go down the list. C-List actor set to star? Check. Older, well-respected character actor in a supporting role? Check. Guy cast as the main game character doesn’t quite look like him? Check. Bizarre, unnecessary changes to the story? Checkmate.
34. Hot Pursuit (May 8)
Reese Witherspoon was fantastic in Wild. Sofia Vergara is OK in Modern Family. Hot Pursuit looks terrible.
33. Paper Towns (July 24)
John Green sure does have a thing for wise-beyond-their-years teens with unorthodox names spouting vague, overwritten “truths” about the world, doesn’t he? By most accounts it more or less worked in The Fault in Our Stars, but you can only tempt fate for so long. If Paper Towns’ overstuffed trailer is any indication, he should have quit while he was ahead.
32. Sinister 2 (August 21)
Sinister made a fair amount of money in 2012. Great. We’re not sure why everyone feels the need to make a sequel to every horror film released, but this one feels especially silly. Does anyone, anyone at all, need a Sinister 2? We don’t.
31. Ted 2 (June 26)
Meet the new Ted. Same as the old Ted.
30. Insidious: Chapter 3 (June 5)
Aside from the inspired and amusing “Chapter” specifications in this series, it’s just hard to get excited about this newest addition to one of the hottest horror properties around. Not only is the trailer devoid of scares, but when you swap our Patrick Wilson and the lovely Rose Byrne for Dermot Mulroney, well, it’s not great.
29. Vacation (July 31)
The last actual “Vacation” movie, Vegas Vacation, came out in 1997, a little more than 18 years ago. It’s not always necessarily a death knell, but reviving a dead franchise after so many years rarely goes well. Without a list in front of me, I bet you could count on one hand the number of movies that method has produced that are worth seeing. That said, Vacation does have a particularly strong cast (Ed Helms notwithstanding), so it’s possible – in the sense that anything’s possible, really – that it could join the elite few, but history tells us it’s unlikely.
28. Masterminds (August 7)
From the director of Napoleon Dynamite is never a good sign (yeah, we don’t like it, deal with it), but the cast is inspired and very funny, so we are torn. Add to the equation a not-entirely- funny trailer and that puts Masterminds on the lower end of this list.
27. Pixels (July 24)
The cons: Adam Sandler hasn’t been in a good movie in 6-8 years, depending on how you feel about Funny People. In that stretch of time, he’s batting 0-for-10. That’s quite a slump. The pros: Kevin James aside, Sandler’s usual crew is nowhere to be found, replaced instead with a fairly capable crew of comedians and actors alike. Combine that with an interesting premise (that Futurama has shown us can be done well, at least), and Pixels has more potential than any Sandler movie in a while to be ok. Hopes aren’t exactly high here, but stranger things have happened.
26. Aloha (May 29)
Cameron Crowe has made some outstanding films: Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous. Unfortunately, his recent filmography includes Elizabethtown and We Bought a Zoo, so it’s hard to say how Aloha will turn out. Cameron has such a great early track record that it’s easy to feel at least somewhat optimistic about his next project, but we’ve been burned before. And from the looks of the trailer, this could just be a typical romantic comedy (or drama maybe, it’s hard to tell). The film features a great cast, including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Bill Murray, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, and Jay Baruchel. This one’s tricky, and that’s not a great sign.
25. Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15)
The original Pitch Perfect is one of the most overrated movies of this decade. Beca spends essentially the entire movie being particularly mean to her father for no conceivable reason, and her love interest, at his absolute best moments, had one ill-defined dimension to his character. Also, the vomiting scenes. Still, there is one positive to take away: Beca and (eventually) her friends busting out “No Diggity” at their underground a cappella elimination match. As long as Pitch Perfect 2 can give us another scene like that, then they can stuff the rest of it with as many terrible characters as they want. Just, no more vomiting, please.
24. Ricki and the Flash (August 7)
Without any footage this goes in the middle of the list, but its ingredients are pretty terrific. We have Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Rachel Getting Married) directing, Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) writing, and Meryl Streep (almost every movie) and Kevin Kline (fewer movies, but more badassery) starring. This is one to watch out for. We know we’ll be.
23. San Andreas (May 29)
10 years ago, this would have been the movie to beat this summer: big action, huge destruction, big movie star (The Rock vs. Rocks!). And yet, now this almost feels like an underdog. Most of that can be attributed to our vastly different cinematic landscape, but a case could also be made for how bland this film looks. The story is almost so The Day After Tomorrow that The Day After Tomorrow is starting to feel artistically justified. But the effects look really good, the cast is interesting (Paul Giamatti! Kylie Minogue!), and the last film starring Mr. Rocky was the vastly underrated and surprisingly good Hercules, so this could be a fun way to get out of the heat in the summer. Unfortunately, there are 22 better looking movies ahead of it.
22. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (August 14)
This is a curious one. Guy Ritchie’s a hit or miss director, but when he hits, his movies have a great sense of kinetic fun to them. Armie Hammer is hardly a star to get excited about, but he just looks like he’s having so much fun in this. A good trailer doesn’t always mean a good movie, but still, a good trailer’s a good trailer. This could be really good, really bad, or anywhere in between, and no result would particularly surprise us.
21. Terminator: Genisys (July 1)
With a title like that, this movie should count itself lucky to be as high on the list as it is. Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Terminator: Rise of the Machines (give it another shot) were all good-to-great action spectacles. Nothing more needs to be said about Terminator: Salvation than the end of this sentence. We don’t really need another Terminator. Arnold might, but we don’t. But since we’re getting one, it seems they are trying something different. The film seems to be actively trying to solve the at this point all-but- incomprehensible timeline by jettisoning it completely and starting from scratch. It’s not sure to be good by any stretch of the imagination, but, in a very un-Terminator-like way, there’s hope. A fine cast, a talented director, and an interesting, if possibly confusing, storyline. Alright, Terminator, you get one more shot.
20. Southpaw (July 24)
Jake Gylenhaal’s been on a hell of a tear lately. Since 2011, he’s been in great movie after great movie, culminating in last year’s incredible Nightcrawler. Antoine Fuqua, on the other hand, is on…less of a tear. He culminated real early on with Training Day, and has been kind of middling around ever sense. They more or less cancel each other out in that sense, which leaves us only with a trailer sappy enough to land Southpaw just on the wrong side of this list’s halfway point.
19. Magic Mike XXL (July 1)
Despite what many people may think, Magic Mike had a lot more on its mind that just naked dudes (although that was certainly a big part of it). It was a story of greed and an allegory for the economic hardships our country was (and still is) experiencing. Steven Soderbergh, who is possibly the most interesting filmmaker of the last 25 years, takes on cinematography duties this time out as Mike and the boys hit the road for a stripper convention. An expanded cast – Donald Glover, Andie MacDowell, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Ric Flair – and hopefully more topical, earnest storytelling-masquerading-as-porn make Magic Mike XXL something to look forward to. Bonus points if you pay for your ticket in singles.
18. The D Train (May 8)
2008 was Jack Black’s last good year. Bernie was well received in 2011, sure, but if a movie is projected in a forest and nobody’s around to watch it, does it still count? We say no. The D Train has potential to bring Jack Black back, so we say all aboard. The comedy world is better when Black’s crazy energy is firing on all cylinders. Beyond that, it just looks like a different sort of comedy than we usually get these days, and different is always welcome. In the interest of fairness, though, we feel compelled to mention that there’s a very real possibility that The D Train is mostly projected in the very same forest Bernie was, so everything you just read might be moot.
17. Straight Outta Compton (August 14)
The story of N.W.A. feels as relevant as ever. Like all great biopics, this film looks to comment on our present with a look into our past. Everyone here seems spot on (Paul Giamatti! Again!), including Ice Cube’s son as, well, Ice Cube, and the trailer is actually quite exciting. Straight Outta Compton is a paramount hip-hop album and this film seems to capture the spirit and energy necessary to bring this story to life. It looks as good as it does because it seems to have something to say. Either that, or it’s the most expensive commercial of all time.
16. Irrational Man (July 24)
Ah, Woody Allen’s annual mystery box. Allen’s a prolific director, both for the quality of his greatest films and the overwhelming quantity of films he puts out. Since 1982, he’s directed at least one movie every year. One. Per. Year. And at least some of them are still really good! Putting out a movie of any kind every year is a baffling thought, let alone ones of any quality. Unfortunately, almost as often, his movies are not so good, especially for a director of Allen’s caliber, hence the mystery box. Irrational Man in particular has a strong starring cast (Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix) and a premise very well suited for a Woody Allen movie, but without a trailer, it’s near impossible to say what we’re gonna get. The possibilities alone, though, are alluring enough.
15. Spy (June 5)
Melissa McCarthy is very funny, and actually a pretty good dramatic actress, she really just needs the right project. Spy, fortunately, looks to be the right project for her. Put Paul Feig – creator of Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids – behind the camera (he also wrote it) along with a great supporting cast (lovely Rose Byrne is lovely) and funny trailers and this is screaming with potential. Early reviews out of SXSW indicate that Spy may reach said potential, and just in time to get people excited for McCarthy and Feig to re-team for Ghostbusters.
14. Poltergeist (May 22)
Horror remakes are a dime a dozen. What makes this one stand out is its two leads. Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married, Your Sister’s Sister, Mad Men) and Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest, Moon, Seven Psychopaths) are two actors who, as you can tell, are not in movies like Poltergeist. So what drew them to this? Why dip their toes in this remake? We’re not sure, but it makes this film very intriguing as we near its release date.
13. Dope (June 19)
Dope has a lot of buzz coming out of Sundance, and if the initial, heavily stylized teaser is any indication, that buzz could be for something special. A full-length, presumably more conventional trailer has since been released, but where’s the fun in convention? The premise – a group of dorky, ‘90s-hip-hop-loving friends in Inglewood get into trouble – combined with the just-plain-fun feel of that first teaser is enough to get our interest pretty well piqued. It looks exciting. It looks weird. Above all, it looks like something different. And difference should be celebrated.
12. Minions (July 10)
The Minions are just too damn cute. Always. Every time they were on screen in Despicable Me, too cute. Despicable Me 2, too cute. Little videos they show up in on their own…you see where this is going. They were the best part of both of those movies (which were perfectly good in their own right), and now they leave the nest to fly on their own like adorable, yellow, gibberish- speaking baby birds. Will a Minions-focused movie be too much of a good thing? Maybe. It wouldn’t be shocking. But until we actually see the Minions do wrong, it’s hard to not get excited for those banana-loving little goobers.
11. Entourage (June 3)
As fans of the show, we can’t help but be excited about this. Creator and showrunner Doug Ellin is writing and directing with all of the major cast back. Not only that, but from the looks of the trailers it seems that every character to ever appear on the show is back for the movie. Callbacks, cute girls, boys being boys, showbiz talk galore, and Ari “LLOYD” Gold…yep, this should be a very fun 2 hours at the movies.
10. Fantastic Four (August 7)
The Fantastic Four name has been sullied. Tarnished. Besmirched. 2005 and 2007 were rough years for the group, and now it’s hard to hear the words without picturing Ioan Gruffudd’s goofy, goofy face. How, then, does a reboot to such a damaged franchise nab a Top 10 spot on the list? With Oh, It’s a Podcast favorites Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, of course. Both have acted as secondary anchors to some of our favorite things – Friday Night Lights and Whiplash respectively, among other things – and seeing them both given a chance to carry a major franchise is enough to trump even the falsest of starts.
9. Ant-Man (July 17)
By far Marvel’s riskiest film, Ant-Man can go one of two ways: it can be a fun, colorful, tongue- in-cheek romp, or a painfully misguided film. Plagued by some early production turmoil (would have preferred Edgar Wright to direct? Duh.), it could seem easy to write Ant-Man off. But it’s hard to bet against Marvel and it’s good to take risks once in a while. As the lights go down in the theater, we’ll be bracing ourselves, and that alone makes this one of the most anticipated films of the summer.
8. Tomorrowland (May 22)
Brad Bird, y’all! Between The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Bird is a healthy four-for-four in his directorial career, to say the least. Tomorrowland had a cool air of mystery about it that was at least partially dispelled by its full- length trailer, but the movie itself still looks interesting enough, and it’s certainly not the kind of thing George Clooney is in very often, which could be fun. The most important factor, though, remains Brad “Big” Bird. His resume to this point deserves nothing less than a full-fledged Hype Train, and we’re here to oblige.
7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (June 12)
This year’s recipient of the Sundance Film Festival’s two highest awards, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is one of the most talked about indie films of the year. For comparison, Whiplash won both last year, Fruitvale Station won them in 2013, and Beasts of the Southern Wild won the Grand Jury Prize in 2012, so it’s in good company. Its trailer shows an offbeat comedy about friendship and acceptance. In a summer (and a list) filled with blockbusters, this feels different and special, so we’re in.
6. Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15)
It’s been 30 years since the last Mad Max movie. That’s not quite the longest gap in sequel history, but, in America at least, it’s arguably the longest gap for a movie of such high profile, save for maybe Fantasia 2000. Being decidedly not animated as it is, Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially in a class of its own. History need not apply. With that in mind, one question lands this movie as high as it is on the list? When was the last time we got a good wasteland movie? The Road in 2009? More than any other movie on this list, Fury Road has the potential to revive a genre (assuming it’s as good as its trailer looks, which is never a given). Those aspirations have to be rewarded, and so here we are in the 6 spot.
5. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (July 31)
The first Mission: Impossible is terrific, if a little contrived. The second is a parody of the first. The third is underrated and thrilling. The fourth is spectacular. The trailer for the fifth looks fantastic. Not only is the big stunt a never-seen-that-before moment, but the rest of the trailer looks like a warm blast of fun. Tom Cruise, regardless of his public or perceived personal persona, always gives everything he has to every performance, but he clearly has the most fun with Ethan Hunt. An action film without mystical elements or dinosaurs stands out. This looks to be not only one of the better action films of the summer, but also the coolest. Plus, Ving Rhames is back! That’s worth Top 15 at least.
4. Jurassic World (June 12)
Remember all that noise about really long gaps between sequels being a particularly bad sign? It would seem to apply just as much to Jurassic World (14 years since the last one) as Vacation (18 years), right? Yeah, nuts to that. Jurassic World flies in the face of that generally true convention at pretty much every turn. The premise, often one of the bigger stumbling blocks in these situations, is perfectly natural – the park is finally open. The cast leans intriguingly comedic, with Jake Johnson and Judy Greer appearing alongside budding superstar Chris Pratt. And that first trailer – well, you can throw everything else out. The trailer has a killer remix of the original theme, and promises domesticated raptors fighting on the side of good. If that last sentence doesn’t just reach down and grab something inside of you, then boy, I just don’t know.
3. Trainwreck (July 17)
Put aside the fact that Judd Apatow is a comic genius and that Amy Schumer is a star on the rise. Put away the fact that this film finally gives Bill Hader a leading man role or, and possibly most importantly, that the trailer is hysterical. Take all those things away and you still have one of our most anticipated films of the summer, if not the year, because Trainwreck has the best cast of the year. Avengers? Been there, done that. Rounding out the cast is Schumer, Hader, Tilda Swinton, LeBron “Fucking” James, Brie “Wonderful” Larson, Vanessa Bayer, Colin Quinn, Ezra Miller, Mike Birbiglia, Method “Motherfucking” Man, John Cena, Norman Lloyd, Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe, Marissa Tomei, Barkhad Abdi, and did I mention LeBron James? It’s an insane cast, and even if the movie didn’t look good it would be so intriguing to see how all those people play into it. If, as the trailer suggests, LeBron James is playing the best friend of the male lead, the one who gives him pep talks and eventually convinces him to go get the girl (though we doubt the movie shakes out that way), then Trainwreck could make its way onto another list toward the end of the year. Hint: It’s the good one.
2. Inside Out (June 19)
It’s been 5 years since we got a classic Pixar movie. Generally speaking, that’s an absurd standard to hold, but for a studio with an output like Pixar, it doesn’t sound so crazy. From 1995- 2010, we got one basically every one or two years. Then, they tapered off a bit with Cars 2 (awful) and Brave and Monsters University (both fine, but fine isn’t what we’re after). Inside Out, though, looks like a return to form in every way. Every member of the primary voice cast is an inspired choice, and the premise (the inner workings of the emotions of a little girl) is exactly the kind of thing that Pixar can and should absolutely destroy. Throw in Pete Docter, director of Monsters, Inc. and Up, and our expectations are pretty much as high as they can go.
1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1)
The sequel to the third highest grossing film of all time, Marvel’s second huge ensemble installment demands a spot on this list. A how-can-they-top-it curiosity surrounds the follow-up to The Avengers (or Marvel’s The Avengers, because Marvel needs to remind you that Marvel makes Marvel movies), and all eyes are on Ultron to deliver. The action looks bigger, the cast is more expansive, and the stakes are higher, to be sure, but for us, the main reason it gets the top spot on this list is its writer/director. Joss Whedon is a true master, from making one of our favorite TV shows in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to crafting one of our favorite spin-offs in Angel (not to mention the wonderful Firefly/Serenity saga, the infectious Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, or the delightfully subversive Cabin in the Woods). He’s truly something special, and whenever he puts pen to paper (or fingers to keys, however he does it), it’s something to get excited about. Seeing Iron Man and the gang together again involved in super heroic adventures is incredibly exciting. Having those adventures written and directed by Joss Whedon brings that excitement to a fever pitch. And put this superhero super sequel at the top of our list.
And that’s this summer. Movies are the classic way to get out of the heat of the summer and this summer promises to offer plenty of options for us to enjoy.
Comment on any changes you would make to our list. And we’ll see you at the movies!