Summer Film Guide 2015

In the decadent 21st century, the summer movie season now sprawls from March through December. (Though every prior Star Wars picture has come out Memorial Day weekend, Star Wars: Episode VII is due to awaken the Force Dec. 18.) But it's in summer when movies are optimized to lure vacationing schoolkids and Chinese ticket-buyers back for repeat exposures, and no block is safe from potential bustage. The Age of Ultron, it's traditionally called.

Herewith, a dozen films arriving between now and Labor Day that we hope might offer something more than just reliable air conditioning.

Betting against a Pixar joint is like telling Han Solo the odds. This one, from Pete Docter, director of Monsters, Inc. and Up, is about the five anthropomorphized emotions that live inside a young girl, each with its own voice: Amy Poehler as Joy, Lewis Black as Anger, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Seth Rogen as Sloth, and so on. (Okay, I made that last one up.) Real talk: The first trailer was painful—hacky, sexist stuff about how men just want women to shut up about the trash and the toilet seat and let them watch sports. But if trailers were movies, Zack Snyder would be Stanley Kubrick. Docter and Pixar have earned our faith. Confidence: 70 percent. (June 19)

All his other post-office comeback efforts having tanked, the 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger turns again to the time-travel-and-malignant-A.I. franchise that provided his most enduring catchphrase. Director Alan Taylor made Thor: The Dark World and a half-dozen Game of Thrones episodes. Emilia Clarke is the second GoT alumna to step into waitress-turned-soldier Sarah Connor's BDUs, while Jason Clarke (no relation) is the fourth guy to play resistance general John Connor in the past four films. The trailers have already given away that this installment will reshape the events of the series' sainted James Cameron-helmed entries—and spoiled other seemingly huge plot points, too. (Not why the Bible and the band both spelled “genisys” wrong, though.) I want to see The Terminator restored to the fullness of its Cameron-era tech-panic glory more than anyone, but this has more than a whiff of desperation about it. Confidence: 40 percent. (July 1)

Magic Mike's $114 million domestic haul in 2012 represented a little more than 16 times the male-stripper drama's thrifty budget, so to abjure a follow-up would be to spit in the face of mathematics. You don't leave money on the table in this economy, a subject the original movie addressed with admirable finesse. (Just to be clear, XXL is the second entry in the MMCU, not the 30th, but greasy abs are a growth industry.) Original director Steven Soderbergh insists he's done making features; his replacement, Gregory Jacobs, has worked as an assistant director on almost every production in Soderbergh's mile-long filmography. Then again, Channing Tatum's Magic Mike said he was retiring, too. The follow-up, wherein the bronzed, waxed Kings of Tampa reunite for a strip-off in Myrtle Beach, has reconvened the original cast (save for Matthew McConaughey) while adding Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover and Andie MacDowell to the supporting cast. Confidence: 50 percent. (July 1)

Judd Apatow directed, but star Amy Schumer wrote the script for this rom-com, wherein Schumer's hard-partying anti-monogamist falls for sports doc Bill Hader. Colin Quinn plays her dad, and LeBron James plays himself. It absolutely killed at South By Southwest; here's hoping it radiates the same sexism-detonating sensibility that makes Schumer's eponymous Comedy Central show so uproariously refreshing. Confidence: 70 percent. (July 17)

Sir Ian McKellen reteams with Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon for this adaptation of Mitch Cullin's mystery novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, about a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes feeling his incomparable mind wither in the years after World War II. The always-welcome Laura Linney is on hand as his housekeeper. At the tender age of 75, McKellen is almost a generation younger than the famed “consulting detective” he's playing, but it's a good bet the six-time Laurence Olivier Award winner can make up the difference via . . . whatchacallit? . . . Acting. Confidence: 75 percent. (July 17)

Jake Gyllenhaal's bug-eyed performance in Nightcrawler anointed him as one of our most volatile leading men. Here, he plays a boxer who loses his family—it's Rocky AND Kramer vs. Kramer!—in a melodrama written by Kurt Sutter of Sons of Anarchy. None of director Antoine Fuqua's other pictures have made good on the promise of Training Day, but they always look terrific, and Gyllenhaal will have put in the hard work to make himself credible as a fighter, as did Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis before him. How can it be that the serene, pug-nosed Forest Whitaker has never played a grizzled fight trainer before now? The boxing melodrama is a sturdy genre, and it's been too long since the last. Confidence: 60 percent. (July 24)

Pulitzer-winning playwright Donald Margulies adapts David Lipsky's 2010 memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, about the five-day road trip Lipsky took with David Foster Wallace while profiling the Infinite Jest author for Rolling Stone. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky while Jason Segel sheds his gangly goofball persona to embody Wallace, with The Spectacular Now's James Ponsoldt behind the camera. If that all sounds a little highfalutin, so be it. No one is stopping you from buying a ticket for Ted 2. Confidence: 75 percent. (July 31)


Nineteen years into his joyfully acrobatic spy series, will Ethan Hunt—producer/star Tom Cruise's cliff-hanging, Burj Khalifa-scaling, Airbus A400M-clinging alter ego—get bit by a radioactive character actor and develop a personality? I sure hope not. Each Mission has come from a different, distinct director; this time it's Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects, wrote and directed Cruise's underperforming-but-great Christmas 2012 counterprogrammer Jack Reacher and script-doctored last summer's underperforming-but-great Edge of Tomorrow. The series has never suffered a lack of smart quips or jaw-dropping, CGI-unassisted stunts—a Cruise hallmark—and this one adds the great Alec Baldwin as some kind of politico scheming to shut down the Impossible Mission Force. You already know that that's really 52-year-old Cruise on the side of that real airplane 5,000 feet off the real ground, so what else can I tell you? Only that Simon Pegg is much funnier than Tyrese Gibson. Prediction: The fastest, furiousest, least-pixelated studio action picture of 2015. Confidence: 85 percent. (July 31)

F. Gary Gray, who in the 1990s collaborated with Ice Cube on the classic “It Was a Good Day” music video and the beloved Friday, brings us The Ballad of N.W.A, with Cube's own son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., starring as his dad, and Corey Hawkins—who played Tybalt in the 2013-14 Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet—as Dr. Dre. Plus, you get Short Term 12's Keith Stanfield as Snoop Dogg. Confidence: 55 percent. (Aug. 18)

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