SN&R’s summer movie preview 2015: Back into the summer movie sea

Daniel Barnes and Jim Lane share their most anticipated warm weather films, from blockbusters and big budget reboots to cartoons, comedies and cool indies



Ever since the “summer movie” concept was created with the runaway success of 1975’s Jaws, the season has become synonymous with name-brand blockbusters and sequels. To be sure, there is no shortage of sequels, prequels, reboots, preboots, remakes, premakes, and make-boots coming to theaters this summer. But warm-weather months are also about major-label animation, ribald comedies, unbranded action flicks, under-appreciated auteurs, arthouse alternative programming and the always ubiquitous horror movies and biopics. In that spirit, SN&R’s resident film critics Daniel Barnes and Jim Lane organized the summer’s release calendar into eight different categories and picked the one film in each that they’re most excited to see.

Sequels, remakes and reboots

Magic Mike XXL (July 1) and Ted 2 (June 26) follow up hit 2012 films, while Mission: ImpossibleRogue Nation (July 31) is Tom Cruise’s fifth go-round as Ethan Hunt. The Fantastic Four (August 7) reboot hopes you’ll forget all previous movie versions, while The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (August 14) prays that someone remembers the 1960s TV show. Meanwhile, Vacation (July 29) and Jurassic World (June 12) appear to simultaneously sequel-ize and reboot their franchises, and God only knows what’s going on in the timeline of Terminator Genisys (July 1).

D.B.’s pick: Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation. This is possibly the most auteur-driven franchise in film history, and I’m curious to find out what Cruise sees in Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie.

J.L.’s pick: Ted 2. The original Ted was such raunchy, irreverent fun that I have high hopes that Seth MacFarlane (and co-writers Alec Sulkind and Wellesley Wild) can do it again. Adding Amanda Seyfried, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson to the mix can’t hurt.

Comedy, laughs and other funny things

Entourage (June 3) brings the HBO series to the big screen; video game characters wreak havoc in Pixels (July 24); Kristen Wiig and Zach Galifianakis organize a bank heist in Masterminds (August 19); Lily Tomlin plays a feisty you-know-what in Grandma (August 21); Melissa McCarthy falls down a lot in Spy (June 5); sex addicts Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis form a platonic bond in Sleeping with Other People (late August/early September); and Amy Schumer headlines Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck (July 17).

D.B.’s pick: Trainwreck. I’ve had my issues with Apatow as a director, but it’s great to see Schumer in a lead role, and check out the supporting cast: former Sacramento resident Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Randall Park, Method Man and LeBron James.

J.L.’s pick: Entourage. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never seen the HBO series (I plan to play catch-up via Netflix), but the buzz and the talent involved—plus a sharply funny preview trailer—make the big-screen feature look like a thinking-person’s comedy and a sure bet. Besides, I’m a sucker for parodies of Hollywood pretensions.

Arty arthouse fare


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (June 12) swept the top awards this year at Sundance, where the coming-of-age comedy Dope (June 19) also received praise, and the shot-on-iPhones Tangerine (July 10) played the Next program. Infinitely Polar Bear (June 19) stars Mark Ruffalo as a manic-depressive trying to win back his family; Adam Driver plays a new father in Hungry Hearts (June); Ian McKellan assumes the role of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective Mr. Holmes (July 17); and Jennifer Connelly reconnects with her abandoned child in Aloft (May 22).

D.B.’s pick: Aloft. The bleak trailer for Claudia Llosa’s drama makes it seem like the perfect vehicle for Connelly, a great actress who hasn’t had a decent role in nearly a decade.

J.L.’s pick: Mr. Holmes. It’s too bad Ian McKellen, in his prime, never got to play Sherlock Holmes. But the venerable Sir Ian as the aging Holmes may make up for that, especially as directed by the meticulous Bill Condon. Who knows, they may even wash away the nasty taste of those travesties with Robert Downey Jr.

And, action !

Paul Rudd is Ant-Man (July 17), one of the most expensive meta-jokes in cinema history; a resourceful boy protects President Samuel L. Jackson in Big Game (June 26); Rupert Friend plays a genetically engineered killer in Hitman: Agent 47 (August 21); The Rock battles earthquakes in San Andreas (May 29); Ethan Hawke stars in Good Kill (May 15) as an ethically challenged drone pilot; and American Ultra (August 21) reteams Adventureland co-stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.

D.B.’s pick: Hitman: Agent 47. I have liked Hitman star Friend in smaller parts in Starred Up and the Showtime series Homeland, and I’m happy he’s getting a starring role here.

J.L.’s pick: Big Game. For this genre it’s easier to say which title I’m dreading least than to say which one I’m looking forward to. And here it is, with an intriguing premise: Samuel L. Jackson as a marooned United States president eluding terrorist assassins with the help of a teenage Laplander. (Any bets that some U.S. government official won’t be behind it all?)

Oh, the horror

A couple of sequels highlight the summer horror slate—Sinister 2 (August 21) and Insidious: Chapter 3 (June 5). Joel Edgerton directs himself as a mysterious stranger in The Gift (July 31); Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson star in Regression (August 28); Arnold Schwarzenegger headlines the zombie movie Maggie (late May); exorcists battle satanic forces in The Vatican Tapes (July 24); and The Gallows (July 10) concerns a play that awakens a malevolent presence.

D.B.’s pick: Maggie. I am in a distinct minority here, but I think that Schwarzenegger was positively soulful in last year’s unfairly maligned Sabotage, and I’m genuinely excited to see what he does next.

J.L.’s pick: Maggie. The zombie movie is an all-but-debased genre, but this one has an intriguing twist, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as an anguished father watching daughter Abigail Breslin slowly succumb to a zombifying virus. It could be a powerful metaphor for any disease, and I suspect our former governor (like Gov. Ronald Reagan before him) is a better actor than his critics—or his fans and vehicles—give him credit for.

Off-season auteurs


Several Oscar winners from decades past re-emerge—Woody Allen’s Irrational Man (July 17) features Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, Cameron Crowe directs Bradley Cooper in Aloha (May 29), and Jonathan Demme helms the Meryl Streep musical Ricki and the Flash (August 7). Elsewhere, indie director Joe Swanberg courts mainstream acceptance with Digging for Fire (August 21); the visually arresting filmmaker Tarsem returns with Self/less (July 10); David Gordon Green directs past Oscar winner Al Pacino in Manglehorn (June 19); and Antoine Fuqua directs future Oscar winner Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw (July 24).

D.B.’s pick: Manglehorn. After the formally bold and fitfully successful Prince Avalancheand Joe, I’m curious to see where Green is going with this, and the trailer for Manglehorn is a singular piece of cinema.

J.L’s pick: Aloha. Writer-director Cameron Crowe may have come a cropper with We Bought a Zoo and Elizabethtown, but he’s still the guy behind Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, Say Anything… and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Besides, this time he’s got a dynamite cast (Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, etc.). I highly hope.

Be more animated

Most of the heavy hitters in the animation game are here—Pixar offers the inner-life comedy Inside Out (June 19); Minions (July 10) spins off from the hugely popular Despicable Me films; When Marnie Was There (June) is the latest from Japanese legends Studio Ghibli; and Shaun the Sheep Movie (August 7) comes from Wallace and Gromit studio Aardman.

D.B.’s pick: When Marnie Was There. This was a no-brainer—I’m a fan of Pixar and Aardman, but their films pale next to those of Studio Ghibli, and although scion Hayao Miyazaki has apparently retired, the studio continues to churn out touching and beautiful works like last year’s Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

J.L.’s pick: Inside Out. After misfiring with Cars 2 and Brave, Pixar—if Inside Out’s trailers are any indication—looks to be firing on all cylinders again, and Pixar at its best is the best there is, period. (Still, you can’t discount Shaun the Sheep Movie from quirky, off-the-wall Aardman. Personally, I’m looking forward to both.)

Biopics and other somewhat true stories

Straight Outta Compton (August 14) follows the ascent of 1980s rap group N.W.A.; The End of the Tour (July 31) stars Jason Segel as writer David Foster Wallace; Love and Mercy (June 5) tracks the breakdown of Beach Boy Brian Wilson; Ken Loach directs Jimmy’s Hall (July), about Irish communist Jimmy Gralton; Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent (May) played last year at Cannes; and Max (June 26) tells the story of a traumatized dog who served in the U.S. Marines.

D.B.’s pick: Love and Mercy. While Segel and The End of the Tour have received rave reviews, I can’t resist a biopic about the brilliant and fragile Wilson, played here by both Paul Dano and John Cusack, with support from Paul Giamatti as Dr. Eugene Landy.

J.L.’s pick: The End of the Tour. The brilliant but troubled David Foster Wallace’s novels have proved resistant to filming—but what about his life? Give director James Ponsoldt credit for taking a whack at it, and for giving Jason Segel what could be the role of his life (so far).