by Sandra Kraisirideja
Summer is the time of year when studios lay it all on the line and hope the next three months can finance more moviemaking next year. This list is not a comprehensive report of all the films opening between now and Labor Day. Rather, it’s a curated offering containing only the films that I have an interest in seeing. Sometimes my interest level hits enthusiastic levels (Pitch Perfect 2, Jurassic World) and other times it’s more of a slight curiosity (Infinitely Polar Bear, Manglehorn). I tried to be as honest as possible when choosing movies from the release schedule, which is why some highly-anticipated movies (Mad Max: Fury Road, Entourage) are not on the list. After all, movies are art and art is subjective. My tastes may not match yours, but there are so many good movies opening this summer that I hope we can meet in the middle.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Synopsis: Marvel Studios presents Avengers: Age of Ultron the epic follow-up to the biggest superhero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.
Made the list because…the cast is so much fun to watch and Joss Whedon is a skilled storyteller. Read the full review.
Synopsis: In Ride, when an editor from The New Yorker (Helen Hunt) follows her son (Brenton Thwaites) to LA after he drops out of college to surf and find himself, she ends up being the one thrust into a sea change of self-discovery. In this comedy written and directed by Helen Hunt, she befriends a limo driver (David Zayas), rediscovers her sexuality with a younger surf instructor (Luke Wilson), and begins to heal her fractured relationship with her son and herself.
Made the list because…it was written and directed by Helen Hunt and this type of female-focused story is the kind of movie that is hard to get made in Hollywood.
Welcome to Me
Synopsis: What happens when a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder wins the lottery? In the case of Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig), she quits her psychiatric meds and buys her own talk show. Inspired by the immortal Oprah, she broadcasts her dirty laundry as both a form of exhibitionism and a platform to share her peculiar views on everything from nutrition to relationships to neutering pets. Also starring Wes Bentley, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Linda Cardellini.
Made the list because…it’s a quirky story with a great cast and Kristen Wiig playing somebody a bit goofy and strange.
5 Flights Up
Synopsis: When Ruth (Diane Keaton) and Alex (Morgan Freeman) first moved to Brooklyn, it was the 1970s — years before gentrification, and years before they would realize that they won’t always be physically able to climb several flights of stairs just to get home. Still highly active, yet feeling the undeniable effects of age, the couple opts to put their apartment on the market. But the decision coincides with a flurry of problematic events. A trailer jackknifes on the Williamsburg Bridge and the driver inexplicably flees the scene, putting all of New York on an overblown terrorist alert. The couple’s dog becomes ill and the vet bill comes to $10,000. An overwhelming sequence of encounters with realtors, agents, and snotty bargain hunters only adds to their troubles.
Made the list because…from what I could see in the two minute trailer, Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman have a wonderfully sweet chemistry and seeing them together just feels right.
The D Train
Synopsis: All his life, Dan Landsman (Jack Black) has never been the cool guy. That’s about to change – if he can convince Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), the most popular guy from his high school who’s now the face of a national Banana Boat ad campaign, to show up with him to their class reunion. A man on a mission, Dan travels from Pittsburgh to LA and spins a web of lies to recruit Lawless. But he gets more than he bargains for as the unpredictable Lawless proceeds to take over his home, career, and entire life. Showcasing Jack Black and James Marsden’s most intoxicating performances to date, “D Train” serves up the question: how far would you go to be popular? Co-starring Kathryn Hahn and Jeffrey Tambor.
Made the list because…I’m a fan of Jack Black and Mike White. Remember, these are the same two guys who brought the world, School of Rock.
Synopsis: An uptight and by-the-book cop (Reese Witherspoon) tries to protect the sexy and outgoing widow (Sofia Vergara) of a drug boss as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen.
Made the list because…It’s always great to see female action comedies when the leading ladies are known for being funny and good actors.
Playing it Cool
Synopsis: Playing It Cool is the story of ME (Chris Evans), a young man disillusioned by love, who meets a breathtaking young woman, HER (Michelle Monaghan), at a charity dinner by pretending to be a philanthropist. Only one problem: she’s engaged. Yet, he engages into a platonic relationship to be able to keep seeing her. Like a young Walter Mitty using the power of imagination and wild vignettes, ME will stop at nothing to conquer HER heart.
Made the list because…It will be nice to see Evans in a role outside of Captain America.
Every Secret Thing
Synopsis: When a three-year-old girl goes missing, a small suburban New York town must revisit a tragic crime from seven years earlier. The underage perpetrators of the original crime, Alice Manning and Ronnie Fuller (Danielle Macdonald and Dakota Fanning), have been released from prison after coming of age and, justly or unjustly, come under suspicion once again. Detective Porter (Elizabeth Banks), who cracked the original case and is now the investigating officer of the missing girl, must examine her conscience and her deeply conflicted memories of the former crime. Alice’s mother, Helen Manning (Diane Lane), is given a chance to save her daughter from her complicated past. The consequences of the original crime and of the current missing child investigation put into question the characters’ motivations and culpability – past and present.
Made the list because…of the strong female cast. It’s also interesting to me that Banks has two movies opening this week—the other being Pitch Perfect 2—which she also directed. Every Secret Thing and Pitch Perfect 2 couldn’t be anymore different in tone and subject matter, which shows just how versatile of an actress Banks can be.
Synopsis: Major Tommy Egan (Ethan Hawke) is fighting a war from the safety of a Nevada trailer, but commitment to the mission comes at a price. Gattaca director Andrew Niccol reunites with Ethan Hawke for this timely drama about the human costs of advanced war technology.
Made the list because…of the re-teaming of Hawke and Niccol, who last worked together on Gattaca.
I’ll See You in My Dreams
Synopsis: After the death of her beloved dog, Carol (Blythe Danner) finds the everyday activities that have given her life structure – her regular bridge game, gardening, a glass of wine or two – have lost their luster. With the support of three loyal girlfriends (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place), Carol decides to embrace the world, embarking on an unlikely friendship with her pool maintenance man (Martin Starr), pursuing a new love interest (Sam Elliott), and reconnecting with her daughter (Malin Akerman).
Made the list because…it’s looks like a fun movie where everyone looks like they are had the best time putting this movie together. It’s also really nice to see Starr playing somebody other than a hostile geek.
Pitch Perfect 2
Synopsis: The Barden Bellas are back in Pitch Perfect 2, the follow-up to summer 2012’s smash hit. The comedy will be helmed by Elizabeth Banks, co-star and producer of “Pitch Perfect,” and produced by Paul Brooks, Max Handelman and Banks. Writer Kay Cannon returns to the team to pen the next chapter.
Made the list because…I remember enjoying the first movie when it came out, but loving it as much as I do now. I couldn’t help but think it was like “Bring it On” for a cappella groups. Pitch Perfect was entertaining but it didn’t really become a personal favorite until after I bought the soundtrack. I was hooked, and had to get it on Blu-ray, which is when I discovered just how much audiences loved it. I had to go to three stores before I finally located a copy at a Best Buy. My expectations for the sequel are high, which I know is a bad mindset to have.
Synopsis: From Disney comes two-time Oscar® winner Brad Bird’s riveting, mystery adventure Tomorrowland, starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as Tomorrowland. What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever.
Made the list because…of director Brad Bird, the imaginative mind behind Iron Giant and The Incredibles. This guy has an affinity for science fiction, comic books and superheroes. If there is anyone who could add substance to a movie based on a theme park ride it’s him.
Synopsis: In Aloha, a celebrated military contractor (Bradley Cooper) returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs – the US Space program in Honolulu, Hawaii – and reconnects with a long-ago love (Rachel McAdams) while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone) assigned to him.
Made the list because…of the cast and the possibility that writer-director Cameron Crowe is back to form.
Synopsis: Recently divorced, newly rich, and utterly miserable, Danny (Kevin Corrigan) would seem to be the perfect test subject for a definitive look at the relationship between money and happiness. Danny’s well-funded ennui is interrupted by a momentous trip to the local gym, where he meets self-styled guru/owner Trevor (Guy Pearce) and irresistibly acerbic trainer Kat (Cobie Smulders). Soon, their three lives are inextricably knotted, both professionally and personally.
Made the list because…it’s nice to see Cobie Smulders in a lead role.
Made the list because…I’m a sucker for natural disaster movies and there hasn’t been one like this in a long time. Plus, I live in Southern California and the threat of “the big one” is never far from my mind.
Love & Mercy
Synopsis: Love & Mercy presents an unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys. Set against the era defining catalog of Wilson’s music, the film intimately examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of the icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost.
Made the list because…the performances by John Cusack, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti look stellar. I was a little wary at first since it sounded like a depressing story, but after watching the trailer I changed my mind.
Synopsis: Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency’s most dangerous missions. But when her partner (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top agent (Jason Statham) is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster.
Made the list because…the last time Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy were directed by Paul Feig it was for Bridesmaids and we all know how that turned out. With Jude Law and Jason Statham in the mix it looks like there will be a lot of jokes poking fun at the spy genre.
Synopsis: We discover what happened after the horrific events of the original Jurassic Park, and how the past always seems to repeat itself.
Made the list because…the movie looks like it honors everything that made Jurassic Park an awesome movie. Having Chris Pratt star brings back the adventure-action feel of Spielberg’s ’80s classics. It’s not surprising he is a frontrunner to don the hat and whip of Indiana Jones.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Synopsis: The story of Greg (Thomas Mann), a high school senior who is trying to blend in anonymously, avoiding deeper relationships as a survival strategy for navigating the social minefield that is teenage life. He even describes his constant companion Earl (RJ Cyler), with whom he makes short film parodies of classic movies, as more of a ‘co-worker’ than a best friend. But when Greg’s mom (Connie Britton) insists he spend time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) – a girl in his class who has just been diagnosed with cancer – he slowly discovers how worthwhile the true bonds of friendship can be.
Made the list because…it looks like an endearing coming-of-age movie that doesn’t follow the usual plot points.
Synopsis: Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.
Made the list because…I love 90s hip hop and it will be fun trip down memory lane to watch a movie set in this time period.
Infinitely Polar Bear
Synopsis: Set in the late ’70s, an eccentric mess of a father tries to win back his wife by taking responsibility for their two young daughters. The spirited girls don’t make the overwhelming task any easier in “Infinitely Polar Bear.”
Made the list because…I like Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana. The story seems interesting enough where I am curious to see how Ruffalo portrays the character’s mental illness.
Synopsis: Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
Made the list because…Pixar tends to make really good movies, especially Pete Doctor, who co-directed and co-wrote the screenplay. Read my review here.
Synopsis: Academy Award winner Al Pacino gives a wondrous performance as a lonely locksmith whose life is transformed by a new romance in this magical love story from acclaimed director David Gordon Green (“Joe,” “All the Real Girls”). A.J. Manglehorn (Pacino) is a reclusive Texas key-maker who spends his days caring for his cat, finding comfort in his work and lamenting a long lost love. Enter kind-hearted bank teller Dawn (Holly Hunter) whose interest in the eccentric Manglehorn may just be able to draw him out of his shell.
Made the list because…of the incredible cast led by Pacino and Hunter.
Magic Mike XXL
Synopsis: Picking up the story three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, “Magic Mike XXL” finds the remaining Kings of Tampa likewise ready to throw in the towel. But they want to do it their way: burning down the house in one last blow-out performance in Myrtle Beach, and with legendary headliner Magic Mike sharing the spotlight with them. On the road to their final show, with whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah to renew old acquaintances and make new friends, Mike and the guys learn some new moves and shake off the past in surprising ways.
Made the list because…I am a woman and sometimes it’s nice to have the men be eye candy for a change.
Synopsis: When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Now, Sgt. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), dangerous new enemies, and an unexpected new mission: To reset the future…
Made the list because…I am curious to see how Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, will interpret the character made legendary by Linda Hamilton. It’s also amazes me how many ways they can tweak this story and make new movies.