Welcome to May. The snow has finally melted, and it looks as if the warmer weather is here to stay, which means it is time to welcome in the summer movie season. Like last year, the gang here at Cinefessions gives a rundown of our top five most anticipated films for the months of May through August, plus a batch of honorable mentions. Though not every film coming out this summer is previewed, most of the major titles are, plus some smaller releases, proving that hundreds of millions of dollars are not necessarily needed to build excitement for a summer film. Enjoy!
Summer at the movies has hit again, kicking off early this year with a few I’ve already seen. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was amazingly well done, and, while Chris could take or leave Oculus, I absolutely loved it. I went through a list of films coming out the rest of the summer, where I found 18 films I was looking forward to. I’ve since whittled that down because a number of them I won’t get a chance to see in theaters, as I live in the middle of nowhere, and there are a few that I’ll happily wait for DVD or Netflix to watch in the comfort of my home. Bear in mind that I hate going to see films alone, so that usually means dragging my wife along, so my list is skewed a bit towards movies I think she’ll see with me. I can always watch a film alone at home anytime.
5. Lucy (August 8th)
Starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, Lucy is not a typical superhero movie, but looks to have some of the same themes to it, and is from director Luc Besson, who wrote and directed two of my favorite films, The Fifth Element and Leon: The Professional. The other reason I think this will be amazing is that it’ll finally show that a female led superhero style flick can not only succeed, but will be stellar, and we might finally get that Black Widow, Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman film out of it. At any rate, the film is going to be slick, and amazing to watch. Scarlett Johansson has been putting out some great films lately so Lucy is high on my radar.
4. Godzilla (May 16th)
Godzilla looks to be going even bigger than the ’97 reimagining, giving it a more polished look than the ‘90s Godzilla’s rushed look and feel. I’m one of the few who actually enjoy that film because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but this new version looks serious as hell, and I’m loving it. Bringing in heavy hitters like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe only adds to the depth of the cast, and I can admit that every time I see the trailer and hear either of those two uttering lines, or the roar, I get chills. Director Gareth Edwards’ last film was a low-budget creature feature called Monsters. It’s an amazing movie, and highly recommended. That’s just another reason that I think this one is going to be amazing.
3. Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27th)
Michael Bay returns to kick off what Paramount is hoping will be a new trilogy for the Transformers after a really successful first set of films. Although the first trilogy was a bit heavy on the popcorn fluff, and very light on plot, it was the robot-on-robot action that I loved, with some of my favorite character showing up. The first movie was charming, the second was a bit of a mess, and the third managed to find that right balance again. While I’m not fond of some of the new human cast, I’m willing to give them a shot. It’s a shame several of the human military cast isn’t migrating over as they’d been so integral, but given the shake-up they’re giving the Transformers this go ‘round, it doesn’t look like they’re our favorite sentient robots anymore. While we haven’t gotten much out of the trailers other than the usual blasting bass, big explosions, and destruction, the one thing I took out of it was Optimus wielding a giant weapon while riding the T-Rex mode of Grimlock into battle, and that’s more than enough for me. Bring it on.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8th)
There’s been uproar over this all over the place, and I’m just going to come right out and say it: there’s no straight up origin, or set canon for the Turtles. The comics had one set-up, the cartoon had a more kid-friendly version, and the live action films had another, but the one consistent take is irreverent teenage turtles with ninja skills, which is what I look for in anything with the TMNT cast in it. While I’d have loved a follow-up to the TMNT film from a few years back instead of a new origin, live-action film with CGI turtles instead of people inside Henson puppets, that’s probably never going to happen. We got this, and it looks like it’s hitting all the right notes for me to be a fun ride, and a trip down memory lane all over again when Transformers had gone off the air, and the Turtles had supplanted that need. It’s going to be loud and fun, and I’m definitely going to want to be in on that.
1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23rd)
X-Men and X-Men 2 are two of my favorites in the franchise, along with The Wolverine and X-Men: First Class, so to have Bryan Singer back directing this one is kind of a treat, and it offers up a chance to undo more of the damage that X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine did to it. I don’t think those last two I mentioned are terrible, but they both missed the mark a bit, and felt like corporate churn-outs, while The Wolverine and X-Men: First Class got that boat back on course. The new film looks like it’s going to give us some great storytelling, might fix a few problems with the continuity between films, and let them go in another direction with the films all over again. Honestly, I’m surprised it’s taken them this long to get the Sentinels involved considering how much of the ‘90s run of X-Men that I read would bring them up all over the place. It’s about time they realized Magneto isn’t the only great villain in the X-Men franchise, and now we’re getting a pretty up front taste of it.
Maleficent (May 30th)
I think I’m the only one in my household who wants to see this one, but Maleficent was always one of my favorite Disney villains. Loved the look, her attitude and just her variety of abilities. I like the casting I’ve seen, and the effects look good. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13th)
Caught the first film a while back on video, and loved it. Again, only person in the house who wants to see it so it’ll probably wait for video, but the characters were a blast the first time around, and I see that continuing.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11th)
Loved what they did with Rise of the Planet of the Apes but I’m willing to wait for video on this one. Not because I don’t think it’ll be awesome, but I can only go out to the movies so much, and while July is light all around, there’s a lot of stuff I want to see this summer.
Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1st)
I mentioned in my Captain America: The Winter Soldier review that I’ve jumped on the Marvel bandwagon. While I’ve never actually read any of the Guardians comics, the movie looks like it’ll be a nice, fun break after the fairly dark turns that Iron Man, Thor and Cap took, despite the brevity that they put into it, and give us a bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe to explore. This will bring in other worlds, alien races, and maybe even set us up for some Avengers action in space, or at the very least, Captain Marvel showing up, because that would be awesome.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22nd)
While I went and saw the first Sin City in theaters with a bunch of my buddies when it first came out, this one will probably also wait for home video before I give it a watch. I’m one of the few people I know who liked the first film in my area, and I can at least enjoy it at home. It’s been a long time since the first film, though, and I’m kind of nervous that it just won’t gel as well as the first outing did.
Ah, summer. It’s the beloved time for the mindless action film with budgets bigger than an income most normal people could only dream of seeing in a lifetime, or five. The thing about summer movies is that you just have to see them in the theatre; experience the roar of things blowing up – and things always blow up – and nothing does it like a good, old fashioned IMAX experience, something we still can’t replicate at home (yet). Something that usually rings true about summer movie season is that it sees a case of sequel-itis, and I am sad to report that this year my list is not only full of them, but it’s full of reboots as well.
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23rd)
I know, the X-Men fanboy has the latest, time traveling mind bender at the number 5 spot? The film looks great, and from what I hear, the source material is also excellent. I won the graphic novel but haven’t had the pleasure to read it yet. Why isn’t this number 1? I didn’t care for X-Men: First Class, so that puts a tiny damper on Days of Future Past. I’m still very excited for it, though.
4. How To Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13th)
I loved the original film. I loved Lilo & Stitch. I love writer/director Dean DeBlois, and, for those wondering, I would totally make babies with him. With that being said, I am worried. Why? The trailer reveals a lot, or so it seems. So is the big twist ruined? Or does that happen very early on? I don’t know, nor do I want to know until I get to see it for myself on opening day. If a certain someone is reading this list, you’re in town for this release, so I am dragging you with me!
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8th)
I am a HUGE Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. I still have all of my toys from when I was a kid. When the first trailer was released, my excitement level went from zero (there was a lot of weird plot drama when announced) to I HAVE to see this, like, now! It looks fantastic, and mindless, and I love the design choices. I’m a little iffy on the always-sexy Megan Fox as April, but only time will tell.
2. The Fault in Our Stars (June 6th)
Welcome to the only non-sequel or reboot on this list. Have you heard of this film? It’s based on a young adult novel, released three years ago. The book is fantastic, and was written by John Green, who is always good. I recommend checking out the book before seeing the film if that is your cup of tea. Fans of Perks of Being a Wallflower, please take notice: this is going to be right up your alley.
1. Godzilla (May 16th)
I am a gigantic Godzilla fan. I own every film on DVD, and even enjoyed the first American film, despite its flaws. Hearing a reboot was happening had me worried, but that first poster and teaser trailer got me pumped. From there we got more trailers that just got my blood pumping faster and faster. I haven’t been this excited for a film in a long time. I do have one concern: the use of a bear head to design Godzilla’s head seems a bit odd, but we’ll see if it works or not.
This was a tough crowd to pick from, and with so many sequels coming out, it made this even tougher than last year’s list. In release order only, here are my honorable mentions.
Maleficent (May 30)
Who doesn’t love Maleficent? She’s the perfect Disney villain, and a fan favorite. The only reason this Disney nerd didn’t put this in his top 5 is because the newest trailers look very iffy, with some really odd design choices. Here’s hoping it’s good!
Edge of Tomorrow (June 6th)
I never heard of this movie until a few days ago. I saw the trailer before a limited release dance flick. The Tom Cruise factor really knocked this out of my list, but it looks like a fun ride, and I’m really interested in seeing it.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11th)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was surprisingly fantastic. This film didn’t make the list because trailers have been very scarce, and with release looming so close, this might be a bad sign. Only time will tell.
The Giver (August 15th)
One of my all-time favorite books, and Katie Holmes? I’m sold. Too bad the trailer didn’t win me because it makes the film look very questionable. I’ll still be checking it out, though.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22nd)
I have waited nine years for this film. That’s a long time, and I just don’t understand why it took so long for us to get this sequel. Hopefully it’s great, but there must be a reason it took so long to be made.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2nd)
It isn’t a popular opinion amongst my friends, and many critics, but I had a wonderful time with The Amazing Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are a fantastic couple to watch, both of whom we will see in big budget films for years to come because of sheer talent. I understand that this reboot probably wasn’t needed, and that we’ve all heard this story a thousand times, but I still really enjoyed the first movie. The 3D effects were some of the best I’d seen up to that point, and really helped drive my desire to own a 3D television. That said, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 would have been further up on my list if it hadn’t been for the incredibly mixed reviews I’ve been reading about the film. Initial buzz was that it was one of the best superhero films ever made, but as time went on, that buzz all but died out. This is one I will definitely be checking out for myself, though, because most didn’t like the first one either.
4. The Purge: Anarchy (July 18th)
Last year, The Purge ended up at the #5 spot on my summer preview list, but it ended up being a film I enjoyed a lot more than my #1 (Brad Pitt’s World War Z). The Purge is a series I would be happy to see have an annual release, always following different families during the twelve hours of anarchy. There is endless potential for this film franchise, and I cannot wait to go back and visit this fictitious America. Anarchy moves from a home invasion thriller to an outdoor survival film as a couple’s car breaks down right before the annual purge begins. Tons of potential, and I’m excited to check it out.
3. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13th)
How to Train Your Dragon is undoubtedly one of my top ten animated films of all-time. It took me many years to finally watch it, but I’ve seen it multiple times since, and even enjoy the cartoon spin-off set in the same world with the same cast of characters. The sequel looks incredible, and it would take a miracle for this not to be an enjoyable movie-going experience.
2. Godzilla (May 16th)
Unlike Chris, I haven’t spent a lot of time with the Godzilla films. In fact, the original still sits shamefully on my Personal Cinefessions list, unwatched. I have seen the Matthew Broderick-helmed remake from 1998, which isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but this reboot looks to take things to a whole new level. The trailers show a dark, serious drama fused with a giant monster movie, and the scale seems out of this world. Bryan Cranston is just icing on the cake to what could be one of my favorite films of the summer, if not the year.
1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11th)
If you listen to our podcast, this should come as no surprise. In fact, all three of us kept the same #1 pick for this list that we mentioned on the podcast when I asked the question about which upcoming 2014 release we were all looking most forward to back in episode 04. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was my favorite summer blockbuster of 2011. It did everything right, rebooting a world that I love so much (that being the 1970s Planet of the Apes franchise, of course), and set up this next film perfectly. I’ll be honest and say that I have avoided all the trailers for this, and hope to go in as blind as I did for the first one. I admittedly have high expectations for this, but after the first one, those expectations are well deserved.
Like last year, I am looking forward to almost every movie that Chris and Ashe listed as well, but in order to avoid repeats, I will mention a couple that others haven’t yet.
A Million Ways to Die in the West (May 30th)
I only heard of this one thanks to doing research for this preview, but it is written by, and starring, Seth MacFarlane. I adore everything he does, and there is no way I won’t see this film, which is labeled a western comedy. That’s all I need to know.
22 Jump Street (June 13th)
Another sequel I am definitely looking forward to thanks to the unexpected success of its predecessor. 21 Jump Street should have been terrible, really, but Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill made it one of my favorite comedies of 2012. Here’s hoping lightning can strike twice.
The Signal (June 13th)
The Signal has been getting solid reviews out of Sundance, and it really looks like an interesting independent film about a group of college students that get lured to the desert by a hacker (not much of a synopsis, I know). Unlike these other movies on this list, The Signal had a sub-4 million-dollar budget, and relies entirely on story instead of explosions. Though reports are that the special effects look stellar as well, especially for a movie with such a small budget. William Eubank directs, and I now have to track down his first feature, Love (2011).
Tammy (July 2nd)
Haters gon’ hate, but I love Melissa McCarthy, and I will see anything with her in it. In Tammy, she plays a woman who loses her job, and then discovers that her husband has been cheating on her. In order to get out of the funk, she takes off on a road trip, joined by her foul-mouthed grandma. The trailer looks like typical Melissa McCarthy entertainment, which is just fine with me.
It probably comes to no surprise to regular readers that these three geeks have pretty similar lists, all filled with comic book adaptations, and giant monster movies. Looking through this year’s summer offerings, it doesn’t look as diverse as last year, and frankly, I’m not as excited about this year’s films as I was for the 2013 crop. That said, there are a few in here that have the chance to surprise us and end up on our Best of the Year lists in December (Godzilla, Lucy, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 are the three that immediately spring to mind in that category).
Which summer movies are on the top of your radar this year? Anything that we left out? Let us know about it in the comments below!
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.