COLUMN: 2014 Early Summer Movie Preview



After an extremely slow winter and spring 2014 movie seasons, we've finally come to the power part of the order filled with events, tentpoles, and blockbusters.  Outside of "The Lego Movie" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," this year has been starved for a new hit.  The front-loaded first half of the two-part summer season looks to change all that.  Here are your thumbnail previews for the upcoming early summer movie releases for May and June.  I'll come back in June to cover the second half of July and August.


"The Amazing Spider-Man 2"-- Starting off the season with an impressive nine-figure take already coming in from overseas, is Sony's big sequel to its Spider-Man reboot started two years ago, centering on a modern Peter Parker, the unexplained origins of his parents, and the growing threats of Oscorp.  Andrew Garfield (Peter/Spidey), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), and Sally Field (Aunt May) return and are joined by villains portrayed by Jamie Foxx (Electro), Dane DeHaan (Harry Osborn), Chris Cooper (Norman Osborn), and Paul Giamatti (Rhino).  Seeing Marvel's success under the Disney shingle, Sony has plans to build a potential powerhouse of their own and the seeds are being planted with a "Sinister Six" ultra-villain team-up.  If you haven't heard about this one, you've been living in a cave.  (trailer)

"Walk of Shame"-- In an effort to counter-program to the female crowd away from the comic book exploits of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden star in an off-kilter romantic comedy about a news anchor pining for a new job but faces a gauntlet towards a deadline because she wakes up after partying without a cell phone or wallet.  (trailer)

"Belle"-- Even deeper into the counter-programming is a costume drama from female British director Amma Asante about a mixed-race daughter of a naval officer ("Larry Crowne" star Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her struggle being accepted as adopted nobility.  Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, and Sam Reid fill the cast.  Ever since its premiere at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, it's been tracking at 77% on Rotten Tomatoes.  (trailer)


"Neighbors"-- Director Nicholas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Get Him to the Greek," "The Five-Year Engagement") of the Judd Apatow tree puts a clash between Seth Rogan's family man and Zac Efron's frat boy as dueling neighbors.  Rose Byrne plays Rogan's wife and David Franco is Efron's right hand man in this very R-rated comedy that is looking to repeat the laughs and success of "This is the End" from last summer.  (red band trailer)

"Chef"-- Actor/director Jon Favreau stepped away from big budget fare for this smaller passion project about playing a struggling top-knotch chef that achieves career renaissance as the owner and operator of a Miami food truck.  This smaller film is getting heavy promotional play on The Food Network.  Expect a decidedly strong effort from Favreau, who could use a rebound after passing on "Iron Man 3" and bombing with "Cowboys and Aliens."  (trailer)

"Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return"-- We shouldn't be surprised that another rogue and small-time animation studio was going to try and ride the coattails of a legend.  L. Frank Baum's classic gets a pseudo-sequel of Dorothy returning to Oz to new characters and surprises.  Lea Michelle, Dan Aykroyd. Jim Belushi, Kelsey Grammer, and Martin Short slum it as the voice cast.  (trailer)

"Moms' Night Out"-- Making the Lifetime Network circle of promotion, the title says it all.  This is an all-in-one-night adventure of a couple of moms and ladies who just wanted a girls night, but it's not turning out as planned.  Sarah Drew of "Grey's Anatomy" is your lead and is accompanied by Sean Astin, David Hunt, and country music star Trace Adkins.  (trailer)

MAY 16

"Godzilla"-- For those who thought the 1998 Matthew Broderick blockbuster wasn't big enough (or bad enough) or thought "Pacific Rim" was just an appetizer last summer, we've got a new, bigger, and badder take on "Godzilla" with Bryan Cranston, future "Avengers" duo Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Banks, and Ken Watanabe front and center.  The trailers have been wise not to tip their hand and show off the full monster, but the 1998 ones did the same thing and look what happened.  This film, more than any other this summer, has the most to prove.  (Asian international trailer)

"Million Dollar Arm"-- Walt Disney's latest live-action family film surrounds a smooth sports agent ("Mad Men" star Jon Hamm) who heads to cricket fields of India to scout new pitching talent for Major League Baseball stateside.  Let me guess.  It's a rich American learning a morality lesson while still taking the cake and winning at his job.  "Jerry Maguire" anyone?  (trailer)

MAY 23

"X-Men: Days of Future Past"-- Like Sony's control of all things "Spider-Man," Fox is hoping to expand their "X-Men" universe as another rival to "The Avengers" success of Marvel/Disney.  With "X-Men: Days of Future Past," the studio has brought back Bryan Singer, the original franchise director, to crossover and merge the two universes Fox has created with our favorite mutants.  Using a time travel story with Hugh Jackman's headlining Wolverine smack dab in the middle, Singer's original stars, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, will combine with the retold pasts for each of them created by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender from the 1960's-set reboot "X-Men: First Class" from 2011.  In between is a reunion of just about every "X-Men" character, young and old, from one older Academy Award winner (Halle Berry) to another new one (Jennifer Lawrence).  This looks ambitiously massive.  If done right, a franchise will get resurrected to a "Fast and Furious"-level comeback after Brett Ratner buried it with 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand."   (trailer)

"Blended"-- I say this every year and every summer.  Please, for the love of whatever God you worship, stop giving Adam Sandler your money to keep making the same terrible movies.  His equally overrated "50 First Dates" co-star Drew Barrymore reunites with him for another romantic comedy, this one set in Africa where they play blind daters stuck at a family resort with their respective kids and growing feelings.  Stop it already.  (trailer)

MAY 30

"Maleficent"-- Forgoing an annual animation entry from Pixar for the first time in over a decade, Disney is putting its eggs in the flashy live-action basket this year with a revamped take on an old favorite.  Angelina Jolie stars in the villain-centered "Maleficent" which will update "Sleeping Beauty" the way "Alice in Wonderland" and "Oz the Great and Powerful" have tried in the past.  Elle Fanning plays the doomed princess while Sharlto Copley, Juno Temple, and Imelda Staunton add additional roles.  Make no mistake, though.  The spotlight is on Jolie to be the female box office draw that Johnny Depp has been for the last decade and a half in a newfangled dark role.  (trailer)

"A Million Ways to Die in the West"-- "Ted" and "Family Guy" czar Seth McFarlane goes western with his riotous comedy ways as an Everyman caught in a town's showdown of eccentrics populated by Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, and Christopher Lloyd.  This is spaced far enough from "Neigbors" to get it's chance at the R-rated comedy dollar and is positioned two weeks in front of "22 Jump Street."  (red band trailer)


"Edge of Tomorrow"-- Tom Cruise seems to inhabit a cycle now playing science fiction leads that borrow too many ideas from other, better movies.  After starring in the decent "Oblivion" last April, Cruise and Emily Blunt headline Doug Liman's latest.  With a dash of "Source Code" mixed with "Enders Game" and more, "Edge of Tomorrow" encounters a time loop of a losing alien invasion battle where Cruise and Blunt change the outcome with each attempt to survive.  It looks as interesting as it does confounding already.  (trailer

"The Fault of Our Stars"-- The latest "It" girl, "Divergent" star Shailene Woodley, dives into another coming-of-age drama to woo audiences and teen romantics.  Based on the best-selling novel, Woodley plays a narrating cancer patient that falls in love with an amputee ex-athlete (played by her "Divergent" co-star Ansel Elgort) from her support group.  Pack your tissues.  This is your "The Notebook" option for the summer.  (trailer)


"22 Jump Street"-- With a bigger budget and box office clout behind it, the explosions and shenanigans are sure to get bigger with the return of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill for "22 Jump Street," where they move from high school to college with their undercover and flamboyant police work under the superiority of Ice Cube.  Also returning are the original film directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, hot off of the huge success of "The Lego Movie."  (red band trailer)  

"How to Train Your Dragon 2"-- Stepping into the June landscape that Disney/Pixar has vacated this year is Dreamworks and their hotly anticipated sequel.  With Vikings and Dragons now friendly neighbors, the adventures of Hiccup, Toothless, and company continue.  This will be the dazzling animated movie that you parents will be paying several times to see.  It's a good thing the dragons don't sing "Let it Go."  (trailer)


"Think Like a Man Too"-- Every summer brings the sequels, both necessary and unnecessary.  The modest surprise success of Tim Story's ensemble hit from 2012.  All of the primary cast of entangled males (Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, and Terrance J.) and females (Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, and Regina Hall) are back for a Las Vegas-set rematch of romantic one-up-manship.  (trailer)

"Jersey Boys"-- In quite possibly the oddest directorial and film subject pairing of the year, grizzled multiple Oscar winner Clint Eastwood is taking on the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons story of the hit Tony Award-winning musical "Jersey Boys."  With a possible eye for more drama than theatrics and a virtually unknown cast, outside of the Tony-winning lead of John Lloyd Young and a small part for Christopher Walken, Eastwood is going to put a unique spin on this one for sure.  This has been slowly under the radar with only as recent modest trailer and poster image that .  Little is known after that.  (trailer)


"Transformers: Age of Extinction"-- The sound of indiscriminate banging is either my head against the wall or the white noise of incoherence from another Michael Bay "Transformers" movie.  Bay and company, with new headliner Mark Wahlberg at the forefront, are interested in starting a new trilogy.  Ouch.  They need to find a way to try something new because most of these battles and explosions have been done before.  Points are awarded for the attempt at the beloved Dinobots, but I can't see this reigniting everyone's urge for three more of these movies.  (trailer)

"Snowpiercer"-- One notably smaller independent release coming in June is likely going to get labeled as the "other Chris Evans" film of 2014 after the big success of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."  Evans is the lead in a strange post-apocalyptic drama where a new climate change-caused Ice Age sends the scant remainder of society onto a perpetually moving train where people are strictly governed and divided by class.  Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Allison Pill, and Ed Harris round out the cast of this South Korean film that hopes to makes a splash stateside.  I, in fact, have been lucky enough to see and review it.  (trailer)

As always, pay attention to that movie calendar as release dates shift constantly.  Enjoy a movie during these opening months of summer!