COLUMN: 2015 Late Summer Movie Preview

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Boy, I'm just going to come out and say it.  Contrary to prior expectations at the beginning of the calendar year, there is not much worthwhile left in the 2015 summer movie season.  May and June were loaded and delivered from "Avengers: Age of Ultron" to "Jurassic World" and "Inside Out" with little hits in between like "Mad Max: Fury Road," "Spy," "San Andreas," and "Pitch Perfect 2."  Outside of some noteworthy big hitters, the slates for July and August don't look all that strong.  You'll see what I mean once you reach the August part of the list.  Here's a complete preview of the final two months and second half of the 2015 summer movie season.  As always, release dates can shift at any time, so check ahead before you head out to the theaters.


"Terminator: Genisys"-- Most people don't know what to feel about this update/reboot/sequel, especially after the trailers have seemingly spoiled everything mysterious about the return of the this franchise that should have stayed neatly finished nearly 25 years ago.  "Thor: The Dark World" director Alan Taylor is at the helm guiding Arnold Schwarzenegger in his signature role alongside newcomers Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, and Jason Clarke.  This studio hubris still thinks it can command a July 4th weekend.  They're lucky "Minions" held off a week or little yellow gibberish-speaking man-things would beat this overfilled blockbuster handily at the box office.  (trailer)

"Magic Mike XXL"-- Here's a question for you, two actually.  First, outside of the eye candy and fast-forwarding to the dance scenes, did anyone really like "Magic Mike" two years ago?  Yeah, me neither.  It was slow and tedious without really going anywhere.  Secondly, isn't "XXL" the wrong shirt size for these "SMedium" boys?  They don't seem like the fat guy section of JC Penney's for Big and Tall clothes.  I digress, but I'm sure there's still holes being burned in women's purses to fork over the dough to see the return of the best Dad Bods in the business.  (trailer)


"Minions"-- I am one of many wannabe box office movie gurus who predict that this film is going to absolutely rake.  By July 10, "Inside Out" has had its time and nothing else stands in Dreamworks's way the rest of the summer for this offshoot film to have box office legs as strong as "Despicable Me 2."  Parents, get ready to see this film more than you want to see it.  By the way, the casting of Sandra Bullock is a nice touch as a villainess.  (trailer)

"The Gallows"-- Here's your requisite found footage summer horror movie with a cool concept and an unknown cast.  "The Gallows" will lure the usual first-weekend-only horror fans for a nice debut where it will recoup its shoestring budget and force us to get 2-3 more of something that should have been done at one movie.  Carry on.  (trailer)

"Self/Less"-- On the small scale front as a possible hidden gem, visionary director Tarsem Singh ("Immortals," "Mirror, Mirror") gives us the high sci-fi concept of a mind swap where a dying rich man (Ben Kingsley) transfers his consciousness into the younger and healthier body of Ryan Reynolds to unknown implications.  Could this try to equal "Snowpiercer" from a year ago?  Maybe, or maybe not.  (trailer)


"Ant-Man"-- The pessimistic scavengers are beginning to circle this latest Marvel tangent which closes out the Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Advance scouts are calling for this to be Marvel's first flop.  People said that about "Guardians of the Galaxy" last year and its D-list obscurity, but look how that turned out.  Can the Marvel brand market and squeeze out a hit out of a turmoil-filled production that saw a popular fanboy director (Edgar Wright) get replaced and odd casting choices (Paul Rudd as a superhero?) make news?  This is Marvel's biggest challenge to that, but, then again, everyone says that.  (trailer

"Trainwreck"-- The ever-growing Amy Schumer ascension and coming-out party will peak with the fifth directorial effort of comedic renaissance man Judd Apatow.  If done right, this will make more money than "Ted 2" with ease.  Schumer's appeal is that large and the romantic comedy and date night crowds will follow suit and join in.  (red band trailer)

"Irrational Man"-- For the better part of the last decade, polarizing-yet-acclaimed filmmaker Woody Allen has dropped his annual movie effort in the heart of the summer season as a deft piece of counter-programming next to the bloated blockbusters.  He's been hit ("Midnight in Paris") and miss ("To Rome With Love") with that strategy.  "Irrational Man" centers around a college professor, played by Joaquin Phoenix, experiencing an emotional crisis until a new relationship with one of his students (Emma Stone, in her second consecutive Allen film) starts to bring him out of his funk.  Allen is always a tricky sell and Joaquin Phoenix doesn't make that any easier to swallow.  (trailer)

"Mr. Holmes"-- This small independent effort from Oscar winner Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters," "Chicago," "Dreamgirls") centers on a long-retired Sherlock Holmes, age 93 and play by Ian McKellen in 1947, being pulled out of retirement for one more big case.  It is already playing in Great Britain after premiering at the Berlin Film Festival.  There is definitely been a saturation point reached for all things Sherlock Holmes, but if anyone can give us something special and unique, it's Condon and McKellen.  (trailer)

"The Stanford Prison Experiment"-- Staying in the independent/smaller arena is this psychological thriller based on the true events of the storied 1971 university program that went awry attempting to re-create a prison setting for mental tests with mock prisons and guards.  Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, Nelsen Ellis, Olivia Thirlby, Logan Miller, and Tye Sheridan form the ensemble.  (trailer)


"Pixels"-- Adam Sandler has ruined several wonderful things during his movie career.  This time, he sets his sights on ruining nostalgic old video games and the reputation of Peter Dinklage with this hair-brained alien invasion movie that looks absolutely terrible.  And this is why we can't have nice things.  (trailer)

"Paper Towns"-- Last summer's surprise hit "The Fault of Our Stars" has opened the floodgates to getting angst-y movie adaptations of more John Green novels.  His 2008 novel "Paper Towns" surrounds a coming-of-age tale for a high school kid (Nat Wolff) who seeks to solve the disappearance of his free-spirted, wild child neighbor and love interest (Cara Delevingne).  Though this one appears to promise fewer required tissues, it is ideally placed for success with the underserved romance and teen crowd this summer.  (trailer)

"Southpaw"-- Jake Gyllenhaal transforms into a tattooed mess of a professional boxer trying to get his life in order as a single father fighting to prove his mental and emotional fitness in order to still have custody of his daughter.  This heavy-hitting drama comes from director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day," "White House Down") and co-stars Rachel McAdams.  Gyllenhaal is on a roll following "Nightcrawler" and this looks to be another starkly jarring performance.  Could Oscar finally come calling?  He deserves it.  (trailer)


"Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation"-- Now, here we go.  This is one of those noteworthy films worth getting excited about.  In this writer's opinion, the "Mission: Impossible" series, with its evolving history and rotating directors (this time from "Jack Reacher" director Christopher McQuarrie) ever since J.J. Abrams hopped on board as the creative producer, has gotten better with each new installment.  The ageless Tom Cruise is back for more spy swashbuckling and unreal stuntwork alongside Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, and America Olivo.  Don't lie.  That trailer footage of Tom hanging off of the side of the plane has you all frothed up the same way him hanging from the world's tallest building did last film.  This film moved up from a Christmastime release date to capitalize on the buzz and the easy pickings in this late summer slate.  Smart move.  (trailer)


"Fantastic Four"-- Many people don't know what to make of this new reboot of Marvel's original superhero team.  The marketing has been iffy and everyone wants to poke holes in its casting, direction, effects, writing, and chemistry without even seeing the film.  Large reports of creative strife between the director ("Chronicle" helmer Josh Trank) and the studio don't help the matter.  Fox is putting a great deal of effort in trying to power up their own Marvel Cinematic Universe and this is their biggest risk yet.  Is it already dead on arrival in the eyes of public opinion?  We'll find out.  (trailer)

"Ricki and the Flash"-- The indomitable Meryl Streep pulls another rabbit out of her hat to play a wannabe rock star who casts her family aside to chase her dreams of stardom.  Directed (Jonathan Demme of "The Silence of the Lambs") and written (Diablo Cody of "Juno") by a pair of Oscar winners, keep an eye on this potential small-scale crowd-pleaser and Oscar bait.  (trailer)

"Shaun the Sheep Movie"-- The beloved farm animals of the claymation spin-off of "Wallace and Gromit" gets its long form adventure on the big screen.  Naturally, the flock of curious sheep head to the big city.  This is the quieter kids movie you parents are looking for this summer.  (trailer)


"The Man From U.N.C.L.E."-- The kitschy 1960's TV show gets adapted for the big screen in a bombastic (but hopefully still kitschy) period-set spy thriller directed by Guy Ritchie (the "Sherlock Holmes" series).  Superman (Henry Cavill) and The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) are dueling American and Russian special agents who are forced to team up against a common threat.  This will either be loud and cool or loud and a big mess.  (trailer)

"Straight Outta Compton"-- The historic rise and fall of the rap revolutionaries N.W.A. (Easy E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube) is the dramatic focus of this musical biopic from director F. Gary Gray ("Friday," "The Negotiator," "Set It Off").  Virtual unknowns, including Ice Cube's own son playing his father, make up the lead trio while Paul Giamatti plays manager Jerry Heller that brought the men to fame.  This looks lofty and ambitious compared to most other paint-by-numbers musical biographical films.  Watch this film beat the dueling superheroes at the box office.  (trailer)


"Sinister 2"-- Here's your prerequisite late August lightly marketed and obscurely-filled horror sequel that no one asked for or needed.  Move on.  (trailer)

"Hitman: Agent 47"-- Here is your prerequisite sequel/reboot to a mostly-forgotten minor former hit that no one asked for containing none of the original cast.  Carry on.  One small note of interest is that this was supposed to be Paul Walker before his fatal car accident.  "Homeland" actor Rupert Friend took his place.  (trailer)

"Masterminds"-- "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Nacho Libre" director Jared Hess has assembled a cast to die for with Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Ken Marino, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones.  He's throwing them all together for heist comedy stuck in a late summer release versus superhero films and other options.  Good luck with your cheap shenanigans.  (trailer)

"American Ultra"-- In a comedy that appears far more funny and interesting than "Masterminds," writer and YouTube ranter Max Landis delivers a stoner comedy about a perpetually high government that is too good to be exterminated by his superiors when deemed to be expendable.  Old school "Adventureland" co-stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Steward reunite for this one.  (red band trailer)


"We Are Your Friends"-- Zac Efron stars in this true story of an ambitious DJ looking to hit the next level and make it big as an artist and producer.  Wes Bentley co-stars as his mentor and model-turned-actress Emily Ratajkowski plays the temptress he's not supposed to fall for.  Get your trance dance of self-importance on!  (trailer)

"Regression"-- Horror fans looking for something legitimate compared to the bad sequels earlier in the season need to circle this one on the calendar.  Renowned Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar ("The Others") returns to the genre with Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson in a twisted tale of guilt, admission, and truth surrounding a daughter who accuses her father of a heinous and unspeakable crime.  There is some pedigree here higher than the usual horror trash.  (trailer)

"War Room"-- Finally, we have something for the devoted Christian audience.  Filmmaker Alex Kendrick ("Courageous," "Fireproof," "Facing The Giants") returns with this drama highlighting the marital struggles and challenges within a household where the daughter is caught in the middle.  Kendrick is a proven hitmaker and this film should strike a chord equivalent to the same crowd that made "Heaven is for Real" last spring.  (trailer)