New Hollywood rule if you want to make bank at the multiplex: Bury the cute and cuddly. To get in the game this summer, fill your movies with pissed-off predators. Tom Hardy is ready to run you down in Mad Max: Fury Road. Raptors will chomp you in Jurassic World. The Thing will crush you in Fantastic Four. All humanity is on notice in Avengers: Age of Ultron, thanks to a rogue, robotized AI program named Ultron and his synthezoid creation, the Vision. Ah-nuld in Terminator Genisys isn't immune. Hell, even the animated emotions in Pixar's Inside Out boast a rager called Anger, and the three yellow dudes in Minions serve an evil mastermind. Don't like it? Expect the shitfaced talking bear in Ted 2 to curse your sorry ass. Go find a place to hide, movie wussies. Summer 2015 ain't for you.
Forget the critics who think Joss Whedon's follow-up to 2012's The Avengers is a letdown. Forget the haters who think Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Chris Evans (Captain America) slut-shamed Black Widow for getting it on with their characters and the Hulk. Really? Really! And just watch as Ultron starts and ends the summer on top of the heap. Why? Because no one brings the Marvel universe to life like Whedon. And because fresh characters (Paul Bettany's Vision) and familiar ones (Renner's Everyman Avenger) blend into a film that stays in your head and heart.
"You can fit all my dialogue on one page," jokes Tom Hardy. Fine by me. What counts is action. George Miller's reboot of his Mad Max franchise about a road warrior in an apocalyptic world casts Hardy in the role originated by Mel Gibson. Hardy is a dynamite actor, and Charlize Theron gets up in his face as the battling Furiosa (love the name). Miller, 70, straps you in for a ride through a world on fire. Burn, baby, burn.
The Barden Bellas are back! This sequel to the surprise 2012 hit follows everyone's favorite collegiate a-cappella badasses as they take on a Kraftwerk-like German squad (Das Sound Machine!) in order to get reinstated at school. Anna Kendrick continues to hit the high notes, literal and otherwise; Rebel Wilson keeps gleefully provides the lowbrow highlights; and a new "a capella-off" featuring the Green Bay Packers steals the show.
"It's Brad Bird – what else do you need to know about it?" says George Clooney. Point taken. I was pushing for details about Bird's top-secret Tomorrowland, in which Clooney plays a hermit inventor who fears and longs for a futuristic world. Since Bird kills it at animation (The Incredibles) and live action (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), I'm in.
So maybe you haven't been jonesing for a big-screen version of the HBO show about a movie star and his bro-buddies. But just hearing Jeremy Piven dismantle the pretensions of Hollywood as agent-turned-studio-chief Ari Gold equals toxic hilarity. "Ari leads through intimidation," says Piven. Yeah. But he's still a monster you can love.
Not buying the idea of Melissa McCarthy as a female James Bond? Screw you. McCarthy nails every laugh as an unlikely CIA agent in Paul Feig's laugh-a-minute spoof. She and Jason Statham, as a nasty spy gone rogue, are the summer's kick-ass comedy team, doing stunts and trading raunchy R-rated insults.
Chris Pratt is guarding a different kind of galaxy in this fourth screen take on an amusement park where genetically modified dinos run amok. "I don't get many chances to be funny," says Pratt, "what with raging raptors running around eating people." No worries. The only thing that can kill the box office on this baby is a monster called sequel fatigue.
It's Pixar — those geek genies have earned our trust. That means we'll buy into a movie about 11-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) trying to wrangle the animated emotions inside her head. Can Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) ward off Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black)? Probably. But bet on those bastards to put up a good fight in this emoji war of the worlds.
Seth MacFarlane proved he could rack up half a billion in 2012 by having a cute bear talk shit to Mark Wahlberg. This summer, he does it again by having Ted take on the law to legalize his marriage to his human GF (Jessica Barth), with Wahlberg providing the sperm. Too much? "What?!" says MacFarlane, who likes crossing the line.
Hey, so, do you like watching a shirtless Channing Tatum and his muscular, ripped-up friends grind for a hooting, hollering crowd? You do! Then start lining up now for this sequel to the 2012 movie that follows the continuing misadventures of Tatum's male stripper character. Original Magic Mike director Steven Soderbergh is technically "retired" now, so his longtime second unit/assistant director Gregory Jacobs has taken up the reins. We can only guess what the XXL bit refers to.
He's baa-ack. What more do you need to know? In this time-travel sequel, Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-man is shown entering naked from the 1984 original. "Then they show me naked today," says Ah-nuld. "Scary." And tons of fun to watch the damage done by an indestructible hunk of motivated metal.
In this prequel to Despicable Me, the tiny yellow creatures — Kevin, Stuart and Bob — serve the dastardly Overkills, Scarlet (Sandra Bullock) and Herb (Jon Hamm). If anyone can seize the summer cash crown from the Avengers, it’s the minions. Place your bets.
Shot on Apple iPhone 5s cameras, Tangerine is a visually innovative knockout. And Sean Baker's raw tale of two transgender L.A. hookers (Mya Taylor, Kiki Kitana Rodriguez) grabs you from the first frame. Gritty and groundbreaking.
Here comes another Marvel hero, with Paul Rudd as the thief who shrinks himself to ant size and wears the ant suit designed by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). It's all done to take on Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll), who is armed with cannons. As Rudd told David Letterman, "I guess we all can't wait to see how stupid this will be."
In the latest provocation from Woody Allen, an alcoholic philosophy professor, played by Joaquin Phoenix, joins a student (Emma Stone) in considering what Allen calls "the big questions." The existential debate, recalling Crimes and Misdemeanors, pivots on rationalizing violent extremes, even murder. Don't knock a think piece in a stultifying summer.
Ian McKellen plays Sherlock Holmes like a lion in winter, retired to Sussex to care for bees. Or is he? The great McKellen teams again with his Gods and Monsters director, Bill Condon, to create something brilliant, mysterious and lyrical.
She's the babe, the diva of riotous raunch, the hard-drinking, trash-talking party girl you'd never bring home to Mother. Like the title of her provocative, pinwheeling, howlingly funny movie, she's a trainwreck. And she's irresistible. That's because she – men's-magazine reporter Amy Townsend – is played by Amy Schumer, a comic force of nature who's making her big-screen debut as star and screenwriter. Schumer's been a stand-up since 2004, and her sharply satirical sketches are currently on view in Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer. Even though her character takes a swing at love in the person of a sports-medicine doc, nicely played by Bill Hader, Schumer knows the point is to eyeball Amy riding the storm, not to watch it subside. So batten down the hatches for Hurricane Amy, courtesy of director Judd Apatow. Can she rip comedy a new one and make us laugh till it hurts? Hell, yeah.
Jake Gyllenhaal looks like he can take on the world as Billy Hope, a left-handed boxer fighting his worst tendencies to win custody of his daughter. Gyllenhaal says he stuck to a "strict regimen" to muscle up for the role. It's a stark contrast to the pounds he dropped to play the spookily intense news cameraman in Nightcrawler. He wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for that great performance. Maybe Southpaw can rectify that injustice.
Confession: I'm a sucker for National Lampoon comedies that push the limit. So Vacation, with Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold, the son of Clark (Chevy Chase), taking his own family to Walley World had me at "Hello, it's R-rated." Bring on the bad taste. It's summer.
"I love it," says Tom Cruise. He's referring to doing his own stunts. And in the fifth chapter in his M:I series, he has a few doozies, including perilous motorcycle action and hanging off the side of a cargo plane in midflight. The plots don't matter much – this one concerns Cruise's Ethan Hunt taking down a shadow syndicate bent on . . . oh, who the hell cares? It's the stunts that count.