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Summer Movie Preview: Handing Out the Preseason Awards

The summer movie season starts in earnest May 1, with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, aka the biggest, most super-sized superhero movie ever made. There’s a lot to look forward to in summer 2015, with sequels/reboots to franchises like Jurassic ParkTerminator and Mad Max, along with a handful of comedies, horrors and action films. But who will come out on top? That’s the question of this summer movie preview.

Projected winners are in bold.

Best Comedy

Hot Pursuit
The pairing of Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara might be amusing enough, but this Midnight Run wannabe won’t come close to that level. Hot Pursuit may turn out pretty funny, but it feels like the kind of comedy people will forget three minutes after the credits roll.

Amy Schumer is taking over the world. Her Comedy Central show was renewed for a fourth season, she’s one of the biggest comedians on the planet and Trainwreck, which stars Schumer as a commitment-phobic woman falling for Bill Hader, supposedly killed at South by Southwest. Fact it. Schumer is becoming an unstoppable force. The only potential drawback is director Judd Apatow, who never met a pop-culture reference he didn’t like or a run-time under two hours that he did.

The reboot of the old Chevy Chase franchise tested so well, Warner Bros. shifted it from an October release to July. Starring Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold (Chase and Beverly DeAngelo reprise their roles), Christina Applegate and Chris Hemsworth, Vacation finds the younger Griswold looking to recreate the Wally World trip he experienced as a child. Co-writers/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein previously scripted Horrible Bosses, so expect lots of R-rated hijinks to hit poor Rusty Griswold on his way to Wally World.

By now, it’s pretty obvious what audiences are going to get with a Paul Feig directed movie starring Melissa McCarthy. Some laughs, some lazy directing/editing, and a nice sized hit. If Feig can handle the action scenes in Spy with a little grace, the movie may turn out to be a nice spoof on the spy genre. Jason Statham is supposedly hilarious in the movie, and Statham being funny would be a nice change of pace for the action star.

Ted 2
Mark Wahlberg is back for another go with that dirty teddy bear, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, and this time Ted is looking to have a kid with his now wife, Tammy Lynn. Comedy sequels almost never work, and Ted 2 looks like its going back to the same well as the original. There may be some funny moments, but chances are this sequel won’t be nearly the mega-hit Ted was.

Best Reboot/Sequel to a Long-Dormant Franchise

Mad Max: Fury Road – May 15
Fury Road is my pick for best movie of the summer, period. The car stunts were done with practical effects (take that, Furious 7), Tom Hardy is awesome and getting moreso by the day, George Miller, the writer/director of the original trilogy returns, and… oh, who am I kidding? Just look at the trailer!

Jurassic World
Star-Lord. Dinosaurs. Good raptors. It may have been in development for what felt like forever and a day, but Jurassic World looks to revive the Jurassic Park franchise in style. Steven Spielberg hand-picked both star Chris Pratt and director Colin Trevorrow, whose only other credit is the wonderful Safety Not Guaranteed. If Trevorrow can take the whimsical naivety of Safety and flip it on it’s head, Jurassic World may be a sequel finally worthy of the first Jurassic Park.

Poltergeist – May 22
Pretty sure Sam Rockwell was bad-mouthing this remake of the Tobe Hooper classic horror a few months ago. The trailer is appropriately creepy, but a PG-13 horror film is always cause for concern, even if it does star Rockwell, Rosemarie Dewitt and Jared Harris.

Terminator: Genisys
Outside of that one chase scene early in the film, Terminator Salvation stunk. An absolute mess led by the bland Sam Worthington, the fourquel almost killed the franchise, which is back for the first in what’s hoped to be a new trilogy. Original Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, even fighting his old self from 1984. The world doesn’t exactly need another Terminator film, but the trailer suggests the filmmakers are really having fun with the franchise’s mythology, a la the Star Trek reboot, and that one turned out to be fantastic.

won’t be the best reboot of the summer, but it is a reboot, and hopefully a damn funny one. ‘Nuff said.

Fantastic Four
Yawn. Just… yawn. This reboot reeks of 20th Century Fox refusing to let the film’s rights revert back to Marvel, which worked so well for Sony with the two Amazing Spider-Man films. Moving on.

The Transporter: Refueled
No Jason Statham. Repeat: No Jason Statham. Cheesy joke alert! Maybe it should’ve been called The Transporter: Running on Empty. Get it? Because the franchise is out of gas?

Best Sequel

Avengers: Age of Ultron – May 1
Everybody and their brother is going to see Age of Ultron, and why not? The first Avengers was the third highest grossing movie of all time, and the sequel looks to be bigger and better in every way … except it isn’t. It’s entertaining enough, and almost every member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe outside of Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy appears in Ultron, and sure writer/director Joss Whedon makes sure every character has their own moment, but with so many packed into the sequel, nobody really has a chance to stand out. 

Mad Max: Fury Road – May 15
This will be a recurring theme. Mad Max: Fury Road looks to be the best at everything, even life. Accept that fact and everyone will get along just fine.

Jurassic World
How hard can it be to make a good movie featuring dinosaurs set in the present day? Doesn’t seem that difficult, yet both of the Jurassic Park sequels missed the mark. Please let the fourth time be the charm. Please.

Ted 2
Maybe the sequel to the highest grossing R-rated comedy (worldwide) will prove to be as much of a surprise to audiences as the original. After Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s anyone’s guess as to how Ted 2 turns out.

Magic Mike XXL
This one’s for the ladies. The first Magic Mike was pretty enjoyable, at least the non-dance scenes, and gave the world the best McConnaughey-ism since “Just keep livin'” in 1993’s Dazed and Confused. No, no, no, no:

Pitch Perfect 2 – May 15
Pitch Perfect 
was a fun, sweet comedy that turned into a sleeper hit. The entire Pitch Perfect gang is back, along with a few newcomers, including True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld. This time, the Bellas are reeling after a disastrous performance in front of the President, leading the group to enter an international competition no American group has ever won. Will the Bellas capture the hearts and minds of the world, or will they fall flat on their face? Pitch, please. Apologies for no advance warning of the bad joke.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Pushed up from a Christmas release to cut down on potential piracy (or get out of the way of that little indie flick Star Wars), Rogue Nation finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the rest of the IMF squad being hunted by a group known as the Syndicate while facing dissolution from the U.S. government. Jack Reacher helmer Christopher McQuarrie takes the reins for this fifth Mission, and looks to top Ghost Protocol‘s insane Dubai sequence by strapping Cruise to the outside of a plane … while it’s flying at 3,000 feet.

Biggest Disappointment

Avengers: Age of Ultron
A lot of people are going to be disappointed in Ultron. How much remains to be seen.

Jurassic World
Both Jurassic Park sequels were varying shades of meh. Can Star-Lord and his gang of velociraptors be enough to revive this series?

Biggest Flop

Brad Bird’s follow-up to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, far and away the best in the M:I series, has the cherry Memorial Day weekend release date pretty much to itself (does anybody care about Poltergeist?), so why is there zero buzz surrounding Tomorrowland? It’s probably going to be pretty solid, but right now the conversation is all about Avengers and Mad Max. With a budget near $200 million, that should be cause for concern.

Personally, I think Ant-Man is going to be just fine. But it’s been Marvel’s red-headed stepchild ever since Edgar Wright left the project, so who knows who the film will turn out. At least it’s got enough self-awareness to know a movie called Ant-Man is pretty ridiculous.

Terminator: Genisys
Sure, it looks pretty good, but does anybody care about another Terminator? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

San Andreas
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson runs around Los Angeles trying to save his family while a bunch of big earthquakes are destroying everything around him. San Andreas will either be epic, cheesy and stupid in a fun, cult sort of way, or a flat out dud.

Entourage reached it’s creative peak in Season 3 … then went on for five more agonizing years. I don’t care how many cameos the movie has, even if one of them is Russell Wilson, a fellow North Carolina State University alum, the mold can be smelled on Entourage from a mile away.

Wait. Adam Sandler still makes movies that are released in theaters?

Fantastic Four
Josh Trank’s Chornicle was okay, and maybe his Fantastic Four reboot will work, but with so many new and different Marvel and DC properties coming to cinemas in the next few years, it’s hard to get excited about this retread.

Aloha –
Something happened to Cameron Crowe after Almost Famous. Not sure what it was, but the writer-director hasn’t been the same since. Vanilla Sky was … vanilla, Elizabethtown a disaster, We Bought a Zoo was an improvement, but based on the leaked emails in the Sony hack, Aloha is another regression for the once celebrated Crowe.

Biggest Sleeper Hit


So what if it’s a big Marvel movie? Ant-Man has sleeper written all over it.

There’s a lot of awards-level buzz for Southpaw, which looks to continue Jake Gyllenhaal’s rise to the title of “actor extraordinaire.” As a boxer looking for redemption, Gyllenhaal may finally snag an Oscar nomination, which would be fitting after last year’s snub for Nightcrawler, and director Antoine Fuqua did help Denzel Washington win a gold statue for Training Day. On the other hand, Fuqua is a solid but unspectacular director, who’s never really been able to rise above standard action fare like The Equalizer and Olympus has Fallen.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
If U.N.C.L.E. is a hit, it probably wouldn’t really be considered a sleeper. I just think it needed to go somewhere in the preview. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer star in the Guy Ritchie film, which looks like all kinds of retro fun. Though, why does it feel like the trailer feels more like a live action Archer than anything else?

Best Animated Film

Inside Out
The trailers for Inside Out make it seem like Pixar has returned to form after a string of duds. The studio may need the goodwill, because November’s The Good Dinosaur has been plagued with issues throughout production. The delays for Dinosaur were so lengthy, it was pushed from summer 2014, making last year the first year in forever that Pixar hasn’t released a film. Featuring the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling, Inside Out looks delightful, so let’s all enjoy the latest Pixar gem before bad Pixar strikes later this year.

Despicable Me 
was a fun movie. Despicable Me 2? Not so much. This spin-off, starring Groot’s minions, will probably fall somewhere in the middle.

Highest Grossing Film

Avengers: Age of Ultron 

Best Film

Avengers: Age of Ultron
has some funny parts, but the action in Marvel movies is starting to get repetitive. The movie is worth seeing, especially for fans of the Marvel universe, but there’s just way too many characters, and the movie comes to a screeching halt when extra attention is paid to … Hawkeye. Yes, Hawkeye. He’s a superhero too, you know.

Inside Out
Could this be Pixar’s return to greatness? In the words of Jean-Luc Picard, “Make it so.”

Mad Max: Fury Road
Age of Ultron is decent enough, and will absolutely be the summer’s highest grosser, but it won’t come close to being the best film of the summer. Inside Out and Tomorrowland should both impress, but everything I’ve seen of Fury Road says that this just won’t be the best film of the summer, it’ll be one of the best action films ever.

Brad Bird is a fantastic director. Everything he touches is golden, whether its animated (The Incredibles) or live action (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol). Tomorrowland shouldn’t be any different. There’s a reason it owns the Memorial Day weekend spot, and hopefully that’s because of the movie’s top-notch quality.


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The Author

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill used to spend his time writing screenplays into a notebook instead of doing homework. That love of film and all things storytelling led him to spend most of his time writing. He's been a film critic in North Carolina for over five years, and his debut novel, THE BOOK OF BART, is out now. Please buy it. Ryan also feels odd about referring to himself in the third person.