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The Biggest and Best Movie of the Summer of 2015 Will Be…

inside-out-pixar


Before getting my hopes up too high for this summer’s seemingly promising crop of films, I decided to go back and assess the respective film lineups of the past three summers.

2014: Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Maleficent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, How to Train Your Dragon 2

2013: Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Heat, We’re the Millers, The Great Gatsby

2012: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, Ted, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, MIB 3, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus

These are just the top ten highest grossers of each year, but they help make a few things apparent:

1.) We’ll get at least one great film among this year’s top earners. 2014 had Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. 2013 had Iron Man 3 (and Monsters University, though I recognize I’m nearly alone there). And 2012 had The Dark Knight Rises.

2.) We probably won’t get more than one great film, but we’ll have at least a handful of solidly entertaining ones.

3.) I’m probably not going to see at least three of the summer’s top ten earners, and I’m definitely going to be OK with that.

So, yeah, no great insights, but what this does tell me is that I shouldn’t set unreasonably high expectations for the studio films that will be released over the next four months. Hell, last year at this time, I was writing up how pumped I was for The Giver (didn’t see it), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (didn’t see it), and my most anticipated 2014 summer movie, the putrid Godzilla.

I’m going to take a different approach to 2015. Instead of a simple top 10, I’ll discuss each month’s lineup in detail and try to highlight the places where commerce and quality might overlap. In other words, what will that one great 2015 summer mega-blockbuster be?

MAY

The Avengers: Age of Ultron won’t have to worry about the commerce end of things. It didn’t top its predecessor’s record-holding opening weekend, but it came pretty close. But reviews aren’t great. There are a lot of, I think, obligatorily positive mentions (or “pos-mens”) out there, leading to an inflated Tomato Meter, but dig deeper, and you’ll see some Marvel fatigue. I have no expectations of enjoying this one, and while I’ll see it, I can say with some confidence that it’s not what I’m looking for.

We can get some dreck out of the way early, too. Hot Pursuit looks like hot garbage. Poltergeist is either six months too late or six months too early to make a splash. (Also, no one cares.) Pitch Perfect 2 … blah. And while I’m excited for San Andreas because I think Dwayne Johnson is arguably the most appealing movie star in the world, I’m not sure it looks like a great film.

So that leaves Mad Max: Fury Road and Tomorrowland as genuine possibilities. The former will play Cannes and has a great cast and dynamite trailers. The latter is a bit of a mystery, but Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol) is helming. We’ll come back to these, but for now, on to June!

JUNE

With the exception of one dino-filled piece of unnecessary “cinostalgia,” June is comedy month, but a broad look at what’s on the docket tells me that maybe I should have used quotes on the word “comedy” as well.

There are two movies I could see breaking out as critical and commercial hits: one obvious, one perhaps less so. Inside Out, Pixar’s latest, is the former. Only the studio’s second original release since Up, it screened to laughs, tears, and lots of cheers at CinemaCon. (Take that for what it’s worth, but still…)

I’m also, perhaps foolishly, very high on Spy. Yes, Melissa McCarthy’s last project was an unmitigated disaster, but her talent is undeniable, and she seems to put her best foot forward when working with director Paul Feig. Spy just sounds like the kind of movie that will work, and those who saw it at SXSW seemed to legitimize that hunch. How much of a hit could it possibly be? That’s a fair question. Box office totals ought to top 100 million easily, but beyond that, who knows.

These two films excepted, I’m staying away from multiplexes this month. I’m sorry, but Jurassic World looks awful. And the less said about Entourage and Ted 2, the better. July, please!

JULY

This month at the movies is truly the best of times and the worst of times. On the one hand, Pixels. Also, the Vacation remake and a truly indefensible Minions movie. Yeeeahhh.

On the other hand, who’s ready for Tom Cruise doing impossible things?!?!?!? Me! Me! I am! Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation is rocking the double colon like a champ and despite director Brad Bird’s departure, I’m still down for more Ethan Hunt. Ghost Protocol was so damn good, and this one seems like it’s right in lockstep.

Trainwreck is another “best of times” summer movie, I hope. Amy Schumer meets Judd Apatow (as well as LeBron James and John Cena). This film should be great, and like Spy, we already kind of know that it is. That SXSW audience can fool you, but I don’t think that’ll be the case with Trainwreck.

A lot of people will be expecting big things from Ant-Man (pun intended). I’m not. Marvel lost me long ago, as I alluded to earlier, but this on nevertheless could be a major critical and box office hit, so we can’t discount it completely.

Finally, July 4 brings us to major question marks—Terminator: Genisys and Magic Mike XXL. The former has been roundly panned already by internet writers on the basis of just its trailer. Call me crazy, but I thought it looked like good, dumb fun. But I’m a Terminator series apologist, so I might not be the most impartial arbitor here.

When it comes to Magic Mike, I’m skeptical without Soderbergh in the director’s chair, but I didn’t really give that first film much of a chance a month or so before its release either. Turned out fairly well, didn’t it?

AUGUST

The last month of summer is, once again, a case of throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks. We’ve got a superhero movie, obviously. It’s Fantastic Four, and all I’ll say about that one is that August is pretty much the only time of year this film could succeed in.

There’s horror (Sinister 2), animation (Underdogs), and your annual lightly dramatic counter-programming (Straight Outta Compton).

I couldn’t be more excited about that last one, but it doesn’t really fit the criteria I’m looking for in this piece. In fact, nothing this month does. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.? No. Masterminds? Probably not. It might end up being a fine month for movies overall, but it’s definitely not one we’ll remember years from now. Nor will it likely rake in cash.

*****

So the list of possible summer-defining movies this year consists of Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland, Spy, Inside Out, and Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation. And what I’ve done is this: each film is ranked below in order of predicted box office total and predicted level of critical praise.

Box office
1.) Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation
2.) Inside Out
3.) Spy
4.) Mad Max: Fury Road
5.) Tomorrowland

Critical reception
1.) Inside Out
2.) Mad Max: Fury Road
3.) Tomorrowland
4.) Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation
5.) Spy

Sort of speaks for itself, right? I think Inside Out will be the movie we remember the summer of 2015 by, but there are some other promising titles right on its heels. If they all pan out, we’ll be in for a delightful summer!

And if not, well, fall’s always right around the corner.

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