The temperatures are rising, the coats are going into storage, and the TV spots are getting more prevalent. That’s right, it’s almost time for summer movie season again. The months of May through August are traditionally the biggest in the multiplex calendar, though the lines have become increasingly blurred in recent years—if “Noah” and “Divergent” didn’t kick off blockbuster season, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” certainly did, and that was three weeks ago.
Even so, things are different from the first weekend of May onwards, with at least one blockbuster hitting every week until mid August or so. So, with the release of season opener “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” approaching (which we’ve already seen, and it’s fair to say we’re not fans of), we thought we’d help you sort the wheat from the chaff by putting together the 40 films we’re most looking forward to over the next few months.
It’s an egalitarian mix of blockbusters and indies, united only by the fact that we’re looking forward to them, or in some cases have already seen them. You can find them below in ascending order, and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments section.
40. “The Giver”
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift, Alexander Skarsgård
Synopsis: In a dystopian future, a young man is chosen to be the new Receiver Of Memories, the last connection with the period before the Sameness, and with his predecessor begins a plot to revolt against the system.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: The last thing we need is another young adult movie as we’ve hardly been starved of those of late. But there’s reason to think that this might be something a little more impressive than “Divergent,” et al. For one, the source material, by Lois Lowry, is legitimately well-regarded in the literary world, preceded most of the recent run of “Hunger Games” ripoffs, and could have more thematic weight. For another, it’s been something of a passion project for star/producer Jeff Bridges, and he’s recruited a reliable pair of hands in the shape of director Phillip Noyce (as well as multi-Oscar winner Meryl Streep, in a villainous cameo). We’re not especially excited about the footage so far, but there’s every chance this could turn out better than it looks, given the talent involved.
Release Date: August 15th
39. “Transformers: Age Of Extinction”
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer
Synopsis: A struggling single father uncovers the long-hidden Optimus Prime, and just in time, as a terrifying new invasion of Transformers hits Earth.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Although the fourth film in the hugely successful “Transformers” franchise promises to be something of a reboot—dumping Shia LaBeouf and co. to focus on a new set of human characters led by Mark Wahlberg—early footage suggests this isn’t going to be a huge departure from what worked before. Namely, Michael Bay‘s signature style, thin characters and, most importantly, a ton of stuff exploding. But love or hate the original trilogy (the latter is the correct answer, obviously), there’s no denying that Bay knows how to shoot action like few else, so for sheer spectacle, there’s likely to be little that can compete with this. Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and T.J. Miller should make things a little more bearable, while for fans of Marvel-style shoehorned-in scenes set in China, there should be plenty to see, with much of the movie taking place there to boost foreign box office receipts.
Release Date: June 25th
38. “Happy Christmas”
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Joe Swanberg, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham
Synopsis: Trying to get over a break-up, an irresponsible twentysomething moves back in with her sister and sister’s husband, who have a newborn baby.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: For those of who’d gotten a little tired of his prolific-but-interchangeable output, “Drinking Buddies” was something of a refresher for Joe Swanberg, who took what he had learned from his many, many previous indie movies but deployed it with a bigger budget and better-known names to mostly warm and successful effect. “Happy Christmas” looks to be along much the same lines, with Swanberg teaming with Playlist favorites like Kendrick, Lynskey and Webber for another low-key comedy-drama. Our Sundance review suggested it wasn’t quite as successful, but praised the performances and said that it “unwraps a lot of thoughtful ideas over its brief 78-minute running time,” concluding that the film was “engaging, truthful and affecting.”
Release Date: July 25th
37. “The Purge: Anarchy”
Cast: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Michael K. Williams
Synopsis: It’s the time for the annual Purge, when all crime in America becomes legal for 24 hours, and a man out for vengeance hits the streets but soon finds himself reluctantly protecting strangers who couldn’t get to safety in time.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Last summer’s sleeper hit “The Purge” was a great idea in search of a script that wasn’t completely idiotic, but that idea was great enough that we’d be intrigued to see more of the Purge-enabled world, and that’s exactly what the hastily-put-together sequel promises. Rather than Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey‘s yuppies, we’re on the streets with those that can’t afford to shut themselves in a house. That promises something less like a standard-issue slasher movie, and something more intriguing (there’s a John Carpenter and Walter Hill vibe from the trailer). And there are some good actors involved too, most notably the always welcome Frank Grillo in the lead role. That writer/director James DeMonaco is back to helm doesn’t bode hugely well, but he’ll hopefully up his game this time around.
Release Date: July 18th
36. “Jersey Boys”
Cast: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda, Christopher Walken
Synopsis: The story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, who went from humble New Jersey beginnings to become musical megastars.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: In the works for literally years at this point (Jon Favreau got as far as beginning casting before the studio pulled the plug), the long-running Broadway smash finally makes it to the screen, thanks to none other than Clint Eastwood. The former Man With No Name might not strike you as a natural fit for this (especially if you’ve seen “Paint Your Wagon“), but let’s not forget that his last musical biopic, “Bird,” is probably one of his better films, so there’s every reason to think this could follow in those footsteps. Eastwood looks to be adapting the show fairly faithfully, keeping a number of actors who played roles on stage, and the trailer promises beats so familiar that they’ve been included in almost every musical biopic. But anyone who counts out Eastwood entirely is something of a fool, and if nothing else, the soundtrack should be solid.
Release Date: June 20th
35. “A Million Ways To Die In The West”
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris
Synopsis: In the deadly Old West, a cowardly man recently dumped by his girlfriend must enlist a female gunfighter to help him survive a duel with a legendary outlaw.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Even with a lukewarm reception for his Oscar-hosting gig, Seth MacFarlane remains pretty much on top of the entertainment world, with his TV shows still going strong, and “Ted” being one of the most successful comedies in history. For his follow-up as writer/director, he’s heading in front of camera as well, taking the lead role in a cast full of former cohorts, comedy ringers or people playing against-type (Theron, Neeson). We can’t say we were huge fans of “Ted” or MacFarlane’s fish-in-a-barrel comic style in general, but we’d also be lying if we denied laughing at least once at the trailer for this “Blazing Saddles“-esque comedy. In a summer that’s lacking in big-name comedy, this should make an absolute killing and maybe it’ll even be funny this time around.
Release Date: May 30th
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Juno Temple
Synopsis: The untold story of one of Disney‘s most iconic villains, Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty.”
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Disney’s latest live-action retelling of a classic story is molded from the same stuff as “Alice In Wonderland” and “Oz: The Great & Powerful,” and the worst-case scenario is that it turns out as the same kind of garish, CGI-heavy nightmare as those films (especially with Robert Stromberg, a veteran production designer on those two films, making his directorial debut here). But by telling the story from the villain’s perspective, the film’s giving itself a reason to exist that the other ones didn’t necessarily have, and few would deny that Jolie is phenomenal casting in the title role (and she looks to be having lots of fun in the part, her first on-screen turn in four years). The star alone would be reason to watch, but trailers suggest something with a little more promise than ‘Alice’ or ‘Oz,’ so we won’t write it off just yet.
Release Date: May 30th
33. “Get On Up”
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, Jill Scott
Synopsis: Biopic of legendary musical sensation James Brown, focusing on his relationship with the mother who abandoned him, and his rise after being released from prison.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: From his early years being raised in a brothel and spending time in prison to a colorful later life, few would argue that James Brown doesn’t provide enough material for a biopic, and one’s been in the works in various forms for over a decade. The film was finally shot last year, with “The Help” director Tate Taylor behind the camera and “42” star Chadwick Boseman in the lead role. It looks very much in the mold of “Walk The Line” and “Ray” et al., so expect some cliches, but with a script co-written by “Jerusalem” author Jez Butterworth, there’s some hope that it could be a cut above. And if nothing else, it should be well acted. Boseman’s a real talent, and Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (who both got Oscar nominations for Taylor’s previous films) are among the supporting cast. Plus, by the start of August, we might well be starving for a mainstream movie that doesn’t have superheroes or explosions, so there’s always that.
Release Date: August 1st
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Pilou Asbaek, Julian Rhind-Tutt
Synopsis: A young woman is forced to be a drug mule, only for the drugs to leak into her system, giving her superhuman, even godlike, powers.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: He had a global success with “Taken,” but Luc Besson‘s attempts to turn the likes of Kevin Costner, John Travolta and Robert De Niro into similar-sized action stars haven’t worked out so well. But could Scarlett Johansson be his next success? The actress has been on a hell of a roll recently, and looks to have a good showcase in this. The film seems to start as a sort of superpowered-Bourne, but looks to get increasingly batshit and trippy (Besson himself has compared the third act to “2001,” which is a tantalizing prospect). It could turn out to be the same kind of undercooked Euro-actioner as “3 Days To Kill” or “From Paris With Love,” but we’ve got higher hopes that this could be something more distinctive, and maybe even return Besson to his “Leon“-era form.
Release Date: August 8th
31. “Jupiter Ascending
Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton
Synopsis: An unassuming cleaner is rescued by a half-human half-wolf hybrid from another world, and discovers that she has the same genetic make-up as the Queen of the Universe.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Say what you like about the Wachowskis, but they do not play safe. The creators of “The Matrix” haven’t stopped to lick their wounds over the failure of “Speed Racer” or “Cloud Atlas” (movies that, while not entirely successful, are bolder and better made than 90% of would-be blockbusters), and somehow convinced Warner Bros. to give them a nine-figure sum to make this bonkers-looking space opera. An unwise financial investment perhaps (if anything this year is destined to be a mega-flop, it’s probably this), but we’re glad it exists, in theory—there’s an ambition, and a not-caring-about-what-you-think-about-them-giving-Channing-Tatum-elf-ears spirit, to the film that little else in the summer can match. After all, “Star Wars” probably looked as silly as this in advance, and maybe “Jupiter Ascending” can surprise and become the same kind of pop culture phenomenon? Probably not, but we’re looking forward to seeing the Wachowskis swing for the fences and try.
Release Date: July 18th
30. “I Origins”
Cast: Michael Pitt, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling, Archie Panjabi, Cara Seymour
Synopsis: A molecular biologist makes a startling discovery that could change the world as we know it.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: 2011’s “Another Earth” wasn’t an unqualified success, but it was a distinctive and ambitious indie sci-fi that had us keen to see what director Mike Cahill did next. The filmmaker was back at Sundance this year with his follow-up (again co-starring, though not co-written by, Brit Marling), and while it might have one of the worst titles in the history of the medium, there’s enough to “I Origins” to keep us intrigued. The always undervalued Michael Pitt takes the lead role in a tale that promises to cover reincarnation, identity and love, and according to our Sundance review, it does pretty well at tackling these topics: Rodrigo Perez called it “a fascinating examination of belief, spirituality and otherworldliness through the skeptical lens of science,” and said it “cements [Cahill] as the real deal.” With any luck, this could be the thinking man’s sci-fi antidote of the summer.
Release Date: July 18th
29. “The Fault In Our Stars”
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Mike Birbiglia, Willem Dafoe
Synopsis: Two cancer-suffering teens meet in a support group, bond over their favorite novel, and set out to find the book’s reclusive author, falling in love in the process.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: If you’re over a certain age, “The Fault In Our Stars” probably doesn’t mean all that much to you, but if you’ve recently been in your teens, you probably have a tear-stained copy somewhere. John Green‘s book is a well-reviewed best-seller to rank with “The Hunger Games,” although it’s free of any genre elements whatsoever. To some degree, the film (directed by “Stuck In Love” helmer Josh Boone) looks to be an old-fashioned weepie, but the material is closer to Cameron Crowe or “Terms Of Endearment” than “Love Story” or Nicholas Sparks, and Boone has mad some intriguingly off-beat casting, with teen heartthrobs Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort rubbing shoulders with the less likely figures of Laura Dern and Mike Birbiglia. It’s always possible that the execution will turn out to be more mawkish than we hoped, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that this’ll fit with the recent run of New Sincerity teen movies like “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” and “The Spectacular Now.”
Release Date: June 6th
28. “Cold In July”
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepherd, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Wyatt Russell
Synopsis: A man shoots someone who breaks into his house, only to be targeted for revenge by the dead man’s father.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: “Cold In July” (an adaptation of the novel by Joe R. Lansdale) might have a similar logline to David Cronenberg‘s “A History Of Violence,” but the results are very different. Directed by rising star Jim Mickle, who made a real impression last year with horror remake “We Are What We Are,” this is a stripped down ’80s-style noir thriller, with an appropriately grizzled cast led by a post-“Dexter” Michel C. Hall. The film premiered at Sundance back in January, and picked up some strong notices, including our own, which pointed out that it “becomes a different kind of strange beast altogether” halfway through, continuing to evolve, saying that “Mickle has an acute understanding of chilling tone, mood and distressing atmosphere,” and concluding it’s “unusually absorbing and memorable.” Could be a nice little lo-fi antidote of thrills this summer.
Release Date: May 23rd
27. “Palo Alto”
Cast: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, James Franco, Olivia Crocicchia
Synopsis: In the titular Californian town, young April, spurned by Jack, is drawn to her handsome soccer coach, while Jack is led astray by best pal Fred’s self-destructive behavior.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: As if to prove that filmmaking can run in the genes, “Palo Alto” marks the directorial debut of the umpteenth Coppola to enter the family business, in this case 27-year-old Gia, granddaughter of Francis Ford and niece of Roman and Sofia. She enters the trade with this adaptation of James Franco‘s book of short stories (with Franco himself making an appearance), and she’s certainly got the talent: it’s arguably the best film made by a Coppola since the tonally comparable “Virgin Suicides.” A woozy, lyrical picture with an ace soundtrack, our review from Venice dug it, for the most part, with the helmer doing “more to capture her characters’ listlessness than you’d think possible for a first-timer.” A strong cast, with Wolff and Roberts as particular stand-outs, help things along too. It’ll be more under-the-radar than most in the season, but it’s a definite cult classic in the making.
Release Date: May 9th
26. “Magic In The Moonlight”
Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater
Synopsis: An Englishman travels to the South of France to investigate a possible art con.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Woody Allen doesn’t quite abide by a good/bad, even/odd structure like “Star Trek” or David Fincher movies, but it feels like it’s pretty rare to see the veteran writer/director make two good ones in a row. So the downside of “Blue Jasmine” being his best in at least a decade is that it feels like the chances of the next one being worthwhile are relatively slim. That said, there’s a first time to everything, and Allen’s certainly got a potent central duo for his new one, which is apparently a fairly light farce, more “Scoop” than “September,” as it were. Colin Firth and Emma Stone take the lead roles, and if there’s a more irresistible duo for a French Riviera caper, then we can’t think of one right now. Don’t expect any Blanchett-style tour-de-forces, and hopefully it’ll still prove a good time.
Release Date: July 25th
25. “Obvious Child”
Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, David Cross, Richard Kind
Synopsis: When she’s dumped and fired, an aspiring stand-up comedian seeks out an abortion, even as she realizes that the father might be worth more than a one-night stand.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: We’re a few years on from the spate of pregnancy comedies, so it seems about time than we had an abortion comedy as a counterpoint, and it finally arrived at Sundance this year in the shape of “Obvious Child.” The feature debut of writer/director Gillian Robespierre, it showcases former ‘SNL‘-er Jenny Slate in a much-deserved lead role, and won acclaim in Park City from a whole host of sources thanks to its fresh and honest taken on a brave subject matter and a familiar set-up. For instance, James Rocchi wrote for us in Sundance that, despite the low-budget, “it never feels rushed or slapdash,” and called it “tough and funny and true and snappy… well-made and wickedly bold.”
Release Date: June 6th
24. “The Double”
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor
Synopsis: Mild-mannered office drone Simon James has his life take a dark turn when a doppelganger named James Simon joins his company, soon winning over colleagues and the girl that he secretly loves.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: “Submarine” might not have been perfect, but it marked the arrival of a hugely exciting new voice in the shape of actor-turned-director Richard Ayoade. His follow-up, the Dostoevsky-indebted “The Double,” was worth the wait, an even more distinctive and odd film that’s quite different from anything else you’ll see in 2014. As Kevin said in Toronto, the film “matches its visual consistency with a narrative rhythm that is utterly engaging,” with a gorgeous look from DP Erik Wilson, and a great score by Andrew Hewitt. It also has an “emotional and thematic pull that is surprisingly weighty for this sort of picture,” while among a strong and eclectic cast also including Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn and Noah Taylor, star Jesse Eisenberg “gives two excellent performances… [allowing] him to find new notes to both his trademark on-screen personas.” Some of the Playlist staff didn’t find it quite as impressive, saying it didn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts, but even they concede it’s likable stuff.
Release Date: May 9th
23. “Land Ho!”
Cast: Paul Eenhorn, Earl Lynn Nelson
Synopsis: The elderly Colin is glum after the end of his marriage, so his former brother-in-law Mitch decides to surprise him with a trip to Iceland.
Why It’s Worth Seeing; Aaron Katz‘s “Cold Weather” was one of the more winning indies of the last few years, so the news that he was teaming with Martha Stephens (“Passenger Pigeons“) for a rather different tale, one about two elderly friends on a trip to Iceland together, was always intriguing. And when the film premiered in Sundance this year, it mostly lived up to expectations. Toplining “This Is Martin Bonner” breakout Eenhorn, it’s a low-key drama reminiscent of David Gordon Green‘s recent “Prince Avalanche” (Gordon Green is an executive producer on the film), which is, as our Park City reviewer said, “played in a soft-note, minor key.” We had a few reservations about the film, but we concluded that it’s “easy to admire and appreciate in its quiet observations and tender form.”
Release Date: July 11th
Cast: Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Alex Van Warmerdam
Synopsis: A mysterious stranger ingratiates himself into the lives of a seemingly ordinary Dutch family.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: One of the more pleasant surprises of last year’s Cannes, “Borgman” has one of the more arresting openings of the year, as a wild-looking homeless man is tracked through the woods, and only gets more interesting from there. The film falls somewhere in between Michael Haneke, Ben Wheatley and Yorgos Lanthimos in its blackly funny investigation of what lies behind closed curtains in an ordinary family. Our Jessica Kiang raved about the film in Cannes, saying it contained “a playfulness that permeates even the film’s darkest moments,” and calling it “a blackly funny continuation of one of our most resilient storytelling traditions, Good vs. Evil.” Other Playlisters who’ve seen the film had more reservations, but even so, it’s certainly one of the most fascinating and distinctive films set to hit in the next few months.
Release Date: June 6th
21. “What If”
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Rafe Spall, Mackenzie Davis
Synopsis: A guy and a girl meet at a party and seem perfect for each other, but she has a boyfriend. Will they be able to just be friends?
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It might have been given the most generic retitling possible, as is quite common in the genre for some reason, but otherwise “What If” (which screened at TIFF under its original name, “The F Word“) is meant to be the rarest of beasts: a thoroughly decent contemporary rom-com. Written by Elan Mastai and directed by “Goon” helmer Michael Dowse, it’s got an appealing young couple at the center in the shape of Radliffe and Kazan, and ringers like Driver, Spall and Davis in support. We really enjoyed the script when we read it a few years back, and the word from TIFF was that, even if it wasn’t the weightiest film of the year, it was very appealing and funny. Let’s hope it lives up to the buzz when it arrives in a few months.
Release Date: August 1st
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Reid, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Tom Felton
Synopsis: The true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, born to a British aristocrat and a slave in the 18th century, who inherited great riches but wasn’t accepted by much of society.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Lord knows we don’t need another British costume drama, but “Belle” is the rare one that’s a cut above. Directed by Amma Asante, whose drama “A Way Of Life” won her a BAFTA a decade ago, it tells a little-known tale in British history, and it’s a rather important one: bringing race into a traditionally Austen-esque costume drama gives it a whole new lease on life, a clever and potent subversion on the genre, that’s well-written and well-made. And well-acted too, not least by star Gugu Mbatha-Raw (J.J. Abrams series “Undercovers“), who’s likely to get a huge boost as a result of her performance here. A potential candidate for the sort of “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” counter-programming slot, this could be one of the arthouse sleepers of the year.
Release Date: May 2nd
19. “X-Men: Days Of Future Past”
Cast: Every single actor in Hollywood.
Synopsis: In an apocalyptic future where the robotic Sentinels have wiped out most of mutantkind, Wolverine is sent back to the 1970s to convince Charles Xavier and Magneto to work together to save the future.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Recent controversies aside, the return of Bryan Singer to the X-Men franchise was always a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, he birthed the series, and was behind by far the best entry, in the shape of the second film. On the other, the director’s been off his game almost ever since, with last year’s “Jack The Giant Slayer” being a particular nadir. The initial evidence of this mega-crossover X-film was questionable, with a billion characters and some rather dodgy design work. But footage has got more and more promising as time’s gone on, and the right elements are here (McKellen/Stewart! McAvoy/Fassbender! J-Law! P-Dink!) for it to exceed “X2” as the high point of the series, so long as the script is up to scratch. Fingers and adamantium claws crossed, then…
Release Date: May 23rd
18. “A Most Wanted Man”
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, WIllem Dafoe, Grigorly Dobrygin
Synopsis: A German counter-intelligence group attempt to track a Chechen Muslim who may or may not be a terrorist.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: We’ve always been looking forward to “A Most Wanted Man,” the adaptation of the John le Carré thriller from “Control” and “The American” helmer Anton Corbijn, but the film’s taken on a sad tone since it premiered at Sundance. Heartbreakingly, it proved to be the one of the last roles of star Philip Seymour Hoffman, and most agree it’s one of the late actor’s finest performances. Otherwise, if you know Corbijn’s work, you’ll probably have an idea of what to expect—if you thought “The American” was lacking in thrills, this, which our Sundance reviewer described as an “anti-thriller,” won’t be up your street. But if your taste in spy flicks leans towards the cool and cerebral, this could scratch the right itch, being “handsomely produced,” and carrying “the feel of a tense and moody European caper.” But more than anything else, we’ll be savoring it as one of the last chances to see Hoffman on the screen.
Release Date: July 25th
17. “The One I Love”
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass, Ted Danson
Synopsis: A young married couple go away for a weekend together in an attempt to save their relationship, but soon weird goings-on start to take place.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: One of the buzzier films from this year’s Sundance, “The One I Love” marks the directorial debut of Charlie McDowell, the son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, boyfriend of Rooney Mara, and author of the “Dear Girls Above Me” Twitter feed and book. But from the buzz around the film, which has one of the best-kept secrets of the festival at its heart, he’s no tourist: the film won a ton of praise both for its central performances and for the writing (by newcomer Justin Lader). Our Sundance review praised “the natural chemistry” between Moss and Duplass, and the way the film “explores dysfunction through an intriguing, high-concept premise.” It’s one of the more original romances and sci-fi films we’ve seen in recent times, and should be a breath of fresh air in theaters in the next few months.
Release Date: August 15th
16. “Edge Of Tomorrow”
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Charlotte Riley, Franz Drameh
Synopsis: As Earth fights a desperate battle against an alien race known as the Mimics, an inexperienced soldier is forced into battle, only to find himself living the same day over and over again.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Tom Cruise remains in a slightly awkward point where he’s a huge draw in the “Mission: Impossible” series, but slightly less so elsewhere. But the more we see of “Edge Of Tomorrow,” the more intriguing it becomes. The sci-fi “Groundhog Day” set-up is always fun (see the recent “Source Code“), director Doug Liman often brings something fresh to genre fare like this, and it’s a much-deserved leading ass-kicking role for Emily Blunt. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a relatively new sci-fi movie in a summer as full of remakes, reboots and sequels as ever. Trailers have been increasingly impressive, and it looks less obviously derivative than last year’s “Oblivion,” so we’re hopeful that this could be a pleasant surprise.
Release Date: June 6th
15. “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Djimon Housou
Synopsis: Five years after Hiccup brought the Vikings and the dragons to peace, all is well on the Island of Berk. But a figure from Hiccup’s past, and a terrifying new villain, are about to change everything again.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: “How To Train Your Dragon” is the high bar of DreamWorks Animation‘s output so far, perhaps the one time they have stood hand-in-hand with the very finest from Pixar, and was a pretty giant hit, so a sequel was always going to be along quickly. This promises to expand the world from the original film, with co-director of the first film, Dean DeBlois, returning. There are some new additions too: Kit Harington, Djimon Hounsou and, in the key role of the Dragon Rider, Cate Blanchett. Sequels are always tricky, but from the trailers, this looks to keep the same mix of spectacular action, gorgeous visuals and giant heart that made the first one so memorable. If it’s inferior, it wouldn’t be the first time an animated sequel disappointed, but from what we’ve seen, there’s no reason to expect much of a dip.
Release Date: June 13th, after a Cannes premiere next month.
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz
Synopsis: A group of frat guys move in next door to a friendly suburban couple, setting off an epic turf war that crosses generational divides.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: A few years back, we saw “Bridesmaids” premiere in ‘work-in-progress’ form at the SXSW film festival, where it went down a storm, presaging glorious critical reception and huge box office. “Neighbors” might be the best big studio comedy since that, and looks set for very similar success. The latest from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Five-Year Engagement” director Nicholas Stoller, it takes a fairly simple conceit and milks every possible comedic avenue out of it, while maintaining a solid emotional backbone at the same time. It looks atypically beautiful for a studio comedy, and is stacked to the rafters with A-grade comic talent, not least actress Rose Byrne, who finally gets the showcase she’s long deserved, and should get a real boost from the film. It’s not perfect, but if there’s a better comedy in the next few months, we’ll do some kind of terrible frat initiation.Release Date: May 9th
13. “22 Jump Street”
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Rob Riggle, Wyatt Russell
Synopsis: After their success in high school, Schmidt and Jenko go undercover in college to crack another drug ring. But as they start to grow apart, the pair need to see if their friendship can survive.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: There was no way that “21 Jump Street” should have worked, but it really did, proving to be a surprise critical favorite and legitimate sleeper hit. It’s no surprise that Sony fast-tracked a sequel, with original writer Michael Bacall joined by Oren Uziel, and original filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller returning to direct their second movie of the year, after glorious mega-hit “The Lego Movie“. The first film was one of the better studio comedies in recent years, though admittedly, “22 Jump Street” looks like more of the same, from the trailers at least. But Lord and Miller haven’t phoned it in yet, so we’re confident that the film will have plenty more surprises up its sleeve. Plus, it features Jonah Hill dressed in full goth gear, and that’s pretty funny on its own.
Release Date: June 13th
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran
Synopsis: After being threatened during a confession, a good-natured Irish priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Director John Michael McDonagh, brother of the similarly talented Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”), wrote and directed one of the most underseen gems of the last few years with “The Guard.” “Calvary” sees him retain the rural Irish setting, and his star, the great Brendan Gleeson, for a slightly different affair, with a much more dramatic and serious narrative. The film played at Sundance and Berlin earlier in the year, and our reviewer fell hard for it, describing it as “a modern Bresson, if Bresson were directing a particularly wordy Samuel Beckett play”. It’s thematically dense stuff, “reflecting soberly on mortal sin, the expiation of such iniquities, penitence, absolution and more,” but still laced with black comedy, and with another astounding performance from Gleeson at its core.
Release Date: August 1st
11. “We Are The Best!”
Cast: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne, David Dencik, Lena Carlsson
Synopsis: Three girls in 1980s Stockholm form a punk band together.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Ever since his delightful breakthrough “Together,” Swedish helmer Lukas Moodysson appears to have been daring himself to make darker and more depressing fare each time at bat, to increasingly unsatisfying results. But his latest, an adaptation of wife Coco‘s graphic novel memoir, is a return to his most charming form, in its tale of a trio of pre-teens who attempt a punk revival long after most others have moved on. It’s one of the sweetest coming-of-age tales we can remember in a long time, with an irresistible energy, a killer soundtrack, and three lovely central performances. This is one for anyone who ever played in a band as a kid or felt like an outsider, and that’s pretty much all of us at one point or another, right?
Release Date: May 30th
10. “Love Is Strange”
Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson
Synopsis: Just as they’re finally able to get married, a gay couple who’ve been together for decades are forced to live apart when one of them loses their job.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: It went somewhat underseen, but Ira Sachs’ “Keep The Lights On” cemented the director’s position as one of the most vital voices not just in LGBT cinema but American indie altogether, so his follow-up was an exciting prospect even before it was revealed that it would star John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in the lead roles. When it premiered in Sundance in January, it lived up to expectations: James Rocchi’s review said that if it “were nothing more than a showcase for its performances, it would still be superlative,” with the two stars as good as they’ve ever been, and the film in general including “gentle humanity, dry wit and completely earned tearjerking moments.” James concluded his review saying that he doubted he’d see “a more finely performed and beautifully crafted love story, with or without any mere modifiers, up on the big screen this year.” So we’re sold.
Release Date: August 22nd
9. “Night Moves”
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat
Synopsis: An unlikely trio of eco-activists come together to blow up a dam.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: After “Wendy And Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff,” you could be mistaken for thinking you could know what to expect from a new film from Kelly Reichardt. What we weren’t expecting is a Hitchcockian and Chabrolian thriller of guilt and suspense, but it’s a left turn that Reichardt makes with aplomb. At Venice, Oli found that the film kicks off with “an almost docudrama-like feeling to proceedings,” before a second half that “shifts effortlessly into a portrait of guilt.” As ever with the filmmaker, “the environment is just as much of a character as the people,” but she also takes to the genre elements nicely, with the final set-piece being “the most claustrophobic thing she’s made.” And at the center, as with “The Double,” is another marvelous performance from Jesse Eisenberg, “shorn of his motormouth, his assuredness and his tics, he’s a revelation here,” proving “sinister and vulnerable virtually within the same breath.”
Release Date: May 30th
8. “Guardians Of The Galaxy”
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly
Synopsis: On the other side of the universe, a cocky pilot from Earth falls in with an unlikely group of rogues, including alien assassin Gamora, warrior Drax The Destroyer, tree-creature Groot, and badass rodent Rocket Raccoon, going on the run with a powerful object with half the universe on their tail.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Marvel has been nothing if not ambitious with its movies so far, but “Guardians Of The Galaxy” is something else entirely: a space-set adventure based on a property that’s basically unknown among the general public, with an actor best known as a lovable doofus from a little-watched NBC sitcom in the lead role, a walking tree and a wisecracking raccoon in key parts, and James Gunn, the madman behind gore-filled B-movies “Slither” and “Super” directing. But it all means that, if any of these Marvel movies can really hit the next level and turn up something truly memorable, it’s the batshit craziness of “Guardians Of The Galaxy.” The teaser trailer was confident and fun, and signs in general are positive that Gunn’s been given the leeway to come up with something truly bonkers here. If it’s not the best blockbuster of the year, it’s certainly going to be the weirdest, and that’s something worth cherishing.
Release Date: August 1st
Cast: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza
Synopsis: In 1960s Poland, a young orphan girl about to take her vows as a nun discovers that she’s Jewish, and sets out on a road trip with her only living relative.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Pawel Pawlikowski is an undervalued filmmaker (best known for “My Summer Of Love“), who aside from his return with 2012’s disappointing “The Woman In The Fifth,” has been away for too long. But he came storming back with “Ida,” a beautiful little black-and-white Bressonian gem. Oli caught it first at the London Film Festival, calling it “absolutely stunning, one of the year’s best films,” and Jess reviewed it in full in Marrakech, agreeing that it’s a “small, quiet, polished film that unfolds slowly but with remarkable assurance,” with some “truly remarkable cinematography,” and a “striking central performance” from young Polish actress Agata Trzebuchowska. It’s a little film that might not be for everyone, but winning the top prize at the BFI London Film Festival, we clearly weren’t the only ones liking it.
Release Date: May 2nd
6. “The Immigrant”
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner,
Synopsis: A Polish immigrant coming to America falls prey to a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: The latest from Playlist favorite James Gray, “The Immigrant” is a slow-burning emotional drama exploring the ideas of forgiveness and redemption via terrible characters that are nearly beyond salvation. Even more mature and patient than expected, especially for a filmmaker who has made a name on thoughtful and contemplative morality tales, “The Immigrant” won’t be for all audiences (it got very mixed notices at Cannes, though we loved it), but it’s still one of our favorite films of the year so far, and boasts yet another astonishing performance from Phoenix, who is late-on revealed to be just as pivotal to the film as Cotillard. Not to mention gorgeous cinematography from the great Darius Khondji.
Release Date: May 16th
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche
Synopsis: A giant radioactive lizard monster causes havoc.
What You Need To Know: Sixteen years after Roland Emmerich‘s disastrous Matthew Broderick-starring reboot, another attempt to revive the famous Japanese monster is stomping towards theaters, courtesy of director Gareth Edwards, who knows this sort of territory thanks to his microbudget indie breakthrough “Monsters.” That was a very striking debut film, making Edwards a great choice on paper at least, for something like this. The actors certainly seem to agree: the cast are a cut above the sort of thing you’d expect for a tentpole like this, and the chance to see Cranston, Binoche and Sally Hawkins run away from reptile feet is enough to sell us on opening weekend. And the marketing campaign has been confident and striking, suggesting a real-world approach to the giant monster genre, and suggesting Edwards knows what he’s doing on a big canvas. This could, of course, still disappoint like Emmerich’s 1998 film, but right now, it looks infinitely more promising.
Release Date: May 16th
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Marco Perella
Synopsis: The life of a child told from age six to age 18, following his relationship with his parents before and after they divorce.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Like a cousin to his ‘Before‘ trilogy that’s both oddly compressed and slowed down, “Boyhood” might be the most ambitious thing that Richard Linklater has ever made. Following in the footsteps of Michael Apted‘s “Up” series and Michael Winterbottom‘s “Everyday,” Linklater spent a few weeks every year since 2002 shooting portions of this film, which stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as the parents, and newcomer Ellar Salmon as the child. As a result, it’s a literal coming-of-age film that sees Salmon, and the other actors, age before the cameras: as Hawke described it, it’s like “timelapse photography of a human being.” The film bowed at Sundance to rave reviews, and while we didn’t completely flip for it in the way that some did, there’s an enormous amount to love: a film that “shines in its engrossing, experiential understanding and it’s a special achievement that should be cherished and acknowledged.” Above all else, it’s something not quite like anything you’ve seen before, and that alone makes it one of the must-sees of the summer.
Release Date: July 11th
3. “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”
Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Judy Greer
Synopsis: Ten years after the events of “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” unleashed a virus that decimated humanity, the survivors square off for a final battle against the apes, as their leader, Caesar, faces a power struggle of his own.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” was one of the most pleasant surprises of the last few years: an unpromising-on-paper blockbuster that, through the solid chops of director Rupert Wyatt, and the great performance of mo-cap whiz Andy Serkis, turned out to be an engaging and involving blockbuster that successfully reinvented the franchise for the 21st century. The sequel might have lost Wyatt and original human star James Franco, but it’s gained Matt Reeves as a director, and some promising new names joining the returning, and crucially, Andy Serkis. The follow-up looks to have retained much of what made it work: namely, a smart and emotional take on a very silly premise. And if Wyatt had to go (and his departure, allegedly because he felt Fox were trying to fit it to an unrealistic release date, is admittedly worrying), you couldn’t ask for a better replacement that Reeves, who was behind the superb “Let Me In.” Footage and buzz is good, so we’re hopeful this could be even better than the original. Also, this.
Release Date: July 11th
Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt
Synopsis: In a future where Earth has been turned into a frozen wasteland, humanity’s survivors are contained in a huge train, divided strictly by class, that endlessly circulates the planet. But the have-nots at the back have had enough, and mount a rebellion intended to take them all the way to the engine.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Easily one of our most anticipated of last year, we started to worry if we’d ever see “Snowpiercer,” the English-language debut of Korean master Bong Joon-ho (“The Host,” “Memories Of Murder,” “Mother“), given the bubbling controversy over the film and Harvey Weinstein’s intentions to release a severely truncated version. But the film opened in France uncut in October, and U.K. correspondent Oliver Lyttelton hopped across the Channel to catch it and found it more than worth the trip, calling it “the best pure science-fiction film since ‘Children Of Men.’ ” Building a “remarkably rich, coherent future world,” melding “tones without them clashing,” and with smart and complex politics underpinning “an inventive and exciting action film,” it also features some excellent performances from an eclectic cast. With controversy over the potential recutting now over and Bong winning out, the rest of us will get to see what the fuss is about very soon.
Release Date: June 27th
1. “The Rover”
Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
Synopsis: In a war-torn future beset by financial collapse, a man trudges across the Australian desert to locate his stolen car and secure the mysterious cargo found inside.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: This is the first film for director David Michôd since his riveting debut “Animal Kingdom.” It’s been described as an existential western, and sees him reteam with Guy Pearce, with heartthrob Robert Pattinson and character actor favorite Scoot McNairy also on board. Michôd’s debut captured the sweeping scope of early Michael Mann mixed with Werner Herzog’s anthropological analysis of human behavior, crafting a debut that was both terrifying and utterly unforgettable. While he’s taking things in a vaguely sci-fi direction here, Michôd has promised that this will be a relatively grounded affair, a crime picture in the outback that could be indicative of a contemporary mashup of “Wake In Fright” (with the idea of an outsider stranded in the outback) and “Mad Max” (with its emphasis on vehicular action). It’s still under wraps beyond some impressive trailers, but more than anything else, we’re hopeful that a Midnight Screening premiere at Cannes bodes for this being something truly impressive. We’re tantalizingly close to finding out.
Release Date: June 13th.
Honorable Mentions: So, what else have we got? Well, as we said, we’ve already checked out and disapproved of “The Amazing Spider Man 2,” though we hope you all enjoy it more than us. Also on the way, and already seen by Playlist types, are Jon Favreau‘s “Chef“ (May 9th), John Slattery‘s “God’s Pocket“ with Philip Seymour Hoffman (May 9th), Mia Wasikowska in Australia for “Tracks” (May 23rd), James McAvoy-starrer “Filth“ (May 30th), Ti West‘s found-footage horror “The Sacrament“ (June 6th), Paul Haggis‘ “Third Person“ (June 20th), the first of the year’s two biopics of “Yves Saint Laurent“ (June 27th), Keira Knightley/Mark Ruffalo musical rom/com “Begin Again“ (July 4th) Michel Gondry‘s “Mood Indigo” (July 18th), Zach Braff’s belated “Garden State” follow-up “Wish I Was Here“ (July 18th), Sundance zom-com “Life After Beth“ (August 15th), and Ari Folman’s bonkers animation “The Congress“ (August 29th).
And for stuff that hasn’t yet been seen, Elizabeth Banks gets her R-rated comedy on in “Walk Of Shame” (May 2nd), Jon Hamm goes baseball scouting in India for “Million Dollar Arm” (May 16th), everyone’s favorite dissident artist is back in “Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case” (May 16th), Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou reteam for “Chinese Puzzle” (May 16th), Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche fall in love in “Words and Pictures” (May 23rd), and Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are back together in the abysmal-looking “Blended” (May 23rd).
In June, Mike Myers makes a music documentary with “Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon” (June 6th), Laurence Fishburne chases “The Signal” (June 13th), Kevin Hart and co. return “Think Like A Man Too” (June 20th) and acclaimed German Cannes entry “Nothing Bad Can Happen” (June 27th) arrives. Meanwhile, July has Eric Bana looking to “Deliver Us From Evil” (July 2nd), Melissa McCarthy stars as “Tammy” (July 2nd), identikit Disney sequel “Planes: Fire And Rescue” (July 18th), Dwayne Johnson with a lion on his head in “Hercules” (July 25th), Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz making a “Sex Tape” (July 25th), and “The Avengers” of dance movies with “Step Up All In” (July 25th).
Finally in August, Helen Mirren and Lasse Hallström go on a “Hundred Foot Journey” (August 8th), Richard Armitage heads “Into The Storm” (August 8th) for a found-footage disaster film, Michael Bay revives the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (August 8th), documentary “The Dog” (August 8th) about the inspiration for “Dog Day Afternoon,” Sylvester Stallone getting the gang back together for “The Expendables 3” (August 15th), Jack Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. say “Let’s Be Cops” (August 15th), inspirational drama “Desert Dancer” (August 15th), Robert Rodriguez goes black and white again with “Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” (August 22nd), Chloe Moretz is in a coma for “If I Stay” (August 22nd), umpteenth Blumhouse horror “Jessabelle,” (August 29th), foreign-language remake “The Loft” (August 29th), Pierce Brosnan as “November Man” (August 29th) and The Weinstein Company animation “Underdogs” (August 29th). Remember, there’s no SPF higher than staying inside in the dark all summer.