Category: Summer movies


There’s nothing quite like the start of May. Yes, the movie release schedule has become much more varied in recent years, with blockbusters invading all parts of the calendar. But there’s nothing quite like the start of the summer movie season.

The moments before the summer movie season begins are among my most hopeful. The time when all the would-be blockbusters seem like they could surprise, entertain and wow us. When the hype, excitement and hope is at its highest point. When a quick look at the movie schedule over the next four months brings questions on just how am I going to see all these movies? As a movie fan, there are few times that rival the start of May.

What will this summer bring? Let’s take a quick look. Part one will look at Superhero films and animation. Part two will hit this weekend and look at big sequels and potential breakouts.

Superhero showdown

Possibly the biggest film of the summer will also be its first. “Captain America: Civil War” is essentially an Avengers film. And both of those can lay claim to two of the top five opening weekends of all time. The buzz has been high and the reviews have been strong. Add in seeing the appeal of Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Tony Stark) face off, as well as several of the other heroes in the Marvel universe, and this is a slam dunk. Marvel can do no wrong so far and the hype on this one seems higher than even “Age of Ultron”. It won’t be “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”-type numbers, but it may be the highest Marvel opening ever.

Opening weekend: $210 million.

Total: $550 million.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” seems like it should be set to enter the upper echelon of franchises. Yet, “Days of Future Past”, which performed strongly with critics and holds a very strong rating on IMDB, topped out at $233 million, essentially tied with “The Last Stand”. Only one X-Men film has grossed more than $300 million: Deadpool.

Given this track record, it’s hard to see Apocalypse doing significantly better, even if this is a great film.

Opening weekend: $115-120 million (four-day).

Total: $240-250 million.

“Suicide Squad” will be among the most interesting to watch from a box office perspective. It’s being released in August, which normally isn’t a great time (though “Guardians of the Galaxy proved a film can thrive in this timeframe). Will Smith provides a huge name, though everyone remembers “After Earth” don’t we?

The biggest question is how, if at all, does “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” affect this film. It is a connected universe, after all. And that film’s bad reception has caused a very different trailer to come out, one that makes the film look far lighter than all previous trailers. I wonder if that will dent this film’s long-term prospects.

Opening weekend: $85-95 million.

Total: $260-270 million.

Animation overload?

In a somewhat unusual situation, there could be a major animation overload this summer. “Finding Dory” will likely be the cream of the crop. Pixar unleashes a sequel to one of its most beloved films. It should improve significantly on “Finding Nemo” in terms of opening box office. The first film hit theaters with $70.5 million. This one should flirt with $100 million. The overall quality will determine its legs, though. “Toy Story 3” was great. “Monsters University” fell off rather quickly by Pixar standards.

Opening weekend: $90-100 million.

Total: $290-310 million.

I’m still not sure if I’m excited for “The Secret Life of Pets”. But thanks to a stellar marketing campaign, this one could be one of the summer’s breakout hits. The premise seems fun and one that, surprisingly, hasn’t been explored yet.

Opening weekend: $70-80 million.

Total: $230-270 million.

“The Angry Birds Movie” is one of those that could be hard to predict. I don’t know a single person who is excited for this film, but it should do well drawing the millions and millions of kids out to theaters. “The Lego Movie” taught us that films like this can surprise. But my guess is if “Finding Dory” is up to Pixar’s lofty standards, this one may struggle to find its audience.

Opening weekend: $35-45 million.

Total: $130-150 million.

“Ice Age: Collision Course” sees the band getting back together .. again. The series has had diminishing returns in the U.S. And coming hot on the heels of “The Secret Life of Pets”, this one smells bomb to me.

Opening weekend: $30-40 million.

Total: $110-130 million.

We’ve officially hit July, which means the summer movie season is half over! What movies are the best of the best?

Quick note: I haven’t seen every single film to be released and am sorely lacking in the independent films, but oh well.

1. Inside Out: Pixar’s return to form. This is an emotional roller coaster that is every bit as good as the studio’s best efforts. The voice cast, headlined by Amy Poehler, is spot on. And one character not featured in any of the trailers absolutely steals the show. This film is more for adults than it is kids. But it’s absolutely worth seeing and is the best blockbuster film of the summer by far.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road: Maybe the biggest surprise of the summer, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy help make Mad Max’s return to the big screen an amazing trip. It’s thrilling and beautiful to look at. There’s a shocking amount of narrative heft to it, despite limited dialogue. Director George Miller proves he still knows how to craft a unique and amazingly entertaining action film.

3. Spy: It’s easy to write this Melissa McCarthy vehicle as the same as all the films she’s done. That would be a mistake. This hilarious spy comedy is spot on, with comedy gold performances from Jason Statham and Rose Byrne to boot.

Biggest disappointment: Avengers: Age of Ultron: Look, this film had its entertaining moments. But it was essentially the same as the first Avengers right down to the teaser scene at the end. For maybe the first time since Marvel Studio’s cinematic universe began, this film felt more like a chore to get through than a joy.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Here it is! The “Avengers: Age of Ultron” teaser trailer!

The highly anticipated Marvel film sees the return of Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and a lot more. The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, James Spader and a host of others.

What do you think?

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Michael Bay is back with a new “Transformers” movie. Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer head the human cast. Is this film the best in the franchise? Or is time for this series to roll out.

The Good

Let’s face it. We know what’s good about a “Transformers” film. There are those money shots that are indeed glorious. But there are also long action scenes involving the humans that aren’t the military. And it’s a breath of fresh air … at first.

Perhaps more surprising is that, even though the film’s run time approaches three hours, it didn’t feel like the longest of the series to me. That may not be high praise, but hey, it’s praise all the same.

There’s way more focus on the human characters this time around … which isn’t always a good thing. But, the characters aren’t nearly as annoying as some of the characters who appeared in past installments. And, Tucci is entertaining throughout while Grammer does his best with his limited character.

The Bad

With the focus so much on the human characters, there’s surprisingly little robot action in this one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of action scenes. But, never the all out robot vs. robot battle the film was seemingly building up toward. Focusing on story may seem like a step in the right direction … Except when the story is pointless, dumb and with characters who don’t think or act like a rational human being in parts.

Also, none of the characters rank as overly annoying, but they all have their moments. And there are absolute throw away characters who serve almost no purpose in the film (though I’m sure some would make the argument all the human characters in this franchise serve no purpose).

The Final Word

At times, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” seems to bring the franchise into new directions that could be genuinely interesting. At other times, you’re reminded that this franchise has some really bad moments in them. If you’re looking for a lot of action, you won’t be disappointed. But those hoping a new cast meant a new start will be disappointed.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Clint Eastwood adapts a hit musical while a sequel to “Think Like A Man” also hits theaters. Who will come out on top?

“Think Like A Man Too”, from director Tim Story, hits theaters two years after the first one surprised many by opening to $33 million. This one stars Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Ealy, Romany Malco, Adam Brody, Jerry Ferrara (“Entourage”) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (“Bridesmaids”). Oh yeah. And a little known comic named Kevin Hart.

The film moves its location to Las Vegas, always a smart choice for a comedy (“The Hangover”, “Last Vegas”, “What Happens in Vegas”, etc.) and this one will benefit from a summer opening. “The Best Man Holiday”, also a sequel, earned more than $30 million about the same amount of theaters as this one. Expect this one to be in the same range.

Opening weekend: $35-40 million.

On paper, Clint Eastwood plus “Jersey Boys”, an award-winning musical, should equal Oscar bait, right?

Clearly not, because Warner Brothers is releasing this one in the summer, not the fall. The last musical they released during the summer was “Rock of Ages” with Tom Cruise and a host of others. That movie bombed. And I can’t see this one doing much better. In fact, it might do worse.

The film brings much of the stage cast with it, and adds Christopher Walken to the mix. But, this is going to have limited appeal. I don’t see many young people seeing this film. And Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons aren’t the Beatles. Their appeal to people from that generation are also much more limited. On a side note, it can also be argued Eastwood’s last few outings, including “J. Edgar”, “Trouble With The Curve” and “Grand Torino” haven’t been up to par either.

Opening weekend: $10-15 million.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

 

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back for “22 Jump Street”. Is this a rare comedy sequel that outdoes the original or a “Hangover Part II” sized miss?

The Good: Fear not. “22 Jump Street” is very good. Tatum and Hill are dynamite. The chemistry they have on screen is absolutely hilarious and fans of the first film will undoubtedly love them for the second go around. There are a lot of “in” jokes in this one, specifically on movie sequels that do the same thing all over again. It’s quite funny to see them poke fun at that idea, although there’s a few too many of those for my liking.

I really enjoyed Ice Cube in this one. He has a few particularly memorable scenes and easily the best supporting character of the bunch in this film.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller already had one hit on their hands in 2014 with “The Lego Movie”. And that irreverent humor shows up again here and once again, they are mostly spot on. They are quickly rising near the top of my list of favorite comedy directors out there, bar none.

The Bad: The film mostly hits its mark, but there are a few moments where the humor seems a little too forced. And some of the supporting characters, while they have their moments, don’t really stand out to me. The villains all seemed, just kind of rushed into the film as a matter of necessity and were missed opportunities to mine for more comedic gold.

The Final Word: I enjoyed “22 Jump Street” a lot. And out of the big comedies so far this summer, this is my favorite ahead of “Neighbors”. Fans of the original will love the sequel. And while it won’t win over any new converts, its target audience will find this film to be an absolute hoot.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in this sci-fi blockbuster. Will you want to see Cruise’s latest or is this a misfire.

The Good: This summer has been an overall positive one for action films. And “Edge of Tomorrow” is another pleasant surprise. Director Doug Liman takes a more light hearted approach to this film, and it was a definite smart move. Contrary to the tone of the trailers, there’s quite a lot of humor in it, and it all works.

Cruise gives a strong performance. Sure, he may not be on his “Collateral” level, but he shows he’s still capable of leading a summer tent pole. Blunt is also strong, along with a surprisingly fun performance from Bill Paxton and the cast has a lot of chemistry together on screen.

But just because it’s more light hearted than films like “Looper” and “Source Code”, doesn’t mean it’s without its share of thrills. The beach scene teased in the trailers is truly a spectacle to behold.

Seeing Cruise relive the same day may not seem exciting, but it is as he tries his best to prevent the chaos that is happening all around him.

The Bad: There’s a lot to like in “Edge of Tomorrow”. But it’s not without faults. Most notably is the ending, mainly because it feels a little like a cop out. Some of the supporting cast doesn’t get nearly enough screen time to get the emotional reaction they’re going for in a key sequence.

The Final Word: A fun, entraining thrill ride, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a blast. Thanks to some strong visuals and an impressive set piece, this is summer sci fi popcorn entertainment at its best. It may not be as serious as previous time traveling films, but it’s a fun romp.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Surprising news emerged yesterday as Warner Brothers announced that “Jupiter Ascending”, due out in less than two months in July, would be delayed until February 6, 2015. It’s rare for movies to be delayed within six months of release. But less than two months? Should fans be worried? Let’s find out.

The reason: Officially, WB said it’s because they need more time to finish special effects. Frankly, I find that hard to believe. You’d think the studio would know a lot sooner the film wouldn’t finish in time. The bigger issue may come in the form of a new release hitting theaters this weekend.

“Edge of Tomorrow”, starring Tom Cruise, is being released in the U.S. on Friday. It’s getting great reviews (currently at 91 percent at Rotten Tomatoes), but it’s underperforming greatly overseas and there’s a sense that the movie will be a misfire domestically. Coupled with a lack of overall buzz for “Jupiter Ascending”, and the more likely scenario is WB is getting cold feet and doesn’t want to have two big budget sci-fi bombs in the same summer.

Why you should be worried: It’s almost never a good sign to see movies be delayed, especially to a time of year when most studios dump films that aren’t very good at. And a delay like this harkens back to films like “47 Ronin” where, despite all the damage control that studio tried to do, the film just suffered from issues on set and wasn’t very good.

Why you should be optimistic: There are a number of reasons to have faith. First, it’s opening the same weekend “The Lego Movie” came out, which is still this year’s highest grossing film (though not for long). “World War Z”, starring Brad Pitt, had its share of production problems, yet was successful both commercially and critically. And “Jupiter Ascending” stars two bright, young stars in Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis.

I thought the trailers have all looked very good so far. In short, there’s a lot of potential here and perhaps WB is just setting up “Jupiter Ascending” as the first blockbuster of 2015.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Director Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men franchise. Is this the mutant extravaganza audiences are craving for?

The Good: There’s a lot to like in DOFP. From the opening sequence, the action scenes are the best in the series. And it is nice to see Ian McKellen (Magneto), Patrick Stewart (Professor X), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), Halle Berry (Storm) and more reprise their roles. James McAvoy (Young Charles), Michael Fassbender (Young Erik), Nicholas Hoult (Young Beast) and Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique)  are the standouts from the “First Class” cast.

The real joy here is Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters. He’s easily the most memorable new character and is a blast to watch. By now, if you’ve seen any of the trailers, you know the basic plot revolving around Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). And seeing the sentinels in action is fantastic, though at least one of the designs looks and acts very similar to the robot from “Thor”. The film is a slick, fun thrill ride and a blast to watch.

The Bad: Honestly, with so many mutants, some characters were going to get the short end of the stick in terms of screen time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many of the mutants serve as nods for fans, but I wish Page got more screen time. I understand why she didn’t given the size of the cast, but she’s such a strong actress, it would have been nice.

No plot spoilers here, but given the story they went with, it does raise some questions, given there are six other X-Men films in the universe. But, it’s not too big of a deal.

Speaking of the plot, Peter Dinklage is, unfortunately, the weak link of the new characters introduced. He’s not terrible, but he gets a little lost in the film and the script doesn’t give him a lot to do.

The Final Word: It’s a fun, and at times thrilling, mutant adventure. This just may be my favorite X-Men film yet and breathes new life into the franchise.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Godzilla is back! Does his latest film return him to the top of the movie monster universe or is this another misstep in the legendary creature’s history?

The Good: Let’s get this out of the way. The money shots in “Godzilla” are amazing. It’s everything you expected and with some especially brutal fight moves, Godzilla has his moments to shine. Also, after “Pacific Rim”, which took a much more light-hearted summer approach to its tone, it was nice to see “Godzilla” take a more serious, darker approach. Bryan Cranston is solid in a limited role.

The Bad: Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love this film, it falls flat in a lot of areas. First, while Godzilla does shine in moments, he barely gets more than those moments on screen. If you thought it was odd to only see Batman for a fraction of the runtime of “The Dark Knight Rises”, it’s far worse here. In fact, Godzilla barely makes an appearance for the first half of this film. It’s a cardinal sin to have the the character a movie is named after be reduced to what feels like an extended cameo in my book.

The human characters are the film’s real weak points. With actors like Cranston, Aaron Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, and David Strathairn anchoring the cast, you have great talent here. But frankly, we’re given very little character development, some cliche movie tropes and even less reason to care about these characters. That wouldn’t be a huge problem for me in a summer blockbuster, but once the decision was made to put these characters front and center, the movie suffers greatly.

There’s also quite a lot of … questionable logic used by numerous characters. And I mean questionable by summer movie standards.

Frankly, I was bored by this movie. Being forced to watch characters we care nothing about all the while talking about Godzilla without actually showing him makes this movie a chore to get through in parts.

The Final Word: What looked like the breakout hit of the summer after its marketing campaign is a dull summer misfire. While Godzilla does have his moments to shine they are so few and far between it can’t compensate for weakly written characters making silly decisions.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.