It's official: With the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the summer movie season is upon us. From elderly master detectives to the animated inner life of a young girl, our critics have the skinny on what to watch while avoiding those triple digit temps.
Most Anticipated: Ricki and the Flash: In Mamma Mia! and Into the Woods, Meryl Streep proved her vocal chops, so we're expecting great things from her turn as an aging rock star trying to make amends with her long-suffering family in this film directed by Jonathan Demme from a script by Diablo Cody. (Aug. 7)
Sleeper: Southpaw: When we saw him last in Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal's body exuded the restless physiognomy of a nocturnal scavenger; in Southpaw he'll appear in full fighting shape as a beefy boxer. In films from Bubble Boy to Brokeback Mountain to End of Watch, this actor excels at using his body as an expressive tool. (July 24)
Wild Card: Host Interruptus: David Letterman absents himself from the nightly airwaves later this month, Jon Stewart in August. Although the change in the late-night landscape began a while ago with the introduction of the two Jimmies and one James, a new era will officially start when the plug is pulled on the reliably whip-smart comedy of these two longtime hosts.
Most Anticipated: Trainwreck: Amy Schumer, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. You're funny, brainy, slutty, snarky. Schumer scripted and stars in this comedy about a player who freaks upon meeting Mr. Right. As demonstrated by her Comedy Central show, Schumer's the real thing. I wanna have her baby. (July 17)
Sleeper: Grandma: Back in the Seventies, Lily Tomlin scored a one-two punch with her first film roles in Nashville and The Late Show. Those performances promised great things that never completely materialized. Maybe her upcoming turn as a feisty, foul-mouthed septuagenarian who bonds with a pregnant, teenage granddaughter will change that. (TBD)
Wild Card: Summer at the Drive-In: One of my fondest childhood memories involved trips to the drive-in to watch everything from John Wayne to Jane Fonda. I saw my first R-rated flick (M*A*S*H*) late one night from the backseat of our Country Sedan. This summer, the tradition continues while parked at the Blue Starlite Drive-In. Pile in! (All summer long)
Most Anticipated: Mad Max: Fury Road: Any new George Miller flick devoid of dancing penguins would normally be cause enough for excitement. Better yet, the Aussie helmer's continuation of the post-apocalyptic, car-smashing exploits of Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is all the more reason to get stoked for potentially landmark levels of vehicular mayhem. (May 15)
Sleeper: Big Game: When Air Force One crash-lands in the Finnish wilderness, a 13-year-old must guide and protect president Samuel L. Jackson from pursuing terrorists. We're surprised this Toronto festival favorite didn't show at either Fantastic Fest or SXSW, but even if it fails to snag a Drafthouse screen, one can enjoy the action from the comforts of home. (June 26)
Wild Card: Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp: David Wain has long joked about reuniting the cast of his hilarious cult classic for a prequel, and now the visible age differences should prove even funnier as he brings back Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Michael Ian Black, Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino, Janeane Garofalo, and Bradley Cooper for this Netflix show. (July 17)
Most Anticipated: Inside Out: Here's a curveball: a big-budget, summer entertainment about the chaotic inner life of an American girl. The combined force of co-director Pete Docter (Up; Monsters, Inc.), ace vocal talent (Amy Poehler, Bill Hader), and girl-positive messaging feels like a solid strategy for getting Pixar back on its game. (June 19)
Sleeper: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: A smart alternative to the season's superheroes, this YA adaptation is about a couple of movie-obsessed teens who strike up a friendship with a cancer-stricken classmate. Nobody's leaping any tall buildings, but winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival is no small feat, either. (June 12)
Wild Card: ATX Television Festival: This fan-centric fest is just a whole lot of fun. This year's lineup includes a Gilmore Girls cast and crew reunion, a final send-off to the newly retired Justified, and a special award to creative giant James L. Brooks, whose TV CV includes The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and The Simpsons. (June 4-7)
Most Anticipated: The End of the Tour: When this film, about a journalist (Jesse Eisenberg) who follows David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) on a book tour, was announced, I was pretty skeptical. But since debuting at Sundance to glowing reviews, I can't wait to see how Segel and director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) portray the literary giant in all his beautiful, messy glory. (July 31)
Sleeper: The Tribe: This riveting and audacious film is set in a Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf. With no subtitles or spoken dialogue, we follow a transfer student and his initiation into an anarchic clique of students who traffic in theft and prostitution. This is supremely controlled cinema; you will be looking for your jaw when the house lights go up. (June 17)
Wild Card: Big Brother: Summer doesn't really start for me until Julie Chen introduces a bunch of conniving whackjobs out to win half a million dollars by any means necessary. Who will be the most racist? Who will have the biggest meltdown? Who will surprise me with their humanity? Just kidding: It's no one. (June 24)
Most Anticipated: Mr. Holmes: Adapted from Mitch Cullin's superb Sherlockian pastiche A Slight Trick of the Mind, this film casts Sir Ian McKellen as the consulting detective at 93 years of age, now a countrified apiarist with a faltering mind and one final problem to deduce. Director Bill Condon, re-teaming with McKellen for the first time since the mesmerizing Gods and Monsters, is indubitably the right man to helm this Holmesian third act. (July 17)
Sleeper: Self/less: When it comes to stunning visual imagery, director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) is a master. Yes, his movies sometimes dangle precariously between art and pretense, but at least he's a daringly curious filmmaker. Here, a cancerous Ben Kingsley has his consciousness transplanted into a healthy Ryan Reynolds. Chappie 2 this won't be. (July 10)
Wild Card: Return of the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow: Remember when the Alamo did that Deliverance Rolling Roadshow down the river with the possibility of a tornado sweeping you out of your canoe in 2009? Or Jaws and Open Water on Lake Travis, with shark-finned divers nibbling your toes? It's all back, starting with The Goonies, promises VP of Special Events Henri Mazza. The horror ... the totally awesome horror .... (Starting June 6)
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