Your 2014 Summer Movie Preview


It's been awhile -- Oscar season to be exact -- since we got the gang together here at In Reel Deep to survey the broader movie landscape. What better time than the start of summer movie season for a reunion. Now, when we think of summer movies, we tend to think of MOVIES -- big-budget blockbusters with large budgets and sweeping scale. But it's also typically the time of year we begin to see festival films from Sundance and elsewhere start to show up in theaters. Fruitvale Station, which landed on both of our Top 10 lists for 2013, was one of the highlights of last summer.

With those two things in mind, we've got a specially tailored preview of the summer season here, including 10 movies we think will be big hits, five we're pegging as busts and two personal picks for the next few months. Your refuge from the heat lies just below.

The Booms

Neighbors (May 9)


It seems odd to have Seth Rogen as the uptight family man and Zac Efron as the partying neighbor from hell, but I'm still betting on success here. The early word-of-mouth has been positive and Nicholas Stoller, who wrote the last two Muppets movies and directed underappreciated classic Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is pulling the strings, giving me more confidence than I'd have were I just sizing things up based on a trailer or two. -- Andrew Johnson

Godzilla (May 16)

Are the young folk really still into this big green beast? Did the 1998 Matthew Broderick "reimagining" inspire legions of new fans who've been waiting 16 years for their monstrous hunger to be satiated? Or is this just another hacky cash-in, albeit one that stopped to assemble an amazing cast (Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, the kid from Kick-Ass)? Curiosity alone will probably get me to drop the requisite $13, and I suspect many others will follow. I haven't seen Monsters but the idea of bestowing a franchise on a young unproven buck like Gareth Edwards always piques my interest. And the "don't reveal what it looks like in commercials" trick always correlates to ticket sales ... right? -- Steve Cimino

X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23)


It's amazing that The Last Stand (Ed. Note: Not the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie) and two horrid Wolverine movies haven't cinematically buried the X-Men forever. Such is the power of Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class, which singlehandedly revived a dying franchise. He reminded us that mutants can be fun and fresh, especially when pared down and stripped of overwrought subplots (and let's not forget dropping Oliver Platt from the sky). He was also smart enough to cast Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence before they became the hottest young folks in town. And now Vaughn's fresh-faced youths will team with (potential rapist) Bryan Singer's old farts to combine worlds and make the X-Men movie fans are longing for. Hopefully. The trailer looks great but the story is quite ambitious, and Peter Dinklage with a mustache can only do so much. That being said, if any comic franchise could properly combine two time periods and weave a narrative that somehow makes sense, it's the Uncanny X-Men. -- SC

A Million Ways to Die in the West (May 30)

This is the third time I've written about Seth MacFarlane's latest comedy -- a follow-up to Ted, in which he stars in addition to writing and directing. MacFarlane inspires all sorts of mixed emotions in me, which might explain why I put this on my 10 most anticipated movies list at the beginning of the year and subsequently cringed when the first trailer surfaced. Setting aside my uncertainty about the film itself, it's just plain dumb to bet against MacFarlane at this point. Ted was a surprise blockbuster. He's got about 30 TV shows. It's hard to argue that he isn't good at connecting with a certain population's sense of humor. The guess is that will continue to be the case in a few weeks. -- AJ

Maleficent (May 30)


This isn't my observation (I wish I could remember who made it), but Disney has a great track record with films like this. The live-action Alice in Wonderland, for example, cleaned up at the box office, and Maleficent, which looks like it straddles the creepy-without-being-family-unfriendly line perfectly, appears poised to follow suit. Angelina Jolie will try to do what Charlize Theron couldn't quite in Snow White and the Hunstman by filling the large shoes of an evil sorceress in the title role. -- AJ

22 Jump Street (June 13)

I have a feeling it's going to be a big summer for comedies, perhaps none bigger than for 22 Jump Street. The sequel to 2012's surprisingly entertaining 21 Jump Street, which was itself a reboot/reimagining of the 1980s TV show that launched Johnny Depp's career, is like a reigning champion returning its entire roster. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are back to direct. Michael Bacall is again shouldering screenwriting duties. And, of course, the charismatic odd couple of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back as Dets. Jenko and Schmidt. Comedy sequels are tough to pull off, but the serial nature of Jump Street, which weaves in a crime procedural between its jokes, ought to make this a success. -- AJ

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13)


The first one was hoisted on me by a college friend who insisted it stood up with Wall-EUp and all the other Pixar greats. It doesn't. But you know what? It's pretty darn fun. As Game of Thrones proves on a weekly basis, people love dragons. They also love heartwarming stories of underdogs bucking the odds and becoming heroes. They also love animation. How to Train Your Dragon had those in spades, and its sequel (refreshingly released four years after the original, which may mean they took the time to get it right) should delight audiences who desperately need to get their kids out of the sun and into a large dark room for 100 minutes. Don't go in expect a masterpiece; do expect to be expertly charmed and dazzled. -- SC

Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27)

Ugh. People like this shit. A lot. Like more than a billion dollars domestic gross over the first three movies a lot. They'll show in droves. -- AJ

Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1)


The big one. The one everyone is oh-so excited for. A thousand gold doubloons to the Marvel marketing machine; as of seven months ago I'd never heard of this comic, and after one fantastic trailer (not to mention a track record packed with average-at-worst blockbusters) I can't wait to hop on board. Chris Pratt looks swole as hell (not to mention WWE superstar Dave Bautista) and there's a tree and a raccoon and Benicio del Toro and what more do you need? Another example of a fresh young director (James Gunn) being handed a potential franchise and one that doesn't have to take itself so seriously at that, which can only bode well. As Andrew noted earlier this week, Warner Bros. is throwing all of its weight behind the Nolan/Snyder "this is gritty, serious business" motif, while Marvel is going light, breezy and fun. One guess as to who will come out on top. -- SC

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Aug. 22)

The first Sin City came out nine years ago, which might as well be 900 in the world of popular culture. But another all-star cast (the returning Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson; the brand-new Josh Brolin, Joseph-Gordon Levitt and [sigh] Jeremy Piven) and a style that translates perfectly to the big screen may mean another round of modest-to-good returns for co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. At the very least, the presence of Rodriguez should make for a quality product, not another The Spirit. -- SC

The Busts

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2)


OK, this is almost guaranteed not to be a bust. In fact, it might end up being the highest-grossing movie of the summer. God, though, doesn't it look awful? I'm going to try my hardest to will it to failure. I enjoy Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy immensely; their chemistry is palpable and I like the idea of Spider-Man being younger and scrawnier, not short and middle-aged like Tobey Maguire. But this reboot came a bit too soon after Spider-Man 3, and essentially tells the same story. Grafting a Sinister Six subplot onto a newly boring franchise will only take you so far; comic-book fans are fickle savages who can smell a rat (or, more aptly, can determine a rat moments after leaving the theater and blog about it like crazy). X-Men: The Last Stand and the aforementioned Spidey 3 cleaned up at the box office, but everyone could read the writing on the wall. Hopefully that will also be the case for Marc Webb's latest. -- SC

Million Dollar Arm (May 16)

So this is what Don Draper's doing now that Mad Men is a wrap? This is more depressing than Don's pitch to Hershey and his subsequent "leave of absence." Jon Hamm might be a rabid Cardinals fan, but he's better than a schlocky baseball movie. He could do anything with his career right now, and range does not appear to be a problem, if his cameos in Bridesmaids, Parks and Recreation, SNL, etc. are any indication. So, why a sappy Disney movie about Indian baseball players who -- spoiler alert -- ain't making it to the majors. I don't get it. -- AJ

Blended (May 23)

Blended movie (3)

What was the point, Mr. Sandler, of showing us what you were capable of in movies like Punch-Drunk Love if you intended on simply mailing in much of the rest of your career? Seriously, I don't get it. Adam Sandler's laziness isn't even worth mocking at this point. This is the third time he's been in a romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore, and this isn't some Woody Allen-Diane Keaton situation here. It's like he's rotating through female co-stars of roughly the same age so we won't pick up on the fact that he's made the same movie for a decade. -- AJ

Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)

No one in America likes Tom Cruise. Sure, some of us like Top Gun and A Few Good Men and Magnolia and The Last Samurai, but we're pretty much over Cruise. The rest of the world, however, loves him. LOVES HIM. Oblivion made $89 million in the United States and $197 million worldwide. We all made fun of it, but it was a bonafide hit that made some rich people even richer. Jack Reacher made $80 million here and $138 million elsewhere, and that wasn't because Werner Herzog co-starred. Cruise remains a sensation, which is why something I've never heard of called Edge of Tomorrow is coming out in a little over a month. I won't see it, you won't see it, but a billion other people will. Bust is a subjective term these days, folks; one man's flop is another man's treasure. -- SC

Planes: Fire and Rescue (July 18)

This is a pleasurable addition. Planes, Disney's spinoff of Pixar's Cars, came out just last year, and, you know what, it didn't do all that well -- banking just $90 million domestic. That's a paltry figure for an animated film from the Mouse, one that looks all the smaller when you stack it up against the behemoth that is Frozen. If you dislike Dane Cook, this might be your summer. He might be the star voice in one of the summer's biggest flops.

Personal Picks

Big-Budget Division


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11): I could not be more excited for DOTPOTA. The first movie totally caught me by surprise; James Franco and a CGI monkey? (Ed. Note: there's a difference between monkeys and apes, Cimino.) Come on. But little did I realize that Andy Serkis would give one of the finest performances of the last 10 years, albeit in motion capture, as that very monkey. He breathed life into an unexpectedly modest story that didn't try to live up to the Planet of the Apes hype; it created its own world, which is what a reboot (or a reimagining, or whatever) should do. And DOTPOTA stars Gary Oldman as the villain, which should be music to the ears of anyone who's seen True Romance or The Fifth Element or The Professional. Gary Oldman is not just Commission Gordon; he's born to be bad. Not ashamed at all to say that I'll be first in line for the sequel to what I disparagingly called "the monkey movie." -- SC

Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1): I'm waiting until after I see this movie to officially crown Chris Pratt as the next great Hollywood star, and I have no doubt I'm going to be able to still do so on Aug. 2. I'm not sure how Andy Dwyer became the next big thing, but I'm not going to complain about that development either. -- AJ

Indie Division

Snowpiercer (June 27): This may infuriate people, but I know nothing about this movie besides the title, a few stars and the pedigree of the director. I've never seen The Host and I just recently learned that it's about global warming. But Andrew asked me to write about a "surprise" or a low-budget movie that might shock people this summer, and I think this is it. Now that I'm in my late 20s, I don't have time to search the 'net every day for trailers or tidbits about what's coming out months and months from now. But I still read what I can, and I check Twitter, and I try to keep my finger on the pulse whenever possible. That finger tells me that Snowpiercer is the little movie that could for Summer 2014. Besides, why spoil movies for yourself with too much information? If it looks good, and people tell me it's good, I'll go see it and find out. That's the joy of the cinema. -- SC


Boyhood (July 11): Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused) is a treasure. Even with his eclectic, impressive body of work, he may have outdone himself with Boyhood, which was filmed over 12 years, all with the same star, Ellar Coltrane, as he aged from young boy into adolescence and beyond. I'm not sure there's movie I'm more excited to see this year, forget about just the summer. -- AJ