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Summer Movie Preview: 40 Most Anticipated Films

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
April 21, 2014 1:47 PM
21 Comments
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Summer 2014 preview

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.

The Giver

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

Transformer: Age of Extinction

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

Happy Christmas

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 

The Purge: Anarchy The Purge 2

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

Jersey Boys,

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

A Million Ways to Die in the West

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

Maleficent

34. "Maleficent"
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

Get On Up

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

Scarlett Johansson, Lucy

32. "Lucy"
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

Jupiter Ascending

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

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21 Comments

  • Greg | April 29, 2014 9:03 PMReply

    Worst summer lineup ever

  • ninojolly | April 25, 2014 4:59 PMReply

    I also whole-heartedly and unconditionally agree with what "The Sayer of the Truth" said. And i also totally and completely agree with Jervaise Brooke Hamster as well obviously ! ! !. When Angelina was 18 she was one of the hottest babes of all-time, but now the bird is 39 so the magic has long since disappeared.

  • ninojolly | April 24, 2014 5:11 PMReply

    shame this list didnt have links to trailers or movie websites..

  • jervaise brooke hamster | April 24, 2014 4:40 PMReply

    I want to bugger Angelina Jolie (as the bird was in 1993 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

  • the movie cynic | April 24, 2014 4:37 PMReply

    Pure genius, every word is true. 'Sayer of the Truth' i salute you.

  • the sayer of the truth | April 24, 2014 4:34 PMReply

    Theres more truth and beauty in any one of those 10-second Windows Vista Media Centre porn clips than in literally EVERYTHING that Hollywood has ever produced put together over the last 125 years since the invention of the cinematograph circa 1889, i`m waving bye-bye to the lies and hypocrisy of Hollywood forever, from now on i just want to see gorgeous sexy 18 year-old birds being buggered and sodomized all day, the internet is 'the future', Hollywood is 'the past' ! ! !.

  • the movie cynic | April 24, 2014 4:28 PMReply

    Hollywood is horse-shit.

  • Sanker from India | April 24, 2014 1:42 AMReply

    "it's arguably the best film made by a Coppola since the tonally comparable "Virgin Suicides." "

    You guys think it's better than "Lost in Translation"?! Which is not only Sofia Coppola's best film to date but also one of the best films of the decade. And is also a part of Roger Ebert's great movies.

  • Blesson Thomas | April 22, 2014 2:10 AMReply

    Seriously ??
    where is Interstellar ??
    this list is so stupid.

  • Blesson is Stupid | April 22, 2014 8:27 AM

    Huh, turns out the person calling the piece stupid is actually the stupid one. Gee, I never saw that coming.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | April 22, 2014 7:47 AM

    Interstellar's out in November. Last time I checked, November isn't in the summer.

  • David | April 21, 2014 11:08 PMReply

    The Rover is #1 on your list for most anticipated means you guys rocks. This little crime drama in the outback is going to pack a huge punch. Also, a rated "R" film being most anticipated in the Summer is so cool, and good to see.

  • 4349 | April 21, 2014 9:32 PMReply

    How incredibly patronizing: "It feels like it's pretty rare to see [Woody Allen] make two good ones in a row... That said, there's a first time to everything." I don't think he's made a "bad" one in recent -- or distant -- memory.

  • woody | April 23, 2014 9:20 AM

    I wonder what those numbers mean.

  • Jordan | April 21, 2014 4:43 PMReply

    My Most Anticipated:
    The Rover
    Maps to the Stars
    Magic in the Moonlight
    Eleanor Rigby
    Belle
    Saint Laurent
    Foxcatcher
    Mr. Turner
    What IF

  • cirkusfolk | April 21, 2014 4:19 PMReply

    Glad you at least put Edge Of Tomorrow in the top half of the list considering Tom Cruise seems to be one of the most hated actors out there. I've always been a big fan and it's my personal expectations that it will be the movie of the summer. Marky Mark doesn't know what he's talking about.

  • No | April 22, 2014 8:28 AM

    It's gonna be terrible.

  • NewYorker | April 21, 2014 3:47 PMReply

    my 40 most anticapted movies of this Summer are
    40-Maleficent
    39-The Angriest Man In Brooklyn
    38-Wolf Creek 2
    37-Think Like A Man Too
    36-They Came Together
    35-Being Again
    34-If I Stay
    33-The Giver
    32-Earth To Echo
    31-Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
    30-Jersey Boys
    29-Hercules
    28-Fault In Our Stars
    27-Edge Of Tomorrow
    26-Life After Beth
    25-Mom's Night Out
    24-Palo Alto
    23-Life Of Crime
    22-Let's Be Cops
    21-Get On Up
    20-The Purge: Anarchy
    19-How To Train Your Dragon 2
    18-Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
    17-Tammy
    !6-22 Jump Street
    15-Legend Of Oz
    14-Very Good Girls
    13-Sex Tape
    12-Leprechaun: Origins
    11-Expendables 3
    !0-Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
    9-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    8-Transformers: Age Of Exinction
    7-Blended
    6-A Million Ways To die In The West
    5-Neighbors
    4-X-Men: Days Of Future Past
    3-Godzilla
    2-Amazing Spider-Man 2
    1-Guardians Of The Galaxy

  • Rick | April 21, 2014 2:11 PMReply

    Jupiter Ascending might be my least anticipated movie of all time

  • Mercury | April 21, 2014 4:49 PM

    I'll join you with not wanting to see Jupiter Ascending, Spiedy2 or Transformers any number. Mind numbingly boring to me.

    And I've seen SnowPiercer, and it stank. Gorgeous art direction and a good cast can't make up for convoluted story-telling, plot holes and cliched characters. Srsly, a waste of time and money. Don't believe the hype from the graphic novel fanboys.

  • cirkusfolk | April 21, 2014 4:14 PM

    Mine too. Besides maybe The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

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