Despicable Me 2
Directors: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Coogan
Universal was quick to recognize that the fan favorite minions were a big part of Despicable Me’s $540M success a few years ago, which is why they’ve been front and center in the run-up to the anticipated sequel. Steve Carell is back as the former villain Gru, who has been softened into a good guy by his three adopted daughters, even going so far as to join the Anti-Villain League to battle a powerful new foe. Kristen Wiig joins the voice cast a potential love interest, and Benjamin Bratt steps in as the baddie. The minions have their own self-titled film in the works whether this one is a hit or not, but who can really resist those cute little yellow buggers? Nobody, that’s who.
Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain
Directors: Leslie Small, Tim Story
Think Like A Man proved Kevin Hart could be a bankable star, but he’s been around for years knocking ’em dead on stage. Let Me Explain follows his 2012 $32M concert tour, which spanned 10 countries and was one of the most successful of all-time. Supposedly this means he’ll be treated better than he was in This Is the End.
The Lone Ranger
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ruth Wilson, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale
While The Lone Ranger is as iconic an American hero as they come, the character hasn’t been seen on the big screen in more than thirty years. Disney is hoping he finds better success than his distant relative The Green Hornet recently did. Armie Hammer is behind the mask while it’ll be Johnny Depp stealing all of the credit as Tonto, in what promises to be another offbeat performance. Budget overruns marred the production, no surprise considering the spend-happy combo of Verbinkski and Bruckheimer, and Disney very nearly derailed the whole thing. What saved it was the duo’s track record with Depp on the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and if they can do the same with The Lone Ranger it will all have been worth it.
The Look of Love
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Tamsin Egerton, Anna Friel
Michael Winterbottom is easily one of the most diverse and prolific directors working today, and he’s especially fond of working alongside Steve Coogan. The two have paired up for 24 Hour Party People, A Cock and Bull Story, The Trip, and in The Look of Love they take on a biopic of renowned pornographer, Paul Raymond. Known as ‘The King of Soho” for making his millions buying up property in central London, he would eventually open the influential strip club Revuebar. His success would come at the expense of the relationships with three most important women in his life, played by Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton, and Imogen Poots.
Stuck In Love
Director: Joshua Boone
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, Jennifer Connelly, Kristen Bell, Logan Lerman, Stephen King, Nat Wolff
A movie about troubled writers who can’t balance their careers with their personal lives? What a novel concept! Oh wait, it’s not. So Stuck In Love isn’t the freshest idea around, but it’s got a terrific cast and has first-time director Joshua Boone as one of the hottest young directors in Hollywood. Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, and Nat Wolff are members of a broken family of writers trying to navigate life and relationships and sex, and not doing a very good job of it. The film debuted last year in Toronto and disappeared off the map, not a good sign, but it seems to have generated a lot of buzz for Boone, who is set to move from this to directing Shailene Woodley in The Fault In Our Stars.
The Way, Way Back (review here)
Director: Jim Rash and Nat Faxon
Cast: Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Liam James, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, Annasophia Robb, Maya Rudolph
Of all the many films that had great showings at Sundance, none sold for more money than The Way, Way Back. The seasonal coming-of-age comedy is a more traditional bird than fellow genre film, The Kings of Summer, hewing closer to the nostalgia of Adventureland, but is no less funny and poignant. Marking the directorial debut by Oscar-winning writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, the film follows a young boy who learns to stand up for himself over the course of a wild summer vacation working at a water park. Sam Rockwell is the boy’s irresponsible mentor, and in a surprising turn for the dark side it’s Steve Carell as the abusive boyfriend to the boy’s lonely mother.
Crystal Fairy (review here)
Director: Sebastian Silva
Cast: Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffman, Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva, Agustín Silva
Michael Cera hasn’t starred in a major studio effort in a couple of years, but he hasn’t exactly been sitting around killing time. He and director Sebastian Silva brought two films to Sundance that should quiet those who say Cera always plays the same role. One was the psycho-horror Magic Magic, due later this summer, and the other was the low-key drug comedy Crystal Fairy. He plays a boorish American in Chile who is obsessed with finding the San Pedro Cactus and partaking of its psychotropic properties. Gaby Hoffman is the titular free-spirited hippie who sidetracks his journey, while also teaching him a few life lessons along the way. Along with a review, you can also check out my interview with Cera and the rest of the cast here.
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray
No other film has been pegged as an early Oscar favorite more than Ryan Coogler’s heart-wrenching directorial debut, Fruitvale Station. The winner of two Dramatic Awards at the Sundance Film Festival, the film stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, who on New Year’s Day 2009 was murdered by BART cops while in their custody. It’s a film that promises to tug at a lot of heartstrings, and could fire up the hot button topic of race relations in this country. Keep an eye out for this one.
Grown Ups 2
Director: Dennis Dugan
Cast: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, Taylor Lautner, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph
Probably the most remarkable thing about Grown Ups 2, besides that it’s happening at all, is that it marks the first sequel in Adam Sandler’s storied career. The follow-up to 2010’s $200M-grossing comedy hit has Sandler bringing back his old pals, minus Rob Schneider who was too busy(!?!), and squaring off against Taylor Lautner and a bunch of rowdy frat boys for neighborhood dominance. Basically it’s another chance for Sandler to earn a paycheck vacationing with his pals, and since the film is currently tracking to outpace Pacific Rim, it may not be the last time they get together.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen
It’s been years since Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration) co-founded the Dogme95 movement alongside cohort Lars Von Trier, and while he’s maintained a low profile ever since (totally unlike Von Trier), he came back in a big way at Cannes with The Hunt. Pairing up with Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen, the story is set in a small Danish village where an innocent lie is told and quickly spirals out of control, leading to a man being accused of a crime he didn’t truly commit.
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Cast: Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Vintimiglia
How does a movie that stars Robert De Niro and John Travolta arrive with no fanfare and on a trajectory for an On Demand release? The lack of buzz should probably clue you in on what the expectations are for Killing Season, which is unfortunately directed by Mark Steven Johnson (When In Rome) and has Travolta and De Niro battling across the Appalachian mountains. Exactly why is a mystery, but De Niro plays a war veteran with Travolta as a guy pretending to be a simple tourist, but is really out for a measure of revenge.
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day
There’s no doubt that Guillermo Del Toro has the anime and comic book fanboys salivating over Pacific Rim, and for good reason. The big budget spectacle has humans performing kung-fu in giant robots called Jaegers, battling monsters that would have Godzilla curling up in the fetal position. But there’s also a great deal of risk, and as mentioned earlier the film is tracking to underperform opposite a retread like Grown Ups 2. We’re still looking at film with no big name stars, no brand recognition, and a director in Del Toro who is praised as an auteur but is unproven as a box office giant. All of that aside, there’s no question that Pacific Rim looks like the kind of movie that was made for the summer popcorn season. Let’s just hope it delivers on everything it promises.
Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, Jason Eisener
Anthologies of any genre have a proven track record for being uneven. It’s just the nature of the beast, trying to blend disparate styles and tones into a cohesive package, and last year’s surprise horror hit V/H/S didn’t do anything to buck the trend. V/H/S/ 2 was quickly ordered up after its success, and a whole new batch of horror mavens brought together for another round of found footage brutality. The basic premise remains the same, although this time it’s the disappearance of a student that draws in two private investigators to his home, only to discover a new collection of video tapes containing disturbing footage.
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Cast: Kriss Schludermann, Tom Fletcher, Wiley Wiggins
Don’t let the title fool you. Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess isn’t some boring documentary on Garry Kasparov. A winner of the Alfred P. Sloane award at Sundance, the quirky period comedy explores the awkward relationships of geeky software programmers at a weekend chess tournament, where they helped set the groundwork for the future of artificial intelligence.
Director: David Soren
Voice Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dogg, Michael Pena, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Samuel L. Jackson
The other animated barrel being fired by Dreamworks this year after the massive success of The Croods is the family friendly sports film, Turbo, which follows a snail with dreams of racing in the Indy 500. How does that work? Simple, like a superhero he gets doused in rocket fuel and gains super-speed. Ok, so that doesn’t really answer why he’d be able to enter the race, but hopefully they can find a way to make it semi-believable. As usual, the studio has amassed a talented celebrity voice cast, but the real ace up their sleeve may be screenwriter Robert Siegel, who wrote The Wrestler for Darren Aronofsky. Hopefully he can find a way to do more than tell jokes about slow moving snails, and actually give this film a touch of depth.
The Act of Killing
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Whatever your opinions on cinematic violence and its effect on a culture are likely to change after you experience Joshua Oppenheimer’s riveting documentary, The Act of Killing. The film explores the darkest side of human nature by chronicling the celebrity status of genocidal Indonesian death squad leaders. In inventive and unbelievably brave fashion, Oppenheimer forces them to confront their violent acts by recreating the killings in the style of their favorite American movies.
Director: James Wan
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lily Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy
Remember when James Wan was just the “torture porn” guy who directed Saw? Yeah, those days are long gone and now he’s proven to be just as adept at fomenting psychological terror. While he’s always been able to turn a hefty profit out of his low budget horrors, 2011’s Insidious was a box office marvel. He’ll attempt to do it again soon with Insidious: Chapter Two, but before that he has The Conjuring. Insidious star Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, best known for their involvement with the case that inspired The Amityville Horror. The “true” story follows their investigation of the Perron family’s home, which is possessed by dark forces.
Girl Most Likely
Directors: Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillion, Darren Criss
After striking it big with Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig took advantage and got moving on her pet project, Girl Most Likely (formerly Imogene), but after a mediocre premier in Toronto their doesn’t seem to be a lot of anticipation for it. Certainly it doesn’t come close to the attention for either of Melissa McCarthy’s post-Bridesmaids efforts. Wiig plays a struggling New York playwright who uses her gift for the dramatic to stage an elaborate suicide attempt, just to win back her ex-boyfriend. When it fails miserably, she’s left in the custody of her gambling addict mother (Annette Bening) and sent home to the Jersey shore where she must finally face the truth about her life.
Only God Forgives
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
“Wanna fight?” The continued bromance between Drive duo Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling has saddled Only God Forgives with the weight of serious expectation. The director’s stylish, neo-noir approach does appear to be in full effect, along with his penchant for over-the-top violence in a Thailand revenge thriller that has Gosling mowing down foes on the way to battle with a cop known as the Angel of Death. But just like Drive, the early reaction has been loud and divisive, and it looks like this may be another one that critics love and audiences largely stay away from.
Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon
Oh, you thought Marvel and DC had all of the big comic book movies coming out this summer? Well….they do. R.I.P.D. is based on a Dark Horse comic and it was developed back when Ryan Reynolds was red-hot, before it all went to crap after Green Lantern. Now the film is flying under the radar, but it may find some traction with the Men in Black crowd who like their sci-fi mixed with a little comedy. Reynolds and Jeff Bridges (remember when he used to act?) play undead officers in the Rest In Peace Department, taking on the evil souls that refuse to cross over to the other side.
Director: Dean Parisot
Cast: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Mary-Louise Parker, Lee Byung-hun, Catherine Zeta-Jones
You get a double dose of Mary-Louise Parker this week as she appears in both R.I.P.D. and the unexpected sequel, Red 2. “Unexpected” because few would have thought that 2010’s action comedy Red (which was directed by R.I.P.D.’s Robert Schwentke, lots of crossover here), which was based on a little known comic by Warren Ellis, would prove to be a $200M hit. But it was, and fans took to watching aging heroes Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich cracking old jokes and blowing stuff up. The sequel adds another AARP member in Anthony Hopkins, and has the team of ex-agents gallivanting across the globe to find a nuclear device.
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K., Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg
It’s been a year so that means it’s time for another star-studded film from the legendary Woody Allen. But unlike his last few, Blue Jasmine isn’t paying homage to London, Barcelona, Rome, or Paris, finding the native New Yorker headed home for the first time since 2009. But to say Allen has been a mixed bag would be an understatement, and last year’s To Rome With Love failed to live up to the whimsical Midnight In Paris. Blue Jasmine stars Cate Blanchett as a woman used to living the upscale life, but loses everything and is forced to move in with her blue collar sister. It looks like a potentially Oscar-worthy role for Blanchett, and Allen is pretty good when telling complicated stories about sisters.
The To Do List
Director: Maggie Carey
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Glover, Scott Porter, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg
If last summer’s indie darling Safety Not Guaranteed was Aubrey Plaza’s dramatic breakout, this summer’s The To Do List shows what she can do leading the year’s raunchiest comedy. In what’s a pretty novel twist on the sex comedy formula, Plaza plays a good girl who wants to gain a much sexual experience as possible before college. Her plan? Draw up a list of all the sexual acts she wants to perform over the course of a single summer, with guys like Johnny Simmons, Donald Glover, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse lining up to help.
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen
Let’s not forget that Marvel has more than just Iron Man and The Avengers. Over at 20th Century Fox they’re still trying to revitalize the X-men brand, and the first shot at doing that is The Wolverine, a sequel to the awful X-men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is back as the adamantium-clawed X-man, in a story that takes him to Japan where he meets the love of his life and has him immortality tested like never before. James Mangold took over for Darren Aronofsky as director, and his version of Japan features a heavy Chinatown influence, which should be interesting for the franchise. Mangold has suggested that fans shouldn’t necessarily expect the film to connect with X-men: Days of Future Past, despite evidence to the contrary, and with Famke Janssen making a cameo as Jean Grey we know there’s at least some connectivity going on.
The Smurfs 2
Director: Raja Gosnell
Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara, Hank Azaria, Katy Perry, Jonathan Winters, Christina Ricci, JB Smoove, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin
Despite drawing the ire of critics the world over, The Smurfs somehow managed to haul in $550M, which would have made it a shoe-in for a sequel if Sony hadn’t already made plans for a trilogy. So we were going to get The Smurfs 2, regardless. Neil Patrick Harris and Stanley Tucci are back and slumming it in a kid-friendly story that has the Smurfs traveling to France to stop Gargamel’s latest scheme. Christina Ricci and JB Smoove voice the evil Naughties, created to help lure Smurfette to the dark side.