Last month’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” forged a full-throttle, adrenaline-powered blast into the summer movie season but the real summer box-office assault is just beginning.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
Two huge franchise blockbusters are muscling their way onto screens as superhero’s The Avengers return and old Shuwa-chan himself (that’s Arnold Schwarzenegger to you and me) comes back from the future to go another round as The Terminator. The big guns are backed up by a fine selection of animation in the form of Pixar’s latest “Inside Out,” a solo outing for comedy sidekicks The Minions and the big-screen debut of clay-sheep Shaun. With a hard-hitting documentary and some oddball horror fare there’s more than enough to keep both big kids and little ones entertained all summer long. Who wanted to spend time in the sun anyway?
Shaun the Sheep Movie—Out July 4
Shaun, the little sheep with a penchant for getting into, and out of, mischief made his screen debut in the 1995 Wallace and Gromit adventure “A Close Shave.” Created by Aardman Studios—the talented people known for their stop-motion clay animation and quintessentially English characters and situations—Shaun subsequently found a new lease of life in his own self-titled series. Spanning multiple episodes and having aired in over 180 countries since 2007, the children’s favorite is finally making its way to cinema screens in “Shaun the Sheep Movie.” In the little lamb’s first big-screen solo adventure, we find our hero headed off to the city with sheepdog Blitzer and the rest of the flock in tow. They’re on a search for the Farmer who appears to be suffering from an unfortunate spot of amnesia and has quite forgotten just who he is. Lovingly animated and full of witty sight gags and visual fun, this charming adventure is just as much fun for parents as it is for the little lambs it’s aimed at.
Inside Out—Out July 18
Animation Studio Pixar have been churning out critical and commercial hits ever since their debut, 1995’s groundbreaking computer-animated work “Toy Story.” Having garnered legions of devoted fans and every award going for the likes of “Finding Nemo,” “Ratatouille” and “WALL-E,” the team is back with what looks set to be another modern animated classic, “Inside Out.” This comedy drama revolves around young Riley Anderson whose life is uprooted when her dad gets a new job and the family relocates to San Francisco. Inside Riley’s head, in an area known as Headquarters, the emotions Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness are thrown into turmoil by the move. While Joy, Riley’s most important emotion, tries to make the first day at her new school a happy experience, Sadness has other ideas, which leads to the pair catapulted on an adventure through the inner workings of the little girl’s mind. Directed by Pete Doctor, the Academy Award–winning director behind “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.,” the film features a talented cast of voice actors including “Saturday Night Live’s” Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith (“The Office”) as Sadness and comedian Lewis Black as Anger. Pixar are experts at mixing comedy and adventure with touching drama and weighty themes that appeal to both children and adults alike and it seems they’ve added another hit to their catalog with “Inside Out.”
Tusk—Out July 18
If you’re looking for some originality outside of the abundant franchises and sequels on offer this month, horror comedy “Tusk” may just be the answer. The film is written and directed by Kevin Smith, the man who made his name with 90s indie slacker-comedy classics “Clerks” and “Mallrats.” Having been less successful with recent features (see 2010’s tired Bruce Willis buddy comedy “Cop Out”), Smith’s maintained a loyal following thanks to a regular podcast and it’s from there that the idea for this odd tale came about. “Tusk” stars Justin Long as Wallace Bryton, a sarcastic podcast host who travels up to northern Canada in search of material for his human oddity–based show. Having entered the house of mysterious former seaman Howard Howe, Bryton hears the story of how the elderly man was once rescued at sea by a walrus. While hearing this tale Bryton loses consciousness as the result of some drugged tea and awakes to a nightmare involving some rather unpleasant surgery and a horrific insight into the extent of Howe’s obsession with the tusky sea-mammals…
Avengers: Age of Ultron—Out July 4
It’s been three years since the Avengers first assembled to save the world from imminent destruction and now the gang are back together for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Returning from their own lucrative film franchises are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) along with teammates Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and of course, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). We return to find the group settled into saving the world and feeling pretty good about it, but it’s not long before trouble rears its ugly head. When Tony Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner attempt to create an artificially intelligent global defense program, they only succeed in giving life to Ultron, a homicidal robot hell-bent on mankind’s destruction. New additions to the already heavyweight cast include Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the lightening-fast Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olson as the hypnotic Scarlet Witch (the pair starred as lovers in last year’s “Godzilla”; they play siblings this time around). Paul Bettany—who has already appeared in the Avengers as the voice of Iron Man’s computer, “Jarvis”—gets a more physical upgrade playing the mysterious Vision and James Spader adds life to the villainous robot, Ultron. It would be easy for the film to sink under the weight of its massive cast and obligation to laying the ground for future installments, but director Joss Whedon knows how to balance the mix of action, humor, and drama that the Marvel films have become known for. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is the culmination of events plotted in the increasingly sprawling Marvel cinematic universe and is intended as the biggest, most action-packed, star-studded outing of them all. It certainly lives up to its billing.
The Boy and the Beast—Out July 11
Anyone fearing the halt in production of Studio Ghibli need only look to Mamoru Hosada to know that there remains a future for lovers of Japanese animation. The director has been producing beautifully animated and dramatically moving works that have a similar, all-inclusive appeal to the works of the great Japanese animation house for several years now. “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time,” “Summer Wars” and “Wolf Children” have all been well-received by audiences and critics alike, so it’s with some anticipation that his latest animated feature arrives. “The Boy and the Beast” follows a lonely little boy living in Shibuya who one day becomes lost in the realm of bakemono (spirits and monsters)—a world that should never intersect with our own. Encountering a similarly lonely being named Kumatetsu, the boy becomes the disciple of the great bear-like creature. Full of mystery, adventure and drama, Hosada’s latest is a must for those seeking touching, thought provoking animation.
The Look of Silence—Out July 4
Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary “The Act of Killing” detailed the Indonesian communist killings of 1965–66 by having one of the leaders of the infamous death squads reenact some of his brutal killings for the cameras. Sweeping to worldwide acclaim the innovative film ended its phenomenal run at the Oscars where it walked away with the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Companion piece “The Look of Silence” treads similar ground, following a family as they discover the identities of their son’s killers. In a country where the perpetrators of these evil acts remain in power, youngest son Adi makes the brave decision to end the years of silence as he confronting his brother’s murderers. A profound follow-up to one of the most powerful documentaries of modern times and an astonishing journey into lives shattered by violence.
Terminator: Genisys—Out July 10
When Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cybernetic assassin from the future first muttered the immortal catchphrase “I’ll be back” in 1984 there was no knowing the impact James Cameron’s sci-fi thrill ride would have. Rapidly becoming a timeless cinematic icon, The “Terminator” film franchise has proved just as unstoppable as the robots contained within it. While 1992’s “Terminator: Judgment Day” may have set the action movie template for the decades to come, after two lackluster sequels, anticipation for this latest installment is mixed at best. “Terminator Genisys” looks to respect the past while powering a trilogy of future entries, something that the fourth installment, “Terminator: Salvation,” resolutely failed to do. The film opens with leader of the human resistance, John Connor, entrenched in warfare against the machines in a hellish future. Connor sends soldier Kyle Reese back in time to 1984 to protect his mother from an attack by a “Terminator” sent to kill her. So far, so familiar, but there’s a twist: when Kyle reaches the young Sarah Connor he finds a woman already aware of Skynet, Judgement Day and the events set to play out in the future. A fractured timeline has resulted in a very different world with a whole new Terminator menace for our heroes to contend with. Excitingly, Arnie—the big man himself—has returned to reprise his iconic role as the T-800. He proves that while the metal exoskeleton doesn’t age, the organic flesh certainly does. Emilia Clarke, in her first major role outside of groundbreaking fantasy TV series “Game of Thrones,” enters the fray as the young Sarah Connor, while “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”’s Jason Clarke plays John Connor and action star Jai Courtney takes over as Kyle Reese. The biggest battle may not be against Skynet, but rather to prove to audiences that this beloved franchise isn’t better left in the past.
The Best of the Rest
Force Majeure—Excellent Swedish comedy-drama that sees a picture-perfect family start to unravel after the father abandons his family at the sight of an avalanche. (Swedish, Japanese subs) Out July 4
The Purge—Dystopian sci-fi that finds an America in which a totalitarian government has established that one night a year all crime is legal. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star. Out July 18
Minions—Spin-off featuring the popular little yellow characters from the Despicable Me series of animated features. The impressive voice cast includes Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, and Geoffrey Rush. Out July 31