We found you a reason to go to the movies this summer.
Accounting for the fact that summer movie season and actual summer differ quite a bit in terms of start and end dates (Hollywood magic: they can alter the solstice!), we peered ahead and dogeared The 16 Must-See Films of Summer.
Yes, a few have big explosions. And superheroes. We’re not elitist. But we’ve also got indie horrors, classy dramas and animated sausages telling dick-and-fart jokes.
Plus: we uncovered the single best movie day, ever.
Money MonsterAn unhinged investor forcibly takes over a financial show. Seems decidedly modeled on Jim Cramer’s Mad Money (“Get a loan? Get some balls!”). Starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts and directed by Jodie Foster, this could be this summer’s Inside Man, a smart, media-savvy thriller for adults.
Fun fact: The film apparently plays out in real time.
See instead of: Search Party. Love the cast (Adam Pally, TJ Miller, Alison Brie). Don’t love the two-year delay in release.
The Nice Guys
The welcome comeback of director/writer Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3) continues this Boogie Nights-tinged thriller/mystery, which centers on 1970s Los Angeles and the (then) nascent porn industry. Leads Gosling and Crowe look like a great match.
Fun fact: Channeling some prior film noir mojo, Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) was cast as a missing porn star’s mother.
See instead of: Neighbors 2. The first was great, but comedy sequels tend to fold.
X-Men: ApocalypseWhile there’s some mildly bad buzz surrounding the latest X-Men film (the villain, Apocalypse, appeared a non-threatening pink in some early footage), trust director Bryan Singer to deliver on the superhero goods. With Wolverine and co., he’s batting three for three.
Fun fact: To honor the film’s ‘80s setting, 20th Century Fox created a site filled with mutant-themed 8-bit video games. Enjoy.
See instead of: Alice Through the Looking Glass. Kind of over the Johnny Depp weirdo routine.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Admit it: a mockumentary from the Lonely Island dudes throwing shade on a Bieber-esque singer who suddenly finds himself irrelevant could be pretty fun.
Fun fact: Watch for cameos by real-life pop stars Carrie Underwood, Usher, Seal, Pink, Joanna Newsom and Snoop Dogg. Oh, and Snapchat wunderkind DJ Khaled.
See instead of: TMNT: Out of the Shadows. A Ninja Turtles sequel without Vanilla Ice? Heresy!
Now You See Me 2
The first film was a solid caper involving David Blaine-esque sleight of hand, numerous chase scenes and mindless banter. It was fun. No reason it can’t extend to the sequel, which brings back the Robin Hood-ish magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, etc.) and adds in the likes of Daniel Radcliffe and Party Down’s Lizzy Caplan.
See instead of: Warcraft. Yes, director Duncan Jones made Moon, which was great. And he’s the son of David Bowie. But this computer game adaptation could be CGI overload.
Because Pixar films are for everyone. Here, the extremely forgetful blue tang sidekick (Ellen DeGeneres, kind of doing an adorable fish’s take on Memento) takes the lead, as she searches for her parents and, unsurprisingly, gets lost along the way. Take the kids, but enjoy it on its own merits.
Fun fact: Among the all-star voice cast additions: Idris Elba, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell and Eugene Levy.
See instead of: Central Intelligence. We like Kevin Hart. We haven’t loved Kevin Hart movies.
The best movie day of the year!
Five worthy flicks open today, covering all the bases: you have historical/inspirational in Free State of Jones (a brooding Matthew McConaughey rises up against the Confederacy), a worthy blockbuster in Independence Day: Resurgence, a bikini-ed Blake Lively vs. a shark in the The Shallows, a buzzy indie comedy in Hunt for the Wilderpeople (a must-see if you liked director Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows) and The Neon Demon, a horror story involving homicidal models, courtesy of Drive’s Nicolas Winding Refn.
The Purge: Election Year
Hey, America, it’s your future! Yes, the first two Purges were hit or miss. But the third movie has scary, relevant political overtones: the Senator who vows to end the annual 12-hour crime-and-murder spree becomes an unwitting target.
Fun fact: The film title and plot emphasis was actually inspired by Donald Trump.
See instead of: The BFG. Spielberg does E.T. but with giants instead of aliens. Probably heartwarming. You’ll need heartwarming in the fall.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Two idiot brothers/bros (Zac Efron, Adam DeVine) use Craigslist to find dates for their sister’s wedding. Extremely R-rated hijinx ensue. See it because you need one crass comedy this summer. And because Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick are national treasures.
Fun fact: Loosely based on a true story. The two actual brothers pitched themselves on Craigslist thusly: “Love our mother, have seen Love Actually several times … raw, emotional, sensitive, but still bad boys.”
See instead of: The Secret Life of Pets. Wait for the Blu-ray. Watch with your kids 90,000 times.
An awesomely mustachioed Bryan Cranston plays a U.S. customs agent who infiltrates Pablo Escobar’s inner circle to make “the biggest drug bust in history.” It’s the yang to Breaking Bad’s yin. Bonus: Amazing ‘80s fashion.
Fun fact: Based on the real-life exploits of Robert Mazur, who spent 27 years as a special agent.
See instead of: Ghostbusters. Love the performers. But that zero-laughs trailer? Oof.
Star Trek Beyond
After a fantastic reboot and a muddled sequel that ruined Khan, Star Trek gets back on track with action-forward director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) and Krall, a villain played by (yes!) Idris Elba.
Fun fact: Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg (“Scotty”) co-wrote the script, meaning the humor quotient should rise … and the source material will be respected.
See instead of: Ice Age: Collision Course. A fifth Ice Age film is four too many. Dig the Neil deGrasse Tyson cameo, though.
Star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (the shaky-cam expert behind Bournes 2 and 3) thankfully return to the spook series, which now adds Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina). And apparently one amazing Vegas chase scene.
Fun fact: Damon’s return postponed a Bourne Legacy sequel. You know, the so-so Jeremy Renner one.
See instead of: Bad Moms. The writers of The Hangover attempt an R-rated take on motherhood — but it doesn’t look anywhere near the fun of their breakthrough film (but, admittedly, it does look way better than The Hangover 2 and 3).
The “worst of the worst” of the DC Universe team up to do good. Jared Leto channels The Joker. Rumors of reshoots to make it “funnier” aside, this could be the anti-hero superhero flick you’ve been waiting for. Well, since Deadpool.
Fun fact: Apparently in method-acting mode, Leto sent his castmates live rats, dead pigs and bullets.
See instead of: Nine Lives. Kevin Spacey trapped inside a cat sounds like a surreal three-minute skit, not a movie.
Sort of like The Pineapple Express by way of Toy Story. Assorted meats and condiments come to life, question their roles, make very R-rated stoner humor. Featuring the voice talents of Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig and Jonah Hill.
Fun fact: Disney composer Alan Menken (Tangled, Aladdin) contributes to the film’s score.
See instead of: Cafe Society. A Woody Allen comedy marred by director’s on-going ickiness.
A true-life story of two small-time arms dealers (Jonah Hill, Miles Teller) who somehow talk their way into a $300 million contract to arm the Afghan army.
Fun fact: Speaking of ill-gotten gains, the War Dogs movie poster should remind you of another famous film.
See instead of: Ben-Hur. Maybe some Oscar-winning films don’t need a reboot.
Fede Alvarez, director of the surprisingly solid Evil Dead remake, does his take on the tired home-invasion trope … but here, the protagonists are thieves and the “villain” is a rather cagey blind man. Strong buzz out of SxSW suggests this could be this summer’s You’re Next.
Fun fact: Stephen Lang (Avatar) plays the blind man in the film, who is never named (his credit is literally “The Blind Man”).
See instead of: Blood Father. Think Taken, but with Mel Gibson. Better yet, don’t.