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Summer movie guide 2015

🕐 13 min read

Welcome to the summer of 1985.

I’m not talking about the theme of time travel, that staple of warm-weather movies. But there’s something in the cinematic zeitgeist this summer that reeks of 30-year-old Drakkar Noir. From George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” to “Straight Outta Compton,” there’s a distinct air of nostalgia in the multiplex for Reagan-era America.

Look at “Poltergeist,” a remake of the 1982 ghost story. Then there’s “Pixels,” an action-comedy about gamers defending the planet from weaponized Pac-Man monsters. And how about “Terminator Genisys”? The fifth film in the sci-fi franchise takes place in 1984 — the year the series launched — as well as in 2017 and 2029. Even “San Andreas” feels like a throwback to a bygone age of disaster flicks, which, let’s be honest, peaked in the late 1970s.

It’s not just the popcorn flicks, either. The Brian Wilson biopic “Love & Mercy” jumps between the 1960s and the 1980s, with dueling performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack. Check out co-star Elizabeth Banks’s big hair, which deserves a separate credit.

Speaking of good hair, ’80s pop star Rick Springfield makes an appearance — as Meryl Streep’s love interest — in the dramedy “Ricki and the Flash.” Playing a middle-aged rock singer, Streep covers songs by ’80s icons Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. The horror movie “Regression,” which is set in 1990, features a detective (Ethan Hawke) investigating a Satanic cult. Shades of 1987’s “Angel Heart”?

In more contemporary news, this is the summer of Kristen Wiig and Paul Giamatti. Look for the former “SNL” star in three films: “Welcome to Me,” “Masterminds” and “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” the last of which isn’t a comedy. As for Giamatti, he’s now officially the hardest-working man in showbiz, with appearances in “San Andreas,” “Love & Mercy,” “Madame Bovary” and “Straight Outta Compton.”

Read on. There’s something — or someone — in our summer preview for every taste, especially movie fans still wearing acid-washed jeans.

(Opening dates and ratings may change. Buzzworthy picks: *)

ACTION/ADVENTURE

– “Mad Max: Fury Road”

(May 15, R)

Stars: Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Charlize Theron

The basics: Not quite a sequel, yet not exactly a reboot, George Miller’s fourth lap around the “Mad Max” track stars Hardy in the role originated by Mel Gibson. Here, the taciturn loner does battle with bloodthirsty bad guys in a post-apocalyptic world where gasoline is king (and Theron is queen).

– “San Andreas”

(May 29, PG-13)

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino

The basics: After California registers a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s search-and-rescue pilot swings into hero mode, giving new meaning to the phrase “when the big one hits.”

– “Jurassic World”

(June 12, not yet rated)

Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard

The basics: Have the developers of dino-centric theme parks learned nothing from three “Jurassic Park” movies? In the futuristic amusement park of the title, a genetically engineered beast is introduced, wreaking predictable havoc.

– “Big Game”

(June 26, PG-13)

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila

The basics: When Air Force One is shot down over Finland by terrorists, a 13-year-old boy (Tommila) comes to the rescue of the U.S. president (Jackson).

– “Terminator Genisys”

(July 1, not yet rated)

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney

The basics: The fifth big-screen outing in the seemingly indestructible sci-fi franchise about killer robots introduces a wrinkle in the fabric of the time-traveling tale, which jumps from 1984 to 2029 (and in between): Maybe John Connor — whose role in the salvation of humanity has never before been in doubt — isn’t the solution, but the problem.

– “Ant-Man”

(July 17, not yet rated)

Stars: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll

The basics: Expect action and laughs from this screenplay (written by Adam McKay and Rudd) based on the Marvel comic books about an insect-size superhero (Rudd).

– “Pixels”

(July 24, not yet rated)

Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad

The basics: Old-school gamers do battle with aliens who have devised weapons in the form of Pac-Man and other antique video game characters in this sci-fi comedy.

– “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”

(July 31, not yet rated)

Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner

The basics: When his spy organization disbands, superagent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF teammates go freelance to defeat a syndicate of international supervillains. Let’s hope this reunion of Cruise and filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie is more successful than their 2012 collaboration, “Jack Reacher.”

– “Fantastic Four”

(Aug. 7, not yet rated)

Stars: Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Miles Teller

The basics: After critical flops with the first two “Fantastic Four” films, Hollywood tries yet again to make these action heroes happen, reimagining their origin story as a drama about the burden of superpowers.

– “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

(Aug. 14, PG-13)

Stars: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander

The basics: Cavill and Hammer play unlikely allies — an American and a Soviet spy, respectively — in this Cold War-era adventure based on the 1960s TV series. It’s directed by Guy Ritchie, whose “Sherlock Holmes” movies prove he’s no slave to source material.

– “Hitman: Agent 47”

(Aug. 28, not yet rated)

Stars: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto

The basics: After the box-office success (but critical failure) of the 2007 film based on the “Hitman” video game, a fresh director (Aleksander Bach) tries his hand at adapting the adventures of a genetically engineered assassin (Friend, replacing Paul Walker, who died before shooting began).

– “No Escape”

(Sept. 2, R)

Stars: Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan, Lake Bell

The basics: Wilson is an American businessman in an unnamed Southeast Asian country whose family is endangered when a revolution erupts. Will the veteran funnyman be able to shed his goofball persona for the role of a gun-toting action hero? Let’s hope that the film’s title is not prophetic.

COMEDY

– “The D Train”

(May 8, R)

Stars: Jack Black, James Marsden

The basics: On the occasion of his 20th high school reunion, an average Joe (Black) becomes obsessed with a former classmate (Marsden), who is now a Hollywood actor. Dark comedy — and an awkward sexual encounter — ensues.

– “Hot Pursuit”

(May 8, PG-13)

Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara

The basics: Policewoman Witherspoon plays escort to Vergara’s wife-of-a-druglord on the lam in this odd-couple road movie.

– “Welcome to Me”

(May 8, R)

Stars: Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Wes Bentley, Joan Cusack

The basics: An emotionally unstable woman (Wiig) uses $86 million in lottery winnings to buy herself a talk show centered on her mundane life.

– “Pitch Perfect 2” *

(May 15, PG-13)

Stars: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson

The basics: A competitive a capella group attempts to redeem itself after an embarrassing loss in this sequel to the 2012 hit. The comedy marks the feature directorial debut of actress Elizabeth Banks.

– “Spy”

(June 5, R)

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne

The basics: McCarthy’s deskbound CIA agent finally gets a shot at field operations in this fish-out-of-water yukfest from writer-director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”).

– “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” *

(June 12, PG-13)

Stars: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke

The basics: This Sundance favorite, which took home both the Grand Jury Prize and the audience award, follows the bittersweet friendship between a high-school oddball (Mann) and a classmate with leukemia (Cooke).

– “Dope” *

(June 19, not yet rated)

Stars: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Zoë Kravitz

The basics: The college aspirations of a poor but high-achieving black teen (Moore) from Inglewood, California, take a comic detour when drugs enter the picture.

– “Ted 2”

(June 26, R)

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried

The basics: The trash-talking teddy bear (voiced by director and co-writer MacFarlane) returns, going to court to prove his humanity in this sequel to the raunchy 2012 comedy.

– “Magic Mike XXL”

(July 1, R)

Stars: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Jada Pinkett Smith

The basics: Tatum’s title character reunites with his stripper pals from the 2012 hit, inspired by Tatum’s real-life past as an exotic dancer.

– “Trainwreck” *

(July 17, R)

Stars: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader

The basics: In her first big-screen starring role, Schumer is a happy-go-lucky commitment-phobe who discovers, to her chagrin, that she’s falling for Mr. Right (Hader). Judd Apatow directed, from a script by Schumer.

– “Masterminds”

(Aug. 7, not yet rated)

Stars: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig

The basics: Galifianakis and Wiig play larcenous yokels in a crime caper (inspired by an actual 1997 heist) from “Napoleon Dynamite” director Jared Hess.

– “Ricki and the Flash”

(Aug. 7, not yet rated)

Stars: Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield

The basics: Jonathan Demme (“Rachel Getting Married”) directs a script by Diablo Cody (“Juno”) about a middle-aged rock singer (Streep) trying to reconnect with the daughter she left behind, played by Streep’s real-life daughter (Gummer).

– “Grandma”

(August, date TBD, not yet rated)

Stars: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner

The basics: Paul Weitz reunites with Lily Tomlin, who stole the spotlight in the director’s 2013 “Admission,” for a comedy about a lovable crank who helps her teenage granddaughter get an abortion.

DRAMA

– “About Elly”

(May 8, unrated)

Stars: Taraneh Alidoosti, Golshifteh Farahani, Shahab Hosseini

The basics: Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation,” “The Past”) sets up a mystery precipitated by the disappearance of a young teacher during a seaside outing with friends.

– “Good Kill”

(May 22, R)

Stars: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoë Kravitz

The basics: A drone pilot wrestles with his conscience in this drama, which reunites Hawke with his deep-thinking “Gattaca” director Andrew Niccol.

– “Slow West”

(May 22, R)

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee

The basics: A young Scottish man (Smit-McPhee) searching for a lost love in late-19th-century Colorado is taken under the wing of a laconic bounty hunter (Fassbender) in this atmospheric Western.

– “Love & Mercy” *

(June 5, PG-13)

Stars: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti

The basics: Dano and Cusack play Beach Boy Brian Wilson at different points in his life, jumping between the surf group’s rise in the 1960s and Wilson’s 1980s struggle with mental illness.

– “Infinitely Polar Bear”

(June, date TBD, R)

Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana

The basics: In the semi-autobiographical tale from writer-director Maya Forbes, Ruffalo plays a bipolar father struggling to raise two daughters when his wife (Saldana) goes off to graduate school.

– “Self/less”

(July 10, PG-13)

Stars: Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Ryan Reynolds

The basics: A scientist (Goode) offers the prospect of immortality to a billionaire with cancer (Kingsley), agreeing to transplant the dying man’s consciousness into a healthy body (Reynolds). But the dying man finds the new body, er, occupied.

– “Mr. Holmes”

(July 17, PG)

Stars: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker

The basics: McKellen plays Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved sleuth, now 93 and suffering from incipient dementia, in this drama based on novelist Mitch Cullin’s “A Slight Trick of the Mind,” about inter-generational friendship.

– “Southpaw” *

(July 24, not yet rated)

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker

The basics: Gyllenhaal’s troubled, musclebound boxer is the physical opposite of the emaciated sociopath he played in “Nightcrawler” in director Antoine Fuqua’s drama about a widower struggling to regain custody of his daughter.

– “The Gift”

(July 31, not yet rated)

Stars: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton

The basics: Edgerton makes his directorial debut with a psychological thriller about a married couple (Bateman and Hall) whose life is upended by the appearance of an old friend (Edgerton) with secrets from the husband’s past.

– “Straight Outta Compton”

(Aug. 14, not yet rated)

Stars: Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti

The basics: Former N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre produced this biographical drama about the rise of the seminal gangster-rap group, which, in a bit of clever casting, stars Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., as his father.

– “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” *

(August, date TBD, not yet rated)

Stars: Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgard

The basics: The buzz out of Sundance was strong for this coming-of-age drama about a girl’s affair with her mother’s boyfriend, based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s acclaimed 2002 graphic novel.

– “The End of the Tour” *

(August, date TBD, not yet rated)

Stars: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg

The basics: Based on Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky’s 1996 interviews with David Foster Wallace, this literary road movie premiered to glowing reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

– “Dark Places”

(Summer, date TBD, R)

Stars: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chloë Grace Moretz

The basics: Based on the second novel by Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”), the thriller stars Theron as a woman who witnessed — and survived — her family’s murder when she was a little girl. Now grown, she is pursued by a group of amateur sleuths seeking to exonerate her brother, who has been serving a life sentence for the crime.

HORROR

– “Poltergeist”

(May 22, PG-13)

Stars: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris

The basics: Why did producer Sam Raimi decide to remake the classic ghost tale, which has already given birth to two lackluster sequels? Because, as the film’s paranormal expert (Harris) says of the ectoplasmic protagonists: “They already know what scares you.”

– “Insidious: Chapter 3”

(June 5, PG-13)

Stars: Dermot Mulroney, Lin Shaye

The basics: The prequel to two earlier films about malevolent spirits from a supernatural realm known as The Further leads viewers even deeper into the domain of the damned.

– “The Gallows”

(July 10, not yet rated)

Stars: Cassidy Gifford, Pfeifer Brown

The basics: Yet another low-budget fright-fest in the found-footage genre, “The Gallows” centers on teenagers who put on a play 20 years after one production of the show in which its star was killed.

– “Sinister 2”

(Aug. 21, not yet rated)

Stars: Shannyn Sossamon, James Ransone

The basics: In this sequel, a new family gets terrorized by Bagul, the bogeyman from the first film who feeds on children’s souls (and the hard-earned cash of horror fans starved for an original concept).

– “Regression” *

(Aug. 28, not yet rated)Aug. 28

Stars: Emma Watson, Ethan Hawke

It bodes well that Alejandro Amenábar is at the helm of this film, a return to horror after his acclaimed “The Others.” Hawke plays a detective investigating a young woman’s (Watson) claims of abuse by a Satanic cult.

KIDS

– “Tomorrowland”

(May 22, PG)

Stars: George Clooney, Britt Robertson

The basics: A teenage girl (Robertson) finds herself in possession of a mysterious pin, unlocking a portal to a parallel universe. Her guide to this dangerous new world is a reclusive inventor (Clooney). Co-written by Damon Lindelof, whose credits include “Lost” and “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and director Brad Bird, whose résumé stretches from “The Simpsons” to the “The Incredibles,” the film promises to deliver more than kiddie fluff.

– “Inside Out”

(June 19, PG)

Stars: The voices of Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black

The basics: Poehler, Kaling, Hader and Black voice some of the emotions rattling around inside the head of an 11-year-old girl in this animated comedy from Pixar.

“Minions”

(July 10, PG)

Stars: The voices of Sandra Bullock, Michael Keaton, Jon Hamm

The basics: The lovable henchmen (hench-creatures?) from the “Despicable Me” movies get their own prequel in an animated comedy featuring a new supervillain, voiced by Bullock.

“Underdogs”

(Aug. 14, not yet rated)

Stars: The voices of Nicholas Hoult, Matthew Morrison, Ariana Grande

The basics: Oscar-winning Argentine director Juan José Campanella (“The Secret in Their Eyes”) turns to animation in this fantasy about foosball-table soccer players coming to life.

ROMANCE

– “I’ll See You in My Dreams”

(May 22, PG-13)

Stars: Blythe Danner, Sam Elliott

The basics: A widow (Danner) tentatively re-enters the dating pool, only to discover that the water is fine. Soon she’s making waves with a sexy septuagenarian (Elliott).

– “Madame Bovary”

(June 12, R)

Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Ezra Miller

The basics: In this 19th-century bodice-ripper, Wasikowska plays Gustave Flaubert’s tragic heroine, who flees from an unhappy marriage into a lover’s arms.

– “Irrational Man”

(July 24, not yet rated)

Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone

The basics: Like clockwork, Woody Allen has released at least one new film every year since 1982. His 46th offering explores a relationship between a college professor (Phoenix) and one of his students (Stone).

– “Paper Towns” *

(July 24, not yet rated)

Stars: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne

The basics: Wolff and Delevingne, a British supermodel, star in an adaptation of a YA novel by John Green (“The Fault in Our Stars”) about a boy whose crush disappears.

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