Summer arts preview: Movies 

Summer means sequels, superheroes, broad comedies, explosions and dystopian futuristic sci-fi movies. There may be a few memorable gems among them. Here's our breakdown.

(All dates are subject to change.)

Opens June 6 Rated PG-13

Edge of Tomorrow

It's not easy to combine action and thoughtful science fiction, but judging from the trailer, it looks like director Doug Liman may have done it with "Edge of Tomorrow." Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt play futuristic soldiers battling evil aliens. When Cruise gets killed in battle, he enters a time loop, reliving his last day again and again. Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") co-wrote the screenplay based on a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

Opens June 13 Rated PG

How to Train Your Dragon 2

What looks to be the summer's biggest animated film brings back Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless. With men and dragons at peace, things are great until our heroes discover a new race of dragons in a hidden cave. Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, double Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and other huge talents provide voices.

Opens June 13 Not yet rated

22 Jump Street

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller made the movie adaptation of the cheesy old TV favorite "21 Jump Street" into something surprisingly funny and clever (as they did with "The Lego Movie" a few months back). But can they make a surprisingly clever and funny sequel with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprising their undercover cop roles? Let's hope they serve and protect the franchise.

Opens June 20 Rated R

Jersey Boys

In his monumental career, Clint Eastwood has not directed a musical (though he was in the infamous "Paint Your Wagon") -- until now. It may seem like a strange match, but tough guys love music, too. He takes on the hit rags-to-riches Broadway show about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Vincent Piazza and Michael Lomenda play the band, and Christopher Walken co-stars as gangster Gyp DeCarlo.

opens June 20 Rated R

The Rover

The Australian film collective known as Blue-Tongue Films has made terrific movies, like David Michod's crime story "Animal Kingdom." Now Michod is back with this futuristic, post-apocalyptic story about a loner (Guy Pearce) who reluctantly teams up with a wounded man (Robert Pattinson) to regain his stolen car. It could be like "Mad Max," but more brooding and thoughtful. Actor Joel Edgerton co-wrote the story.

Opens June 27 Rated R

Snowpiercer

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who made a great cop movie ("Memories of Murder"), a great monster movie ("The Host") and a great family drama ("Mother"), could top his previous outings with this eagerly awaited post-apocalyptic epic. After global warming, survivors stay alive on a train that constantly circles the globe. Chris Evans leads the international cast. Latest reports indicate the film will open in the U.S. uncut and unaltered.

opens June 27 Not yet rated

Transformers: Age of Extinction

It's just not summer without one of Michael Bay's brain-dead, colorful explosion fests. His last three "Transformers" movies grew progressively worse, but kept on making money. This time, he has replaced actor Shia LaBeouf with Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg, and the word "extinction" in the title sounds very promising! Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor and Stanley Tucci also star.

Opens July 2 Not yet rated

Deliver Us from Evil

One of the summer's highest-profile horror films comes from director Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose," "Sinister"). Eric Bana stars as a New York cop who teams up with a priest (Edgar Ramirez) to investigate a series of incidents that may be demonic in origin. The ads claim it's based on the testimony of a real police sergeant, and the trailer looks absolutely chilling. Olivia Munn co-stars.

opens July 2 Rated R

Tammy

Melissa McCarthy continues her hot streak after an Oscar nomination for "Bridesmaids" and lead roles in two hit comedies ("Identity Thief," "The Heat"). Her latest is "Tammy," which borrows the road trip idea from "Identity Thief," but pits McCarthy against her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) as they drive to Niagara Falls. The seemingly unrelated trailer, with Tammy robbing a fast-food joint, is pretty funny.

Opens July 2 Rated PG

Earth to Echo

In what sounds like a sci-fi update of "The Goonies," this kids' adventure flick could become a generation's cult classic. A group of friends who are losing their neighborhood to highway construction prepare to spend their last days together. But when they all get strange text messages, they decide to investigate, leading to their biggest adventure. Teo Halm, Astro and Reese Hartwig star.

Opens July 4 Rated R

Begin Again

Coming from filmmaker John Carney, whose "Once" was a lovely, bittersweet musical romance, "Begin Again" looks similar. Keira Knightley plays a heartbroken singer-songwriter, dumped and alone in the big city, when a burned-out ex-record executive (Mark Ruffalo) discovers her performing in a shabby club. The movie promises great songs, hopefully one as good as "Falling Slowly." Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener also star.

Opens July 8 Rated R

Boyhood

Richard Linklater's magnum opus, 12 years in the making, charts the childhood of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows from age 5 to age 18. Linklater and his cast apparently filmed just a little bit each year. The result is a powerful, existential experience, a meditation on life and age that's both moving and touching. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play Mason's divorced parents. It's interesting to watch them age, too.

Opens July 11 Not yet rated

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

In 2011, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was the surprise of the summer, a shockingly good sci-fi entertainment with an actual idea under its furry belt. Can this new sequel repeat the trick? Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield," "Let Me In") is a very strong genre director, and as Caesar, the intelligent leader of the apes, performer Andy Serkis already has shown greatness.

Opens July 18 Not yet rated

Jupiter Ascending

On one hand, Andy and Lana Wachowski made the incredible "The Matrix," but they also are responsible for the awful "Cloud Atlas." Which end of the spectrum will "Jupiter Ascending" land on? It tells the story of a chosen one (Mila Kunis) who cleans houses for a living until a mysterious hunter (Channing Tatum), arrives on Earth to bring her to her destiny.

Opens July 25 Not yet rated

I Origins

Beautiful, brainy Brit Marling has helped create two intelligent sci-fi films, "Another Earth" and "Sound of My Voice," and now her "Another Earth" director Mike Cahill takes the lead with this sci-fi story of a molecular biologist (Michael Pitt), who is studying the human eye and makes a startling discovery. It all has something to do with a mysterious girl (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). Marling is on board as his lab assistant.

Opens July 25 Not yet rated

Hercules

Few Hercules movies are very good. The best we can hope for is campy fun. In January, Renny Harlin's "The Legend of Hercules" quickly established itself among the year's worst. Brett Ratner's "Hercules," with Dwayne Johnson in the title role, could join it or it could be just silly enough to work. John Hurt, Ian McShane and model Irina Shayk co-star.

Opens July 25 Rated PG

Magic in the Moonlight

It will be interesting to see if Woody Allen's fans stick with him after recent scandalous allegations or if his career is sunk. As usual, the plot of his newest film is secret, but it is set in the south of France, and stars Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden and Jacki Weaver. A photo has Stone looking lovely in a (possible) period summer dress and hat. It could be quite delightful.

Opens Aug. 1 Not yet rated

Calvary

John Michael McDonagh ("The Guard") is the less celebrated brother of the playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh ("In Bruges"), though both make sharp, smart British crime movies with darkly comic twists. In "Calvary," Brendan Gleeson plays a priest whose world is torn apart by a mysterious member of his parish. Kelly Reilly, Isaach De Bankole and Chris O'Dowd co-star.

Opens Aug. 1 Not yet rated

Guardians of the Galaxy

An official Marvel Comics superhero movie, this one might be slightly different from previous offerings. The versatile Chris Pratt plays an American space pilot who steals a mysterious orb and winds up joining a ragtag group of eccentric heroes. Directed by misfit James Gunn ("Super"), this flick appears to have some humor and could be welcomed summer entertainment.

Opens Aug. 1 Rated PG-13

What If

Formerly known as "The F Word," this romantic comedy stars the former Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, as a heartbroken, burned-out medical student who meets an animator (Zoe Kazan). Despite her long-term boyfriend, they have an instant connection and wonder if they can actually be just friends. Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter Oona Chaplin co-stars along with Adam Driver and Rafe Spall. Michael Dowse ("Goon") directs.

Opens Aug. 8 Not yet rated

Lucy

Luc Besson, who has written and produced a slew of spiffy, second-gear B movies, directs this Scarlett Johansson thriller. She plays the title character, an unwilling drug mule that somehow is able to access unused parts of her brain, gaining untold power. It could be so sexy and so much fun! Morgan Freeman and Choi Min-sik ("Oldboy") co-star.

Opens Aug. 15 Not yet rated

The Expendables 3

The action series to end all action series enters its third film featuring regulars Sylvester Stallone (who co-wrote the screenplay), Jason Statham and Jet Li, including newcomers Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas. The wild card is untested director Patrick Hughes, but with any luck, it will have the fun of Part 2 and not the clutter of Part 1.

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About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bio:
Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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