Tomorrowland (May 22)
Brad Bird of The Iron Giant (1999) and Ratatouille (2007) brings one of the summer’s only blockbuster films that isn’t a sequel or an adaptation. George Clooney stars as a fading former boy genius who teams up with a troubled, yet brilliant teenage girl to discover the secrets of a world that exists in their shared memories. Bird, who also co-wrote the script, seems to have honed his live-action visual acumen. The trailer revels in his previous tropes—a wide-eyed sense of wonder, a score by the great Michael Giacchino, and a human world full of magical secrets.
Inside Out (June 19)
After the relative creative failures of Pixar sequels Cars 2 (2011) and Monsters University (2013), Inside Out—Pixar’s first non-sequel since 2011’s Brave—is Pixar’s chance to reinvent itself. Taking place almost entirely within a young girl’s mind, anthropomorphized emotions like Joy, Fear, and Sadness vie for control after moving to a new town upends her life. The roster of voice actors is drawn from a characteristically strong well of comedic stars and includes Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, and Bill Hader.
Ant-Man (July 17)
Perhaps the most enticing aspect of this new Marvel movie is that Ant-Man’s superpower is by far the least impressive of any Marvel character who has gotten a movie: He can make himself really small, and that’s basically it. This hopefully means that the superpowers will take a backseat to an actual story and dynamic character work rather than following the recent pattern of cramming the third act with as many CGI explosions as possible. Paul Rudd stars as Ant-Man, and his personal brand of charm should inject some life into the increasingly flat cinematic universe.
Trainwreck (July 17)
Judd Apatow (Knocked Up (2007), This is 40 (2012)) returns to the screen with the story of a boozy career woman who is afraid of commitment, but slowly learns to settle down when she meets the right guy. If you think that’s the most vapid, clichéd premise in the history of film, you’re certainly not alone. However, festival buzz has been overwhelmingly positive—critics have cited it as a return to form for Apatow—so it may be worth checking out. Amy Schumer stars as the titular Trainwreck, making this the first Apatow film with a female lead.
Ricki and the Flash (August 7)
Starring Meryl Streep as an aging musician who returns to her estranged family after abandoning them to find fame, this film is all but guaranteed to give Streep her obligatory yearly Oscar nomination. A script from Juno (2007) and Young Adult’s (2011) Diablo Cody means this could also be the sleeper hit of the summer—Cody has a knack for witty banter and a laser-guided sense of her characters’ often deluded perspectives. The supporting cast is also excellent, and includes Streep’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer.
Straight Outta Compton (August 14)
The ‘rap biopic’ is a subgenre that never really took off, despite the success of 8 Mile (2002) and Notorious (2009). However, there are plenty of stories to tell about the world of hip hop, and perhaps none is more interesting than NWA—the seminal group largely attributed with giving rap its gangster edge. This film tracks the group through their early days as they face the gangs and street violence of Compton, California, dreaming of one day getting out and making a better life for themselves.