It’s that time again. Every year, Film School Rejects is looked to by readers the world over to be the guiding light for summer movie-going. What can we say? We just have a knack for knowing what’s going to be worth your money months before you have the opportunity to spend it. This year, we’re excited about what looks to be one of the most diverse summer movie seasons in recent years. Sure, there’s a big superhero film, and there are some big comedies, and Ridley Scott is going to give us a big side dish of epic sword and (whatever the people of Sherwood Forrest wear on their feet instead of sandals) action. But there are also some little movies worth mentioning. Some science fiction, some scary stuff and several movies that involve men with guns, on a mission, entering the kill zone and emerging victoriously (or so we can only hope) as badasses. It’s a summer that looks to have something for everyone. We even threw in a romantic comedy, for good measure.
If you see any 18 movies this summer (yes, we know that’s a lot — but if you want to be taken seriously, you need to get your ass to your local theater this summer), these are the ones we’d highly recommend…
We’ve already reviewed the summer’s most anticipated movie, and this is it. The verdict: yes, it’s worth seeing. Director Jon Favreau returns to helm Iron Man’s next adventure, one that sees him facing off with unique new villains, picking up a bad (in a good way) new sidekick in War Machine, and ending up square in the middle of one of the most exciting final acts imaginable. So yeah, it works. It isn’t a perfect film, nor will it blow die hards out of the water. But audiences of all ages, sizes and creeds will flock to this one. And for good reason. It’s a perfect starter for an exciting summer movie season. - Neil Miller
I’m looking forward to Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood just as much as the rest of you, but I think we’ll just have to accept that it won’t reach the entertainment heights of 1991’s Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner and Alan Rickman. (And yes, I realize you think I’m joking about that, but I’m into fuzzy accents.) Scott and Russell Crowe can be a powerful force for quality film-making as evidenced by the awesomeness of Gladiator, but they can just as easily turn out schlock like A Good Year. This leans heavier towards the epic and bloody nature of Gladiator (and even the trailer carries a Kingdom of Heaven vibe), and Crowe is joined by a fantastic supporting cast with Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Danny Huston, and Max von Sydow. And something to ponder… Crowe is playing the origin of Robin Hood at the same age Sean Connery was when he played the bow-wielding hero in the twilight of retirement in Robin and Marian. - Rob Hunter
We are not messing with you. MacGruber made this list at the expense of its own blood, sweat and tears. It’s probably just the sort of silly, surface-level comedy that we’d usually leave off our big summer list. But we caught a rough cut of it at South by Southwest and I must say, I had a blast. Between the absurdly named (and even more absurdly crafted) villain played by Val Kilmer and Will Forte’s throat-ripping hero, MacGruber delivers laughs in waves — waves fueled by a commitment to sheer absurdity. A solid ensemble and a few running gags that, surprisingly, never get old bring the whole thing together in perhaps one of the funniest films we’ll see this summer. Yeah, you read that right. - Neil Miller
Jean-Pierre Juenet, the director who gave the world City of Lost Children and Amelie, continues in his tradition of making playful movies about very dark subject matter. This time, it’s an endlessly fun, quirky tale of war profiteering and a man (played by the ever expressive Dany Boon) whose life may be ended at any moment by a bullet lodged in his head. As I reported in my review from SXSW, it’s an immensely fun time at the movies and one of those rare imports that could speak to any audience — or at least, any audience capable of reading subtitles. Go see this movie, those of you who can read this. - Neil Miller
Mix two solid actors (Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody), the innovative director behind the brilliant sci-fi gem Cube, one genetically created creature, and the hot-button topic of stem cell usage, and what do you get? If you answered a small horror film that would be better served by a September/October opening then you’d be right… Splice stars Polley and Brody as two scientists whose experiment with genetic engineering results in a strange and potentially dangerous new life form. Opening this little movie in the middle of summer may seem like smart counter-programming, but I fear it’s dooming the flick to future obscurity. Hopefully it finds an audience though with folks who like their entertainment mixed with strong acting, fantastic effects, and ethical debate. Oh, and sexy bald chicks. - Rob Hunter
Beyond comic books, it seems like another mainstay of this summer is the men on a mission. The A-Team seeks to elevate a group of beloved 80s icons and rebirth them for the screen, and that gives hope for at least one hilarious Mr. T cameo. Not to get too deep, but in a way we’re getting to see the kinetic directing talent of Joe Carnahan placed in a time machine and taken back 30 years in the past. Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copely are looking to own the summer yet again, and if the whole thing seems cheesy, there’s Liam Neeson to guide us through that swamp of cheese. If you really need further proof, they drop a damned tank out of a plane and fire it mid-free-fall. A tank. Skydiving. And blowing stuff up. Get excited. - Cole Abaius
If summers past have taught us anything, it’s that we should never bet against Pixar. They are the surest bet in Hollywood. And even though this is their first foray into the world of sequels of sequels, we have to feel confident that their imagination machine will churn out something special. The adventures of Buzz, Woody and the gang were what started this great run, and there are no signs of slowing. Director Lee Unkrich makes his debut as a one-man director show, but that shouldn’t worry anyone. He’s a Pixar veteran who knows exactly what he’s doing with these characters. - Neil Miller
The world is flooded with comic adaptations, and even though many production houses are turning to anti-heroes these days, Jonah Hex is still a fan favorite. It’s refreshing to see a deformed hero take the stage that isn’t Carrie from those Sex and the City movies. Cheap shots aside, John Malkovich, Josh Brolin, and Michael Fassbender bring the acting pedigree that Megan Fox sucks out of it, and there’s something intriguing about seeing the writing team behind Crank take a shot at comic book-style action. But perhaps the most anticipated part of the film is seeing Jimmy Hayward take his Pixar and Horton Hears a Who history into the live-action world for the first time as a director. Either that or it’s seeing Brolin wrestle gators. - Cole Abaius
Tom Cruise and this movie have an equally uphill battle this summer. He’s lost a lot of his cache over the years and even though Mission Impossible III did decent box-office worldwide it carries the stigma of perceived financial disappointment. One of the common complaints against Cruise is his tendency to stick with the same character again and again. His new film finds him in the untested waters of comedy, and that alone should be reason enough to give him and the flick the benefit of the doubt. Cameron Diaz (the only real weak link here) stars as a woman bemoaning the lack of good, interesting men in her life, until she meets Cruise’s character who claims to be a government agent in need of her assistance. Cue the wacky action and globe-trotting adventure as the pair find themselves chased and shot at by bad guys. Or maybe they’re the good guys… there’s a distinct possibility that Cruise is playing a crazy man here. Can Cruise go from cocky to funny and still deliver a solid piece of entertainment? If the movie’s as fun as the trailer suggests then the answer appears to be yes. - Rob Hunter
From the first time I saw the flame-quelling martial arts and giant armada of attacking ships in the trailer, I was hooked. Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan falling off his game as a storyteller, but the man is gifted when it comes to visuals, and it’s tough to go wrong with an old fashioned kung fu flick. I’m excited to see Dev Patel on screen again after a stellar first showing in Slumdog, and fight coordinator Mark Rounthwaite has worked as a coordinator in flicks from Return of the King to The Bourne Ultimatum. Plus, and I mean this in all seriousness, it’ll be fascinating to see Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi leave comedy behind for a few hours and trade it in for action. Finally, I hear James Cameron invented an entirely new technology for this movie, and I’m dying to see it. In 3D. - Cole Abaius
Robert Rodriguez has been envisioning a new Predators film for a long time. Much longer than you may have expected. And now, years after he was tasked to write a script that would put Arnold back in the franchise, he’s ready with a fresh take. And while Arnold didn’t make it into this one, some nasty looking Predators certainly did. If what we saw at the special preview during SXSW in March is any indication, these new Predators are lean, mean and ready for some wicked R-rated violence. And who doesn’t want a little bit of that in their summer? I know that I will be there, ready for some serious carnage. And if the past work of producer Robert Rodriguez is any indication, I have a feeling we’ll get some with Predators. - Neil Miller
I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a huge fan of The Duplass Brothers’ work. Mostly because if there’s not going to be a script, there better be some damned fine improv work on display and less than half an hour of mopey people complaining about being mopey. Luckily, Cyrus stands poised to change my mind because half of that formula is being switched up. The inclusion of John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill represent a marked change in the right direction. The plot is high-concept: what happens when the woman you’ve fallen for has an asshole for a son, and then what happens when John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill are allowed to riff off one another for an entire movie? These are fundamental questions that need answers. Funny ones. And I’m anticipating that the Duplass Brothers are ready to deliver just that. - Cole Abaius
Christopher Nolan may not have directed the highest grossing film of all time, but he is the director behind my favorite movie. No, not that one. I’m talking about Memento. Like The Adjustment Bureau, Nolan’s Inception looks to be intelligent science fiction in a normally big and dumb summer slot. The difference though is that this movie also brings the huge spectacle expected of a blockbuster in the form of physics-free gun battles, trippy effects, and a city that literally folds up into itself. Little is known about the story aside from a plot involving a high stakes game of corporate espionage and the theft of ideas. And that’s literal ideas and thoughts. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a master thief who’s able to funnel his consciousness into his target’s subconscious to steal their secrets. It’s Duplicity meets Dreamscape and hopefully much better than either. Along for the ride are Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Lukas Haas, Michael Caine, and Marion Cotillard. - Rob Hunter
The other day I watched a little movie called Anchorman, and it reminded me how potent the team of Ferrell and McKay can be. Finally they are back together to show off the first funny buddy cop movie in years. Plus, there’s Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes and The Rock along for a ride in the police cruiser. Plus, plus, there’s comedy genius in the form of Rob Riggle, Steve Coogan, and hopefully some un-credited cameos from Ferrell’s friends. Could it resemble a lot of Ferrell’s recent messy exploits? Sure, but the last time he appeared in an Adam McKay film, the world got Stepbrothers, and the time before then was, I don’t know quite how to say this, but, kind of a big deal. - Cole Abaius
Right now, somewhere in the world, there is video proof that Dolph Lundgren can still kick a guy’s ass. That proof is probably in the police station closest to where the actor’s house was broken into by an idiot, but The Expendables seeks to prove the exact same thing. In my mind, I think of this movie a lot like what Wild Hogs would be if it kicked everyone’s ass, lit the bodies on fire, and then jumped over them and 24 school buses in an actual wild hog. Not the motorcycle kind. A live boar that Sly Stallone has tamed and trained to jump over 24 school buses and a pile of flaming bodies. Condense that into celluloid form with liberal amounts of Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Eric Roberts, Arnie, and what I have to assume is an entire vat of Aspercreme, and you get one highly anticipated flick. Plus, a few people probably want to see Brittany Murphy roll with the homies one last time, right? - Cole Abaius
It was thought that the combination of the energetic filmmaking style of Edgar Wright with the sharp humor of Brian Lee O’Malley’s popular indie comic might cause the heads of geeks everywhere to explode. It hasn’t yet, but there’s still time. The story of a slacker in love, who must battle the seven evil exes of his lady in waiting, Scott Pilgrim is sure to be an imaginative flick. And if even 5% of the best stuff from the comics ends up in the movie, that’s a whole bunch of good stuff that you’ve probably never seen before in a film. With a pedigree like that, I can’t see any reason to miss this one. - Neil Miller
As a vegetarian who eats, makes, and enjoys tofu, I’ve never had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into human flesh. But I have eaten fish. Does any of that matter? Not at all, but I promised a sickly little boy on his deathbed that I’d to my best to include the word ‘tofu’ in all six of my selections here and that’s the best I could do for Piranha 3D. The movie features a lot of flesh-eating as a school of vicious piranha are released into Lake Victoria after an underground tremor. It’s summertime on the lake which means plenty of drunken and horny young people just begging to be eaten. Horror films are one of the few areas where I think the 3D conceit can work well, and that combined with director Alexandre Aja’s penchant for blood and gore should make this a fun flick. Of course there’s also sure to be copious nudity too, and when you add in the lovely Elisabeth Shue along with Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss you have the makings of… well I don’t know exactly, but I plan on watching it in theaters this summer. - Rob Hunter
The writings of Philip K. Dick have been adapted into eight films so far, but the odds are you can’t name more than a few. Don’t worry, it’s not your fault… most of the movies have been utterly forgettable. Blade Runner and Minority Report are classics obviously, and Total Recall has an abundance of goofy charm, but the rest including Paycheck, Imposter, Screamers, and Next are fairly lame. George Nolfi’s directorial debut, The Adjustment Bureau, looks to be one for the minority. Matt Damon stars as a politician running for the US Senate who falls in love with a beautiful (and hopefully flexible) ballerina played by Emily Blunt. Their romance becomes a challenge though as they move from lovers to fugitives when a mysterious organization, the titular Adjustment Bureau, tries to cock block the affair. It seems their relationship is not meant to be so the agents of Fate are stepping in to correct things. Nolfi’s untested as a director (but he did write The Bourne Ultimatum) and the film is more cerebral science fiction than the typical summer movie, but the story and the cast are appealing enough to make this one to watch this summer. - Rob Hunter
Editor’s Note: The day before we planned to publish our Summer Movie preview, The Adjustment Bureau was moved by Universal Pictures to a September release date. We don’t care. We’re leaving it on the list. We still can’t wait to see it. And we certainly don’t have time to pick another movie to fill its spot.
What are you looking forward to seeing this summer?