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2014 Summer Movies: A complete preview of July and August's upcoming releases

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With the end of June, we've come to the halfway point of the traditionally long four-month summer movie season. In my opinion, even though the box office receipts keep rolling in here and abroad, May and June brought more disappointments than winners. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" opened the season with over-saturation and messy sequel issues. "Neighbors" did its job, but wasn't the runaway comedy hit equal to "22 Jump Street." Speaking of comedy, "Blended" and "A Million Ways to Die in the West" tanked big time. "Godzilla," "Edge of Tomorrow," and "X-Men: Days of Future Past" played as solid blockbusters and bright spots, but I didn't even bother to see "Maleficent," "How To Train Your Dragon 2," or "Transformers: Age of Extinction" to know that I wasn't missing anything special. For most people that ask me for the one movie to see this summer, I've been telling them the indie hit "Chef." That shows the lack of strength.

The offerings of July and August aren't usually as strong as May and June, but maybe this year will be different. The Fourth of July holiday weekend starts it off, where many hits have been born and we still have the third week of July slot that made Harry Potter and Batman summer record breakers. After that, the first week of August tends to be the last big splash spot before the month closes with also-rans that weren't good enough for earlier releases. Here's my preview of the late summer slate. Enjoy!

JULY 2

"Tammy"-- When I advertised a Fourth of July blockbuster, I don't think this is what you had in mind. While I like Melissa McCarthy's act, this lovable loser thing she's doing is getting a little repetitious, like Adam Sandler-level repetitious. "Tammy," another road movie, doesn't look any more original than "The Heat" or "Identity Thief." Her track record shows that she can sell a movie and this is a plum weekend to test her staying power. I'm just not convinced. (trailer)

"Deliver Us From Evil"-- Last summer's surprise horror hits like "The Purge" and "The Conjuring" put the genre back on the box office hunt as a viable and untapped audience source. "Deliver Us From Evil," starring Eric Bana as a NYC cop investigated the demonic claims of a priest, is hoping to be this summer's horror champ. This one gets mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer's sink-or-swim backing. Take that as you will. (trailer)

JULY 11

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"-- With that disappointing group set for July 2nd, here's your legitimate summer slugger. Continuing the stellar franchise reboot and reimagining from two years ago, "Cloverfield" and "Let Me In" director Matt Reeves steps in to continue the conquering story of intelligent apes over their human counterparts set in the not-to-distant future. Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman lead the side of the human resistance against the performance capture apes brought to life by Andy Serkis's Caesar and company. This one, as you can see from its latest and final trailer, has all of the ingredients to be a huge smash. Save up your quarters, kiddos.

"Boyhood"-- In easily the most elaborate and intriguing movie premise this year, "Bernie" and "Before Midnight" writer-director Richard Linklater has been sitting on this passion project for 12 years. Filmed on-and-off over those dozen years with the same cast re-collaborating each year, including Linklater vet Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and starring newcomer Ellar Coltrane, this life-meets-art drama follows the same boy growing up from age 5 to 18. Fascinating stuff! (trailer)

"And So It Goes"-- As with most romantic comedies since the Nora Ephron/Nancy Meyers hey-dey of the previous two decades, all you really need is a good pairing of performers that people wouldn't mind seeing together. "When Harry Met Sally.." director Rob Reiner aims for that with Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in this will-they-or-won't-they premise of soon-to-be-involved neighbors. You have to marvel that "When Harry Met Sally" is 25 years old. What happened to this genre? (trailer)

JULY 18

"Sex Tape"-- The carousel of R-rated comedies continues with the latest from the "Bad Teacher" trio of director Jake Kasdan and stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. Perfectly placed a month after "22 Jump Street," Diaz and Segel play a married couple trying to control the unintended release of their home video sex tape to their friends, family, and co-workers. The raunch is dialed to 11 and that's probably not a bad thing to sell tickets. (red band trailer)

"The Purge: Anarchy"-- If any movie has something to say about "Deliver Us From Evil" coming onto its turf, it's this quick-turnaround horror sequel. Any new couple and family (Frank Grilo and Kiele Sanchez) are the new targets hoping to survive the annual purge night where all crime, including murder, is legal. All of the filmmakers and stars of the first film have not returned, meaning quality is likely down and the name alone will have to sell this one. (trailer)

"Planes: Fire and Rescue"-- Forgoing their usual weak sequel route of straight-to-DVD, last summer's modest hit and "Cars" off-shoot "Planes" (which was supposed to be straight-to-DVD in the first place) gets a soft sequel centering on aerial firefighting. The returning Dane Cook leads the voice cast that includes Julie Bowen, Jerry Stiller, and Ed Harris. On the calendar, this has been long enough since "How to Train Your Dragon 2" to have kids' attention with no other solid family offerings coming in the month. (trailer)

"Wish I Was Here"-- Actor and director Zach Braff turned to Kickstarter crowdfunding to deliver his long-awaited sophomore effort after the indie hit "Garden State" of ten years ago. Where "Garden State" was the quirky crossroads for a twenty-something, this one looks to be the same thing for a 35-year-old. After essentially stealing your money to make his own, this new film better be good. (trailer)

"Mood Indigo"-- In an obscure turn in limited release former auteur director Michael Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Be Kind Rewind." "The Green Hornet") headed to France to make a foreign romantic comedy. Gondry deserves a chance to take something to the level that fellow quirkster Spike Jonze did with "Her" last year. (trailer)

JULY 25

"Hercules"-- If there's one filmmaker that can ruin as many good ideas and big names as Michael Bay, it's the ubiquitous Brett Ratner of the "Rush Hour" series, "Red Dragon," and "X-Men: The Last Stand." After the micro-budget dud "Legend of Hercules" got the first lick in January, Dwayne Johnson brings his clout to yet another take on the Greek legend and mythical hero looking to club the brains of the summer crowd. I love "The Rock" as much as the next guy, but someone thought this was a good idea at some point. I just don't know who. (trailer)

"Lucy"-- French action legend Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element" and "Leon: The Professional") returns to big budget prominence with Scarlett Johansson as his Nikita-ish muse with "Lucy." The film dabbles with a woman who has evolved her brain capacity beyond the rest of us humans to become a merciless warrior. No story such as this would be complete without a sage narrator and character mentor. Enter Morgan Freeman and his "Wanted" routine. I smell paychecks being cashed. (trailer)

"Step Up: In All"-- I don't know how it's doing it (well, actually I do, and it's foreign box office performances north of $100 million for the last two films), but Channing Tatum's introduction to the world from 2006 has now spawned its fourth impossible sequel. Each new film has under-performed the last one, meaning we'll be at "Step Up: Senior Center Stomp" in 2046 before this franchise stops making at least $1.00. (trailer)

"Magic in the Moonlight"-- It wouldn't be summer lately without a new entry from the country's most prolific filmmaker Woody Allen. He's earning Oscars for himself ("Midnight in Paris") and big stars (Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine") lately, so his films are always intriguing events. Emma Stone and Colin Firth lead this dueling magician's story taking place on the decadent French Riviera during the Roaring 20's. Give it a watch for sure. (trailer)

"A Most Wanted Man"-- The late Philip Seymour Hoffman carried this spy film based on a John le Carre novel and directed by Anton Corbijn ("The American") to high praise at this year's Sundance Film Festival in one of his final performances. The film surrounds the international war on terror between a fleeing Chechen Muslim who ends up in Germany to great suspicion. People are saying that this is the swan song we deserve for Hoffman. (trailer)

"Happy Christmas"-- Mumblecore genre leader Joe Swanberg reteams with his "Drinking Buddies" actress Anna Kendrick for a comedy about an aloof loser Chicago single woman who crashes with her older brother's family over the holidays. Lena Dunham, Melanie Lynskey, and Swanberg himself round out the cast. For those who haven't seen it, "Drinking Buddies" was a decent little film. This one looks even better. (trailer)

"The Congress"-- Adapted from the work of Stanislaw Lew, the science fiction author of "Solaris" and delivered by the director of "Waltz with Bashir," comes a science-y Hollywood tale about an aging actress ("House of Cards" star Robin Wright) who makes a fateful choice for a comeback role. Jon Hamm, Harvey Keital, and Kodi Smit-McPhee are along for the fall down the rabbit hole here. (trailer)

AUGUST 1

"Guardians of the Galaxy"-- Marvel keeps the big hits coming with the perfect launching pad to a new tangent to their superhero series. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and the voice of Bradley Cooper lead a band of intergalactic outlaws charged with saving the galaxy from a huge threat that likely crosses over into the realm of "The Avengers." Benicio del Toro plays The Collector, your main villain that was teased at the end of "Thor: The Dark World." Fan boys have circling August for a while in anticipation of this one and Pratt is on a role after "The Lego Movie." This one will make a killing at the box office with zero competition or July holdovers in its way outside of a three-week old "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." (trailer)

"Get On Up"-- With very little marketing push up to this point, "The Help" director Tate Taylor looks to sneak up on us again with some dramatic counter-programming to the summer blockbusters. As the title suggests, "Get On Up" is a dramatic biopic on the legendary and influential James Brown. 42" star Chadwick Boseman nabbed the lead roled to play Brown through the years. (trailer)

"Cavalry"-- Irish filmmaker John Michael McDonagh ("The Guard") collaborates again with actor Brendan Gleeson about an embattled priest taking on dark forces. Gleeson is joined by Kelly Reilly, Chris O'Dowd, and his own son Domhnall Gleeson from "About Time." This one will be making the limited release rounds. (trailer)

"What If"-- "Harry Potter" series star has started to spread his wings beyond wizardry both on stage and in some film efforts, including "The Woman in Black" and "Kill Your Darlings." In "What If," we get his first step at a grown-up romantic comedy as a medical school flunky burned by bad relationships until Zoe Kazan ("Ruby Sparks") comes around. The trouble is she has a boyfriend (Rafe Spall from "Life of Pi." Friend support comes from Mackenzie Davis and Adam Driver. This one is directed by Michael Dowse from "The Goon" and "Take Me Home Tonight." (trailer)

AUGUST 8

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"-- Apparently, the world needed a modern re-imagining of this old 80's cartoon classic. Don't get me wrong, the advances in performance capture animation sure beats more actors in clumsy rubber suits, but this movie lost me at "Produced by Michael Bay" and "Starring Megan Fox." Paramount Pictures is throwing a lot of money at this, but I think this pizza has extra anchovies. (trailer)

"The Hundred-Foot Journey"-- Drumming up far less buzz and attention that this summer's previous novel-based hit "The Fault of Our Stars," prolific adaptation director Lasse Hallstrom ("Chocolat," "The Cider House Rules," "Safe Haven," "Dear John," "The Shipping News") delivers another literary translation. Oscar winner Helen Mirren plays the matriarch of French restaurant family competing with a new restaurant across the street run by new immigrants from India. (trailer)

"Into the Storm"-- It's been 18 years since "Twister," so the summer season has been due for a new tornado flick. We can't just count on "Sharknado" and etc. from SyFy. Richard Armitage of "The Hobbit" trilogy leads the small town of characters dealing with the event and aftermaths of the raging tornadoes. (trailer)

AUGUST 15

"The Expendables 3"-- The semi-annual macho 80's and 90's reunion of action studs led by Sylvester Stallone is back. His solo efforts have bombed at the box office, as have co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies lately. These massive team-ups bring out all the nostalgic fans. Along with Arnold and the other big-name returnees like Jason Statham, Terry Crews, and Jet Li, newcomers Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson join the explosions and fun. Gibson, himself, is your chief bad guy. Call this a worthy guilty pleasure. (trailer)

"The Giver"-- Right behind "The Hundred-Foot Journey" is the next young adult literary adaptation. Much believed by school teachers for years, Lois Lowry's dystopian drama gets the big screen treatment with Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep headlining and "Salt" and "Clear and Present Danger" director Phillip Noyce in the director's chair. Teachers will tell you this classic successfully pre-dates "Divergent" and "The Hunger Games" contemporaries that came after it. (trailer)

"Let's Be Cops"-- The buddy cop comedy genre gets a different twist with a pair of guys, played by Damon Wayans, Jr. and Jake Johnson, impersonating cops instead of being real ones. Shenanigans ensue when the real stuff gets too heavy for the unreal wannabe men in uniform. I've been lucky enough to see a very advance screening of this one and it's a tough sell after "22 Jump Street." (red band trailer) (my full review)

"Life After Beth"-- Stealing a little bit of a page from "Warm Bodies," this Sundance competitor and zombie comedy stars the attractive trio of Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, and Anna Kendrick. The plot surrounds a guy given a second chance at love with his now risen-from-the-dead girlfriend. (trailer)

AUGUST 22

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"-- Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and graphic novel visionary Frank Miller hash up another collaboration into Miller's anthology world of "Sin City" following their first go-around from 2005. Striking visuals and sexy intrigue always surround "Sin City" and returning cast members Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, and Jessica Alba are joined by Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Ray Liotta, and Lady Gaga. Late summer with little competition is a great landing spot for this kind of fun. (trailer)

"When the Game Stands Tall"-- The director of "Coach Carter" switches basketball for football with a true story success tale of a legendary high school football coach who resurrects a fallen program with an unprecedented winning streak. Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern, Alexander Ludwig, and Michael Chiklis fill out the roster. (trailer)

"Frank"-- Michael Fassbender, Scoot McNairy, and Maggie Gyllenhaal occupy this trippy road movie about a band of struggling and strange musicians. File this in your indie folder for viewing. (trailer)

AUGUST 29

"Jessabelle"-- Here's where the summer really... really falls off. Two substandard horror films are your headliners for the final week of the summer season. Something about recovering from a car accident and a tormented spirit starring people you never heard of. (trailer)

"The Loft"-- See "Jessabelle" and replace the words after "Something about" with "five buddies and a murdered body with extramarital affairs tied into it starring James Marsden and Karl Urban. With at least two familiar faces, I give "The Loft" a great fighting chance than "Jessabelle." (trailer)

"The November Man"-- Pierce Brosnan re-teams with his "Dante's Peak" director, the prolific Roger Donaldson ("Thirteen Days," "The Band Job," "Species," "The Recruit") for a deadly game of CIA skulduggery involving mentors and pupils. "Oblivion" and "Quantum of Solace" star Olga Kurylenko and newcomer Eliza Taylor are fellow leads next to the former James Bond. (trailer)

"Underdogs"-- There's always one knock-off CGI animated movie every year from a smaller and lesser studio than the big names and this one is it. The enchanting and compelling sport of foosball is the subject here with Rupert Grint leading the vocal casting. Sound the bomb warning. This one could be one of those five-figure earners of dubious distinction. (trailer)

"Life of Crime"-- Jennifer Aniston is through to the wolves as a kidnapped wife of a husband who doesn't really want to pay the ranson to get her back in this little-mentioned caper comedy. Tim Robbins, John Hawkes, Mos Def, Will Forte, and Isla Fisher add to the ensemble. (trailer)

As always, keep in mind that movies and release dates shift all the time. Some of these smaller times might get bumped or move, so check your times before heading to the theaters. Catch a few good ones this summer!

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