2014 June Movie Preview: Big Ticket Items

By on June 2, 2014
Edge of Tomorrow Emily

No doubt about it, May is going to be a tough act to follow at the movies this summer. Between the X-cellent “X-Men: Days of Future Past” to the surprisingly hilarious “Neighbors,” it was mostly win. Hell, even “Godzilla” didn’t embarrass himself, although “Spider-Man” might want to find a new agent- or at least a new script that doesn’t seem like it was created in a board meeting in Hollywood- or maybe even a mad scientist’s lab, if that scientist was looking to create the perfect storm of regurgitated storylines. If it’s the latter: congrats! Mission accomplished, because I totally saw that movie years ago when it was better and directed by Sam Raimi.

To be honest, that latter recipe for disaster might well be par for the course this June, if a look at the main roster of films coming out is any indication. We’re talking sequels, movies that seem like they could be sequels (looking at you, Tom Cruise), and yet another stab at bringing back the movie musical from a decidedly unlikely source. That said, there may be a few diamonds in this roughage, so it might not be a total loss. Let’s take a look at what June has in store for us, in order of their release dates!

Coming up this Friday, June 6th, is the latest from Tom Cruise, “Edge of Tomorrow.” You might remember this from last year, when it was called “Oblivion.” Or a few years back, when it was called “The War of the Worlds.” Or a few years before that, when it was called “Minority Report.” Given how many times Cruise has gone back to the sci-fi/action well, this might as well be called “Groundhog Day,” which makes it kind of hilarious that the premise of this particular movie is basically that movie with a sci-fi twist.

To wit, Cruise plays a military officer in the future who is in deadly combat with alien invaders. And I do mean deadly, as he is literally killed time and again, over & over, in the hopes of getting it right so that, one assumes, when the real thing goes down, the good guys will actually win. So, we’re basically talking “Groundhog Day”-meets-“Enders Game.” About the only thing this one has going for it that interests me at all is the fact that it has Emily Blunt as the fiercest warrior in the military (see above pic), which does admittedly sound kind of awesome. Otherwise: yawn.

Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, and Shailene Woodley give Justin Beiber a taste of his own medicine in "The Fault of Our Stars."   Courtesy of imdb.com

Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, and Shailene Woodley give Justin Beiber a taste of his own medicine in “The Fault of Our Stars.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Far more promising looking is “The Fault in Our Stars,” based on the young adult novel of the same name, also opening this weekend. It features the latest heroine to break through the Y/A glass ceiling of success, Shailene Woodley, of “Divergence” fame. Woodley is crazy adorable, and radiates that girl-next-door thing that Hollywood loves, yet seems super down to earth, in spite of her enormous success- if a bit on the loopy side.

Here, she plays a bit of a loner, albeit with good reason- an ever-present oxygen tank, a la Olivia Cooke’s character in “Bates Motel.” Only here it’s played not for chills, but romance, as Woodley’s character falls for a witty young man with issues of his own she meets at a cancer support group. I haven’t read the book myself and I suspect that this one won’t have the happiest of endings, which makes it a bit of an odd choice for a summer release, but I guess I’ll just have to keep a Kleenex at the ready, because this one looks to be pretty great, if the trailer is any indication.

Hopefully, if it’s as good as it looks, we might have another “Perks of Being a Wallflower” on our hands, and a possible sleeper hit, if Woodley’s newly-minted success with “Divergence” spreads over to this film. Much like “Wallflower,” the book has a strong and vocal following, so I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, even if it’s the rare movie to turn me into a weepy mess. Hey, better that an actual movie turns me into a weepy mess than the thought of going to a particular movie does- hey there, “Transformers”! I’m in, for better or worse.

Speaking of weeping, I may have opted out of the original “21 Jump Street” in theaters, but I caught it on Redbox and was pleasantly surprised how much it didn’t suck. In fact, it actually had me- you guessed it- weeping with laughter. Go figure. Will lightning strike twice for the sequel, the hilariously-ridiculously-titled “22 Jump Street,” opening June 13th?

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum try to keep the franchise on the road in "22 Jump Street."  Courtesy of imdb.com

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum try to keep the franchise on the road to success in “22 Jump Street.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Hard to say, but I’m willing to give the movie a chance in theaters this time around, thanks to an amusing trailer, which hopefully doesn’t give away all of the best jokes. It seemed like the original one did, but that proved to not be the case, so my hopes are high for the sequel being at least as good- if not better- than the first one. With most of the original cast on board, at the very least it should be worth a chuckle or two, and I may need one after “Stars,” so good timing there, “Jump Street.”

Also opening June 13th is “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” another sequel to a movie I didn’t see in theaters the first time around, but liked just fine when I watched it on cable. Though I didn’t see the 3D version, I think I might go that route for this one, as the visuals looked pretty impressive in the first movie, and sequels tend to up the ante in the gasp-inducing department on general principle. To that end, expect a whole host of new dragons, plus newcomer-to-the-franchise Cate Blanchett as hero Hiccup’s mother. Plus, there’s also “Game of Thrones”-vet Kit Harington (aka Jon Snow), who knows a thing or two about dragons, given his day job.

On June 20th, we get another sequel in “Think Like a Man Too,” the follow-up to the surprisingly-successful “Think Like a Man,” and featuring the return of the main cast in its entirety, plus some new faces, like Adam Brody (“The O.C.”), Dennis Haysbert (“24”), and Wendi McLendon-Covey (“Bridesmaids”). That last one is an appropriate add, as the gang heads to Vegas for a combination Bachelor/Bachelorette party when one of the couples from the original get engaged.

Though a big hit with audiences, critics slammed the original for being a bit too hamstrung to the source material, talk show host and comedian Steve Harvey’s tongue-in-cheek self-help book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” This one looks to rectify that, with a plotline that looks to marry “Hangover” with “Bridesmaids” for optimum hilarity- or so they hope.

Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Gary Owen, Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, and Michael Terrence try and bring the funny in "Think Like a Man Too." Courtesy of imdb.com

Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Gary Owen, Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, and Michael Terrence try and bring the funny in “Think Like a Man Too.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Still, star Kevin Hart is on an undeniable hot streak, with several hits already under his belt this year, including “Ride Along” and “About Last Night,” so don’t underestimate the potential for big box office. As it’s the rare comedy with a prominent African American cast to hit it big with audiences across the board, I say more power to them. For what it’s worth, the trailer makes it look like a lot of fun, but if this doesn’t look like your cup of tea, it probably isn’t. I think Hart is a hoot, and I adore Meagan Good, so I’ll be there, regardless.

From thinking like a man to walking like one, June 20th also brings us “Jersey Boys,” based on the popular Broadway musical of the same name. It revolves around the 60’s rock group The Four Seasons, featuring the legendary Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young, who also played the part in its Broadway incarnation). They were known for Valli’s soaring falsetto, which borders on an “Alvin and the Chipmunks”-style register, and such classic hits as the afore-referenced “Walk Like a Man,” “Let’s Hang On,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Working My Way Back to You” and “December 1963 (Oh What a Night),” all of which I’m sure will crop up in the movie.

I’m not much for musicals, and even less for doo-wop-style harmonies, but this does look pretty good in terms of being an interesting story, and I’m assuming the songs will be incorporated organically, as in performed “live”- as opposed to the typical musical trope of people just randomly breaking out into song at any minute, which I hate.

My hope is that, much like “Ray” or “Walk the Line,” which also revolved around musicians I wasn’t really into; that the strength of the movie itself will win me over and maybe even make a fan out of me like those two examples did, in spite of my initial reluctance.

As it stands, the most fascinating thing about this to me at the moment is that it was directed by, of all people, former gunslinger and all-around tough guy Clint Eastwood! It’s sort of like finding out that Tori Amos is a big Slayer and Tool fan, you know? (And no, that’s not a joke- she’s even covered both!) Whatever the case, I’m willing to give “Jersey Boys” the benefit of the doubt, though I don’t expect to become obsessed with doo-wop in the process. But hey, who knows? Stranger things have happened. I didn’t expect to like “Dreamgirls,” either, and it was actually not half bad.

Next up, on June 27th, is the latest rom-com from regular Paul Rudd, this time paired with everyone’s favorite Golden Globes’ co-host, Amy Poehler, in “They Came Together,” which is hopefully better than that snicker-inducing title. (Insert off-color joke here.) Hopefully, Poehler will fare better than her pal and fellow co-host Tina Fey did with Rudd in the perfectly bland “Admission,” which was not worth the price of one.

Working in her favor is a reunion with her cult classic “Wet Hot Summer”-director David Wain, formerly of “The State,” who also co-scripted with another alum of those projects, Michael Showalter. The cast also includes a great mix of comedy vets like Ellie Kemper (“Bridesmaids”), Bill Hader (“SNL”), Ed Helms (“The Hangover”), Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”), Kenan Thompson (“SNL”), and another “State” and “Summer” vet, Michael Ian Black. With that much comedic royalty involved, it’s tempting to say this is a can’t-miss, but I’m going to err on the side of caution and instead hope for the best and take a wait-and-see attitude. Fingers crossed, for what it’s worth!

Can the injection of the dinobots save the Transformers from the "Age of Extinction." Courtesy of imdb.com

Can the injection of the Dinobots save the Transformers from the “Age of Extinction”?
Courtesy of imdb.com

Rounding out the month is the latest in the seemingly never-ending franchise that is the “Transformers” series, “Age of Extinction.” I suppose this qualifies as a bit of a reboot, as the original cast has been jettisoned altogether and replaced by the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and Ken Wanatabe, the last of which already went toe-to-toe with the big man himself, “Godzilla,” earlier this summer. I guess with him, size does matter. Speaking of big lizard-like beasts, this one also features a “Dinobot,” which is, you guessed it, half-robot, half dinosaur.

Michael Bay, as ever, is at the helm of this entry. Bay earned some unlikely cool points with me after the surprisingly decent “Pain & Gain,” so I’d be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on another movie, but I’d be lying if I said I had high hopes for this one. Ditto the upcoming reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which he produced- though the forthcoming Bay-produced “Ouija” looks to be promisingly-dumb fun. (Yes, it’s inspired by the board game- feel free to insert eye-rolling here.)

I’ll probably end up seeing this one whether I like it or not, as it might be the only game in town that weekend- “They Came Together” is a platform release, which means it might actually not make to theaters around here until July. Pray for me, and my eardrums, because the second “Transformers” movie nearly shattered them when it wasn’t sucking my brain cells dry.

Well, that about does it for June. A mixed bag, to be sure, but hopefully, there will be some pleasant surprises in there. If not, there’s always the indie movie circuit. In fact, keep an eye out for my separate indie-movie-focused June preview article later this week, and I’ll see you at the multiplex!

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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