Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1)
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth. Directed by Joss Whedon.
The Marvel superheroes team up again to take down villainous android Ultron (played by James Spader).
Thumbs up Whedon’s first Avengers movie was a wonderfully entertaining blockbuster and satisfying culmination of the first phase of Marvel movies.
Thumbs down These Marvel movies have to fail sometime, right?
Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15)
Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow. Directed by Elizabeth Banks.
The collegiate a capella singers return to enter an international singing competition.
Thumbs up The first movie was a surprise hit with an infectious sense of fun.
Thumbs down Are you ready to hear “Cups” 4 million more times on the radio over the next six months?
Insidious: Chapter 3 (June 5)
Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye. Directed by Leigh Whannell.
The third movie in the horror series goes back to the beginning to discover the origins of the entity from the first two (so it should probably be called Insidious: Chapter 0).
Thumbs up Whannell makes his directing debut after writing the first two installments, so he knows the story in and out.
Thumbs down A horror prequel featuring only minor characters from the previous movies? That always turns out well.
Ted 2 (June 26)
Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, voice of Seth MacFarlane. Directed by Seth MacFarlane.
Foul-mouthed talking teddy bear Ted returns, this time fighting in court for legal recognition as a person.
Thumbs up Audiences loved the way the first movie combined cuteness and naughtiness.
Thumbs down MacFarlane’s sense of humor clearly hasn’t evolved over the past decade.
Magic Mike XXL (July 1)
Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Amber Heard. Directed by Gregory Jacobs.
The male exotic dancers of Magic Mike are back, stripping their way from Tampa to Myrtle Beach on a road trip to a stripper convention.
Thumbs up Although he’s officially “retired,” original director Steven Soderbergh serves as cinematographer and editor on the sequel.
Thumbs down Soderbergh’s touch as director was really the only thing the original movie had going for it.
Minions (July 10)
Voices of Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, Sandra Bullock. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda.
The little yellow creatures from the Despicable Me movies set off on their own adventure.
Thumbs up The Minions are certainly the cutest part of the Despicable Me films.
Thumbs down This seems like a textbook example of too much of a good thing.
Sinister 2 (August 21)
Shannyn Sossamon, James Ransone, Jaden Klein. Directed by Ciarán Foy.
A new family moves into the cursed house from the first Sinister.
Thumbs up The first Sinister was pretty scary.
Thumbs down This sounds like little more than a rehash of that first movie.
Remakes & Reboots
Poltergeist (May 22)
Sam Rockwell, Jared Harris, Rosemarie DeWitt. Directed by Gil Kenan.
The classic horror movie about a suburban family haunted by evil spirits gets a modern update.
Thumbs up It’s produced by genre legend Sam Raimi, of Evil Dead fame, who knows a thing or two about crafting an effective horror movie.
Thumbs down There’s no way it can live up to Tobe Hooper’s ’82 original, as multiple Poltergeist sequels have already proven.
Entourage (June 3)
Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven. Directed by Doug Ellin.
The bro-dudes from HBO’s long-running Hollywood-set series return to hug it out on the big screen.
Thumbs up The characters spent eight seasons building a following.
Thumbs down The Entourage finale really left so many unanswered questions, didn’t it?
Pixels (July 24)
Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage. Directed by Chris Columbus.
Aliens attack the Earth with giant weapons that look like ’80s video-game characters.
Thumbs up Aliens attack the Earth with giant weapons that look like ’80s video-game characters.
Thumbs down Instead of sticking to the wordless attacks of 8-bit giants in the short film that inspired the movie, the filmmakers have decided to turn it into an Adam Sandler/Kevin James comedy.
Vacation (July 31)
Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann. Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein.
Rusty Griswold follows in his father’s footsteps and takes his family on a trip to theme park Walley World.
Thumbs up Helms seems like the perfect heir to Chevy Chase’s role as the bumbling patriarch of the Vacation movies (and original stars Chase and Beverly D’Angelo will both appear).
Thumbs down Remember Vegas Vacation? You probably wish you didn’t.
Fantastic Four (August 7)
Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell. Directed by Josh Trank.
The superhero team (featuring Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and the Thing) gets a gritty rebooted origin story.
Thumbs up Trank directed the popular found-footage superhero movie Chronicle.
Thumbs down There should be a complete ban on movies that “reimagine” the origins of popular characters.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (August 14)
Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander. Directed by Guy Ritchie.
This update of the 1960s TV series about a team of two spies (one American, one Soviet) retains the period setting and combines it with modern action.
Thumbs up Ritchie put together a fun, action-oriented update of a classic property with his Sherlock Holmes movies.
Thumbs down The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is no Sherlock Holmes.
Hitman: Agent 47 (August 28)
Rupert Friend, Zachary Quinto, Hannah Ware. Directed by Aleksander Bach.
The series of video games about a mysterious assassin gets another chance to make the leap to the big screen.
Thumbs up Infinite monkeys typing on infinite typewriters ought to come up with a decent video-game movie eventually, right?
Thumbs down The terrible 2007 Hitman movie points to “no.”
Masterminds (August 7)
Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig. Directed by Jared Hess.
A group of inept bank robbers bungles a $17 million heist in this comedy based on a true story.
Thumbs up The cast is full of comedy all-stars, including Jason Sudeikis, Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Ken Marino.
Thumbs down Hess hasn’t done anything worthwhile since directing Napoleon Dynamite more than a decade ago.
Straight Outta Compton (August 14)
Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell. Directed by F. Gary Gray.
This biopic follows the career of pioneering gangsta rap group N.W.A.
Thumbs up It’s produced by the surviving members themselves, including Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.
Thumbs down That means it probably won’t include anything unflattering or controversial.
Ant-Man (July 17)
Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly. Directed by Peyton Reed.
Marvel’s latest superhero is Scott Lang, who acquires a suit that allows him to shrink to microscopic size.
Thumbs up Right after the Avengers sequel, Marvel’s latest movie cycle kicks off with the introduction of a new hero.
Thumbs down Original director Edgar Wright left just weeks before production started, after years of troubled development.
Paper Towns (July 24)
Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams. Directed by Jake Schreier.
A teenager heads out on a road trip to track down the mysterious girl he’s fallen for.
Thumbs up It’s based on a novel by The Fault in Our Stars author John Green.
Thumbs down It could end up being a second-rate version of Green’s last teen romance.
Allegedly original concepts
Hot Pursuit (May 8)
Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, John Carroll Lynch. Directed by Anne Fletcher.
An inexperienced police officer attempts to protect the boisterous wife of a drug dealer from harm as she prepares to testify against her husband’s associates.
Thumbs up Witherspoon and Vergara make for a refreshing and unconventional comedy duo.
Thumbs down Fletcher’s résumé includes such leaden comedies as 27 Dresses and The Guilt Trip.
Tomorrowland (May 22)
George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie. Directed by Brad Bird.
A teenage girl discovers a secret futuristic world.
Thumbs up Bird (director of The Incredibles and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) teams up with Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof for an exploration of technology and wonder.
Thumbs down Remember how satisfying and cohesive Lost was?
Aloha (May 29)
Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams. Directed by Cameron Crowe.
A military contractor heads to Hawaii to work on a new NASA project and finds himself in the middle of a love triangle.
Thumbs up Writer-director Crowe is the man behind beloved romantic dramedies Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and Say Anything ...
Thumbs down It was pushed back from a prestigious awards-season release date amid rumors of disastrous test screenings and studio dissatisfaction.
San Andreas (May 29)
Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario. Directed by Brad Peyton.
As California is struck by massive earthquakes, a helicopter pilot attempts to rescue his daughter.
Thumbs up The Rock fights earthquakes!
Thumbs down It looks like a remake of Roland Emmerich’s 2012.
Spy (June 5)
Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham. Directed by Paul Feig.
A mild-mannered CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover and rescue her partner from a dangerous arms dealer.
Thumbs up McCarthy and Feig previously collaborated on crowd-pleasing comedies Bridesmaids and The Heat.
Thumbs down McCarthy’s familiar onscreen persona is getting a little tired.
Inside Out (June 19)
Voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling. Directed by Pete Docter.
Pixar’s latest animated movie features the personifications of a young girl’s emotions on an adventure inside her brain.
Thumbs up Pixar has a great track record of smart, creative, animated films.
Thumbs down That track record has been a little shakier lately with mediocre entries like Cars 2 and Monsters University.
Trainwreck (July 17)
Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton. Directed by Judd Apatow.
Schumer (who also wrote the script) stars as a commitment-phobic woman who falls for a sports doctor.
Thumbs up Schumer’s stand-up and Comedy Central sketch show mark her as one of the most original voices in comedy today.
Thumbs down Apatow’s directorial skills are in question after the sprawling, self-indulgent Funny People and This Is 40.
Self/less (July 10)
Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode. Directed by Tarsem Singh.
A wealthy, dying man has his consciousness transferred into a healthy young body, but complications ensue.
Thumbs up An original, thoughtful sci-fi concept in a summer of flashy sequels.
Thumbs down Singh (Immortals, The Cell) is typically great with visuals, but not with story.
Southpaw (July 24)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
A broken-down boxer attempts a comeback.
Thumbs up Gyllenhaal has been on a roll lately with Prisoners and Nightcrawler, and this looks like another intense, committed performance.
Thumbs down The story sounds like a parade of boxing-movie clichés.
Ricki and the Flash (August 7)
Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer. Directed by Jonathan Demme.
An aging rock star attempts to reconcile with her family.
Thumbs up Meryl Streep as a glam rocker! Plus, a script by Juno and Young Adult writer Diablo Cody.
Thumbs down Sure, Meryl Streep can do anything, but can she pull off playing the female Rick Springfield? (Also, Rick Springfield is in this movie.)
Regression (August 28)
Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis. Directed by Alejandro Amenábar.
A detective unravels the secrets of a terrible crime by probing the memories of the alleged criminal.
Thumbs up Amenábar has directed several effectively creepy movies, including Open Your Eyes and The Others.
Thumbs down This sounds like an episode of Criminal Minds with a surprisingly strong guest cast.