In years past, I’ve done full Summer Movie Previews, detailing every release over the four-month period of May through August, but many of the season’s smaller wide releases come and go without anyone noticing, and others aren’t worth publicizing, anyway.
This year, I’m using my guide to Summer Movie Season not to detail every release but rather to guide you to the ones more likely worth your time and to steer you away from the ones that aren’t. (You may notice, for example, Transformers: The Last Knight is quite absent from this list.)
These are the twenty-five movies to check out this summer.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2
WHEN: May 5
WHO: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel
WHAT: The ragtag crew of intergalactic mercenaries that became a comedic, makeshift family led to Guardians of the Galaxy becoming the third-highest grossing movie of 2014, and many people’s favourite movie of the year. A sequel was inevitable — particularly with Marvel’s need to narratively position Star-Lord (Pratt) and gang in anticipation the Avengers climax — but this time there’s also Kurt Russell, playing Star-Lord’s legendary father.
WHY: Guardians of the Galaxy was incredibly fun. And Marvel has a history of making sequels that are about equal in quality to their original (Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers: Age of Ultron), if not their superior (Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
WHEN: May 12
WHO: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana
WHAT: The tale of the legendary Arthur and the mythical sword of Excalibur is retold for another generation, this time with Sons of Anarchy‘s Hunnam in the lead role.
WHY: Director Guy Ritchie successfully breathed fresh life into Sherlock Holmes with his 2009 reboot, so he very well could do the same here for the young king of myth.
WHEN: May 19
WHO: Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride
WHAT: Sequel to Prometheus and prequel to Alien and Aliens, Ridley Scott’s latest continues the story of humanity’s early interactions with the lethal and unstoppable xenomorphs.
WHY: Scott directed Alien and Prometheus, both masterpieces. There’s no reason to not expect lightning to strike a third time for him, particularly as he sets up the final entry in his Alien “prequel trilogy.”
WHEN: May 25
WHO: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra
WHAT: The unabashedly cheesy ’90s TV drama gets a comedic take from Seth Gordon, the director of Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief.
WHY: While the series was a walking joke that somehow still took itself seriously, Baywatch the movie aims to achieve the same trick as 21 Jump Street, playing the ridiculous premise for meta laughs. Gordon has a mixed track record, but when he gets it right, he nails it.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN:
DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
WHEN: May 26
WHO: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush
WHAT: Hoping audiences aren’t dissuaded by the scandal Depp lived through last year, the fifth — and, it’s been announced, final — movie in the pirate franchise finds Depp’s inimitable Capt. Jain Sparrow being hunted down by an old nemesis, Armando Salazar (Bardem), who aims to use an ancient artefact to kill every pirate.
WHY: Many skipped out on 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides due to Depp fatigue, but it was a huge improvement over the bloated At World’s End. With six years since the last movie — the longest time in between Pirates movies — audiences should be ready for one last voyage with Depp’s greatest creation.
WHEN: May 26
WHO: Brad Pitt, Anthony Michael Hall, Topher Grace, Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley
WHAT: A military black comedy in the vein of Three Kings and Inglourious Basterds, War Machine features Pitt playing in the comedic sandbox he usually reserves for Coen Brothers movies.
WHY: Pitt has always been underrated at comedy, and his mugging performance as a quixotic four-star general looks ready to become the stuff of cult fandom. Helmed by David Michôd, director of indie hits Animal Kingdom and The Rover, War Machine debuts on Netflix May 26, allowing anyone with an account to catch it whenever they want.