Your Complete Guide to the 2015 Summer Movie Season

Make the night memorable. Go see a movie then do something thematically related and cool afterward. Don't worry, we have plenty of ideas.


No Hollywood franchise has performed as dramatic an about-face as the “Fast and Furious” series.

The first three installments were dispensable, forgettable action flimflam, taken seriously by no one. Somehow, things subsequently got much more fast, much more furious and much more entertaining, and the latter installments — including Friday’s “Furious 7” — are often-thrilling works of popcorn power.

Take that as a lesson; there's no way to judge which summer blockbusters will be worthy of the ever-inflating ticket prices and which will insult the intelligence of even the most forgiving moviegoers. In last year's summer movie preview, I expressed optimism about a “Sin City” sequel (which turned out to be the worst film of the year), scoffed at “Edge of Tomorrow” (which was excellent) and previewed “Jupiter Ascending” (which was subsequently delayed until this February, when it was released with absolutely no one noticing).

So in all cases, follow this rule: If you want to go, go.

Unless I tell you that it's, like, “Ninja Turtles” bad. Then, stay home.

The early release of “Furious 7” has pushed this year’s installment of the After Dark Summer Movie Guide forward a month. To recap from last year’s edition: These are the hopeful blockbusters, not the art flicks; we’ll save those for November. We’re skipping the family fare, as your decision on those tickets will be made not by buzz and critical acclaim but rather by the frequency and tenor of your children’s entreaties.

And once again, we’re suggesting a post-film activity, so you can make each trip to the movies a great summer night in the ’Burgh.

“Furious 7”

April 3
The latest installment in the franchise adds “Insidious” director James Wan and perennial badass Jason Statham as the villain. It also needs to deal with the untimely death of Paul Walker, one of the series’ top stars. After the Movie: Whatever you do, don’t go for a drive. Take an Uber to Casa Reyna to share in Dominic Toretto’s oft-referenced love of Mexican beer.


“The Longest Ride”

April 10
Yet another adaptation of a novel by “The Notebook” scribe Nicholas Sparks follows the trials of a young couple played by rising stars Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson. After the Movie: Head to Penguin Bookshop so you can start discover better reading material and thus stop buying tickets to Nicholas Sparks movies.


“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”

April 17
Kevin James returns as the hapless shopping-center authority figure. The original surprised with big box office in 2009, so we’re in for a sequel; the action moves to Las Vegas, because that’s what happens in unnecessary second chapters. After the Movie: Stroll calmly around the nearest mall and reflect on the fact that youth culture has moved on, even if Hollywood hasn’t.

Next: May and June Releases


“Avengers: Age of Ultron”

May 1
The presumptive box-office champion of 2015 arrives on the first day of May. Since the last “Avengers” in 2012, Iron Man struggled with PTSD and blew up his suits, Thor squabbled with Loki on Asgard and Captain America brawled with the Winter Soldier. More to the point, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” — who may or may not be in this film, and we’re leaning toward not — reinvigorated the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the Movie: For Marvel experts and newcomers alike, a trip to the newly opened South Side Comics will provide all the reading material you need.


“Pitch Perfect 2”

May 15
The original was a monster hit (and surprisingly delightful). Now, the collegiate a cappella team, led by current most likable person in the world Anna Kendrick, faces international competition. After the Movie: We’ll refer you to our Best Blog entry on the best local karaoke joints.


“Mad Max: Fury Road”

May 15
It took 30 years to get a fourth “Mad Max” made, with original franchise star Mel Gibson thankfully uninvolved. “Dark Knight Rises” villain Tom Hardy takes over as Max, alongside Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult. After the Movie: All this post-apocalyptic action can make you appreciate what you have. Get a lovely nightcap at Speakeasy.



May 22
The plot of Disney’s science-themed, live-action epic is being kept closely under wraps. “The Incredibles” director Brad Bird is at the helm, and George Clooney stars. Tie-ins to the Disney World territory of the same name presumably will be incidental. After the Movie: Keep an eye on the schedule for the Carnegie Science Center’s regular 21-and-up evenings, and you can design a very scientific day for yourself.



May 22
“Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig helms this farce, as bumbling spy Melissa McCarthy fouls things up (and inevitably saves the day) for straight-trio Jude Law, Rose Byrne and Jason Statham. After the Movie: Solve a mystery of your own at Escape Room Pittsburgh.


“San Andreas”

May 29
Who do you want helping you out if you’re stuck in an earthquake-rattled California? You want The Rock helping you out, obviously. After the Movie: Pat yourself on the back for deciding to live far away from any fault lines … that we know about.


“Insidious: Chapter 3”

May 29
The first two installments in the horror juggernaut were critically praised hits. It remains to be seen if the trend can continue without director James Wan; his longtime writer Leigh Whannell takes over. After the Movie: Find a pleasant, safe environment. We’re thinking Sienna Mercato.



June 5
The early-aughts HBO hit series gets a big-screen installment four years after the final season. I never watched, so I don’t know what to tell you. After the Movie: The series is about wannabe actors, right? Uh … see if any Hollywood productions are looking for extras? You know what, better yet, just watch “Extras.” That show is hilarious.


“Jurassic World”

June 12
Sure, some people got eaten, but that never stopped progress! The park is open for business, under the watchful eye of raptor trainer (seriously) Chris Pratt. When they try to genetically engineer the most ferocious dinosaur imaginable, things go very wrong. After the Movie: Go see the actual dino remains at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and do not entertain any notions of playing God while doing so.


“Ted 2”

June 26
Despite the fact that the original film could barely support its premise and missed the mark as often as it hit — and the fact that director Seth MacFarlane’s 2014 feature, “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” tanked — the foul-mouthed teddy bear returns. After the Movie: Ask yourself: Why did you think this was going to be any good? Is your sense of humor as mature as it might be?

Next: July and August Releases


“Terminator Genisys”

July 3
After noticing that so many top-grossing franchises were targeting 2015, some flagging series bailed for less-crowded pastures. Not so with that latest “Terminator,” set for more (with more Arnold) despite the ho-hum reception for 2009’s “Terminator Salvation.” After the Movie: Don’t let the machines win. Get outside. Go for a stroll at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.


“Magic Mike XXL”

July 3
No one was really surprised that the original made money. Many were surprised that the first “Magic Mike,” a slick slice-of-life drama, actually was quite good. ’Burgher Joe Manganiello returns; director Steven Soderbergh and Matthew McConaughey do not. After the Movie: You know what, I’m going to leave this one to your imagination.



July 17
“Age of Ultron” won’t even leave theaters before the next Marvel offering appears. “Ant-Man” had an embattled production history, highlighted by “Shaun of the Dead” director Edgar Wright bailing out due to creative differences. After the Movie: In the middle of summer, few things are more relaxing than an outdoor nightcap at Double Wide Grill. There’s no thematic connection — it just seemed like a fine time to mention that.



July 24
Amy Schumer writes and stars in this comedy, directed by Judd Apatow. It’s only the fifth feature directed by the comedy megamind, and the first time he’s helming someone else’s script. After the Movie: From the preview, it looks like there’s lots of bad wine consumption in “Trainwreck.” Counteract that influence by selecting a lovely bottle at the newly relaunched Proof, formerly Toast! kitchen & wine bar.



July 24
Adam Sandler stars in this broad comedy about '80s video-game characters attacking Earth, and … look, I can’t even be bothered to type any more. After the Movie: Subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and Amazon Prime, thus increasing your potential entertainment options and reducing the chances you’ll spend money on anything as stupid as “Pixels” again.



July 24
The horror classic is updated, with a game cast (Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris) and a Pulitzer Prize-winning screenwriter (David Lindsay-Abaire). After the Movie: Carefully inspect every item in your house and ensure that it has not been moved by unseen hands.


“Fantastic Four”

Aug. 7
I love the cast for the reboot, as Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell take on the long-running comic characters. But I guarantee I’ll be very burned out on superheroes and epic battles by this point in the summer, so “Fantastic Four” has a tall order on its hands. After the Movie: I’ll repeat my advice from last year’s X-Men installment: Make the drive to see “Fantastic Four” at Pittsburgh Mills, and you can hop over to New Dimension Comics without even walking outside.


“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

Aug. 14
Guy Ritchie attempts to breathe life into the long-dormant spy franchise, with current Superman Henry Cavill in tow. After the Movie: I’ll resist the urge to be snarky about upgrading your TV viewing to the 21st century and instead recommend a trip to Mystery Lovers Bookshop to further scratch your suspicion itch.


“Straight Outta Compton”

Aug. 14
“Italian Job” and “Law Abiding Citizen” director F. Gary Gray brings the story of the endlessly influential gangster rap group N.W.A. to the big screen. If you were waiting for a music biopic to break the format, this could be it. After the Movie: Make a vinyl run. There are plenty of worthy spots to choose from, but I’ll put in a recommendation for the underrated Out of the Ordinary Music & Gifts down in Glassport.



Categories: After Dark