Which movies will sizzle and which will fizzle?

by michael aushenker
aushenker@aol.com

Summer came early this year for Hollywood. Warner Bros., after a disastrous 2015, saw its fortunes pick up with late-March blockbuster Batman v. Superman, an international hit, while the seemingly unstoppable Disney kicked had a pair of surprise spring mega-successes (Zootopia, The Jungle Book). Now that Disney’s latest Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War, officially kicked off summer earlier this month, we’ve officially entered the popcorn movie season. So here’s what we can look forward to in the weeks ahead….

May 20

The Angry Birds Movie PG

The animated app featuring birds toppling buildings captured the pop culture’s imagination in 2010. At Sony, the big-screen translation appears to be in capable hands. With the impressive voice cast of Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Sean Penn, Keegan-Michael Key, Bill Hader and Peter Dinklage, adults may actually flock to this one.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising R

The original 2014 Neighbors (no relation to 1981’s oddball John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd comedy) saw young marrieds Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) dealing with the obnoxious college fraternity next door. This time around, it’s co-eds that prove annoying, as Chloe Grace Moretz and Selena Gomez co-star as Kappa Kappa Nu girls and Zac Efron returns as frat boy Teddy Sanders. Depending on your tolerance for the first one, check out this second helping of Rogen raunch.

The Nice Guys R

With an anticipated Seth Rogen sequel opening against it, this 1970s-period buddy movie featuring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as inept detectives appears to be an uphill battle for filmmaker Shane Black (Iron Man 3), based on the trailer’s unfunny footage, which can’t hide the fact that Crowe and Gosling lack comedic chemistry (not to mention the stink of recent 1970s-period inept detective dog, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice).

May 27

X-Men: Apocalypse PG-13

Bryan Singer returns to adapt another tale from the Marvel Comics series featuring good Mutants (James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry) vs. bad Mutants (Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar Isaac as the world’s first Mutant). There is no doubt that this latest one is going to be huge for Singer and 20th Century Fox. The only question is how huge.

Alice Through the Looking Glass PG

Pardon the pun, Red Queen, but this sequel could be a “wild card” given that Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are back for this loose adaptation of the next Lewis Carroll book. Disneyified Goth-meister Tim Burton, who helmed the original 2010 Alice in Wonderland blockbuster, is not. (James Bobin directs instead.) Given the original’s March opening with the entire month to itself, Looking Glass might prove a tougher slog down the rabbit hole, going up against the latest X-Men sequel and a crowded summer slate.

June 3

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows."

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows PG

In August 2014, many pundits wildly underestimated the potency of four humanoid reptiles named Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael in a Michael Bay-produced, Jonathan Liebesman reboot, which cleaned up to $493 million worldwide (That’s a lot of tomato pies.) Dave Green’s TMNT sequel is already catching bad buzz but don’t piss on their pizza just yet. These popular comic-book characters have endured on the big and small screens since 1990.

June 10

WarCraft PG-13

Since the 1980s rise of video games, movies based on them tend to hit a quick game over (Super Mario Bros., Halo) rather than the high score (Mortal Kombat). Even Pixels, Adam Sandler’s homage to classic Nintendo and Atari arcade games, lost its lives quickly last July. If ever there was a summer when video game adaptations could turn a profit, however, it’s this one (see May’s Angry Birds, August’s Max Steel.) What this adaptation of World of WarCraft and its orc-led invasion of Azeroth has going against it: Duncan Jones (Source Code; also the son of rocker David Bowie) helms instead of the pulp-savvy Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Darkman) once attached to the project.

Now You See Me 2 PG-13

The Louis Letterier original about bank-heisting magicians had a great concept and a slick execution, conjuring up a cool $351.7 million globally in 2013. Jon M. Chu’s sequel to the Ocean’s 11-scented caper reunites Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Dave Franco and Zombieland stars Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg for a sequel that appears about as well-oiled a machine as the first one (minus Isla Fisher). Yet with so much competition, hit a theater fast as this may be a case of “now you see it, now you don’t” at the multiplexes.

The Conjuring 2 R

Filmmaker James Wan, who, citing health reasons, walked away from The Fast and The Furious franchise after his installment (2015 blockbuster Furious 7, the franchise’s highest grosser and the last to feature the late Paul Walker), returns to direct the sequel to his popular 2013 Amityville Horror update about a couple moving into a dilapidated Rhode Island farm house circa 1971. Expect this new chiller to scare up big box office numbers.

June 17

Finding Dory G

There would really be something fishy about this sequel to Finding Nemo, one of the most beloved of Pixar’s many feature animated hits, if it tanked. In the years since 2003’s Nemo netted nearly $1 billion worldwide, the anticipation of a follow-up has swelled like a Hawaiian wave, thanks to its popularity on DVD and cable. So this should become the highest-grossing animated feature of the year, maybe even of all time. Returning voices include Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks.

June 24

Independence Day: Resurgence PG-13

Thoroughbred or dog? Arriving exactly 20 years after the original alien invasion spectacle destroyed New York and Los Angeles, this Independence Day is tough to predict. On the one hand, the entire cast (sans Will Smith) returns, along with original director Roland “King of Disaster Movies” Emmerich. Also positive — last summer’s “requel” Jurassic World handily became Universal Studios’ highest-grossing film, proving that nostalgia can resurrect even the most moribund of franchises. On the other hand, Resurgence offers nothing fresh or as galvanizing a trailer moment as the original’s scene of flying saucers blowing up the White House. And did we mention Will Smith won’t be returning?

Free State of Jones R

While Matthew McConaughey has built up much good will as a dramatic actor (Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar, HBO series True Detective), opening this historical epic in the summer, instead of during awards season, seems like a gamble. Inspired by Southerner Newton Knight and his armed rebellion against the Confederacy during the Civil War, the movie also stars Keri Russell (The Americans). Directed by Gary Ross, helmer of the original Hunger Games and the racehorse drama Seabiscuit.

July 1

The BFG PG

It’s hard to gauge the buzz on Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the children’s lit hit about little girl Sophie’s encounter with the Big Friendly Giant who refuses to eat boys and girls as his monster brethren do. This is Spielberg, however, the man who invented the summer blockbuster. So this might become July’s highest-grossing movie, if not one of the summer’s best money makers.

The Legend of Tarzan PG-13

Here comes a movie that many online fan boys are rooting for. After all, the David Yates-directed epic retells Edgar Rice Burroughs’ enduring series of early 20th-century novels about a man raised by apes to become king of the jungle. Riding against it: It’s based on a series of early 20th-century novels, not to mention myriad previous film iterations. Add that the trailer’s simian scenes have a déjà vu aura (think 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Alexander Skarsgård is not a major movie star, and it’s rivaling a new Spielberg film; plus Jon Favreau’s surprise, similar-themed April hit The Jungle Book may have stolen a lot of this movie’s thunder — and this could be another very expensive write-off for Warner Bros. Co-starring Quentin Tarantino homeboys Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz.

The Purge: Election Year R

In a bit of counterprogramming against the Spielberg film, the much-sequelized horror franchise opens its third installment. James DeMonaco, who delivered every Purge movie, returns to the director’s chair.

July 8

The Secret Life of Pets PG

From the makers of the Despicable Me animated features (co-director Chris Renaud) comes this “tail” of happy domesticated doggies (Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Steve Coogan) and kitties going up against a ruthless anarchic bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart), leader of the Flushed Pets army. Co-starring Hannibal Buress as a dachshund named Buddy and Albert Brooks as Tiberius the hawk.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates R

The trailer for this “comedy” starring Zac Efron (Neighbors 2) and Adam DeVine (Workaholics) looks D.O.A. unfunny. Coming out only a week before the Ghostbusters remake, Wedding Dates will quickly feel wedding dated. Co-starring Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation).

July 15

Ghostbusters PG-13

Internet heckling aside, this much-maligned, all-female reboot of the beloved 1980s franchise — starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as the intrepid ectoplasma-poppers — should kill it. Basically 2011’s Bridesmaids meets Ivan Reitman’s original 1984 hit, Paul Feig, the director of Bridesmaids, is who you’re gonna call to get the job done on this sci-fi comedy. Expect cameos by original Ghostbusters actors Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd to goose things up. Produced by Reitman and co-starring the Mighty Thor, Chris Hemsworth.

July 22

Star Trek Beyond PG-13

Hot on the heels of a lackluster sequel (2013’s Into Darkness) and minus J.J. Abrams (who directed the first two before trading in his Star Trek passport for Star Wars), the franchise might struggle to go “beyond” this third movie. When one of its own stars (Simon Pegg) sets his phasers on this latest cosmic outing, Houston, we may have a problem!

"Ice Age."

“Ice Age.”

Ice Age: Collision Course PG

One of the most enduring of the Pixar-wannabe animated feature franchises, this fifth installment of the 20th Century Fox series (dating back to 2002) features the return of sub-Arctic characters voiced by Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Jennifer Lopez and Queen Latifah. With new additions Adam DeVine, Nick Offerman and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, it should clean up with the kiddies this summer.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie R

Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley return as brash Brits Edina and Patsy in this seemingly iffy prospect written by Saunders, reviving a raunchy TV series as a feature film long after said series (and its American counterpart) has evaporated from the airwaves. Why is not all looking fab? It didn’t work last summer. One word: Entourage.

July 29

Jason Bourne PG-13

Roughly occupying the week when Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation broke the box office last year, Matt Damon’s return to the role in this “requel” (reboot and sequel) guarantees that chances are aces that this will prove much more entertaining and thrilling than last year’s nonsensical Tom Cruise thriller … and will certainly erase all memories of 2012’s Jeremy Renner stinker, The Bourne Legacy.

Bad Moms R

From filmmakers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, screenwriters of The Hangover, and starring Mila Kunis, Christina Applegate, Kristen Bell and Jada Pinkett Smith. How badly moms and others want to see if this apparent dud (its title evoking Bad Santa, Bad Teachers and Bad Grandpa) gets a big, warm hug, is to be determined.

August 5

Suicide Squad PG-13

Too big to fail among comic book fans, this The Dirty Dozen with DC supervillains, led by Jared Leto’s The Joker and including Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Adam Beach as Slipknot, is no doubt destined to be August’s biggest-grossing blockbuster and could be for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment what the R-rated, A.W.O.L. Deadpool was for 20th Century Fox and Marvel. (All despite the fact that director David Ayer also made the rank, turgid Brad Pitt military movie Fury.)

The Founder PG-13

The Big Michael Keaton Comeback Machine has been on a steamroll, first with 2014’s Best Picture Oscar-winner Birdman and again with 2015’s Best Picture-garnering ensemble piece Spotlight. This warts-and-all biopic, about complicated McDonald’s rainmaker Ray Kroc, who outmaneuvered the McDonald Brothers to take ownership of what was to become a global fast-food empire, promises to do even more appetizing business than last fall’s Steve Jobs biopic. Co-starring Laura Dern and Nick Offerman and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side).

August 12

Pete’s Dragon PG

A remake of 1977’s relatively inconsequential Disney live-action/animated feature hybrid may not be as welcome in 2016. Given Disney’s luck with The Jungle Book, however, this Dragon, starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban and Robert Redford, may arrive not harboring soggy lungs.

Sausage Party R

Raunchy Seth Rogen returns, this time as animated hot dog Frank in a spicy CG feature with the additional voice talents of Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, Paul Rudd, Craig Robinson, Ed Norton and Salma Hayek. Co-written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the team behind This is the End, 2013’s uproarious apocalypse comedy, with many of the same actors here. Hide the kids, folks!

Café Society Not Rated

In recent years, the prolific Woody Allen tends to be one year up, one year down with his annual output of cerebral dramedies. Midnight in Paris proved the highest-grossing film of his long career in 2011 while 2013’s riveting Blue Jasmine won Cate Blanchett a well-deserved Best Actress Academy Award. In between, From Rome With Love, Magic in the Moonlight and An Irrational Man underwhelmed. Chances seem better for this piece starring Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carrell, Blake Lively and Parker Posey.

August 19

"Ben Hur."

“Ben Hur.”

Ben-Hur PG-13

Chances are nil for this unwanted reworking of William Wyler’s classic Charlton Heston-starrer, this time featuring Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell and Morgan Freeman. If the trailer is to be believed, this Biblical epic that nobody asked for will prove a very expensive flop for co-producers Paramount and MGM and a career low for director Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).

War Dogs R

Todd Phillips (The Hangover movies, School for Scoundrels) returns with a real-life arms dealers comedy starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill, based on Guy Lawson’s Rolling Stone article and subsequent book, Arms and the Dudes. Let’s just hope the movie is funnier than the Brian de Palma’s Scarface-aping poster.

The Space Between Us PG-13

Peter Chelsom (Serendipity) directs this sci-fi drama, which stars Britt Robertson, Asa Butterfield and Gary Oldman in a story of an astronaut’s life-changing encounter within a solar flare.

August 26

Mechanic: Resurrection R

Co-starring Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Yeoh, this Jason Statham actioner is a sequel to the 2011 original, itself a reimagining of the 1972 Charles Bronson B-movie thriller.