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10 things to know about summer movies

MOIRA MACDONALD
YorkDispatch

As summer movies loom, 10 questions ... and 10 answers. (Note that all release dates are tentative.)

1. Will the new 'Avengers' movie be as big as the last one?

"The Avengers" opened May 4, 2012, and ultimately grossed more than $623 million domestically — a record total for a movie not directed by James Cameron. ("Avatar" and "Titanic" top the all-time list; "The Avengers" is third.) "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," a title that may not have much meaning for the average non-comic-book-reader (sounds like a detergent, no?), zooms into theaters this week, and every indication is that it'll dominate the box office for weeks, everywhere. Resistance is futile.

2. Is this really The Summer of the Female Comedy?

Looks like it — and about time, too. "Spy," coming June 5 is a "Bridesmaids" reunion: director Paul Feig and stars Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne (joined by Jude Law, Jason Statham and Allison Janney) team up for a CIA spoof. "Hot Pursuit" (May 8) has Reese Witherspoon (in a cop uniform) and Sofia Vergara (in her usual painted-on dresses) on a road trip, directed by Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal"). "Pitch Perfect 2" (May 15) reunites the Bardem Bellas a cappella group (led by Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson), this time directed by co-star Elizabeth Banks. And, on the raunchier side, look for "Trainwreck" (July 17), written by and starring Amy Schumer as a commitment-phobic woman, and Sundance opener "The Bronze" (July date TBD) with Melissa Rausch as a bitter, foul-mouthed former gymnast. (When's the last time you saw a movie about one of those?)

3. How many movies this summer are remakes or sequels?

Many! Welcome to the summer movie season! OK, no more exclamation points. Among the bigger sequels: "Jurassic World" (June 12), taking place 22 years after the events of "Jurassic Park"; "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" (July 31), in which Tom Cruise hangs off the edge of a plane; "Terminator Genisys" (July 1), with Arnold Schwarzenegger back again; and "Magic Mike XXL" (July 1), and I'll just let you figure out that XXL bit. Elsewhere, "Minions" (July 10) is a rather adorable-sounding sequel/spinoff to the "Despicable Me" movies (with the super-adorable voice-over duo of Jon Hamm and Sandra Bullock); "Mad Max: Fury Road" (May 15) is a sequel/reboot to George Miller's franchise, with Tom Hardy stepping in for Mel Gibson; "Fantastic Four" (Aug. 7) is a reboot, since it's been a whole 10 years since the last time; and "Poltergeist" (May 22) is a remake of the 1982 film, for reasons unknown.

4. Is there anything Meryl Streep can't do?

Apparently not. This summer, she'll star in "Ricki and the Flash" (Aug. 7), as a rock musician trying to reconnect with her family. For the role, Streep covered songs by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Lady Gaga, in front of a live audience. And she played the guitar (which she spent months learning), with such enthusiasm that she spattered blood on her costume, according to director Jonathan Demme. Yes, Meryl can shred.

5. Will the new Pixar film be worth the wait?

Last year was the first without a new Pixar film since 2005 — but the drought ends this summer with "Inside Out" (June 19), which takes place inside the head of an 11-year-old girl, in which the voices of five emotions compete for domination: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Pete Docter ("Up," "Monsters, Inc.") directs. It's an irresistible premise; I can't wait.

6. Anything opening this summer that's not a 'Summer Movie'? Something more, you know, literary?

"Far from the Madding Crowd" (May 8) is an elegant adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel, filmed in Dorset (in southwest England) and starring Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen and Matthias Schoenaerts. "Mr. Holmes" (July 17), from director Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters," "Kinsey"), features Ian McKellen as an aging Sherlock Holmes in 1940s England. And we'll see if "Gone Girl" lightning can strike twice with "Dark Places" (summer TBD), another pitch-black thriller based on a Gillian Flynn novel — this time starring Charlize Theron as a woman revisiting a terrible event from her childhood.

7. But I love summer movies! What's the biggest and loudest?

Apart from the sequels/remakes listed earlier, your best bets for popcorn-movie thrills would include "Tomorrowland" (May 22), a Disney mystery/adventure in which George Clooney plays a jaded scientist (and you know Clooney can do jaded, quite nicely); "Pixels" (July 24), in which aliens attack the Earth in the form of '80s video games, thus officially earning the sobriquet The 2015 Summer Movie Whose Premise Most Cracks Me Up; "San Andreas" (May 29), in which Dwayne Johnson plays a pilot who must rescue his daughter after a disastrous earthquake; "Ant-Man" (July 17), the summer's second Marvel Comics extravaganza, this time starring Paul Rudd; "Big Game" (June 26) with Samuel L. Jackson as an unlucky president of the United States (his plane gets shot down in a Finnish forest); and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (Aug. 14), a spoofy-looking big-screen version of the 1960s TV show.

8. And what if I want to get scared? What looks creepy?

Aside from that mysterious "Poltergeist" remake, you can likely find shivers in the psychological thrillers "The Gift" (July 31), in which Joel Edgerton plays a friend from the past who won't go away, and "The Stanford Prison Experiment" (July TBD), in which a university study goes terrifyingly wrong. In "The Gallows" (July 10), a small-town high school recreates a terrible accident during a school play (OK, that premise is a contender). And for franchise horror, there's "Insidious: Chapter 3" (June 5) and "Sinister 2" (Aug. 21).

9. I love documentaries! What will be summer 2015's breakout doc hit?

Well, it might be "I Am Big Bird" (June 19), about longtime Big Bird puppeteer Caroll Spinney, or "Iris" (May 8), the final film from Albert Maysles ("Grey Gardens"), about the 93-year-old New York fashion maven Iris Apfel. Or perhaps a music documentary: "Amy" (TBD) tells of the life and death of musician Amy Winehouse; "Lambert & Stamp" (May 8), is about the early days of The Who.

10. Anything else look interesting?

Oh, so many ... "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" (June 12), a Sundance prize winner about a teen filmmaker; the comedy "The D Train" (May 8), in which Jack Black plays a man desperate to get his high school's most popular boy (James Marsden) to come to their class reunion; "Clouds of Sils Maria" (May 1), Olivier Assayas' backstage drama starring Juliette Binoche and (supposedly very good) Kristen Stewart; "Paper Towns" (July 24), another film based on a popular John Green ("The Fault in Our Stars") novel; "Masterminds" (Aug. 10), a heist comedy with Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis; Cameron Crowe's latest romantic comedy, "Aloha" (May 29), with Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone; and a couple of fact-based music biographies: "Straight Outta Compton" (Aug. 14), about "the world's most dangerous group" N.W.A., and "Love and Mercy" (June 5), about the life of Beach Boy Brian Wilson (played, at different ages, by Paul Dano and John Cusack). And so much more. Pass the popcorn!