Pop Culture

7 summer movies you shouldn't miss

The summer movie season snuck in early this year, with "Godzilla" roaring into theaters a week before Memorial Day. But don't fret, there's plenty of dragon-training, beer-guzzling, space-exploring and superhero-fighting to come. This list could easily have been double its length, but we kept it to seven for sanity's sake. Bring it, delightfully air-conditioned cinemas.

For those who want to go behind the fairy tale: 'Maleficent,' May 30
This is not your grandmother's Disney movie. Angelina Jolie stars as the "Sleeping Beauty" villain, who is perhaps Disney's creepiest evildoer, in this live-action dark fantasy explaining why Maleficent put a curse on baby Princess Aurora. The film promises to explain what turned Jolie's character so wicked, and honestly, we're hoping it finally reveals what her thing was about spinning-wheel spindles. (Note to parents: It's rated PG, but this looks darker than most. Jolie said she had to cast her children in some roles because young actors were too frightened by her in her black horned getup. Look for our parents' guide later in the week.)

For those who just want to laugh with no apologies'22 Jump Street,' June 13
Let's admit it: The 2012 success of "21 Jump Street" came outta nowhere. Who expected a comedy film based on the 1987 Johnny Depp cop show to be so raunchy and hilarious? Now Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are back, but the two young cops are going undercover in college, not high school, and of course it's Spring Break. Beer, bikini tops and the F-word fly, and as with the first film, no one's ashamed to face facts, including that of sequeldom. "It's the same case!" yells Ice Cube, returning as the guys' boss, Capt. Dickson. "Do the same thing!"

"22 Jump Street" sends Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum undercover at college.

For kids, and kids at heart: 'How to Train Your Dragon 2,' June 13
If you decide your child can't handle "Maleficent," buy them off with the promise of a trip to "How to Train Your Dragon 2," the sequel to the hit DreamWorks dragon saga from 2010. Young Viking Hiccup and his dragon friend Toothless are five years older, and discover that there's a whole wide world of dragons — and people — out there that they don't know anything about. Your kids have been waiting to fly with the dragons again.

For those who still miss 'The Wonder Years': 'Boyhood,' July 11
The concept is amazing and the trailer a treat. Richard Linklater of "Slacker" fame made a movie about one fictional boy's childhood by filming over 12 years, as young actor Ellar Coltrane aged from 6 to 18, through bowling and baseball games, haircuts and family fights, drugs and dilemmas. It's fiction — Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play the boy's parents — but it'll remind you of documentaries, including the "Seven Up" series. Watching Coltrane age as his character does, watching years fly by, is jolting and heart tugging. The Beatles were right: Yesterday came suddenly.

For those who are keeping retro real: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' July 11
We love the "Planet of the Apes" series, all the way back to its cheesy 1970s roots, bomb-worshipping mutants and all. But this reboot looks seriously terrifying, with Earth still reeling from a deadly Simian Flu and ape leader Caesar bringing his army to what looks to be certain war with the humans. Andy Serkis, the king of motion-capture acting, is back as Caesar, with Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Gary Oldman as humans.

If you like your summer movies spacey: 'Jupiter Ascending,' July 18
Hey, it's Channing Tatum's second appearance on this list, but in a very different film than "22 Jump Street." In "Jupiter Ascending," Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a lowly janitor who has no ideas her genetics have marked her as royalty. Tatum is the pointed-ear-wearing warrior who's come to protect her from the alien who's put a bounty on her head. It sounds ludicrous, but it's directed by "Matrix" vets Lana and Andy Wachowski, so we're willing to take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes.

If you want to dance in your theater seat: 'Get On Up,' Aug. 1
If you love getting your musical history in movie form, this is your summer. The film version of Broadway musical "Jersey Boys," which tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, comes to theaters June 20. And in August, Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson in "42") takes on the role of James Brown in a biopic taking him from his poor southern childhood to international superstardom. You'll feel good.

Follow Gael Fashingbauer Cooper on Google+.