From Iron Man to Wolverine, with a healthy helping of the Man of Steel in between, the summer of 2013 is certainly not short of big budget superhero movies — like most every summer of the past decade. But for those looking for something different, the next few months will offer variety, too — the sequel to “Star Trek,” the return of “The Lone Ranger,” the monsters versus robots action of “Pacific Rim” and more. There’s truly a film for everyone, so pass the popcorn and get ready for …
“Iron Man 3” — Robert Downey Jr. makes his fourth film appearance as billionaire superhero Tony Stark (five if you count his “The Incredible Hulk” cameo), this time not under director Jon Favreau but series newcomer Shane Black, writer of “Lethal Weapon.” With RDJ hinting that this may be his last solo mission in the armor, fan expectations and anticipation are high, but can this one live up to the sky-high grosses of “Marvel’s The Avengers”? (Related: ‘Iron Man 3’ taps into comic book beginnings)
“The Great Gatsby” — Baz Lurhmann’s multimillion dollar adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel was originally supposed to come out in December, but was pushed back to May to avoid “scheduling conflicts.” Usually it’s a bad sign when a film is delayed, but Warner Bros. seems to be showing confidence by scheduling this one for the summer — though even with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire it’ll have to work hard to avoid getting steamrolled by the “Iron Man” juggernaut.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” — Perhaps the summer’s most anticipated sequel sees director JJ Abrams return to pilot the Enterprise he rebooted, before warping off to tackle the “Star Wars” universe. With the addition of “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain, this new “Trek” promises to be as action-packed and exciting as its predecessor — though some of us still wonder what happened to the more cerebral, less bang bang “Trek” we grew up with. (P.S. That title is still stupid.)
“Fast & Furious 6” — The gang’s all here. Again. The blockbuster success of “Fast Five” back in 2011 ensured another outing for Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and the rest of the cast of this car porn cornucopia, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, reprising his role introduced in the last movie. Also returning is Michelle Rodriguez, whose presumed-dead Letty turned up very much alive in “Five”’s post-credits cookie. (Uh, spoiler?)
“Epic” — The new film from Blue Sky Studios, who brought the world “Ice Age” and “Robots,” this animated adventure is based on William Joyce’s young adult novel “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs” — which is easily a way better title than “Epic.” The usual cast of oddly matched celebrities (Amanda Seyfried, Beyoncé, Christoph Waltz, Steven Tyler) lend their voices. As the summer’s first family film, this is probably well-positioned to rake in the kiddie audience until “Monsters University” drops in June.
“The Hangover Part III” — Yeah, pretty much everyone in the world was disappointed by II. Is there any reason to hope III will be any better? Maybe — this time they’ve junked the “Oh, no, we got drugged again” motif and made it a road trip where hapless pal Doug gets kidnapped. And everyone says this is the final film in the series, so hopefully director Todd Phillips is inspired to send the franchise out on a high note.
“After Earth” — The world’s ending a lot these days. In this one, generations after abandoning the planet, a father and son (Will Smith and his “Karate Kid” son Jaden) crash land on Earth after 1,000 years of humanity’s absence. Director M. Night Shyamalan could use a hit, but coming out in the middle of a crowded summer — with bigger movies opening all around it — chances are “After Earth” will get lost in the shuffle.
“Now You See Me” — A group of magicians led by Jesse Eisenberg commits dazzling heists in front of a full audience, and an FBI agent played by Mark Ruffalo is determined to stop them. With a supporting cast including Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Woody Harrelson, the marketing seems to be aiming for an “Ocean’s Eleven” vibe, minus that film’s dominating star power and Vegas locale.
“The Purge” — Here’s a horror concept for you — in a future where overpopulation runs rampant, the government has sanctioned a yearly 12-hour period where all crime, including murder, is legal. A family led by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey try to survive the night. It’s an intriguing (if depressingly nihilistic) idea for a movie, though writer/director James DeMonaco’s resume — “Jack,” “Skinwalkers” — doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
“The Internship” — Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up again to play a pair of downsized salesmen who, desperate to get a foot in the door, accept an unpaid internship at Google. Given the state of the economy and how many face such issues, a canny script would seem to have a strong chance of resonating with a large audience. Too bad that, judging by the trailer, the film aims instead for the lowest common denominator in its humor. Still, Vaughn and Wilson have spun gold out of straw before.
“This is the End” — Let’s get meta: A group of R-rated comedy actors team up for an R-rated comedy where they play themselves as the world is ending around them. Yep, another apocalypse. Based on a short film made by Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen, the full version includes them, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson and many, many more. Star-studded and potentially hilarious, but then, so was “Movie 43.”
“Man of Steel” — It has been a mere seven years since the last attempt to reboot Superman, must be time to try again. This time, though, comes with the input of a few new creative minds — director Zach Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”) and producer Christopher Nolan (the “Dark Knight” trilogy). The most recent trailer certainly looks a little darker than Superman films past, but also captures the majesty and hope that the character represents. Have Nolan and Snyder found the balance that will make the Man of Steel soar again?
“World War Z” — An adaptation of Max Brooks’ gripping zombie apocalypse novel, this Brad Pitt-produced-and-starring film has had its fair share of troubles in production, including multiple rewrites and last-minute reshoots leading to it being pushed back six months. Fans of the book have also noted how the novel’s journalistic approach has seemingly been shelved for what seems like a “War of the Worlds” retread. Good news: Director Marc Forster has much experience with excellent human drama (“Monster’s Ball,” “Finding Neverland”). Bad news: He also directed “Quantum of Solace,” pretty universally considered the weakest of Daniel Craig’s Bond run.
“White House Down” — No, you’re not having déjà vu, terrorists are taking over the White House again. This time, director Roland Emmerich (maker of subtle dramas like “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow”) oversees the action, with Channing Tatum as the heroic soldier and Jamie Foxx as the endangered president. The success of “Olympus Has Fallen” shows that this concept can be successful — but twice in the same calendar year?
“The Heat” — Sandra Bullock and red hot comedian Melissa McCarthy team up as a pair of investigators looking to take down a Russian mobster. This is only Bullock’s second big film after her Oscar win for “The Blind Side,” and it seems to be a retreat to familiar territory (see “Miss Congeniality” 1 and 2), while McCarthy’s star power is so hot she made the mediocre-at-best “Identity Theft” into a smash.
“Despicable Me 2” — The minions are back! This animated sequel sees Gru (again voiced by Steve Carell) recruited by the Anti-Villain League to fight a big baddie voiced by Al Pacino. The original film proved a surprisingly big box office hit, and Universal is showing a lot of confidence putting the sequel on Fourth of July weekend. “Monsters” will likely be the summer’s biggest family film, but “Despicable” may not be far behind.
“The Lone Ranger” — Disney is hoping to recapture that “Pirates of the Caribbean” magic by reuniting director Gore Verbinski with Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto to Armie Hammer’s masked avenger. There has been plenty of controversy surrounding whether having Depp portray the Native American Tonto is racist — a fair question. The trailer features enough slam-bang action and over-the-top set pieces to appeal to the masses, but whether it will hit as big as “Pirates” is still open for debate.
“Grown Ups 2” — Time for a sequel to the 2010 comedy hit. Um, yay. This one has almost all the original cast back (Rob Schneider bowed out), and focuses on the kids’ last day of school. Oddly, this is Adam Sandler’s first sequel in more than 20 years of stardom, and of all the franchises to revisit, the cry to reprise “Grown Ups” seems like it should have been rather faint. Still, Sandler has a tendency to draw fans no matter what, especially with Kevin James and Chris Rock as backup again.
“Pacific Rim” — Giant monsters fighting giant robots. Seriously, what more do you need to know? Now, this one is from Guillermo del Toro, the amazing director of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the “Hellboy” franchise, and the incredible special effects are a far cry from your papa’s “Godzilla” films. Can del Toro elevate epic clashes of huge beasts into something relatable on a human level? Then again, does he even have to? It’s robots fighting monsters, for pete’s sake!
“Turbo” — The summer’s animated fare from DreamWorks sees a garden snail voiced by Ryan Reynolds who dreams of becoming the fastest snail in the world. This one has already been franchised out, with an animated series based upon the movie ready to debut on Netflix this winter. But in a crowded summer for kids flicks, will “Turbo” be left in the dust?
“R.I.P.D.” — Speaking of Ryan Reynolds, here he is again as a cop who gets gunned down and is resurrected to join a team of undead detectives, including Jeff Bridges. (Get it? “Rest In Peace Department”?) The poster, the teaming up of a young star with a veteran, the sci-fi/action/comedy concept — it all feels like a “Men in Black” offshoot, and just like MIB, this one’s based on a comic book. But action fans probably have bigger fish to fry this weekend.
“RED 2” — Yep, time for the sequel, and most everybody is back, with a few new additions including Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins. The director this time is Dean Parisot, whose limited filmography (“Galaxy Quest,” “Fun with Dick and Jane”) doesn’t give much indication of how he’ll handle the action of this one, but with how much fans adored the original, this sequel probably has little to worry about.
“The Wolverine” — Hugh Jackman returns for his fifth portrayal of Marvel’s most lovable badass (sixth if you count his “First Class” cameo), this time traveling to Japan and suffering from the loss of his lauded healing powers. The last go round, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” wasn’t exactly well-received among the fandom, so the creators are taking great pains to make this feel like a totally different film — and if the action’s up to par, it might send the summer out on a high note.
“The Smurfs 2” — Sigh. You know what’s really sad? This is going to be Jonathan Winters’ final film. The second of an apparent trilogy(!) sees Smurfette (again Katy Perry) being courted by evil Smurf clones created by Gargamel. I can’t believe I actually just wrote that sentence.
As the summer season starts to fizzle out, here are a few more titles: The kinda-sequel “300: Rise of an Empire,” “2 Guns” with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, the futuristic action film “Elysium” with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, the fantasy follow-up “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” the “Cars” spinoff “Planes” (though it isn’t being made by Pixar) and superhero sequel “Kick-Ass 2.”
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