Summer Movie Preview: ‘Maleficent’ among many looking to make movie magicWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
The story of 2014’s summer movie schedule is suspiciously similar to the story of 2013’s, and the decade or so before that: a slate of superhero action movies, sequels to previous hits and smaller flicks hoping to grab a piece of the pie. There may be a surprise or two among the summer’s biggest films, but by and large it’s franchises galore. The tone was set by “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” on May 2, and as studios get ready to turn up the heat, here’s what the rest of the season looks like.
“Neighbors” — Seth Rogen plays a suburban dad whose life is turned upside down when he moves in next to a fraternity house led by Zac Efron. The film has no relation to the 1981 John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd comedy of the same name, though the basic premise of warring factions who live next door to each other is hardly new. Still, the early reviews have been excellent, indicating that Rogen’s streak of hit summer comedies may continue.
“Mom’s Night Out” — A faith-based film in sitcom clothing, it stars Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton as moms in desperate need of an evening off, who leave the kids in the care of their clueless husbands. It’s a departure from Andrew and Jon Erwin’s previous film, “October Sky,” but even with the wild success of Christian films like “Heaven is for Real,” “Mom’s” will have to work hard to not get steamrolled this season.
“Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” — Back to the Yellow Brick Road we go, in an animated film based on L. Frank Baum’s universe. Dorothy returns to Kansas to find it destroyed (well, it WAS hit by a tornado), then goes back to Oz to find things ain’t much better there. A decent voice cast (Lea Michele, Patrick Stewart) does little to dispel the feeling that this is a cheap, early summer kids’ cash-in.
“Godzilla” — The big guy is back. Sixty years after his first appearance, Godzilla once again stomps into theaters for a new American reboot, with Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. trying to erase fans’ memories of the fairly disastrous 1998 film from Columbia TriStar. A first-rate cast (Ken Watanabe! Bryan Cranston!) and a monster design much closer to Toho Pictures’ original beast help give American fans hope. (Read comics columnist Jim Beard’s take.)
“Million Dollar Arm” — Based on a true story, Jon Hamm plays a sports agent who seeks out talented new baseball pitchers by running a reality TV show in India. The loose outline is suspiciously similar to “The Air Up There” and any number of other “unknown talents discovered” flicks, but it may be just the type of feel-good family flick that becomes a sleeper hit.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” — The sixth “X-Men” film and the seventh to feature Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (if you count his quick cameo in “First Class”), this one brings both the old and the new casts together. Adapted from a classic comic storyline, the X-Men of the present send Wolverine back to the past in an effort to prevent an event that imperils everyone.
The unanswered question: Will the scandal surrounding director Bryan Singer cause audiences to stay away?
“Blended” — Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore team up for another rom-com with their “Wedding Singer” director Frank Coraci. This time they play a pair of single parents who meet on a disastrous blind date, but find themselves growing closer after they end up together at a family resort. The Sandler/Barrymore pairing has produced box office magic twice before, though it’s an open question as to how much magic is left against a packed summer schedule.
“Maleficent” — Get ready to see things from the villain’s point of view. Angelina Jolie plays the evil queen who imprisoned Sleeping Beauty, in a story that makes her the focal point. The look of the movie is incredible (as well it should be, since Oscar-winning production designer Robert Stromberg is making his directorial debut), and Jolie is the spitting image of her animated counterpart. How the story will hold up remains to be seen.
“A Million Ways to Die in the West” — Seth MacFarlane has had a remarkably varied year, between his usual animated success, his coolly-received and now-canceled sitcom “Dads” and his critically-lauded reboot of “Cosmos.” Now he tackles that most elusive of prey — a hit Western comedy. MacFarlane stars as a sheep rancher who tries to gain some gumption with the help of a gunslinger played by Charlize Theron.
“Edge of Tomorrow” — Here’s brilliant marketing for you: This Tom Cruise sci-fi action flick is based on a Japanese novel called “All You Need is Kill.” That is an unforgettable title. “Edge of Tomorrow” sounds like a soap opera that gets canceled in six months. Anyway, Cruise stars as an officer who gets caught in a time loop where he lives the same battle over and over until he finds a way to win. Yep, it’s “Groundhog Day” mixed with “Halo,” though its premise could lead to some stellar battle sequences.
“The Fault in Our Stars” — Author John Green’s novel about a terminal cancer patient who falls in love with a fellow cancer patient and amputee at a support group is adapted for the big screen. Shailene Woodley of “Divergent” stars as Hazel, and her rising Hollywood stock and the much-loved source material may make this a sleeper hit.
“22 Jump Street” — The surprisingly successful comedy based loosely on the former Fox drama “21 Jump Street” comes back for a sequel. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum both return, as well as original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, for a story about the undercover cops working a case at a local college. It’s tempting to see if comedic lightning can strike twice, though audiences burned by “Hangover 2” and “3” may do well to be cautious.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” — Here is, pretty easily, the summer’s biggest family movie. The sequel to the wildly popular 2010 animated fantasy, the film will follow its main characters (and their dragon counterparts) five years after the events of the original film. This is being hyped as the second part of a trilogy, with most of the cast and original co-director Dean DeBlois returning.
“Think Like a Man Too” — Another follow-up to a shockingly successful comedy, the sequel to the 2012 original (based on Steve Harvey’s relationship advice book) sees the original cast return and the setting shift to Las Vegas. Director Tim Story is back, too, as is the original writing team. The first flick made nearly $100 million and helped establish Kevin Hart as a star, so hopes are high here.
“Jersey Boys” — One of the most popular modern musicals makes the transition to the big screen, directed by no less than Clint Eastwood. The story follows the rise and fall of the classic group The Four Seasons, with their most popular songs (“Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “December, 1963″ “Oh What a Night”) peppered throughout. Add in a great cast (Christopher Walken, Vincent Piazza) and this might be poised to rope in the audiences that made “Hairspray” and “Mamma Mia!” such big summer splashes.
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” — This series just won’t die, will it? The fourth in the Michael Bay robots-in-disguise saga is set four years after “Dark of the Moon,” in a world where Transformers are hunted. Good news: A whole new live-action cast (led by Mark Wahlberg) gives the series a breath of fresh air. Bad news: The writer is still Ehren Krueger, who has written every film since 2009’s “Revenge of the Fallen” — meaning the movies started getting really bad as soon as he took over.
“Deliver Us from Evil” — Director Scott Derrickson (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) returns to the supernatural with this crime-thriller-horror multi-hyphenate. A cop (Eric Bana) teams up with a priest to solve a case that may have some demonic influences. This is a shot of scares in a summer that is surprisingly low on horror films, but on a packed July Fourth weekend and with multiple big flicks before and after, don’t expect this one to *cough!* deliver much.
“Earth to Echo” — “E.T.” meets “Paranormal Activity.” Only not horror. And made by Disney. OK, let’s try this again. This is a found-footage movie about a group of kids who find a lovable little robot from outer space. The trailers are cutesy enough to let you know this is solidly a kids’ movie, and the supposedly “amateurish” filming is way too professional-looking to really have an impact. Still, if the story resonates, it might find a willing family audience.
“Tammy” — Melissa McCarthy has become one of the most bankable comedy stars in recent years, and this one seems to be her baby: She co-wrote, produced and stars in this tale of a woman who decides to leave her old life behind and hit the road with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon). You can bet on the box office success of this one (if McCarthy could make “Identity Thief” a hit, she can do anything), and if the quality’s high enough, this could be the summer’s biggest comedy.
“And So It Goes” — Director Rob Reiner’s biggest film in quite a while, this is a romantic comedy/drama about a Realtor (Michael Douglas) who gets a visit from a granddaughter he never knew he had. Co-starring Diane Keaton, this seems like perfect movie bait for the older crowd who (with the exception of “Jersey Boys”) seem to have been left out in the cold this summer.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” — Ten years have passed since Caesar led his rebellion, and the virus that was unleashed has wiped out most of mankind. Now, in this sequel to 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” humans and simians are on the brink of war. Which side will triumph and survive? Well, here’s a hint: A third film in this rebooted series was already announced back in January
“Jupiter Ascending” — The Wachowskis are back again. It’s been 15 years since the original “Matrix” changed the face of modern action movies, and fans (and studio executives) have waited for the siblings to once more deliver on the promise that first film indicated. Is this movie the one? Starring Mila Kunis as a janitor who learns her destiny has incredible ramifications throughout the universe, the film has amazing visuals and a breathtaking trailer — reasons for hope.
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” — Well, it’s time once again for Disney to squeeze all it can out of the “Cars” universe cash cow. Another spinoff set “above the world of ‘Cars,’” this sequel to 2013′s pleasant and utterly forgettable “Planes” sees lead Dusty (still Dane Cook) suddenly forced to join a gang of rescue vehicles. Be honest: This just screams “straight to DVD but we had nothing else so we’re tossing it into theaters,” doesn’t it?
“The Purge: Anarchy” — Speaking of rushed sequels, last summer’s “The Purge” was a modest horror hit, so it’s time to franchise that sucker. As before, we’re set in a future where America suspends all laws for 12 hours and crime runs rampant. Director/writer James DeMonaco returns for the follow-up, which focuses on a couple whose car runs out of gas as the Purge is about to begin. Another reason to never wait until your tank hits “E.”
“Hercules” — 2013’s biggest box office star takes a swing at one of the biggest mythological heroes, as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the Herc. This is the second film based on the character this year alone (admit it, you already forgot about “The Legend of Hercules,” right?), and this one’s directed by Brett Ratner, a name which many feel doesn’t inspire confidence. But hey, Johnson is on a hell of a roll lately.
“Sex Tape” — Speaking of being on a roll, Cameron Diaz just had a surprise hit with “The Other Woman,” and she’s back with a comedy about a couple who record themselves making love and are horrified when the tape accidentally leaks. Jason Segel co-stars, and Jake Kasdan (who directed Diaz in “Bad Teacher”) is at the helm. A few weeks removed from “Tammy,” this one might be perfectly positioned for a good run as a raunchy summer laugh-fest.
“Step Up All In” — Yeah, that’s how the title is written. No punctuation or anything. And yes, it’s the fifth in the long-running dancing series. This one’s kind of a “Fast and Furious”-like gathering of all the most popular characters (well, Channing Tatum is missing, naturally) for a big battle in Las Vegas. Toledo’s own Alyson Stoner is among the crew, giving local fans one reason to be interested, at least.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” — This may be Marvel Studios’ biggest crapshoot to date. The most obscure superhero team to get a movie in a while, the ensemble cast features Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Vin Diesel and more. Directed by James Gunn (whose highest profile film was “Slither” back in 2006), this film may have an uphill climb in terms of market recognition, but the trailer is a hoot and may reel in fans who aren’t even into superheroes.
“Get On Up” — Hell yeah, it’s a James Brown biopic. Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in last year’s “42,” stars as the Godfather of Soul in a movie directed by Tate Taylor, whose previous film was the crowd favorite drama “The Help.” Can any film truly capture the magic of one of the most dynamic performers of his (or any) era? Well, it’ll be fun to see them try.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” — Michael Bay is dipping his fingers into Generation X’s childhood again! Well, he’s not directing this one, but true helmer Johnathan Liebesman’s resume (“Battle: Los Angeles,” “Wrath of the Titans”) doesn’t inspire optimism, either. Still, the effects in the trailer are impressive, and the cast is stellar and expansive (Megan Fox! Johnny Knoxville! Tony Shalhoub! Whoopi Goldberg!), so maybe lightning will strike.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” — Based on a 2010 book about two rival restaurants in France, the movie version features the stellar Helen Mirren. And you want to talk pedigree? The producers include a couple of people named Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.
“Into the Storm” — Hey, whaddya know? It’s (apparently) another found-footage movie! This one’s about a dad (Richard Armitage) trying to save his son from a tornado-filled storm. The trailer is undeniably intense and seems to indicate the movie might not be adhering to the fauxcumentary genre TOO stringently, so maybe this’ll work.
“Lucy” — Those looking for a Black Widow movie might have to settle for this until the major companies get their head around the fact that women can lead action flicks. Scarlett Johansson stars as a woman who works as a smuggler for an experimental drug, which makes her superhuman when it gets into her system. Those looking for fast-paced adventure can take solace in this fact: The director is action virtuoso Luc Besson.
“The Giver” — Journey with us to a dystopian future where everything isn’t as it seems. Director Phillip Noyce helms a film version of Lois Lowry’s 1993 young adult sci-fi novel, starring luminaries like Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Katie Holmes.
“As Above, So Below” — And wow! What are the odds? It’s another found-footage movie! This one is horror, the genre’s bread and butter, following archeologists trying to find a hidden treasure in the catacombs of Paris. Before you think, “Hey, that sounds at least somewhat interesting,” I must share this tragic fact: Director John Erick Dowdle’s last film was the horrible “Devil.”
“The Expendables 3″ — Does a plot matter? Here’s the cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, Ronda Rousey and Harrison freakin’ Ford. Come on, you’re gonna see it no matter what I say. And so am I.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” — Nearly a decade later, it’s time to return to the mean streets of Frank Miller’s imagination. This long-awaited follow-up to Robert Rodriguez’s 2005 adaptation of Miller’s noir graphic novels is largely based on the second book in the series, with other original narratives peppered in. Original cast members like Mickey Rourke (Marv!) and Bruce Willis return, while newcomers like Eva Green, Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sign on as well.
“If I Stay” — Chloë Grace Moretz steps out from behind her Hit Girl mask to star in this adaptation of Gayle Foreman’s young adult novel about a girl trapped between life and death who must choose whether to stay or go. Foreman herself penned the script, usually a good sign for fans of the original book, though director R.J. Cutler primarily has experience in documentary filmmaking. Will the movie capture the poignancy of the original work? We’ll see.
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