By Gary Dowell
It’s summer time, which in Texas means at least part of the next several boiling-hot weeks will be spent in a cool, dark movie theater. Here are some of the high-profile releases scheduled for this summer, along with my thoughts on which ones are – or are not – worth your hard-earned dollars.
Iron Man 3
Robert Downey Jr. suits up for a fourth outing as billionaire genius philanthropist playboy Tony Stark, who finds himself pushed to the edge of destruction by the villainous Mandarin (a suitably over-thetop Ben Kingsley). Shane Black (writer of the Lethal Weapon films) steps into the director’s chair, and a series of intense trailers and commercials suggest that a third time could be the charm for this stalwart franchise.
Release Date: May 3
The Great Gatsby
Leonardo DiCaprio and director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) unite for the fourth adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel – but can they pull it off? DiCaprio has had mixed results with heavy drama, and Luhrmann’s heavyhanded sense of style (or lack thereof) has sucked the life out of many a promising project (though we still dig Romeo + Juliet). Still, the material combined with a supporting cast that includes Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton piques my curiosity.
Release Date: May 10
Star Trek Into Darkness
J.J. Abrams’ surprisingly effective, brilliant 2009 reboot of the flagging Trek franchise and the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes) as an enigmatic villain make this arguably the most-anticipated sequel of the year. Consider it a hint of what to expect stylistically when Abrams delivers the next Star Wars sequel in 2015.
Release Date: May 17
The Hangover: Part III
The Wolfpack returns for another hedonistic adventure after a so-so sequel in 2011. This time Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms will hit Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Tijuana. The quick turnaround has us wondering if this outing will recapture the energy of the original, or merely rehash it.
Release Date: May 24
M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t made a decent movie in years, but this science-fiction drama seems compelling, and the director is working from someone else’s script for a change. Will Smith and his son Jaden star as a father and son stranded on Earth 1,000 years after humanity has abandoned it. The trailer hooked us, and the set-up makes Avatar look like a teddy bear’s picnic.
Release Date: May 31
This Is the End
While attending a party at James Franco’s house, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and a slew of other celebrities find themselves faced with the apocalypse. With so many end-of-world movies on the market, what makes this one stand out? The fact that each of the actors placed an exaggerated, farcical version of him- or herself (including Michael Cera as a coke-loving sex deviant). It will be interesting to just how many body blows these guys’ egos can take.
Release Date: June 12
Man of Steel
Zack Snyder (300) and Christopher Nolan (the Dark Knight movies) attempt to re-invent Superman for the modern age, casting The Tudors star Henry Cavill as the last son of Krypton, Russell Crowe as his father Jor-El, and Michael Shannon as the evil General Zod. Expectation is high – this is Superman, after all – especially after Bryan Singer’s bland-yet underrated Superman Returns. Nolan can do no wrong, but Snyder’s Sucker Punch was a suckfest. With any luck, Nolan and Warner Bros. have kept him reigned in.
Release Date: June 14
World War Z
This adaptation of Max Brooks’ cult-favorite novel has been troubled from the start, from its curious choice of director (Marc Forster, Finding Neverland), to its out-of-control budget, delayed release date, and heavy reshoots. Still, if it’s as intense as the trailer makes it out to be, then we’re in for a treat. It will either find new – ahem – life in the waning zombie sub-genre or be its last hurrah.
Release Date: June 21
Director Gore Verbinski worked with Johnny Depp on the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Rango. Still, we’re having a hard time getting into this oddball reboot of the classic character (played by The Social Network’s Armie Hammer opposite Depp as Tonto). Constant delays, reports of a skyrocketing budget, rumor that the movie features CG werewolves (Hollywood has a poor track record when it comes to weird westerns), or the bird worn on Tonto’s head have all dampened our enthusiasm. All we ask is that it’s at least better than Dark Shadows.
Release Date: July 3
Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) first project in years features two subjects near and dear to our hearts: giant robots and giant monsters. The director’s output has been inconsistent lately, and so far the trailers have failed to excite (we blame Michael Bay for making megarobot battles uncool), yet we remain cautiously optimistic.
Release Date: July 11
Hugh Jackman returns for his fifth feature-length appearance as everybody’s favorite cranky mutant. Granted, the last Wolvie solo outing sucked big-time, but Fox seems to have learned from its mistakes: A more focused story adapts a classic tale from the comics, and the Japan setting gives it an exotic flair.
Release Date: July 26
This movie’s 2010 predecessor about retired assassins on the run was a surprise hit featuring a stellar cast and smartly-written action-comedy script. This second outing sees Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker returning, with Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones joining the mix. This one could be a hit as well, so long as sequelitis doesn’t set in.
Release Date: August 1
300: Rise of an Empire
Greek general Themistocles battles an invading army of Persians led by the self-proclaimed god Xerxes in this questionable prequel to the 2006 cult fave 300. The latter helped put director Zack Snyder and actor Gerard Butler into the mainstream, and both have gone on to bigger and (sometimes) better things; Rise of an Empire has a largely unknown cast directed by the very unknown Noam Murro. One doesn’t need an oracle to be a bit skeptical.
Release Date: August 2
Neill Blomkamp, who seemingly came out of nowhere with the gritty and original District 9 in 2009, returns with another sociopolitical sci-fi epic set in the 2154, where the world’s elite live aboard a paradisaical space station while the other 99.999% struggles to survive on a ruined Earth. Enter Matt Damon as a desperate man on a dangerous mission that may just bring equality to the world. The recent trailer and secrecy surrounding the plot details have made this a highly anticipated film.
Release Date: August 9
At last, the sequel to Matthew Vaughan’s gloriously hilarious and vulgar spoof of superheros. Jim Carrey, Donald Faison, and John Leguizamo join returning cast members Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who plays a villain named The Motherfucker) – what more could a comic-book geek want?
Release Date: August 16