Summer’s here (at least for movies), and the studios are trying to lure you out of the sunshine and into a dark theater with their traditional glut of would-be blockbusters. It’s a veritable bulk candy aisle full of thrillers, smashers, smoochers, superheroes and the occasional actual movie, and I’m here to advise you, quick-hit Twitter style, on what to gobble up like delicious M&Ms and what to avoid like those Jordan almonds. (All release dates and ratings subject to studio whim.)
“Iron Man 3” (PG-13): Superhero franchises’ third installments generally mean trouble. The desire to top themselves results in too many villains, too much spectacle and a serious case of running-time bloat. Add into the mix a new director and screenwriters, and there’s potential (if lucrative) disaster for ol’ Tony Stark. Luckily, new guy Shane Black is familiar with the singular comic charisma of Robert Downey Jr., having directed him in the underrated “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” so I’ll reserve judgment. (Although, guys — no one was clamoring for more Gwyneth Paltrow. Maybe her mom.)
#superheroes #threequel #her
“The Iceman” (R): I think I’d know it if my spouse was a contract killer (I’m fairly sure she’s not), but in this thriller, Michael Shannon (“Take Shelter,” “Boardwalk Empire”) plays a real-life hitman who hid his bloody double-life from the wife and kids for years. I don’t know what’s more implausible, the guy keeping his secret or the terrifying Michael Shannon playing a loving husband and father.
#mobmovie #hitman #MichaelShannonscaresme
“The Great Gatsby” (PG-13): Director Baz Luhrmann brings his loopy, unrestrained visual style to this opulent adaptation of the literary classic. As with his “Romeo and Juliet” (also starring Leonardo DiCaprio), the sheer amount of spazzy spectacle is sure to enrage purists everywhere. But there were rewards to be found, and at least this promises more entertainment value than the leaden Robert Redford version. (Note to students: If you’re gonna skip reading the book, be advised that Gatsby did not listen to Jay-Z.)
“Peeples” (PG-13): The words “presented by Tyler Perry” aren’t encouraging, but at least this “meet the family” comedy gives the undeniably hilarious Craig Robinson (“The Office”) a leading-man role for a change (even if he does appear to get humped by a dog at one point).
“Aftershock” (R): “Hostel” ‘s Eli Roth continues to subtly suggest that Americans stay at home with another bloody horror flick about U.S. tourists getting gruesomely tortured the second they cross the border. This time, Roth (who writes and stars) crosses Chile off your travel itinerary as the leader of a group of Yanks whose travel disaster starts with an earthquake and ends with gratuitous nastiness at the hands of those darned foreigners. Seriously, did Roth have a bad experience on spring break?
“Star Trek Into Darkness” (PG-13): J.J. Abrams continues his revamp of the beloved sci-fi franchise, bringing in the deliciously arch evil of “Sherlock” ‘s Benedict Cumberbatch to menace Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise. Huge, massive, un-ignorable plotholes aside, the first film was hugely entertaining, throwing clever nods to longtime fans while forging its own separate identity and showing unerring casting instincts.
#sequel #remake #sequelmake
“Frances Ha” (R): Looking for a quirkie indie amidst all the superheroes, spaceships and s’plosions? This comedy from writer/director Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”) about manic pixie dream girl Greta Gerwig chasing her improbable dreams all over NYC should do it. Not a phaser in sight
“Black Rock” (R): Maine’s own Katie Aselton (“The League”) writes, directs and stars in this “Deliverance”-style horror movie set on the titular Maine island, where the vacation plans of a trio of young women turn ugly when the locals show up. Hey, wait — we are the locals. What’s up with that, Katie? (Seriously, though — this one looks great.)
“Fast & Furious 6” (not yet rated): Six of these? Huh. Former street racers-turned-car thief-catchers drive very, very rapidly once again while Vin Diesel and Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson compete to see who’s the baldest and burliest in the land, while Paul Walker tries to look menacing and remind people he exists.
#drive-in #six? #really?
“The Hangover: Part 3” (R): Did you like the first one? Did you not mind that the second one was exactly the same but not as good? Then you’re the ideal audience for the summer’s second threequel, with Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and that boring guy continuing to prove they cannot hold their booze to the delight of the undiscriminating.
“Before Midnight” (not yet rated): The least-likely threequel of the summer is also the most anticipated, at least by me. Director Richard Linklater and stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke continue to check in every nine years on the young lovers first encountered in 1995’s “Before Sunrise,” crafting in the process one of the most moving, funny and insightful depictions of a relationship in screen history.
“After Earth” (not yet rated): The time: A thousand years after a mysterious crisis has caused humans to vacate the planet. The setup: A father and son (Will and Jaden Smith) crash-land on Earth and must survive the now-hostile environment. The problem — M. Night Shyamalan. Will an absurd twist ending chase the movie up its own butt (see: “The Happening,” “The Village”), or has he got another “Unbreakable” or “The Sixth Sense” in him?
“Now You See Me” (PG-13): Imagine “Ocean’s Eleven,” except with Penn and Teller in charge. That’s the deal when a ragtag gang of stage magicians pull off heists using their ala-kazams and whatnot. Sounds silly/awesome, but the cast (including Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo and Jesse Eisenberg) should make cinematic sleight-of-hand entertaining enough.
“The Purge” (R): In a world of overcrowded prisons and obviously stupid lawmakers, all crime is legalized for one 12-hour period each year. One family tries to deal with the night of horror without murdering their neighbors for letting their dog poop in the yard, and movie theater-talkers everywhere are grateful this isn’t a real thing.
“The East” (PG-13): From the team that made the intriguingly weird 2012 indie thriller “Sound of My Voice” comes another intense mind-twister, with private investigator Brit Marling (“Another Earth”) getting in too deep when she infiltrates an anarchist group that targets corporations.
“The Internship” (not yet rated): The “Wedding Crashers” themselves, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, reunite in this similarly raunchy comedy with a bummer of a premise, as their two slicky-boy salesmen have to start at the bottom as Google interns when the economy tanks. Mining laughs from midlife crises and bankruptcy will require these two to tap back into the undeniably funny live-wire energy of their teaming of eight years ago(?!) Just typing that makes me feel old; here’s hoping they don’t.
“Much Ado About Nothing” (PG-13): Because he’s brilliant and insane, Joss Whedon made this micro-budgeted Shakespeare adaptation at the same time he made “The Avengers,” with TV pals Nathan Fillion (“Firefly”), Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof (“Angel”), and Fran Kranz (“Dollhouse”). Shakespeare and Whedon together? In a perfect world, this would out-gross “Iron Man 3,” but at least I’ll see you smart people there.
“Man of Steel” (PG-13): Boy, am I on the fence about this one. Stirring trailers aside, I remain skeptical that the Big Blue Boy Scout needs a grim ‘n’ gritty “Dark Knight” reboot at the hands of a flashy director (Zack Snyder, “300,” “Watchmen”) with suspect instincts. That being said, those trailers do look great, Henry Cavill looks born to play Supes, Michael Shannon’s on board as the evil Zod, and, well, it’s just been too long since we had Superman to save us every summer.
“This Is the End” (R): A meta-summit of all the stars of your favorite stoner comedies, this rude-looking yuk-fest features Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill and others (playing themselves) attending a boozy blowout at James Franco’s mansion when the apocalypse breaks out. How will Judd Apatow’s slobby slack-pack cope with the end of the world? I’m guessing not well, but hilariously. And with more f-bombs than “Scarface.”
“The Bling Ring” (R): Sofia Coppola continues her reign as the doyenne of quirky indie dramas with this true story about a gang of young thieves who track celebs via social media and then rob their homes. Sounds a little superficial to me, but Coppola rarely steps wrong, so it’s undoubtedly worth a peek.
“Monsters University” (not yet rated): Sure, Pixar has had an unprecedented dry spell of late (“Cars 2” and “Brave”), but I still have faith that the House of Nemo can still deliver. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are back as lovable monsters Mike and Sulley in a prequel showing their time at the titular state school training to be the scariest scare-ers in scaretown.
“World War Z” (R): I have never hated a movie more prior to seeing it, because it’s clear that this apocalyptic zombie flick has imported nothing but the name of Max Brooks’ brilliant zombie novel. Instead of its thoughtful, nuanced and terrifying portrait of humanity on the brink of extinction (and beyond), it looks like we’re getting hunky Brad Pitt being chased by sprinting zombies and trying to save his adorable kids. A troubled production helmed by the guy who directed the worst of the Daniel Craig Bonds, I’m not saying you should boycott this movie, but I sure am.
“The Heat” (R): Paul Feig re-teams with his “Bridesmaids” costar Melissa McCarthy in this female buddy-cop comedy pairing the Oscar nominee with straightlaced FBI agent Sandra Bullock. “Bridesmaids” reminded Hollywood that funny women being absolutely filthy can be box-office gold, and McCarthy’s an improvising pistol, so here’s hoping her energy can carry America’s sweetheart to the finish line.
“White House Down” (not yet rated): Channing Tatum is a cop on a tour of the White House when terrorists stage one of their pesky paramilitary raids on the commander-in-chief. When this movie was called “Olympus Has Fallen,” I was uninterested. Now I’m genuinely annoyed.
“I’m So Excited” (R): When it looks like an airliner is going down, the passengers and crew get up to some weird, sexy shenanigans in the new dark comedy from Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar. Almodovar has never made a bad film. Ever.
“The Lone Ranger” (not yet rated): Apparently, Johnny Depp can do whatever he wants, so no one seems upset he’s playing the Native American Tonto. Perhaps more are worried that, as usual, the Lone Ranger himself (Armie Hammer) looks like a stiff and Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” director Gore Verbinski seems unable to edit his interminable films or tell a coherent story. Whatever — the Depp brigade guarantees a big opening.
“Despicable Me 2” (PG): Steve Carell’s back doing a funny voice and playing second fiddle to those gibbering little yellow Tylenols in this sequel your kids will not shut up about until you take them.
“Pacific Rim” (PG-13): Humongous robots fight off an alien invasion in this nerdgasmic sci-fi epic from visionary weirdo Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), which would cause Michael Bay to swear off his puerile “Transformers” franchise if he had a soul. Which he does not.
“Grown Ups 2” (not yet rated): Adam Sandler continues to pass off home movies of him hanging out with his pals (Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider) as if they were actual movies that people should be asked to pay money to see.
“Red 2” (not yet rated): Who was asking for a sequel to this tired retired-assassin action flick starring Bruce Willis and some people (Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins) who should know better? Everyone? I quit.
“The Conjuring” (not yet rated): James Wan, responsible for the “Saw” franchise and the laughably silly “Insidious,” tries another haunted-house tale, with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s paranormal investigators discovering more than they can handle when checking out the presence terrorizing a family. “Based on a true story” — so you know it’s good.
“R.I.P.D.” (PG-13): This action comedy follows deceased cop Ryan Reynolds as he’s revived and recruited into the titular undead police force. Teaming up the effortlessly quick and likeable Reynolds with old pro Jeff Bridges isn’t a terrible idea, but the whole enterprise looks a little similar to a certain franchise about men who dress in black.
“The Wolverine” (not yet rated): It has to be better than his first solo outing (the dreadful “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), and Hugh Jackman’s clearly been working out, but this Japan-set superhero flick looks hard-pressed to balance the slice-‘n’-dice mutant action the fanboys expect with the heavy (melo)drama of the original comic, which finds Wolvie fighting ninjas and meeting the love of his life. Director James Mangold (“Walk the Line,” “Girl, Interrupted”) seems an odd choice.
“Blue Jasmine” (PG-13): It’s the new Woody Allen movie, so everyone’s sworn to super-double-secrecy. But he did have the good sense to hire the brilliant Louis C.K. as his leading man/avatar this time out, alongside a typically impressive cast including Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard and a dozen others.
“Fruitvale Station” (not yet rated): Talented young actor Michael B. Jordan (“The Wire,” “Friday Night Lights”) stars in this already acclaimed indie about a San Francisco slacker spending the last day of 2008 meeting friends, evading enemies and looking for a way out.
“300: Rise of an Empire” (not yet rated): More CGI bloodshed and rippling abs in this prequel featuring none of the people who made the original so overrated.
“2 Guns” (not yet rated): Denzel Washington stars in his annual action flick that’s slightly beneath him as one of a mismatched pair of cops on the run from the mob, etc.
“The Smurfs 2” (not yet rated): Nope.
“Elysium” (not yet rated): Director Neill Blomkamp’s long-awaited, super-secret follow-up to “District 9” features Matt Damon in crazy space armor, sci-fi class warfare and maybe some aliens. It really is super-secret, and super-exciting.
“Kick-Ass 2” (not yet rated): In this sequel to the gleefully profane and violent sort-of superhero flick, regular kid-turned-crimefighter Kick-Ass recruits an army of similarly inclined, spandex-clad ordinary folks to fight evil. Luckily for him, the lethal teen heroine Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is back to save his bacon alongside an insane Jim Carrey. The lead actor’s still a drip, but any superhero movie where we can’t print the name of the lead villain must have something going for it.
“The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones” (not yet rated): If you think this supernatural young-adult adventure about a girl forced to confront her mysterious bloodline to save the day sounds like “Twilight” and/or “Harry Potter,” then you’ve made a studio marketing department very happy.
“The World’s End” (not yet rated): If you didn’t think “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” were two of the best comedies in a decade, then stop reading (and examine your life choices). For the rest of us, this third outing from director Edgar Wright and co-stars/pals Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, about a champion pub quiz team whose reunion pub crawl is disrupted by the seeming end of the world, is simply the most anticipated film of the summer.
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.