Jaws didn’t mean to do it, but Summer has become the biggest business in movie-making. This summer, we’re getting a new batch of movies that the studios are hoping to be gigantic, but thankfully for us, they fit into 6 handy categories.
Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius have worked tirelessly (except for five or ten naps) in order to break these movies down and present them to you. What will you be watching this summer? What excites you the most? What do you have the highest hopes for?
These films all have the potential to bust blocks, but will it be your block they’re busting?
Here they are, the six types of films coming out in the following months.
The god of thunder is banished to Earth where he must learn to find the hero within in order to defeat his evil brother Loki. And Natalie Portman plays a hot scientist. Of the four comic book superhero films hitting the big screen this summer, this is probably the one with the biggest question mark hanging over it. Thor has seen the lightest film/TV exposure over the years of the bunch, and this is part of the reason.
That’s a lot of cheese to overcome, and an untested lead actor, a seemingly odd choice of director, and some plastic-looking costumes haven’t helped. But Marvel is banking on director Kenneth Branagh’s big-budget adventure to bring Thor into the mainstream. Early reviews have just started streaming in, and the general consensus so far seems to be that “it’s okay!” Thor is the first superhero flick of this very busy summer and expectations vary wildly, but as the only one starring Portman I’m pulling for it to succeed. Right? -RH
X-Men: First Class
How superhero-y is X-Men: First Class? It’s so damned superhero-y that they’ve included, like, a dozen superheroes. Sure, some of them are new to their powers, but the deck is officially stacked. While some movies are content to shove hundreds of heroes into the CGI background, this film puts them front and center in the ensemble.
Will it matter, though? It’s been 8 years since we got a great X-Men entry, and that one came out in April. Yet, hope springs (or summers) eternal because it’s another shot at getting some of our favorite comic book characters right. Putting one of them in lingerie for the entire run-time is a bold start, but it’s going to take more than just seeing them jump out of planes to prove the movie’s worth. Of course, there’s another question here. There are a ton of superheroes, yes, but if none of them are Wolverine, will that hurt it? -CA
An alien crash lands on Earth and bestows jewelry upon Ryan Reynolds granting him great power and even greater responsibility. This is the lone DC entry in this summer’s clash of the comic book heroes, and it’s hoping to break the curse (of quality) that has held back big-screen success for their characters not named Bat or Super.
Public awareness of the Green Lantern is about on par with where Iron Man was before Robert Downey Jr. blasted his way to blockbuster status, and with a charismatic lead in Ryan Reynolds there’s a chance this film can do the same. The troubles it faces are numerous though including an iffy-looking CGI suit, a good portion of the story taking place off Earth, and a tone that appears to be trying too hard to ape Iron Man. But is that really a bad thing? If it can find the right balance between action and humor, DC will have a hit on their hands, but will that mean Reynolds can finally stop worrying about Deadpool? -RH
Captain America: The First Avenger
A weakling signs up for the military during the lead-up to WWII, but is turned away because he looks half-chicken. Literally. He looks like he’s got Avian Bone Syndrome. Fortunately, they inject him some stuff to make him bigger (take notes, pee wee baseball players!) and he becomes an unlean, mean, fighting machine.
The good Captain has appeared in three live-action films already (if you count the hilarious Turkish rip-off 3 Dev Adam (and I always do)), but this is clearly the biggest attempt yet. The original 1940s serial changed everything about the character, and the 1990 attempt suffered from being made in 1990 without any budget to speak of. It’s great to see Steve Rogers finally get his due in the superhero world, but it’s also refreshing to see a superhero use a gun. Super strength? Sure. Magic shield? Fantastic. But nothing beats filling a Nazi full of lead. -CA
Kung Fu Panda 2
The roly poly Po is enjoying his role as Dragon Warrior when a new villain enters his life threatening to conquer China and destroy the ancient Chinese secret of Kung-fu. The original Kung Fu Panda sits as Dreamworks’ most successful animated venture… outside of the Shrek franchise and How To Train Your Dragon, so a sequel was inevitable. All of the voice talents from the original are back again aside from Ian McShane, but his villainous replacement (Gary Oldman) should be more than up to the task. The only real competition this summer is Pixar’s Cars 2 which opens a full month later, and it will be interesting to see which comes out on top, especially as Disney/Pixar is already way ahead in the marketing game. The original Cars, though derided by many, out-grossed the first Kung Fu Panda by just $30 million. What are the odds that Po and friends (including a crocodile voiced by Jean-Claude Van Damme) can roundhouse kick those Nascartoons into 2nd place this time? -RH
As you can see from the previous entry, this Summer sees zero non-sequel animated films, unless you count Green Lantern. Pixar is curiously going back to a barrel that didn’t have much water in it to begin with to take their mulligan on animated cars.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine the year without a Pixar film tucked safely away right in the middle, and it’s that animated addiction that will most likely mean big dollar signs here, but what’s most promising is that this doesn’t seem to be a lazy second shot at all. It looks more like Pixar is setting out to prove that these characters can be better than they were before – they even had the guts to include Mater again. Who knows, they might even add in Jar Jar Binks just to raise the difficulty level. At any rate, the Pixar legacy lives on as the studio has firmly cemented itself alongside melting ice cream and bug spray as a central part of Summer. -CA
Pirates Of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Jack Sparrow and his crew set sail on a search for the fabled Fountain of Youth but that bastard Blackbeard is on the same quest. The trilogy’s box office take would imply otherwise, but I’d argue that most folks recognized the severe drop in quality from the first film through to the turd. Gore Verbinski’s original is still a fun and wildly entertaining action film, but the subsequent sequels replaced the wit and personality with excess everything else including Jack Sparrow.
The latest sequel sees Rob Marshall taking over for Verbinski, but the franchise is also losing the only reason I kept watching… Keira Knightley. (Orlando Bloom is also gone but no one really cares.) Penelope Cruz is meant to replace Knightley, but that’s just silly. Will audiences still care about a Verbinski/Knightley-less Pirates movie? -RH
Transformers: Dark Of the Moon
This movie doesn’t belong in the blockbuster sequel section. It belongs in the blockblownupsobadthatitsmamawouldntrecognizeit sequel section. Sadly, that wasn’t in our budget. There’s already early buzz for the action scenes coming from the few select outlets that got to see some of the sequences, but context-less action isn’t exactly the concern is it?
Bay started the new trend of apologizing for former sins in order to ward off a wave of cynicism about a current project, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s hired a supermodel to act and still plans on powdering every hearing aid in the theater with sound alone. On the plus side, there are bound to be a ton of giant fucking robots – but how will Bay outBay himself here? -CA
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Harry Potter phenomenon is coming to an end as Harry and friends finally go head to head with Voldemort for the last time. There really hasn’t been anything like this series before, and it will be some time before another gets even close to matching it. Seven blockbuster films have led up to this, the eighth and final cinematic adventure based on JK Rowling’s bestselling novels.
While the films have varied in quality over the years there’s no denying that recent installments have offered some spectacular action and effects, and they’ve even managed more than a little emotion and drama. Part one of the two-part finale was fantastic but featured a bit of a lull as the characters went camping, but by all accounts the second half ups the action exponentially. Will the all around immense nature of this finale make it a real contender to be this summer’s biggest blockbuster? -RH
SOMEWHAT, BUT NOT TOTALLY, ORIGINAL
Even a quick look at this list shows that 12 of the 21 movies feature characters that have been tried on screen before, and the overlapping remainder are from major comic books. Originality is in short supply, but while championing it, we can also celebrate the throwback Spielbergian feel that Super 8 is going for. The inspiration is clearly there, and for fans who tear up a little when they see the Amblin logo slide across the screen, it’s a welcome element.
So maybe an homage this direct isn’t pristinely original, but who cares? This movie looks like it’s going to rock (and rock emotionally). When you already feel nostalgia for an original film that hasn’t been released, you know someone is doing something right. -CA
Cowboys & Aliens
This genre mash-up sees two mainstays of American cinema come together… and while I could be referring to Harrison Ford and a hot lady (Olivia Wilde) I actually mean the western and sci-fi genres. That idea alone makes this film a must-see, but the addition of Ford, Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Miss Wilde, and Jon Favreau in the director’s chair make it even more appealing.
Favreau has proven himself capable of mixing action and humor into top notch entertainment with films like Iron Man and, well, with Iron Man anyway. The trailers for his latest have been extremely promising and offer the possibility that even with four superhero movies in the mix this may actually be the comic book adaptation to beat this summer. Even though the film is based on a comic, it still feels like an original creation in a marketplace saturated with sequels, remakes, and known comic book entities. Will that originality be enough to make it stand out from the pack? -RH
COUNTER-PROGRAMMING or UNDERDOGS
The Tree Of Life
This particular tree has been growing for a long, long time. Cannes will see it, and then a number of screens will feature the new Terrance Malick epic that features (as far as we know) absolutely zero people in spandex. It’s one of the very few flicks that’s not a reboot, sequel, or comic book adaptation, so hopefully it won’t be so convoluted that it gives big-budget originality a bad name.
It’s too early to tell, but this might go perfectly with a Fountain chaser. Jokes aside, it’s nice to see that amongst the costumes and familiar faces, there will be a beautifully-shot, existential think piece floating around out there to crunch some popcorn to. -CA
Rise Of the Planet Of the Apes
A mad but very cool scientist (James Franco) develops some very smart apes… which turns out to be a very stupid idea. This prequel to the Planet of the Apes films we know and love is a crap shoot for several reasons. First and foremost is the fact that our last exposure to the monkey-verse was Tim Burton’s laughable reboot with Mark Wahlberg. That debacle is still fresh in the audience’s collective memory, so how do you get them back into theaters for another go around? A slick and effective trailer sure doesn’t hurt.
The official trailer that just posted last week looks quite good with its mix of cautionary science, promising action scenes, and Franco’s squinty eyes. The practical ape effects were the only part of Burton’s film that truly kicked ass, but while the decision to go CGI with the new film is questionable they actually looked pretty damn good. But all that said… do we really need another Planet Of the Apes movie? -RH
Don’t Be Afraid Of the Dark
This remake became a summer movie almost by accident when it was moved from a January release. So how will horror fare in the end of beach season? Hopefully it’ll be a reminder that it’s always a good time for a scare, even if you can smell tanning lotion in the theater.
A couple moves into a house with a boarded-up fireplace, and what lives in that fireplace really wants to get its slimy, tiny little mitts on the couple’s young daughter. Huh. A bunch of creepy monsters keep hounding Katie Holmes to get a piece of her daughter. I wonder if that’s a role she can relate to at all. -CA
A vampire moves in next door to a teenage boy in this remake of the beloved 80s classic. Okay, maybe “beloved” and “classic” aren’t exactly terms one should use when describing Tom Holland’s 1985 horror comedy, but damn it, it’s a fun movie. The remake sees Colin Ferrell step into the vampire’s teeth and Anton Yelchin hop into the role of Charlie Brewster with Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, and the awesomely named Imogen Poots on hand as well.
Director Craig Gillespie and writer Marti Noxon are looking to keep the balance of horror and laughs that made the original so much fun, and from what I’ve seen so far they’ve succeeded. The question is can a relatively small horror comedy find an audience in the heat of summer? Of the five films in this Under-Dog category I think this is the one with the most potential to become a breakout hit. What say you? -RH
Conan the Barbarian
The 80s remakes keep on rolling with another adaptation of Robert E. Howard iconic, shirtless character. Jason Momoa takes his stab at the character in the sword and sandal Summer movie that doesn’t feature a giant red cape or Natalie Portman as a hot scientist.
Last year saw the hilarious misstep that was Prince of Persia, but maybe the genre will get a revival from an old, familiar character. As well it should. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a guy fresh from the gym slicing his way through a bunch of bad guys and drinking way too much malted ale. The big question, of course, is whether Kevin Sorbo and Arnold Schwarzenegger will make cameo appearances in their loin cloths. -CA
COMEDIES HOPING TO BE THE NEXT HANGOVER
Teachers are people too, and if the surprisingly hilarious red-band trailer for this comedy is any indication they’re foul-mouthed people at that. Director Jake Kasdan has yet to return to the highs of his debut film, Zero Effect, but that’s coming from someone who loves that movie and thought Orange County and Walk Hard were just okay. His latest looks to be a deliriously profane romp through the daily drudgery of one of the world’s most thankless jobs, but the biggest surprise is with the casting.
Lovable lug Jason Segal stars alongside the one-note but entertaining Justin Timberlake, but the film’s main lead is Cameron Diaz. She hasn’t been appealing since she stole our hearts and Ben Stiller’s jizz in There’s Something About Mary, but not only does she look fantastic in the trailer but she’s funny as hell in it too. What are the odds that sexy and dirty appeal will carry over from a two minute trailer through the ninety minute movie? -RH
Friends With Benefits
It used to be you’d have to wait years for a remake of a mediocre film, but here we are with a remake of the Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher starrer No Strings Attached just six months after it was released. Crazy! The guy and the girl struggling to remain fuck-buddies without falling in love are played by Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis this time, so it’s not as if the cast is a step up for the reboot. The director is an improvement though as Will Gluck seems far more capable of entertaining these days than Ivan Reitman.
As is par for the course with big screen comedies the true appeal is often found in the supporting cast, and this one does not disappoint. Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Rashida Jones, Richard Jenkins, Patricia Clarkson, and Andy Samberg are all on hand to pick up the slack Timberlake is bound to leave behind, but will it be enough to make this stand apart from the source material? -RH
Three men finally realize that the thing keeping them from being happy is their respective bosses. Instead of writing a stern letter, they decide to kill all of them. The trio of Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman is the real draw here (as well as the morbidly funny premise), and it’s also the next feature from Seth Gordon who has seemed content to rock middling comedies since his King of Kong triumph.
As is par for the course with big screen comedies, the true appeal is often found in the supporting cast, and this one does not disappoint. Jennifer Aniston is involved, sure, but there’s also Colin Farrell (probably fangless), Kevin Spacey, Julie Bowen, Donald Sutherland, John Francis Daley, the guy from the Old Spice commercials, and Jamie Foxx playing a character named Motherfucker Jones. -CA
The Hangover Part II
If there’s any one film that’s truly trying to become the next Hangover, it’s The Hangover Part II. Devin Faraci over at Bad Ass Digest recently asked why anyone on the planet was looking forward to this movie while bravely admitting that he hadn’t seen the first. The answer to his crucially philosophical question is that the first one was hilarious, and there are people out there that actually hope movies are good.
I don’t see why this one wouldn’t be. It’s a re-tread of the same situation and the same wolfpack tossed into a new Thai-based setting, and that means more of the same style of humor. It also promises that the ante will be proverbially raised. What worked so well about the first was the dynamic between Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms. With that back in place, the foundation has been set, sprayed down with a hose, and prepared for the potential of great comedy. Plus, it’s the second-most anticipated Part II of the summer. -CA
What do you want to see the most?