News Column

Summer at the Movies: Here's a rundown of the season's big releases ... and more

May 16, 2013


May 16--Iron Man has already gotten the summer movie season off to a rollicking start, and this week Captain Kirk and his crew follow suit. So what else can we look forward to on the big screen in the next few months?

Here's a week-by-week rundown of the summer's big releases, some interesting oddballs, and plenty of possible flops. As always, bear in mind that this isn't a complete list, just highlights, and some movies may not open here on opening week -- and others will be darned near impossible to avoid.

This week

"Star Trek Into Darkness": After successfully rebooting the "Star Trek" film franchise in 2009, J.J. Abrams pits Kirk, Spock, Uhura and company against a diabolical bad guy played by Benedict Cumberbatch, best known for his role in the British series "Sherlock." See review, page 7.

"Erased": Aaron Eckhart stars in this thriller about a CIA veteran on the run from a conspiracy.

May 24

"Fast & Furious 6": You could go into this action film trying to figure out how it all fits together, what with Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang) still kicking around despite dying in the third film, and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who seemingly died in the fourth film, back from the dead. Or you could simply turn off the ol' brain and watch Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson drive fast cars and pull off ridiculous stunts while cracking wise. It's up to you.

"The Hangover Part III": The Wolfpack is back, hoping to make audiences forget the tepid second film in this trilogy. Expect scene-stealing turns by two guys with local ties, Wilkesboro native Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong, a former Greensboro resident. And expect another convoluted story filled with raunchy gags, though I hope this one won't be a pale retread of the first movie the way the second one was.

"Epic": Remember "FernGully: The Last Rain Forest"? This computer-animated adventure film has a similar premise, with a young person -- this time a teen girl -- who has been shrunk and discovers a world of diminutive forest-dwellers. And they go on an adventure that promises to be, well, epic.

"Before Midnight": Director Richard Linklater follows up 1995's "Before Sunrise" and 2004's "Before Sunset" with a third film following a couple (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) whose relationship we revisit every nine years.

May 31

"After Earth": Tom Cruise's "Oblivion" is now behind us, so here's another visit to a post-apocalyptic future by a movie megastar. This time it's Will Smith, accompanied by his son Jaden, as a father and son who crash land on the long-abandoned planet Earth 1,000 years after mankind fled to the stars. M. Night Shyamalan directed but did not write, which, considering the recent films he did write, is probably for the best.

"Now You See Me": An impressive cast -- including Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine and Woody Harrelson -- star in this thriller about a group of stage magicians who are using their skills to pull major heists.

June 7

"The Internship": Aim a camera at Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn and you're likely to do well at the box office no matter what. This time, they play two salesmen who lose their jobs and, despite being twice the age of their competition, become interns at Google.

"Much Ado About Nothing": Joss Whedon, who directed "The Avengers," reunites with folks from his "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" days for this rendition of William Shakespeare's famous play, with much of the dialogue intact.

June 14

"Man of Steel": Will we believe a man can fly? We'd better, since Superman (Henry Cavill) might be all that stands between humankind and an invasion by bad guys from Krypton led by the diabolical General Zod -- Michael Shannon, a past recipient of the RiverRun International Film Festival's Emerging Master award. The bad taste of the last three lousy Superman movies are largely gone now, and director Zack Snyder has proven that he knows his way around comic book-inspired stories with "300" and "The Watchmen," so there's hope. And just so you know, that's not a big "S" on Supes' chest, it's the Kryptonian symbol for "hope." As in, "I hope this isn't as bad as the last three Superman movies."

"This Is the End": A huge cast of celebrities -- including James Franco, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride, an UNCSA alum -- star in this disaster comedy as themselves. An apocalypse starts just as a group of celebs are throwing an epic party, and in the face of imminent danger the actors prove remarkably incompetent, screaming and running around trying to avoid getting killed. So it'll either be fun, or at least you can enjoy watching celebrities who get on your nerves falling into lava pits.

June 21

"Monsters University": John Goodman and Billy Crystal reprise their roles from the much-loved "Monsters Inc." for this prequel, which shows how their characters met at a college for monsters.

"World War Z": It will be interesting to see if this troubled production can be anything but a train wreck. Zombies overrun the world, and it's up to Brad Pitt to figure out how to stop them. The story is ostensibly based on a terrific book by Max Brooks, but the trailers look more like outtakes from the latest "Resident Evil" video game and news of last-minute rewrites and reshoots don't sound promising.

June 28

"White House Down": Take the March release "Olympus Has Fallen" and replace Gerard Butler with Channing Tatum and Aaron Eckhart with Jamie Foxx. The White House is under attack, and it's up to a hero to stop the invaders. Come to think of it, didn't "24" already do this plot years ago? Yes. Yes, it did.

"The Heat": Director Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids") reunites with Melissa McCarthy and brings Sandra Bullock into the mix with this action comedy about an FBI agent and a Boston cop who join forces to fight a drug kingpin.

July 5

"The Lone Ranger": The iconic character returns, played by Armie Hammer, with a new up-and-comer named Johnny Depp stepping into the leather pants of his loyal sidekick Tonto. Will it be a fiasco along the lines of Will Smith's overblown "Wild Wild West" retread or a success along the lines of... wait, I'm trying to think of a big, loud, action Western that's been a hit in recent years....

"Despicable Me 2": The surprisingly sweet-hearted, charming animated comedy about a blustery supervillain gets a sequel. Steve Carell returns, and Greensboro's Ken Jeong joins in the fun along with Al Pacino.

July 12

"Pacific Rim": Travis Beacham, an UNCSA alumnus, co-wrote director Guillermo del Toro's latest film about gigantic, human-piloted robots that do battle with Godzilla-sized monsters bent on tearing through cities. Expect epic battles, cool technology and plenty of action. The cast includes Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Charlie Day, best known as the addled, kitten-mittens-creating Charlie on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

"Grown Ups 2": Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade reunite for a sequel to the mildly entertaining but unremarkable 2010 comedy.

July 19

"Red 2": Another unexpected sequel to a 2010 film, this one follows a team of retired government agents who don't let age slow them down. The cast includes John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Bruce Willis, and, among the whippersnappers in the cast, Mary-Louise Parker, a Winston-Salem native.

"R.I.P.D.": Mary-Louise Parker is busy this week, also appearing in this fantasy-action-comedy, a sort of "Men in Black" mixed with "Beetlejuice." Ryan Reynolds stars as a recently deceased cop who joins the "Rest in Peace Department," a squad of ghosts who solve cases from the underworld. Jeff Bridges co-stars as an even more countrified version of Tommy Lee Jones, if that's possible.

"Turbo": Hey, Ryan Reynolds is also busy this week, starring as the voice of a garden snail in this computer-animated DreamWorks animation comedy. Not content with the slow pace of his fellow escargot, he wants to race in the Indy 500. And thanks to a chemical accident, he may get a chance.

July 26

"The Wolverine": Hugh Jackman is currently batting .500 with his role as Marvel Comics' sarcastic, bombastic superhero Wolverine: the first two "X-Men" films were great, the third and the first solo "Wolverine" outing were terrrrrrrrible. So on which side will this one land? Silver Samurai, a longtime Marvel villain, may be hard to translate to the movie screen, but I'm willing to give this one a chance.

"Blue Jasmine": Instead of a clawed mutant fighting a Silver Samurai, you could see Woody Allen's latest, which I doubt has many mutants or samurais. The cast includes Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin and Louis C.K.

August 2

"300: Rise of an Empire": Considering almost everyone in "300" didn't make it to the final credits (oh... spoiler alert), it's no surprise that this follow-up is a prequel. Zack Snyder produced but did not direct this one, another epic of Greek warriors battling Persians.

"The Smurfs 2": Jordan Kerner, the former dean of the School of Filmmaking at UNCSA, brings us another tale of little blue characters trying to thwart the evil wizard Gargamel. This time, they also have to contend with a group of wicked mirror-Smurfs known as Naughties. The late Jonathan Winters reprises his role as Papa Smurf.

"2 Guns": In this action film with comedy elements, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star as two undercover agents from different organizations who have to team up after being set up by mobsters.

August 9

"Planes": Now that Pixar/Disney has convinced us to care about animated cars, they're giving airplanes a try. Val Kilmer, whose association with planes goes back to a little flick called "Top Gun," provides the lead voice.

"Elysium": Director Neill Blomkamp follows up his compelling sci-fi drama "District 9" with this film set in a future where the rich and powerful live in paradise while the masses live in squalor. Yes, I said "future."

"Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters": The teen-friendly series returns, continuing to tell a tale that does for Greek mythology what Harry Potter did for wizards.

August 16

"Kick-Ass 2": The first film in this darkly comedic, ultra-violent action series showed what would happen if people really started dressing up like superheroes and started patrolling the streets to fight crime. The sequel looks at what would happen if those same people started forming teams. The surviving cast of the first film returns, with one of them now a bad guy whose supername violates George Carlin's list of words that you can't say on TV.

"Prince Avalanche": UNCSA's David Gordon Green directed this comedy-drama, which played here during RiverRun this year.

August 23

"The World's End": Director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite for the follow-up to "Shaun of the Dead," which parodied zombie movies, and "Hot Fuzz," which parodied cop films. This time, they're taking on alien invasion films, with the tale about a group of blokes who try to go on an epic pub crawl but unwittingly run across a sinister conspiracy.

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones": The latest young adult-fantasy-book-turned-film follows a teen who discovers a supernatural underworld of demons coexisting with the everyday world.

August 30

"One Direction: This Is Us": Will the boy band still be popular by the time this comes out or will they already be "sooo three months ago" by then? Fingers crossed....

September 6

"Riddick": Say goodbye to the summer with the return of Riddick, the swaggering, butt-kicking futuristic bad boy played by Vin Diesel, in this third film in the sci-fi franchise. It follows "Pitch Black," which was tremendous fun, and "The Chronicles of Riddick," which had its moments.

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