There’s nothing quite like summer movie season to shake a hibernating movie blogger to the point where he must leave the cave.
Although I’m happy to shoulder the blame for my only lull in blogging activity since I began Movie Muse, I will point out that Hollywood released very few interesting films this spring, and I saw a lot of movies in the fall and winter that there weren’t too many DVD releases to cover…okay, so I got a new job, and I still have some work on the weekends, so a few spare hours to watch and review a movie are scarce.
But I’m going to put all that behind me, as summer movie season kicked off last week with the release of “Iron Man 3.” If you’re like me, than “Iron Man” gave you the hunger for all that May, June, July and August have to offer.
Well, here are 20 other films that I want to call your attention to this summer. I’ve ranked them based on my personal anticipation, public buzz and the expectation that they will deliver some quality. Considering the summer is jam-packed, I’ve also included 10 other films I’m looking at but am highly skeptical of in terms of what the finished product will offer.
Given that the “Pirates of the Caribbean” formula has lost a little luster, it’s easy to be skeptical of Gore Verbinski’s “The Lone Ranger.” It’s an odd comparison, but Verbinski showed his love for Westerns quite effectively in “Rango,” so he might even be more in his wheelhouse with this one. The trailers showcase a lot of dark, intriguing stuff, but also a lot of physical comedy. A fresher face in Armie Hammer and Depp doing something that seems different (enough) and should help give the film a good chance at being a franchise-starter. Watch the trailer
19. The Bling Ring (June 14 – limited)
You never know what you’re going to get with Sofia Coppola, which makes the prospect of “The Bling Ring” especially intriguing. The story centers on a group of teens who decide to rob celebrities when the Internet says they’re out of town, and follows them throughout the aftermath. Coppola hits and misses with equal measure, but her films always stand out. Emma Watson headlining the cast certainly has my attention after “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” We will find out more when the film debuts at Cannes in the middle of the month. Watch the trailer
I can’t say that I love Neil Jordan as a filmmaker because I’ve seen one of his films, but in this case it’s the right one. Jordan directed “Interview with the Vampire” back in the day, a film that balanced period drama beautifully with unabashed horror. With amazing talents in Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton, “Byzantium” looks more in the vein of “Let the Right One In” than you-know-what. Watch the trailer
In the last couple years, Mark Wahlberg has earned his badass card and backed it up with box office numbers. Pair him with Denzel Washington in a film based on a comic about an undercover DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer who find out they’ve been set up by the mob and you don’t have to work hard to imagine what comes next. Wahlberg’s “Contraband” director helms this action-thriller, which looks to be one of the safer bets of the late summer given the talent. Watch the trailer
DreamWorks’ summer entry appears to have a lot of winning elements on paper, starting with a surefire crowd-pleasing underdog story about a snail who can chase his dream of racing after a freak accident gives him super speed. “Turbo” will need every second of its 12-day buffer from “Despicable Me 2” and 14-day buffer until “The Smurfs 2,” but it should easily surpass both in quality. Ryan Reynolds did great voice work in “The Croods” and it should translate well to make Turbo a lovable character. Watch the trailer
I don’t care what it is—I’m that sold on the combination of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling. That would be the duo behind the 2011 cinephile hit “Drive.” If you can’t tell by the absurd title, this one will also feature a heavy dose of revenge, with Gosling playing a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok who has to go off the reservation when things get personal. Watch the trailer
I’m not sure why studios think that releasing competing films of the same exact premise is a good idea. That said, I’ve elected to go with Roland Emmerich in this Hollywood dick-measuring contest. The master of disaster himself has a huge star in Channing Tatum leading the way along with Jamie Foxx in what appears much more realistic of a “‘Die Hard’” in the White House” premise than Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” which earned middling reviews. I’m skeptical, but the trailer is a good sell. Watch the trailer
I never see horror films in theaters, but I’ve got to give credit here where it’s due, and that’s to James Wan, who directed the first “Saw” and “Insidious,” and tries his hand at this period horror film whose marketing directly insults its target audience while intriguing them at the same time by saying what’s going on the film is not a haunting nor a possession, but some kind of truth that you have to see for yourself. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but I’m sold on the creepiness of this trailer, Wan, stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, and the historical element. Watch the trailer
I think “epic” is the most overused word in the English language right now, so the title of this one pisses me off, though I suppose the title of the book it’s based on, “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs” is kinda crappy too. That aside, this film from “Ice Age” and “Robots” director Chris Wedge looks like Blue Sky Studios’ finest work yet. The nature and the scope and the action look breathtaking, and it’s probably going to be pretty cute. A slug voiced by Aziz Ansari doesn’t hurt either. My guess is this will be the animated film to see in 3D this year. Watch the trailer
I would be more excited by this one, except that “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” left a gaping canyon for Hugh Jackman and Fox to crawl out of, so I’m being cautious in placing it here on the list. The trailer didn’t exactly blow me away either, but in this fifth film featuring Wolverine, I’d say it’s about time a film forced him to face the idea of mortality. Frank Miller’s storyline featuring Wolverine in Japan has quite a reputation, and if James Mangold put any of that tone into this film, we will be in for a good mid-summer surprise. Watch the trailer
I can’t tell you why, but this trailer has me hooked. Oh wait I can—Morgan Freeman’s voiceover narration. Seriously though, the film does an awesome job destroying the line between what’s real and what’s an illusion, and it leaves me desperately longing to know what the big reveal will be. And a magician heist film is a concept long overdue, Hollywood. This cast has real magic too, with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Michael Caine and more alongside Freeman. Watch the trailer
Filmmaking buddies Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (“Superbad,” “Pineapple Express”) have long been developing this film, formerly known as “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse,” which has all the film’s stars playing self-caricatures. Somehow, by the actors playing themselves, the film conveys a certain intimacy/exclusivity that could help an otherwise ambiguous stoner film into a successful R-rated summer comedy. Maybe there will even be some surprise satire as hinted at in the red-band trailer with celebrities dealing with a massive alien attack. All the big names delivering big laughs from the last 10 years doesn’t hurt its chances of being successful, that’s to be sure, but it might not even be the best apocalyptic comedy of the summer. Watch the red-band trailer
I never thought we’d see a sequel to “Kick-Ass” after its weak box-office opening in 2010, but its success on DVD and Blu-ray was outstanding enough that we’re treated to another chapter. Sadly, Matthew Vaughn only produced and Jeff Wadlow directs instead. It’s a definite uphill battle for this film, as Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a full-fledged teenager now and her cursing won’t be as funny, plus the novelty of the concept has worn off over time with many similar average-Joe vigilante films. However, having read a bit about what happens in Mark Millar’s comic version, this could end up being a pretty sick and twisted action movie. The additions of Jim Carrey, Donald Faison, Morris Chestnut and more will hopefully help give this film the edge it will surely need. Watch the red-band trailer
My instincts say Baz Luhrmann has put together something aesthetically astounding in this adaptation of everyone’s required high school reading, “The Great Gatsby.” It could just be the trailers effortlessly combining modern music with period décor, but considering the way it echoes “Moulin Rouge!” in terms of style, that ought to guarantee audience enjoyment, even if it doesn’t quite do the novel justice. At the least, “Gatsby” will see a slew of technical nominations at next year’s Oscars. Watch the trailer
After “Toy Story 3,” I’m all eyes and ears on these long-delayed sequels to classic Pixar films. I think the prequel route is a great way to go with this story in particular and the college angle gives Pixar a ton of room to run with as evidenced by the jokes in the trailer. The consequent marketing has been fun to follow as well. I’m not completely convinced this will be a great film, but considering Mike and Sully are winning characters, there’s no reason to panic that we’ll have another “Cars 2” on our hands. Watch the trailer
“Hot Fuzz” is one of my favorite movies, and “Shaun of the Dead” is a film I greatly enjoyed. “The World’s End” completes what director Edgar Wright and buddies Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have referred to as “The Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy” (I’ve heard other names as well). The story follows friends trying to recreate a famed pub crawl from their younger years who end up becoming humanity’s only hope when the town they return to appears possessed by aliens. I would see this even without ever seeing a plot summary, that’s how much I think of Wright and company. Watch the trailer
Finally, Neill Blomkamp is back. The “District 9” director appears to have given us more cause to wonder “what if?” in regards to that scrapped “Halo” movie with his sophomore feature. Sony confidently moved the film from this past March to prime August territory, so I have no doubts. “Elysium” tells the story of an Earth where the wealthy live off the planet on the Elysium space station and stay practically immortal, while the poor live on the disease-infested surface. Matt Damon’s character procures a weaponized exoskeleton in order to get to Elysium and secure medication for his family. Sharlto Copley and Jodie Foster also star. Watch the trailer
It’s a great summer for blockbusters. In several other years, I can see Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” topping the list. Nevertheless, it appears the Mexican aesthetic genius has found a way to make a giant robot movie that shames Michael Bay and a colossal monster flick that will have us riveted regarding the forthcoming “Godzilla” reboot. “Pacific Rim” looks like too much damn fun to be missed out on at the movies. Beasts rising from the sea and destroying humanity, who creates giant robots operated by pilots joined by a neural bridge in order to eradicate them. Star Charlie Hunnam should quickly find himself on the fast track to A-list stardom after this one. Watch the trailer
J.J. Abrams’ long-awaited sequel to 2009’s “Star Trek” is finally set to arrive and with a ton of firepower. This “is he or isn’t he?” talk with regards to Khan probably won’t be answered until then, but “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain was a big score. The entire Enterprise crew appears on life support for this entire film, with relationships and loyalties being tested. It seems like stuff more fitting for a third installment, but nonetheless, you have to be excited to plunge into where no man has gone before. Watch the trailer
I have a good feeling about this one. This Zack Snyder-directed Christopher Nolan-mentored reboot of comics’ most beloved hero looks to do for Superman what “Batman Begins” did for the Caped Crusader. I didn’t think Snyder capable of a grittier approach, but in the non-action sequences, he appears to have done that. The photorealism of this “Superman” looks unbelievable, Hans Zimmer’s score already has folks raving and in a normal summer, Michael Shannon would be the best villain casting ever (see previous film on this list). Few actors can ham it up and get away with it and Shannon is one of them. It might not end up the summer’s best movie, but when you consider what’s at stake for DC Comics movies (i.e. if “Justice League” will ever see a green light), you best be rooting for this one to take off. Watch the trailer
10 Summer Films to Be Skeptical About
After “Part II” crushed my dignity, I will be skeptical up until the most trusted critics praise this final “Hangover.” The trailer does not give any plot points, but it does suggest that the story won’t be a third hashing of the same thing. I don’t blame you if you’re not so sure it will be any different. Todd Phillips owes us something special. Hopefully he deviated enough from the original premise, but considering the cash cow the first two films were, he certainly has no pressure to change up anything. Watch the trailer
If you have heard of “After Earth” but did not know that it’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan, then Sony has done its job. More bad has been associated with his name than good the last several years, and given the more accessible sci-fi premise and star power of Will and Jaden Smith, why jeopardize that by highlighting his name in the trailers? Still, I haven’t seen much from the trailers to indicate why this post-apocalyptic sci-fi film will be different than any other. It’s almost cheesy: “Do you know where we are? This is Earth.” Watch the trailer
I love “Wedding Crashers,” but outside of a good “X-Men” joke, “The Internship” looks unfunny. Sure, old-timers trying to fit in with the progressive contemporary corporate world of Google sounds good in premise, but the trailers are lacking something—severely lacking something. Hopefully Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn can re-create enough chemistry to make this comedy a good time. Watch the trailer
I’m all for really out-there realistic sci-fi, so I’ve got my eye on “The Purge,” which operates on the premise that the government eventually admits that the reason people do criminal things is because they have a certain carnal need to act on those impulses, so for night a year they have a “purge,” where all criminal activity (even murder) is legal. The film follows one family who accidentally attracts some attention from those looking to take advantage of the lack of law enforcement. This could totally fail as a film and likely will, but a prime summer spot and an attention-grabbing premise has my attention. Watch the trailer
I’m reading this book right now, and I can tell you that there’s no way the film is anything like it. Considering Max L. Brooks’ fans should be the first group of people you want to appease making this movie, it’s set up for disaster. And that’s without mentioning all the script and production problems that have plagued (no pun intended) the film. Marc Forster as director and Brad Pitt as the star would seem like a great combo for a more intellectual blockbuster, but disaster seems equally as likely. Watch the trailer
Fox has already talked about a sequel to this one, which is unusual for anything not a huge blockbuster, but they have reason to be confident given the financial success of “Identity Thief,” Melissa McCarthy’s first 2013 outing. Sandra Bullock looks to be a good complement to McCarthy’s bolder comedic style, so there’s definitely some potential, but the trailer looks like it could also contain all the best jokes too. Watch the trailer
I thought the original was as adorable as anything, but the two-year marketing campaign for this one has me ticked off. Considering we still have no idea what the movie is about at this point, that’s really annoying. Almost as annoying as the minions, who will get their own feature film spinoff in the not-too-distant future. The big question is whether or not this franchise’s Looney Tunes-like shtick will stay fresh despite the over-marketing. Watch the trailer
I was a fan of the original “RED,” a fall box office surprise thanks to the notion of Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and more kicking ass as old people. Although director Robert Schwentke was too busy with the next film on this list to make this sequel, Dean Parisot has some reliable (albeit not all that special) chops, John and Erich Hoeber return as writers, and Anthony Hopkins makes for a brilliant addition to the cast. The trailer, however, has failed to stir any excitement for me in a summer crowded with great action movie potential. Watch the trailer
“RED” director Robert Schwentke has been hard at work on “Rest in Peace Department” for some time. We saw nothing from this film until the trailer landed recently and underwhelming is the one word I keep returning to. The film most closely resembles “Men in Black” only instead of two agents saving the world from the alien threat it doesn’t know exists, they’re saving it from the restless dead souls threatening the living world. The premise could save it (along with Jeff Bridges being ridiculous), but lack of promotion leaves me doubting hard. “R.I.P.D.” and “RED” compete against each other, which seems asinine to me. I’ll be someone chickens out as July nears. Watch the trailer
Legendary and Warner Bros. have finally decided to capitalize on the shocking success of “300,” but will it be too late? Early August is a good slot, but the summer is crowded and we’ve yet to see anything from this one. Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green star with returning cast members Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes) in the story of Themistocles defending Athens from the Persian forces that defeated King Leonidas and company. Director Noam Murro has been hailed for his commercial work, so the pressure’s on to deliver some bloody fun in a usually PG-13 summer.