The weather is warmer, the sun is out longer, and children all across the nation are starting to get that wild look in their eyes. Which can only mean one thing: It's almost summer! And what better way to spend the nicest days of the year than in a dark movie theater talking to no one. In that spirit, we bring you our 2013 Summer Movie Preview.
Iron Man 3 (5/3)
What It Is: This is the third movie about the Marvel superhero Iron Man. Hence the "3" in the title. Well, actually, it's the fourth if you count The Avengers, but whatever. It's the third movie that has Iron Man as the main guy. Robert Downey Jr. is back, of course, as the fast-talkin' Tony Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow is his partner in business and life, Pepper Potts. And Ben Kingsley has arrived to play a mysterious villain called the Mandarin. The previews indicate that Tony's fancy Malibu mansion gets destroyed and that the overall tone of the film is slightly more serious than the last two zippy adventures.
Should You See It: Well, you're right to shiver at seeing the number 3 in the movie's title. That generally does not mean good things. But in this particular case we've got the strong first movie and the perfectly serviceable second movie to suggest that maybe this threequel (kill me) will at least not be completely awful. Plus, Shane Black has taken over the reins from original director Jon Favreau, and Black and Downey Jr. previously did beautiful things together with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. So there is some incentive to brave the crowds and check this thing out on the big screen. But if the thought of hordes of teenage boys throwing Sour Patch Kids at you while random stuff arbitrarily blows up on screen seems too much to bear, then it's perfectly reasonable to wait for this thing to show up on your TV. It's the third one for heaven's sake. Who's got time for three movies?
The Great Gatsby (5/10)
What It Is: Australian chintz auteur Baz Luhrmann takes a crack at F. Scott Fitzgerald's landmark novel — to some the novel of the 20th century — and adds his own flourishes of glitz and pizzaz. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the titular mysterious millionaire, while Tobey Maguire is the everyman who journeys into Gatsby's world of roaring Hamptons parties and Manhattan escapades. Carey Mulligan plays Daisy, the girl in a love triangle between Gatsby and her rough husband Tom. The emptiness of American excess is realized, some people die, and some boats get borne back ceaselessly into the past. You know the drill.
Should You See It: Or do you know the drill? This is Baz Luhrmann we're talking about, the guy who made Moulin Rouge and then followed that up with a three-hour movie about cattle herding. He's decidedly not conventional. And his taste is opulent and often overstated, which could maybe work for the story's party milieu, but probably not elsewhere. Luhrmann likes big, epic things; and while elements of Gatsby certainly loom rather large, Luhrmann's style seems like an odd match for Fitzgerald's expressive but never overly ornate language. Plus the casting. The casting is odd and borderline annoying in a way that's hard to articulate. From everything we've seen so far, it all looks a bit like kids playing dress-up. Basically this thing — which is in 3D; yes, The Great Gatsby in 3D — could be a big horrible mess. If that disaster potential interests you, then sure, give it a whirl. It could be kinda fun. But if you love the book and don't want to see it sullied, maybe wait for some reviews and reactions to come in. Because right now this thing has catastrophe written all over it.
Star Trek: Into Darkness (5/15)
What It Is: J.J. Abrams heads back to space with his second Star Trek film, the reboot series he started in 2009 that features Chris Pine as a cocky young Kirk, Zachary Quinto as a sexier-than-expected Spock, and Zoe Saldana as the lithe lady of the bridge, Uhura. Oh, and Benedict Cumberbatch is playing the villain, widely believed to be Khan. The trailer suggests that a lot of the story actually takes place on or around Earth, but there are likely some adventures to far-flung planets crammed in there somewhere. Alice Eve is playing what looks to be a love interest for Kirk, so we could get some kissy-kissy here and there. Otherwise it's all stuff blowing up and lenses flaring, as is Abrams tradition.
Should You See It: Abrams's first Star Trek was a proficiently made but oddly cold film, so it's entirely possible that Into Darkness is another sleek but lifeless trip in a bespoke spaceship. Though, the Cumberbatch factor adds promise. He ought to nicely balance out Pine and company's tendency toward looking good but not giving off much heat. Of all the May blockbusters, this probably has the highest potential to be worth the trip to the theater, if only because it'll be fun to watch San Francisco get messed up.
Before Midnight (5/24)
What It Is: The followup to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Richard Linklater's new film finds our lovers Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) on holiday in Greece, nine years after we last left them in Paris. As happens in these movies, there is much walking and talking and everything hums with a wistfulness that feels natural and easy. This is not officially the end of the series, there could be another one in another nine years, but it seems likely that this is the cap-off to a trilogy, one all about love and life and time and other big things.
Should You See It: Yes, absolutely yes. There's not much to say other than it is very good, sharply written and filmed and beautifully acted. Watch the other two if you haven't already, or if you want a refresher, and then immediately find a theater where Midnight is playing. Bring a friend, bring a lover, bring yourself. It will be the perfect antidote to all the noise of the summer season rumbling around it.
...Keanu Reeves contemplates aging in generation Um (5/3) ... Penn Badgely gets out of the Gossip Girl ghetto to play Jeff Buckley in Greetings from Tim Buckley (5/3) ... The Iceman has the crazy notion of making Michael Shannon some kind of creepy killer (5/3) ... Teens come of age in politically turbulent 1971 Paris is Olivier Assayas's Something in the Air (5/3) ... What Maisie Knew sets the Henry James novel in the present day and chronicles a custody battle fought by Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan (5/3) ... Craig Robinson wants to marry Kerry Washington but has to win the approval of her difficult father (David Alan Grier) in Peeples (5/10) ... Sarah Polley has made a documentary about family lore called Stories We Tell that is supposed to be wonderful (5/10) ... Tennis's biggest sister act gets the documentary treatment in Venus and Serena (5/10) ... Julianne Moore plays an English teacher in the confusingly named The English Teacher (5/17) ... Lake Bell and two girlfriends fight to stay alive after an island camping trip goes horribly awry in Black Rock (5/17) ... Aaron Eckhart stars in an action movie called Erased while we all scratch our heads and wonder what happened to Aaron Eckhart's career (5/17) ... Noah Baumbach has made a movie with Greta Gerwig called Frances Ha, so you might want to avoid Brooklyn for a while when this comes out (5/17) ... Paul Walker and Vin Diesel finally kiss in Fast and Furious 6 (5/24) ... Those jerks are at it again in The Hangover III (5/24) ... Penguins! In 3D! In Penguins 3D! (5/24) ... Will Smith and son Jaden live in the future and are not happy about it in M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth (5/31) ... Now You See Me is a crazy movie about hip magician-thieves starring Morgan Freeman and Jesse Eisenberg for some reason (5/31) ... The wonderful Clive Owen and the fascinating Andrea Riseborough star in the IRA thriller Shadow Dancer, which also features Gillian Anderson (5/31) ... Brit Marling goes undercover to infiltrate an anarchist group in The East (5/31) ... Three young lads go live in the woods in the coming-of-age drama The Kings of Summer (5/31)
The Bling Ring (6/14)
What It Is: Sofia Coppola wrote and directed this based-on-a-true-story film about a bunch of bored, spoiled Valley teens who head into ritzy Los Angeles and start robbing the homes of famous people like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Emma Watson stars, trying a Valley Girl accent, while Leslie Mann and Gavin Rossdale, of all people, play adults. Coppola is saying something about celebrity-obsessed culture here, which is interesting given that all her past movies have themselves seemed obsessed with celebrity. The tables have turned! Sort of.
Should You See It: Well if you saw Spring Breakers then you have to see its slightly less sleazy companion piece, right? And anyway, Coppola is always an interesting filmmaker, even when she's wandering around without much of a narrative. This one seems to have more of a story — based on real events as it is — so it will be interesting to see how she handles the more procedural elements. If she does at all! After all, Marie Antoinette ultimately didn't have much of anything to say about French dynastic politics. But yes, this is definitely one of the biggest indie curiosities of the summer, so if you want to know what your hip friends are talking about as they sip wine from mason jars at dinner parties, then you have to see it.
Man of Steel (6/14)
What It Is: Superman returns! Oh, wait, that was the other one. He is back, though. Getting some help, and some inspiration it would seem, from producer Christopher Nolan, director Zack Snyder has done a reboot of the Superman story, putting him in the textured, shaky-cam real-ish world of Nolan's Batman films. So this is really serious Superman, none of that silly spandex stuff this time around. Well, OK, he still has a suit, but otherwise this movie is all artily shot and heavy with meaning. Relative newcomer Henry Cavill is our hero, while Lois Lane is played by four-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon is the big bad villain.
Should You See It: It's probably worth seeing how well Snyder can emulate Nolan's style. After breaking out big with the excellent Dawn of the Dead and the wildly popular 300, Snyder's career has suffered some setbacks. Meaning, Watchmen and Sucker Punch were both high-profile stinkers. So he has a big opportunity to redeem himself here. The trailers are definitely intriguing, and it's a solid cast, but we were burned by Superman just seven years ago. If you're still stinging from that soporific snoozefest, then maybe you're thinking of sitting this one out. Which is understandable. But Man of Steel also has potential to be great. If that's a risk you're willing to take, this is your best superhero bet this summer.
World War Z (6/21)
What It Is: Adapted from Max Brooks's excellent and thoroughly detailed oral history of a made-up zombie war, World War Z tells the story of a U.N. worker (Brad Pitt) traveling the globe trying to figure out what to do about a zombie crisis. So it's a travelogue, only about defeating zombies instead of finding oneself. Mireille Enos plays Pitt's wife, while James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, and David Morse play people he meets along the way.
Should You See It: This movie was scheduled to come out this past December, but then problems arose and reshoots were required. That's never a good sign, though the early, early buzz on the script, like way back in 2008 early, was that it was something special. Pitt has talked about trying to make a zombie movie that's also art, that could win awards, which is a fascinating ambition. But all this shuffling around of screenwriters and redoing of scenes and all that leads me to believe there's major trouble. Plus, one crucial change was made from book to screen — turning slow zombies into fast zombies — which fundamentally alters the story. While the plane scene in the trailer is certainly scary, nothing else that we've seen so far inspires much excitement. But, despite all that, the book is so good that there's still hope for the movie. Done right, it could be zombie horror on a grand scale.
The Heat (6/28)
What It Is: Melissa McCarthy reteams with her Bridesmaids director Paul Feig for this comedy about an all-beeswax FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) joining forces with a loose-cannon Boston cop (McCarthy) to take down some gangsters. Basically this is an excuse for Bullock and McCarthy to have fun together while various character actors try out their Boston accents. Parks and Recreation writer Katie Dippold wrote the script.
Should You See It: Yes! Bullock is best in comedy mode and McCarthy does well when the material is good. (This winter's Identity Thief was a hit, but it could have used McCarthy so much better than it did.) Behind the scenes, Feig knows his way around antic comedy without ever going too far over the top. Added bonus: The Heat features the North Shore-bred comedy duo Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin, who do the wonderful Ronna and Beverly podcast, something you should listen to if you haven't already. All told, this has a lot going for it, not the least of which is that it could be a great way to rinse out the lingering taste of Hangover III. This could be one of the bright spots of the summer.
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are in yet another movie together, The Internship, about grown men getting intern gigs at Google (6/7) ... Joss Whedon's weird backyard experiment Much Ado About Nothing ought to delight fans of the Whedonverse and possibly no one else (6/7) ... Ethan Hawke and Cersei Lannister star in the horror flick The Purge (6/7) ... Tiger Eyes is the first-ever movie adaptation of a Judy Blume book, this one about Willa Holland finding herself in the Southwest (6/7) ... This Is the End is a comedy about Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, and that whole gang trying to survive the apocalypse, a movie that originally started as a fake trailer (6/12) ... Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly star in their version of Crazy Stupid Love, called Stuck in Love (6/14) ... Elijah Wood plays a maniac in Maniac, a movie about a maniac (6/21) ... Pixar does its first prequel with Monsters University, about the Monsters Inc. crew getting drunk and hooking up in college (6/21) ... Neil Jordan returns to the world of vampires with Byzantium, though sadly there is no Tom Cruise in fop clothes in this one (6/28) ... I'm So Excited is Pedro Almodóvar's latest, a gay comedic romp set on an airplane (6/28) ... White House Down is Roland Emmerich's action epic about a besieged White House starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, as the president (6/28)
The Lone Ranger (7/3)
What It Is: Johnny Depp and his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinksi try for magic again, this time by reviving the beloved mid-century hero The Lone Ranger. Depp is playing the Ranger's trusty sidekick Tonto, while Armie Hammer dons the black mask and climbs atop Silver. So I guess technically Hammer is the hero, but probably only in the way that Orlando Bloom was the "hero" of Pirates. This is another origin story, so we'll find out how the Lone Ranger became the Lone Ranger while also watching them set up for a whole bunch of sequels.
Should You See It: Well, on the one hand it does not look good, and there's something icky about Johnny Depp playing Tonto, who was always kind of a problematic character. But on the other, Pirates didn't look that great in the trailers but proved to be a delight. Even if the sequels were increasingly incoherent, the original Jack Sparrow adventure remains a benchmark of contemporary popcorn filmmaking. Maybe Lone Ranger will be the same thing? This is the big Fourth of July weekend movie, so if you need some air conditioning and the kids are driving you crazy then sure, head on out. You could be pleasantly surprised. That doesn't seem too likely, but, hey, it could happen.
Pacific Rim (7/12)
What It Is: Since Guillermo del Toro was ultimately unable to make his dreamed-of At the Mountains of Madness movie, he had to settle for this monster tale, about alien creatures rising from the depths of the Pacific Ocean and wreaking havoc, until a brave bunch of folks build enormous robots to fight them off. Lots of cities are destroyed, clashes rage in the oceans, and at one point one of the robots takes a huge oil tanker and starts hitting an alien with it. Seriously! That's in the preview. Del Toro has also made up some sort of mind-meld technology that helps the soldiers pilot the robots, so there might me a more psychological aspect at work here too. But mostly it looks like monster-thwacking for two hours.
Should You See It: Del Toro's visual ambition is often praised, and he has been known to create interesting worlds and creatures in fare as varied as Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth. Meaning, this could be a visually arresting movie, one with enough thrills and an interesting cast — Charlie Day, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi — to make it worth the while. Del Toro's visions can also get a bit muddied amid his many ambitions, so there's reason to fear that we'll end up with a pile of artfully designed gunk. But in the end, del Toro is someone who at least makes attempts to do something different, and that should be appreciated. Pacific Rim is an original story, not based on a comic book or anything else, which sounds awfully refreshing, doesn't it? If nothing else, buying a ticket could be an encouragement for studios to do more original stuff in the future.
Only God Forgives (7/19)
What It Is: Ryan Gosling is back in the highly stylized world of Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, this time as the brawling son of a drug-running family whose mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) dispatches him to seek vegeance for his murdered brother. He wanders around Bangkok in moody lighting busting faces and other parts, while Scott Thomas smokes cigarettes in various languid poses. Y'know, that whole Winding Refn thing, hyper violence mixed with weird beauty. Plus a barely vocal Ryan Gosling.
Should You See It: Well, Drive was an elegant oddity, the kind of film that surprised with both its brutality and its artistry. But can you repeat that same trick twice? Some of Drive's pretentions haven't aged that well, and Only God Forgives seems rife with exactly the same kind of stuff. But there's no denying that Winding Refn's images are striking, so if you're sick of all the CGI junk cluttering up the summer and want some real cinematographic amazement, this might be your ticket. Just be prepared to be a little grossed out, and maybe a little annoyed by Ryan Gosling turning in yet another of his wordless, soulful tough guy performances.
Fruitvale Station (7/26)
What It Is: The feature film debut of young writer/director Ryan Coogler (born in 1986!) tells the story of Oscar Grant, an Oakland man shot and killed by a police officer at a BART station on New Year's Day 2009. The film follows Grant, played by Friday Night Lights and The Wire alum Michael B. Jordan, on the last day of his life. So it's not exactly fun, summery fare, but not everything has to be superheroes and alien fighters just because it's nice outside.
Should You See It: Probably, yes! The film won both the Grand Jury and the Audience awards at Sundance this year, and has been selected for Un Certain Regard competition at Cannes. That would seem to indicate that it's pretty good. Aside from that, Jordan is an exciting, rising young actor who could break big with this, so you might want to be there when that happens. And there's the curiosity factor of seeing One Tree Hill's Chad Michael Murray in a serious, well-regarded movie. (He plays one of the cops, familiar territory after a stint on Southland.) It's sure to be upsetting, but Fruitvale Station could also prove one of those important early-release indies that makes a reappearance come awards season.
Those little yellow things are back in Despicable Me 2, which I guess has a plot but mostly seems to be about the yellow things (7/3) ... Kevin Hart's concert film Let Me Explain brings the laughs (7/3) ... Jim Rash and Nat Faxon's well-received Sundance film The Way, Way Back could be the next Little Miss Sunshine (7/5) ... A bloody action thing set in Viking Britain is called Hammer of the Gods, because what else would it be called (7/5) ... For some unknown reason there is a Grown Ups 2 and it features none other than Patrick Schwarzenegger as "Frat Boy" (7/12) ... Michael Cera travels to Chile and has a mind-expanding experience in Crystal Fairy (7/12) ... V/H/S 2 is another horror anthology in the vein of Creep Show and, y'know, V/H/S 1 (7/12) ... A snail tries to race in the animated film Turbo, with Ryan Reynolds playing the snail (7/17) ... Kristen Wiig tries to kill herself and has to move back in with her mom Annette Bening in the dark indie comedy Girl Most Likely (7/19) ... Ryan Reynolds switches from racing snail to ghost detective in the dreadfully titled Men In Black ripoff R.I.P.D. (7/19) ... Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and the rest of the old-timer gang are back, and are joined by Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones, in RED 2, about how everyone is slightly older than they were last time (7/19) ... Christian Slater is stranded on a moon base in the creatively titled Stranded (7/26) ... Woody Allen's latest picture Blue Jasmine takes us back to New York, for a story featuring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Canavale, and the comedians Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay. Yes, Andrew Dice Clay. (7/26) ... Hugh Jackman returns for more slash action — with claws, not with fanfic — in The Wolverine (7/26) ... Oh god, more of this: The Smurfs 2 (7/31)
What It Is: Neill Blomkamp's followup to his Best Picture-nominated sci-fi wonderment District 9, Elysium tells the tale of a ruined Earth populated by the poor and downtrodden, while the rich live in a paradise arcology in space. Matt Damon decides he wants off Earth and into Elysium, and thus the adventure begins. Jodie Foster plays the mayor of Elysium, who I'm sure isn't thrilled about the idea of Damon getting in.
Should You See It: Yes, yes, a million times yes. District 9 was a stunner, and if Elysium sports even half of that film's inventiveness and surprising emotional weight and political urgency, it will be a standout of the summer. Blomkamp is a young and exciting filmmaker, but if this film (which had three times the budget of District 9) flops, he could be in trouble. So go support him! Plus who doesn't love watching Matt Damon efficiently kick butt? And Jodie Foster as a villain is certainly intriguing! This is my most anticipated movie of the summer. It's cruel that we have to wait until lousy old August to see more of it.
What It Is: At long last we'll get a glimpse of the sordid story of Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace in this much talked-about biopic. Supposedly the film follows her from her start as a porn star to the beginnings of the anti-porn crusading that defined the latter part of her life. Amanda Seyfried plays the titular role and is joined by an all-star supporting cast including Sharon Stone, James Franco, Adam Brody, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Noth, and Chloë Sevigny.
Should You See It: Well, it's hard to figure out exactly why this movie was made, but if all these famous actors were interested in the project, there must be something there, right? The film was reasonably well-received at Sundance, so it's likely not a complete dud. If you need some adult time away from all the animated movies and Superman stuff, this could be a grim but interesting look at a very particular time and place. Plus there are rumors that Sharon Stone is in fact quite good in the movie, which could mark the beginning of a comeback. It's always worth seeing a film for that.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
What It Is: Yet another young adult novel sensation becomes a potential movie series. This one is about a New York teenager named Clary (Lily Collins) who is dragged into an epic battle of good vs. evil. The story involves angel/human hybrid warriors and nasty demons and all kinds of silly things like that. Oh and of course there are cute boys, as is required of any Y.A. yarn worth its salt.
Should You See It: August is usually the doldrums of the summer movie season, so this might be a pleasant enough diversion in a time of slim-pickings. Mortal Instruments seems to traffic in more adult scares than this winter's relatively tame witch story Beautiful Creatures (which actually wasn't a bad movie), so it might have less kiddie appeal, which could be a good thing. I guess you could think of this as Constanteen. If that appeals to you, then sure, get some friends together and figure out what all the kids are so crazy about. You gotta have something to tide you over until Catching Fire, and this probably beats sitting at home and watching Twilight for the tenth time.
One Direction: This Is Us
What It Is: Speaking of crazy kids, this is the big One Direction 3D concert film/backstage documentary. Follow Niall, Harry, Zayn, Rudiger, Tate, and Alfonse (those are their names, right?) as they travel the world and generate enough teen screams to power the planet for decades. Will you learn anything new? Depends. If you obsessively track the band's every move, it's doubtful. If you're aware of them only as the tight-panted lads whose mugs adorn your students' lockers or little sisters' (or brothers'!) walls, then yes, you just might learn a lot.
Should You See It: One way this could be fun to see is if you sneak in some adult refreshments and sit back and watch as the audience around you goes absolutely apesh-t. Sure it would probably get grating after about fifteen minutes, but by then you'll be sauced-up enough to laugh and be weirdly glad that you're not still mired in those hormone rollercoaster years. If that doesn't sound fun, then no, stay far away from this thing.