Summer Movie Preview: Wait, there are only three superhero movies?!
There aren't just comic book movies out this summer. In addition to "Spider-Man," "X-Men" and "Guardians of the Galaxy," there's a variety of trash.
Sorry, summer moviegoers, but this May through August you only have three superhero movies to contend with. What’s worse, only two of those are from Marvel — and only one of those is part of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Spider-Man remains a loner — for now.)
Instead you’ll have a virtual troth of various blockbuster fare, including giant lizards, bitter witches, giant robots, mythological beefcakes, giant turtles, Frankie Valli and a cancerous young adult. There’s also a leprechaun. Occasionally, the feast will pause for a small, smart indie or art house fare, which seeks to access your brain. But can you resist the likes of “Boyhood” and the Roger Ebert doc “Life Itself”? (Hopefully not.)
‘Neighbors’ (May 9)
High-concept premise: Aging party boy Seth Rogen plays a settled suburbanite and dad peeved at the frat that’s just moved next door (run by Zac Efron).
Superpower: Director Nicholas Stoller helmed “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” one of the better Apatow productions. And Rose Byrne and Lisa Kudrow hold up the female side of a very dude-ish entry.
Weakness: Is Zac Efron funny? “That Awkward Moment” would indicate no, but playing a douchey beer monster may be right in his wheelhouse.
‘Godzilla’ (May 16)
High-concept premise: The fire-breathing, rampaging lizard of Japanese cinema is back — only it’s definitely not the campy 1998 one that no one likes because it's just awful.
Superpower: Its cast is nothing to sneeze at: not only Bryan Cranston, but Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and … holy crap, Juliette Binoche is in this? The tone looks serious — in fact, not unlike the Japanese version of the 1954 original, which is in fact quite grim.
Weakness: Director Gareth Edwards last tried to subvert the monster movie with “Monsters,” which ended up being packed with indie cliches. This could get too dour. Also, let’s not forget, this is still freakin’ Godzilla.
‘Million Dollar Arm’ (May 16)
High-concept premise: A sports agent (Jon Hamm) looks for the next big baseball pitcher among India’s cricket scene.
Superpower: It’s got Jon Hamm. And it’s the first big film to cash in on Lake Bell after “In a World…” This looks like one of those adorable Disney sports comedies of yore, like “Cool Runnings.”
Weakness: What if it’s actually “Cool Runnings,” which isn’t so hot once the nostalgia dust clears?
‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ (May 23)
High-concept premise: The “X-Men Babies” prequels soldier on, and if you’re sick of young and dashing Magneto, then don’t worry: Wolverine and many others from the first three films have been shoehorned into it.
Superpower: Nuts to “Godzilla”: This has the best cast of any summer movie, with Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, plus newbies Peter Dinklage and Omar Sy of “The Intouchables.”
Weakness: This sounds like a lot of characters to deal with in only 130 minutes. Good luck with that.
High-concept premise: Adam Sandler knows his fanbase will pay to watch him goof around on vacation. (See: the “Grown Ups” saga.) So now he’s going to Africa.
Superpower: The inclusion of Drew Barrymore is a promising sign, as she tends to coax a level of ambition out of one of cinema’s laziest creatures. Also, the hostility toward Sandler is a bit kneejerk at this point; the dude needs a really terrific academic paper to make us all feel like shortsighted cretins.
Weakness: Adam Sandler movies are still, for the most part, terrible.
‘Maleficent’ (May 30)
High-concept premise: “Sleeping Beauty” gets remade, but from the perspective of the villain who turns into a dragon at the end.
Superpower: Maleficent is one of Disney’s most visually striking villains, and Angelina Jolie is probably hammy enough to bring the menace and not make her too sympathetic.
Weakness: Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into yet another funereal, serious twist on cinema that used to be fun.
‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ (May 30)
High-concept premise: Seth MacFarlane cashes in his “Ted” bucks by making a Western comedy in an age that hates Westerns.
Superpower: MacFarlane has a gift for inventive loopiness, and he’s asked a game cast — including Liam Neeson and, why not, Bill Maher — to do some Leslie Nielsen-style deadpan.
Weakness: “Family Guy” sucks. Sorry.
Also: “Belle” inserts race talk into a standard Jane Austen romp (May 2); Jon Favreau goes from comic book movies to cooking in “Chef” (May 9); one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last performances is in “God’s Pocket,” directed by John Slattery (May 9); Jesse Eisenberg gets a smarmy doppelganger in Richard Ayoade’s “Submarine” follow-up “The Double” (May 9); Eisenberg also gets involved in environmentalist danger in “Night Moves,” from “Wendy and Lucy” filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (May 30); director Lukas Moodysson takes on Swedish tweens in 1982 in “We Are the Best!” (May 30).
‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (June 6)
High-concept premise: He (Ansel Elgort) has a prosthetic leg. She (Shailene Woodley) has cancer. But don’t they have fun.
Superpower: Woodley has the goods, as you may have heard, and this film — based on John Green’s YA novel — promises acerbic wit between the emo posturing (and looming death).
Weakness: This sounds an awful lot like Gus Van Sant’s “Restless,” which is almost certainly his lamest film.
'22 Jump Street' (June 13)
High-concept premise: Hope you liked the 2012 movie “21 Jump Street,” which had zero affection for the show and just played it as a comedy and a showcase for Channing Tatum’s surprising comic chops. Here’s more.
Superpower: It’s really easy to like the first one because it’s actually pretty great. And filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller are on a roll: Three months ago they brought us the bizarrely overachieving “The Lego Movie.”
Weakness: Could Lord and Miller have burned out? Also, this sounds like a repeat — although the addition of Richard Grieco is a nice touch.
‘Think Like a Man Too’ (June 20)
High-concept premise: The first 2012 relationship comedy was a surprise hit, possibly because of its talented cast, and possibly less due to the Steve Harvey self-help source material.
Superpower: This will be the third Kevin Hart movie this year, and his second with Kevin Ealy and Regina Hall (after “About Last Night”). But it’s also a showcase for many other black comics who tend to go ignored in Hollywood cinema, like the great Romany Malco.
Weakness: Steve Harvey’s source material sounds awful, but the first managed to transcend it.
‘Jersey Boys’ (June 20)
High-concept premise: When you first saw “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” surely you thought to yourself, “I bet the guy who plays Blondie will direct an adaptation of a musical about the Four Seasons one day.”
Superpower: The directing style of the 80-something Eastwood is pleasantly (to some) methodical. He also once directed a moving and dignified film from the worst novel ever written (“The Bridges of Madison County”). This being strong wouldn’t be too shocking.
Weakness: It’s still freakin’ “Jersey Boys.”
‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ (June 27)
High-concept premise: Shia LaBeouf and that model he was banging are no more — the franchise about giant robots with millions of headache-inducing parts has decamped for Marky Mark.
Superpower: It has 100 percent less Shia.
Weakness: It’s a freakin’ Michael Bay “Transformers” movie. Moreover, Marky Mark looks awfully solemn in the press images.
‘They Came Together’ (July 27)
High-concept premise: Amy Poehler plays a small-business owner about to lose her shop to a corporate shark played by Paul Rudd. If that sounds like “You’ve Got Mail,” then rest easy because it’s a parody.
Superpower: Former “State” maven David Wain returns to his “Wet Hot American Summer” spoof days. But he’s no mere “Scary Movie”-style send-up artist: He’s an eccentric, idiosyncratic comic filmmaker who’s excelled with “Role Models” and the underrated “Wanderlust.”
Weakness: People might not see this, meaning Wain will have difficulties making more, which will be sad.
Also: Mike Myers makes his directorial debut with “Supermensch: The Legend of Skip Gordon,” a documentary about the absurdly well-connected entertainment manager (June 6); “Crash” perpetrator Paul Haggis returns to the everyone-is-connected canvas with “Third Person” (June 20); Roman Polanski does another stage adaptation, with wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric doing up David Ives’ “Venus in Fur” (June 20).
‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (July 11)
High-concept premise: Further ignoring the nutty slave allegory backstory from the 1970s “Apes” movie cycle, this second reboot installment finds Andy Serkis’ CGI chimp rebel Caesar dealing with the final throes of humanity post-virus.
Superpower: The “Apes” movies have potential for strong, searing commentary, as the originals sometimes exploited, sometimes to a fault. And in the first, Serkis gave one of 2011’s best turns without ever actually being seen.
Weakness: The first, “Rise,” missed all opportunities to say anything deep. But it was pretty cool and well-crafted.
‘Jupiter Ascending’ (July 18)
High-concept premise: The Wachowskis tanked with “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas.” So, naturally, they’ve been given another $150 million to do another nutty idea, this one about planetary warfare.
Superpower: The Wachowskis (and the studio) are no doubt gambling on stars Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum and Eddie Redmayne to pull people through the apparent weirdness.
Weakness: “Speed Racer” is visually unique and “Cloud Atlas” ambitious, but both are kind of drags. And remember “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Revolutions”?
‘The Purge: Anarchy’ (July 18)
High-concept premise: A sequel to the shock hit from last year finds another night of bloodletting, this time with much cheaper stars than Ethan Hawke.
Superpower: Hey! “Friday Night Lights”’ Brando-esque Zach Gilford is the lead! Low-rent, dirty franchises tend to take bigger, crazier chances with their sequels, in addition to sneaking in edgy satire.
Weakness: Wait, this was co-produced by Michael Bay?
‘Hercules’ (July 25)
High-concept premise: Remember January’s “The Legend of Hercules,” with Kellan Lutz? Well, forget about that, because here’s a bigger Hercules picture with The Rock.
Superpower: The Greek myths, not just the ones with Hercules, are awesome, and would make great, trashy blockbusters. And as far as UK royalty goes, this boasts not only Ian McShane but also John Hurt and Peter Mullan.
Weakness: This one is set AFTER the 12 labors. Also it was made by super-douchebag extraordinaire Brett Ratner.
‘Sex Tape’ (July 25)
High-concept premise: A suburban couple (Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel) try to spice things up by taping their humpin’. Things don’t go so well — and not just during the session (boom).
Superpower: Diaz appears to be back, and she’s a lot more brittle these days than she used to be, which is good.
Weakness: Nothing that occurs between Segel and her between the sheets can top the scene in “The Counselor” where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car.
Also: "Earth to Echo"finds kids who think a series of cryptic text messages may be from an alien lifeform (July 2); Eric Bana and Edgar Ramirez explore exorcisms and demons in the thriller "Deliver Us From Evil" (July 2);“Life Itself” is a deeply moving documentary on the life of one of cinema’s most passionate champions, Roger Ebert, and it will almost certainly make you cry like a baby (July 4); if you gave money to “Wish I Was Here,” Zach Braff's directorial follow-up to “Garden State,” now you can see it, if you’re into that kind of thing (July 18); Joe Swanberg’s latest mainstream-ish outing is "Happy Christmas," a dramedy with Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey and Lena Dunham (July 25).
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (Aug. 8)
High-concept premise: The ‘80s pizza-eating reptiles finally get a reboot after the 2007 film “TMNT” didn’t quite bring them back.
Superpower: This one’s superpower is probably nostalgia, with a sizeable marketing budget.
Weakness: Like all live-action versions of the franchise — including the ones from the ‘90s that briefly featured Elias Koteas as Casey Jones — this looks too serious a film considering it’s about turtles named after famous painters and who eat junk food.
‘Lucy’ (Aug. 8)
High-concept premise: Scarlett Johansson plays an unwitting mule whose drug winds up leaking into her insides, giving her increasing command over her brain, and soon the universe.
Superpower: So it’s “Limitless” but as an action film made by Eurotrash auteur Luc Besson and starring that actress who was in “Under the Skin”? And Morgan Freeman’s in it too? This sounds like the only big movie we’re super excited for this summer!
Weakness: Besson works fast and doesn’t usually care about craft. This could waste a promising premise — or it could just be modest, slimy, weirdly right-wing fun a la “Taken.”
‘The Expendables 3’ (Aug. 15)
High-concept premise: No one sees Sylvester Stallone movies anymore except when they have other decaying ‘80s action stars, plus Jason Statham. This one also throws in Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas and the semi-recently freed Wesley Snipes.
Superpower: Old men run this thing — and also Jason Statham, who is not old.
Weakness: Stallone’s solution to combating wearing out the novelty has been to just add more. That’s desperate and sad. But, you know, it doesn’t not work.
‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ (Aug. 22)
High-concept premise: It only took nine years, but Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller finally got around to doing more from the latter’s noir-fetishist anthology crime series.
Superpower: This time it brings into the fray Eva Green, who earlier this year tore into the role of decapitated head-kissing Artemisia in another belated sequel of a Miller comic, “300: Rise of an Empire.”
Weakness: Miller is a crank who’s gotten tiresomely reactionary in old age. (Perhaps you didn't read "Holy Terror," his juvenile comic about killing evil Muslim fundamentalists.) And did you see his solo directorial debut, “The Spirit”?
‘Leprechaun: Origins’ (Aug. 29)
High-concept premise: Surely you saw “Leprechaun” or “Leprechaun 4: In Space” or “Leprechaun: In the Hood” or “Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood” and thought, “What are his origins, and could he be darker or sadder or both and maybe played by a wrestler, not Warwick Davis?” If you thought all three things, then giddy up.
Superpower: This has to be a joke.
Weakness: What if it’s not a joke?
Also: Perhaps you’ve heard of James Franco. Anyway, he directed another movie based on an unadaptable novel, namely Cormac McCarthy’s “Child of God” (Aug. 1); Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan essentially redo "When Harry Met Sally..." in "What If," which once had the superior title of "The F Word" (Aug. 1); Aubrey Plaza becomes a zombie whose boyfriend keeps her around anyway in “Life After Beth” (Aug. 15); “The Trip to Italy” finds “The Trip”’s Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing their eating-and-impersonations thing in another country (Aug. 15); the Sundance fave “Frank” stars Michael Fassbender as a musician who walks around with a giant paper-mache head.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge