Summer movie preview: Sizzling blockbusters set to light up screen

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Entertainment,Movies,Kelly Jane Torrance

Superman and Shakespeare get modern updates; Will Smith and son go into the future; and Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and too many other actors to name face the apocalypse or its aftermath. Yes, it's that time of year again. Summer brings with it rising mercury and hemlines, beach weekends and big-budget, special-effects extravaganzas. But even those who prefer their movies small and meaningful will find something to anticipate here: Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola and others buck the trend, refusing to wait until the busy fall to show off their wares.

'Now You See Me'

Opens: May 31

The stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman

The plot: A team of magicians led by Eisenberg pulls off some impressive tricks -- like robbing a bank thousands of miles away.

The advance: The marketing for this movie has been kept strangely low-key, like a rabbit hiding under a hat.

The wrap: Some of the most fun you'll have this summer -- and you won't lose any IQ points by watching it.

'After Earth'

Opens: May 31

The stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith

The plot: Will Smith wrote the story for this film, in which he plays a revered man at the top of his profession, while real-life son Jaden is the resentful son trying vainly to follow in his father's footsteps. Sound familiar?

The advance: Smith and Smith crash-land on Earth a thousand years after humans abandoned the planet. Director M. Night Shyamalan says, "The chance to make a scary, science-fiction film starring Jaden and Will is my dream project."

The wrap: After the commercially successful but critically panned "The Last Airbender," Shyamalan doesn't just need a dream-come-true -- he might need a miracle.

'The Internship'

Opens: June 7

The stars: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne

The plot: The overgrown boy-men Vaughn and Wilson lose their jobs and decide to blast into the digital age by interning at uber-tech-company Google.

The advance: The actors reunite after their 2005 smash "The Wedding Crashers," but wisely decided on a new story and not a sequel.

The wrap: There's plenty of potential for comedy as the pair compete with younger interns who have never known life pre-Internet.

'This Is the End'

Opens: June 12

The stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Emma Watson

The plot: Big names -- including, besides the aforementioned, Jason Segel, Aziz Ansari and Rihanna -- play fictionalized versions of themselves as the world ends and they party at James Franco's house.

The advance: The apocalyptic comedy has become a fruitful and funny film genre.

The wrap: The directorial debut of Seth Rogen and his frequent writing partner Evan Goldberg, expect this one to go over the top, fully earning its R rating -- and a lot of laughs.

'Man of Steel'

Opens: June 14

The stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon

The plot: Every other franchise seems to be rebooting. Why not Superman?

The advance: Zack Snyder brought a new level of stylized violence with his epic "300." Now he gives us a bigger, beefier Superman, who might be more appropriately called Man of Muscle.

The wrap: Fans excited about the reboot and fans ready to rip it apart will help boost box office for this long-awaited epic.

'Much Ado About Nothing'

Opens: June 14

The stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg

The plot: Shakespeare's timeless comedy gets yet another, very modern adaptation.

The advance: How do you follow up the year's top-grossing film? After finishing last year's "The Avengers," Joss Whedon decided to make a black-and-white Shakespeare film in his own home in just 12 days.

The wrap: Thousands of geeks will discover how much fun can be found in books without accompanying pictures.

'World War Z'

Opens: June 21

The stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox

The plot: Brad Pitt battles zombies -- taking a page from his partner, perhaps, in doing it for the United Nations.

The advance: This is one of the most highly anticipated of the big-budget summer flicks. Producer Pitt won the rights to Max Brooks's novel of the same name in a bidding war with Leonardo DiCaprio.

The wrap: It's never a good sign when scenes are re-shot, and it's even worse when rumor has it the entire third act was rewritten to do so. And these zombie-hunters are pretty wimpy: A reference to China was cut in a nod to that country's box office potential, and political themes were dropped to make this a more dumbed-down summertime hit.

'Monsters University'

Opens: June 21

The stars: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Frank Oz, Helen Mirren

The plot: Mike (voiced by Crystal) and Sulley (voiced by Goodman) end up in the same college fraternity as they start to study the art of scaring.

The advance: The follow-up to 2001's "Monsters, Inc." is Pixar's first prequel.

The wrap: The 3D re-release of "Monsters, Inc." didn't have an impressive take -- but this new animated story will.

'The Bling Ring'

Opens: June 21

The stars: Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga

The plot: Based on the true story of a teenaged gang that managed to rob such celebrities as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox.

The advance: In 2006's "Marie Antoinette," writer-director Sofia Coppola imagined the Versailles court as a version of our own celebrity-obsessed age. Now she brings her theme back to the present.

The wrap: It's hard to imagine wanting to watch a film about a group of lowlifes who love reality TV. But with Emma Watson playing one of them, it sounds a lot more appealing.

'The Lone Ranger'

Opens: July 3

The stars: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter

The plot: Most Americans have at least a passing familiarity with the 1950s television series and the 1930s radio serial about the Old West adventures of the righteous masked title character and his Indian sidekick, Tonto.

The advance: Except Tonto is no sidekick in this one. With Depp playing him, and Gore Verbinski at the helm, expect this to look a lot like the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and Hammer to be sidelined.

The wrap: It might not make "Pirates" levels of money, but it'll draw in a wide audience with its PG rating.

'Only God Forgives'

Opens: July 19

The stars: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas

The plot: Gosling reunites with "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn. Need I say more?

The advance: Okay, fine: Gosling's character runs a Thai boxing club in Bangkok, but it's really a front for his family's drug business. Thomas is the Lady Macbeth-like matriarch who has her son avenge his brother's recent murder.

The wrap: "Drive" was a polarizing film, and it sounds like the follow-up is much the same. Viewers at Cannes booed it, while some reviewers have raved.

'The Wolverine'

Opens: July 26

The stars: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee

The plot: The Marvel superhero goes to Japan.

The advance: The first "X-Men" solo spinoff for the character, 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," did boffo business, despite poor reviews.

The wrap: Expect a darker "Wolverine," with the hero battling ninjas and "3:10 to Yuma" director James Mangold managing the action.

'Blue Jasmine'

Opens: July 26

The stars: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay

The plot: Woody Allen is back home, making his first film shot in America in years.

The advance: You read that right: the profane comedian Andrew Dice Clay is appearing in a Woody Allen film.

The wrap: It's nice to see the neurotic New Yorker focus his lens on a woman again. Blanchett plays an American housewife facing, of course, existential crisis.

'Elysium'

Opens: August 9

The stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Sharlto Copley

The plot: "District 9" director Neill Blomkamp makes another sci-fi social statement.

The advance: Blomkamp made "Elysium" for an estimated $120 million -- not too bad by summer standards, but light years away from his "District 9" budget of $30 million.

The wrap: A bald Matt Damon, as one of the proles abandoned on Earth while the elite set up shop in a cleaner, safer space station, should still draw crowds.

'The World's End'

Opens: August 23

The stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman

The plot: A sci-fi apocalypse comedy centered around the re-creation of a legendary pub crawl: "The World's End" has everything you want in a summer movie.

The advance: The end of a loose trilogy, with "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," two of the funniest films of the last decade.

The wrap: Pegg hinted to The Washington Examiner that he and co-writer Edgar Wright were going out -- from this sort-of genre -- with a bang. Expect over-the-top hilarity.

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Author:

Kelly Jane Torrance

Washington Examiner Movie Critic
The Washington Examiner