Starting this weekend, Iron Man 3 introduces the release of an epic episodic movie that has an unofficial running time of 3,600 minutes. Like its prequel, last week’s, Pain & Gain, Iron Man 3 is a hulking story with many different perspectives and centers on juiced up entities fighting for the same dream of making the most money. This epic (which even features a segment titled “Epic”) has no official name, but here’s a suggested title: Summer 2011: Part II – 2013 Into Darkness. Indeed, with the dominating business of summer blockbusting, even calendar years themselves are becoming sequels.
Through a mix of scheduling coincidence, production time and precise marketing strategy, most of the films that made an impact (positive and negative) on the movie scene in 2011 are returning in new forms this summer.
For example, the success of Fast Five and Hangover Part II led to this summer’s biggest box office battle, in which the two will go head-to-head on Memorial Day. Or, there’s the release of Planes, a spinoff project supported by the financial success of Summer 2011’s Cars 2. On top of this, the failure of Green Lantern in June 2011 is a cause for vengeance by DC Comics, now that their Batman trilogy has ended. And yes, if you want to acknowledge its existence, Smurfs 2 follows on its predecessor’s August 2011 success. The shadow that 2011 casts over 2013 can certainly be a dark one. Speaking of twos, if you love your movies second, summer has got you covered. On August 2 (get it?! 2!?) three films related to the number two are due out and two of them are sequels, but only one has “two” in the title (That’s 300: Rise of an Empire, which is 2 legit 2 have a dumb “2” in the title, I guess). Not to be confused, however, 2 Guns, which isn’t a sequel, but an adaptation of a comic that isn’t about math. 2 many 2’s? Not 2 worry, you’ll have to get used 2 it, because ten movies this summer are first sequels, four of them follow-ups 2 movies released in 2010 (Grown Ups 2, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Red 2 and Despicable Me 2). Let’s look at this summer’s biggest releases. You can be sure to find coverage of these throughout the busy season on this very website.
Iron Man 3Starring Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Sir Ben Kingsley and Jon Favreau. After the mega success of box office all-star game The Avengers on May 4 2012, Iron Man 3 is set to help Marvel Studios re-dominate multiplexes around the world. This beginning of Marvel’s “Phase Two” features Iron Man dealing with post-Avengers anxiety, while trying to defeat an evil brainiac who has teamed up with a Bin Laden-like terrorist. It is already a big hit around the world, especially in China, where it features extra scenes loaded with even more product placement. With Iron Man 3, producer Kevin Feige’s dream of making the human robot into the next James Bond continues.
The Great GatsbyStarring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki and Isla Fisher. Everybody’s favorite high school reading assignment gets director Baz Luhrman’s fancy schmancy anachronistic treatment with this adaptation, the first film to be made from the classic novel since 1974 (Francis Ford Coppola wrote that screenplay). Built from the same artistry that made Luhrman’s previous movies cult hits, this one stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as his friend Nick Carraway. Carey Mulligan plays Daisy, a woman Gatsby has pursued for years, but who is tied to Joel Edgerton. Jay-Z is listed as an executive producer on this 3D movie, which was originally set to come out during award season last year, but has now been pushed to this curious summer date.
AftershockStarring Roth, Andrea Osvart, Ariel Levy, Nicolas Martinez, Lorenzo Izzo, Natasha Yarovenko and Selena Gomez. Director Eli Roth (supporting star in Inglorious Basterds) returns in front of the camera for this horror movie about the chaotic aftermath of an earthquake in Chile. Whether this movie (which Roth also co-wrote) provides unexpected chaos shocks and surprises audiences or not, it’s still going to be the only horror movie released nationwide until James Wan’s The Conjuring on July 19.
Star Trek Into DarknessStarring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin. After years of secrecy, the next installment from J.J. Abrams’ lens flare-y and sexy version of Star Trek finally sees light with sequel Star Trek Into Darkness. Kirk, Spock, Bones, Chekov and other members of the sexy’d Starship Enterprise now face opposition from a mysterious villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch. In respect for Abrams’ quietness of details I will leave it at that, but the imagery from posters certainly suggests a darker story than that of the first Star Trek. Perhaps Abrams is following suit with other franchises that get heavier in the second installment (such as Nolan’s Batman movies or even The Empire Strikes Back).
Fast & Furious 6Starring Diesel, Walker, Statham, Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Sung Kang, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris. The Fast & Furious franchise continues to roar loudly through the multiplex circuit as the best non-Bond action franchise running today (don’t agree? FIGHT ME.) The previous film in the franchise, Fast Five, was 2011’s sixth highest grossing movie and featured bang-boom-bang-vroom sequences most movies don’t have enough imagination to conjure up. Hell, this franchise even made re-stars out of people like Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, who essentially don’t exist in the current multiplex stratosphere outside of their lunkhead fast and/or furious characters. This sixth movie in the franchise offers a new location (Europe!) and the return of Michelle Rodriguez’s character, along with the addition of asskickers Jason Statham and Haywire star Gina Carano. Plus, more Dwayne Johnson.
The Hangover Part IIIStarring Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, John Goodman. Everyone on this planet knows that Hangover Part II was a shameless Xerox of the original. But that somehow didn’t stop ticket-buyers from making it the most successful R-rated comedy of all time (until Taed dethroned it a year later). Because of that, we now have Hangover Part III, which reunites the “Wolf Pack” of Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis, the latter a continually abused comedic talent in the hands of director Todd Phillips.
EpicFeaturing the voice talents of Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Amanda Seyfried, Pitbull, Beyonce Knowles, Josh Hutcherson, Judah Friedlander, Colin Farrel, Aziz Ansari and Christoph Waltz. Based on the book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, Epic is the newest film from 20th Century Fox animation studio Blue Sky (who did the Ice Age movies and are also going to do a Peanuts feature as well). One can only hope that the film’s title isn’t simply a statement about what this animated movie with a smiling slug on the poster wants to be.
After EarthFrom a story pitched by Will Smith, this is the first movie by director M. Night Shyamalan that he didn’t write himself (the story is co-written by Gary Whitta, who wrote Book of Eli in 2010). This movie marks an onscreen reunion with Smith and his son, as they previously starred in The Pursuit of Happyness together in 2006. But despite this movie’s star power, Shyamalan is the main attraction: will he screw up another story with a silly twist or just hacky directing or could this finally be a movie that saves him from being a joke?
Now You See MeStarring Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine and Melanie Laurent. Transporter and Clash of the Titans director Louis Letterier helms this crime movie about bank robbing magicians, which is a phrase I don’t type very often. Color me intrigued.
The InternshipStarring Vaughn, Wilson, Rose Byrne, John Goodman, Dylan O’Brien, B.J. Novak, Josh Gad and Joanna Garcia Swisher. This comedy from Shawn Levy stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two men screwing around in another institute. They crashed weddings with director David Dobkin and now they are going to futz around with Google. I wonder what the Google page animation will be when this movie comes out?
Much Ado About NothingStarring Amy Acker, Emma Bates, Sara Blindauer, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg. Joss Whedon, the hardworking Geek storytelling entity who is too lazy to look fancy for red carpet appearances, certainly didn’t “ado nothing” when he wasn’t slaving away at making last summer’s The Avengers. In his free time he shot this little Shakespeare adaptation on a small budget, in a modern setting and in black and white. Now don’t we all feel lazy?
Man of SteelStarring Cavill, Shannon, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne and Christopher Meloni. After the failure that was 2011’s Green Lantern and the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy in 2012, Marvel Studios rival DC Comics jumps back into the movie game with its heaviest hitter to date: Superman. The last Superman film was Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, which came out in 2006 to a polarizing reception. Now, DC Comics has put the franchise in the hands of Nolan, who hatched a Superman story with frequent collaborator David S. Goyer, with directing duties relegated to Zack Snyder, previously of 300, Watchmen and even Sucker Punch. There is much to be anticipated with this film, from its relatively unknown star (Henry Cavill) as title character, along with the casting of Michael Shannon as General Zod. Or, even the question of whether Snyder can make Superman fly, when the director is better known for egregious slow motion.
This Is the EndSeth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have racked up a fairly decent writer’s resume as Judd Apatow’s protégés with entertaining comedies like Superbad, Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet. However, this list also includes projects that couldn’t be saved, like Drillbit Taylor or The Watch. Now, they’ve directed a party of a film, one that includes members of the Apatow family tree like Rogen, Goldberg, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, all playing themselves. The film is based on a short Goldberg and Seth co-wrote back in 2007 titled Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse.
Monsters UniversityStarring John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, John Krasinski, Helen Mirren, Charlie Day, Alfred Molina, Frank Oz, Dave Foley, Bonnie Hunt and Joel Murray. Looky here, it’s that sequel to Monsters Inc. you may have asked for twelve years ago, but probably not so much now. While there’s always room for a nice animation surprise (AKA what last year’s Brave failed to be), one can at least look at this movie as the “Pixar Film of the Year.” And considering that Monsters University comes less from the type of soulless enterprise that is their movie Cars, perhaps this will be a positive type of Pixar sequel. Perhaps.
World War ZStarring Brad Pitt, Eric West, James Badge Dale, Mireille Enos, Matthew Fox and David Morse. Brad Pitt throws his beautiful face into the zed mix with World War Z, an anticipated adaptation of a popular novel, not to mention a screenplay from Matthew Michael Carnahan (State of Play, The Kingdom). Also, if you’re a sucker for juicy behind-the-scenes disasters, this movie has got plenty of them. There was a SWAT raid on set, re-shoots left and right, and Damon Lindelof (writer of Lost) was brought into the mix to try to patch things up.
The HeatStarring Bullock, McCarthy, Marlon Wayans, Tony Hale, Michael Rapaport, Taran Killam and Kaitlin Olson. Melissa McCarthy certainly knows something about very warm temperatures, as her comedic career has been heating up with the success of Bridesmaids and Identity Thief. With her newest comedy, she teams up with Sandra Bullock and rejoins her Bridesmaids helmer, Paul Feig. The script is written by Katie Dippold, who is a producer and writer for Parks and Recreation. IMDb reports that The Heat 2 is already in the works.
White House DownStarring Tatum, Foxx, Jason Clarke, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins and Lance Reddick. Channing Tatum, the 2013 Dwayne Johnson of the year 2012, returns to the big screen for more than just a brief G.I. Joe appearance, this time taking up a timeless mission also celebrated by last month’s Olympus Has Fallen: protecting the White House. The film is directed by Roland Emmerich, who knows a thing or two about destroying our nation, considering the directorial credits he has for movies like The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 and of course, Independence Day. Tatum acts opposite a president played by Jamie Foxx.
The Lone RangerStarring Depp, Hammer, Helena Bohham Carter, James Badge Dale, William Fichtner and Tom Wilkinson. After historical budget problems, Disney’s big budget adaptation of The Lone Ranger arrives into theaters, with Johnny Depp doing weird things in lots of makeup as its main drive, opposite a title character played by Armie Hammer (The Social Network). Baggage rides with this movie from Disney’s John Carter, a flop in 2012 that didn’t get a large enough audience despite the amount of money that was thrown at it. Along with Depp, however, Lone Ranger has the benefit of combating a Carter-esque fate by being the work of Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy and Rango) who at the very least knows his way around adventure entertainment.
Despicable Me 2Featuring the voice talents of Steve Carell, Al Pacino, Kristen Wiig, Ken Jeong, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand and Steve Coogan More in the “?” pile than the stack of anticipation, Despicable Me 2 finds its way into theaters, following villainous nice guy Gru (Steve Carell) as a recruit for an anti-villain league. The strange part about this movie is that a spinoff with its real moneymakers, the Minions, is already being made (and will be released in 2014). Why even bother with this story? Here’s to the hope of a surprise or at least eight.
Pacific RimStarring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day, Clifton Collins Jr., Heather Doerksen and Rinko Kikuchi. Influential filmmaker Guillermo del Toro takes a moment from producing horror movies like Mama to throw his cap into the blockbuster arena with this massive movie. Looking like a Transformers fight in the style of Godzilla, del Toro has said his film will be distinctly different from Bay’s robots in disguise. For those keeping track at home, Pacific Rim is co-written by Drew Pearce, who has already earned success for his script work on Iron Man 3.
Grown Ups 2This second vacation from Sandler and friends stars Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, David Spade, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bello, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi and Shaquille O’Neal as “Officer Fluzoo.” Rip on Adam Sandler all you want, but for a shill of an American comedian, this is his first sequel (as opposed to his peers who grab a success and then franchise the hell out of it). In terms of trying to sit through a Sandler movie, Grown Ups isn’t the absolute worst experience to revisit. After all, it’s not a Jack and Jill sequel, right? Expect lots of product placement, stupid cameos and Sandler wearing oversized shirts.
Red 2That movie from October 2010 about older assassins showing they can still kill? They made another movie from it. Here’s hoping Red 2 doesn’t put me into a coma of boredom like Red did. Starring Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins.
R.I.P.D.Starring Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Jeff Bridges and Mary-Louise Parker. Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges team up as men who work for the police of the undead. (R.I.P.D. means “Rest in Peace Department.”) Fun fact: R.I.P.D. is directed by Robert Schwentke, who previously helmed Red, but not that film’s sequel, which comes out on the same day (… awkward …)
The ConjuringStarring Vera Farmiga, Lili Tayor, Patrick Wilson, Joey King, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell and Mackenzie Foy. Insidious director James Wan helms this movie written by twin Hayes brothers Chad and Carey, who previously scripted movies like Whiteout, The Reaping and the House of Wax remake that starred Paris Hilton. Wan’s involvement at the very least is promising for his knowledge of tension. His previous movie Insidious may not have been perfect, but damn if it wasn’t creepy in a couple parts. With this story of two paranormal investigators investigating strange things at a family’s farmhouse, let’s hope Wan doesn’t bungle his big demon reveal.
TurboFeaturing the voice talents of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Samuel L. Jackson and Snoop Dogg as “Smoove Move.” Skepticism arises when looking at a poster featuring a snail, accompanied by the title Turbo. The irony seems too obvious. But then I noticed that this movie is co-written by Robert D. Siegel, who previously scripted The Wrestler and later, Patton Oswalt’s indie vehicle Big Fan. With this credit alone, consider my curiosity peaked for an animated movie that might be more than just a cutesy story about a fast snail.
The WolverineStarring Famke Janssen, Hugh Jackman, Brian Tee, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rila Fukushima. Before The Avengers came along, Marvel’s big kahuna was Wolverine, the sharp-clawed hero of angry people with metal in their bones. Things have changed now, with this X-Men sequel spinoff bumped from previous opening summer release date of May (that space is now reserved for Avengers only) to end of July. Does that mean this movie isn’t good or that Avengers have a higher priority? It remains to be seen with this film helmed by Knight and Day director James Mangold and set in Japan.
300: Rise of an EmpireStarring Lena Headey, Eva Green, Santoro, Andrei Claude, Sullivan Stapleton, David Wenham, and Mark Killeen. Original 300 star Gerard Butler is nowhere to be found and previous director Zack Snyder only has a co-writing screenplay credit on this sequel that adapts Frank Miller’s Xerxes. However, the guy who played Xerxes in 300 is back, Rodrigo Santoro. Will this be another mixtape of fight sequences like its predecessor?
2 GunsStarring Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington, James Marsden, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Edward James Olmos, Robert John Burke and Fred Ward. Mark Wahlberg reunites with his Contraband director Baltasar Komakur and joins Denzel Washington for this adaptation of the comic of the same name by Steven Grant. With these two alone, charisma for the film is guaranteed. Wahlberg has proven through recent roles (Pain & Gain, Ted) that there is a new liveliness to his performances and Washington continues to have a godlike presence, even in faulty movies like Safe House.
The Smurfs 2Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara, Christina Ricci, Anton Yelchin, George Lopez, Jayma Mays, Katy Perry, Jonathan Winters, Brendan Gleeson and Alan Cumming. What is there to say about this? This is what you get, America, when you give lots of money to something. Shame on you, America. This is why we can’t have nice things, like original screenplays.
ElysiumThis post-apocalypse sci-fi movie stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna and Alice Braga. It has been four years since Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, which became a feature debut hit for the Peter Jackson protegé and also earned him an Oscar for “Best Adapted Screenplay.” Now, Blomkamp returns to theaters at around the same time as District 9’s release in 2009, possibly with the same results, if not more.
Percy Jackson: Sea of MonstersAlong with Logan Lerman as Percy, Sea of Monsters stars Sean Bean, Nathan Fillion, Stanley Tucci and returns Alexandra Daddario and Brandon T. Jackson. Three years after adaptation of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, arrives a sequel with a title sans “The Olympians.” Granted, a second movie may not be all that in demand from Percy Jackson, a series about a young man who finds out he is a descendant of a Greek god. But at least this movie boasts an intriguing cast list. This movie is also directed by Thor Freudenthal, who is not only a filmmaker but also the owner of maybe the coolest name in the entire universe.
PlanesFeatures the voice talents of Val Kilmer, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, John Cleese, Anthony Edwards, Gabriel Iglesias and Sinbad. Here’s a summer movie that was originally going to be playing in homes with straight-to-DVD releasing, but is now receiving the super upgrade. Now, Planes (a spin-off of Cars, if you didn’t already put that together) will be going to theaters touched up with 3D. And before I forget, it is imperative to indicate that this is NOT a Pixar cartoon, but instead a production by Disney’s own DisneyToon Studios. So, why the boost? Is it because of the script itself or that Cars 2 showed to be much more marketable than executives expected? Maybe it’s both. Either way, Dane Cook voices a plane named “Dusty Crophopper.”
Kick-Ass 2Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Leguizamo and Clark Duke.Never Back Down director Jeff Wadlow takes over the Kick-Ass franchise from original director Matthew Vaughn and throws a villainous Jim Carrey into the mix with this sequel to the original 2010 movie. This new film focuses on the terror brought on by the title character’s foe Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), along with Kick-Ass joining a group of regular crime fighters like himself.
ParanoiaThis intriguing movie stars Ford, Oldman, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Holloway, Embeth Davidtz, Richard Dreyfuss, Julian McMahon and Lucas Till.There are promising things about this movie. For example, there’s the presence of Gary Oldman, who has a pretty consistent acting filmography. Even if a movie is bad, he makes it worth a giggle or two (as with Red Riding Hood). Add Harrison Ford to the mix and you’ve got a tempting Air Force One reunion. But then there’s the presence of director Robert Luketic, who may have filmed the decent 21, but he also made The Ugly Truth and Killers, all with a straight face. I don’t know what to make of this one, but my curiosity has gotten the better of me.
The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesDirected by Harald Zwart (who previously helmed the Karate Kid remake), the film stars Lily Collins as the main teenage girl, and also stars Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Aidan Turner and Jared Harris. From the first book in a series by Cassandra Clare, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is another bid to find the next Twilight, this time with a story about a teenage girl who learns about her family when her mom is kidnapped by a demon. While this adaptation certainly has the chance of making the success of Twilight, it could also face the fate of non-continued adaptations like I Am Number Four or last February’s Beautiful Creatures.
The World’s EndStarring Rosamund Pike, Martin Freeman, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan. The team behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost) reunite for another adventure, this one focusing on the apocalypse. The second ensemble comedy of the summer to feature the apocalypse, this movie holds a lot of promise considering its aforementioned trio and because Wright and Pegg also wrote the script. Let’s hope this is better than Frost and Pegg’s last big journey together, Paul, which was, to put it a lightly, a disappointment.
And there it is, Summer 2011: Part II – 2013 Into Darkness. A lot of sequels, a galaxy of Hollywood star power, two Mary Louise Parker movies on the same day, and a ton of adapted screenplays. Now, before I succumb to end-of-August-level summer movie fatigue in the first week of May, I leave you all with these curiosities: what are you absolutely, definitely and undeniably going to see this summer? What movies are you going to avoid as if they remained only the gross dreams of Hollywood fat cats? And who here wants to sit in a dark room with me, sobbing and reading original screenplays?