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Superheroes, sequels and the end of the world

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Previewing some of 2013's summer cinematic offerings

It's that time again. Hollywood has opened up their checkbooks and unleashed all manner of cinematic fare onto the masses. That's right blockbuster season.

2013 has plenty to offer. Big budgets are abundant. We've got iconic characters returning to the silver screen. We've got beloved franchises receiving their next installments. And we've got a number of different takes on the end of the world as we know it, both in the near-view and from the far-flung future.

Will all of these films be good? Heavens no. Will they all be entertaining? Also not likely. But rest assured, film fans of any stripe will be able to find something that tickles their fancy. There's a whole lot out there this handful is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.


Star Trek Into Darkness' May 15

Director J.J. Abrams goes where he has gone once before in this sequel to his wildly successful reboot of the 'Star Trek' franchise. Everyone from his 2009 offering is back, including Chris Pine as James Kirk and Zachary Quinto as the enigmatic Spock, not to mention Zoe Saldana and Simon Pegg. Joining the crew is British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the main antagonist. Judging from the trailers, Abrams has continued his gritty reimagining of the Star Trek mythos, blending the spirit of the original with a frenetic energy. As a Trek fan who never quite became a Trekkie, I'm greatly looking forward to see what Abrams and company have in store.

The Hangover Part III' May 24

By this point, everyone with the least bit of interest has seen the first Hangover movie, which was inventive and quite funny, and the second Hangover movie, which was the first Hangover movie only in Thailand. Do we need writer/director Todd Phillips to give us a third one? Not really, but he did it anyway. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifinakis are back, and they're making a return trip to Las Vegas. There will undoubtedly be some funny moments, but unless the filmmakers have some surprises up their sleeves, this trilogy will likely end with a whimper rather than a bang.

Fast and Furious 6' May 24

There might not be a film franchise out there that has changed so thoroughly from its inception to its current iteration as this one. The original film was about the world of underground street racing; from there, we've reached a point that the films are about an elite team of driver/mercenaries who do battle against high-level drug cartels and rogue government agents. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are back, obviously, while the Rock continues his domination of 2013 by reprising his role from the previous film. This isn't great cinema, but if you like over-the-top action and sweet muscle cars, you'll probably have a hell of a time.

Now You See Me' May 31

Personally, I'm more intrigued by this film than by any others this summer. It tells the tale of four illusionists dubbing themselves the Four Horsemen who find themselves under investigation by the FBI and Interpol. They pull off bank heists during their shows and reward their audiences with the money. It's got a dynamite cast Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine and an engaging hook. Not to mention a trailer that absolutely captured my attention. All the pieces are there for this to be one of the summer's best movies so obviously, I'm prepared for it to be terrible.

After Earth' May 31

Nothing says summer blockbuster like Will Smith and science fiction. This is his latest, set in a far-flung future long after humanity has departed Earth for the outer reaches of the cosmos. Due to some sort of accident, Smith finds himself back on the planet on mankind's birth, only things have changed the entire planet's evolutionary path has been steered toward killing humans. Or something. By all appearances, it looks similar to the recent 'Oblivion,' only Tom Cruise didn't cast his kid in his movie. Still, Smith does big business in the summertime expect more of the same.

The Internship' June 7

There's no disputing that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn have captured comedic magic in the past. However, there's a sense that their time has passed, which in a sad coincidence, is also what this movie is about. Wilson and Vaughn (who co-wrote the script) star as salesmen who lose their jobs and somehow stumble into an internship at Google, where they have to compete with young, tech-savvy go-getters. Expect a lot of tired jokes and plenty of Vaughn getting angry and Wilson being bemused this one has a chance to be pretty terrible. It might be good, but I have doubts.

This is the End' June 12

Ever wonder how some of your favorite comedic actors might react to an impending apocalypse? Wonder no longer 'This is the End' is the movie for you. The entire Judd Apatow crew is represented we see the apocalypse unfold from inside James Franco's house. Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg make their directorial debut they also wrote the screenplay. Everyone is playing versions of themselves Franco, Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel and a wealth of others in this film that looks to be one of the more interesting comedies of the summer.

Man of Steel' June 14

As a fan of superhero movies, I was worried that the snoozefest that was 'Superman Returns' might have ruined Superman's chance to join the current comic movie cavalcade. Happily, it looks like Zack Snyder, along with screenwriter David S. Goyer, has found a way to get the Man of Steel back into the fold. It looks darker and grittier, with a dynamite cast. Seriously, Russell Crowe as Outer Space Dad and Kevin Costner as Earth Dad? Sign me up! And Henry Cavill really looks the part, while the outstanding Michael Shannon will gnaw on some scenery as General Zod. I admit to having pretty high hopes for this one.

World War Z' June 21

This zombie epic, based on the 2006 Max Brooks novel of the same name, has been languishing in development for a number of years and faced numerous setbacks. The final product is ready to hit theaters. Brad Pitt stars as a United Nations worker searching for solutions to the zombie outbreak that is overwhelming the globe. The trailers offer some great looking moments, but one should always be wary of any film that has faced as many rewrites and delays as this one. Still, the core story is intriguing one just hopes that the film finds a way to replicate the impact of the novel.

White House Down' June 28

So what's better than one movie about terrorists attacking the White House? Two of them! We already had 'Olympus Has Fallen' earlier this year, but it's Channing Tatum's turn to do battle against the bad guys in an attempt to protect the president. This time, the Commander in Chief is played by Jamie Foxx. Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods and Richard Jenkins all make appearances of their own. Tatum is a Capitol police officer while Gerard Butler was a Secret Service agent, but honestly, it feels like two years from now, these films will be essentially indistinguishable - 2013's 'Armageddon' and 'Deep Impact.'

The Heat' June 28

Kudos to Hollywood they are trying their damnedest to find the right film to showcase Melissa McCarthy's considerable comedic talents. It's unclear if 'The Heat' is that film, but the trailers certainly make it look like they're giving it a go. McCarthy stars alongside Sandra Bullock; McCarthy is a maverick cop who doesn't play by the rules while Bullock is strictly by-the-book and all about procedure. Yes, you've seen this story before, but still there's something here. If this turns out to be 'Lethal Weapon' with female leads and it kind of looks that way (albeit heavier on the comedy) I honestly might be sold.

The Lone Ranger' July 3

My pick for the biggest flop of the summer. Disney is trying too damned hard to make this bloated thing (a reported $250 million budget) fly. Director Gore Verbinski has worked wonders for Big Mouse before he did the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' films but 'The Lone Ranger' looks off. Whether it's the attempt to turn the admittedly-talented Armie Hammer into an action hero (he's not) or hoping that the bizarre stunt casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto will work (it won't), this film has all the makings of a big-budget disaster. Maybe I'm wrong, but the trailers thus far haven't given me any reason to doubt my first take. 

Pacific Rim' July 12

Few filmmakers working today display the vivid (and oftentimes downright creepy) imagination that Guillermo del Toro offers. His latest features a world where gigantic monsters have risen from the seas to threaten humanity. In an effort to stave off extinction, huge fighting robots have been constructed to do battle with the enormous enemy. Starring FX network mainstays like Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman ('Sons of Anarchy') and Charlie Day ('It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia') and driven by del Toro's creativity, 'Pacific Rim' might show the world that Michael Bay isn't the only guy who can do giant robots.

The Wolverine' July 26

Hugh Jackman's last solo effort as Wolverine was tepid at best. That poorly-received film finally gets a follow-up; all we can do is hope it's better than the last time out. Wolverine goes to modern-day Japan, discovering enemies from his past that will have a major impact upon his future. There's certainly some real potential here. It has a chance to be a great-looking film and Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine has always been solid. And you better believe that there will be ninja fights. Just cross your fingers; maybe 'The Wolverine' will be good enough to blow the lingering stink off the franchise.

Elysium' Aug. 9

Matt Damon gets into the 'world of the future' act with this one. While it risks feeling derivative following so many seemingly-similar films, 'Elysium' has some things going for it. It looks like it might dig a bit deeper than its futuristic brethren writer/director Neill Blomkamp was responsible for the excellent 'District 9' and the trailers indicate a similar class warfare kind of vibe. Damon is outstanding in heady action fare and the cast also features Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. This might well be the best of 2013's 'the future is futuristic but also kind of terrible' movies.

Kick-Ass 2' Aug. 16

After 2010's surprisingly good 'Kick-Ass,' some anticipation of the sequel is actually warranted. The original cast (Chloe Grace Moritz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is back time has passed and Kick-Ass and Hit Girl are trying to figure out what the next phase of their lives will be. They wind up joining forces with a number of other crimefighters most notably Jim Carrey's Colonel Stars and Stripes only to be confronted by a new team of supervillains aimed at destroying Kick-Ass's entire world. It might be more of the same, but if the filmmakers can find a way to recapture the spirit of the original, this offering could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.

The World's End' Aug. 23

Writer-director Edgar Wright has finally reached the conclusion of the sort-of trilogy that began with 'Shaun of the Dead' and continued with 'Hot Fuzz.' In this one, he reunites with stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (who co-wrote the script) for a tale of old friends coming together in an attempt to top an epic pub crawl from their youth 20 years ago. Only it turns out that these five men somehow become the only hope for humanity's survival. Everything about this film screams awesome it might well make for a spectacular conclusion to the summer movie season.


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