BLADE ILLUSTRATION BY TOM FISHER
The Hollywood summer film schedule is much like the movies themselves: lots of stars and plenty of high-stakes battles.
Last summer, for example, there were nearly 20 franchise launches/sequels released in 16 weeks. Yet despite predictions of moviegoer fatigue and franchise cannibalism, the studios made $4.85 billion worldwide — a billion more than the fall-holiday season. That’s an increase of 12.7 percent from summer, 2012. Yes, ticket prices were up, but so, too, was audience attendance by more than 10 percent.
Instead of being overwhelmed by their movie choices, audiences approached the summer film season as if it was an all-youcan-eat cinema buffet.
So how does Hollywood make this summer’s sequel? In rather untypical fashion, it goes smaller. There are only 13 or so franchise launches/sequels, though there are plenty of major releases in the next four months.
RELATED ARTICLE: Smaller films are worth a look
Below are some of the summer highlights.
Release dates are subject to change.
May 2: The Amazing Spiderman 2. After Marc Webb’s successful, more teen-centered franchise reboot in 2012, Web Slinger 2.0 (Andrew Garfield), squares off against a trio of foes — Electro (Jamie Foxx), The Rhino (Paul Giamatti), and Harry Osborn/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) — with one thing in common: Oscorp. Webb returns as does Emma Stone as Gwen.
May 9: Neighbors. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are new parents struggling for that spark in their marriage. But their problems grow bigger when their nice, quiet neighborhood is upended by a fraternity moving in next door. Nick Stoller directed this R-rated comedy, which also stars Zac Efron as the frat leader.
May 16: Godzilla. Godzilla takes on humanity’s military might and other massive beasts bent on our destruction. Gareth Edwards, who drew big-league notice for his first feature film, Monsters, is at the helm. Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, and Juliette Binoche.
Million Dollar Arm. A down-on-his-luck sports agent (Jon Hamm) travels to India to find MLB’s next big pitcher among the country’s cricket players. He finds two (Madhur Mittal, Suraj Sharma), brings them to the United States, and learns much about himself along the way. Based on a true story, this Disney family film is generating terrific industry buzz.
May 23: X-Men: Days of Future Past. Director Bryan Singer returns to helm film franchise he begat with the adaptation of the revered X-Men Days of Future Past comic-book storyline. In this time-shifting tale, Wolverine unites with the younger X-Men to change the course of history and save mutants and humanity. Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Evan Peters, and Omar Sy.
Blended. A blind date from hell is enough to convince Lauren (Drew Barrymore) and Jim (Adam Sandler) they never want to see each other again. But the single parents cross paths once more while on a weeklong vacation with their families, where -- even worse -- they’re forced to share a suite at a luxurious African safari resort. Blended marks the third romantic-comedy pairing of Sandler and Barrymore, as well as a reunion between the actors and director Frank Coraci (1998’s The Wedding Singer). Also starring Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kevin Nealon, Shaquille O'Neal, Terry Crews, Joel McHale, Abdoulaye Ngom, Jessica Lowe, Braxton Beckham, Bella Thorne, Kyle Red Silverstein, Emma Fuhrmann, Alyvia Alyn Lind.
May 30: A Million Ways to Die in the West. Seth MacFarlane’s raunchy Ted was the biggest and funniest comedy of 2012. His R-rated Wild West laffer features much of the same creative team, with MacFarlane starring as a cowardly sheep farmer who loses his girlfriend, finds love, and then must fight to keep it. Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Maleficent. Angelina Jolie stars as Disney’s iconic villainess from Sleeping Beauty in this live-action film that explores the origins of Maleficent’s evil and her need for revenge. Elle Fanning also stars as the grown-up Princess Aurora, with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, who wrote Tim Burton’s wildly successful live-action Alice in Wonderland.
June 6: Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are future military personnel caught in a time loop of fighting and dying in the same desperate battle, with each recurring loss bringing them closer to victory. The Bourne Identity’s Doug Liman directs.
June 13: 22 Jumpstreet. Undercover officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) survived high school in 21 Jumpstreet, but their next undercover mission at a local college proves even more challenging. Fresh off their surprise early 2014 blockbuster The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return to direct this comedy sequel.
How to Train Your Dragon 2. The middle chapter in this film trilogy features heroic Viking Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his faithful dragon Toothless encountering a lost world of dragons and fighting the power-hungry Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) for the future of man and fiery beasts. Gerard Butler, Kit Harington, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, and Kristen Wiig return, with the vocal addition of two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett.
June 20: Jersey Boys. Clint Eastwood directs this film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical about four teenagers from New Jersey and their trials and triumphs on their way to stardom as the 1960’s rock group The Four Seasons. It stars John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda, and Christopher Walken.
June 27: Transformers: Age of Extinction. Director Michael Bay shakes up his franchise, with Shia LaBeouf out and Mark Wahlberg in as a mechanic, who, with his daughter (Nicola Peltz) make an important discovery that draws the attention of the Transformer-hating Feds, the Autobots, and the Decepticons. Stanley Tucci, Jack Reynor, Abigail Klein, and Kelsey Grammer.
July 2: Tammy. Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone co-wrote and co-directed this R-rated comedy about a woman with ongoing major life struggles — no car, no job, cheating husband — whose road trip with grandma (Susan Sarandon) to Niagara Falls may be the cure-all for her troubles. Expect lots of profanity and physical comedy from McCarthy.
July 11: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. A decade after the first film, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his nation of genetically evolved apes thrive, while a deadly virus has left humans on the brink. The battling species have reached an uneasy peace, though war seems inevitable to decide the fates of man and ape. Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smith-McPhee, Enrique Murciano, and Kirk Acevedo. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ director Matt Reeves is already attached to the next chapter.
July 18: Jupiter Ascending. The odyssey of an Earth woman (Mila Kunis) with an important cosmic legacy, and the genetically engineered former soldier (Channing Taturm) assigned to make sure she reaches her destiny, this sci-fi-adventure marks the Wachowski siblings’ first original story since The Matrix trilogy.
July 25: Hercules. Based on the comic series by Steve Moore, Hercules stars Dwayne Johnson as the Greek demigod who, after his years-long 12 Labors of mythology, is recruited by the King of Thrace to defeat a vicious warlord. Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) directs.
Sex Tape. A married couple (Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz) wake up to their worst nightmare: the sex tape they made the night before is missing, and they have to find it before it gets out. Diaz reunites with her Bad Teacher director Jake Kasdan.
Aug. 1: Guardians of the Galaxy. Disney-Marvel is on a roll. So here comes the challenge of the comic-book adaptation of an unlikely team of aliens (including a raccoon and a tree) banded together to protect a mysterious orb from the universe-threatening villain Ronan. James Gunn, who penned 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake, wrote and directed.
Aug. 8: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This Michael Bay-produced reboot has been mired in fan angst: from the look and origin of the turtles to the casting of Megan Fox as their human friend. Despite the controversies, the film about four titular heroes and their sensi rat who battle longtime nemesis the Shredder (William Fichtner) could prove to be a late-summer blockbuster. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles, Wrath of Titans). Will Arnett, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Danny Woodburn, Pete Ploszek, Minae Noji, Abby Elliott, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Lucy. Filmmaker Luc Besson has a knack for creating tough female action heroes in films such as La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element. Lucy (Scarlett Johannson), however, may be his most badass yet; a mentally evolved woman forced to unleash her superhuman abilities on those who would capture and control her. Besson wrote and directs, Morgan Freeman also stars.
Aug. 15: The Giver. Lois Lowry’s beloved children’s novel gave birth to the popular dystopian YA trend in 1993, and now finally makes it the big screen. In a Community of “Sameness” — without war, pain, suffering, or differences — a teenager named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is given the knowledge and memories of the real world, including pain and pleasure, by the Giver (Jeff Bridges), and then decides to share that awakening with others. Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, and Taylor Swift, with Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) directing.
The Expendables 3. Sylvester Stallone and the rest of his mostly over-the-hill gang of action stars are back for a third installment with a younger crew and a more personal mission: battling Expendables’ co-founder Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) and his team of mercenaries. Patrick Hughes directs in a warm-up exercise for his new gig helming Hollywood’s version of the Indonesian martial arts cult hit The Raid.
Aug. 29: Life of Crime. A pair of criminals (John Hawkes, yasiin bey aka Mos Def) kidnap the wife (Jennifer Aniston) of a crooked real-estate developer (Tim Robbins), who refuses to pay the ransom, setting in motion a series of deceptions and twists. Also starring Isla Fisher and Will Forte, this dark comedy is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “The Switch.”
November Man. Pierce Brosnan returns to the spy world as a former CIA operative brought back into the game to match wits against a former pupil. Based on the novel “There Are No Spies,” by Bill Granger, as part of his November Man series, the film adaptation is reunites Brosnan with his Dante’s Peak director, Roger Donaldson.
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