Summer movies are just too big to stay within the calendar months of the season this year. Officially, summer does not begin until June. At the box office, it begins this week, with the first of the year’s guaranteed blockbusters, “Iron Man 3” starring Robert Downey, Jr., People Magazine’s current “most beautiful woman in the world” cover girl Gwyneth Paltrow, and Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin.
After that, the next 16 weeks are going to be filled with superheroes, sequels, wild comedies, chases and explosions, animated family films, and indie darlings.
And there’s one great big drama: Baz Luhrman’s “The Great Gatsby,” the third version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic jazz age story — but the first time in 3D.
Here’s a quick look at what’s coming up:
“Iron Man 3” Director Shane Black takes over from Jon Favreau and new cast members include Paul Bettany, Guy Pearce, and Rebecca Hall. “Wolverine” Hugh Jackman returns as the adamantine-bladed X-Men star, this time fighting yakuzas and ninjas in Japan.
“Man of Steel” British actor Henry Cavill gets to wear the blue tights and red cape of Krypton-survivor turned superhero in this reboot from Zach Snyder, co-starring Amy Adams as Lois Lane and born-to-play-a- supervillain Michael Shannon as General Zod. Watch for Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as George and Martha Kent.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch is the bad guy this time as the crew of the Starship Enterprise has to cope with some complex choices in the middle of the action. “Fast & Furious 6” Justin Lin, who made #5 one of the biggest jolts of cinematic adrenalin, returns — and so does Michelle Rodriguez, even though her character was killed off in an earlier episode.
“Red 2” The Retired Extremely Dangerous spies are back, directed by “Galaxy Quest’s” Dean Parisot. Joining the cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sir Anthony Hopkins.
“Kick-Ass 2” Jim Carrey joins the cast of would-be superheroes as Colonel Stars-and-Stripes when they take on the revenge-filled fury of the Red Mist.“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” The next generation of Greek gods undertake a quest for the golden fleece and a fight against the forces of evil.
“300: Rise of an Empire” Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes” comes to the screen, with Themistokles defending at sea against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.
Monsters, Chases, Explosions, and the End of the World:
“White House Down” For the third time this year (and the second time for “Independence Day’s” Roland Emmerich), the White House gets attacked, and this time it’s a cop played by Channing Tatum who has to save the day (and his daughter). James Woods and Maggie Gyllenhaal play Secret Service agents, and Jamie Foxx is President.
“After Earth” Will Smith and his son Jaden team up for the first time since “The Pursuit of Happyness” in a story about a return to the post-end-of-the-world third rock from the sun, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
“Pacific Rim” Aliens. Giant robots. Directed by fanboy-favorite Guillermo del Toro.
“The Lone Ranger” Winkelveii-portrayer Armie Hammer plays the title role, but the one to keep your eye on here is Johnny Depp, reuniting with his “Pirates” director Gore Verbinski to play Tonto.
“Elysium” Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in this after-the-end-of-the-world movie, directed by “District 9’s” Neill Blomkamp.
“2 Guns” Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg play law enforcement officers investigating each other — until they discover they have been framed and have to work together. A strong supporting cast include’s Washington’s “Deja Vu” co-star Paula Patton, as well as James Marsden, Bill Paxton, and Edward James Olmos.
“epic” A human girl is shrunk down to the size of an insect in this small-scale adventure from the “Ice Age” folks, with voices by Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Jason Sudeikis, Beyoncé, Chris O’Dowd, Colin Farrell, and Christoph Waltz.
“Monsters University” If there’s a sure bet this summer, this prequel to Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” is it. We’ll get to see how Sully and Mike learned everything they know about scaring in a movie that will have everyone in the family wanting to go to college. Steve Buscemi, Billy Crystal and John Goodman return, joined by new voices Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, John Krasinski, Alfred Molina, Sean Hays, and Charlie Day.
“Planes” This summer’s big release from Disney feels a bit “Cars”-ish — Dane Cook, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, and Brad Garrett lend their voices to this story of a crop-dusting plane who wants to race.
“Turbo” Another racing underdog story — this one is about a garden snail who gets the power of speed and wants to compete in a car race. Voice talent includes Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hadar, Paul Giamatti, Richard Jenkins, and Maya Rudolph.
“Despicable Me 2” Did you think Gru and the girls were going to live happily ever after? Not quite. Gru (Steve Carrell) is recruited to fight a super-villain in this sequel — we don’t know much more than that, but prepare for lots of minions.
“Peebles” Funny man Craig Robinson has his first romantic lead as a man who meets the “chocolate Kennedy” family of the girl he loves (“Scandal’s” Kerry Washington) in this Tyler Perry-produced comedy written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism, with an all-star cast that includes Diahanne Carroll, David Alan Grier, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Melvin Van Peebles.
“The Heat” “Bridesmaids'” director Paul Feig re-teams with Melissa McCarthy in this female buddy-cop story featuring reliable funny men Marlon Wayans, Tony Hale, and Taran Killam.
“This is the End” A comedic take on this year’s popular end-of-the-world theme, this one stars frequent co-stars and off-screen pals Jonah Hill, James Franco, Paul, Rudd, Jason Segal, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Danny McBride, and Seth Rogen, joined by Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and Rihanna.
“The Internship” Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson re-team in a recession comedy, but the real star of the movie is Google, the employer of the title’s highly competitive entry-level positions.
“The Girl Most Likely” The writer-directors of “American Splendor” direct Kristin Wiig in this story of a playwright struggling after success, co-starring Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, and “Glee’s” Darren Criss.
Indie Darlings: “Frances Ha” Indie queen Greta Gerwig stars in the typical indie story — a young woman trying to find herself. With “Squid and the Whale’s” Noah Baumbach writing (with Gerwig) and directing, it is definitely worth a look.
“Before Midnight” The third chapter (fourth if you count the segment of “Waking Life”) following “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” shows us what happened to Jesse and Celine.
“The East” A former FBI agent now working at a private security firm goes undercover in an activist group plotting some extreme “jams” to expose corporate misbehavior finds herself reconsidering which side she wants to be on. Co-screenwriter Britt Marling stars with Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Jason Ritter, and Patricia Clarkson.
“The Kings of Summer” Three teenage boys run away from home to live in the woods in this smart and endearing story, with terrific performances by newcomer Nick Robinson and the always-reliable Megan Mullally, Alison Brie, and Nick Offerman.
“Much Ado About Nothing” Joss Whedon called his friends to come over to his house for a couple of weeks to make a stylish, black and white modern-day version of Shakespeare’s most rollicking love story.
“The Way, Way Back” This Sundance favorite written by the guys behind “The Descendants” is the story of a boy dragged to his mother’s boyfriend’s beach house. The boyfriend (Steve Carrell) is a bully, but the boy is befriended by a water park manager (Sam Rockwell).
“The Spectacular Now” Advance word is that the stars of this story of a party boy who is challenged by a girl are on the brink of a major break-through. Learn those names now: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley.
“Austenland” Have you ever dreamed of living in a Jane Austen novel? In this movie, an Austen-like theme park gives fans the chance at a fantasy regency romance, starring Keri Russell.
I love the NPR news quiz show “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” and listen every week. On May 2, fans will be able to watch the show live in theaters across the country. Tickets are available from Fathom Events. Peter Sagal and official judge and scorekeeper Carl Kasell will be joined by panelists Paula Poundstone, Mo Rocca and Tom Bodett to play the quiz in front of a live audience. And Steve Martin will be joining the cast to answer questions and play the popular segment “Not My Job!”
I love this look at the world’s coolest movie theaters with features like double bed with cashmere blankets and haute cuisine. I’d add in local favorites — the fabulous Angelika Mosaic, with state of the art audiovisual equipment and the all-recliner AMC Courthouse. I was thrilled to visit the amazing Warren Theaters when I was in Kansas. I was sorry to miss seeing the restored Virginia Theater because I could not make it to Ebertfest this year, but hope to see it, soon, back to its original grandeur. What do you think makes a perfect movie theater?
We mourn the passing of country legend George Jones, who died today at age 81. His life, filled with tragedy and resilience and love found and lost, was like a country song. As the New York Times wrote: “With a baritone voice that was as elastic as a steel-guitar string, he brought suspense to every syllable, merging bluesy slides with the tight, quivering ornaments of Appalachian singing.”