Summer Movie Preview

 

Man of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe
Release Date June 14

Sometimes, a superhero just needs a facelift (or extensive full-body plastic surgery, as is the case in the Superman universe). America’s original superhero has begot a half-century of reboots and remakes since his 1951 film inception (including one gender change — 1984’s “Supergirl,” anyone?), each one falling several steps below the last. Of course, if anybody can lead a resurrection to glory, it’s Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”). With Nolan running the show as producer and Zack Snyder directing, 2013’s “Man of Steel” will have to fall quite a long way to fail.

Part of reinventing this DC Comics hero dealt with making him a little more relatable and a little less invincible — something difficult to accomplish, considering his only weakness is a glowing green space rock. Snyder and Nolan, however, trashed the Kryptonite, instead choosing to focus on the emotional vulnerabilities of Mr. Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavill (“The Tudors,” “Immortals”). “Man of Steel” tests Kent in far more than just physical ways as he is forced to reckon with both his true identity in the face of a global menace — Kryptonian supremacist General Zod (Michael Shannon), to be exact — and his biological father’s resurgence (Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe).

In the midst of making a grittier, more modern Superman, the hero lost his classic red undies. Despite this, Superman’s origin story doesn’t stray too far from the original, as screenwriter David S. Goyer was sure to include Kent/Kal-El’s childhood flight from Krypton to Earth — albeit with a slight change in the stakes. “Man of Steel”’s Krypton features engineered children bred for specific purposes, making the natural-born Kal-El a crime purely by his existence. Jor-El sends his son to safety, and he lands in the hands of the country-grown Kents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), who teach him all he needs to know to be a humble, all-American boy. As an adult, Kent stays away from the beaten path, but fails to evade the attention of Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

From a confused loner with a little too much strength to a purebred superhero, Clark Kent’s journey has been 75 years in the making — and with “Man of Steel,” Marvel may have finally met its match.

— Jacey Aldredge
A&E Editor 

World War Z

Directed by Marc Foster
Starring Brad Pitt
Release Date June 21

The zombie virus has clearly infected moviegoers, as is evidenced by such successes as “Warm Bodies” and the hit AMC series “The Walking Dead.” The disease has spread, and summer 2013 will see the most ambitious interpretation of the genre. Some filmmakers stylize their re-animated corpses as slow and trudging, in homage to the zombies in George Romero’s 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead.” “World War Z,” though, exhibits no such reverence, with hordes of sprinting flesh-eaters surging across cityscapes like undead tidal waves. 

Brad Pitt sports a goatee and chin-length hair as Gerry Lane, a man who sets about trying to solve the zombie crisis which has become a global pandemic. The film and the Max Brooks novel it was based on share a name and a protagonist employed by the U.N., but that’s where the similarities end. Fans expecting a cinematic rendition of the intimate personal accounts that comprised the novel are seeking out the wrong movie, as “World War Z” is shaping up to be a stand-alone story that mainly follows Lane’s endeavors to stop the zombie crisis. The drama rests on Lane’s love and care for his wife (Mireille Enos, “The Killing”) and his two daughters. His fight for humanity is, at its core, a fight to preserve his family. 

Director Marc Foster brings his experience with action movies from “Quantum of Solace” and “Machine Gun Preacher” to the table, with harrowing rooftop chase scenes and zombie battles at 30,000 feet in the air. The film’s scope is tremendous, taking place in several global locations — including England, Scotland and Malta — over large expanses of city. “World War Z” has set itself apart from its undead counterparts: Rather than narrating the aftermath of a virus-ravaged world, it captures the zombie apocalypse in real time as it destroys the very ideas of normalcy and order.

— Raquel Calderon
Staff Writer 

Kick Ass 2

Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Chirstopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey
Release Date August 16

There is something to be said about a movie that has managed to gain a cult following in the span of only three years, and in the case of the 2010 film “Kick-Ass,” the film was quirky, heavily stylized and practically violent enough to be “Kill Bill: Vol. 3.” It was also a thrilling film that left many audiences wanting more, and that’s where “Kick-Ass 2” comes in, slated to be another cartoonish gore-fest.

It’s clear that there won’t be many major changes to the ideas that made the first film a success: Matthew Vaughn and Brad Pitt are back as producers, and the main cast members (sans Nicolas Cage, whose character died in the first film) have all returned. In the film’s second installment, the hero Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) has joined up with other vigilantes to fight crime, while his former accomplice, Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), has decided to retire and live a normal life — though as superhero movies often go, it’s obvious that she won’t stick to her plan. Considering the duo’s sharp chemistry in the last film, their return will give the film a strong foundation. Christopher Mintz-Plasse reprises his role as the main antagonist, though he’s changed his identity from Red Mist to — and this isn’t a joke — The Mother Fucker. 

Along with the cast from “Kick-Ass,” Jim Carrey assumes the role of a newcomer vigilante, Colonel Stars and Stripes, complete with an army uniform and bandito face mask. With the dry-humored script that the first movie brought, there’s a lot of potential for Carrey’s performance to stand out, especially considering the brand of disturbed humor that he brings to his roles. Though it would probably make for an uncomfortable evening out with the family, “Kick-Ass 2 is going to be a dark, idiosyncratic change of pace from the usual Marvel superheroes and a good bet for those who can handle a lot of violence.

— Kyle Somers
Staff Writer 

Monster’s University

Directed by Dan Scanlon
Starring Billy Crystal, John Goodman
Release Date June 21

The target audience for “Monsters University” may be the little ones, but the latest Pixar flick very well may be more relatable for undergrads this summer, between Greek rivalries, dorm pranks and four-year degrees in “scaring.”

Maybe not that last one.

“MU” takes fans of “Monsters, Inc.” back to the wild college days of our favorite creatures before they became best friends and co-workers. Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprise their vocal roles of the one-eyed Mike Wazowski and hairy Sulley as incoming freshmen at the eponymous college. Much to their chagrin, the teenaged monsters — both “scaring” majors — are forced to be roommates and become instant rivals, as each aspires to be the most ferocious monster on campus. When offered a chance to reach this goal by participating in an inter-Greek competition (a la Harry Potter’s Triwizard Tournament) the pair must set their personal differences aside to work together effectively.

The film will be another in a long line of Pixar films filled with quick wit, lots of heart and an all-star cast of quirky creatures voiced by the likes of Steve Buscemi (reprising his role as “Monsters, Inc.” antagonist, Randy), Helen Mirren as the stern dean of MU and Charlie Day as an eccentric, elusive, hippie new age philosophy student.

Even Pixar has, in recent years, resorted to Hollywood’s dreaded backup plan: more sequels, less originality. Pixar fans — and Disney’s ever-growing bank — can rest assured, however, that whatever Pixar churns out will be fresh and innovative. “MU” may be Pixar’s first sequel, but let’s not forget that it’s created by the same studio that undoubtedly set the bar for sequels and prequels alike with 2010’s “Toy Story 3.” Audiences will enjoy seeing these classic Pixar characters in their younger years: a little more energetic, a little less mature and just as lovable as they are rescuing the adorable toddler Boo years later.  

— Jacqueline Kim
Staff Writer 

Pacific Rim

Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day 
Release Date July 12

With “Pacific Rim,” director Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”) finally seems to have figured out how to appeal to sci-fi aficionados and the general populace alike with a trailer that’s meticulously optimized to illicit responses of, “Holy shit, that’s awesome!” But rest assured, this is not merely a Transformers rip-off (a natural presumption considering Michael Bay’s ubiquitous influence on the giant monster genre). Instead, del Toro delves into his love for Japanese Kaiju cinema, as seen in the original 1954 “Godzilla” film, to create his vision of human-piloted robots fighting giant aliens that spawn from an inter-dimensional portal.

In the hands of a skilled director like del Toro, “Pacific Rim” promises to be a spectacle that is more than the sum of its parts. The preadolescent CGI subject matter of robots-versus-aliens isn’t shrugged off as frivolous action under Del Toro’s steady hand; instead, it delivers the sentiment that the destruction on screen is momentous and truly shit-your-pants apocalyptic. Likewise, no long-winded setup or Hollywood love triangle is present to distract from the central plot. Rather, del Toro is intent on focusing screen time on the conflict between the robots, called “Jaegers,” and their human pilots who attempt to control them.

If the image of a 300-foot-tall robot swinging a cargo ship at an alien (yes, this actually happens) isn’t enough for you, the CGI action is anchored by a cast of respected character actors. Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) and Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”) star as the lead copilots, while supporting actor Idris Elba (“The Wire,” “Prometheus”) bellows epic speeches and Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Horrible Bosses”) puts his slapstick (and Rat Stick) away to play a wise, straitlaced scientist.

With a stellar cast and his own wealth invested in this film, del Toro treats his childlike obsession with robots maturely and seriously. The gaudy action and jerky camerawork of Michael Bay is nowhere to be found here. Instead, we watch in awe as the colossal machines move their immensity slowly and deliberately, carrying the fate of the world squarely on their shoulders.

— Dieter Joubert
Associate A&E Editor 

The Bling Ring

Directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring Emma Watson, Katie Chang
Release Date June 14

Robbery has never looked more glamorous than it does in Sofia Coppola’s latest feature. Inspired by the infamous real-life 2009 Hollywood Hills robberies, this part-crime drama, part-social commentary is sure to shed light on the fame-obsessed materialistic culture plaguing youth today. 

The film follows ringleader Rebecca (played by newcomer Katie Chang) and her accomplices, Marc (Isreal Brussard), Nicki (Emma Watson, “Perks of Being a Wallflower”), Chloe (Claire Julien) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga, “American Horror Story”) on their ventures to rob the homes of idolized celebrities. With the help of Google Maps, this group of well-dressed kleptomaniacs snags millions of dollars’ worth of items from stars like Paris Hilton (who makes a cameo), Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan — to name a few. But all of the fun takes a sharp nosedive as the LAPD zeroes in on the ego-fueled convicts. The group must then face the consequences of their actions, whether from behind prison bars or under the media’s watchful eye. 

Aside from getting to see Emma Watson transform from a bookish wizard into a sultry, stiletto-wearing Hollywood criminal, Coppola is sure to have created a screenplay and film that far exceeds already high expectations. If past projects like Oscar-winning “Lost in Translation” are any indication of the quality of her work, this flick will be much more than a group of rebellious teens misbehaving. In a way, the film reflects what an elitist generation can become when set loose in the city where “dreams come true.” A lethal dose of wealth and materialism in the Los Angeles nightclub scene can ignite even a teen to rob the homes of multi-millionaires. Come summer, the hot designer item of the season will soon be a pair of slick chrome handcuffs.

— Pablo Valdivia
Staff Writer 

The Lone Ranger

Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp
Release Date July 3

Ah, America. There’s no better way to celebrate this year’s Independence Day than with a little trip back to the days of swashbuckling cowboys, native warriors and the Wild West. “The Lone Ranger,” which originated long before the time of John Wayne or “Walker, Texas Ranger” (sorry, Chuck Norris), is getting a reboot. From its 1933 radio debut to the long-running 1950s television show, the adventures of the titular vigilante and his quick-witted Native American comrade have been slingin’ knuckles for quite some time.

This time around, the year is 1869, and the Ranger, given the name John Reid, is a city-educated lawyer who comes to Texas to instill his moral, righteous ways of life upon the community. However, after his partner (and older brother) is killed by the unrelenting Cavendish gang, he keeps his badge, throws out legalities, adds a mask and teams up with his capricious bird-hat-wearing savior, Tonto, to strike fear into outlaws and lawless officials alike.

Aside from keeping intact the series’ themes of justice and heroism and its endless catchphrases (“Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” still rings across playgrounds nationwide), this summer’s “The Lone Ranger” is a different brand of the classic Western. Helmed by director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), “Ranger” is a tour de force of Revisionist Western splendor. Armie Hammer’s (“The Social Network”) Ranger looks mighty fine and devilish as hell — and then there’s Johnny Depp. Depp both narrates and plays the wayward Tonto, reinventing the role from that of a mere sidekick to a jaunty warrior who will surely display some of the actor’s eccentric mannerisms. Throw in some not-so-surprising cohorts (Helena Bonham Carter, we’re lookin’ at you) and quite an impressive update to the original’s action sequences (if only Clayton Moore could see that train explode), and the film’s visually magnificent soiree is sure to blow you away.

So, kemosabe — come July 4, get your ass to the movie theater.

— Jacey Aldredge
A&E Editor 

Girl Most Likely

Directed by Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Starring Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening
Release Date July 19

Kristen Wiig graces the silver screen once again in the nationwide release of “Girl Most Likely.” Wiig plays Imogene Duncan, an unsuccessful playwright who has recently been dumped by her boyfriend. In an act of desperation — or romanticism — she attempts suicide to win back her former love. Just like her career, her attempt fails, and Duncan is sent back to live with her dysfunctional, gambling-addict mother Zelda (Annette Bening, “The Kids are All Right”) because of her mental instability. Once she moves in, Duncan learns her mother has shacked up with compulsive liar “George Boosh” (Matt Dillon, “There’s Something About Mary”) and has rented out her old room to a 20-something stranger named Lee (Darren Criss, “Glee”). “Girl Most Likely” allows Wiig to play — as she often does — her role as a slightly neurotic character but in the backdrop of a comedic setting with more depth.

Even with the new cinematic context, the talented cast members, among them Bening, who has four Academy Award nominations, and Criss, who has a fitting role as a dancer/singer in a Backstreet Boys cover band, accentuate each other’s acting abilities. Although the script, written by Michelle Morgan and directed by veteran couple Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (“American Splendor,” “The Nanny Diaries”), doesn’t take risks in new comedic ventures, the film won’t let you down in its simplicity and memorability as an excellent summer comedy.

— Vincent Pham
Senior Staff Writer 

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