Summer brings superheros, aliens, thrillers to the movies

Washington PostMay 15, 2014 

Like Christmas candy that pops up at the grocery store in October, the start of the summer movie season is arriving earlier and earlier. May has only just begun, and already films are getting louder and sillier and superhero-heavy.

If you want to use your brain while sitting in a movie theater, you might want to wait until Oscar season. For now, you can relax while Godzilla demolishes cities, the Guardians of the Galaxy try to save the universe and Seth MacFarlane reinvents the Western. We’ve picked out some of the promising films for summer.

Note: Opening dates and ratings may change.

MAY 23

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” (PG-13): Jackman can sing and dance with the best of them, but his real passion seems to be growling and brawling. He again returns to the role of Wolverine for another “X-Men” installment, which finds him time-traveling to the 1970s to alter history and potentially save man- and mutant-kind. Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender.

“Blended” (PG-13): It has been 10 years since Barrymore and Sandler played love interests in “50 First Dates” and more than 15 since they did the same in “The Wedding Singer.” History repeats itself with the story of two single parents who don’t hit it off on a blind date but coincidentally end up taking their children on the same African safari. Stars: Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Wendi McLendon-Covey.

MAY 30

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” (R): MacFarlane usually stays behind the scenes, but the writer-director is starring in his latest wacky dark comedy, which takes place in the old West. He plays a farmer just trying to survive until he meets a woman worth fighting (and very possibly dying) for. Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson.

“Maleficent” (PG): Where does evil come from? That’s the question at the center of this live-action Disney adventure, which tells the origin story of the conniving queen from “Sleeping Beauty.” Jolie plays the title character. Stars: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley.

“Cold in July” (not yet rated): Up-and-coming director Jim Mickle, who made the horror movie “We Are What We Are,” helms this 1980s-set thriller, which follows a Texas man who kills an intruder and finds himself targeted by the deceased criminal’s father. Stars: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson.


“The Fault in Our Stars” (PG-13): Don’t forget the tissues. The movie, based on a best-selling young-adult novel by John Green, follows a teenager stricken with cancer who falls for a free-spirited boy set on teaching her how to live while she still can. Stars: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe.

“Edge of Tomorrow” (PG-13): “Groundhog Day” meets “Pacific Rim” in this futuristic movie. Cruise plays a soldier defending mankind against an onslaught of aliens. The twist? Every time he dies, he gets a mulligan and is sent back in time to try again. Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton.


“How to Train Your Dragon 2” (PG): Following the success of the 2010 original, DreamWorks serves up a new adventure for Hiccup and his flying fire-breather, Toothless. Stars: The voices of Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera.

“22 Jump Street” (not yet rated): “21 Jump Street” stormed the box office in the summer of 2012 – and wowed critics, too – and now Schmidt and Jenko return for more odd-couple buddy-cop hijinks. This time they’re going undercover at a college to try to infiltrate a drug ring. Stars: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube.

“Obvious Child” (R): If you’re looking for an edgy twist on the typical rom-com, writer-director Gillian Robespierre’s feature debut should do the trick. Slate plays a stand-up comedian who gets pregnant after a one-night stand and needs to find a way to tell the father (whom she actually kind of likes) that she plans to get an abortion. Stars: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann.


“Think Like a Man Too” (PG-13): All the characters from the 2012 hit travel to Las Vegas for a wedding. But bar fights, arrests and drunken mishaps threaten to stall holy matrimony. Stars: Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Michael Ealy.

“The Rover” (R): Writer-director David Michod has a talent for portraying desolate and suspenseful scenarios, as in 2010’s “Animal Kingdom.” This time he sets his drama in a post-apocalyptic time when a man holds hostage the injured member of a gang that is terrorizing the Australian outback. Stars: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy.

“Jersey Boys” (R): Another adaptation of a Tony winner, this musical is directed by Clint Eastwood and tells the story of Frankie Valli’s rise to fame with the Four Seasons. Young, who played Valli on Broadway, reprises his role. Stars: John Lloyd Young, Christopher Walken, Vincent Piazza.


“Transformers: Age of Extinction” (not yet rated): Michael Bay is back directing the fourth “Transformers” installment. A new cast will help breathe life into the franchise, led by action-movie virtuoso Mark Wahlberg.


“Tammy” (R): McCarthy is turning into the queen of female-driven summer comedy. After the success of “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat,” she takes the lead in this road trip movie about a woman whose lost job and cheating husband inspire her to drive to Niagara Falls with her lewd, alcoholic grandmother. Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Dan Aykroyd.

“Deliver Us From Evil” (not yet rated): Horrifying exorcism movies tend to do well at the box office. This movie has the potential to be just such a hit. Bana plays a cop who teams with a devil-banishing type of priest to investigate a spate of crimes. Stars: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn


“Begin Again” (R): John Carney, who wrote and directed the sweet crowd-pleaser “Once,” presents another music-driven dramedy. Ruffalo plays a recently fired record executive who stumbles upon a musician who has been living in the shadow of her rock star ex-boyfriend. Stars: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld.

“Boyhood” (R): On the heels of an Oscar nomination for “Before Midnight,” writer-director Richard Linklater presents an unorthodox coming-of-age movie about a child of divorced parents navigating the confusing, universal path toward adulthood. Stars: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (not yet rated): The movie takes place a decade after 2011’s surprise smash “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and finds primate Caesar and his colony taking on mankind. Stars: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke.


“Jupiter Ascending” (not yet rated): The Wachowski siblings, the masterminds of the “Matrix” trilogy, wrote and directed this futuristic fantasy about Jupiter Jones, a cleaning woman who finds out she’s destined to rule the universe. Stars: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean.


“Hercules” (not yet rated): The second Hercules movie of the year – Kellan Lutz starred in “The Legend of Hercules” in January – at least promises better casting. In this case, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the muscled, adventurous son of Zeus. Stars: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane.

“A Most Wanted Man” (not yet rated): Don’t expect high-octane, Jason Bourne-level action in this cerebral spy thriller, based on a John le Carre novel. Hoffman, in one of his last movies, plays a German intelligence agent who will stop at nothing to figure out whether a mysterious immigrant has terrorist connections. Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright.

Sex Tape (not yet rated): When a married couple, played by Segel and Diaz, try to spice up their romance by making a home movie, things definitely get interesting – but not in the way they expected. Their directorial debut inadvertently ends up in the hands of their friends and acquaintances. Stars: Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Rob Corddry.


“Get on Up” (not yet rated): Boseman’s star continues to rise. After playing Jackie Robinson in last spring’s “42,” he portrays another important historical figure – funk icon James Brown. Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” (not yet rated): Yet another Marvel adaptation hits the summer screen. Pratt, ever the unlikely hero, plays Peter Quill, the leader of a ragtag group of oddballs that might save the universe. But it probably won’t be pretty. Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel (voice).


“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (not yet rated): Duuuuuuude. The artfully named heroes in a half-shell have awakened from their long slumber for a new live action adventure. Stars: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner.

“Lucy” (not yet rated): Writer-director Luc Besson knows how to create a memorable protagonist; just look at “La Femme Nikita” and “The Professional.” Here, he has Johansson playing the role of a woman with supercharged brainpower and killer instincts who sets out to take down the men who turned her into a warrior genius. Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Analeigh Tipton.

“What If” (PG-13): Kazan plays the manic pixie dream girl yet again in this romantic dramedy about a guy who falls for a girl; when he finds out she’s taken, they decide to be friends. Sure, like that’ll work. Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver.


“The Giver” (not yet rated): Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning young adult novel comes to life in this movie about a futuristic society where pain and suffering have been erased from memory through government-sanctioned injections. But when one boy learns the secret behind his numbed compatriots, he becomes the target of Big Brother. Stars: Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites.


“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” (not yet rated): Director Robert Rodriguez ushers another stylized adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels onto the screen. Like its 2005 predecessor, the movie follows the many inhabitants of a metropolis where unsavory characters abound. Stars: Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson.


“Love Is Strange” (Unrated): Picking up praise at the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals, this lightly comic drama follows a gay couple living in New York. When they decide to get married after four decades together, one loses his job, and the men end up separated as house guests as they try to find affordable living arrangements. Stars: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei.


“The Double” (R): Prepare for a mind-bender as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella lands on the screen courtesy of director Richard Ayoade. The darkly comic thriller follows a mousy office drone who becomes agitated when his new co-worker appears to be his physical twin, right down to the ill-fitting suit, but with a lot more charisma. Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn.

“Chef” (R): Everyone seems to be a foodie these days, so this movie, which blends breezy comedy with tomatillos and truffle oil, should hit the spot. Writer-director Favreau plays a talented chef whose hot-headed tweet gets him fired from an upscale restaurant, leading him to start a food truck. Stars: Jon Favreau, Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo.

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