Chuck Norris doesn’t go to summer movies. He just calls them “movies,” and the seasons change accordingly. But for those of us who must obey the laws of time and space that Chuck would transcend if he ever needed to correct a mistake (he hasn’t yet, because he never makes any), it’s been too long since we could look forward to an honest-to-goodness summer blockbuster starring Chuck Norris. Loki has an army, Tony Stark has a Hulk, but Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables have the not-so-secret human weapon we call the Chuck Wagon. Unless he’s actually the villain, in which case, Sly’s gotta die. Sorry.
There’s more where that came from. A teddy bear with a bladder, Adam Sandler with a grown son, Ridley Scott with a Space Jockey and a girl with a longbow are among the many would-be stars of summer. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, but indicates the box-office behemoths (and some potential sleepers) that are on our radar right now. All dates are subject to change.
The Avengers – Reissue of the 1998 box-office disaster starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman as British spies John Steed and Emma Peel…now post-converted into 3-D! Relax, not really. Well, except the 3-D part. That’s true. But your likely reaction to the first sentence of this blurb tells us that you already know what this Joss Whedon all-star superhero showdown actually is.
Dark Shadows – Movies based on soap operas don’t normally sound like a good idea – unless the soap opera in question happened to have a vampire and a witch as lead characters. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have said that the original Dark Shadows show got them into the gothic horror genre, which makes it doubly strange that they seem to have turned it into a comedy. But with those two, strange is usually good.
God Bless America – A divorced man, recently unemployed, who may be terminally ill, decides to take out his frustrations on some of the worst people in the country…with a handgun. Reality stars, rude people, the types who create everyday annoyances – all targets. Sounds a bit like Falling Down minus the boring Robert Duvall B-plot. And directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.
Battleship – Why is this all-American action flick opening seemingly everywhere else in the world before here? Did the filmmakers just look at a grid style map and go “H-7. Hit! B-3. Release!”? We need aquatic alien action now. And if Liam Neeson doesn’t yell, “YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!” in that barely-concealed Northern-Irish accent that he tries to make sound American sometimes, we are going to be very, very sad.
The Dictator – Worth buying a ticket for just to thank Sacha Baron Cohen for dumping ashes on Ryan Seacrest.
Chernobyl Diaries – It’s like The Blair Witch Project…IN CHERNOBYL!!!! (Cue dramatic soundtrack sting. Or rather, don’t. Because found-footage films truly committed to their concept don’t have soundtrack effects.)
MIB III – Yes, it’s disappointing in a post-ironic way that the theme song is rapped by somebody other than Will Smith, and doesn’t seem to have contributed any catchphrases akin to “nod ya head” to the lexicon. And who knows, there have been all kinds of stories about last-minute rewrites and such. But Josh Brolin doing an extended impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones? That can cover a multitude of sins. (We’d have cast Josh Hartnett, but he probably wouldn’t have been as funny.)
Moonrise Kingdom. Two young lovers run away from home (which is a small island town in New England). Various quirky local characters set out to find them in Wes Anderson’s latest, an all-star affair featuring the likes of Bill Murray (of course), Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman (double of-course), and Bob Balaban.
Snow White and the Huntsman – Okay, all you Twi-haters who say Kristen Stewart should play a more active heroine – you got your wish. She’s an armor-clad Snow White in what looks to be a Warcraft-inspired world, with (uh-oh) two potential suitors: handsome huntsman Chris Hemsworth and pretty prince Sam Claflin. Consider us Team Dopey; we’re tired of the dwarfs totally taking care of her and doing all the hard work just so some better-looking dude can reap the rewards.
Piranha 3DD – For those of you who have been waiting for Baywatch the Movie, they finally made it. And added killer fish. Hey, James Cameron got his career started with a Piranha sequel, and, um, he loves 3-D. So this is…kind of like a new James Cameron movie? Yeah, okay, that’s a stretch. But this is what it is, and Feast director John Gulager knows how to have fun with it. Plus he keeps bringing his father Clu out of retirement to be in his films, which is all to the good.
Prometheus – The plot of this alleged Alien prequel has remained shrouded in mystery until now, but we can exclusively reveal that…hah! Just kidding. We don’t know or want to know any more than you do going in. And yet we keep watching those viral videos about Weyland Industries. Okay…we admit, we would like to know if the continuity of the Alien versus Predator movies exists in this dojo.
Safety Not Guaranteed – Mark Duplass plays a strange recluse who places a personal ad seeking a companion to travel back in time with him. Aubrey Plaza is the newspaper intern who goes undercover to check his story out, but begins falling for the guy, who’s nursing a secret pain. The best part? This is based on a real newspaper ad.
Rock of Ages – Tom Cruise is a Nerdist? Well, kinda-sorta. In this period musical about (and featuring) ’80s metal hits, he’s playing the Axl Rose-ish rock star originally played by Chris Hardwick on stage. People get them confused all the time, especially when Chris climbs up the outside of Nerdist HQ for fun. Anyway, whoever handled wig duties on this flick must have made a fortune.
That’s My Boy – Andy Samberg plays Adam Sandler’s kid. Whatever your opinion of either, we trust that is all you need to know. Oh wait…Vanilla Ice is in it too. And if there’s any justice, he’ll duet with The Lonely Island on the soundtrack.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – We’re not sure what this one’s about, but there might be a clue somewhere in the title.
Brave – Let’s do a logic problem here. If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap. If it’s Pixar, it’s almost certainly not crap. So if a movie is made by Pixar and has a Scottish plot, that’s pretty much a guarantee of being 100% crap-free. Not that we were ever masters of math or anything. But Scottish mythology is a rich and untapped vein for filmmakers, and this proto-feminist fable about a princess, her bow and a wish that nearly undoes everything looks to be a true original this season.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – The phrase “not if you were the last man on earth” takes on new meaning when Keira Knightley meets Steve Carell shortly before an imminent apocalypse. Even a 40 year-old virgin would have a hard time messing that one up.
GI Joe: Retaliation – The Rock likes to talk on and on about smelling what he’s cooking, but this is the first time he’s played an actual chef, albeit one whose primary specialty is lugging around a giant machine gun. That is if he’s playing Roadblock anything like previous depictions of the character. Old-school Joe fans were a little bummed that we didn’t get to see Cobra as true bad guys until the very end of the first movie, so this looks like the battle they’ve been waiting for, with Cobra Commander and Zartan in the White House, and Bruce Willis as the original G.I. Joseph Colton.
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection – Just kidding. I mean, it’s a real movie, but we’re kidding about wanting to see it. Maybe.
The Amazing Spider-Man – You wanted mechanical web-shooters and Gwen Stacy? You got ’em! Plus 3-D web-slinging that looks to be the most potentially vertigo-inducing footage since Tom Cruise hung off that giant tower in Imax. It’s a shame Dylan Baker never did get to play the Lizard (Rhys Ifans replaces him as Dr. Curt Connors), but Denis Leary going off on Spidey’s “unitard” is a nice touch.
Ted – Seth MacFarlane is a talking, boozing, urinating teddy bear. Marketing people, feel free to borrow my tagline idea: “This ain’t no picnic.”
The Dark Knight Rises – Riddle me this, Batman: how is it that fans have been vocal about their disapproval of things like Bane’s voice and Anne Hathaway’s costume, yet are still excited to see the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Bat-trilogy? Could it be that they actually realize you have to see it all working in context before rushing to judgment? That they understand that you can trust a filmmaker with a good track record? Maybe there’s hope for us after all…
Neighborhood Watch – The Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer directs Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade as a dysfunctional neighborhood watch group who must deal with an alien invasion of suburbia. Unfortunate recent news headlines that make the title sound utterly unamusing have delayed some of the marketing; we’ll see if the film makes its intended release date.
The Bourne Legacy – Universal is really really hoping you’ll like Jeremy Renner so much in The Avengers that you’ll need more of him as an action hero this summer. If it doesn’t work, they can always team him up with Matt Damon next time around. Or pull a Tokyo Drift and totally ignore the character in later installments that feature everyone else.
Total Recall – There doesn’t seem to be any mention of Mars in this remake of an adaptation, but at least the hero still has an accent (Irish rather than Austrian, but still distinctive). You get Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale, but (seemingly at least) lose Kuato and the three-boobied hooker. Fair trade-off? Time and box office will tell. And if this new version replaces your memories of the Paul Verhoeven film, well, that’s entirely appropriate, isn’t it?
The Campaign – North Carolina, the state that brought you John Edwards and Jesse Helms (as well as, ahem, your humble scribe) is home to two even more ridiculous would-be presidential candidates in this comedy: Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis. Austin Powers‘ Jay Roach directs.
The Expendables 2 – Twenty years from now, they will reboot this series with Zac Efron, Justin Long, Channing Tatum, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake… you know it to be true. In the meantime, getting Chuck Norris onscreen against Stallone and Schwarzenegger keeps the dream of the ’80s alive, but mainly, we’re happy about any movie that keeps us believing Dolph Lundgren is back on the A-list.
ParaNorman – Ever notice how the dead people Haley Joel Oment saw in The Sixth Sense were ultimately kind of boring? Like, how scary is a Bruce Willis ghost who doesn’t even know he’s dead yet? ParaNorman is different – he sees zombies and skeletons and stuff like that. Plus he’s in 3-D stop-motion, which makes everything better.
Premium Rush – A bike messenger finds himself in possession of one dubious package, and is pursued by a dirty cop. This might not normally be of particular interest, except that it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon, who are always reliable. You’ve already correctly guessed who plays which role.
7500 – The director of The Grudge gives you ghosts on a plane. And no Samuel L. Jackson or William Shatner around to save you.