Summer Movie Preview: Staff Picks, Pans, and Predictions

Warner Bros.

At approximately midnight on May 2, the 2014 summer movie season will, for all intents and purposes, commence — with a big-budget sequel, as is the tradition by now. After that, we’ve got four months of blockbusters, bombs, and hidden gems to look forward to, but why wait till then to see how the box office shakes out? Right here, right now, the Grantland staff will make their fearless predictions for a summer full of huge reptiles, tiny raccoons, and everything in between. (Spoiler alert: Jupiter Ascending is doomed.)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2)

Dan Fierman: Can we just call this what it is? Bullshit? I mean, again with the Harry Osborn and the Aunt May and the Oscorp and the blowing up of Manhattan and the swinging through the canyons of skyscrapers and the romancing on buildings? And really, we’re going to keep doing this to Emma Stone, who is rightfully the next Julia Roberts? Enough. Spider-Man: back to your corner. Come back in 2073 when we’re in Marvel Planning Stage 19.2 and living under the cruel reign of President Feig and his Nerd Death Squads.

Opening-weekend box office: Six hundred quadrillion dollars. [Weeps silently.]
FINE. Real opening box office: $75 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Transformers: Age of Extinction. (Dinosaurs + robots + explosions = all the money.)
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending
Summer sleeper: How to Train Your Dragon 2. (Underestimate the power of children at your peril.)

 

Neighbors (May 9)

Molly Lambert: I have three very strong opinions about Neighbors:

1. The script’s original title, Townies, is a million times better than Neighbors. Townies explains exactly what the movie is about: A fraternity that includes Dave Franco and Zac Efron moves next to married couple with a young child, and hilarity ensues. Neighbors also gets that across, I guess, but not as well. Why did they change it?

2. It makes no sense for the uptight male lead in this movie to be Seth Rogen. Rogen is terrible at playing uptight guys, because he is so clearly not uptight. That is his whole thing, being the laid-back stoner guy, you know? He is always terrible in movies where he has to play a character who is not Seth Rogen. I would specifically rather it be Bill Hader. Why Hader? Because I can easily buy him as a straight arrow, and I would like to watch him become slowly unhinged. With Rogen, I know it’s only a matter of time until he’s hotboxing the basement bar with Phi Kappa McLovin. With Hader as the new-dad dude trying to keep it together for the sake of his family, this movie could have been a comedy Straw Dogs.

3. I will be happy when this movie comes out, because I am very tired of this trailer and look forward to never seeing it again.

Opening-weekend box office: $17 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Biggest flop of the summer: Godzilla
Summer sleeper: Tammy

 

Godzilla (May 16)

Brian Phillips: There’s a wall of smoke at the end of the street. That’s scary to begin with. Nothing good ever came from an unexplained 50-story smoke escarpment, especially one that’s slow-motion ballooning toward you. Then there’s a flash of weird red light from inside the smoke, and just for a split second, in the interval between when your brain starts shouting Ruuuuu and when it lands on uuuuun!!, you see … The Silhouette.

This is the only scene that matters in a Godzilla movie. Maybe the humanity-tampers-with-nature-and-pays-the-price-in-dented-Acuras backstory is what feeds your cultural-studies thesis, but without the visceral terror of the lizard-titan trudging toward you out of primal nightmare, it’s a Pete Seeger song. A Godzilla flick that gets this right can screw up almost everything else. I have no idea what to expect from Gareth Edwards’s reboot, except that it’s apparently ducking what you could argue is a pretty relevant post-Fukushima subtext, and that it’s cast Bryan Cranston — one of the great scared people in the history of acting — as a scientist who just may end up scared. (Fingers crossed!) But the trailer and the poster are clearly promising big payoffs on the silhouette front. Some of the silhouette work that’s already been released is borderline breathtaking. So, say what you will about the lame/troubled legacy of American Godzillas (Roland Emmerich’s 1998 disaster starred Matthew Broderick and a fleet of Claymation velociraptors) and whether a country that’s never suffered a nuclear attack can do justice to the original; I really think this movie will offer $14 worth of inadequately lit hell-dinosaur shapes. I’m in for a pack of Skittles.

Opening-weekend box office: 70 million, or the number of pieces into which Godzilla will break a strategically placed mid-tier luxury car a few minutes into his rampage
Biggest hit of the summer: Transformers: Age of Holy Christ People Actually Pay to See This Bullshit
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending. “Ascending” is not the word you would use to describe the Wachowskis’ career at this point. Also, I’m pretty sure the source material for this movie was a word find on the back of a cereal box.
Summer sleeper: Maleficent. She knocked out Sleeping Beauty for like 100 years!

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23)

Sean Fennessey: Let’s talk about Sentinels. In short, they are mutant-killing robots. In long, they are a collection of murderous, single-minded contraptions initially created by Bolivar Trask; revitalized by his unwitting mutant son, Larry; destroyed by Cyclops; rebranded into a mega-bot called the Tri-Sentinel by the Norse god Loki; destroyed again by Spider-Man; rebuilt by the Hellfire Club’s Sebastian Shaw; reprogrammed by the Dark Beast; defeated again by the X-Men and Avengers, teaming up, and … it goes on like this. Comic books must always recycle strategies for the evil. And in a universe with malevolent, twisted, fascinating, clever villains, the Sentinels are the bureaucratic drones of the Marvel universe — the accountants from hell, mechanical soul-crushers that show up every 12 months or so. (They, like this film, also cost a fortune to keep running.)

The Sentinels are the literal big bad of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is a beloved text of X-philes. But they are absent identity. They kill and kill and fly and kill. For a comic-book movie franchise that prides itself on character overkill — this edition introduces Quicksilver, Bishop, Blink, and others — the Sentinels represent ruthless efficiency. Sameness. To retain the rights to the X-Men characters, Fox must make these films every few years or so. To make them good, the filmmakers are delicately mining classic material — Wolverine visits Japan; the Dark Phoenix rises; Charles Xavier and Magneto’s relationship fissures — and reshaping it to get Jennifer Lawrence as much screen time as possible. Unlike Spider-Man or Batman, it’s never about the villains; it’s about the story line. That means evil manifests itself in boring, recyclable ways. But you’re not seeing embattled director Bryan Singer’s films for the Sentinels, nor did anyone buy the comic books to read about them. They’re just a vessel, a tin can housing the story. The X-Men have to go forward, in perpetuity. “Deux ex machina,” the plot-driving forces at the heart of every comic-book movie, loosely translates to “god from the machine.” You know, like the Sentinels.

Opening-weekend box office: $81 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Godzilla
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending
Summer sleeper: Think Like a Man Too

 

Maleficent (May 30)

Emily Yoshida: “Who is Angelina Jolie, Mama?” the 8-year-old child will ask with wide, wondering eyes as mother and daughter settle in for a Sunday matinee of Maleficent.

“Well, sweetie, long ago, there was a beautiful Hollywood princess in love with a handsome Hollywood prince. Together they escaped from the prince’s tyrannical wife, Jennifer of the Valley of Eternal Sighs, and rode off to the mythical realm of Africa, where they traveled through the countryside collecting children to take back to their beautiful castle by the sea. Meanwhile, Jennifer of the Valley of Eternal Sighs’s overwhelming sadness corrupted her soul, and she became a witch. She put a curse on the princess, placing her career in a seven-year slumber, which she would eventually wake from to find that she, too, had become a witch. And Jennifer used that time to Just Go With It and land endorsements with both Smartwater and Aveeno.”

“And what’s the moral of the story, Mama?”

“All princesses eventually become witches. And Aveeno’s Natural Shiitake Complex is a great, natural way to slow the aging process.”

Opening-weekend box office: Alice in Wonderland ($116,101,023) x Snow White and the Huntsman ($56,217,700) / (Oz the Great and Powerful^ Frozen) x first-week sales of Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence = $42.6 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Guardians of the Galaxy
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending
Summer sleeper: The Purge: Anarchy

 

Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)

Mark Lisanti: This movie began its life with the much-cooler title All You Need Is Kill, but there was no way a $100 million–budgeted Tom Cruise blockbuster vehicle was coming to market with any kind of murder-branding, even if the name was the pre-proven IP of its Japanese source material. So the Warner Bros. marketing department’s Inoffensive Phrase Generator coughed up Edge of Tomorrow, which could have just as easily fit on a one-sheet featuring a sopping wet Bradley Cooper and Rachel McAdams clinching atop a seaside cliff. Am I a little hung up on the title thing? Maybe. But nothing about it says, “Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller featuring cool weaponized exoskeletons.” That’s what’s selling or not selling this movie to a general American public that’s no longer automatically signing up for anything the post-charisma Cruise throws out there. On the other hand: The studios increasingly give a flying exo-fuck about the domestic audience’s tastes. Jack Reacher and Oblivion were both flops here and giant hits everywhere else. They can roll this out overseas in various translations of Tom Cruise Explosion Future Love Warrior and watch the box-office ticker roll up into nine figures. It still would’ve been cooler to call it All You Need Is Kill.

Opening-weekend box office: $38 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Amazing Spider-Man 2
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending
Summer sleeper: Snowpiercer

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27)

Bryan Curtis: I’m still trying to get over the fact that Transformers: Dark of the Moon was kinda watchable. Then again, I saw it on an airplane in a traveler’s dream state; I had incredibly low expectations for any movie featuring “Sam Witwicky”; and Leonard Nimoy is great in anything besides J.J. Abrams’s I Love the ’80s food processor. Still: wild. Age of Extinction, the fourth Transformers movie, proves that nothing about the franchise can be destroyed. Not Michael Bay, who was originally going to hand this thing off to an apprentice. Not Mark Wahlberg, who is slumming better than Johnny Depp. (Bay is his Gore Verbinski, the guy who can hypnotize him into making anything.) Not the Transformers audience, who, in my case, will be meeting the dinobots for the first time since the leg fell off my Slag toy and I learned that Toys “R” Us did not have an immediate replacement. (True story.) You laugh at the Transformers franchise, and then you realize who’s feeding it money. It’s you. Er, me.

Opening-weekend box office: $105 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Transformers
Biggest flop of the summer: Godzilla
Summer sleeper: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — another Bay, another dollar

 

Snowpiercer (June 27)

Wesley Morris: Anytime one of your favorite non-American filmmakers decides to make a movie in English, you might tend to look the other way. That director was doing fine in his or her (although usually his, sadly) own language. It’s true the director had made at least three movies that would have been much bigger global hits if they weren’t in, say, Korean. But his work’s Korean-ness is inextricable from its excellence. This is to say that the idea of a Bong Joon-ho summer movie both thrills and terrifies me. Crime thrillers don’t get much better than Memories of Murder. Science fiction, monster-movie suspense comedies don’t get much better than The Host. But if Bong must make a class-uprising action film, in English, with Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho (De Niro to Bong’s Scorsese), Octavia Spencer, and Tilda Swinton — playing a character who can be described only as Adolf Thatcher — then let him do it. Let him do everything. It’s already a smash in South Korea.

Opening-weekend box office: $15.8 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Guardians of the Galaxy
Biggest flop of the summer: A Million Ways to Die in the West
Summer sleeper: Get on Up. (It’s a James Brown movie, with the guy who played Jackie Robinson, directed by the guy who made The Help. Please, please, puh-lease.)

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11)

John Lopez: Rise of the Planet of the Apes had little reason to be as fun as it was; it was the zillionth reboot of a ’60s franchise, starring James Franco as a scientist, and saying the title was like chewing a mouthful of soggy crackers. Fox was essentially taunting the Internet to flame it. But with Andy Serkis, king of CGI, suited up in cutting-edge digital chimp fur by Weta Workshop, Apes turned out to be that rarest of birds: a B movie done with A bravado. Now the stakes are higher: a July 11 opening, fanboy-chic director Matt Reeves at the helm, and best of all, Gary Oldman as the villain.

It’s entirely possible that whatever delicate chemistry made Rise work will not be duplicated. But at the very least we’ll get to see Oldman tap back into his beautifully decadent dark side. There’s a whole generation of moviegoers out there who know him only as Commissioner Gordon. But remember when Oldman was the Beethoven of bad guys? Drexl Spivey in True Romance, Stansfield in The Professional, Dracula, and Sid Vicious. It was as if Oldman never quite found a hero worthy of his capacity for villainy. Could Serkis be the one? All I know is, Sid Vicious versus a digital talking chimp is worth the price of an IMAX ticket for me.

Opening-weekend box office: $64 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Transformers: Age of Extinction. (I’d love to say Godzilla, but Michael Bay and giant robots are the equivalent of high-grade crack for the American moviegoing public. Add dinosaurs to the mix and you have the gross domestic product of Latvia.)
Biggest flop of the summer: Blended. Terry Crews notwithstanding, this feels like Adam Sandler traveled back in time to bring 1998’s sleeper hit to 2014.
Summer sleeper: Boyhood. Richard Linklater’s decade-in-the-making indie masterpiece quenches the parched throats of art-house audiences everywhere and gets a head start on the 2015 Oscars.

 

Jupiter Ascending (July 18)

Andy Greenwald: I come here not to bury Jupiter Ascending — I’m sure the wisdom of the box office will do that just fine, come July — but to praise it. In a world overrun with board-game adaptations and punch-card sequels, there’s a glaring need for a certain kind of flight of fancy. Particularly, the kind that costs more than $200 million and is indistinguishable from a suicidal leap.

Let’s consider this movie for a second, really consider it. Masterminded by the Wachowskis, who pushed action movies 10 years ahead with The Matrix and then promptly set them back a decade with the subsequent sequels, Jupiter Ascending is a rarity in the swollen summer slate: an original concept. Well, not too original — the description for Sean Bean’s character is, no joke, “a Han Solo–type character.” But there are no beloved children’s novels, tolerated comic books, or overrated video games credited as source material. Instead, the Wachowskis seem to have poured every one of their genre obsessions into a top-of-the-line Vitamix blender and hit “pulse” before remembering to jam on the lid. The result is an insane, potentially dangerous splatter of tropes and whimsy. Channing Tatum, a young actor who exudes his own heavy gravitational field, has been cast as Caine, a balletically leaping military hunter turned whistleblower who is also part wolf. (Translation: He has a bad dye job and Spock ears.) Mila Kunis, a young actress who exudes a bawdy, earthbound charm, has been cast as Jupiter Jones — Jupiter Jones! — a Ukrainian janitor who is secretly the Queen of the Universe. There are space battles and floating flowers. Terry Gilliam has an extended cameo. An actress named Sarah Campbell plays Jupiter’s “Gynaecological Nurse.” Other films have merely adopted the crazy. Jupiter Ascending was born in it, molded by it.

I think this movie is probably going to be awful. I’m entirely convinced it’s going to tank. But I’m so happy it exists. Big movies ought to be filled with big ideas; there ought to be palpable storytelling risks to go along with the absurd financial gamble. More heroes should be part wolf. At least that way, those in the audience won’t be the only ones howling.

Opening-weekend box office: $19 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Godzilla
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending
Summer sleeper: Let’s Be Cops

 

The Purge: Anarchy (July 18)

Amos Barshad: In 1967, during the back end of its first season, Star Trek aired “The Return of the Archons.” Famously the first time the Prime Directive is mentioned, the episode also contains a brilliant little plot detail that’s treated almost as a throwaway. Kirk, Spock, and the crew have landed on the planet Beta III, where the citizens appear to be living a polite, mannered, quiet 19th-century American life. Then, BOOM: It’s the goddamn Red Hour. And all of a sudden, all these quiet hat-doffing folks are smashing windows and swinging blunt objects and street-fornicating; one smart lady basically tries to stick her tongue down Beautiful Young Shatner’s throat.

The episode eventually veers into a thorny trajectory involving secret robot overlords, but a basic concept is laid down, and is not easily shaken off: This is an excessively orderly society that allows itself to vent its demons only in an equally orderly bout of structured manic hellscape. The Red Hour.

That it took nearly five decades for an enterprising young person to steal the idea and run with it — that’d be The Purge writer and director James DeMonaco — is mind-boggling, yes. But let’s just be happy it finally happened, and let’s just be happy it’ll probably keep happening for a while. The Purge concept is genius-level dumb obvious (in the interest of general peace and prosperity, for 12 hours, one day a year, all crime is legal, including murder) and so screamingly demands sequelization. In the first Purge, they went insular, shacking up in Ethan Hawke’s under-siege mansion the whole time; this time, it seems, the streets are running red with Purge. In Purge-trouble: both Grantland Who’s That Guy Hall of Famer Frank Grillo, and Mr. Matt Saracen himself. Billed but not in the trailer, and so almost definitely playing some kind of Purge-overdrive third-act supervillain: Michael K. Williams!

The Red Hour is real, man. Happy Purging to you all.

Opening-weekend box office: $34 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending
Summer sleeper: Lucy

 

Hercules (July 25)

Mark Lisanti: Wait a second, you think, your brow furrowing with confusion and worry, didn’t a Hercules movie already come out earlier this year? And you would not be wrong to ask that question, because yes, indeed, we’ve already been blessed with a Hercules movie in 2014. Unfortunately, that movie starred Kellan Lutz, and not even an infinite number of flying/screaming air-punches could save it from its B-movie, Renny Harlin–ized pedigree, and it quickly dissolved into a sad puddle of Muscle Milk, tears, and broken dreams. (We’ll get you on the next one, Lutzy, pinkie-swear. Don’t throw out the Muscle Milk just yet. It’ll keep.)

This Hercules movie, however, features the Rock, more commonly seen smashing into already-successful franchises through the back door in an attempt to take them over. Here, he has no such luxury, and his star power will (or won’t; your Rock mileage may vary) carry the day. He is shepherded into this strange new world by the inimitable Brett Ratner, who’s gambling that his trademark brand of directorial incomprehensibility will translate to the mythological realm. We’re not sure how shit blows up in this world of slow-motion lion and giant boar attacks, but where’s there’s a combustible will, there’s an explosive way. Maybe the giant boar swallowed a bunch of dynamite and the Hercules club-strike to its mighty, betusked head detonates the entire forest. We wish both star and director the best of luck in this endeavor. It’s possible we’d even pay to see it.

Opening weekend: $52 million
Hit/flop/sleeper: See above.

 

Step Up: All In (July 25)

Rembert Browne: Sayeth Archbishop Moose: “Does this always have to end up in a big giant dance battle?”

That line, plus the reality that Moose is back, guarantees Step Up: All In at least Double Transcendence (the new term for $20 million in the first weekend).

This franchise is important. Much like the Fast franchise — Step Up’s more violent, equally slo-mo’d cousin — it wasn’t supposed to be this big. And we weren’t supposed to get this invested. And we certainly weren’t supposed to go through withdrawal when each film makes its grand exit out of theaters.

But here we are. And it’s clear there’s really no need for the Step Up franchise to ever stop. And from what this amazingly nondescript trailer has told us, this one will not disappoint. And people will kiss at the end. And more people will get served. In slow motion. Perhaps in front of a ball of fire. A perfectly timed dubstepped ball of fire.

LONG LIVE MOOSE.

Opening-weekend box office: $32.6 million
Biggest hit of the summer: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Biggest flop of the summer: The Giver
Summer sleeper: Neighbors

 

Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1)

netw3rk: Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie about a human, a talking raccoon, a tree, and two bioengineered alien assassins in outer space causing some vaguely described headaches for various interstellar potentates. It’s also the biggest gamble by Marvel Studios since its Phase 1 march to The Avengers struck oil by tapping into the deepest reservoirs of nerd desire lurking at the heart of popular culture. (Full disclosure: Guardians of the Galaxy is a product of Marvel Studios, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, which is the corporate entity that allows me to buy food.) We forget this now, but, because various licensing deals left Marvel Comics without the film rights to many of its blue-chip characters — the X-Men, Wolverine, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four — news that the company planned to self-finance its own movies was met with quite a bit of skepticism when it was announced back in 2007. Iron Man’s claim to fame was as the Marvel Universe’s most famous alcoholic. Captain America is a cheesy Boy Scout. And the long-haired guy with the hammer? Please. Several billion dollars in box office later, doubting Marvel seems silly. Still, if Cap, Thor, and Black Widow were the B team, Guardians is basically the Z team. It’s a movie based on a comic book that’s been canceled several times for low sales and whose main character was given the name Peter Quill because “Peter” and “Quill” are both euphemisms for “Dick.” I am rooting for this movie.

Opening-weekend box office: $85 million, plus untold rivers of licensed Rocket Raccoon plush toys and back-to-school lunch boxes and knapsacks
Biggest hit of the summer: X-Men: Days of Future Past. Sorry, Guardians. I just don’t think an August release date gets it done.
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending. That Matrix money ain’t run out yet!
Summer sleeper: Jersey Boys

 

Into the Storm (August 8)

Tess Lynch: It’s not star-studded or anything (well, unless you count the tallest Hobbit dwarf, Richard Armitage), but who needs celebrities when you have a tornado spewing fire? Fire beats sharks every time in tornado rochambeau, and after a year of momentously crappy weather, a found-footage storm movie may be the perfect way to wrap things up. Even after the clouds part and the crocuses sprout, a sense of dread remains: When will it happen again, and how bad will it be? Slate is giving me an anxiety attack already with its predictions about the upcoming “biggest weather story of 2014,” El Niño, which may endanger salmon, Central and South American crop harvests, and Amazon forests. It could bring typhoons, but may also mean fewer hurricanes. It could mean anything, but it will almost certainly mean something. Weather is riveting (she wrote from Los Angeles, where there is none). RIVET ME, FLAME-NADO.

Steven Quale (responsible for Final Destination 5, and a frequent James Cameron collaborator) is directing, and I couldn’t tell you this movie’s budget if you put a gun to my head. (Put a gun to Google’s head instead, and make it talk.) I’m not Sam Champion. I’m lousy at predictions, and this weather system isn’t giving me many clues. Twister came in second in the 1996 domestic box office race, though, and our anxiety about the climate back then looks positively cute in comparison with how we feel about storm patterns today. Then again, Into the Storm has undergone a few fixes since it first landed at New Line in 2011, which could affect the final product and its box-office impact.

Opening-weekend box office: $15 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Godzilla. (I have a soft spot for reptiles.)
Biggest flop of the summer: Edge of Tomorrow
Summer sleeper: Neighbors. (I also have a soft spot for Kudrow, though she does not have any scales as far as I know.)

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8)

Zach Dionne: For lots of people, these old franchises being grave-robbed back into existence used to mean something. You grew up loving Spider-Man comics or the X-Men cartoon; Pirates of the Caribbean was your favorite ride at Disney; Transformers were your playtime jam. But the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meant everything to me once. They gave me an all-time-great Christmas memory, countless hours of imaginary missions (and imaginary pizza) at recess, and some deep local/creative pride over one of the cocreators hailing from Maine. So I’d like, JUST ONE TIME, to be unreservedly excited about a reboot instead of knowing that Michael Fucking Bay is just going to splatter his toxic piss all over it. Even if the grotesque first trailer is somehow totally off the mark, we’re still going to have to contend with an Optimus Prime–load of dehumanizing CGI, the Heroes in a Half Shell looking like this, and Megan Fox as April O’Neil. BOOOOOO!!

Opening-weekend box office: $55 million. (BOOOOO AGAIN!!)
Biggest hit of the summer: Transformers: Age of Extinction (worldwide); The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (domestic)
Biggest flop of the summer: Jupiter Ascending. (Although it looks great!)
Summer sleeper: Tammy

 

The Expendables 3 (August 15)

Rafe Bartholomew: Market research has apparently determined that people who like schlocky action films are also people who like goofball professional fighters and — if I am any indication — are also people who like 7-Eleven taquitos and Flamin’ Hot Funyuns. I will probably have to smuggle my own Flamin’ Hots into the theater when I watch Expendables 3, but the filmmakers have done idiots like me a huge solid by stirring boxer “Vicious” Victor Ortiz into the Expendables gumbo. Perhaps Sly Stallone recognized an undeniable star quality in the commercial Ortiz shot for his eponymous moisturizing cream VO by FaceLube. Not surprisingly, Ortiz was available. The former welterweight titlist spent the last two years losing fights to guys like Josesito Lopez and Luis Collazo — guys whose names are pretty much only known by taquito eaters and Funyun huffers — and flaming out on Dancing With the Stars, which makes him pretty ripe for a project like The Expendables 3. But hey, enough Ortiz — this movie also drags four of the following eight movie stars out from grandma’s mothballed attic: Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Kelsey Grammer, Wesley Snipes, Taimak, Jeff Speakman, Harrison Ford, Eric Roberts, and Antonio Banderas. (I tossed in the four decoys because I refuse to forget Bloodfist, The Last Dragon, The Perfect Weapon, and Best of the Best.)

Well, this has taken a turn for the melancholy. There’s a line in Expendables 2 where Stallone tries to explain how soldiers cope with death: “We can’t change what it is, so we keep it light until it’s time to get dark. And then we get pitch black.” Intentional or not, Stallone is also describing how it feels to watch any installment of his nostalgia retread franchise.

Opening-weekend box office: $22 million
Biggest hit of the summer: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Biggest flop of the summer: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Summer sleeper: Brick Mansions

Filed Under: Movies, Summer Movies, the amazing spider-man 2, Expendables 3, snowpiercer, X-Men: Days of Future Past, teenage mutant ninja turtles, into the storm, guardians of the galaxy, Step Up: All In, Jupiter Ascending, maleficent, dawn of the planet of the apes, edge of tomorrow, transformers: age of extinction, godzilla, Neighbors, the purge: anarchy, Summer Movie Preview