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Summer Movie Preview!

Our picks and predictions for the coming blockbuster season.

The Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3, Elysium

Iron Man 3 (May 3)

Chris Ryan: There’s a shot in the Iron Man 3 trailer that probably doesn’t mean all that much to you. It’s a brief glimpse of a fleet of choppers streaking across the Pacific and closing in on what looks like a Malibu estate. This might be a Robert Downey Jr. vehicle, a new chapter in the Marvel saga, a multimillion-dollar investment on the part of the Walt Disney Company (hi, bosses!), and a chance to see Gwyneth Paltrow put in mortal danger. But what I am hoping for, what that one shot suggests, is that this will be a Shane Black movie.

Black is the writer of Lethal Weapon (as well as The Last Boy Scout). Fans of that movie might remember another scene involving Malibu estates, choppers, and danger. It’s when Gary Busey and some of his Shadow Company cronies attack Roger Murtaugh, Martin Riggs, and a mid-confession Michael Hunsaker. It ends with Riggs trying to single-handedly shoot helicopters out of the sky, and a guy getting sniper-shot through a quart of eggnog. You know what else Iron Man 3 has in common with Lethal Weapon? Christmas movie! Just like Kiss Kiss … , most of the Lethal Weapon movies, The Long Kiss Goodnight (another Black script), and the granddaddy of all Christmas action movies, Die Hard.

I don’t know how much of Black’s fast-talking, bleak, sarcastic sensibility will make it into the final version of Iron Man 3, but you can only hope that with Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley, William Sadler, Don Cheadle, Adam Pally, Guy Pearce, James Badge Dale, Rebecca Hall, and, yes, Gwyneth, he’ll have the actors to deliver his whip-smart dialogue. Even if the movie winds up being an incomprehensible mess about defense contractors, nuclear chest plates, and “The Mandarin,” it will hopefully be a charming, incomprehensible mess.

Opening-weekend box office: $88 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Man of Steel
Biggest flop of the summer: After Earth
Summer sleeper: Insidious: Chapter 2

The Great Gatsby (May 10)

Brian Phillips: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby tells the story of a young man named Nick Carraway who travels to New York to take a job as a bond salesman. He rents a house in the exclusive Long Island enclave of West Egg, and soon after encounters his cousin, Daisy Buchanan. She greets him by singing a cover of the Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More” in a hedge maze surrounded by peacocks. Then a villain named Corporal Bastard kidnaps Daisy while three absinthe drinkers hum a Parisian-jazz arrangement of AC/DC’s “Snowballed.” Daisy’s identical twin, Leonardo DiCaprio, who has syphilis and is a magician, plans to save her, but instead he spends 17 minutes changing into different silk shirts. “When the camera moves,” Fitzgerald writes, “it makes a distracting whooshing sound.”

At this point, the novel sort of nudges its girlfriend and whispers, “What the fuck is this shit?” She shushes it, and she looks like she might be crying, so the novel whispers something about needing more popcorn and goes out to the lobby, where it spends 15 minutes sighing and checking fantasy baseball stats on its phone. When it goes back in, Nick is crooning “Tainted Love” under a circus tent for some reason. Corporal Bastard twirls his mustache. Then Shadow, Daisy’s husband, sneaks up behind the Corporal and bludgeons him to death with a golf club. “Shadow had done it,” Fitzgerald writes in the legendary closing passage. “He had taken control of Kitsch Xanadu. He was the true king of the gangsters.”

The only outstanding question here is whether Baz Luhrmann’s sober directorial style will be a good fit for the source material.

Opening-weekend box office: $23 million. Final box office once everyone remembers that Baz Luhrmann movies occupy the uncanny valley of the human soul: $23,000,007.
Biggest hit of the summer: Iron Man 3. You heard it here first!!
Biggest flop of the summer: R.I.P.D. Hey, studio executives: You fight the bull of dropping $200 million–plus on a Ryan Reynolds vehicle, you face the horns of the fact that you are total fucking idiots.
Summer sleeper: Pacific Rim. It will be good! Warner Bros. will try to strangle it out of the gate with a sleeper-hold marketing campaign that does everything but unleash the phrase “BASED ON THE ICONIC BOARD GAME.” I’m being optimistic.

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17)

Bryan Curtis: I’m rooting for Star Trek Into Darkness. But I’ve got concerns. Big concerns. Call it the wrath of fanboy.

  1. The Enterprise, apparently, gets destroyed. Again. (If you’ve read some secret spoilers, good for you. I’m clean other than the trailers.) This points out the problem of reboot fatigue. Every pop-culture artifact on the planet can be rebooted. But Star Trek started down this road in 1979, with The Motion Picture. Counting subsequent movies and TV shows, it has since been rebooted at least a half-dozen times. If the key to a good reboot is a combo of what’s classic and what’s new, with Star Trek these two elements have become a single, unified organism, in the way Spock mind-melded with McCoy in The Wrath of Khan. (Incidentally, that was 10 movies ago. Just to illustrate the point.)
  2. I’m not sure who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing. The words “Jean-Luc Picard” recently appeared in a comments section. It was a random guess. But: What?
  3. The other problem is J.J. Abrams. Abrams did a great job with the last movie. But we know he’s a short-timer. After this, he’ll transform from the Man Who Saved Star Trek into the Man Who (Hopefully) Saved Star Wars. I liked it when he was invested full-time in Trek. He gave the series a consistent, movie-to-movie director for the first time in its history. If Into Darkness is bad, I’m sad he won’t be around for the makeup movie.
  4. Every other Star Trek is bad. (I’ve heard the Search for Spock arguments. C’mon.)

    On the plus side: Benedict Cumberbatch. Let us pray.

Opening-weekend box office: $85 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Man of Steel
Biggest flop of the summer: 300: Rise of an Empire (Tough one. Most of the potential floppage has something flop-proof behind it: DiCaprio, Tatum, Smith, Depp, Marvel. When you need a tiebreaker, always pick a movie directed by the guy named “Noam.”)
Summer sleeper: After Earth (I know, I know, but the time is right for the M. Night comeback — to be immediately followed by another movie about killer plants)

Fast & Furious 6 (May 24)

Bill Simmons: I’m one of those boys who appreciates a good body, regardless of the make. It starts with the eyes. She’s gotta have the kind of eyes that can look right through the bullshit, to the good in someone — 20 percent angel, 80 percent devil. Down-to-earth. Ain’t afraid to get a little engine grease under her fingernails. Ask any racer, any real racer. It don’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning’s winning. Running ain’t freedom. You should know that. You can have any brew you want … as long as it’s a Corona. Chances are, sooner or later, we are gonna end up behind bars or buried in a ditch somewhere. But not today. I watched my father burn to death. I can still remember him screaming. The people who were there said my father died long before the tanks blew. They said it was me who was screaming. I live my life a quarter-mile at a time. Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullshit. For those 10 seconds or less … I’m free.

Opening-weekend box office: $97.3 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Iron Man 3
Biggest flop of the summer: The Lone Ranger, After Earth (tie)
Summer sleeper: The Bling Ring

The Hangover Part III (May 24)

Molly Lambert: I watched the trailer for The Hangover Part III fall on its face in front of a packed audience this summer, garnering zero laughs at any of the engineered beats. I like The Hangover movies just fine, due in no small part to the great performances by the Wolfpack (not counting Justin Bartha) and Ken Jeong, whom I hope was paid lots of money. Now that we know Bradley Cooper can play characters other than slimy douche bags, it’ll be kind of fun to see him play a slimy douche bag again. Zach Galifianakis balances the bombastic set-piece jokes with his deeply strange (and funny) line readings and ad-libbing. I only realized recently that Ed Helms’s character looks exactly like director Todd Phillips. Comedy threequels are rarely worth a full-price ticket, and I’m sure this will be on cable all the time faster than you know it. The second installment of the franchise opened huge, and I’m sure this one will too.

Opening-weekend box office: $90 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Iron Man 3
Biggest flop of the summer: The Lone Ranger
Summer sleeper: Fruitvale Station

After Earth (May 31)

Amos Barshad: Bill Simmons, 2011: “When [Will] Smith was trapped on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air set in the early ’90s … Smith and his manager, James Lassiter, studied a list of the top 10 grossing films ever. Here’s what Smith told Time Magazine in 2007: ‘We looked at (the list) and said, O.K., what are the patterns? We realized that 10 out of 10 had special effects. Nine out of 10 had special effects with creatures. Eight out of 10 had special effects with creatures and a love story.'”

That mentality has been the guiding light of Smith’s entire movie stardom, and it’s served him well. But in 2008, after the grimly received Seven Pounds, it seemed like the time for careful calculation had come to its natural end. Smith had spent a couple years turning his kids into multipurpose entertainment machines, and now was looking to get back in the game. Anything and everything was on the table, and Will chose … Men in Black 3. It was bad enough that Will went running back to his security-blanket franchise. It was worse that he then used it as an excuse for passing on Django Unchained.

“I was in the middle of ‘Men in Black 3’ and [Tarantino] was ready to go,” he told Empire, “and I just couldn’t sit with him and get through the issues, so I didn’t want to hold him up.” Later, he kept equivocating: “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead! I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!'” But did he think that sounded genuine? Jamie Foxx crushed it as Django, but we all knew that seeing Will light ’em up instead would have been the greatest curveball of Smith’s career.

Now, After Earth: another big sci-fi flick (directed by M. Night Shyamalan! Really!), keeping Will right on the company line. Look, Will Smith is almost definitely getting my money for this thing (“Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create … Danger is very real. But fear … is a choice” [nodding enthusiastically]). But I still look forward to that one bright, shining day when Tarantino calls and Will actually sacks up and says yes.

Opening-weekend box office: $42 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Man of Steel
Biggest flop of the summer: The Great Gatsby
Summer sleeper: The Heat

This Is the End (June 12)

Andy Greenwald: The real-life charm and charisma of a performer does not always translate into box office success. If it did, Justin Timberlake would be the biggest movie star in the world, not racing back to music (“his first love”) with visions of Amanda Seyfried and expiration clocks still ticking in his brain. It’s been an issue for the original Apatow stoner crew as well. Though still making interesting choices and slightly less interesting movies, the geek-bro posse of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Jay Baruchel have never managed to find roles as good as the ones they played in Knocked Up, which is to say, the time they basically played themselves.

And so while everything about This Is the End screams stoner vanity project — written and directed by Rogen and his Superbad partner, Evan Goldberg, the movie is about the apocalypse happening to this very specific gaggle of actors, plus simpatico bromies like Danny McBride and Craig Robinson — it occurs to me that a stoner vanity project is exactly the kind of flick I want to see from these guys! I am highly invested in and greatly amused by Rogen the Amiable Burnout, McBride the Mean Drunk, and Franco the Vain Asshole. I actively want to see these dudes survive the end of the world and quarrel over candy bars because I can think of few people more entertaining to bunker down with, provided there are plenty of beers, snacks, and opportunities to see Michael Cera get slapped by Rihanna and/or impaled by a 6-foot pole. The ceiling for this movie is “90 minutes of air conditioning”; the floor is “still much better than The Green Hornet.” Armageddon happens weekly at the summer box office. Why not spend it with people you used to love?

Opening-weekend box office: $14.9 million
Biggest hit of the summer: The Heat
Biggest flop of the summer: World War Z
Summer sleeper: Now You See Me

Man of Steel (June 14)

Steven Hyden: When it comes to summer blockbusters, I’m well into my Dan Seals period. For a while I was too young to know that a stirring trailer almost always leads to another disappointing diorama of dazzling diddly-squat. Then I was just holding on for the occasional Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, or serviceable Amazing Spider-Man. But in the end, I was burned. I was really burned by Superman Returns, perhaps the ultimate example of a fanboy (Bryan Singer) treating this comic-book hokum with a solemn reverence that would make Roma Downey roll her eyes. And yet, in spite of all the cynicism that’s been pounded into me after more than a quarter-century of cineplex comedowns, I am mildly pumped for Man of Steel, in part because Christopher Reeve was the one who got me hooked on this garbage in the first place (Superman II is the best superhero movie 4EVA) and in part because that Zack Snyder, he-a make-a me cry! Nice move getting Kevin Costner — our national avatar for emotional father-son bonding since the late ’80s — to choke up while hugging lil’ Kal-El in the trailer, by the way. What am I, made of Kryptonite?

Opening-weekend box office: $90 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Star Trek Into Darkness
Biggest flop of the summer: The Lone Ranger
Summer sleeper: The Heat

The Bling Ring (June 14)

Emily Yoshida: When the Hollywood Hills burglaries were going down in 2008 and 2009 (poetically right in the middle of the economic collapse), and after reading Nancy Jo Sales’s now-immortal Vanity Fair piece on the Valley-dwelling perps, all I could think was how much I wanted a Bling Ring movie. No, Lifetime, not a tawdry true-crime beat-by-beat adaptation of the events, but something more contemplative, a semi-abstract meditation on youthful transgression and contemporary pop vice fantasies. Luckily, in 2013, we got that movie, and it was called Spring Breakers, which was great, because the pressure’s off Sofia Coppola to convince us she can tell a meaningful story about people who don’t know what the inside of the Chateau Marmont looks like (even if that happens to be their no. 2 or 3 all-time life goal).

Emma Watson leads the cast as Alexis Neiers, and looks to be doing a similar “I’m so done with Harry Potter/High School Musical/Justin Bieber” act as Vanessa and Selena did in Breakers, but we were already promised that with last year’s angsty The Perks of Being a Wallflower and ticket buyers shrugged. And given the director at the helm, I don’t have high hopes/fears of her or her Bling Ring costars’ onscreen behavior making the same kind of OMG-baiting waves, either — she’ll probably spend more time looking out rain-speckled windows than forcing gun-fellatio on bros (not that Selena Gomez didn’t do some damn affecting sad eyes on the ride back home in that coach bus). Or I could be completely wrong — perhaps, in Coppola’s universe, outsiders and social climbers like these do not have window-gaze-justifying emotional journeys; perhaps they will have little more depth than the crowd of angry revolutionaries outside Marie Antoinette’s window. In any case, if it’s done with period accuracy, even if Coppola calls in some wardrobe favors from all her designer friends, all the clothes the Ring steals will still be F/W ’08 at the latest, so they’ll still look like they got it at Crossroads like the poors they are.

Opening-weekend box office: $3.8 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Iron Man 3
Biggest flop of the summer: White House Down
Summer sleeper: Byzantium (VAMPIRES STILL GOT IT)

World War Z (June 21)

Dan Fierman: Leave aside for a moment that they’ve totally bungled the adaptation of this movie. (Obviously — OBVIOUSLY — an oral history of the coming zombie war needs to be done as a fake Ken Burns PBS documentary.) And yes, I know, kids and peril and zombies is the lowest of the low when it comes to pushing our emotional buttons. And yeah, you’re right. That did appear to be a zombie loose on Air Force One.

But WWZ has one very important, very exciting development going for it. That’s right. SUPER-FAST ZOMBIES. Not 28 Days Later … fast. More like “Usain Bolt, let’s all clamber on top of each other in a gigantic undead tesseract and pluck passing helicopters out of the sky” fast. You can put kids in danger. You can abandon the premise that made the source material so successful in the first place. But give me a tower of zombies battling Black Hawks? Me and my $13 are in, thank you very much.

Opening-weekend box office: $48 million (Man of Steel holdover + parents forced to take the kids to the Monsters, Inc. sequel = slightly lower than expected)
Biggest hit of the summer: Star Trek Into Darkness
Biggest flop of the summer: The Hangover: Part III
Summer sleeper: Before Midnight

The Heat (June 28)

Wesley Morris: Sometimes the Hollywood chemists find the right compound for a good formula. It’s the height of obviousness to pair Sandra Bullock’s humorless straight-arrow routine with Melissa McCarthy’s flagrance and figurative flatulence. But that’s the sort of obviousness we want in a new buddy comedy: the scientific kind. McCarthy curses up a storm as the bad cop (she’s from Boston!). Bullock pretends to be appalled. Hopefully, the fun here will be in watching Bullock lower her standards until she has to do the limbo in order to make an arrest. The director is Paul Feig, who also brought us Bridesmaids and has not made a movie about a certain world-champion basketball team.

Opening-weekend box office: $52 million
Biggest hit of the summer: After Earth
Biggest flop of the summer: Grown Ups 2
Summer sleeper: The Bling Ring

White House Down (June 28)

Robert Mays: I’ve probably watched the White House Down trailer a dozen times, and each time, I find its shamelessness even more incredible. I think we all know by now that all action movies are Die Hard. Speed was Die Hard on a bus, Air Force One was Die Hard on a plane, and Dredd was Die Hard in slow motion. The thing about all these movies is that the imitation at least has the decency to wear a towel. White House Down is letting it all out there, and it doesn’t care who’s looking. Check out this poster. No, really, look at it! It’s a poster for Die Hard! Right down to the filthy white underrags. I was going to say that I can only imagine the conversation between Tatum and his agent here, but actually, I can do way more.

Agent: “Channing, it’s time for you to do Die Hard.”
Tatum: “You mean my Die Hard.”
Agent: “Oh, no. It’s actually Die Hard.

Just one more thing, because I’m already tired — the hair. Look at this. And then look at this. How long did Roland Emmerich spend rubbing Channing’s head before each scene? His hairline is actually receding. OK, I’m done. See you opening night.

Opening-weekend box office: $54 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Iron Man 3
Biggest flop of the summer: R.I.P.D.
Summer sleeper: Pacific Rim

The Lone Ranger (July 3)

Sean Fennessey: Could it be John Carter all over again? Both are historical genre pieces about a mysterious hero whose cultural context is as dusty as the book jackets of their source material. Last summer, Andrew Stanton’s $250 million Carter, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s 100-year-old John Carter of Mars novels, was a season-defining catastrophe. Stanton’s assumptions were wrong: John Carter was not a relevant character to young audiences, Taylor Kitsch was not the right leading man, and Mars — at least as envisioned by Burroughs — was not a terribly interesting desert. It grossed just $73 million in America.

John Carter has about 20 years on the Lone Ranger, who first appeared on a radio program in 1933, then just a few years later in a series of novels and a long-running comic strip. He became an icon to kids as portrayed by Clayton Moore in a TV series that began in 1949. It became the highest-rated show on ABC and is credited with establishing the network. His horse is named Silver. His best friend, a Native American companion, is named Tonto. The film adaptation stars another relative unknown, former Winklevii-an and Russian oil scion Armie Hammer, as well as Johnny Depp as Tonto. Or as he’s now known Johnny Depp, Groan. From most interesting actor of his generation to least interesting superstar of all time in eight easy, terrible blockbusters. His casting tempts racial insensitivity like none since white-boy-supreme Jake Gyllenhaal strapped on the codpiece of a swashbuckling Persian prince.

There’s hope yet, though. The 2011 animated movie Rango is one of the five best of the decade. I won’t be convinced of otherwise. Daring, referential, gorgeous, funny, weird, Rango is a stoner movie and an adventure movie and a kids’ movie and a sci-fi movie and a Western. It was directed by Gore Verbinski, which is very strange indeed, because Verbinski has made some not-great things in his career. His four previous films were three Pirates of the Caribbean installments (Depp!) and an undercooked Nicolas Cage drama called The Weather Man. (Verbinski did make the now-underrated The Ring and the still-properly-related fiasco The Mexican.) Verbinski is unpredictable — he does big-top set pieces and weirdo characterization really well for a filmmaker who is often dismissed as a studio hack. This is good for The Lone Ranger, which costars Helena Bonham Carter (the must-have accessory for all “smart” blockbusters), Tom Wilkinson, British-actress-who-appeals-to-me Ruth Wilson, Barry Pepper’s facial hair, and a wooden-bridge/diving-train sequence that looks suspiciously like this. (They’ll call it homage.) But there’s a sliver of awful lurking in all of his movies, even Rango. Sometimes that sliver manifests a parasite, growing into something truly terrible. (The second Pirates movie, for example.) Sometimes it’s negligible. John Carter couldn’t get out of its own way. The Lone Ranger feels like a freight train too.

Opening-weekend box office: $41 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Iron Man 3
Biggest flop of the summer: The Great Gatsby 3-D
Summer sleeper: The Way, Way Back (box office), The Spectacular Now (quality)

Despicable Me 2 (July 3)

Patricia Lee: It has been almost three years since those adorable, silly minions came into my life, and I’ve forgotten almost everything except the general plot of the original Despicable Me. Here’s what I remember: There’s some villain with an (Eastern European?) accent named Gru, which is, well, the perfect name for someone who is mysterious and conniving yet a total softy. He does some pretty dickish things, but we want him to win because Vector, the other bad guy, is way smarter than all of us and totally sucks. (Plus, Vector wears an orange tracksuit, so that’s another strike against him.) Then la-di-da Gru develops a heart after meeting three orphan girls and yeah, um, I don’t really remember the rest. Well, except for this and this.

Oh, and … MINIONS.

The one with two eyes, the one with one eye, the one with singed hair, the one with no hair, the one with a belly, the one with a long torso … all of them. I became so obsessed with them that I tried to knit a little minion for myself before I realized, three hours in, that the arts-and-crafts life was meant for someone else. Needless to say, it was a really low point for me.

With all that said, it should be pretty obvious that what I’m most looking forward to in this sequel are the little yellow creatures and their subtle acts of fun and humor that you’ll miss if you’re not paying attention. There’s a short glimpse of one in the trailer; in case you missed it, while the minions are laughing at the guy’s name (Bottom!), one of them is holding hands (legs?) with the starfish that Gru had just peeled off his head. Speaking of head … anyone else think that the exchange between Agnes and Gru (“I know what makes you a boy … “) was a nice shout-out to the mature members in the audience taking their kids to a PG film?

What really sold me on this movie, though — and I hesitate to say sold because I would’ve watched it even if Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were cast as the actual Agnes and Margo — was that song and that familiar voice.


Opening-weekend box office: 907,428 pieces of Patricia’s heart
Biggest hit of the summer: Iron Man 3
Biggest flop of the summer: The Hangover Part III
Summer sleeper: The Way, Way Back

Pacific Rim (July 12)

Mark Lisanti: I wish that it were possible to invoke the phrase “giant fucking robots” without Michael Bay materializing out of thin air to hit us over the head with a sack full of loose autobling from the West Coast Customs Dumpster and the remains of Johnny Five he bought at a bankrupt effects-house auction, but we live in a world where a new Transformers installment rolls out every two or three years, bidden or not, to gross a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. No matter how we feel about it, he owns those three words, to the point that any director daring to step onto his turf can expect to be awakened in the middle of the night by the menacing growl of a neon-mustard Lamborghini digging furrows out of his perfectly manicured lawn, and endure bullhorn-amplified taunts about the imminent failure of the interloper’s “stupid pussybots.” Giant Fucking Robots, tee em Michael Fucking Bay.

But Guillermo del Toro will not be cowed. He directs with his head, not his tumescent penis. His robots are bigger. They are cooler. They are not aliens, they fight aliens. They are not the bastard offspring of a toymaking conglomerate and a studio’s marketing department, and they are here to throw 30-foot-long hydraulic elbows and clear out some room in the giant fucking robot space.

Next June, Bay gets to restake his claim, and he’s bringing along whatever’s left of a deflated Mark Wahlberg after Pain & Gain. But this summer is del Toro’s.

Opening-weekend box office: $58 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Star Trek Into Darkness
Biggest flop of the summer: The Lone Ranger (Grantland is owned by Disney; I will pack up my things)
Summer sleeper: Elysium

The Wolverine (July 26)

Alex Pappademas: In 2011, Gilberto Sanchez, a 49-year-old glass installer and musician from the Bronx, was convicted of illegally distributing a bootlegged workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on Megaupload. He was eventually sentenced to a year in federal prison for leaking what turned out to be one of the worst superhero films ever made — a toxic kids’-meal toy of a movie, complete with dumb Civil War flashbacks, Ryan Reynolds playing a microwaved G.I. Joe figure, and a teleporting I realize this makes me a guy on the Internet complaining about the mismanagement of a superhero-movie franchise, but seriously, what’s with these movies? We replace Spider-Man every five years whether we need to or not, but — with the exception of Matthew Vaughn’s often-fun X-Men: First Class — the X-Men movieverse remains tethered for no good reason to the casting, continuity, and tone of two drab, self-serious (but, OK, very successful) Bryan Singer movies from the early ’00s. We will never know a world in which the preposterous Hugh Jackman doesn’t play Wolverine. It’s a nightmare. And yet in spite of all this I’m still kind of excited about James Mangold’s The Wolverine — not as excited as I was when it was going to be a Darren Aronofsky movie from a Christopher McQuarrie script, but look, it’s based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s 1982 Wolverine miniseries, one of the greatest Wolverine comics of all time, and that DNA means I’m reserving judgment. In a better world, this would be a 90-minute black-and-white Yojimbo rip-off rated NC-17 for violence and starring someone who has never hosted the Oscars in the title role — an action movie that happens to be about a superhero, not a superhero movie. In the world we actually live in, it’s still going to be a movie about Wolverine, in Japan, far from all the superhero bullshit, fighting many, many ninjas, and I choose to believe that there’s a limit to how bad a movie with that premise can potentially be. Plus Mangold usually sticks the landing, even if his last Hugh Jackman team-up gave us Kate & Leopold.

Opening-weekend box office: 115 million U.S. dollars, 500 trillion Canadian loonies
Biggest hit of the summer: J.J. Abrams could strangle a kitten with an American flag live on Jimmy Fallon and Star Trek Into Darkness will still make eleventy-billion dollars.
Biggest flop of the summer: Lone Ranger. It’s Jonah Hex meets racism!
Summer sleeper: The per-screen averages on Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing will be so bananas Michael Bay will announce that he’s quitting the Transformers franchise to stage an all–Flip cam production of Measure for Measure in the 15,000-square-foot breakfast nook of his Miami villa.

Elysium (August 9)

Tess Lynch: I had no idea how much I was going to love District 9. I was cRaZy about it. Not only did it make me a Neill Blomkamp fan, it made me a Sharlto Copley fan, and I’m glad to see the reincarnation of Wikus van der Merwe in Elysium (this fall, he’ll be popping up in Oldboy). The trailer grabbed me not only because Elysium — the utopian space enclave with cancer-screening devices where the wealthy future-beings live — looks like a floating version of Malibu, but because Matt Damon (as Max De Costa, lol) meets a bone saw. The glum skyline of Earth in 2054 looks like it’s been constructed out of dirty packs of cigarettes set on fire, so obviously its residents are pretty jealous of the robot security details and non-extinct tropical plants (here, take a tour of the upper suburbs). What a great backdrop for a sci-fi metaphor for class warfare, immigration, and health care, especially considering the way Blomkamp took on apartheid in District 9. I added $2 million to the opening box office gross as a symbol of thanks for making Jodie Foster’s character so reminiscent of Tabatha who takes over salons.

Opening-weekend box office: roughly $38.825 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Star Trek Into Darkness
Biggest flop of the summer: World War Z
Summer sleeper: Against my psychic’s advice, I’m sticking with Frances Ha

The World’s End (August 23)

The World's End PR Photo
Daniel Silver: I have a never-ending celluloid-infused boner for all things Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. And if the new episodes of Arrested Development don’t completely leave me a tube-fed vegetable, I’ll be looking forward to throwing on my clean and pressed “I Got Wood” T-shirt and properly displaying my Sanford police replica badge to witness the epic completion of the “Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.” Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Considine, who’ve all cameo-ed or had small roles in the previously released “Flavors” (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), get bumped up to leads with Frost and Pegg to make up the group of five friends who reunite after 20 years to re-attempt an epic pub crawl from their youth. The rumors are that the names of the pubs they patronize shed light on the film’s plot, all leading up to what could be, well, the world’s end. There are also rumors of zombies and musical sequences. So, as far as I’m concerned, and other than Mr. Blomkamp’s potential masterpiece, nobody — not Spock, Super Man, the Lone Ranger, Logan, or the Wolfpack — has a thing on this guaranteed genre-blending, self-referential, delectable end-of-summer treat.

Opening-weekend box office: $18.6 million
Biggest hit of the summer: Pacific Rim
Biggest flop of the summer: The Internship
Summer sleeper: The Way, Way Back