They say Hollywood makes movies for 13-year-old boys, which is imprecise. It makes movies for 13-year-old boys in 1987.
The 2014 summer movie season started with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and will celebrate action-figure-linked cinema further via Godzilla, X-Men, Transformers, Hercules and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Usually at this point, a summer-movie preview would try to shame studios for going back to the well (again). But as a Transformers franchise reboot seven years after the first film attests, Hollywood lacks a capacity for shame.
So we will look at the bright side. Maybe Hercules will send kids to Homers The Odyssey. And maybe Megan Foxs participation in the Michael Bay-produced Ninja Turtles means her rift with the filmmaker is over. And that we, as a nation, can move on.
Below are selective lists of 10 summer spectacles and 10 quieter alternatives. (Release dates are subject to change, and in some cases, yet to be determined. If a Sacramento date is not set, we list New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco dates).
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins
Director: Gareth Edwards
Release date: May 16
The ominous trailer for this film shows respected actors looking harried amid a thunder of bass beats and what might be allusions to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Then the source of everyones panic is revealed to be a monster from old B movies where words and actors lips did not match.
So we will take a wait-and-see approach. But I bought last years World War Z, a hyper-serious movie about zombies. And its a good sign that Godzilla director Edwards (Monsters) once made TV disaster documentaries.
Oh, and that other big-budget Hollywood Godzilla movie, the one from 1998 with Matthew Broderick? Just act like it never happened.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender
Director: Bryan Singer
Release date: May 23
Theres a ridiculous amount of talent in this film, which sends Wolverine (Jackman) back to the 1970s and incorporates much of the cast from previous X-Men films, including Fassbender, Lawrence (painted blue as Mystique), Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Director Singer returns to the franchise he started in 2000. X-Men films often play as B-level compared with A-grade Spider-Man and Batman comics films. Wonder if an all-star cast can change that.
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning
Director: Robert Stromberg
Release date: May 30
From Disneys animated Sleeping Beauty springs this origin story of the baddie so aggrieved at not receiving an invitation to a princesss christening that she practically breathed fire. In the trailer, Jolie shoots daggers with her eyes her go-to look in most roles. But here it inspires fear and curiosity. Maybe its the horns, or the rich visual world Oscar-winning production designer Stromberg (Avatar), directing for the first time, appears to have created.
EDGE OF TOMORROW
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt
Director: Doug Liman
Release date: June 6
Last years Oblivion underwhelmed, but Cruise goes post-apocalyptic again and again. He plays a military officer, killed in a showdown with aliens, but forced to relive that battle in an endless loop. Its Groundhog Day, without the levity, and with Blunt as Andie McDowell. If McDowell were a special-forces warrior.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
Voice cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett
Director: Dean DeBlois
Release date: June 13
With no Pixar film this summer (the studio pushed its The Good Dinosaur to 2015), this DreamWorks Animation/Fox movie is the marquee animated film of the season. Its 2010 predecessor was funny, touching and action-packed. In the sequel, young Viking Hiccup (Baruchel), who was seemingly destined to hunt dragons like his dad but instead befriended one, finds his long-lost mother (Blanchett).
TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz
Director: Michael Bay
Release date: June 27
After destroying Chicago in 2011s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Bay reboots his franchise, with some story continuity but a new human friend (Wahlberg) to the alien robots. Wahlberg plays a tinkerer who brings home a beater big rig that turns out to be Optimus Prime, leader of the good Transformers. But since the Chicago thing, people no longer see good and bad Transformers, considering them all robotae non gratae.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Cast: Andy Serkis, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman
Director: Matt Reeves
Release date: July 11
Caesar (Serkis, or rather his digital aping) from 2011s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, returns with a group of fellow super-charged simians. But the humans are hanging in there, and challenging Caesars power. Rise star James Franco will appear here only briefly. You decide if thats a good or bad thing.
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt
Director: Brett Ratner
Release date: July 25
Forget Januarys The Legend of Hercules and that pipsqueak Kellan Lutz (What? You already have?) This one stars The Rock and was directed by the Ratner (Rush Hour). Based on a comic, the new film presents an earthbound world free of the supernatural. So look forward to some mythical-mumbo-jumbo-free beatdowns.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice)
Director: James Gunn
Release date: Aug. 1
Marvel Comics Guardians are a space-based band of misfits and and protectors. Pratts (Parks & Recreation) self-styled adventurer leads, followed by a green-skinned soldier (Saldana), a lethal raccoon (Cooper) and a treelike enforcer (Diesel). Plusses out of the gate: Movies about ragtag space heroes evoke the wonderful Galaxy Quest; director James Gunn made the gross yet entertaining 2006 horror-comedy Slither.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Release date: Aug. 8
Martial-arts-trained turtles (this time fully computer-generated) emerge from the sewers to battle evil. Then things strain credibility: Fox plays a journalist.
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson
Director: Amma Asante
Release date: May 16
In this British period piece based on a true story, Mbatha-Raw plays Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy admiral. Raised by her uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle enjoys privileges but also faces rampant prejudice. The real-life Lord Mansfield played a key role in Englands abolition of slavery.
Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman
Release date: May 16 (San Francisco)
Favreau wrote and directed and plays a creative, uncompromising L.A. chef who challenges his boss (Hoffman), alienates a top food critic with his itchy Twitter finger, and remakes himself via a rusted-out food truck. Chef marks the first indie film Favreau (Swingers) has written and directed since he went big-budget with Elf and Iron Man.
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler
Director: Frank Coraci
Release date: May 23
We are willing to acknowledge looking forward to a Sandler movie, but there are rules. It must co-star Barrymore, with whom Sandler shared a cuddly chemistry in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. This pair gets the benefit of the doubt even though the premise single parents go on a bad first date, part ways, end up on the same African safari makes the amnesiac comedy of Dates appear ripped from the headlines.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort
Director: Josh Boone
Release date: June 6
Based on John Greens beloved young-adult novel, Stars follows teens (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) who meet in a cancer support group and fall for each other. Except the girl resists the boys overtures because she believes she is too sick for romance.
Woodley is great in everything. Elgort showed charisma as Woodleys brother in Divergent and as Carries prom date in Carrie. He had to do a lot of convincing in that movie, too.
Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Release date: June 6 (New York and Los Angeles)
In this Sundance Film Festival hit, Slate plays a standup comic impregnated during a brief affair with a young man played by the charming Jake Lacy (The Office). Slate is known for cussing on air during her first sketch on Saturday Night Live, and for roles on HBOs Hello Ladies and Showtimes House of Lies. But she won my heart as Mona-Lisa, most heinous member of the awful, entertaining Saperstein family on Parks & Recreation.
WORDS AND PICTURES
Cast: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche
Director: Fred Schepisi
Release date: June 6
Its like its 2007 again, with Binoche and Owen starring in an American (-ish, since it was shot in Vancouver) romantic comedy. Owen plays a high school English teacher and writer who believes in the power of words. Binoche is a painter and art teacher who thinks images hold all the power. They both say to-mah-to, but she does it with a French accent.
THINK LIKE A MAN TOO and TAMMY
Cast: Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall (Think); Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon ( Tammy)
Directors: Tim Story; Ben Falcone
Release dates: June 20; July 2
We twin these films because neither looks like a surefire winner but can be recommended regardless: Hart and McCarthy always deliver.
Harts character goes solo in a crowd of couples in the Las Vegas-set Think Like a Man Too, sequel to the 2012 hit film taken from Steve Harveys advice book. A freewheeling Hart is a hilarious Hart.
McCarthys fired fast-food worker in Tammy looks like a variation on her impertinent characters in Identity Thief and The Heat. Watching McCarthy buck propriety never gets old. McCarthy co-wrote Tammy with husband Falcone, who also directed, and they had the good sense to cast Sarandon as Tammys alcoholic grandma and road-trip companion. Sarandons good on a road trip.
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette
Director: Richard Linklater
Release date: July 11 (San Francisco)
Linklater followed his Before Sunrise couple Jesse and Celine in three films, starting in 1995. He distills that urge to revisit into one film in Boyhood. Linklater shot the movie over 12 years, following star Coltrane as he matured from a 7- to a 19-year-old. Hawke, star of the Before movies, and Arquette also spent years filming this drama about a fractured family.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
Cast: Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Release date: Aug. 8
An Indian family moves to France and opens an eatery near a Michelin-starred restaurant run by a snooty chef (Mirren). The Indian restaurant might be an underdog, but the movie, taken from a book by Richard Morais, is not. Hallstrom already directed the successful 2000 food-themed film Chocolat, and Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg produced.
Call The Bees Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.