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Reel Expectations: 2013 Summer Movie Preview

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 9, 2013

These are a few of the movies Stars and Stripes staff are anticipating as summer approaches.
All dates are U.S. release dates unless otherwise noted.

"Iron Man 3"

May 3, starts at some installation theaters May 10

It looks like Iron Man will be showing his soft insides in this flick as he faces troubling questions and inner turmoil. Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow bring Marvel’s Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, respectively, to life again in “Iron Man 3.” Although I’ve secretly enjoyed the callous, misogynistic views of Tony Stark in the previous two movies, it was really only because I knew he could be a better man. Yeah, it’s sappy, but it looks like we get to see some character development and internal angst.

And, of course, GI-NORMOUS explosions!

It would not be an Iron Man movie without serious pyrotechnics, and the new director, Shane Black, taking over from Jon Favreau, does not hold back. The explosions and the character development are not limited to our main hero, either. If you’ve seen the same previews I have, you’ll know that Pepper, Tony’s lady friend, will be donning a metal suit of her own. Squishy feelings and tough exteriors aside, it looks like we get to meet a new enemy, The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, and continue to see an old friend, Rhodey/War Machine, played by Don Cheadle.

Explosions, angst, character development — what more could a fan want?

— Roni Breza editorial graphic artist, Washington, D.C.

"The Great Gatsby"

May 10, starts at some installation theaters May 17

Personal information spoiler alert: I was in junior high when “Romeo + Juliet,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, was released. I wasn’t all too interested in it then, but was very much so during high school when my teacher allowed us to watch the unedited version in 10th grade literature. It wasn’t the first time I’d yearn to hold the position of President of the Leonardo DiCaprio Fan Club, and it definitely wasn’t the last. It was from that day forward, too, that Baz Luhrmann became one of my all-time favorite directors. (I never thought it until just now: Is DiCaprio the Robert Redford of my time? That hair. Those eyes. That calm fierceness during the most heart-pounding scenes. Well done, Mr. Luhrmann.)

“The Great Gatsby” is widely known — and rightfully so — as one of the greatest American novels. There will undoubtedly be naysayers who find this adaptation too dark, too fast, too raw or too current. But isn’t that the point? A book is written so that the reader can interpret and imagine it as they choose. (If I could carry Luhrmann around in my head to visually interpret everything I read, I think I’d find life much more entertaining than perhaps it really is.) The shelf life of a good book should outlive its binding and the best of the best should always remain current, even nearly 90 years after its original publication.

If Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) can lure our hearts beyond his bloated obsession to have everything he doesn’t rightfully deserve, if Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) can remind us of what it felt like as a 20-something trying to find our way in a world unknown, and if Luhrmann can once again pull off the incredible feat of walking a fine line between a psychedelic mushroom trip and a sexy, provocative and thrilling interpretation of a classic, then I can see the Academy Awards speeches polished up by June.

I absolutely cannot wait to see this movie. It’s been a really long time since I’ve found myself saying that. The cast, the director, the story. ... It’s a modern classic in the making.

— Nicole Rice, content producer/designer, publishing and media design, Washington, D.C.

"The English Teacher"

May 17

“The English Teacher” is a funny movie I’m looking forward to seeing. The plot: A single, 40-something, straight-laced CQ high school English teacher, Linda (Julianne Moore), falls for former student, Jason (Michael Angarano) CQ, a recent college graduate. Jason, who is unemployed and pressured by his dad (Greg Kinnear) to attend law school, has an unproduced play that captivates Linda so much she convinces the drama department at her school to produce it. He then gets involved with a high school student, Halle (Lily Collins), and his former teacher. Jason has to be thinking: What kind of teacher are you?

There might not be anything groundbreaking about this potentially predictable, funny and awkward film. And I can guarantee there will be no long lines to see this movie. But for those who enjoy dramatic comedies, I recommend this as an escape from reality. Hopefully, moviegoers will leave with fond memories of a teacher who decides not to always follow the script.

This Tribeca Film Festival feature is the first motion picture directed by Craig Zisk, whose TV series credits include “Parks and Recreation,.” “Smash” and “The United States of Tara.”

— Gerard Kelly account executive, Washington, D.C.

"Star Trek Into Darkness"

May 17, starts at some installation theaters May 24

I’ll admit I was wary about seeing J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise four years ago. As a fan of the original TV series, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel seeing other actors in the iconic roles made famous by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. But I was pleasantly surprised by both the reverence to the original series shown by Abrams and the new spin he put on it.

While sequels are rarely as good, if not much less better than their predecessors (“The Godfather II” and “Aliens,” for example), I have to admit I’m eagerly anticipating Abrams’ next installment in the series. “Star Trek Into Darkness” promises to expand on the relationship between Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) begun in the first movie, and throws a new villain (Benedict Cumberbatch, TV’s Sherlock Holmes, as a rogue Star Fleet officer intent on earth’s destruction) into the mix. The hinted-at romance between Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) will also be explored. New, yet familiar, characters will expand the current lineup (Alice Eve as Dr. Carol Marcus, Kirk’s flame first introduced in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”) and provide me with a glimmer of hope that this won’t be just another lame sequel. But that remains to be seen.

— Rich Killmon sports copy editor, Washington, D.C.

"Before Midnight"

May 24

“Before Sunrise,” a chatty tale about two young travelers who spend a day together in Vienna on the spur of the moment, instantly became one of my favorite movies when I saw it in 1995. The uncertain ending was revisited when the second, bittersweet chapter, “Before Sunset,” came out in 2004. And now we have “Before Midnight,” when crazy kids Jesse and Celine (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) have officially been making a go of things. Spoiler alert — they’re now married with kids!

In this installment, we trade the wistful what-ifs for the realities that accompany actually living with the person of your dreams. I’m giddily excited at the prospect of finally seeing these two together, but I’m also at the stage in my life where I appreciate stories that tackle real life’s gritty challenges over the tales that simply slap on an idealistic happy ending. From the beginning, this series captured the best of both worlds: Two attractive yet down-to-earth people having random conversations while falling in love against impossibly beautiful European backdrops.

Delpy and Hawke helped director Richard Linklater write the second and third chapters. In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, Delpy says that as far as she’s concerned, the series could stretch on indefinitely. “I was joking the other day that the last one we do will be ‘Amour,’” she said. Frankly, I hope it doesn’t go quite that far (and if you’ve seen that movie, you know what I mean), but I’m not likely to grow tired of this couple and their stories for quite some time.

— Kate Maisel features editor, Washington, D.C. Rated R, 108 minutes.

"The Hangover Part III"

May 24, starts on some installation theaters May 31

Critics were tough on the second in the Hangover trilogy of films. They didn’t like that it was a repeat of the first, except not as funny. But even though I had to watch some of “The Hangover Part II” between the fingers covering my face, I enjoyed it. Maybe some of that was the goodwill I have for the first movie. It’s a brilliant example of how to spin a story — three guys wake up the morning after in Vegas with no memory of the night before. And their buddy, set to be married, is missing and they have to piece together the details — including a baby, a missing tooth and a tiger — to find him. To me, it was one of the best flicks of 2009.

And it is this love for “The Hangover” and its three main characters — Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) – that means I will be seeing “The Hangover Part III” on Memorial Day.

From what I can gather from the trailers, The Wolfpack comes back together after the death of Alan’s father. The most unusual member of the group needs to go to a treatment center. But of course, things go terribly, terribly awry when they escort him there. No sign yet of where this journey will take us, but there is no question it will be over the top. And I will probably be forced once again to watch some of the movie through the gaps in my fingers.

One thing that really makes these movies tick is the excellent casting. Galifianakis and Ken Jeong throw themselves into their unique roles with relish. There are few places those two wouldn’t go to wring laughs from an audience. The other thing the movies have done well so far is cameos. This time, look for Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”) and John Goodman.

The trailers and the posters for “The Hangover III” (some of which hilariously are not-so-subtle nods to the posters for the final Harry Potter movie) declare “It all ends.”

The end, you say? Hope it goes out with a bang.

— Danielle L. Kiracofe entertainment editor, Washington, D.C.

"After Earth"

May 31, starts on some installation theaters June 14

There is no better place to set an M. Night Shyamalan comeback film than on a once-hospitable planet now deserted by mankind and dangerous to prospective visitors.

See what I did there? Shyamalan’s career has followed a similarly doomed path. After helming the indelible “The Sixth Sense,” the director settled into a lazy wheelhouse of increasingly contrived plot twists (“Signs”), mumbling melancholy (“The Village”) and inscrutable new-agey sci-fi (“Lady in the Water”). When Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel sprinted from a malevolent breeze in “The Happening,” the end of Shyamalan’s career appeared to be happening simultaneously.

So why see “After Earth,” Shyamalan’s attempted bounce-back from 2010’s disastrous “The Last Airbender”? One reason: Will Smith.

I’ve been a Smith fan for as long as my parents have been not understanding me, and I trust him entirely. Excepting “Wild Wild West,” Smith doesn’t make bad movies. He makes movies that could be better, sure, such as “I, Robot” and “Hancock.” B but even those entertain. I expect no different with “After Earth,” in which Smith and fictional and non-fictional son Jaden Smith grapple with a hostile abandoned Earth and the emotional father-son terrain it allegorizes.

The project is Smith’s baby from the story’s conception to its approaching first bite of summer popcorn. I trust him to rein in his chosen director’s flakiest instincts. And Planet Shyamalan may once again be capable of supporting life.

— Gregory Broome, sports writer, Europe

"Man of Steel"

June 14, starts on some installation theaters June 21

As a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s recently concluded dark, gritty, somewhat-realistic re-imagining of the Batman franchise, I’m really excited to see how he’ll handle this Superman reboot.

“Man of Steel” is directed by Zack Snyder. You may remember Synder as the director of “Watchmen,” a film so well adapted from its source material (which is typically considered the number one must-read among comic book fans) that it likely alienated the general audience unfamiliar with the graphic novel. He was also the director of “300,” a nother movie adapted from a graphic novel by Alan Moore.

This new Superman movie is produced by Nolan, who has made his career making movies about masculine characters striving for absolute, heroic professionalism in the face of impossible odds, and written by David Goyer, who also helped to write Nolan’s Batman universe in “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”

And on top of all this, we get Hans Zimmerman composing the soundtrack. Not surprising since most of Nolan’s movies are accompanied by a Zimmerman soundtrack. Zimmerman has been great at capturing the intensity and darker nature of Nolan’s stories.

From what I can gather from the trailers, like “Batman Begins,” we’ll get to see the upbringing of Clark Kent that forms the basis for his moral core. Another similarity to “Batman Begins” I’m looking forward to is seeing (this appears in the trailer) a bearded, soul-searching Kent living life on the move, taking any job he can where his strength and physical invulnerability can be put to use while performing the occasional heroic act to save lives. These acts seem to catch the attention of investigative journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who is trying to track down this mysterious, roving hero.

To me, this is a veritable dream team for the creation of a superhero movie and, most importantly, a great story. I can’t wait to see what they’ve created.

— David Rogers, reporter, Europe

"Monsters University"

June 21

My apologies if this is too mean-spirited for a lighthearted preview of a children’s movie, but one of the primary selling points for this animated blockbuster-to-be is the fact that you don’t have to look at Billy Crystal’s face while you watch it.

In my best Seinfeld voice: I mean, have you seen this?

Crystal’s cosmetically-altered face entirely distracted me from the otherwise innocuous trifle “Parental Guidance.” But the signature voice and the still-intact comedic gifts? Yes, please. Teaming with fellow comedy legend John Goodman and the world’s finest purveyor of animated entertainment, Crystal headlined one of Pixar’s underrated gems in 2001’s “Monsters, Inc.,” an exquisitely crafted kids’ comedy that is every bit the equal of “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.”

This prequel shifts the setting to the titular learning institution, cannily following the life trajectories of the youngsters who fell in love with the original. And as a generation of appreciative parents discovered, nobody is better than Pixar at weaving the required sing-alongs and pratfalls into a sophisticated, compelling narrative.

Pixar’s light has dimmed in recent years thanks to shiftless flicks like “Cars 2” and last summer’s “Brave.” But I’m not among the Pixar-bashers who hate on the famed studio for a perceived increase in uninspired sequels. “Cars 2” was bad on its own merits, and the Toy Story trilogy proves Pixar can extract fresh material from trodden ground. You’ll find me and my family in the front row when MU opens its doors.

— Gregory Broome, sports writer, Europe

"World War Z"

June 21

I’ve been a sucker for zombie flicks ever since I saw George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Because it was rated R, I was too young to see it while it was in theaters. So I bided my time and waited until it was finally available on VHS, and I’ve been a fan of the genre ever since. “The Walking Dead,” “28 Days Later” and “Zombieland” have only fueled that fire, and I can’t wait to see the first big-budget zombie movie with an A-list star: “World War Z.”

Brad Pitt plays a United Nations worker searching for a cure to the zombie outbreak that is destroying all countries. Pretty much sounds like all the other zombie apocalypse movies, right? But his isn’t a traditional take on zombies as we’ve always known them — slow-moving slugs that can easily be outrun or separated from their heads before they have a chance to sink their teeth into the protagonist. No, these move quickly and work together as a group to overcome obstacles in their path. The preview shows hundreds of them piling on top of each other and forming a massive pyramid to scale the side of a building. With top-of-the-line digital effects and a director (Marc Forster of “Quantum of Solace” and “The Kite Runner”) with solid credentials, this one looks like it will be a thrill a minute. Consider that it will also be available in RealD 3-D and IMAX 3-D, and it’s irresistible to zombie lovers everywhere.

— Rich Killmon, sports copy editor, Washington, D.C.

"Despicable Me 2"

July 3

I can sum up why I want to see “Despicable Me 2” this summer in three words: Little. Yellow. Minions.

Those giggling citrine guys (Are there girl minions?) captured my funny bone with the first movie, released in 2010. With their silly gibberish (mostly — they do have a few recognizable words) and crazy antics, the endearing critters brought the laughs to the sweet story of the three orphan girls and the double-crossed super-villain — Gru, voiced by Steve Carell — who finds himself stuck with them. With this sequel, Gru is still raising the trio, and he’s forced to work for an anti-villain league, helping them battle a new super criminal. I’m sure this flick will be just as sweet and thrilling as the first one. How could it not be with that wonderful army of minions?

— Danielle L. Kiracofe, entertainment editor, Washington, D.C.

"R.I.P.D."

July 19

This “Men In Black” clone — and that might not be a bad thing — features Ryan Reynolds in the Will Smith role as a recently deceased cop. Jeff Bridges is his new partner, and is training Reynolds in the Rest in Peace Department. However, instead of protecting us from the aliens living among us, the R.I.P.D. is tasked with keeping the world of the living safe from the dead, who have escaped the afterlife. Based on the trailers, the story looks fun and the action is exciting.

I liked the first “M.I.B.” movie, but I felt like a good premise was squandered with the sequels. Hopefully, this will be what “M.I.B. II” and “III” failed to be.

— Trevor Andersen, reporter, Yokosuka, Japan

"The Conjuring"

July 19

“The Conjuring” is the newest horror film by James Wan, who directed “Insidious” and “Saw.” Wan tells the story of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the people behind “Amityville Horror” and other famous haunting stories. The Warrens are already seasoned investigators when they are called to check out a barn in rural Rhode Island. It’s not long before they realize they are in over their heads.

I watched two trailers for this movie, and they both terrified me. Wan is an innovative horror director, and I’m excited — and afraid — of what he’ll do with this movie.

— Trevor Andersen, reporter, Yokosuka, Japan

"Blue Jasmine"

July 26

Famous for his closely-guarded plots, Woody Allen once again isn’t giving fans much when it comes to his latest film, “Blue Jasmine,” due to be released in July.

So far, we know that the story revolves around “the final stages of an acute crisis and a life of a fashionable New York housewife,” according to a press release from Sony Pictures Classics, the film’s distributor. We also know that the writer/director has assembled another big-name cast, this time calling on the talents of Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale and Peter Sarsgaard. Cate Blanchett, who’s presumably cast in the role of the housewife, is already generating Oscar buzz for her performance.

 If “Blue Jasmine” follows the suit of most Allen films, viewers can expect to see dysfunctional relationships, a less-than-perfect family dynamic and awkward interactions between intriguing characters — all infused with humor and neuroticism. Personally, I enjoy movies more when I can relate to them. And who can’t relate to that?  

— Laura Evans, features copy editor, Washington, D.C.

"The To Do List"

Aug. 16

There are three things in this world that give me the energy to put on pants and leave the house in the morning: the possibility of encountering bad language, questionable decision-making and Aubrey Plaza. “The To Do List” has enough of the first two to earn this so-called teen comedy an R rating.

Plaza sheds the biting, slacker persona she flaunts on TV comedy “Parks and Recreation” to play a high school valedictorian who, on the verge of heading off to college, discovers a gaping hole in her otherwise gleaming résumé: experience in the bedroom.

Hence the list, a scene in which the writing alone (as she pens it, she asks, “why so many ‘jobs?’ ”) is enough to make any teen squirm if watching this flick in the presence of parents, who are likely to have to accompany the film’s target demographic if they hope to get past the ticket-taking gestapo.

This, I assume, is by design. Making things uncomfortable is a Plaza trademark, and a major reason I love watching her perform.

— Matt Millham, reporter, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Cool off at the movies this summer.
ILLUSTRATION BY BEV SCHILLING/STARS AND STRIPES

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