As summer movie season begins, a look at what’s hot and what’s not

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04/30/2014 1:00 PM

05/22/2014 3:35 PM

Movie fans view summer much like baseball fans look forward to spring: It’s the season that represents unfettered hope.

Yet Hollywood has a way of bucking expectations. Sometimes big films flop. Sometimes little movies flourish. Most of the time, there’s a general “meh” to the lineup.

Here is a monthly look at the May through August roster of multiplex releases, broken down into categories of most anticipated, least anticipated and wild card. Surprises are always a possibility, and release dates are subject to change.

May Most anticipated

• Godzilla

(May 16): The harrowing trailer remains one of the season’s most talked-about: paths of rampant destruction intercut with a frantic Bryan Cranston, the bombshell being that the atomic tests in the South Pacific weren’t responsible for creating the giant lizard but rather were a failed attempt to destroy it.

If nothing else, this $160 million blockbuster can’t possibly be worse than the reviled 1998 remake.

• X-Men: Days of Future Past

(May 23): Bryan Singer returns to the director’s chair after an 11-year break from the franchise that he launched (and that most observers think jump-started the modern superhero movie craze).

This time-travel story finds mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) sent to the past to prevent a catastrophic event that could destroy civilization. Enter the mechanical “peacekeeping” Sentinels and their crazed creator, Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage).

• Maleficent

(May 30): Angelina Jolie looks positively wicked in her black cloak and horned headpiece in a “Sleeping Beauty” revision that centers on the menacing villain. The PG-rating of this Disney fantasy is itself intriguing, considering the much darker approach of the comparable “Snow White and the Huntsman,” a role Jolie declined.

Least anticipated

• Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return

(May 9): Did you know there were three filmed versions of “The Wizard of Oz” prior to the seminal 1939 musical? Now here’s another, albeit an animated spin based on a novel by Roger S. Baum, great-grandson of “Oz” author L. Frank Baum.

• Blended

(May 23): Some might assume Adam Sandler would get wiser and more mature as he pushes 50. Not the case, with recent efforts such as “Jack and Jill” and “Grown Ups 2” representing some of his most reviled work.

At least he reteams with “The Wedding Singer” co-star Drew Barrymore in this romantic comedy about two single parents thrown together during a family vacation in Africa.

Wild cards

• The Amazing Spider-Man 2

(Friday): Shouldn’t this be in the most anticipated category? Not after the tepid display offered by the 2012 reboot.

Given the return of the same director (Marc Webb) and principal cast (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone), it’s at least encouraging that Marvel’s most popular hero has a more intriguing foe than a man-sized lizard to battle. That job is divided among three baddies: Electro (Jamie Foxx), the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti).

• Neighbors

(May 9): The premise is gold: A couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) with a newborn move in next to a hard-partying frat house (led by a bad boy played by Zac Efron). “Family vs. Frat” as the poster exclaims.

But has filmmaker Nicholas Stoller penned a raunchy winner like his “Get Him to the Greek” or a disjointed bomb a la “Gulliver’s Travels”?

• A Million Ways to Die in the West

(May 30): Bringing his hilariously inappropriate humor to the Old West, Seth MacFarlane (“Ted”) writes, directs and stars in a tale of a meek farmer who romances a beautiful newcomer (Charlize Theron) until her gun-slinging husband (Liam Neeson) rides into town. Anachronistic profanities and a surprisingly high body count ensue.

June Most anticipated

• Edge of Tomorrow

(June 6): Following “Oblivion,” Tom Cruise seems to be veering toward futuristic military thrillers more than secret agent fare. His latest can be pitched as “Source Code” meets “Groundhog Day.”

Cruise is a soldier whose clash with aliens triggers a time loop, forcing him to continually relive his final doomed day. He teams with a fellow soldier (Emily Blunt) experiencing the same fate to strategize how to win the war. There’s hope that director Doug Liman can relive the same success he orchestrated on “The Bourne Identity.”

• How to Train Your Dragon 2

(June 13): “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” proved a dragon-centric sequel could blow away a dull original. The comparative competition is a little stiffer for “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” a follow-up to one of the more delightful animated films of this decade.

Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and pet Toothless embark on a quest that leads them to a hidden ice cave where humans and dragons have not mastered the art of living in harmony.

Least anticipated

• 22 Jump Street

(June 13): Undercover cops played by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill graduate from infiltrating a high school to a college campus assignment that involves both the football team and bohemian art hipsters.

If the dippy title is any indication of the quality displayed by this sequel to the overrated 2012 flick, then expect something on par with “Dumb and Dumberer.”

• Transformers: Age of Extinction

(June 27): Director Michael Bay replaces lead Shia LaBeouf with the more dependable Mark Wahlberg for the fourth entry in his noisy robot franchise. But it’s still just another cash grab courting those enamored with the Autobots and Decepticons of their ’80s adolescence.

The good news is that Bay has promised this will be the shortest installment of the series.

Wild cards

• The Fault in Our Stars

(June 6): Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort portray siblings in “Divergent,” so it may be a little peculiar watching them engage as lovers in this adaptation of John Green’s 2012 best-seller. Woodley plays a teenage cancer patient who falls for an amputee (Elgort) she meets at a support group. The drama’s title comes from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” in which Cassius says, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

• Think Like a Man Too

(June 20): The $12 million sleeper grossed more than $90 million two years ago, which meant a sequel was inevitable. But it’s iffy whether filmmaker Tim Story can recapture the chemistry that made his sprawling romantic comedy both funny and insightful in its exploration of relationships. The real wild card is that Kevin Hart has become a huge celebrity during the interim.

• Jersey Boys

(June 20): This adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical biography hinges on whether the shrill sounds of the 1960s group the Four Seasons fill you with nostalgia or make you want to staple your ears shut.

The film opts for using many of the same Broadway stage actors rather than Hollywood stars in the leading roles. Also a question mark is director Clint Eastwood, whose recent track record (“J. Edgar,” “Hereafter”) has been the definition of lackluster.

July Most anticipated

• Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

(July 11): Few dead franchises have been so impressively resurrected as “Planet of the Apes.” “Dawn” hopes to continue the well-constructed groundwork (and freakishly convincing effects) established in 2011’s “Rise.”

Gone is the rather miscast lead James Franco. New is Gary Oldman and Keri Russell. Remaining is the excellent Andy Serkis (providing the motion-capture magic as simian Caesar), who leads a war against human forces.

• Sex Tape

(July 25): Director Jake Kasdan reunites with his “Bad Teacher” stars in a movie rife with comic possibilities. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel play a longtime married couple who try to spice up the relationship by making a video of their attempts at every position in “The Joy of Sex.” Then the tape goes missing.

The comedy adopted the fake title “Basic Math” during production because “Sex Tape” made it difficult to acquire locations.

Least anticipated

• Planes: Fire Rescue

(July 18): Think of all the great Pixar movies that warrant a sequel — “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Finding Nemo” — yet weakest link, “Cars,” is now responsible for its fourth offshoot. Even less auspicious is Pixar has nothing to do with this entry, leaving the production chores to DisneyToon Studios.

This time crop duster Dusty (Dane Cook) joins an aerial firefighting team to take on a colossal wildfire.

• Hercules

(July 25): If anybody has earned the right to play a Greek demigod in an adventure movie, it’s Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. His winking charisma will be tested mightily in this version of the mythical 12 labors and the aftermath the muscular hero endures.

But under the tutelage of gun-for-hire director Brett Ratner (The “Rush Hour” trilogy), it’s hard to foresee this even being as good as those “Clash of the Titans” revamps. Labored indeed.

Wild cards

• Tammy

(July 2): Melissa McCarthy is the definition of a wild card. Her abrasive blend of humor and pathos has flourished in supporting roles (“Bridesmaids”) and been a toss-up in leading ones (“Identity Thief).

“Tammy” finds the actress portraying a newly jobless woman who goes on a road trip with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon). The comedy also marks the directorial debut of Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s husband.

• Jupiter Ascending

(July 18): Few movies matched the ambitious loopiness of “Cloud Atlas,” the previous project by sibling filmmakers Andy and Lana Wachowski. Their first foray into 3-D finds Mila Kunis as an impoverished Russian immigrant who becomes the target of assassination by the King of the Universe (Eddie Redmayne). Channing Tatum plays an interplanetary warrior who elects to protect her.

One thing is certain: The movie won’t be formulaic.

August Most anticipated

• Guardians of the Galaxy

(Aug. 1): Few outside of Marvel Comics were clamoring to see a film based on the Guardians of the Galaxy, a futuristic misfits team that debuted in 1969. But the movie gained traction after an amusing trailer surfaced of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) getting thrown into an intergalactic jail.

Regardless, the Guardians will be around a while since they factor heavily in future Marvel installments by unifying the space elements introduced in “Thor” and “The Avengers.” Where else will you see a talking tree partner with a gun-toting raccoon?

• Get on Up

(Aug. 1): It’s tough to picture someone other than Eddie Murphy impersonating singer James Brown — can’t beat the moment he dips a foot into scalding water during the infamous “Celebrity Hot Tub Party” sketch on “SNL” and exclaims “Owwww.”

But the new biopic about the late Godfather of Soul hands the role to talented Chadwick Boseman (aka Jackie Robinson in “42”). So bring the funk!

• Lucy

(Aug. 8): Scarlett Johansson continues on her deadliest-warrior carrier path with a new heroine to rival Black Widow. She portrays a drug mule living in Taiwan who gains superhuman abilities when the experimental stuff she is smuggling inadvertently leaks into her body.

French director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita,” “The Professional”) knows a thing or two about this genre.

Least anticipated

• The Expendables 3

(Aug. 15): There was an “Expendables 2”?

Wild cards

• Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Aug. 8): It has been almost 25 years since the first live-action adaptation of the comic book phenomenon hit theaters. And although the recent stench of 2007’s “TMNT” still lingers, Hollywood is returning to the sewers for another escapade with the reptile warriors.

The quartet’s origin has been changed from a byproduct of toxic waste to an extraterrestrial experiment, which has done nothing to ingratiate the movie with its core fanbase. The cast includes Megan Fox as April and William Fitchner as Shredder. Oh, and Michael Bay is producing.

• Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

(Aug. 22): Few films so successfully captured the episodic, colorful, exaggerated textures of graphic novels as 2005’s “Sin City.” It also incorporated the sickening ultra-violence of Frank Miller’s source material with glee.

Miller (who co-directs with Robert Rodriguez) returns to his neo-noir metropolis of Basin City for a rematch between its sleaziest denizens and grittiest anti-heroes.

• The Loft (Aug. 29): Belgian director Eric Van Looy remakes his own 2008 thriller about five married friends (James Marsden, Karl Urban, Wentworth Miller, Matthias Schoenaerts and KCK’s Eric Stonestreet) who share a private loft to use for extramarital encounters. When the dead body of a mystery woman is discovered in the hideaway, they each begin to suspect the other of murder. And they’ll probably have to forfeit the deposit.

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