Summer Movie Preview: Blockbuster Repeats Dominate Popcorn Season

The 2013 Summer movie lineup brings to mind one of Yogi Berra's finest witticisms--"it's like deja vu all over again."

Hollywood is reduced to a "better safe than sorry mode," meaning sequels and reboots are now the prime vehicles for entertainment (not to mention kissing up to a censor-happy Chinese market).

That doesn't mean the upcoming film slate lacks promise. Director J.J. Abrams pulled off the near-impossible with his 2009 Star Trek reboot, and the trailer for the film's sequel promises another starry ride. And if anyone can bring Superman into the 21st century it's producer Christopher Nolan, the man who crafted the most subversively conservative movie trilogy of our age, the Batman saga.

  • Iron Man 3 (May 3) - Tony Stark is back, and audiences are hoping that the franchise's underwhelming part two was but a hiccup and not an omen. Ben Kingsley brings The Mandarin to life, one of shell head's most fearsome foes and a villain whose Asian background required some significant tinkering. This time around, War Machine (Don Cheadle) is known as the Iron Patriot, a moniker which could suggest a politically charged subplot to a series which previously touted capitalism while furrowing its cinematic brow over weapons sales.
  • Fast & Furious 6 (May 24) - Any questions left to answer at this point? More big, dumb stunts, perhaps? Rudimentary acting by stars who know how to look tough on screen? It's essentially all you can ask for in this revved up franchise, and if it delivers as it did in Part 5 bleary-eyed audiences will be satiated, if not enthralled.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17) - Audience's good will must be earned, and director J.J. Abrams did just that when he recast the sci-fi franchise without any major missteps four years ago. Now, we'll follow Chris Pine (Kirk) and co. anywhere in the galaxy, especially given the razzle dazzle trailer and the air of mystery surrounding the film's villain (Benedict Cumberbatch).
  • After Earth (May 31) - That rare original summer production may inspire hope, but it also comes "from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan." If the so-called "next Steven Spielberg" can't hit the box office jackpot with Will Smith and his charismatic son Jaden Smith in a sleek sci-fi story, it's time for Shyamalan to find a new gig. The Smiths play a father and son team who return to Earth years after mankind left the planet following cataclysmic events.
  • Man of Steel (June 14) - The 2006 reboot didn't take, what with a star who looked too much like Christopher Reeve, a feeble finale and a misused Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther. Now, Christopher Nolan is producing this dark but promising retelling of Superman's origin, and the top-flight cast (Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams and Kevin Costner) will give plenty of support to Henry Cavill's conflicted hero.
  • World War Z (June 21) - Reshoots. Budget overruns. Thoroughly unconvincing zombie effects. This adaptation of Max Brooks' singular approach to the zombie genre has plenty going against it. Never bet against Brad Pitt, though, and we've yet to see an undead film on this scale and budget. Those two factors may make Z shrug off all the sour pre-release buzz.
  • White House Down (June 28) The year's second movie featuring the president under direct assault could be more political than the rah-rah Olympus Has Fallen. Down stars unabashed Obama fan Jamie Foxx and comes from liberal director Roland Emmerich. Channing Tatum is on hand as the man who helps the president (Foxx) deal with a domestic terrorist attack on Washington. Could said terrorists have any Tea Party ties? Wouldn't put it past Hollywood to throw in a dog days of summer sucker punch.
  • The Lone Ranger (July 3) - This western reboot may shift the hero balance from iconic gunslinger to laconic Native American. Johnny Depp stars as Tonto while Armie Hammer plays the title role. Director Gore Verbinski scored a pop culture bullseye with Depp in the first Pirates feature only to crank out two sequels which defied logic and reason.
  • Pacific Rim (July 12) - Director Guillermo Del Toro was apparently taking copious notes while watching the Transformers franchise. His latest film finds humanity battling back against an alien race via massive robots. Rock 'em? Sock 'em? The low star wattage and lack of obvious commercial tie ins make Rim a risky venture, and the meandering trailer hasn't helped.
  • The Wolverine (July 26) Director James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) never met a film genre he couldn't conquer, so it's fitting for him to tackle a sturdy superhero like this irascible X-man. Hugh Jackman is the Wolverine once more, traveling through Japan in a tale inspired by the Marvel Comics source material.

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