Depending on who you ask, the latest entry in Marvel’s growing cinematic universe, “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” is either “one of the best Marvel movies ever” or “the best Marvel movie ever.” And even though superhero sequels haven’t always had the best track record with audiences and critics, when Chris Evans returns as the star-spangled super solider this week, the resulting buzz is going to be pretty hard for the average moviegoer to ignore.
So there’s probably not much point in asking whether you should see “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” because judging from the gazillion dollars (estimated) “The Avengers” made, you will. As for whether or not you’ll like it, consult the following guide to find out.
1. Did you like the first “Captain America?”
Actually, this doesn’t really matter much, considering “The Winter Soldier” has a lot more in common with “The Avengers” than Cap’s WWII-set origin story. That’s mostly because it picks up right after the events in New York, with Evans partnering up again with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to run missions for S.H.I.E.L.D., but it also shares the same Whedon-esque tone — as the co-workers trade glib remarks about finding Cap a date in between punching out bad guys.
2. Do you like the trailers?
If so, chances are you’re going to like the full movie. That’s because, like most big-budget blockbusters these days, they’ve already showed you pretty much all of it (including several clips from the climactic action sequences). Spoiler alert.
3. How do you feel about sitcom directors doing superhero movies?
Marvel’s certainly proven themselves willing to think outside-the-box when it comes to directors. In fact, the least risky hire they’ve made so far was enlisting Joe Johnston for the first “Captain America” movie (with predictably average results). So this time they turned to Anthony and Joe Russo, a pair of brothers with more experience directing TV (“Community,” “Arrested Development”) than summer blockbusters (uh… “You, Me and Dupree?”). Once again, the gamble paid off, and despite a shaky camera during the hand-to-hand combat, the big action set pieces are every bit as satisfying as anything you’ll see this summer.
4. Do you mind if the plot’s predictable?
The central conspiracy is actually pretty fun, but for most of the third act, “The Winter Soldier” comes down to the usual formula: our heroes must save millions of lives by executing a specific set of totally arbitrary tasks destined to come down to the final second, and make approximately zero logical sense as soon as you walk out of the theatre. So as long as you’re willing to accept that most of the movie’s main mission is just a long-winded excuse to set up some seriously fun action scenes, you ought to be just fine.
5. How’s your techno-paranoia doing?
The NSA’s got nothing on S.H.I.E.L.D., who apparently refresh Twitter more often than you do. Supposedly, it’s all in the name of keeping us safe, at least until it’s revealed there’s a special algorithm that uses your online footprint to predict threats to national security. No wonder Cap has serious trust issues.
6. Will it bother you if Robert Redford is phoning it in?
To be fair, he’s probably doing “The Winter Soldier” for his grandkids and not the hefty paycheque, but otherwise, he doesn’t add much besides another big name to the bill. As the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., his Alexander Pierce is approximately 50 percent less compelling than any other Redford role, and 75 percent less than it needs to be to deliver the emotional punch the movie’s hoping for.
7. Do you like Anthony Mackie?
This one’s rhetorical, because of course you do. At least if you’ve seen him in “Pain & Gain,” or “Runner Runner,” or “Gangster Squad,” or any of his many scene-stealing appearances over the last few years. Otherwise, it looks like “The Winter Soldier” is finally going to be the breakout role Mackie deserves. With his combination of action-hero chops and easy comic touch, we’d watch an entire stand-alone adventure from Mackie’s Falcon. Instead, he’s relegated to Cap’s sidekick by the end, but either way, Marvel’s found another keeper.
8. Do you care where the other Avengers are?
The massive interconnected universe Marvel’s building may help sell truckloads of tickets, but the biggest issue for any post-“Avengers” movie is why the rest of the team is sitting this round out while our hero takes on a major threat alone. It’s less of an issue in “The Winter Soldier” than the last “Thor” movie, mostly because the central peril doesn’t threaten to obliterate the entire known universe, and also because they paired the Captain with Johansson’s Black Widow, a welcome sight both during the action scenes and the downtime in between.
9. Are you worried they might not have enough characters for “Avengers: Age of Ultron?”
Don’t be, because thanks to Mackie’s Falcon, they’ve got another potential hero to add to the roster before we even get to the obligatory post-credits sequel set-up. Then there’s Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, back with a bigger role, and the introduction of Emily VanCamp’s Agent 13. By the time they get to the Stephen Strange name-drop, future “Avengers” movies are going to have to be six hours long to ensure everybody gets enough screentime. “The Winter Soldier” is already pushing two-and-a-half as it is.
10. Should you expect it to be the best Marvel movie yet?
The hype machine shot into overdrive thanks to glowing reports out of early press screenings, and while that may be great for Marvel’s bottom-line, it could also result in unrealistic expectations from audiences. “The Winter Solider” is still a very good, very fun action movie, and fans should be more than satisfied that it both delivers the goods and helps set up the next blockbuster team-up. Just try to leave the superlatives at the door.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is now playing in theatres.
Gallery | 2014 Summer Movies: The Most Anticipated Summer Blockbusters, Comedies, Dramas, & More
- ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′ (May 2, 2014)
While 2012’s “Amazing Spider-Man” was an undoubted smash, it was also the cinematic equivalent of leftover pizza: a stale, reheated approximation of Sam Raimi’s superior original. Thankfully, it seems like the sequel has decidedly more pep: we got to preview more than 30 minutes of footage recently, and the general sensation is that this movie is less emo and way more fun. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is still dealing with very teenage concerns, like his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), while also facing off by a virtual Dream Team of bad guys, including Electro (Jamie Foxx), The Rhino (Paul Giamatti), and a younger Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). This is a fascinating junction point in the Spider-universe, since after the sequel will lead into at least two more sequels and two more spin-offs (focused on villains The Sinister Six and Venom). Expect a whole lot of Spider-content in the next Spider-decade, wall crawlers!
- ‘Chef’ (May 9, 2014)
After spending more than a decade crafting decadent studio confections like the first two “Iron Man” movies and “Cowboys & Aliens,” Jon Favreau returns to his indie roots with “Chef,” the tale of a man (played by Favreau) who becomes dissatisfied with his gig at a glitzy large restaurant and reclaims his mojo by opening up a food truck and traveling across the country. With a tasty supporting cast that includes Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, and Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., “Chef” is positioning itself as the low calorie alternative to some of the bigger Hollywood movies this summer. Considering how many people loved it at South by Southwest (where it premiered), it could take a larger bite of the box office than most anticipate.
- ‘Neighbors’ (May 9, 2014)
It’s a wonderful worst case scenario: a young couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) with a new baby get rambunctious new neighbors in the form of a local fraternity (led by Zac Efron), which moves in right next door. Predictably, chaos ensues. If you’ve seen any of the trailers for “Neighbors,” you know what you’re getting into. I saw this back at South by Southwest and it ended up being one of the festival’s highlights: it’s smart, it’s funny, and it’s wildly unexpected. Oh, and Byrne, who has played hilarious second banana in things like “Get Him to the Greek” and “Bridesmaids,” basically owns this movie. And it’s a sight to behold. Get ready to laugh yourself silly; it’s almost impossible to think that anything released this summer will be funnier than “Neighbors.”
- ‘Godzilla’ (May 16, 2014)
The beast is back. After 1998’s failed reboot of iconic Japanese monster movie “Godzilla,” it looked like the fearsome reptile might have been retired for good (at least when it comes to American remakes). Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. This new “Godzilla” takes a more global approach, with a structure that seems to be at least partially inspired by ’70s disaster movies and, oh yeah, way more monsters. Based on the moody footage we were previewed at South by Southwest (and even-more-top-secret footage screened recently in New York), it’s safe to say that this is a different monster altogether, with director Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”) upping both the level of spectacle and the emotional content: the monsters look great but it’s the humans (including Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, and Juliette Binoche) that you really care about. “Godzilla” is going to be huge (pun very, very, very much intended).
- ‘Million Dollar Arm’ (May 16, 2014)
Jon Hamm is one of the best things about this current golden age of television. But isn’t it about time he became a movie star? Well, “Million Dollar Arm” might just do the trick. Hamm plays a real-life sports agent who travels to India in the search for the next great baseball sensations. In terms of feel good family movies, this could really knock it out of the park. Not only is Hamm a wonderful actor who is ready to advance to the major leagues of movie stardom, but he’s flanked by a wonderful team that includes Lake Bell, Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin, and my spirit animal Bill Paxton, plus a dynamic coach in director Craig Gillespie, who last helmed the sorely underrated “Fright Night” remake. In the sometimes crushingly cynical landscape of the summer movie, it’ll be nice to see a movie that is just sweet.
- ‘Blended’ (May 23, 2014)
In the history of big-screen team ups, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler rest somewhere in between Bogey and Bacall and Kidd and Play, and that’s just where we like them. In their third collaboration (after “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates”), the stars play single parents who, after going on a lousy first date (at Buffalo Wild Wings, no less) they end up splitting a lavish vacation in Africa. (The plot specifics are not important and not just because I don’t understand them completely.) Expect lots of jokes about native Africans and indigenous wildlife and a cameo from noted South African cricketer Dale Steyn. Hopefully the third Barrymore/Sandler joint will be just as charming as the first two. Otherwise, we could be in for a bunch of sequences where the two bicker, interspersed with culturally insensitive observations about Africa. And that would be bad.
- ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ (May 23, 2014)
Tired of X-Men movies with just some of the X-Men? How about an X-Men movie with all of the X-Men! “X-Men: Days of Future Past” ambitiously combines the casts of Bryan Singer’s original “X-Men” movies (Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry), with the cast of 2011’s “X-Men: First Class” (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence) with a plotline centering around time travel, alternate universes, and giant killer robots. In the film, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, again) travels back in time from a dystopian future where mutants are hunted and executed to the distant past (the ’70s — yeah, baby yeah) to make sure that the younger mutants stop the mutant hunt before it begins. This sounds very complicated, and could be unnecessarily so (especially for the check-your-brain-at-the-door summer movie season), but the most recent trailer promised epic action on a scale that the X-franchise has yet to deliver, and with Singer back in the director’s chair, it could be a welcome return to form (the less we say about Singer’s “Jack the Giant Slayer,” the better).
- ‘Maleficent’ (May 30, 2014)
When it comes to iconic Disney villains, they don’t get more unforgettable than Maleficent, the horned witch from Disney’s animated “Sleeping Beauty.” So, with this live-action retelling of the classic story, Disney knew that they had to get an icon to play an icon. Enter Angelina Jolie, who dons the giant horns and gives a sympathetic back story to a character closely identified with the personification of pure evil. “Maleficent” was directed by Robert Stromberg (after Disney failed to woo Tim Burton back to the fairy tale fold), the noted production designer behind “Avatar” and “Oz the Great and Powerful” amongst others, so the movie will certainly have an ageless storybook look to go along with all of that deliciously villainous star power (the supporting cast includes Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley Juno Temple, and, presumably, lots of magical beasts). Sing along! I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…
- ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ (May 31, 2014)
After reshaping the prime time animated landscape with his filthy cartoons (“Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “Cleveland Show”) and turning a child’s stuffed toy into a loudmouthed womanizer (“Ted”), Seth MacFarlane has decided to turn his sights to the western comedy, a notoriously difficult subgenre that only a handful of directors (among them Mel Brooks and Quentin Tarantino) have ever successfully pulled off. But hey, maybe he could do it. In the movie, MacFarlane plays a hapless sheep farmer who is forced to face off against an infamous outlaw (Liam Neeson). MacFarlane was able to assemble a shockingly A-list supporting cast (amongst them Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, and Neil Patrick Harris) for his wild west romp, which will undoubtedly feature lots of sight gags and R-rated humor galore. One of the million ways to die in the west is probably laughing yourself into an early grave.
- ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (June 6, 2014)
Ever watch “Groundhog Day” and think, This would be better if it was swarming with bloodthirsty space monsters? Well, “Edge of Tomorrow” has got you covered. Tom Cruise stars as a soldier on the frontlines of an intergalactic invasion of Earth who is mysteriously revived each time he falls in battle. This makes him a keen asset to the resistance (and a potential romantic foil for a special forces agent played by Emily Blunt). “Edge of Tomorrow” was directed by “Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman, and although almost every high-powered screenwriter in Hollywood had a hand in the script, it’s original source material is pretty cool: it’s based on a Japanese comic book by Hiroshi Sakurazaka that had a much, much better name (“All You Need Is Kill”). Hopefully, the nifty premise, combined with Cruise’s singular commitment and Liman’s buoyant direction, will make “Edge of Tomorrow” one of the few non-franchise-based breakouts this summer.
- ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (June 6, 2014)
Shailene Woodley might be the first YA queen. After starring in the solid (at least from a box office perspective) sci-fi flick “Divergent,” Woodley is transitioning to “The Fault in Our Stars,” which is a different YA experience altogether. In the film she plays a young girl with cancer who discovers something worth living for when she engages in a romance with a hunky cancer survivor (Ansel Elgort). The book (by John Greene) was wildly successful, so there’s a fair amount of anticipation surrounding the movie, even if the trailer makes it out to be a sappy Nicholas Sparks-for-youngsters affair. Somebody must have been impressed, since the film’s director Josh Boone was recently tapped to take over Warner Bros’ troubled adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Maybe there’s a role in there for Woodley?
- ’22 Jump Street’ (June 13, 2014)
Of all the sequels being released this summer… This might be the one we’re getting the most excited about. 2012’s “21 Jump Street” was one of the year’s biggest surprises — a hilarious, profane, visually engaging romp that vitally reconfigured the original television series as a laudably silly action comedy. In the sequel, the undercover cops played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are this time inserted into college, to bring down a dangerous drug operation. The two trailers released thus far have left us in stitches, and original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who have already had one 2014 smash on their hands with “The Lego Movie,” return, hopefully bringing that zippy, live-action-cartoon feeling back as well. If the movie itself is half as funny as the scene from the trailer where they’re both dressed as cholos then we’ll probably have to be hospitalized.
- ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′ (June 13, 2014)
2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon” remains the best, most engaging feature from DreamWorks Animation. It also made a whole lot of money. So it’s not much of a surprise that the studio would be bringing back young dragon-lover Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his ridiculously adorable pet dragon Toothless for another go-round. This sequel finds Hiccup attempting to save the dragons from a ruthless dragon hunter and reconnecting with his long-lost mother (played by Cate Blanchett). This sequel was written and directed by Dean DeBlois, who co-directed the first movie with his longtime creative partner Chris Sanders (the two were also responsible for a movie at Disney called “Lilo & Stitch”), and looks to expand the dragon-filled universe considerably. The bar was raised pretty high by the original film; here’s hoping the sequel soars over it.
- ‘Jersey Boys’ (June 20, 2014)
The only Broadway musical you’re comfortable taking your parents to when they visit you is finally coming to the big screen! Clint Eastwood, of all people, is bringing “Jersey Boys,” the toe-tapping true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, to the big screen — using a bunch of actors you’ve probably never heard of. (Virtually every actor cast has been a part of a production of “Jersey Boys” somewhere in the world.) The original musical is a singularly galvanizing experience, one in which biographical detail and pop music showmanship delicately intertwine for maximum entertainment. While the cinematic version remains an unknown quantity, especially since so much of the show’s success arises from the purposeful staginess of it all, if anyone can pull it off, it’s jack of all trades Clint Eastwood, especially since he’s working from a script by John Logan (“Rango,” “Skyfall,” etc.) It’s sort of weird that Warner Bros. still hasn’t released a trailer or any real stills from the movie. But hey. Maybe that doesn’t matter. Who loves you pretty baby?
- ‘Think Like a Man Too’ (June 20, 2014)
Honestly, we’ve only seen bits of the original “Think Like a Man” when they play it on one of the movie channels, but the bits that we’ve seen are pretty funny and relatable. And the movie was a surprise hit when it came out in 2012. Based on a Steve Harvey self-help book, the movie was a modern examination of the power dynamics between the genders, and while it probably wouldn’t win any awards for sensitivity, it still connected enough with audiences to merit a sequel. This time, the gang (including Kevin Hart and the painfully adorable Meagan Goode) relocates the battle of the sexes to Las Vegas, during competing bachelorette/bachelor parties. Even not knowing the characters or scenarios didn’t keep us from LOL-ing hard at the sequel’s springy trailer.
- ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ (June 27, 2014)
The fourth installment in the ridiculously popular “Transformers” series is an in-franchise reboot that sees the entire human cast replaced and most of the robots too (the only holdovers are, obviously, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee). Michael Bay, that master of cinematic mayhem, returns, this time directing Mark Wahlberg, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci in a new transformative adventure that sees our heroic Autobots facing off against all manner of mechanical monstrosity — including the Dinobots! (Come on, admit that you got a little tingle when you saw Optimus riding a giant robotic Tyrannosaurus during that Super Bowl spot.) While the “Transformers” brand might be suffering some fatigue, we have faith that Bay can still bring the goods, especially since he seems to have been creatively rejuvenated with his low-budget Wahlberg collaboration “Pain & Gain.” And the trailer promised visuals even bigger and more explosively wild than those seen in the last, Chicago-destroying entry, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
- ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ (July 2, 2014)
Remember how well “The Conjuring” did last summer with its liberal mixture of family drama and otherworldly spirits? Well, “Deliver Us From Evil” looks to cover similar territory, in its tale of a cop (Eric Bana) who, while investigating a murder, starts to believe that something supernatural is afoot. It’s based on a supposedly true story by a New York City policeman and, based on early reports, could be the spooky sleeper hit of the summer. The tone seems to be something like “The French Connection” with the devil (if the trailer is any indication), with “Sinister” filmmaker Scott Derrickson directing a starry supporting cast that includes Olivia Munn, Joel McHale, and Edgar Ramirez. Keep in mind that this is an independently produced Jerry Bruckheimer joint, the first since his high profile, post-“Lone Ranger” split from Disney last year.
- ‘Earth to Echo’ (July 2, 2014)
“Earth to Echo” has one of the more fascinating production histories of any movie released this summer. It was originally developed as “Echo,” an Amblin-ish found footage movie about some kids who discover a cuddly intergalactic visitor, and was produced and shot by Disney. But then the Mouse House didn’t think such a pint-sized picture would fit into its release plans, so they dumped it. Last summer, Relativity picked up the project and are signed on to release it worldwide. (Judging by the utterly charming first trailer, it looks like it was Disney’s loss.) “Earth to Echo” is proof positive that you can’t keep an adorable alien down.
- ‘Tammy’ (July 2, 2014)
Melissa McCarthy is back and doing what she does best: making people pee themselves with laughter. The brief teaser for “Tammy,” which shows McCarthy incompetently sticking up a burger joint, was funnier than most studio comedies released so far this year, and the actual movie has an intriguingly sweet premise that follows McCarthy as she goes on a road trip with her mother (Susan Sarandon) following the dissolution of her marriage. This has been a passion project for McCarthy, who co-wrote the screenplay with her husband, Ben Falcone (who also directs), although that makes it sound more insular that it is — Will Ferrell is one of the producers and the cast includes Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Kathy Bates, and Dan Aykroyd. Has McCarthy ever not brought the funny? At least when it comes to the big screen?
- ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (July 11, 2014)
2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was the reboot nobody expected: a swift, smart retelling of the “Planet of the Apes” saga from the ground up. We actually got to watch the simian revolt happen, taking the form of an old-fashioned jailbreak movie. (Director Rupert Wyatt was an inspired choice.) Now, Fox is bringing us back to the Planet of the Apes, for a story that continues a decade after the events of first film. Humanity is dwindling thanks to an aggressive virus and the apes have advanced, both intellectually and territory-wise. This planet is theirs. A small band of human freedom fighters, led by Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman, stand up to the apish oppressors (led, again, by Andy Serkis’s Caesar) although we all probably know how well that is going to turn out… “Cloverfield” director Matt Reeves takes over directorial duties from Wyatt, and based on the moody first trailers, this looks like a grim, visually striking blockbuster that does more to fill in the backstory of how this planet went to the apes.
- ‘Jupiter Ascending’ (July 18, 2014)
The Wachowskis just can’t keep away from their beloved science-fiction. After their pioneering work on the three “Matrix” movies, the siblings keep getting lured back to the shiny future, whether it’s in their underrated revamp of classic anime series “Speed Racer” or the sections of “Cloud Atlas” they directed (they probably said, “The section with the floating motorcycle is ours!”) Their latest trip to the cosmos is “Jupiter Ascending,” the tale of a human woman (Mila Kunis) who gets whisked away by a half-wolf bounty hunter (Channing Tatum) and told that she is actually a galactic princess. You know, that old story. If the trailers are any indication, the Wachowskis have again pushed the envelope visually, while engaging in thorny thematic issues (of fate, destiny, empowerment, etc) And what’s more — it looks funny. Like purposefully so. In a weird way, this could be the space-age heir apparent to “The Princess Bride.” Inconceivable!
- ‘Planes: Fire and Rescue’ (July 18, 2014)
Not going to lie: the footage that they screened of “Planes: Fire and Rescue” at D23 last year (before the first film had even premiered to the general public) was kind of impressive. The sequel to last year’s “Cars” spin-off “Planes,” the new movie follows Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) as he pursues his new dream to become a fire and rescue plane. The sequence they showed had the team ramping up fight a raging forest fire, to the tune of an AC/DC song (honestly can’t remember which one). There was more energy, visual wit, and comedic timing in that sequence than in most of the bigger budgeted animated marvels that were released last year. This looks like a marked improvement on the first film and one of the more painless family films you could take your little ones to this summer.
- ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ (July 18, 2014)
Last year’s “The Purge” had an ingenious core conceit wrapped in a kind of mediocre movie. Thankfully, it looks like “The Purge: Anarchy” will follow through where the original film pulled its punches. The new film is once again set in a society where, for 12 hours once a year, a night of lawlessness called The Purge happens. This time we follow a man (Frank Grillo from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) who is out for revenge, but who stops to help some people who are stranded in an urban area when the chaos starts. This is basically everything the first film wasn’t — sprawling, urban-set, with a large cast of characters — and could be one of the more kick-ass film-going experiences of the summer. Here’s hoping, anyway.
- ‘Hercules’ (July 25, 2014)
“I am Herculesssssssss!” So screamed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the teaser trailer for his forthcoming sword-and-sandal epic “Hercules,” and, hey, we aren’t here to argue. This version of “Hercules,” which will hopefully be light-years different from the abysmal January release “The Legend of Hercules,” is based on a comic book by Steve Moore and Admira Wijaya and follows Hercules’s completion of the legendary 12 labors. (He’s got some way more earthly concerns to deal with.) It’s unclear what tone the Brett Ratner-directed movie is going for, since a lot of the trailer makes it out to be closer to Arnold’s “Conan the Barbarian” than, say, “Gladiator,” what with all of the computer generated beasties, but the movie also features a Shakespearean troop of classically trained actors like Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, and John Hurt. So we’re not sure what to think, really, besides, of course, that The Rock is Hercules.
- ‘Step Up: All In’ (July 25, 2014)
This is the fifth installment in Summit’s “Step Up” franchise. That’s about all anyone knows about this movie. We’re guessing it’s going to be more of the same, but that’s likely exactly what fans of the franchise are looking for.
- ‘Get on Up’ (August 1, 2014)
Every summer movie season needs a feel-good biopic, and this summer that distinction falls to “Get on Up,” the story of godfather of soul James Brown (played by Chadwick Boseman, who just starred as Jackie Robinson in “42”). “Get on Up” was directed by Tate Taylor, who helmed the similarly gooey “The Help” a few summer ago, and is produced by Brian Grazer and, of all people, Mick Jagger. The movie, at least based on the lengthy trailer that Universal recently released, seems to chart most of Brown’s life, from his impoverished childhood to his role as a global music icon. The edges will undoubtedly get sanded down along the way, since anyone who knows even a little bit about Brown knows that he could be meaner than a rattlesnake (and famously battled a number of substance abuse problems). When it comes to studio biopics, even a little grit goes a long way.
- ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (August 1, 2014)
The rest of the superhero movies released this year? That’s just kids’ stuff. Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” is going to be the real deal: a deeply weird, boldly visionary take on the genre that jettisons much of what makes the Marvel universe so comfortably accessible. This is a movie set in the deep recesses of space, where every character is just as roguish and untrustworthy as Han Solo (if not more so). In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the bad guys are the good guys (and that’s really good). Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill aka Star Lord, the leader of a band of intergalactic misfits that include Zoe Saldana as a green-skinned killer named Gamora, Dave Bautista as the muscle-bound Drax the Destroyer, a sentient tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a very pissed-off raccoon. Together, they attempt to thwart some kind of very evil business perpetrated by Ronan (Lee Pace) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), although plot seems kind of secondary to this Marvel production, with most of the emphasis placed on the characters and the movie’s attitude. With a supporting cast that includes John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, and Glenn Close, well, it’s definitely going to stand out. Or, as the “Guardians of the Galaxy” teaser poster stated: you’re welcome.
- ‘Sex Tape’ (August 1, 2014)
The “Bad Teacher” class of 2011 is back together again, y’all. Director Jake Kasdan and stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel return for “Sex Tape,” which concerns a married couple who make a sex tape and consequently lose it, leading to a mad dash to retrieve it. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Well, with a team of comedians this talented (the cast also includes Jack Black, Rob Corddry, and Ellie Kemper) and a proven creative team behind it, it could be very, very funny. It’ll definitely be worth popping in this sex tape.
- ‘Into the Storm’ (August 8, 2014)
One scenario the found footage genre has yet to tackle is the disaster movie. But that’s all about to change with “Into the Storm,” a low-budget disaster movie that aims to mix the oversized theatrics of “The Towering Inferno” with the claustrophobic dread of “The Blair Witch Project.” The movie stars a bunch of people you probably won’t recognize, including Richard Armitage from “The Hobbit,” and if the trailer is any indication, it won’t skimp on the hardcore destruction. This late in the summer season, an action movie has to do something different to set itself apart from the countless pixilated fireballs audiences have already experienced this season, so the found footage angle could be just what the doctor ordered.
- ‘Lucy’ (August 8, 2014)
2014 belongs to Scarlett Johansson. This year she has starred in the odd, deeply brilliant thriller “Under the Skin” and the surprisingly wonderful superhero romp “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” — two very different movies that showcase her seemingly limitless talent. And this summer she’ll be doing something that’s even more off the wall than those two films — a futuristic drug world thriller for crazy Frenchman Luc Besson. In “Lucy,” ScarJo plays a drug mule who inadvertently ingests what she’s carrying… Which turns her into something of a superhuman killing machine. Typical, right? While most of the plot details have been kept under wraps, Morgan Freeman is a part of the cast, which means he’s either one of the gangsters or the wise older hitman who teachers her how to use her newfound abilities a la “Wanted.” Besson is one of Europe’s premier genre filmmakers, and this movie has a plot so insane that it just could work. We’d follow ScarJo anywhere.
- ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (August 8, 2014)
Heroes in a half shell — turtle power! The four mutant superhero reptiles named after famous Renaissance painters are back, and they’re back in (mostly) live action form. This new Turtles adventure, overseen by producer Michael Bay, has the turtles being brought to life using sophisticated motion capture technology (WETA, who is working on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” is supplying the characters here as well). The mythology of the turtles seems to be somewhat different, with the recent trailer suggesting that the man who eventually becomes Shredder (William Fichtner) was at least partially responsible for bringing the turtles to life. (So how does super-sized rat Splinter come into play?) This might be a giant case of “who cares” — the effects look cool, they’ve maintained the look and feel of the original live action turtles movie (that lived-in grunge) and Megan Fox looks like a totally killer (and super hot) April O’Neil.
- ‘The Expendables 3′ (August 15, 2014)
If you’re a fan of watching old men fire machine guns, then prepare to be stoked: the third installment in the ludicrous (and ludicrously popular) “Expendables” franchise is coming at you! The already-leathery line-up that includes Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be joined by newly enlisted Expendables Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer and Robert Davi. Maybe most excitingly is who Stallone enlisted to direct the third entry in the franchise: Patrick Hughes, an extremely talented young Australian filmmaker whose “Red Hill” is a nasty bit of business that everyone should check out (seriously). When it comes to movies about old guys, it doesn’t hurt to get some young blood in there… at least behind the camera.
- ‘The Giver’ (August 15, 2014)
Lois Lowry’s beloved 1993 children’s novel finally makes it to the big screen — and with an impressive cast, to boot. Jeff Bridges anchors the tale of a supposedly utopian future whose layers are peeled back to reveal the nastiness underneath, flanked by a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard, and Taylor Swift. While the somewhat limp trailer that the Weinstein Company released probably won’t win over anyone who hasn’t read the book, it should feature solid direction courtesy of Australian filmmaker Phillip Noyce (“Rabbit Proof Fence”) and, of course, at least a couple of outstanding performances. Hopefully it won’t be buried amongst the YA adaptations being rushed into theaters in the wake of “The Hunger Games.” Keep in mind that this could kick-start a franchise, since there are three loosely connected sequels in print. “The Giver” could keep on giving for a very long time.
- ‘Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ (August 22, 2014)
Almost a decade after Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s revolutionary comic book adaptation “Sin City,” we finally get the sequel, which features a bunch of returning cast members from the original (among them: Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, Mickey Rourke, and Bruce Willis) along with a whole bunch of new cast members (Josh Brolin, Dennis Haysbert, Lady Gaga, Jeremy Piven, Juno Temple, Ray Liotta, and Eva Green as the titular dame) for more blood-soaked, neo-noir adventures in Basin City. The movie is structured like the original, comprised of four stories that ping-pong off one another (and echo the events of the first film); two are based on stories from Miller’s original comic book series, while two are brand new for the movie. Considering how far along the technology has come in the past decade, this will hopefully be set apart, stylistically, from the first film (at least a little bit). Maybe the biggest difference for the sequel will be its newfound dimensionality. That’s right, folks. Prepare to visit “Sin City” in 3D. It’s going to get messy.
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