Summer at the movies can play out like a coin toss. Heads means a furnace-blast of heat from the blockbusters that dominate the multiplexes. With tails, you get the sensual embrace of the cool, hidden treasures stashed away in the art houses. Here’s a sample of the potential blockbuster and indie winners (in no particular order).
1. Man of Steel (June 14, 2013)
DC godfather/producer Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer provide the blueprint for Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated retelling of one of the greatest comic books origin stories of all time. Superman (Henry Cavill) is the immigrant to end all immigrants, but underneath it all, he’s just a super-powered kid with daddy issues — Jor-El (Russell Crowe) versus Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) — and one big bad hellhound from home, in the form of General Zod (Michael Shannon), on his trail.
2. Pacific Rim (July 12, 2013)
Don’t even think about comparing Guillermo del Toro’s mecha versus monsters epic to Michael Bay’s Transformers. Don’t you dare (and don’t worry about such blasphemy coming from me)! Pacific Rim blends heat and hip in equal measure with hot robotic battles and the oh-so-cool presence of Idris Elba as the leader of the human fighters. Now that’s red hot and cool.
3. The Wolverine (July 26, 2013)
James Mangold is sure hoping we’ll be able to forget X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and we’re praying that his take on everyone’s favorite iconic X-Man will allow us to — along with banishing certain aspects of Brett Ratner’s conclusion of the initial mutant trilogy. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), wandering the Earth like Jules from Pulp Fiction, winds up in Japan, home to a classic part of his immortal tale.
District 9 director Neill Blomkamp taps Matt Damon and Jodie Foster for his latest sci-fi fable of social reconstruction, but have no fear — his go-to guy, Sharlto Copley, is on hand (nearly unrecognizable, though) as Kruger, the ornery heavy intent on stopping Damon’s character from sparking a revolution that could upset the new world order of 2154 between the wealthy living on a man-made space station and the rest of humanity sweating it out on the desolate Earth below.
5. Riddick (Sept. 6, 2013)
I think Vin Diesel just might be an evil genius, a movie mastermind. Don’t believe me? Well, he’s already taken over the multiplexes with Fast & Furious 6, an aging franchise that just keeps getting better. And now he’s bringing back every sci-fi head’s favorite predator for a stripped down adventure with nothing more than the beats and dark beat downs that made Pitch Black so sexy.
6. Before Midnight (June 14, 2013)
Richard Linklater and his longstanding collaborators (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) return for the third installment in their romantic roundelay, which began all the way back in 1995 with Before Sunrise, when respective strangers Céline and Jesse met on a train. Almost 10 years later, in Before Sunset (2004), they raced against time to see if the time was right to form a more perfect union. Now, before the stroke of midnight, we watch them struggle to maintain this crazy thing called love.
7. Much Ado About Nothing (June 21, 2013)
Joss Whedon’s little vacation movie, a 12-day shoot following up the amazing one-two punch of Cabin in the Woods (having shepherded the Drew Goddard project as a producer) and The Avengers, is a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare. That’s what Whedon does for fun, and the buzz suggests that there’s a great deal of Whedonesque fun to be had in this tale of two pairs of lovers with competing takes on love and a deliriously dizzying way with words. I didn’t realize Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) was a Shakespearean creation, but didn’t he die in The Avengers?
8. Fruitvale Station (July 26, 2013)
Packing heat from a marvelous festival run — a prize winner at Sundance (Grand Jury) and Cannes (Un Certain Regard — Best Actor) — Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station looks poised for a strong run during the prestigious awards season that caps off the year, but the summer release speaks to the potential for this true story to be a serious counterprogramming force. And why not let rising star Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) cool us off after all the bombs go off?
9. Only God Forgives (TBA)
Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) reteams with Ryan Gosling for this brooding and violent exploration of the criminal underworld of Bangkok, definitely different than The Hangover’s second excursion a few years ago. The presence of Gosling sets the cool meter at an optimal level, but for my money it is likely going to be Kristin Scott Thomas who shatters the meter beyond repair.
10. Byzantium (June 28, 2013)
A pair of young women (Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton) descend upon a coastal town and shake things up in Neil Jordan’s latest thriller. The Irish filmmaker has disappeared from the scene a bit after a curiously impressive streak — High Spirits, The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire and The Good Thief — that goes back to the 1980s, but he’s got a supernatural trick or two up his sleeve with Byzantium, and he’s at his best when delving into mythological territory.