New kids in the blockbusters
Paul Whitington looks ahead to the tastiest morsels among this summer's blockbuster buffet
These days blockbuster seasons tend to be defined by superheroes. Last year it was Batman, and Christopher Nolan's noisy conclusion to his Dark Knight series. This year the big question is – will Zack Snyder be able to successfully revive the fortunes of Superman?
Bryan Singer tried and failed in 2006 with Superman Returns, but Snyder's Man of Steel boasts a huge budget, Russell Crowe as Superman's dad, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and in Henry Cavill, a dashing young actor who looks absolutely perfect for the lead role. The Iron Man franchise has proved much more dependable, and the third instalment kicks off the summer season this week. Hot on its heels will be JJ Abrams' eagerly awaited Star Trek sequel, Into Darkness, which co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a particularly well-spoken villain.
Baz Luhrmann's glitzy-looking take on F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is out in mid-May, and will hopefully do a better job than Jack Clayton's deadly dull 1974 adaptation.
Other summer highlights include Kick-Ass 2, Pixar's sequel to Monsters Inc., and Robert Schwentke's bizarre-sounding supernatural thriller R.I.P.D. Everyone is looking forward to Neil Blomcamp's follow-up to the brilliant District 9, Elysium, which stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster and is due out in September.
So while 2013 may not be a vintage movie summer, there are some big films to look forward to, and here's our pick of the best.
Best Blockbuster Star Trek: Into Darkness
If JJ Abrams' Star Trek: Into Darkness is anything like as good as his 2009 series reboot, then action fans are in for a real treat. His Star Trek managed to combine the camp tone of the original TV show with modern special effects and a very good story. In this one, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles of Kirk and Spock as the Enterprise returns to Earth to confront an especially vindictive enemy. Looks excellent, and is out on May 10.
The Great Gatsby
This one could definitely go either way. Baz Luhrmann's frenetic directorial style may not be the perfect match for F Scott Fitzgerald's subtle and brooding novel, but at least Luhrmann has assembled a decent cast. Tobey Maguire plays a 1920s New York stockbroker who gets caught in the middle of a tragic love affair between his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Out May 17.
The Hangover Part III
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and director Todd Phillips reassemble for this third instalment in the hugely successful and utterly tasteless comic franchise. This time, apparently, the boys are in Los Angeles on a drink-fuelled quest that involves springing Alan from a mental hospital. The Hangover Part II was absolutely awful – surely this one can't be as bad? Out May 24.
M Night Shyamalan is certainly overdue a hit movie, and this futuristic fantasy based on an idea by Will Smith may or may not be it. A thousand years from now, humanity have abandoned Earth and established themselves on a colonised solar system. Will Smith and his teenage son Jaden play a father and son who return to Earth and find it overrun with highly evolved predators. Out June 7.
Man of Steel
Zack Snyder's Man of Steel is what studios like to coyly call a reboot, which means artificially resuscitating a dead franchise and doing it all over again. This film poaches much of the plot line of Richard Donner's 1978 Superman, but apparently excludes Lex Luther. It must be said that Henry Cavill looks perfect as Superman, but it remains to be seen whether Man of Steel will achieve anything new. Out June 14.
This eccentric project based on a comic book by Peter M Lenkov sounds like a cross between Men in Black and Ghostbusters. Ryan Reynolds, who's in need of a hit just at the minute, plays a recently deceased cop who joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest In Peace Department, and sets out to solve his own murder. Might work, might not. Jeff Bridges co-stars, and it's due out on June 21.
This is the End
This truly bizarre comedy, written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, involves a lot of famous actors playing themselves. When James Franco decides to throw a party for his friends, a host of self-important celebrities turn up and get trapped as the world starts to end. Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Rihanna and Emma Watson star. Out June 28.
Despicable Me 2
Universal and French animation studio Mac Guff has a big hit in 2010 with Despicable Me, a likeable comic feature about a supervillain whose heart is melted by a pair of orphan children. Steve Carell did a brilliant job voicing Gru, who returns in this sequel where he's recruited by the government to hunt down a new and even more unscrupulous villain voiced by Al Pacino. Looks funny, and is out on June 28.
HBest Family Film Monsters University
The chances of Pixar debasing the memory of one of their best-loved films with a sub-standard sequel are, let's face it, slim to none, so Monsters University could well be the kids' film of the summer. It's a prequel, set 10 years before Monsters Inc., and Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) are at university majoring in scaring when they become deadly enemies and set out to destroy each other. Out July 12.
A summer ghost story set on a remote Rhode Island farm, The Conjuring is based on the true adventures of controversial paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play the couple, who are called to the farm to investigate mysterious goings on and soon begin to realise they're in over their heads, and that there may be actual ghosts at work. Out July 19.
HBest Comedy Kick-Ass 2
Will the amateur superhero joke work twice? The original Kick-Ass was one of the surprise hits of 2010, a cool and cocky comic action movie about a young man who reinvents himself as a caped crusader. Original writer Jane Goldman isn't involved this time, but Jim Carrey looks pretty damned scary playing another would-be super-person. Out on July 19.
HBest Thriller White House Down
Expect lots of action and little subtlety from this $150m Roland Emmerich blockbuster. Channing Tatum plays John Cale, a Washington police officer who applied to become a member of the elite Presidential Secret Service, but was rejected. He gets a chance to prove himself when a paramilitary group take over the White House and capture the president (Jamie Foxx), after which Cale sets out to rescue him. Out on September 6.
The Alan Partridge Movie
Steve Coogan seems to have accepted the fact that he'll never quite escape from the bland shadow of his most famous creation, Alan Partridge, and has collaborated with Armando Iannucci to create this feature-length caper. The once-famous media personality is still stuck in Norfolk doing a daytime radio show on North Norfolk Digital when the station is taken over by a giant corporation who force Alan to change his style. Out on August 7.
The World's End
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite for this fun-sounding follow-up to hits like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. Twenty years after a legendary university pub crawl, five childhood friends meet up to see if they can repeat their exploits. They've just started in on the yards of ale, however, when they realise that the entire world is coming to an end. Martin Freeman and Alice Lowe co-star. Out August 16.
HBest Drama Elysium
As District 9 was one of the most imaginative science fiction films ever released, critics are expecting a great deal of Neil Blomcamp's next film, a high-concept dystopian fantasy set in the year 2154. While most of mankind endure short and brutal lives on a ruined and overpopulated Earth, a rich elite has decamped to a disease-free space habitat called Elysium. But revolution is afoot. Released on September 20.
300: Rise of an Empire
Zach Snyder produces but does not direct this epic prequel to his widely admired 2007 action film set in ancient Greece. Eva Green stars as Artemisia, a warrior queen who in 480BC formed an alliance with the Persian King Xerxes to launch a combined attack on the Greek city states. 300: Rise of an Empire will include an effects-laden recreation of the spectacular and decisive sea battle of Salamis, but at 147 minutes sounds a little long. Out on August 2.