It's going to be a dark summer at the multiplex.
Doomsday, post-apocalypse stories, zombies and alien wars will play across screens over the next few months in big tent pole movies like “Pacific Rim,” “Elysium” and “World War Z.” Comic-book heroes like Superman and Iron Man will face crises of the soul as well.
Oh, there will be a few gross-out comedies and some animated treats to lighten the mood. We'll also toss in a few promising art house titles for those not into action and superheroes.
BOX OFFICE BAIT
This weekend: “Iron Man 3”
Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark, left homeless by a terrorist attack. Shane Black directs, and Ben Kingsley is the baddest of bad guys, Mandarin.
Friday: “The Great Gatsby”
Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”) directs Leo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy and Tobey Maguire as Nick. Soundtrack compiled by — say what? — Jay-Z. And it's in 3-D.
May 17: “Star Trek Into Darkness”
Benedict Cumberbatch plays the villain challenging Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). J.J. Abrams again takes the director's chair.
May 24: “The Hangover Part III”
This time it's Zach Galifianakis' character who's in crisis after the death of his father. Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper tangle again with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong).
May 24: “Fast & Furious 6”
The lucrative car-chase franchise continues, with Justin Lin directing. Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson return — and Michelle Rodriguez is back from the dead!
May 31: “Now You See Me”
FBI agent Mark Ruffalo chases magician bank robbers Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Isla Fisher.
June 7: “After Earth”
Interplanetary ranger Will Smith and son Jaden crash-land on a nasty planet (human-free Earth) where their survival skills are tested. M. Night Shyamalan directs.
June 7: “The Internship”
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn (“Wedding Crashers”) team up again, playing interns at notoriously competitive Google.
June 14: “Man of Steel”
This Superman franchise reboot retells his story of origin. Henry Cavill is Clark Kent, Amy Adams is Lois Lane, Russell Crowe is Jor-El and Kevin Costner is Clark's adoptive dad. Zack Snyder (“300”) directs.
June 21: “Monsters University”
Sulley (voice of John Goodman) and Mike (voice of Billy Crystal) are college roommates learning how to frighten kids in this animated Pixar prequel.
June 21: “World War Z”
A virus kills its victims, who come back alive as predatory infectors. Brad Pitt stars, and Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace”) directs.
June 28: “White House Down”
Channing Tatum plays a Secret Service wannabe who must save the president (Jamie Foxx) from mercenaries. Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”) directs.
June 28: “The Heat”
A female buddy-cop comedy pairs rigid FBI agent Sandra Bullock with a loose cannon: foul-mouthed Boston cop Melissa McCarthy. Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) directs.
July 3: “Despicable Me 2”
Adoptive dad Gru (voice of Steve Carell) gets a job tracking down an even worse villain while also learning the pitfalls of parenthood. I just want to see his squirrely, bullet-shaped minions again.
July 3: “The Lone Ranger”
Armie Hammer (“Social Network”) has the title role, while Johnny Depp dons feathered headgear as sidekick Tonto. Gore Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) directs.
July 12: “Pacific Rim”
Giant man-piloted robots battle giant alien monsters in a sci-fi adventure helmed by Guillermo del Toro (“Hellboy”). Idris Elba leads the good guys.
July 12: “Grown Ups 2”
Lenny (Adam Sandler) moves his family to his hometown. Pals Chris Rock, Kevin James and David Spade return, confronting frat guys led by Taylor Lautner.
July 19: “R.I.P.D.”
Dead lawmen man an afterlife squad that protects unaware citizens. Jeff Bridges is a marshal from the 1800s, and Ryan Reynolds is a modern-day cop he mentors in this fantasy-comedy based on a graphic novel.
July 19: “Red 2”
Retired secret agents Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren return in this sequel, squaring off against crazy physicist Anthony Hopkins.
July 26: “The Wolverine”
This time Hugh Jackman bares his claws to fight ninjas in Japan. James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma”) directs.
Aug. 2: “300: Rise of an Empire”
Based on a graphic novel, the story covers ancient naval battles between the Persians and Athenians. Rodrigo Santoro and Eva Green star.
Aug. 2: “2 Guns”
DEA agent Denzel Washington and naval intelligence officer Mark Wahlberg must take out a drug cartel by robbing their bank. But the operation doesn't go well.
Aug. 9: “Elysium”
Matt Damon stars in this sci-fi yarn from director Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”). In 2159 A.D., the rich live in a space station that Damon must get to for a cure after being irradiated.
Aug. 16: “Kick-Ass 2”
Chloe Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star in this hard-R comedy sequel about self-invented superheroes.
Aug. 23: “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”
Based on Cassandra Clare's popular young-adult fantasy books, this could be the next “Twilight”-type franchise. Stars Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan.
August undated: “Don Jon”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directs and stars as a heartbreaker who must learn life is empty if you care for no one. Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore co-star.
May 17: “Frances Ha”
Director Noah Baumbach (“Greenberg”) again showcases real-life partner Greta Gerwig as a 20-something dancer in New York City trying to reconfigure her life.
May 24: “Before Midnight”
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy return 18 years after first crossing paths in “Before Sunrise.”
June 7: “Much Ado About Nothing”
Joss Whedon directs this black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation, starring Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker and Clark Gregg.
June 12: “This Is the End”
Gathered at James Franco's house, and playing themselves in this doomsday comedy, are Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Jason Segel and Emma Watson.
July 5: “The Way, Way Back”
Liam James Duncan is an awkward teen stuck at his mom's boyfriend's beach house for the summer. Steve Carell is the bullying boyfriend, and water park employee Sam Rockwell becomes the boy's mentor.
July 19: “Only God Forgives”
Actor Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”) reteam for this gangster thriller in Bangkok. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Gosling's mother from Hell.
July 19: “Girl Most Likely”
Playwright Kristen Wiig tries to get her ex back by faking suicide. Instead, she ends up in the care of her estranged mom, Annette Bening. Darren Criss is the young man renting her childhood bedroom.
July 26: “Blue Jasmine”
Woody Allen's latest finds New York housewife Cate Blanchett in crisis because of philandering husband Alec Baldwin.
Aug. 2: “The Spectacular Now”
The big man on campus (Miles Teller) hits on a quiet high school classmate (Shailene Woodley) who, it turns out, is no wallflower.
Aug. 9: “We're the Millers”
Dope dealer Jason Sudeikis hires a fake family to help him smuggle a camperload from Mexico. Jennifer Aniston is his pseudo-wife, a stripper who lives next door.
May 24: “Epic”
A human (voice of Amanda Seyfried) is shrunk down to the size of tiny Leaf Men, and an adventure begins. Voices of Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Colin Farrell.
July 17: “Turbo”
A tiny snail (voice of Ryan Reynolds) gains superspeed and wants to enter the Indy 500. Other racing snails are voiced by Samuel L. Jackson and Maya Rudolph.
July 31: “The Smurfs 2”
Evil Gargamel (Hank Azaria) captures Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry). Humans Patrick and Grace (Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays) must go to Paris to rescue her.
Aug. 7: “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters”
Logan Lerman is back as the half-human son of Poseidon, searching for the Golden Fleece in this sequel.
Aug. 9: “Planes”
Think “Cars,” only with wings. Disney planned this as a DVD, but the results were so good it rose to theatrical release. Voices of Dane Cook, Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
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