Will 2013 be an unlucky summer at the movies? You wouldn't want to accuse Hollywood studios of triskaidekaphobia, at least not with a mouthful of popcorn, but the numeral 2013 seems to have inspired an inordinate number of films about planet-killing assaults from aliens, pollution, war and zombies.
There is a ray of light in the darkness: Unlike last summer, when Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers put the competition in their shadow, this summer offers a wide diversity. Box-office prognosticators say that perhaps 20 movies may cross the $100-million mark, possibly topping 2011's record summer. The list is led by blockbusters, including Zack Snyder's Superman reboot (Man of Steel), Star Trek into Darkness and the neo-western, The Lone Ranger. Comedy, that other summer staple, brings back proven favourites (The Hangover Part III) and fresh pairings (Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in The Heat). Family movies, animated in 3-D, of course, stick to the familiar, with sequels such as Monsters University, Despicable Me 2 and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.
There are even some appealing grown-up choices, led by Baz Luhrmann's flashy 3-D take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's jazz-age classic The Great Gatsby, which opens next week.
To quote Gatsby's narrator, Nick Carraway: "And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Man of Steel (June 14)
In retelling the story of the original superhero, Zack Snyder (Watchmen) directs under the guidance of producer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Ma and Pa Kent, English actor Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Man of Steel and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Look for Michael Shannon, whose face needs no prosthetic help, as merciless arch-enemy General Zod.
Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17)
J.J. Abrams breathed fresh swashbuckling spirit into the Star Trek franchise in 2009, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as the baby-faced Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. This time, they quarrel and then make up when faced with a common enemy played by Benedict Cumberbatch (TV's Sherlock Holmes) as the requisite English villain with a mellow baritone, who lays waste to future London. To the bridge!
The Lone Ranger (July 3)
Johnny Depp, as shaman spirit warrior Tonto, relates the legend of the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) with the team behind Pirates of the Caribbean, including director Gore Verbinski, calling the shots. After a decade in development hell, and a budget downgrade, the movie's being modestly touted as a "dysfunctional buddy movie."
Elysium (Aug. 9)
South African-Canadian director Neill Blomkamp revitalized the allegorical science-fiction genre with his low-budget 2009 film District Nine. In his follow-up, a small percentage of humans live in the ultimate gated community, a space station, while the poor live in crime and squalor on the sick planet below.
World War Z (June 21)
Brad Pitt produces and stars in the most expensive zombie movie about a global undead outbreak, adapted from Max Brooks's 2006 novel, with Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) directing. Will it be a disaster film or just a disaster?
Pacific Rim (July 12)
Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) directs what he calls "a beautiful poem to giant monsters," in a story of robots fighting invaders from inside the Earth. Think of Michael Bay's Transformers movies, with a Promethean poetic spark.
Among the other heavy-hitters opening this summer:
After Earth (May 31): A sci-fi father-son vehicle, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Will and Jaden Smith.
White House Down (June 28): Hollywood's second White House attack of the year, directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Channing Tatum.
The Wolverine (July 26): This will be Hugh Jackman's sixth appearance as the mutton-chopped X-Men character.
Kick-Ass 2 (Aug. 16): Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson as titular Kick-Ass, Chloë Grace Moretz as the "retired" Hit Girl, and newcomer Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes.
300: Rise of an Empire (Aug. 2): The sequel to 2006's hit 300, Rise of an Empire tells a "parallel" story of naval battles between the Persians and the Athenians.
Reds 2 (Aug. 1 ): Bruce Willis returns with his gang of secret assassins (Retired Extremely Dangerous).
The Hangover Part III (May 24)
In the third instalment of the raunchy hit comedy, director Todd Phillips drops the wedding debauch theme for a new angle. Zach Galifianakis's Alan gets institutionalized after his father's death, the gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) pops up again and a giraffe meets an unfortunate end. Is that the sound of laughter or dying brain cells?
The Internship (June 7)
Wedding Crashers stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn reunite in this comedy about a pair of laid-off middle-aged salesmen who compete with tech-savvy young colleagues as Google interns, which will either be hugely popular or Google is cooking the results: A title search yielded 419-million hits in 0.31 seconds.
This Is the End (June 12)
This Cloverdale-like mockumentary features co-director Seth Rogen, along with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson as themselves, waking up to the apocalypse after a wild party. My bet is that bong and fart jokes will survive.
The World's End (Aug. 23)
Director Edgar Wright reunites with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead fame for this story of five friends, including Martin Freeman, repeating a legendary pub crawl that may save the world. Think The Hangover meets The Lord of the Rings.
The Heat (June 28)
Bridesmaids's Paul Feig directs this cop buddy movie, starring Sandra Bullock as an uptight FBI agent and Melissa McCarthy as a rule-breaking Boston cop. Identity Thief meets Miss Congeniality? Or, preferably, something better.
Grown Ups 2: Adam Sandler's Adam Sandler's first sequel continues the high jinks with Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade. (July 12)
Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon's Shakespearean romp (June 7)
The To Do List (Aug. 16): Aubrey Plaza in a bawdy teen comedy from a girl with a sexual must-do list.
FOR THE KIDS
Monsters University (June 21)
A 3-D prequel to 2001's Monsters, Inc. sees Billy Crystal (Mike) as a 17-year-old freshman majoring in scaring, and his initial rivalry with the boisterous Sulley (John Goodman), who is in his fraternity. A decade of monstrous DVD exposure assures this will be one of the summer's biggest hits.
Despicable Me 2 (July 3)
A surprise 2010 hit, Despicable Me turned the nattering, lemon-coloured Minions into instant kids' favourites. This time, supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) is recruited to stop another villain, while tending to his three adopted daughters.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Aug. 7)
Based on the second of Rick Riordan's best-selling fantasy books about a New York adolescent who discovers he's a Greek demigod, this follows a 2010 debut that rang up a quarter-billion in sales. What are kids into today? Turns out it's all about golden fleeces, hippocampi and satyrs.
Epic (May 24)
This lush-looking animated adaptation of children's author William Joyce's The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, is an eco-fable directed by Chris Wedge, the man behind Scrat and the first Ice Age movie. The story follows the teenaged daughter of a naturalist who is shrunken and finds herself in a war between the Leafmen and the evil Boggans.
Turbo (July 17): A garden snail aspires to race in the Indy 500.
Planes (Aug. 9): a cropduster aspires to fly in a prestigious air race.
THE ALT.SUMMER MOVIE LIST
Frances Ha (May 17)
Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and star Greta Gerwig collaborated on this low-budget portrait of a misfit New York apprentice dancer, all shot in black and white. Last year's festival reviews made comparisons to everything from Woody Allen's Manhattan to the fleet, early-sixties shooting style of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut.
The Great Gatsby (May 10)
Aussie director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) promises to turn F. Scott Fitzgerald's syllabus fave into a gaudy 3-D bauble, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire in the principal roles and the music of Jay-Z celebrating the corrupt glory of the Roaring Twenties. It might be ridiculous, but bring it on.
Blue Jasmine (July 26)
Woody Allen's latest comes with typically little information, beyond the statement that a fashionable New York woman faces a crisis. The cast includes Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale.
The Way, Way Back (July 5)
"Sleeper hit" is the phrase being bandied around for this Sundance comedy, about 14-year-old Duncan's (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother Pam (Toni Collette) and her obnoxious boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), in which Sam Rockwell gets a nice-guy turn as the manager of the local Water Wizz park in a Meatballs-meets-Adventureland coming-of-age tale.
Before Midnight (May 24)
In Richard Linklater's third film in the cross-Atlantic romance series, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) meet again in Greece, nine years since their previous encounter and two decades after their first meeting.
Now You See Me (May 31): Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher and Woody Harrelson star in this caper flick as magical Robin Hoods who steal from the rich and give to the audience.
Lovelace (Aug. 9): Amanda Seyfried plays Linda Lovelace, the erotic star of Deep Throat and subsequent author of Ordeal.
Fruitvale Station (July 26): A Sundance prize-winning drama about a 22-year-old African-American man on the last day of his life.
The Bling Ring (June 14): Celebrity-obsessed robbers, as envisioned by Sofia Coppola.