summermoviepreview

NW’s Scorchin’ Summer Movie Preview

Thinkin’ about summer movies? Us, too.

Here are 10 burning questions — and 10 illuminating answers — for Hollywood’s hottest season:

Question 1. What will be the Top 10 grossing films this summer (domestic)?

“Man of Steel”

“Iron Man 3”

“Despicable Me 2”

“Monsters University”

“Star Trek: Into Darkness”

“The Hangover: Part III”

“Fast & Furious 6”

“Pacific Rim”

“The Wolverine”

“The Heat”

Just outside the Top 10:

“Elysium”

“White House Down”

“After Earth”

“Planes”

“The Lone Ranger”

“Turbo”

Question 2. What will be the biggest flop this summer?

Remember the half-shirt? New Coke? Crystal Pepsi? Taylor Kitsch? Folks may be scratching their noggins saying the same thing about “R.I.P.D.,” “World War Z,” “After Earth,” and “The Lone Ranger” after this summer, too.

The good news for Disney and “The Long Ranger” is the fact that overseas audiences will likely saddle up to Johnny Depp’s latest, helping Disney’s $215M endeavor ride off into the sunset as a success.

Plus, director Gore Verbinski and Depp have been counted out before; remember, prior to “Pirates of the Caribbean” plundering a massive booty, pirate films were routinely box office bottom feeders. If they can do the same for the western, heck, they may want to try their hand at Smell-O-Vision next. What’s that odor? Why that’s the smell of success.

Regardless, expect Depp’s Tonto get-up–featuring a dead crow on his head–to become the #1 costume this Halloween. Just don’t expect to see it at Target next to the Iron Man masks.

While Will Smith an Brad Pitt are still two of the biggest stars in Hollywood, getting audiences to connect to their latest projects will certainly test their star wattage.

Pitt’s “World War Z” cost upwards of $170M, has had numerous delays and it’s widely known that Paramount and director Marc Forster scrapped major sections of the film only to revise the script and reshape the film during production. None of these nightmare scenarios bode well for a multiplex victory march, although zombies are hotter than ever on the boob tube these days.

That said, can a zombie invasion flick that is sandwiched between “Man of Steel” and “White House Down” possibly survive? The odds are certainly stacked against it, but then again no one said surviving a zombie apocalypse or an out-of-control Hollywood blockbuster was supposed to be easy.

The same could be said about Sony’s “After Earth”–Will Smith’s latest team-up with his son Jaden.” While overseas audiences will likely save it from being a box office bust, it still arrives with a negative cost of $130M. That’s no small sum.

And then we have the Ryan Reynolds/Jeff Bridges starrer, “R.I.P.D.,” which arrives in late July with a reported price tag of around $200M. Universal’s sci-fi-action-comedy jumble will likely be summer’s biggest misfire.

Hey, when your film looks like a thrift-store version of “Men in Black” (not vintage chic, mind you) and reminds you of recent something-weary-comes-this-way efforts comparable to “Jonah Hex” and “Cowboys & Aliens” that’s not a good thing. The chances of “R.I.P.D.” becoming a hit is about as likely as Woody Allen announcing he’ll shoot his next movie in Los Angeles…with Mia Farrow in the lead…and in 3D. Ain’t gonna happen, folks.

Question 3. Does M. Night Shyamalan’s first name really stand for “Mud?”

You certainly won’t find Shyamalan’s name headlining a poster, trailer, or billboard for Sony’s “After Earth.” In fact, you’d be hard pressed to track it down in the fine print. There was a time, after his triple-threat success of “Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable,” and “Signs” that “M. Night Shyamalan’s” title card before the actual title was an essential part of a marketing campaign associated with his films.

That was before “Lady in the Water,” “The Happening,” and the atrocious, nearly unwatchable, “The Last Airbender.” That series never became a franchise but did manage to gross $300+M worldwide. That’s likely why Sony gambled on him as a director, although he hasn’t had a film in theaters for three years. However, even if “After Earth” is a modest success, don’t expect Shyamalan to ever reach Alfred Hitchcock or Tyler Perry brand status again.

Question 4. What will be the #1 animated film this summer?

Odds makers say Pixar’s “Monsters University” will arrive at animation station as the #1 cartoon, however don’t overlook Universal’s “Despicable Me 2,” which could pull a “Shrek 2.”

DreamWorks Animation’s sequel out-grossed the original “Shrek” by a massive margin–$919M to $484M–after the first became a surprise hit. Same could hold true for “DM2” which scored $543 in its initial quest for worldwide domination. If the sequel shoots up towards $1B, Universal can firmly plant their flag on Tinseltown’s toon map.

With “Despicable Me” being a known commodity now, and the Minions the most popular and adorable creatures since the Mogwais of “Gremlins” and the Ewoks from “Return of the Jedi,” this franchise is a marketing partners dream. Even though it won’t be in theaters for two months, stores have already started stocking “Despicable Me 2” merchandise, something that was sorely lacking the first go round, and Universal has already set a spinoff film featuring the Minions for holiday 2014.

Question 5. How many sequels are set for release this summer?

A whopping seventeen films that continue various sagas are represented between the first weekend of May and Labor Day this year. That may be a record. It all depends on what you consider a sequel. 2003 saw 16 sequels, prequels, and/or reboots continue their capitalistic causes, and ten years later we’ve finally topped that mark with seventeen.

“Iron Man 3,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “Fast & Furious 6,” “The Hangover: Part III,” “Before Midnight,” “V/H/S 2,” “Man of Steel,” “Monsters University,” “Grown Ups 2,” “Red 2,” “The Wolverine,” “Despicable Me 2,” “The Smurfs 2,” “300: Rise of an Empire” “Planes,” “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” “Kick-Ass 2”

Question 6. Will there be any sleepers this summer?

It’s becoming more and more difficult to quantify what a sleeper hit is these days, but generally speaking, it’s a modestly budgeted film that ends up competing with the big boys of summer.

In 2010, “Bridesmaids” surprised everyone becoming a huge hit, while last year saw “Ted” take top honors in that department. Unheralded comedies are usually a good bet, which puts “The Internship” and “The Heat” as the most likely suspects.

With the success of Melissa McCarthy’s “Identity Thief” this winter though, no one will be shocked if her good-cop, gross-cop team-up with Sandra Bullock easily shoots past $150+ million.

Question 7. Is there anything out there for Cinephiles & Hipsters?

Plenty. With the summer of 2011’s $4.4B record within reach, it may actually be art houses that help tip the scales this summer. Yes, even though multiplexes will be overrun with an unparalleled number of popcorn pictures and boisterous blockbusters, there are several smaller pics that should stakeout screen space and bring in the bling.

The film I’m most looking forward to in fact, is Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight.” Hipster and cinephiles rejoice! Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy return to complete the most romantic trilogy in the history of film.

Also on tap are several other low budget films that have a chance to break out: Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” Pedro Almodovar’s “I’m So Excited,” Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” Jeff Garlin’s “Dealing with Idiots,” Weinstein’s “Fruitvale Station,” Kristen Wiig in “Girl Most Likely,” Fox Searchlight’s “The Way, Way Back,” CBS Films’ “The Kings of Summer,” Magnolia’s “Europa Report,” Sony Classics’ “Austenland,” IFC’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” the Linda Lovelace biopic “Lovelace,” and a host of others. 2013 may just be the art house summer to end all art house summers! Sure, they’ll make less combined than “Iron Man 3” debuted with in a single day, but don’t let art and commerce mix up your cinematic chi.

Question 8. Which film will be #1 this summer?

The ultimate movie match-up of the summer is the man of iron vs. the man of steel. Marvel vs. DC. That’s what it really comes down to.

Thing is, DC needs this way more than Marvel. In fact, DC has bet the Kent’s farm on “Man of Steel.” If they don’t get it right this time, Warner’s will likely consider Superman box office kryptonite. That, combined with the recent failure of “Green Lantern,” could push DC to the breaking point. However, don’t expect that to happen. If anyone can match up with Marvel’s mightiest spark plug, it’s the combined forces of Batman’s curator, Christopher Nolan, and “300” director Zack Snyder.

The latest trailer looks absolutely on-point, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this film easily reach over $300+M domestic. The problem is, that’s the box office range of the first two Iron Man films. With it’s incredible opening of $174M this weekend, “Iron Man 3” is obviously the benefactor of a little thing called “The Avengers” bump, and should see $400M domestic and $1B worldwide.

Still, I think if one film can top “Iron Man 3,” it’s “Man of Steel,” which I predict will break free of its box office chains, and enter that rarified territory of $400+M–putting it in the leagues of “The Dark Knight.” If that happens, it will certainly be in another league very soon–“The Justice League.” Zing.

Question 9. Will Channing Tatum take his shirt off this summer?

Yes, however we probably won’t see him in a banana hammock like we did last summer in “Magic Mike.” And technically his T-shirt will likely be shot off, burned off, or ripped off and used as a tunicate saving a hapless victim. Any one of those combinations will likely occur in Sony’s “White House Down.” Hey, it gets really hot when you’re surrounded by explosions and fire…and sometimes you have to just unleash the heat.

Let’s face it, it’s not summer unless we see Tatum’s pectorals preening on the big screen, and this time his guns will be blazing with patriotic passion as the action flick opens June 28. That’s jingoism in a bottle, citizens! Besides, Roland Emmerich knows fireworks: “Independence Day,” “2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow.”–so it’s safe to say his flick will have satisfactory report.

Even with this spring’s “Olympus Has Fallen” beating the similarly themed action thriller to the punch, make no mistake, Tatum will tower over terrorists and the box office. Think of this like the 1998, when “Armageddon” still became the second biggest hit of the year despite another asteroid thriller, “Deep Impact,” landing first.

Question 10. What will be the biggest comedy of the summer?

“The Hangover: Part III” cannot, will not, be beat. I’d bet my best friend on it. Regardless of whether or not you liked the sequel (many thought it was too dark) it still made more than the original worldwide, so don’t expect anything less than $500M globally.

That said, the wolfpack certainly have some competition as Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock will bring “The Heat.” Strangely enough, it’s one of the only films of the summer specifically targeting females. Bull’s-eye.

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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Photo courtesy of Roman Striga/Shutterstock.com