Summer 2014: Breaking down the blockbusters

By Karsten Burgstahler

The sweet smell of freedom is starting to waft in like air conditioning on a blisteringly hot day. Come May 10 that freedom will no longer be a mirage.

With the end of school comes summer movie season. This is also known as the three months where audiences are bombarded with robots and Seth Rogan, so that the art films critics love around the holidays can be bankrolled. But the occasional blockbuster can be good for you.

Summer is quite frontloaded this year, with most of the major blockbusters hitting theaters before the Fourth of July. Here is a look at what to expect in the first 10 weeks:



“Neighbors” (May 9)

Seth Rogan never really grew up, so there’s a good chance Rogan playing the straight, stiff man opposite Zac Efron as a frat boy could be the best comedy served up this summer. Rogan plays Mac Radner, loving father and husband, who is aghast when a fraternity moves in next door. After he calls the cops on their partying, he begins a juvenile prank war on an R-rated scale. Early reviews from the SXSW film festival were very positive and the supporting cast, including Rose Byrne and Dave Franco, is top notch.

“Godzilla” (May 16)

Director Gareth Edwards wants you to forget Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version of the classic monster movie ever happened. That is why he’s sticking to the legend’s Japanese roots and bringing in a respectable cast, led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Cranston, to run from the mass chaos. Edwards began his career with 2010’s “Monsters,” a politically motivated film, and hopefully can bring deeper meaning to the hysteria than Emmerich’s “Godzilla’s pregnant” storyline.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” (May 23)

“Days of Future Past” is a risky move that will either be a major success or an epic failure, but it’s doubtful it will fall in the middle. “X-Men” and “X2” director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise in a storyline that blends the original cast with the “First Class” prequel class as the mutants attempt to stop an army of robots that could wipe their species out. This means Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are all face-to-face in this production. Toss in Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence and more, and “Days” becomes this summer’s most ambitious film.


Also in May: Andrew Garfield reprises his role as Spider-Man, who this time must stop Jamie Foxx’s Electro in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” May 2; Seth MacFarlane follows up “Ted” with the western comedy “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” co-starring Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron, May 30; Disney tries to repeat its “Alice in Wonderland” success with Angelina Jolie as the “Sleeping Beauty” villain “Maleficent,” May 30.


22 Jump Street (June 13)

“21 Jump Street” is one of the few successful revivals of the new millennium, mostly because Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have great chemistry as undercover cops Jenko and Schmidt. Hill has tried to escape his crude image, but with how bankable he is it’s doubtful he’ll leave it behind any time soon. This time the two head to college instead of high school, so the jokes aren’t likely to have such an impact — college comedies are a dime a dozen, whereas plopping two adults in high school delivered some funny results. But the sequel promises at least some of the same innovation as the first, so it has got a good shot at success.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13)

Only a few movies have been truly impressive in digital 3D, and the first “How to Train Your Dragon” found its way into that exclusive club. The animation was top notch and the Dreamworks creation was as emotionally involving as any of Pixar’s best. The flying scenes, during which the camera took a first-person view, were exhilarating and the second movie promises to deliver more airtime. The voice cast has added some talent as well, with Cate Blanchett joining as the lead character, Hiccup’s mother, and Djimon Hounsou as the sequel’s lead villain. With Pixar out of competition this year, “Dragon 2” is likely to be the best family film hitting theaters this summer.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” (June 27)

The fourth film in Michael Bay’s multi-billion dollar “Transformers” franchise is this year’s big Fourth of July film. Few details are known beyond the film’s teaser trailer, but the entire cast has been swapped out in a move to reboot the series while keeping the established mythology. Mark Wahlberg takes the lead from Shia LaBeouf, which is actually a step up. The supporting cast includes Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci, both dependable backups who are likely to elevate Bay’s material. “Age of Extinction” will most likely stick to the explosions and ridiculous action that has made the series a hit, but whether the new cast works remains to be seen.

Also in June: Tom Cruise faces a nightmarish “Groundhog Day” scenario in which he lives the day he dies during an alien invasion over and over until he gets it right in “Edge of Tomorrow,” June 6; Young adult fiction gets weepy with Shailene Woodley as a cancer patient in the adaption of the hit “The Fault in Our Stars,” June 6; The surprise 2012 hit that made Kevin Hart a household name returns with a Vegas follow-up in “Think Like a Man 2,” June 20.

Look in Friday’s e-DE for breakdowns of July and August.

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter @kburgstahler_DE or at 536-3311 ext. 254.