Summer 2013’s 25 Most Anticipated Film Releases

Thanks to the crew over at HitFix for compiling this list!

25. The Lone Ranger

Starring Johnny Depp and being directed by Gore Verbinski this could be a hit or miss project. Verbinski has one of the best eyes for the staging of big comic action mayhem these days. There are sequences from all three of the “Pirates” films they made together that are just jaw-dropping in their ingenuity, and “The Lone Ranger” gave Verbinski a huge canvass on which to finally make a Western, a goal he’s been chasing for years. Here’s hoping this finds a way to make a somewhat threadbare pop culture relic into something fresh and fun, and even if they don’t, we’ve got to imagine that it’s going to be fun to watch them try.

24. Fruitvale

Winner of a big one-two punch at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival (dramatic audience and grand jury prizes), Ryan Coogler’s true-life account of Bay Area resident Oscar Grant’s final days and his controversial death at the hands of a BART police officer moved countless audiences already. When it opens at the end of July, it may well signal the beginning of the Oscar season, earlier than normal. Poised to be a star with television roles on “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights” for years, Michael B. Jordan is set to leap onto a much, much bigger stage.

23. World War Z

Max Brooks’ fascinating chronicle of a fictional (duh) zombie war is pretty much unfilmable the way it was written, so Forster and co. have seemingly dispensed with the book’s though-provoking, interview-based narrative in order to focus more on CG-powered zombie action. It may not make audiences think, but it will no doubt provide some fun summer escapist scenes in which Pitt witnesses the rise of an undead species.

22. The Kings of Summer

Originally titled “Toy’s House” when it premiered last January at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, “The Kings of Summer” is an epic charmer that could end up being the word of mouth hit of the summer. The story centers on two high school best friends, Joe (Robinson) and Patrick (Basso), who, like many teenagers their age, just can’t stand their parents. When Joe comes across an open patch of land in the forest it gives him a crazy idea: what if he, Patrick and their strange new friend Biaggio (Arias) built their own home in the woods for the summer? Thus begins a coming of age adventure that scares the heck out of the trio’s parents and is rudely interrupted by – you guessed it – a beautiful girl both friends pine for. Original, familiar, cinematic and hilarious all at the same time, “Kings of Summer” is a new classic just waiting to surprise audiences.

21. Fast and Furious 6

The “Fast and Furious” series is that rare Hollywood machine: an unapologetic popcorn franchise that somehow seems to get more fun with each installment. 2011’s “Fast Five” was a series peak: by this point, nobody gives a damn about the “story” required to string together one spectacular car chase after another, allowing director Justin Lin to get ever more inventive and outlandish as he piles on the gasoline-fueled action. He’s back for the sixth go-round, as are all the principal cast members; extra girl power comes in the shape of MMA whiz Gina Carano, while British tough guy Jason Statham is rumored to show up somewhere along the way. This ride shows no signs of slowing down just yet.

20. Iron Man 3

It’s a little hard not to be amped up for what Marvel has in store for what it calls “Phase Two.” The seeds of that have been planted and the first step into that territory will be “Iron Man 3.” The first sequel in the franchise that started it all for the comic studio may have been a whiff, but this one looks promising and could sport just the right edge. Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin? Count us in.

19. The Grandmaster

HitFix’s Guy Lodge had mixed feelings about the long awaited martial arts drama after it debuted at the Berlin Film Festival, but he certainly thought it was one of master filmmaker Wong Kar Wai’s more commercial endeavors. One thing we know for sure is it’s going to be stylish, gorgeous and feature some imaginative Kung Fu set pieces. Throw in the onscreen “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” reunions of Zang Ziyi and Chen Chang plus Ziyi and “Hero” co-star Tony Leung and we’re there.

18. The Spectacular Now

Another Sundance sensation, “The Spectacular Now” is the follow-up to 2012’s “Smashed,” which was a wonderful indie circuit entry featuring actors Aaron Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. His latest stars Shailene Woodley, fresh off the success of “The Descendants” in 2011, and has stirred positive buzz since it first hit screens up in Park City, Utah. We’re excited to see this filmmaker’s voice continue to thrive in the summer months.

17. The Wolverine

I think “intensely curious” might be more accurate. At this point, there’s not much that could be done to make the mutant movies at Fox worse, so we’re open to almost anything. What makes this one such a possible slam-dunk is the way it removes Wolverine from the setting of the earlier films, dropping him into Japan, a world that would seem perfect for the character, especially if you’re familiar with the Frank Miller version of this story. After all, if everyone else has swords, it opens up a whole new type of bladed combat, and an honor-driven society will test Logan’s notions of who he is. Beyond that, though, it sounds like James Mangold is genuinely excited by what he’s done, and we like him enough as a filmmaker to give him the benefit of the doubt.

16. Monsters University

More than a decade after the original “Monsters Inc.” Pixar is turning back the clock and exploring the college days of Mike and Sully. The two very different teenaged monsters form an instant rivalry when they pledge the same fraternity and study for the same major (“scaring”). Most of the original voice cast is back, and despite some recent stumbles (“Cars 2” and “Brave”), we’re ready to have a frighteningly good time reuniting with the Pixar characters.

15. The Heat

After little success with his first movie, “Unaccompanied Minors,” director Paul Feig (“Arrested Development,” “The Office”) hit the big time with the 2011 surprise blockbuster “Bridesmaids.” Now, he’s reunited with that film’s breakout star, Melissa McCarthy, for buddy comedy about two FBI agents who have never had a partner (and for good reason), but are forced to work together. McCarthy’s co-star and onscreen crime solving partner? None other than Sandra Bullock appearing in her first straight comedy in four years (has it really been that long since “The Proposal”?). How good could this flick be? Well, 20th Century Fox is so confident in “The Heat” it decided to open it against popcorn action thriller “White House Down.” So, it’s now Bullock and McCarthy vs. Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx for the Fourth of July box office crown. Who wins? Our money is on the ladies and the laughs.

14. Frances Ha

Imagine an episode from the first season of “Girls” directed by the man who brought you “The Squid and the Whale” and “Greenberg.” Make it in black and white. Keep the nudity to a minimum. Oh, and include much less explicit sex. Add in a distinctly different take on finding yourself in present day New York by co-writer and star Greta Gerwig. Sprinkle in some impressive performances from Mickey Sumner, Michael Zegen and Patrick Heusinger. The result? A gem of a dramedy moviegoers have been waiting for ever since it won over the critics at Telluride and Toronto.

13. The End

Lots of people seem to be eager to bring about the end of the world, but no one’s doing it the way these guys are: by throwing a party at James Franco’s house. By playing versions of themselves, the film manages to skewer celebrity culture with a surprising glee, even as it offers up real horror thrills and crazy hilarious violence. Even as theater owners push Hollywood to make fewer R-rated movies, comedies like this one push the boundaries of the rating and make the most of what it allows.

12. Stories We Tell

“Away From Her” and “Take This Waltz,” Sarah Polley’s two very different fictional studies of relationships in crisis, established her as one of her generation’s most exciting filmmakers. But it’s her surprising first foray into documentary that represents her most moving and accomplished work yet. A playful but profoundly personal family memoir that bends the rules of non-fiction storytelling in provocative and thrilling way, “Stories We Tell” has had critics chattering since debuting at Venice last year, and will certainly be one of the summer’s specialty conversation pieces – though don’t listen to the talk too closely, since the less you know about this one-of-a-kind film going in, the better. Suffice to say that if you think you couldn’t care less about Sarah Polley’s parents’ marriage, you’ll be proved wrong by the time the credits roll.

11. The World’s End

It’s been six years since “Hot Fuzz” opened, and we’re positively desperate to see Edgar Wright reunite with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. This story of old friends who are reunited for a pub crawl on the same night that some terrible things start to happen in London has been kept under wraps so far, and without having seen a single moment from the film, we’re already excited. Nobody bends genre with the same glee as Edgar Wright, and as “Scott Pilgrim” proved, he continues to develop his already exciting sense of visual language from film to film. If this is even half as funny as “Fuzz” and “Shaun Of The Dead,” it will be a highlight of the summer.

10. Kick Ass 2

The original “Kick-Ass” was a fairly bare bones affair, a modestly-scaled riff on superhero conventions, and the sequel follows the same formula as most sequels. Bigger, rougher, and much harder on the heroes, this follow-up adds director Jeff Wadlow to the mix, and his aggressive shooting style for the action scenes is going to be a big shift for the new film. In addition, throwing Jim Carrey into the mix could turn out to be an inspired decision if the short footage we’ve seen of Colonel Stars’n’Stripes is any indication. For our money, one of the scenes we are most excited to see this year is the final climactic battle between Hit Girl (Moretz) and the disturbingly muscle-bound Mother Russia (Kurkulina).

9. The Conjuring

So often, horror filmmakers confuse “gross” with “scary,” and while we can certainly admire the right over-the-top application of blood and guts, we are also big fans of filmmakers who know how to draw us into a film on a personal level, making the scares hurt instead of just startle. James Wan has been honing his skills from film to film and now, using the true story of real-life parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, Wan has made his most frightening and accomplished film. A top-notch cast and a determined focus on unnerving the audience makes this one of the summer’s most under-the-radar but worth-your-attention films on the list.

8. The Bling Ring

Whether it’s in the plush Versailles ballrooms of “Marie Antoinette” or the Chateau Marmont hotel suites of “Somewhere,” no contemporary filmmaker has cast a cooler eye over society’s unhealthy celebrity fixation than Sofia Coppola. But while “The Bling Ring” finds her extending this theme, this time she’s adopting the perspective of those on the outside looking in. Based on the fascinating true story of a group of teenagers who broke into the homes of numerous celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, and stole $3 million worth of goods — all in the name of feeling a little closer to their idols — this material should play to Coppola’s stylish strengths: expect moody teenage ennui and a killer soundtrack, while an inked-up Emma Watson decisively sheds her goody-two-shoes image.

7. Star Trek: Into Darkness

With overwhelmingly positive reviews and a global box-office take of over $380 million, J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” was one of the rare summer blockbusters that pleased both critics and fans alike. So there’s every reason to hope he’ll strike gold again with “Star Trek Into Darkness,” by all accounts a bigger, bolder sequel boasting a mysterious central villain (played by “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch) who may or may not be Khan. The film’s epic trailers are perhaps most indicative of why the film ranked higher on our list than any other sequel, as they demonstrate Abrams’ expertise at revealing just enough to keep us interested while leaving us hungering for more.

6. Man of Steel

First of all, we now have evidence that Superman finally punches someone. He hasn’t done that on the big screen in over 25 years. Second, Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan have a new vision for Superman. Not another picture that tries to recapture the magic of Richard Donner’s first and uncredited second “Superman” films (we’re still trying to forget “Superman Returns” happened). Third, Henry Cavill may be the only actor out there who can play Superman without seeming to be a poor imitation of Christopher Reeve. Fourth, Michael Shannon appears ready to prove the naysayers on whether General Zod should be the villain or not wrong. Fifth, doesn’t everyone want to believe a man can fly?

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