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Summer Movie Preview 2013

Men of iron, steel and adamantium (hey, Wolverine) ride herd on a season that leaves audiences high and critics puking

Summer Movie Preview

Don’t kid yourself. you know you’re jonesing for summer movies that get right up in your fricking face. We all are. But, jeez, do we really need the overkill? Of the 100 or so movies that will be released between now and Labor Day, the vast majority are out to kick ass and pulverize brain matter. That goes for comedy as well as action. What, you think The Hangover Part III is gonna hang back? Aside from a few indie gems, such as Before Midnight, The Bling Ring and Fruitvale Station, guy-centric epics – fresh out of Hollywood’s recycle factory – are the order of the box-office day. But too many craptaculars can take a toll. At what point in the summer do we get tired of watching hack directors blow shit up? Here’s a shortlist to help you separate the class from the crass.

By Peter Travers

Pacific Rim

Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment

Pacific Rim

In Theaters: July 12

Just seeing the words "directed by Guillermo del Toro" fills me with joyful anticipation. Yes, in my book, Pan’s Labyrinth is that sublime. Pacific Rim stars Idris Elba as a military honcho leading an army of Jaegers (skyscraper-size robots) into battle against Kaiju (creatures from another planet). If you think that sounds like the dreaded Michael Bay in Transformers mode, you don’t know del Toro. "What we went for is a very, very romantic look," he says. "I wanted to have a lot of crazy rain, wind, all the drama of an Emily Brontë movie in a high-tech movie." Sold.

The Wolverine

Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox

The Wolverine

In Theaters: July 26

Hugh Jackman, Oscar-nominated for singing his butt off in Les Misérables, returns to Marvel’s X-Men universe for the sixth adventure, the second time going solo after 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That alone should make the fanboys orgasmic. Better yet, a first-class director is on board in James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma). The setting is Japan, allowing Mangold and Jackman to indulge their passion for samurai cinema. No burdensome backstory this time, just Wolfie showing his claws and letting the action rip. What’s not to like?

Fruitvale Station

Courtesy The Weinstein Company

Fruitvale Station

In Theaters: July 26

Can a summer movie create Oscar buzz? This one can. In telling the true story of a reformed drug dealer (a superb Michael B. Jordan) wrongly shot by an Oakland transit cop, debuting director Ryan Coogler creates a bruising masterpiece.

Blue Jasmine

Courtesy Sony PIctures Classics

Blue Jasmine

In Theaters: July 26

No Woody Allen movie can pass without a trace,  though last summer's To Rome With Love came close. This risky, resonant update on A Streetcar Named Desire – with Cate Blanchet, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and (surprise!) Louis C.K. – is too good to ignore. Lacing laughs with emotional gravity, Woody is out to shake us this time. He does.

2 Guns

Courtesy Universal Pictures

2 Guns

In Theaters: August 2

They could have called it 2 Stars and still had people salivating. Who doesn’t want to kill two summer hours watching drug-cartel scumbags get busted by Denzel Washington, as a mouthy DEA agent, with Mark Wahlberg as a Navy Intelligence hardass?

The Spectacular Now

Courtesy A24

The Spectacular Now

In Theaters: August 2

Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller give ardent, award-caliber performances as teens with divergent views of the future in this raw and remarkably restrained film version of Tim Tharp's novel. Because director James Ponsoldt and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber  dodge the coming-of-age clichés, the movie hits you like a shot in the heart.

Elysium

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

Elysium

In Theaters: August 9

About a year ago, Matt Damon told me how excited he was to be working with director Neill Blomkamp. "I mean, did you see District 9?" Damon asked. I did indeed. Blomkamp’s 2009 feature debut won the South African writer-director an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Blomkamp’s back on sci-fi turf with Elysium, in which the have-nots struggle on Earth while the haves, repped by Jodie Foster, orbit in a space station. Damon is a factory slave looking to move on up. It’s WALL-E with weapons and a social conscience.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Steve Dietl/IFC Films

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

In Theaters: August 17

You can call it a Texas Bonnie and Clyde, but Ruth (Rooney Mara) and Bob (Casey Affleck) – both terrific – make their own kind of history with a local sheriff (Ben Foster) in David Lowery’s lyrical spellbinder about a love triangle out of balance.

Kick-Ass 2

Daniel Smith/Universal Pictures

Kick-Ass 2

The 2010 Kick-Ass was a mosh pit of a comic-book movie that dared you to dive into its anarchy. With the indispensable Chloë Grace Moretz back as Hit-Girl, a kid killer with a Mamet mouth, nerdy Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his new crony Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey, of all people) are sure to kick up geek-action nirvana.

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