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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

20 Feet From Stardom

Courtesy The Weinstein Company

Twenty Feet From Stardom

In Theaters: June 14

Morgan Neville’s exhilarating documentary about such backup singers as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer and Judith Hill, of The Voice, brings in Jagger, Sting and The Boss to pay tribute. No need. Just watch in wonder and try not to stand up and cheer.

World War Z

Courtesy Sony PIctures

World War Z

In Theaters: June 21

Rumors of reshoots, rewrites and production problems have plagued World War Z ever since Marc Forster's $170 million-plus film adaptation of Max Brooks' 2006 novel began filming back in 2011. Screw the toxic buzz. The nerve-frying, addictively exciting WWZ comes ready to rock. It grabs you and squeezes hard – no mercy. The suspense is killer as Brad Pitt, generating mega-watt star power, plays a United Nations troubleshooter out to zap a global zombie invasion. The dead don't walk, they sprint. You can feel the oozing buggers even when you can't see them. Check out that opening attack in Philadelphia. Tension, not gore, fuels this great summer ass-kick. It's everything you want in a blockbuster – smart, shifty, and scary as hell.

White House Down

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

White House Down

In Theaters: June 28

When the home of the president (Jamie Foxx) is invaded by terrorists, a hero is needed. Sounds like March’s Olympus Has Fallen, which means it sounds terrible. But director Roland Emmerich has an ace in the hole: Channing Tatum as the Secret Service savior. Tatum, 33, has earned his bona fides as a Gen Y star. Fans will follow him anywhere.

I'm So Excited

Courtesy Sony PIctures Classics

I’m So Excited

In Theaters: June 28

If anyone can cure your allergy to subtitles, it's Spain's Pedro Almodovar. This exultant farce about jet passengers and crew in a holding pattern is a irresistible campfest with a stinging  political subtext. It's also the director's wildest comic ride since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

The Lone Ranger

Courtesy Disney Enterprises, Inc.

The Lone Ranger

In Theaters: July 3

Studio suits don’t put a movie into the coveted July 4th weekend spot without confidence that they’ll hit pay dirt. Enter The Lone Ranger, with Armie Hammer as the masked man of Western lore and Johnny Depp as Tonto, his Native American sidekick. Gore Verbinski, who directed Depp in three smash Pirates of the Caribbean epics, knows that Depp is nobody’s stooge. The daringly unpredictable actor could play Tonto as Jack Sparrow in feathers and Kabuki makeup and still have us lining up. That’s box-office insurance, baby. That’s summer.

The Way Way Back

Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Way, Way Back

In Theaters: July 5

Directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who co-wrote The Descendents, hit the sweet spot with this poignant winner of a comedy about a mom (Toni Colette) who sticks her teen son (Liam James) with her bullying boyfriend (an outstanding Steve Carell, breaking type). The acting is aces, including Sam Rockwell as the water-park loser the kid bonds with.

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?