Although the summer movie season officially kicks off this weekend with the release of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" in theaters, in some ways it feels like blockbuster season has already started. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" served as an early kick-off on April 4, pulling in a huge $95 million opening weekend in the U.S. and earning praise from both critics and fans. However, there are plenty more big movies still to come (it will be interesting to see if they can top the Cap's strong performance, though) — and there will be several wild cards, as well. Here are some of the movies getting the most buzz this summer:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2)
The 2012 Spider-Man reboot starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, "The Amazing Spider-Man," proved to be somewhat polarizing among fans, and some argued the franchise didn't really need a reboot. I personally enjoyed the movie, but I think the characters and performances were stronger than the actual plot. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone had great chemistry as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy.
The trailers released so far for the sequel are intense and action-packed. Spider-Man will face several new villains, including the electricity-manipulating Electro (Jamie Foxx) and his former friend Harry Osborn/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). There is some concern that too many villains and too many subplots could clutter the film, but hopefully director Marc Webb will be able to successfully balance all the elements while making time for meaningful character development.
Godzilla (May 16)
Although Godzilla has been a fixture in monster movies for decades, the most recent American Godzilla movie, released in 1998, wasn't well received by critics and failed to launch a franchise. While it remains to be seen how well audiences respond to the new film, the film's trailers appear promising, hinting at a gritty, exciting reboot.
The new film stars Bryan Cranston (coming off a successful run on "Breaking Bad") as a nuclear physicist and engineer. He is backed by a solid cast that includes Ken Watanabe and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen (who will, coincidentally, also star together in another upcoming blockbuster: next summer's "Avengers: Age of Ultron"). I like the look of the film so far, and early buzz seems to be good. Guillermo del Toro has expressed interest in a possible crossover between "Godzilla" and his own "Pacific Rim" film; I'd love to see the robot "Jaegers" from del Toro's film battle Godzilla.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23)
"Days of Future Past" appears to be the X-Men version of "The Avengers," bringing together numerous superheroes from the X-Men franchise and blending the story lines of the original X-Men trilogy and the prequel "First Class." In "Days of Future Past," the X-Men wage a war that jumps across time periods and try to change the past in order to save the future.
My favorite of the X-Men movies is the prequel "X-Men: First Class," and at first I was a little disappointed "Days of Future Past" wasn't a straight-up sequel to that film. However, I'm really excited about this film now, especially since it features both the older and younger versions of Professor X and Magneto — Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, and James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively. Hopefully director Bryan Singer will be able to handle the large cast of characters as well as Joss Whedon handled the multiple superheroes in "The Avengers."
Maleficent (May 30)
Live-action adaptations of famous fairy tales have been hit-or-miss in Hollywood lately. The best of the recent batch — 2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman" — succeeded in turning the story of "Snow White" into a dark, gritty medieval fantasy with gorgeous visuals. While Disney's new PG-rated live-action Sleeping Beauty retelling "Maleficent" certainly won't be "Game of Thrones"-level gritty, the studio does appear to be presenting a darker version of one of its best-known animated films.
Angelina Jolie appears to be great choice to play the villain Maleficent, who in the original film curses Sleeping Beauty and tries to destroy the kingdom. However, I'm guessing the new film will be presenting a more nuanced version of the character, and we will likely learn how and why she decided to become a villain.
Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)
In "Edge of Tomorrow," Tom Cruise plays a soldier trapped in a seemingly never-ending nightmare: he's caught in a time loop that causes him to return, over and over again, to a fatal battle against a race of aliens known as Mimics. He doesn't understand how he came to be trapped in this cycle, and he's forced to die again and again. However, each time he's sent back to this battle, he learns more combat skills and receives more training from a Special Forces soldier (Emily Blunt). Together they try to find a way to defeat the alien enemy.
I've enjoyed the trailers released for this movie so far, and it's exciting to see the Hollywood trend of more sci-fi movies continue. The action scenes look good and I'm intrigued by the plot concept; I haven't read the book the film is based on but I'm wondering if perhaps the cause Cruise's character is asked to fight for isn't as noble as it seems, or if there's a deeper mystery behind the time loop. The summer release schedule is always crowded, so sometimes it is difficult for films to stand out. Good reviews and strong word of mouth could make this one a break-out like last year's "World War Z."
Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27)
The "Transformers" franchise has proven to be an interesting phenomenon. Although the series has taken quite a bit of flak from critics and viewers, it continues to pull in impressive amounts of money at the box office. The new film is a sort-of reboot, starring Mark Wahlberg as a struggling inventor and featuring the appearance of Dinobots, who transform into mechanical dinosaurs.
Although director Michael Bay has made some interesting casting choices for the film — including Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci — I am sensing some "franchise fatigue" by this point. While I don't think this one will necessarily be a flop, it likely won't be the biggest blockbuster of the summer, either.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1)
Out of all the movies slated for release this summer, this one carries the biggest question mark. More of a sci-fi action movie with a heavy dose of humor than Marvel's traditional superhero fare, this film will be a true test of how much power the Marvel brand really does carry. The film is about a ragtag crew of criminals and misfits who have to decide if they are willing to risk their lives to save the galaxy.
Based on the trailer, I think this movie will be a lot of fun with good action sequences and plenty of humor; however, my fear is that Marvel will have a tougher time selling this one to general audiences, due to some of its quirkier aspects. Still, this is one of my most anticipated movies for the summer, and I think it does have a chance to be a break-out hit.
So, what movies are you most looking forward to this summer? What will be the biggest hit? What will be the biggest flop?