2014 summer movie preview: 15 films we're excited about

The Toronto Sun's entertainment team counts down their top 15 summer blockbusters they're counting...

The Toronto Sun's entertainment team counts down their top 15 summer blockbusters they're counting down the days too.

Mark Daniell, Bruce Kirkland, Jim Slotek, Liz Braun, and Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:23 PM ET

With Captain America opening in theatres this coming Friday, the next five months is promising a parade of superhero sequels (Spider-Man, X-Men), giant monsters from the sea (Godzilla), battling bots (Transformers: Age of Extinction) and grown-up comedies (Neighbors). So get your popcorn ready. Here are the must-see films of the summer:

TRANSCENDENCE

For years, Wally Pfister has been Christopher Nolan’s chosen one (Pfister served as director of photography on Nolan’s Memento, Insomnia, Inception and the Batman trilogy). But he only has one credit as director. This is it! It intrigues me for (we hope) its fresh take on A.I. run amok. Pfister showcases the often brilliant, risk-taking Johnny Depp as a mortally wounded scientist who downloads his brain’s contents into a super-computer, which then takes on extraordinary powers. If Pfister has any significant influences from Nolan, his directorial debut could be dazzling.

GODZILLA

I grew up with wonderfully cheeseball monster movies. They were primarily from Hollywood, but I also loved the old Japanese movies from Toho, which virtually invented its own genre when Ishiro Honda introduced the first Godzilla in 1954. The now much-loved mutant is no longer a metaphor for the two nuclear bombs the United States dropped on Japan to end WWII. Instead, Gareth Edwards’ reboot movie positions Godzilla as the wrath of nature — and the big reptile now finds himself fighting other, more malevolent monsters. Akira Takarada, who appeared in the 1954 movie and many of its sequels, makes a cameo in this one.

MALEFICENT

Beyond the familiar elements of the fairytale Sleeping Beauty, there are dark mysteries: What made the evil witch in the story so hard-hearted? And what happened next, after her evil-doing? First-time director Robert Stromberg, a visual effects specialist, solves those mysteries, working off elements from earlier stories by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, as well as original ideas in the 1959 animation from Walt Disney. This new Disney movie is a live-action thriller featuring Angelina Jolie in the title role and Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora. Fairytales are still rich veins to mine for their morality lessons, their gothic story twists and the macabre tones that can be introduced in a story that is otherwise considered family-friendly.

-Bruce Kirkland

CHEF: Here's a mid-life crisis comedy about a master chef (Jon Favreau) who loses his lofty perch at a posh Los Angeles restaurant. Busted down to driving a food truck with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) in Miami, our determined foodie drives (and cooks) his way back to L.A. The film is written and directed by Favreau, the filmmaker behind Swingers and Very Bad Things. He’s also the director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2. This is one to look forward to because Favreau's dark humour is always attractive, and his particular street cred lets him cast Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale and other stars in smallish roles. Early reviews from the SXSW festival suggest this one is tasty.

NEIGHBORS: Some of us started looking forward to this comedy the minute the first trailer was available. There's just something about Seth Rogen taking a trip on an instantaneously inflating air bag, isn't there? The movie concerns a married couple (Rogen and Rose Byrne) with an infant, who are horrified to discover that their new neighbours are a frat house — dozens of loud, drunken, college guys. Zac Efron and Dave Franco are the lead fraternity dudes, which kind of ups the comedy ante, and the expected neighbour vs. neighbour feud begins. Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) directs and the end result is rumoured to be unexpectedly brilliant.

22 JUMP STREET: You can never be sure with sequels, but the comic pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street was such genius that we can't wait to see what they do next — which is, go undercover at college. Filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller return to create that special blend of explosive action, pratfalls and idiocy that distinguished the erstwhile young detectives; the endearing element of guys getting a second chance to be cool at school will likely prove irresistible all over again. This movie plus a giant vat of popcorn could be the perfect summer movie experience.

-Liz Braun

EDGE OF TOMORROW (June 6)

Instead of learning the piano and wooing a cute news producer, what if Bill Murray had dedicated his perpetual existence in Groundhog Day to becoming the perfect soldier? Edge of Tomorrow sees Tom Cruise as a near-future infantryman caught in a never-ending time loop: Every time he’s killed in battle, he wakes up the day before, gets more training with a special forces soldier (Emily Blunt) then heads back into the fray, hoping to break the cycle of live, die, repeat. Cruise’s sci-fi flick Oblivion didn’t set the world on fire last year, but with director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) at the helm, this one looks promising.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (June 27)

Could the robots in disguise be – gasp! – growing up a little? Rebounding from the cringe-worthy low point that was 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which famously featured a pair of jive-talking, blinged-out ’bots, the fourth instalment in the series has an older hero (Mark Wahlberg, taking over from the increasingly wigged-out Shia LaBeouf), a new hottie (Nicola Peltz, playing his daughter) and introduces the mecha-lizard Dinobots, which is a big deal for Transformers fans. It remains to be seen whether this will be more than a commercial for old toys and new Chevys, but even some of us non-fans are pretty jazzed about the movie’s jaw-dropping trailer.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Aug. 1)

With so many comic book franchises to choose from, it seemed bonkers that Marvel would select the little-known and very weird sci-fi superheroes Guardians of the Galaxy as their late-summer tentpole for 2014. But with some smart talent behind it – including director James Gunn (Slither) and star Chris Pratt (The Lego Movie) – this could be the sleeper hit of the summer. And even those who aren’t yet familiar with Star Lord, Drax, Rocket Raccoon and pals should be pleased with the way Guardians plugs into the Marvel mythology at large, a final piece of the puzzle leading up to next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Also, Vin Diesel voices a walking tree who only says, “I am Groot.” Sold.

-Steve Tilley

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - Rarely has a sequel’s plot been so well telegraphed as in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (a sick pilot getting on a plane and a close-up of a departures board, suggested a global epidemic). This apes-versus-humans follow-up, set in a post-pandemic world eight years after the first, offers Andy Serkis another chance to assert his status as the king of motion-capture performances, as Caesar, leader of the damn-dirty-apes. Meanwhile, human-acting-wise, I’m guessing Gary Oldman will more than make up for the loss of James Franco.

TRAILER PARK BOYS: DON’T LEGALIZE IT – Interesting times in the trailer park. When they show up as Julian, Ricky and Bubbles, actors John Paul Tremblay and Robb Wells and Mike Smith are the biggest box office draws in the country. But lately they’ve been trying to get traction as themselves – with theatre tours, the movie Swearnet and the trippy, short-lived TV series The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour. This supposedly-final TPB movie reunites the Boys with director/co-creator Mike Clattenburg, in a plot that sees Ricky address Parliament to argue against legalizing marijuana (‘cause there goes all his illegal business).

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Was it really just eight years ago that this franchise was considered dead (After Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand)? The X-Men: First Class reboot comes full circle with this much-anticipated time-travelling storyline – directed by original X-Men director Bryan Singer - that rounds up both the old and new casts (including Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbener as the old/young Magneto and Charles Xavier duos). We’re talking Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore – the whole mutant catalogue. With all that going on, it could be a busy mess. But no X-fan would dare miss it.

-Jim Slotek

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

Sony is making a big play for a slice of the superhero pie with plans for a Spidey 3 and 4 as well as spinoff films revolving around the villains: Venom and Sinister Six. But before any of that, Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield (starring as everyone’s favourite web slinger) will start planting the seeds with their sequel to 2012’s reboot. Scenes from the final trailer promise jaw-dropping action and a potpourri of baddies (including Dane DeHaan’s wicked looking Green Goblin). The plot hints at some twists, killer 3D and, gasp, the possibility of a major character death.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Is this going to be the best comic book movie ever? From the looks of an extended trailer Marvel debuted last year, I’d say that’s a resounding, ‘Hell, yeah!’ Coming from a pair of guys who helped bring us TV’s Community, The Winter Soldier looks to be darker and more action-packed than its Joe Johnston-directed predecessor. Summer’s first real popcorn flick is days away and I can’t wait.

HERCULES

Dwayne Johnson and Brett Ratner teaming up for a reboot on the classic tale of the Greek demigod is either going to be pure escapist entertainment or total crap. But I’ll bet on The Rock any day when it comes to crushing serpents and wild beasts.

-Mark Daniell


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