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Big explosions and small romances highlight the summer movie season

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Summer movies. The words send a chill down movie lovers' spines.

Not because of the inevitable onslaught of sequels, or the typically dispiriting quality of summer blockbusters. No, it's mostly the air-conditioning, cranked up to “Saskatchewan pond hockey” levels in the middle of August.

Summer blockbuster season starts with a roar this year, with “Godzilla” on May 16, pitting the giant fire-lizard against Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” which seems like a fair fight. Other big-budget blockbuster sequels include “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (May 23), with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) traveling through time; “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (June 27), starring Mark Wahlberg and explosions; and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (July 11).

The kids will have their own sequels, including “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (June 13) and “Planes: Fire & Rescue” (July 18).

Pittsburgh is represented in two films.

“The Fault in Our Stars,” shot in Pittsburgh and starring Hollywood “It Girl” Shailene Woodley, is the story of two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group and fall in love. It was adapted from the beloved young adult novel of the same name by John Green.

“Million Dollar Arm” arrives May 16 with Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) as a sports agent who roles the dice on a contest to turn Indian cricket players into major league baseball pitchers. The true story is based on the Pittsburgh Pirates' similar gambit.

A few of the more offbeat offerings include “Maleficent” (May 30), with Angelina Jolie conjuring up nightmares as a demonic fairy; the big-budget, raunchy comedy-Western “A Million Ways to Die in the West” from Seth MacFarlane (May 30); and “Get on Up” (Aug. 1), attempting the seemingly impossible task of making a biopic about James Brown.

But easily the summer's most ambitious offering is “Boyhood” (July 11), which is already generating tons of acclaim for director Richard Linklater, who filmed his young star (Ellar Coltrane) over a period of years, from childhood into adolescence.

— Michael Machosky

Mark your calendars Summer's movie lineup is filled with sequels and superheroes, as you might expect. Gannett chief film critic Bill Goodykoontz gives his rundown for the upcoming season.

May 16

“Chef” (R): Jon Favreau writes, directs and stars in a film about a chef who starts a food truck after losing his job. It's nice to see Favreau doing something other than “Iron Man” movies (though he does those well).

“Godzilla” (PG-13): Him again. It's the usual, big giant lizard roams the Earth, but the cast is pretty cool. It includes Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Cranston. And the people went nuts over the trailer when it was released online, if that matters.

“Million Dollar Arm” (PG): Jon Hamm is miles away from Don Draper, playing a sports agent who, desperate for money, hits upon the idea of going to India to try to convert cricket players into baseball pitchers. He turns it into a reality-show contest. Based on a true story.

May 23

“Blended” (PG-13): Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore reunite, because, um, “50 First Dates” was so good? Whatevs. They play single parents who go on a blind date, have a horrible time and wind up together with their families at a resort.

“The Hornet's Nest” (R): This documentary follows journalist Mike Boettcher and his son through the war in Afghanistan.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” (PG-13): Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, muscles bulging) travels to the past to right some sort of wrong. Cool idea, in that we see some of the characters as they are in the present and, played by different actors, as they were in the past.

May 30

“Maleficent” (PG): Kind of a Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the evil fairy. That would be the title character, played by Angelina Jolie. Elle Fanning plays Princess Aurora. Looks dark and creepy. Sure hope that's the case.

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” (R): I'm not a Seth MacFarlane fan, but this film, which he co-wrote, directs and stars in, looks interesting. He plays a cowardly farmer who will have to face a dangerous gunslinger. The cast is terrific: Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Silverman are just some of the folks on board.

June 6

“Edge of Tomorrow” (PG-13): Is Tom Cruise still a major star? Maybe. But he's also an underrated actor who could use a good movie. Perhaps this will be it. He plays a futuristic soldier who gets killed at the end of every day, only to start the next day alive and training harder. With Emily Blunt, which is a big selling point.

“The Fault in Our Stars” (PG-13): Shailene Woodley is the new Jennifer Lawrence, so they say. Whoever “they” are. But she is a good actress, and here she plays a girl who falls for a guy (Ansel Elgort) at their cancer-support group. Based on John Green's novel.

June 13

“22 Jump Street” (not yet rated): The sequel to the surprisingly good “21 Jump Street” re-teams Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as unlikely cops. Last time, they went undercover in high school to bring down a drug ring. This time, it's back to college. It'll be hard to beat that Johnny Depp cameo from the first one.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” (PG): It's sequel week! Actually that's pretty much every week in summer. The first film was pretty swell. Now Hiccup (the voice of Jay Baruchel) and his dragon friend, Toothless, return, and discover new dragons.

June 20

“Jersey Boys” (R): Film version of the popular musical, about the rise of the Four Seasons. John Lloyd Young plays falsetto-voiced Frankie Valli, but the most intriguing name in the cast is Christopher Walken.

“The Rover” (R): Guy Pearce plays a man tracking the gang who stole his car in the Australian outback.

“Think Like a Man Too” (PG-13): Everyone from the 2012 original gets together for a wedding in Las Vegas and, guess what, trouble arises. Maybe this will finally be Kevin Hart's breakout. Or not.

June 27

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” (not yet rated): BOOM! POW! EXPLOSIONS! AUTOBOTS! DECEPTICONS! EARTH IN PERIL! MAYHEM! With Mark Wahlberg.

July 2

“Deliver Us From Evil” (not yet rated): Eric Bana stars as a New York City police officer who enlists the help of a priest (Edgar Ramirez) versed in exorcisms to help him solve mysterious crimes. Weird time to open a horror movie, but those of us into horror will take it.

“Earth to Echo” (PG): A group of friends start getting weird text messages when a construction project moves into their neighborhood. Naturally, they investigate. That's what kids do in movies, right?

“Tammy” (R): Melissa McCarthy loses her job, learns her husband is cheating on her and hits the road with her foulmouthed grandmother. Written and directed by Ben Falcone, who is McCarthy's husband in real life (and played the air marshal in “Bridesmaids”).

July 11

“And So It Goes” (PG-13): Michael Douglas plays a Realtor who has to ask his neighbor (Diane Keaton) for help to raise his granddaughter.

“Begin Again” (R): Remember when summer was reserved for huge movies about global destruction by aliens, that kind of thing? This isn't that. Instead, it's Mark Ruffalo as a music executive who bonds with a young singer-songwriter, played by Keira Knightley. Presumably, nothing blows up.

“Boyhood” (R): Richard Linklater followed his cast for years to tell the story of a boy (Ellar Coltrane) from age 8 to 15.

“The Fluffy Movie” (not yet rated): A concert film featuring comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (not yet rated): Sequel to the remake, or reimagining, or whatever the last one was. Actually, what it was was pretty good. Last time, the apes rose up. Now, it's an out-and-out war with humans. One of which is Gary Oldman, so that's cool.

July 18

“Jupiter Ascending” (not yet rated): The Wachowskis return with more science fiction, about a down-on-her-luck woman (Mila Kunis) who may be the next in line to be Queen of the Universe. A heavily made-up Channing Tatum is around to help.

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” (not yet rated): Another one, huh? This time Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook), the crop duster who became a racing champion, suffers engine damage and turns to aerial firefighting. “Planes” was, um, not good. At least Julie Bowen and Ed Harris are on hand this time around.

“The Purge: Anarchy” (not yet rated): Another year, another night of kill-whoever-you-want insanity, because everyone gets a 12-hour free pass. Can't think of a worse night for a couple's car to break down, but that's what happens. AAA must do boffo business that night each year.

July 25

“Hercules” (not yet rated): Dwayne Johnson — no longer the Rock, you know — plays the title character, who has completed the 12 labors but has to go back into action at the behest of the King of Thrace. John Hurt and Ian McShane also star; they're good at being bad.

“Sex Tape” (not yet rated): Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz make a sex tape, and the next day, it's gone. So they have to find it. HAVE THEY NEVER USED THE INTERNET? These things ALWAYS wind up in the wrong hands.

“Step Up All In” (not yet rated): Love the sequels to movies you had forgotten existed in the first place. All-stars from the previous films meet in Las Vegas for another competition. Because, why not?

Aug. 1

“Get on Up” (not yet rated): Frankly, it's difficult to imagine anyone bringing the funk like James Brown, the subject of Tate Taylor's film, did. But that's the challenge facing Chadwick Boseman. He'll have to work harder than the hardest-working man in show business to pull it off.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” (not yet rated): Marvel continues its march onto the big screen, and with the “Avengers” movies and the various “Iron Man” and “Captain America” movies doing so well, why not? Chris Pratt stars as Peter Quill, who steals an orb, which leads to all sorts of trouble. As always with Marvel movies, remember to stay through the credits.

Aug. 8

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” (not yet rated): An Indian family opens a restaurant in France across the street from a Michelin-starred French restaurant. Risky business, sounds like, but it stars Helen Mirren, so we're in.

“Into the Storm” (PG-13): High-school students document an enormous tornado. As opposed to, you know, running away or taking shelter (although that wouldn't make much of a movie). With Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies.

“Lucy” (not yet rated): Scarlett Johansson is this year's Benedict Cumberbatch: She's in everything. This time around, she's a woman who, according to the press material, “transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.” As opposed to Black Widow?

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (not yet rated): This is where Megan Fox landed after getting booted from the “Transformer” franchise. TMNT has been a comic, a cartoon, video game, toy and a movie. And now another movie. This one has Will Arnett in it, though, so it's got that going for it.

Aug. 13

“Let's Be Cops” (R): Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. dress like cops for a costume party but soon get involved with fighting crime involving real mobsters, not the dress-up kind.

Aug. 15

“As Above, So Below” (not yet rated): A found-footage thriller about two archaeologists who search for treasure in the catacombs beneath Paris. Found-footage movies are interesting in theory, but you usually need an Advil for your headache afterward.

“The Expendables 3” (not yet rated): The rest of us have to make do with 401(k) and pension plans. Sylvester Stallone just keeps pumping out these movies, with aging action stars kicking bad-guy butt. Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson join the gang this time around.

“The Giver” (not yet rated): Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen as Receiver of Memories for a too-perfect community. He trains with the Giver (Jeff Bridges) and realizes things aren't as perfect as they seem. Based on the popular and much assigned Lois Lowry novel.

“What If” (PG-13): Daniel Radcliffe plays a med-school dropout who becomes friends, and possibly more, with Zoe Kazan.

Aug. 22

“If I Stay” (not yet rated): Chloe Grace Moretz stars as a girl trying to decide between going to Juilliard or staying in Portland, Ore., with her boyfriend (Jamie Blackley). Then an accident changes things. Based on the Gayle Forman novel.

“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” (not yet rated): Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez's 2005 film was practically revolutionary because it was so visually mind-bending. Now they're back, along with Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke and Rosario Dawson. Can it be as groundbreaking as the first film? Probably not. Still pretty intriguing, though.

“When the Game Stands Tall” (not yet rated): Jim Caviezel plays Bob Ladouceur, who coached a Concord, Calif., high-school football team to a 151-game winning streak (1992-2004), the longest in any American sport.

Aug. 29

“Jessabelle” (not yet rated): A woman (Sarah Snook) recuperates at her father's Louisiana mansion after her fiance is killed in a car accident. But soon she encounters a malicious spirit with a connection to her long-dead mother. A horror film, if that wasn't obvious.

“The Loft” (R): Remake of a 2008 Dutch film, in which five guys who share a loft for fooling around on their wives start to suspect one another when the body of a strange woman is found there. With Karl Urban, James Marsden and Wentworth Miller.

“November Man” (R): An ex-CIA operative (Pierce Brosnan) must face off against a former pupil in Roger Donaldson's action thriller.

“Underdogs” (not yet rated): Phillip Rhee and Beau Bridges star in a film about a group of inner-city kids who battle the Beverly Hills championship martial-arts team.

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