A major voice in the world of movies was silenced last week when beloved film critic Roger Ebert succumbed to cancer after a long and public battle. Ebert is widely remembered for his sharp critical acumen, his encyclopedic knowledge of film, his Midwestern common sense, and, as New York Times film critic A.O. Scott points out, his kindness. “Roger was both a zealous defender of the standards of film criticism... and a gracious and generous supporter of anyone who wanted to practice it,” Scott writes. This generosity of spirit also extended to “some of the performers and filmmakers who felt the sting of his negative judgment.” In the words of President Obama, “Movies won’t be the same without Roger.” But they are likely better because of him.
Iron Man 3
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow
Directed by Shane Black
Release date May 3 (Marvel Studios)
Tie-ins from Marvel Press: a movie storybook, a junior novel, a sticker book, an early reader, a picture book adaptation, and an 8” x 8” storybook
Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Downey Jr.), faces yet another notorious adversary in the third film based on the Marvel hero; the first two movies in the franchise grossed over $630 million. The new film combines plots from several Iron Man comics, integrating the Mandarin and Extremis story arcs. Spoiler images of Stark’s latest Iron Man armor have already leaked online, and rumor has it that the third film offers something extra for those more interested in fashion than firepower—a more comprehensive look at Iron Man suits, past and present.
The Great Gatsby
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Release date May 10 (Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures)
Tie-in from Simon & Schuster/Scribner: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Talk about an eagerly awaited movie. On May 15 Gatsby will be the inaugural film at the 66th Cannes Film Festival—and the second film in the festival’s history to be screened in 3-D. Whether or not the movie becomes the season’s biggest moneymaker, it certainly has the most prestigious title, an A-list cast, and the hottest hero going (with all due respect to Man of Steel). The trailer, not surprisingly, features one lush scene after another, abounding with vibrant camera work and sumptuous period details. Luhrmann, of course, is known for his stunning visuals, in such films as Strictly Ballroom, Australia, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge! Former screen Gatsbys have included Warner Baxter (1926), Alan Ladd (1949), and the previous front-runner, Robert Redford.
What Maisie Knew
Starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgärd, Steve Coogan
Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Release date May 24 (Millennium Entertainment)
Tie-in from Penguin Books: What Maisie Knew by Henry James
Maisie is a contemporary New York City reenvisioning of the James novella, which revolves around the seven-year-old heroine caught in the middle of a custody battle between her mother (an aging rock star) and her father (a major art dealer). Penguin’s tie-in features a foreword by screenwriters Carroll Cartwight and Nancy Doyne. Moore’s clearly on a roll, winning a Primetime Emmy, SAG Award, and Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie for her spot-on portrayal of Sarah Palin in Game Change. Directing partners McGehee and Siegel have a lot riding on this one; their two most recent works, Bee Season and Uncertainty, brought in middling returns.
Voices of Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Beyoncé Knowles
Directed by Chris Wedge
Release date May 24 (Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century Fox Animation)
Tie-in from Titan Books: The Art of Epic by Tara Bennett
Tie-ins from HarperCollins: two 8” x 8” storybooks, a junior novel, and two early readers
In this 3-D computer-generated animation film, a girl (Seyfried) is whisked away to a world where she teams up with a curious, diminutive species called the Jin to battle the Boggans, insectlike villains that are determined to destroy the natural world. The story is loosely based on William Joyce’s picture book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs; the lukewarm reception for Joyce’s Rise of the Guardians film notwithstanding, success of the studio’s previous movies, including Rio and the Ice Age franchise (which has grossed over $700 million in the U.S.), bodes well for the new adventure. Wedge was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar for his direction of 2002’s acclaimed Ice Age. What made that film work, he said, “is that it had its shiny candy coatings, but inside was a soft, creamy center.”
Starring Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Isabelle Fuhrman
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Release date May 31 (Columbia Pictures and Overlook Entertainment)
Tie-in from HarperCollins: After Earth: Kitai’s Journal by Christine Peymani, illus. by Jason A. Katzenstein
Following the evacuation of Earth, humanity has reestablished civilization on planet Nova Prime. Teenage Kitai accompanies his ranger father on an expedition to Earth, but an accident leaves Kitai fending for himself. Will Smith is no stranger to sci-fi and postapocalyptic films, having starred in Independence Day (1996) and I Am Legend (2007). The apple doesn’t fall far from the (environmentally ravaged) tree: Smith’s costar and real-life son, Jaden, also has a history with end-of-days movies, having played a role in the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
As Cool As I Am
Starring Claire Danes, James Marsden, Sarah Bolger
Directed by Max Mayer
Release date June 7 (Identity Films, dist. by IFC Films)
Tie-in from Picador: As Cool as I Am by Pete Fromm
Fromm’s 2003 novel won the PNBA Association’s Book of the Year Award, making him the only four-time winner. PW’s review called the work “spirited and sharply intelligent,” adding that “all the characters come alive, their stiletto tongues alternately wounding and caressing... The emotions Fromm plumbs are painfully, poignantly real.” Danes will be a major draw following her multiple awards for Homeland, Showtime’s widely lauded drama series. Also in the Cool cast are Peter Fonda, Jeremy Sisto (of TV’s Suburgatory and Law and Order), and James Marsden, who’s set to play J.F.K. in the forthcoming film, The Butler, which portrays the life of Eugene Allen, who from 1952 to 1986 served eight presidents as the White House’s head butler.
Man Of Steel
Starring Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams
Directed by Zack Snyder
Release date June 14 (Warner Bros.)
Tie-in from Titan Books: Man of Steel: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Cox
Tie-ins from HarperCollins: two early readers, three 8” x 8” storybooks, a junior novel
This is hardly the first time the hero from Krypton has flown onto the big screen; 1978’s Superman launched Christopher Reeve’s career and a four-film franchise. More recently, Brandon Routh starred in Superman Returns (2006), but underperformance at the box office led to the cancellation of a planned sequel. Snyder’s production revamps the Superman origins story, drawing directly from the classic DC comics. He directed the original 300 (see August’s 300: Rise of an Empire), which won the 2007 Hollywood Film Festival’s Hollywood Movie of the Year. (Also in 2007, he ranked #25 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 50 Smartest People in Hollywood.) The title role goes to a relative newcomer: Cavill, who hails from the U.K., is the first non-American actor to play Superman. He’s the third Brit, however, to play the lead in a recent screen adaptation of an American comic book series: before him, Christian Bale was cast as Batman, and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man.
World War Z
Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, David Morse
Directed by Marc Forster
Release date June 21 (Plan B Entertainment, Apparatus Productions, GK Films)
Tie-in from Titan Books: World War Z: The Art of the Film
Here’s another dashing hero—the ever-valiant Brad Pitt, starring as a U.N. employee who traverses the world in a race to stop a pandemic that’s toppling armies and governments, and threatening to annihilate humanity itself. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is by Max Brooks, son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft; other Brooks bestsellers include The Zombie Survival Guide, The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks et al. And just how big is this movie? According to IMDb.com, the cast numbers 102 performers (doubtless not counting extras), and the makeup department lists 94—think about all those living dead.
Starring Ali Sulliman, Reymonde Ansellem, Evgania Dodena
Directed by Ziad Doueiri
Release date June 21 (Cohen Media Group)
Tie-in from Anchor Books: The Attack by Yasmina Khadra
Doueiri’s third feature film (he previously worked on Quentin Tarantino’s crews) was introduced in September 2012 at the Telluride Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Donastia-San Sebastián International Film Festival. It went on to win the Golden Star for best film at the 12th annual Marrakech International Film Festival. Based on Khadra’s 2006 novel, the plot centers on a well-respected Arab surgeon in a Tel Aviv hospital who discovers a dark secret about his wife in the aftermath of a suicide bombing.
Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Release date June 21 (Disney/Pixar)
Tie-in from Chronicle Books: The Art of Monsters University by Karen Palik
Tie-ins from Disney Press: Monsters University Fearbook, an 80-page “yearbook” from Monsters University; a read-along storybook and CD; and an oversized, interactive board book, all due out May 14
Tie-in from DK: Monsters University: The Essential Guide, due out May 14
Tie-ins from Reader’s Digest: Go Sulley, a board book with an interactive plush component, a storybook containing a vinyl Sulley figure, and a storybook with a picture viewer, all slated for May 14
In a prequel to the 2001 animated film Monsters Inc., which grossed over $289 million domestically, Mike Wazowski (Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (Goodman) are students at Monsters University, where they are majoring in “Scaring” (possibly the only academic focus less lucrative than an M.F.A.).
Despicable Me 2
Voices of Steve Carell, Al Pacino, Kristen Wiig
Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Release date July 3 (Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment)
Tie-ins from Little, Brown: an 8” x 8” storybook with super spy punch-outs, an early reader, a junior novel, a handbook, a sticker book, and another storybook with a die-cut cover will be available May 14
In Despicable Me (2010), an animated comedy that grossed more than $250 million domestically, super-villain Gru (Carell) adopted three orphans, hoping to use them in a nefarious scheme—but instead, they thaw the villain’s cold, cold heart. In the sequel, Gru joins the Anti-Villain League to defeat a new enemy named Eduardo (Pacino, making his animated feature debut), but there are some familiar faces as well: Gru’s pint-sized yellow Minions return–and will star in their own spinoff film in 2014.
Voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph
Directed by David Soren
Release date July 19 (DreamWorks)
Tie-ins from Simon Spotlight: an early reader’s guide to the Turbo snails, two picture-book adaptations, two board books, a junior novelization, and a collector’s storybook are due out June 11
Tie-ins from Reader’s Digest Children’s Books: a lift-the-flap book and a picture viewer storybook arrive June 11
Based on an original concept by Soren, this 3-D computer-animated film follows the trail of a headstrong snail that acquires the power of speed and dreams of going where no snail has gone before—to race in the Indy 500. Fast on the film’s tracks is a Turbo animated series to premiere on Netflix, marking the media company’s first original property aimed at kids.
The Smurfs 2
Voices of Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Sofia Vergara
Directed by Raja Gosnell
Release date July 31 (Sony
Tie-ins from Simon Spotlight: two board books, three picture-book adaptations, two readers, a novelization, and an interactive book, all due out May 7; an additional early reader will be released August 6
The first big-screen revival of the comic book series–turned–1980s TV show—which landed the gnomelike creatures in the Big Apple—hit theaters in 2011 and grossed more than $142 million in U.S. box office receipts. Its sequel offers a French twist, with the evil Gargamel kidnapping Smurfette and taking her to Paris in his relentless attempt to capture the “all powerful, magical” Smurf essence. (If they’re so powerful, why do they have so much trouble fending off Gargamel?)
Starring Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Release date July 12 (Legendary Pictures)
Tie-in from Titan Books: Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization by Alex Irvine
When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace. We can’t speak for the robots, but it’s evident that a top-notch director has cast a first-rate trio of leading men in this forthcoming SF yarn. Del Toro, who’s alternated between Spanish dark fantasy pieces (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth) and more mainstream action movies (Blade II, Hellboy) has made a name for himself in the horror genre—it’s not surprising that his favorite movie creations are Frankenstein’s Monster and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
300: Rise Of An Empire
Starring Sullivan Stapleton, Rodrigo Santoro, Eva Green
Directed by Noam Murro
Release date August 2 (Atmosphere Entertainment, Cruel & Unusual Films, Hollywood Gang Productions)
Tie-in from Titan Books: 300: Rise of an Empire: The Art of the Film by Peter Aperlo
This highly anticipated sequel follows the 2007 blockbuster 300, which according to Box Office Mojo grossed over $210 million. The new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh battlefield—the sea—as Greek general Themistocles (Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war.
Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Release date August 9 (Media Rights Capital, QED International, Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Tie-in from Titan Books: Elysium: The Art of the Film by Mark Salisbury
The big question here: can director Blomkamp do it again? His 2009 SF blockbuster, District 9, was received with wildly enthusiastic reviews. The film received four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, and a slew of other awards. Blomkamp was listed as one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World (Artists category)” in 2010—with an homage from Ridley Scott. Blomkamp’s latest, Elysium, takes place in 2159, when the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. One man (Damon) takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds. (Works for us.)
Voices of Dane Cook, Val Kilmer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Directed by Klay Hall
Release date August 9 (Toon Studios)
Tie-ins from Disney Press: a padded storybook that includes punch-out planes, and a book with an accompanying read-along CD, out July 2
Tie-in from DK: a guide to Dusty the crop duster’s world, out July 2
Tie-in from Reader’s Digest: a storybook that includes a picture viewer, and a storybook with foam model-plane pieces, both available July 2
Spinning off Disney’s Cars franchise, this animated feature stars an underdog crop duster plane named, somewhat unsurprisingly, Dusty (Cook), who dreams of becoming an air racer. The only trouble—he’s afraid of heights. Cars fans will be a natural audience for the film, and if the world of cheeky, bantering planes sputters for adults, the voice work (in a wink to Top Gun, Kilmer voices a fighter jet) provides some in-jokes.
Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters
Starring Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson
Directed by Thor Freudenthal
Release date August 16 (20th Century Fox)
Tie-ins from Disney-Hyperion: a movie tie-in edition of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Sea of Monsters and a graphic novel adaptation from Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti will be released on July 2
The second film based on Riordan’s epically popular franchise about a boy with ADHD and dyslexia—who discovers that he is the son of Poseidon—comes three years after the release of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which grossed over $88 million in the U.S. The new film, based on the second installment of the five-book series, sees Jackson (Lerman) and his demigod friends fighting to protect Camp Half-Blood from dangerous mythological monsters. Riordan continues Percy’s story in the Heroes of Olympus books, but despite premature speculation, film plans for those books have not been announced.
Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones
Starring Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Directed by Harald Zwart
Release date August 23 (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Tie-ins from S&S/McElderry: a new edition featuring film cover art and two movie guides, set to be released on July 9
Tie-in from St. Martin’s Griffin: The Mortal Instruments Companion by Lois H. Gresh
The bestselling author of The Twilight Companion and The Hunger Games Companion takes fans deeper into the world of the Shadowhunters created by Cassandra Clare—a gritty urban fantasy realm full of demon hunters, into which teenager Clary Fray (Collins), a Brooklynite previously unaware of the magical world, is suddenly and inextricably pulled. Though success on the page doesn’t always translate to box-office payoff (see disappointing ticket sales for the big-screen version of YA hit Beautiful Creatures), with 16 million copies in print worldwide and Clare’s hearty fan base behind it, Mortal Instruments has the potential to become the next big YA series–turned–movie franchise. Among director Zwart’s credits are The Pink Panther 2, The Karate Kid, and One Night at McCool’s.
Starring Penelope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Mira Furlan
Directed by Sergio Castellito
Release date August (eOne)
Tie-in from Penguin: Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini
Cruz portrays a single mother who returns from her native Rome with her 16-year-old son to present-day Sarajevo, where her son’s father (Hirsch) died during the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s. The film version of Mazzantini’s novel, which premiered last fall at the Toronto Film Festival, was directed by the author’s husband, Castellito. He also directed the movie adaptation of her previous book, 2004’s Don’t Move, which also starred Cruz. Twice Born, published in 2011, won Italy’s Premio Campiello; Don’t Move won the Premio Strega.