2014 Summer Movie Preview: Sci-fi spectacles take over

Maleficent

With three superhero movies, a monster-movie reboot, and a Biblical epic being released in the last two months, the summer movie season seems to have started extra early this year.

Now that school is actually out and Memorial Day weekend is here, however, it can be said that the traditional “summer” has officially arrived. Here’s a look ahead at some upcoming releases that might make hiding from the heat in an air-conditioned theater a little more enjoyable.

Maleficent

(May 30)

Angelina Jolie has said that she was fascinated with the 1959 Disney classic “Sleeping Beauty” when she was a kid. Producer Joe Roth said that “Maleficent,” the live-action Disney adaptation of the same story from the witch’s point of view, wouldn’t have been made had Jolie not taken the part. It’s new territory for Disney because the film is a darker tale than usual for the studio, even though it’s based on one of its own most famous animated features.

Edge of Tomorrow

(June 6)

Jersey

Everything about the futuristic Tom Cruise thriller “Edge of Tomorrow” sounds familiar, from its generic sci-fi title to its “Groundhog Day”/”Source Code” premise, which has Cruise in a time loop reliving the same key moment in an alien invasion over and over again until he gets it right. But it’s directed by Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”), who knows his way around a genre film, so my fingers are crossed.

22 Jump Street

(June 13)

Of course the sequel to the surprise comedy hit “21 Jump Street” starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum is called “22 Jump Street.” Arbitrarily upping the street address by one to denote a sequel is right in line with the so-stupid-it’s-clever style of humor that made the first undercover cop parody so funny. This time out, Hill and Tatum’s bumbling cops pose as college students. What more do you need to know?

Jersey Boys

(June 20)

Clint Eastwood isn’t the first name you would think of to direct the film adaptation of the smash Broadway jukebox musical “Jersey Boys,” which tells the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Yet here it is, positioned for maximum summer-movie exposure. The movie stars a bunch of unknown actors in the lead roles, as well as Christopher Walken and Joe Pesci in supporting roles. The screenplay was adapted by the guys who wrote the book for the musical, so it will be interesting to see how much magic from the stage they were able to retain.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers:

(June 27)

Out with Shia LaBeouf and in with Mark Wahlberg! That’s how you make a tired franchise feel new again. Or at least that’s what director Michael Bay is hoping for with the fourth “Transformers” movie in seven years. What started as a series about a boy with a sentient car that helped him hook up with Megan Fox has grown into self-serious destructo-porn, and it remains to be seen what tone this installment will take. I submit for your consideration in this matter the name of Wahlberg’s character: Cade Yeager.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

(July 11)

After Tim Burton’s failed 2001 reboot of “Planet of the Apes,” expectations were super low for 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” starring James Franco. Since that film surprised everybody by achieving a nice balance of high-concept storytelling and high-level motion capture, the stakes are considerably bigger for this sequel, set 15 years after Caesar the genetically enhanced ape led a rebellion against humans. Director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield,” “Let Me In”) has a great track record with horror/fantasy, which is cause for more hope.

Jupiter Ascending

(July 18)

Dawn

Speaking of fantasy, you can’t accuse the Andy and Lana Wachowski of resting on their considerable genre laurels. After the whiplash candy coating of “Speed Racer” and the cross-continent-cross-time adaptation “Cloud Atlas,” the Wachowskis return to straight-up sci-fi for the first time since their spotty “Matrix” trilogy. Channing Tatum plays a dual-species interplanetary warrior who informs a lowly Earthbound janitor (Mila Kunis) that she has inherited the Earth. The production design and cinematography already look amazing, but will the Wachowskis’ first original script in over a decade jell into a cohesive film?

Guardians of the Galaxy

(Aug. 1)

Marvel’s riskiest expansion of their cinematic universe forgoes superheroes and Earth altogether in favor of a bizarre galactic adventure centering on a bunch of extraterrestrial misfits that few mainstream filmgoers have ever heard of.

Chris Pratt (known mainly for his comic work on “Parks and Recreation”) leads the bunch, and Marvel’s recent streak of hiring iconoclastic directors continues with James Gunn, who cut his teeth writing cheesy Troma movies and as a director only has two hard-R genre satires (“Slither,” “Super”) under his belt. I’m so there.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

(Aug. 22)

Guardians

Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s long-delayed sequel to 2005’s “Sin City” finally arrives at the end of the summer season. Josh Brolin takes the role originated by Clive Owen in the first film, which also adapted Miller’s hard-boiled comic series, while Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba all return. Two of Miller’s previously published stories will be included in this anthology, along with two original stories. All the juggling of characters and timelines will probably be worth it if the filmmakers can achieve the thematic coherency and visual playfulness of the first “Sin City.”