SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW: From-scratch efforts show immense promise, sequels could follow footsteps of good originals


'Godzilla' came out on May. 16. (Special Photo)


Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Dave Batista and Vin Diesel star in “Guardians of the Galaxy” being released August 1. (Special Photo)

This is the point in the program where the jaded (but not impossible to please) movie critic goes on and on about the dearth of quality upcoming summer films and how it might be even worse than ever before, but not this year. While there are some obvious dogs and pathetic cash-grabs, there are a bunch of sequels that follow in the footsteps of some very good originals and a few from-scratch efforts that show immense promise. Get your earplugs, seat-pads and overnight bags ready; either way it will prove to be a long, loud and bumpy hot weather ride.

May 2

• “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” — The follow-up to the reboot looks interesting thanks to the inclusion of villains Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Rhino (Paul Giamatti), the re-introduction of the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and the ongoing romance between Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

• “Belle” — Newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the title character, the mixed race daughter of a military aristocrat, in this period-piece/corset drama.

• “Walk of Shame” — Elizabeth Banks plays an up-and-coming Los Angeles TV reporter in this bawdy comedy who wakes up bleary-eyed and hungover after a one-night stand and must scramble to cover an event that could make or break her career.

May 9

• “Neighbors” — Seth Rogen plays a “Mr. Mom” type who has trouble coming to terms living next door to an out-of-control frat house headed by pretty boy/party animal Zac Efron.

• “Fading Gigolo” — John Tuturro directs and co-stars alongside Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Vanessa Paradis and Sofia Vergara in this film about an aging man who decides the best way to help his cash-strapped friend is by becoming a male prostitute.

• “Chef” — Jon Favreau directs himself, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. while playing a hot-shot chef trying to recover from disgrace by operating a high-end food truck.

May 16

• “Godzilla” — This umpteenth take on the action-horror staple looks to be something more than just another B-movie thanks to an uncredited script doctoring by Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”) and a cast that includes Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

• “Million Dollar Arm” — “Mad Men” lead Jon Hamm stars as a baseball agent who believes he can find the next great star by traveling to Asia and convincing top-flight cricket players to try a new sport.

• “God’s Pocket” — The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final performances stars in this mystery/thriller about a man who accidentally kills his stepson and tries to cover it up. Co-starring “Mad Men” chanteuse Christina Hendricks and Jon Tuturro.

May 23

• “X-Men: Days of Future Past” — The second prequel in the enormously successful sci-fi franchise sees the present day versions of the characters sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to prevent a cataclysmic event.

• “Blended” — “50 First Dates” co-stars Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunite as two single parents who, after an ill-advised blind date, find themselves sharing close quarters while at a family resort with their children.

May 30

• “Maleficent” — In an attempt to piggyback on the success of “Wicked,” Disney is hoping that this reworked story of “Sleeping Beauty” as told by the evil title character (Angelina Jolie) will catch fire with the lucrative young adult audience.

• “A Million Ways to Die in the West” — For his follow-up to “Ted,” writer/director/lead Seth McFarlane (not surprisingly) subverts the Western motif in what will surely be a profane, sexually explicit exercise in bad-boy bad taste.

June 6

• “Edge of Tomorrow” — Suggesting a sci-fi take on “Groundhog Day,” Tom Cruise stars as a space warrior who relives the last day of a battle with aliens. Written by Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”), directed by Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”) and co-starring the sublime Emily Blunt, this could turn out to be Cruise’s best effort in over a decade. Or not.

• “Cold in July” — Based on the 1989 novel of the same name, this southern gothic thriller stars Michael C. Hall who kills an intruder in self-defense but then must deal with the dead man’s retribution-seeking, wing-nut father (Sam Shepard).

• “The Fault of Our Stars” — Bouncing back to her indie roots after the relatively poor performance in “Divergent,” Shailene Woodley plays a girl dependent on an oxygen tank who enters a shaky romance with a boy (Ansel Elgort) she met at a cancer support group.

June 13

• “22 Jump Street” — The inevitable sequel to the surprisingly high-quality adaptation of the camp TV series again stars oil-and-water co-leads Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as undercover cops this time out trading in high school for college.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” — The first one was great but the anticipation level of this sequel could be low thanks to multiple direct-to-video follow-ups that failed to generate much excitement.

June 20

• “Think Like a Man Too” — Another sequel to a surprisingly good original, this urban, multi-tiered romance also includes comedy’s “next best thing” Kevin Hart who, from all indications, has no off switch.

June 27

• “Transformers: Age of Extinction” — Wow, what can you say? Part IV in what has proven to be one of the most lucrative yet creatively vacant franchises in cinematic history. The one glimmer of hope: Mark Wahlberg replaces original softball lead Shia LeBeouf.

July 4

• “Tammy” — Sweet/bad/big girl Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids,” “Identity Thief,” “The Heat”) hopes to continue her box-office winning streak with this comedy about a jilted wife who hits the road in the search for something new alongside her party animal grandmother (Susan Sarandon).

• “Earth to Echo” — Text-messaging plays a major role in this sci-fi adventure about a group of teens that receives weird texts and starts an investigation into strange occurrences at a local construction site.

July 11

• “Fast & Furious 7” — Likely to be short on story but long on outrageous stunts, this seventh installment in the most successful (money-wise) franchise in the history of Universal Studios will be bittersweet as it will have to write out the character played by the late Paul Walker.

• “And So It Goes” — Director Rob Reiner and co-leads Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton are all in heavy Def Con 5 career recovery mode in this oddball comedy about a real estate agent who turns to his neighbor to pick up his professional slack while he tends to a surprise abandoned grandchild.

July 18

• “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” — Bridging the narrative gap between the end of the recent prequel and the start of the 1969 original. If this second origin story is anywhere near has good as the last installment, prepare yourself to be wowed.

• “Sex Tape” — Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel play a married couple who wake up the morning after they filmed themselves in the act and can’t find their potentially scandalous production.

• “Planes: Fire & Rescue” — The first did nothing special either in the way of box office or critical acclaim to warrant a sequel but, hey, it’s the summer, a time when we get a lot of things we neither expected nor wanted.

July 25

• “Jupiter Ascending” — Given their recent track record, this sci-fi adventure from the Wachowski siblings (brother Andy and his former brother now sister Lana) will probably turn out be a major clunker. As the title character, Mila Kunis plays a destitute woman who becomes the target of assassination ordered by higher ups from the future. Channing Tatum co-stars.

• “Venue in Fur” — The always-controversial director Roman Polanski returns to old form with this adaptation of the racy 1870 novel of almost the same name that won the most recent Cesar Award (the French Oscar) for Best Picture.

• “Hercules” — The second origin story of the mythical character in less than a year stars Dwayne Johnson as the title character and is directed by Brett Ratner.

Aug. 1

• “Guardians of the Galaxy” — The brain trust at Marvel attempt to extend their sci-fi/adventure stronghold with this superhero origin story set in outer space that stars Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Benicio del Toro and Chris Pratt.

• “Calvary” — Brendan Gleeson plays the lead, a priest who hears more than he probably should have during a confession and does his best to protect himself from some serious bad guys in this comedic drama.

• “Fifty Shades of Grey” — The long-awaited adaptation of the mammoth erotic best-seller could become the surprise hit of the season or go down in flames. Relative unknowns Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) take the premise of “9 ½ Weeks” to a whole new level.

Aug. 8

• “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” — A slightly more serious (“serious” being a relative term) take on the 1980s comic book/cartoon that has since spawned dozens of spin-offs and reworkings. Being that it is coming out in August and features Megan Fox, Whoopi Goldberg and Johnny Knoxville, it would be advised to keep your expectations on the low side.

• “The Hundred-Foot Journey” — Produced by Oprah Winfrey and directed by Lasse Hallstrom, this low-key drama starring Dame Helen Mirren is about an Indian family that opens a restaurant in France in the hopes of competing with another far more established eatery across the street.

• “Into the Storm” — Starring and directed by no one you’ve ever heard of, this late-season disaster adventure is about a group of high school students chronicling the aftermath of a tornado.

Aug. 15

• “The Expendables 3” — The master of milking franchises until they’re beyond bone dry, Sylvester Stallone and every out-of-work action star from the last four decades show up a third time to take your money. Count on most of them returning next year at about this same time for a fourth go-around.

• “What If” — In what will likely prove his stint as the title character in the “Harry Potter” franchise was indeed his “15 minutes,” Daniel Radcliffe plays some guy who meets some girl and they must decide if they can be both friends and lovers. Yawn.

• “The Giver” — Based on the Lois Lowry book, this late-season sleeper sounds intriguing. After growing up in a utopian world without anything bad or controversial, a teen boy is sent back in time by his elders to experience something else entirely.

Aug. 22

• “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” — This sequel to the superb 2005 original might be showing up a day too late and a dollar or two short. Returning are director Robert Rodriquez and writer Frank Miller as well as most of the original cast, which is odd as at least two of their characters died in the first installment.

Aug. 29

• “The Loft” — Here’s a premise you don’t come across every day: Five friends who share a secret location for the purpose of cheating on their partners face moral, ethical and legal quandaries after discovering the dead body of a woman none of them know.