Who’s the man at the multiplex this summer?
In a season of epic showdowns, you have Iron Man and Superman. If that’s not enough testosterone, there’s Wolverine (half man, half beast) and Brad Pitt trying to kill men who aren’t even men anymore, but zombies.
The virile Captain Kirk is back in the pilot’s seat, and Bruce Willis is seeing “Red” again.
And then there’s the Wolfpack in “The Hangover, Part III” — drunk, disorderly men hoping to have an Excedrin good time in Mexico and Vegas.
Welcome to the summer movie season 2013, where all you need is a cape, a jet pack or some Red Bull to survive the 100+ new movies vying to be on top of the box office. And it’s not just dudes doing battle: See Chloe Grace Moretz reprising her role as Hit Girl in “Kick Ass 2.”
Here are a dozen of the summer’s brawniest titles:
‘MARVEL’S IRON MAN 3’ (May 3)
The hierarchy: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Kingsley star for director Shane Black.
The hype: Fresh off all that avenging, Iron Man (Downey) is back to basics as a guy in a metal suit who must take down a heinous terrorist mastermind who calls himself Mandarin (Kingsley). Fans should know that Mandarin is different from the comics in that he doesn’t fly and he’s minus his magic rings. No wonder Iron Man doesn’t need to call up his buddies Thor and Hulk. This guy is a piece of cake!
The hope: Of course, the greatest dream is that a three after the title turns into a four someday while stirring up interest for that looming “Avengers” sequel. “We’ll see what happens,” Downey says. “These things tend to come out of creative discussions.”
‘THE GREAT GATSBY’ (May 10)
The hierarchy: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire star for director Baz Luhrmann.
The hype: Maybe you haven’t read a word of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work since it was required in high school English class, which is fine with Luhrmann. He wants to reinvent the larger-than-life world of self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) and the fragile flower he loves named Daisy (Mulligan). You can see the parties and the bleak realities of the Roaring ’20s in 3-D.
The hope: “Face it, we’ve all read it. We love it,” Mulligan says. “The themes of love and greed are as current as ever.” Just don’t compare it to the 1974 version starring Robert Redford as Gatsby. Luhrmann promises that his film digs deeper into Gatsby the man.
‘STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS’ (May 17)
The hierarchy: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Benedict Cumberbatch star for director J.J. Abrams.
The hype: Kirk’s out of options (perhaps) as the USS Enterprise and crew must deal with a mystery bad guy (Cumberbatch of “Sherlock” fame) who believes in terrorism.
The hope: Pine, firmly in the captain’s seat this time and not just training for the job, says solidarity is key. “It’s a story about how in great danger, we must come together to save the day,” he says. Abrams has a lot riding on this mission, because his next movie will be that other little space adventure known as “Star Wars.”
‘FAST & FURIOUS 6’ (May 24)
The hierarchy: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Dwayne Johnson star for director Justin Lin.
The hype: Diesel is back as Dominic Toretto, who has lived to drive another day and fight with a special-ops rogue (Luke Evans of “The Hobbit”). Along for the ride is Rodriguez, back from the supposed dead.
The hope: Johnson doesn’t see an end in sight for this franchise. “These films are just plain good fun,” he says. “I think that when you put me and Vin up there and we give each other that look, audiences know it’s on. And Vin and I have fun just staring at each other.”
‘EPIC’ (May 24)
The hierarchy: Beyonce, Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson and Christoph Waltz lend their voices to director and “Ice Age” helmer Chris Wedge.
The hype: Imagine a world where the forest comes to life and tiny Leaf Men join forces with a regular girl (Seyfried) who has been zapped to XS size. Now imagine Hutcherson as the tough Leaf Guy Nod saving the day. It’s the first big kid flick of summer. Parents, imagine two hours of peace.
The hope: Wedge knows about sequels from those “Ice Age” films, so he hopes that “Epic” can become even more so in the future. Helping him is the fact that he snagged the hottest woman on the planet, Beyonce, to voice his film. “I really wanted her to play Queen Tara, the life of the forest,” Wedge says. “The key to getting her was that this is an update of a queen. She’s powerful. She’s a warrior.”
‘THE HANGOVER PART III” (May 24)
The hierarchy: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong star for director Todd Phillips.
The hype: It’s the last boys’ jaunt as the guys end up in Mexico and Las Vegas, where it all began. The trip is necessary because Alan (Galifianakis) flips out after his father dies. Why are they hanging off the Caesar’s Palace hotel? Only time will tell. Jeong is back as baddie Mr. Chow, joined by another not-so-nice entity played by John Goodman.
The hope: It’s no gamble that the Wolfpack will go out with a major box office bang. “People keep asking me if it really is the last one … and it really is, I’m sad to say,” says Cooper.
‘MAN OF STEEL’ (June 14)
The hierarchy: Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner star for director Zack Snyder.
The hype: It’s a bird, it’s a plane … no, it’s the superest of Warner Bros.’ superheroes, in a unitard that doesn’t even sport the red diaper. This origin story that has him as the only non-genetically engineered baby on Krypton, sent to Earth to save us.
The only problem is his Kansas parents (Lane and Costner) have messed him up a bit, and now he doubts himself and refuses to embrace his inner freak. There is no Kryptonite this time. Our new Superman has to deal with self-doubt, the real buzzkill for any guy in tights.
The hope: Warner’s hopes to restart the franchise and spin this off into a Justice League film or three. “It really is a new Superman,” says Chicago actor Michael Shannon, who plays the new General Zod. “Let’s just say that Zod is very goal-orientated,” he says of the role. “He is a general, so he has plans and strategies. I’m looking at this world domination thing from a very military point of view.” On the Vancouver set, Zod was besties with Crowe, who plays the Marlon Brando role of Kal-El (the dad who jettisons Superman to the Midwest). “Yes, we hung out, went out to dinner and even worked out at the gym together,” says Shannon. “He put me through his exercise routines. Zod and Kal-El, enemies no longer!”
‘WORLD WAR Z’ (June 21)
The hierarchy: Brad Pitt and Mireille Enos star for director Marc Forster.
The hype: Forget about “Warm Bodies.” There is nothing warm and fuzzy about the non-dead that Pitt is hunting down in the $170 million man-vs.-dead-man epic based on the 2006 novel by Max Brooks. Pitt (who also produced) plays a former UN “hot zone” specialist who must scour the globe to find what started a virus that not only offs humans, but brings them back as infectious zombies.
The hope: After six years of working on the film, Pitt hopes to see some life at the box office. He’s banking on the fact that faster-moving, hunting type of zombies will have pulses pounding. With that production price tag, the film needs for zombie lovers everywhere to get their “Z.”
‘WHITE HOUSE DOWN’ (June 28)
The hierarchy: Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx star for director Roland Emmerich.
The hype: Just when you thought it was safe to live in the White House, a renegade band of mercenaries decides to attack. A handsome, often shirtless Secret Service agent (Tatum) must guard his president (Foxx) while making sure that his daughter (Joey King) doesn’t get into the action. Foxx seems quite Obamaesque, although he claims that he’s just playing a character.
The hope: Channing Tatum, action star? It has been a diehard dream of his for a long time, although he insists that only fun, smart action is his thing. “It’s the kind of summer movie,” he says, “where I’d tell my wife two months in advance, ‘Get ready. We’re seeing this one.’ ”
‘THE LONE RANGER’ (July 7)
The hierarchy: Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer star for director Gore Verbinski.
The hype: In what is pegged as a “comedy, Western, rock opera,” Johnny Depp is Tonto to Hammer’s Lone Ranger in a reported $215 million film version of the classic characters.
Based on the 1933 radio series, the update has a man named John Reid, a country lawyer, arriving in a small Texas town in 1869 with hopes of settlin’ down.
He finds himself attacked by the Cavendish gang, outlaws who kill his brother. Native American guide Tonto rides in for the rescue, and the two team up to restore law and order.
The hope: Depp hopes for Tonto to become an international hero. A fan of the show since he was a young boy, he took the role so seriously that after studying with the real Comanche tribe, he was made an honorary member in real life.
His Native American name is Mah-Woo-Meh, which fits the actor nicely because it means shape shifter.
‘RED 2’ (July 19)
The hierarchy: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins star for director Dean Parisot.
The hype: The sequel to the 2010 action thriller about senior government agents who aren’t ready to be put out to pasture features a Cold War scientist (Hopkins) who is up to no good.
That means Frank Moses (Willis) and his girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) are in serious danger when they find out he’s at the top of Interpol’s most wanted list. They also have to deal with Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays Moses’ former love.
The hope: Mirren gets the action going by informing Willis that she has been given a contract to kill him.
“I love that she’s given the job, which proves that there is nothing sexist at all about this movie,” she says.
‘THE WOLVERINE’ (July 26)
The hierarchy: Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima star for director James Mangold.
The hype: In the character’s second solo film, Jackman returns to the role that made him an international superstar.
He takes out the claws again when Wolverine finds himself in Japan fighting both the yakuza and ninjas.
The hope: Jackman wants to give fans a darker, more intense Wolverine who can handle any kind of action, including fighting on a speeding bullet train.
“It was insane to shoot it,” Jackman says. “One of the most emblematic things about Japan is the bullet train. What we shot was me on a train standing in what looks like 300-mile-per-hour wind. I looked at the footage and thought, ‘Time for a facelift!’ ”
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