Last Friday marked the official start of the summer movie season with the release of "Iron Man 3." And with that film grossing approximately two buttloads of money, it most likely means that audiences will be treated to even more superhero/comic book 3-D extravaganzas and never-ending film franchises (they're making a seventh "Fast and Furious" movie before the sixth one even comes out later this month because WWWHHHYYYY?!?).
But it's not all inane sequels (wait, they made a "Red 2?") and bizarre remakes ("The Lone Ranger?!") and unnecessary adaptations of classic literature (this new "Great Gatsby" = No, ma'am) — there are some actual films with original ideas and creativity to spare this summer. Thusly, here's a top five list of Things To Look For This Summer that are not a sequel/prequel/threequl/reboot/childhood-ruining remake:
1. High-Concept: This summer sees the release of several big-budget projects which, like "Inception" before them, try to give audiences something new and possibly challenging. Most high-profile is "Elysium," the follow-up from the director of the contemporary classic "District 9," which looks to be another sci-fi spectacle by way of biting social satire. Another promising title is "Pacific Rim," the much buzzed-about monster flick from "Pan's Labyrinth" director Guillermo del Toro. The synopsis makes it sound a bit like "Transformers" meets "Avatar," which is not a crossover anyone asked for nor wanted, but del Toro has a distinct enough vision to make it distinguishable.
Also opening, but with a more let's-wait-and-see-how-this-turns-out status, are the magician caper "Now You See Me," which could turn out to be surprisingly inventive (but, let's be honest, probably won't), and the sci-fi action tale "After Earth," which stars Will and Jaden Smith and is directed by M. Night Shyamalan and ... OK, I can't even PRETEND that this isn't going to be a future Razzie winner.
2. Comedy: Summer is the ideal time to start a new comedy film franchise, such as "The Hangover" or "Grown Ups" (yes, they're releasing a "Grown Ups 2" for reasons only Satan knows), but hopefully this year's new titles will take a page from "Bridesmaids'" book and not give in to the sequel craze. The most promising upcoming releases are the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy buddy-cop vehicle "The Heat" and "The World's End," the much-awaited third collaboration between the director and stars of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz."
Other releases include the all-star disaster comedy "This Is the End;" Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson's attempt to get their "Wedding Crashers"-era careers back with "The Internship;" and the latest Jennifer Aniston bomb "We're the Millers."
3. Sleeper Hits: It's always fun to see what film will surprise studio heads and become a breakout hit, following in the hallowed footsteps of "The Sixth Sense," "American Pie" and last year's "Ted."
Candidates for this year's title include "The Way, Way Back," which was a crowd-pleasing hit at Sundance and is being marketed as the new "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Juno;" "Blue Jasmine," the latest from Woody Allen, who had his biggest hit ever with the 2011 summer release "Midnight in Paris;" horror flick "The Conjuring," from the director of low-budget hits "Saw" and "Insidious;" and "White House Down," which looks to be the EXACT. SAME. MOVIE. as the Spring hit "Olympus Has Fallen."
On the animated front, new titles include "Turbo," about the world's fastest snail (sure, why not) and "Epic," which I am CONVINCED is just an unholy ripoff of my second-favorite animated film of 1992, "FernGully." Don't try to tell me otherwise.
4. TV Break: "But what of TV?" some of you may be asking. "There are many fine programs airing today that rival even the best of film." Well, this summer ... you're kinda out of luck. Along with the onslaught of reality-TV shows, including the debut of Animal Planet's fishing competition series "Top Hooker" (I am not joking), there's very little summer programing that isn't based on bestselling books (Stephen King's "Under the Dome" miniseries), a telenova remake (Lifetime's "Devious Maids") or a spin-off (Disney Channel's "Girl Meets World").
The only noteworthy original productions so far, though, seem to be HBO's "Family Tree," which debuts Sunday and is from comedic genius Christopher Guest, and Showtime's "Ray Donovan," which will air in June. And, of course, you can't forget the last eight episodes of the beloved crime drama "Breaking Bad" in August — seriously, you can't forget it, every hipster who binge-watched the series on Netflix will do nothing but talk about it for the next few months.
5. Indie Flicks: A gentle, low-fi reminder that summer movies don't always have to be about kung-fu robots and comic book adaptations, your local independent film theater will be playing a stream of lower-profile — but just as worthy — titles that will probably, in its entire run, make the same amount of money that "Iron Man 3" made in half an hour.
Original titles to keep a lookout on include Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring," based on the true story of several teen girls who robbed the homes of several celebrities; the big winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival, "Fruitvale Station;" quirky comedies "Girl Most Likely" and "The To-Do List;" the horror flick "You're Next," which has been a hit at numerous film festivals; and "Only God Forgives," a stylized thriller that looks like it's just "Drive" set in Bangkok, which makes sense because it's from Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling, the director and star of "Drive," respectively.