May 6 2014 06:21 PM

Comic-book sequels and big-budget remakes offer little respite from the Hollywood creativity drought

The big lizard is back.

Summer movies are a lot like ice-cream cones left out in the sweltering sun: One second they're there, and the next they've melted from memory. When it comes to Hollywood product released between May and August, substance isn't a strong suit. But it's difficult to get too angry with the business-minded executives for unleashing one forgettable (and profitable) summer movie after another. People keep buying tickets, and writers keep penning previews like this one. 

So, we get the summer movies we deserve. The recent onslaught of comic-book mania and Marvel fandemonium has made the multiplex look like a man-child's fantasy playground. Fittingly, the 2014 season begins with a barrage of sequels and spin-offs, starting last week with The Amazing Spiderman 2, yet another action slog that looks more like a protracted video game than cinema. 

Gareth Edwards' Godzilla screams into theaters on May 16. Early trailers suggest a beautifully crafted disaster epic, so maybe one big-budget film will have lasting value. That same weekend, San Diego audiences get Gia Coppola's angst-riddled debut Palo Alto, about disaffected teens (are there any other kind?) living in the Bay Area, and Richard Ayoade's The Double, a mind-bending comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg.

Rounding out the month will be X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23), reeling from its director Bryan Singer's sex-abuse scandal; Francois Ozon's prostitution drama Young and Beautiful (May 23); Maleficent (May 30), starring a vampy Angelina Jolie as the famous fairy-tale baddie; and Jim Mickle's Texas noir Cold in July (May 30).

June is beset with more genre heavyweights. Tom Cruise stars in Edge of Tomorrow (June 6), which looks like Groundhog Day by way of M. Night Shyamalan. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return with sarcastic force in 22 Jump Street (June 13), by comedy darlings Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Michael Bay unleashes another mega robot film with his Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27), having replaced the whiny Shia LaBeouf with the incessantly cool and capable Mark Wahlberg.

The Clint Eastwood enthusiast in me is eager to see what the master director does with his Jersey Boys (June 20) adaptation, while smaller international fare like Lukas Moodysson's punk parable We are the Best! (June 13) and David Michod's dirty post-apocalyptic western The Rover (June 20), starring Guy Pierce and Robert Pattinson, provide some much needed counter programming. 

Curiously, the summer's major holiday weekend will sport very little machismo onscreen: We'll get a healthy dose of Melissa McCarthy in Tammy (July 2) and Keira Knightly in John Carney's Begin Again (July 4), his first film released stateside since 2006's Once. The following week holds more promise with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11), Matt Reeves' impressive-looking sequel to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Thankfully, July also sees the release of multiple independent films buoyed by great word-of-mouth. Richard Linklater's decade-in-the making Boyhood (July 18) is my most anticipated. Anton Corbijn's thriller A Most Wanted Man (July 25) stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles. Finally, Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens' Iceland-set comedy Land Ho! (July 25) provides Paul Eenhoorn with another starring role after his sensational turn in last year's This is Martin Bonner

That brings us to August, the most dependably terrible of summer months. Marvel attempts to launch a new franchise with Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1). If you're into guns, guts and grizzled old actions stars, Expendables 3 (Aug. 15) is your game. Finally, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller unleash another growling CGI neo-noir with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Aug. 22). 

There is hope, though: John Michael McDonagh's Calvary (Aug. 1) gives us another fine Brendan Gleeson performance to admire while we wait for Oscar season to commence. Proceed accordingly. 

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