Many of this year's summer movies trade on such close variations of the same idea, it's like every new release has an alter ego, opposite number, or Bizarro World version. Even the idea of movies about twins is, uh, twinned, with the matching independent films The Double (May 9) with Jesse Eisenberg and The One I Love (Aug. 15) with Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass both hinging on mysterious doppelgängers.
At least the summer of 2014 features a little more variety among would-be blockbusters than simply action spectacles. This story focuses on the paired-up movies, and determines which of the twins could be the evil one. Note: All release dates are subject to change.
Box office forecasters predict that, in the absence of an Avengers-like sure thing, the summer's most popular movie will be How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13), the follow-up to one of DreamWorks Animation's best films. Set five years after the 2010 feature, Dragon 2 finds meek Hiccup (voiced Jay Baruchel) serving as the dragon expert in a Viking community that has tamed the flying beast. The plot is sure to involve big scary dragons, but adorable Toothless will remain front and center.
Nitpickers might argue that Godzilla, as an irradiated, resurrected dinosaur, does not technically qualify dragon, despite being a giant reptile that breathes fire (in most of his incarnations). Compared to some of the juvenile entries in the long-running series, this Godzilla (May 16) looks grim and moody, going so far as to quote Robert Oppenheimer's "I am become Death" speech in an early trailer. Bryan Cranston stars as a grieving husband who discovers that a rash of natural disasters foreshadow an even greater threat.
Evil twin: Godzilla looks to be an apocalyptic badass compared to DreamWorks' cartoon dragons.
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- PARTY TIME: 22 Jump Street and Neighbors take shots at the abrasiveness of bro-culture.
Frequent movie partners Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill split up this summer, but both take on party-school dynamics. In Neighbors (in theaters), a wild fraternity moves onto a residential street next door to young parents (Rogen and Rose Byrne), setting off a rivalry of pranks and other bad behavior. Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Nicholas Stoller directed the comedy that has been well-received in early screenings.
Hill's surprisingly funny hit 21 Jump Street continues its ironic take on big-screen TV adaptations with the sequel, inevitably titled 22 Jump Street (June 13). This time Jenko and Schmidt (Channing Tatum and Hill) are investigating a college drug ring while learning about themselves through art classes and football practice. Returning directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are on a role after their hilarious work with The LEGO Movie.
Evil twin: Zac Efron's change-of-pace role as Neighbors' college ringleader makes the frat definitely look like the antagonist.
This summer two films attain to redeem the film parody genre, long tarnished by the likes of A Haunted House. Writer/director/actor Seth MacFarlane follows up his hit Ted by front-lining the Western spoof A Million Ways to Die in the West (May 30). MacFarlane's cowardly sheepherder woos a tough beauty (Charlize Theron) who teaches him how to take on a nasty gunslinger (Liam Neeson).
Meanwhile, director David Wain (who lampooned summer camp movies with Wet Hot American Summer) takes on romantic comedies with They Came Together (June 27). Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler play a couple that faces contrived obstacles en route to true love.
Evil twin: West's bad-boy comedy promises lots of crude jokes — and possibly the most laughs. Together has a cute premise that may not sustain a full-length feature, like Walk Hard's goof on music biopics. And speaking of which ...
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- HIT ME: Jersey Boys and Get on Up tell stories of American rags-to-riches rock ’n’ roll legends.
Two decades-spanning films depict the behind-the-scenes drama behind famous chart-toppers. First, Clint Eastwood helms an adaptation of the jukebox musical Jersey Boys (June 20), the story of Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and the Four Seasons, crooners of such bubbly tunes like "Big Girls Don't Cry."
Then in August, Get on Up (Aug. 1) attempts to do justice to the legacy and tempestuous life of Georgia's James Brown, one of R&B's most electrifying performers. Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in 42, portrays the hardest working man in show business.
Evil twin: Jersey Boys could be one of those misleadingly wholesome-looking evil twins, given how much the trailer emphasizes the group's weighty conflicts. Meanwhile, The Help's Tate Taylor directs Get on Up and may soften James Brown's edge.
- COURTESY WALT DISNEY AND WARNER BROS
- BIG MACHINES: Dane Cook’s comic voice overs in Planes: Fire and Rescue might be more evil than the dinobots Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Could the sentient machines of Michael Bay's Transformers films evolve into the talking vehicles of Cars and Planes? Both franchise seems unstoppable, as Bay returns to helm Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27), the fourth film since 2007. Mark Wahlberg replaces Shia LaBeouf as the human hero at a time when the alien Transformers have gone into hiding, at least until a bunch of action scenes breaks out, including even bigger Dinobots.
Meanwhile, Planes: Fire & Rescue (July 18) comes out less than a year after the initial Planes. In this outing, Dusty the crop duster (Dane Cook) heads out West to join a Fire and Rescue team of aircraft and ATVs.
Evil Twin: Planes: Fire & Rescue counts as evil, if for no other reason than it might trick audiences into thinking it's a Pixar movie, when it's only set in the same "universe" as Cars. Also, it doesn't have Dinobots.
Based on the rare bestselling YA novel that doesn't involve vampires or dystopias, The Fault in Our Stars (June 6) depicts two young cancer patients (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) who meet at a support group and fall in love despite their serious illnesses.
A different kind of health complication arises in Obvious Child (June 6 limited), which stars Jenny Slate as a Brooklyn comedian who believes her unplanned pregnancy could spoil her potential romance (Jake Lacy).
Evil Twin: Fault's trailer looks a little hypocritical, critiquing Hollywood sugar-coating while building to exactly that. Meanwhile, film festivals have praised Obvious Child for the risky humor and candor with which it treats abortion as an issue.
Crazy space operas
The late summer release season features a pair of special effects-heavy sci-fi melodramas that both look like massive gambles. In Jupiter Ascending (July 18), the more self-important of the two, ordinary human Mila Kunis is revealed to be some kind of space princess, protected by a half-wolf hero (Channing Tatum) from the forces of evil. The film looks gorgeous, but the Wachowski siblings have become equally known for game-changing visuals and ill-conceived ideas.
On the lighter side of the universe, Marvel Studios takes a break from superheroes to introduce a team of scruffy alien scoundrels in Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1). "Parks and Recreation's" Chris Pratt leads a team that includes a walking tree and a talking raccoon (voiced by Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, respectively). Writer-director James Gunn has shown a sly sense of humor in his previous films and the Guardians trailer, suggesting that people will either love or hate this one.
Evil twin: Guardians' antiheroic exploits look a heckuva lot more fun than Jupiter's outer space fairy tale.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23) could be the conjoined twin of the summer. It brings together the original mutants from the first three X-Men movies, including Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart as Magneto and Professor X, with their younger counterparts (Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy) from the prequel X-Men: First Class. The plot uses Hugh Jackman's Wolverine to bridge the time lines, as the elders send Wolverine back to the past to enlist their younger selves to prevent a dystopian future of mutant genocide and giant robots.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11), the latest in an even longer-running franchise, follows 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes to find the survivors in a post-apocalyptic America being out-evolved by the superintelligent primates led by Caesar (Andy Serkis' motion-capture creation). Jason Clarke takes over from James Franco as the human hero.
Evil twin: While Bryan Singer helmed the first two X-Men movies, he hasn't had a good track record since then, and Future Past seems so weighed down with characters, it may not live up to its fun premise. Dawn's momentum and mood look more worthy of the survival of the fittest.