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Walt Disney Motion Pictures
Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer star in “The Lone Ranger,” which opens July 3.
summer movie preview

Summer movie preview: Dark to light fare

Lots to see from dark to light fare

Warner Bros. Pictures
From left: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms star in “The Hangover Part III.”
Paramount Pictures
Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine star in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which opens this week.
Photo illustration by Christy Keller | The Journal
“The Smurfs 2” opens Aug. 2.

The carefree days of summer are just ahead, which means warm weekends, light traffic and vacation plans. And yet, filmmakers seem to have something darker in mind: doomsday.

Movie releases promise a zombie apocalypse and massive monsters, humans moving to another planet and others relocating to a space station. There are even a couple of catastrophe comedies. Of course, if Armageddon isn’t your thing, there will be other options.

Read on for a look at upcoming theater releases, including some lighter, less cataclysmic entertainment. Opening dates and film ratings may change, as well as dates films will open locally.

May

“The Great Gatsby” (PG-13) – A star-studded cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan brings F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel to the big screen in 3-D. (Opened Friday)

“Tyler Perry Presents Peeples” (PG-13) – Despite the title, Perry merely produced this comedy, which can only be good news after the mess that was “Tyler Perry’s Temptation.” (Opened Friday)

“Star Trek Into Darkness” (PG-13) – With a total of 12 films, this franchise has definitely lived long and prospered. And after J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot struck box-office gold, a sequel couldn’t be far behind. Stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto return. (Opens Wednesday)

“Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” (PG-13) – The documentary about the New York fashion mecca includes interviews with Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, Candice Bergen, Joan Rivers and other designers, tastemakers and critics. (Opens Friday)

“The Iceman” (R) – Michael Shannon portrays Richard Kuklinski, a contract killer responsible for more than 100 murders who led a double life as a suburban family man. Also stars Chris Evans. (Opens Friday)

“Fast and Furious 6” (PG-13) – The ride continues for Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker and Jason Statham. The gang reunites for some engine revving, including one character who looked pretty dead the last time we saw her. (Opens May 24)

“The Hangover Part III” (R) – For the supposed final installment of lost-and-found, the wolf pack returns to Las Vegas where they bump into old favorites, including Heather Graham’s hooker with a heart of gold and Mr. Chow. (Opens May 24)

“Epic” (PG) – A teenage girl goes looking for her father in the forest and is transformed into an itty-bitty version of herself in this animated adventure. Amanda Seyfried, Beyoncé and Josh Hutcherson provide voices. (Opens May 24)

“What Maisie Knew” (R) – The modern and loose adaptation of Henry James’ novel tells the story of a little girl as she witnesses her parents viciously part ways and re-couple with new partners. Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. (Opens May 24)

“After Earth” (PG-13) – Centuries after humans emigrated from Earth to a new planet, a father and son crash land in mankind’s unruly former home. M. Night Shyamalan directs Will and Jaden Smith. (Opens May 31)

“Now You See Me” (PG-13) – In this mind-bending heist movie starring Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo and Isla Fisher, a group of illusionists have some stellar and crowd-pleasing tricks up their sleeves. Their shows feature bank robberies, and the audience members enjoy the spoils. (Opens May 31)

“Before Midnight” (R) – Nearly two decades after “Before Sunrise,” writer-director Richard Linklater concludes his trilogy about the on-again, off-again relationship between an American man and the French woman he met on a train. (Opens May 31)

“The East” (PG-13) – Brit Marling’s star launched at Sundance a couple of years ago with a one-two punch of films she wrote and starred in. She teams once again with writer-director Zal Batmanglij for this thriller about a spy embedded among a group of anarchists. (Opens May 31)

June

“The Kings of Summer” (R) – Two best friends and one oddball interloper decide to escape their stifling parents and live in the woods for the summer. (Opens June 7)

“The Internship” (not yet rated) – Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, playing their customary characters (the motormouth and the straight man), are dropped into another fish-out-of-water scenario. After the salesmen lose their jobs, they somehow snag internships at Google. (Opens June 7)

“The Purge” (R) – One night a year, the police let murder and mayhem ensue while turning a blind eye. The 1-percenters bolt their doors and turn on their security systems, but the 12-hour period is going to prove especially harrowing for one family when their daughter lets in an outsider. (Opens June 7)

“Syrup” (R) – The adaptation of Max Barry’s cult novel satirizes the gleaming deception of marketing by looking at a slacker with a get-rich-quick scheme. Stars Brittany Snow and Kellan Lutz. (Opens June 7)

“This is the End” (not yet rated) – James Franco, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill play themselves, watching Los Angeles collapse around them and facing doomsday. (Opens June 14)

“Man of Steel” (PG-13) – It seems like yesterday that Superman was getting a reboot. But that was seven years ago, and “The Tudors” star Henry Cavill is now in the cape. (Opens June 14)

“Stuck in Love” (R) – This might be the “Crazy Stupid Love” of 2013, starring Greg Kinnear as a recently divorced writer struggling with his single status. (Opens June 14)

“The Bling Ring” (R) – Director Sofia Coppola’s latest was inspired by the true story of a group of California teens who robbed the houses of famous tabloid fixtures. (Opens June 14)

“World War Z” (PG-13) – Brad Pitt plays a United Nations worker who might save humanity if he can figure out how to stop the proliferation of zombies. (Opens June 21)

“Much Ado About Nothing” (PG-13) – The cast may look familiar to Joss Whedon’s army of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans. Despite populating the film with his usual collaborators, the writer-director defies predictability with an adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy. (Opens June 21)

“Monsters University” (not yet rated) – The prequel to Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” chronicles how the odd couple of animation met. (Opens June 21)

“White House Down” (not yet rated) – The second terrorists-take-Washington film of 2013 comes to the screen courtesy of the prince of the apocalypse, director Roland Emmerich. Stars Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and Maggie Gyllenhaal. (Opens June 28)

“The Heat” (R) – “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig oversees this comedy about an FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) forced to work with a disheveled Boston police officer (Melissa McCarthy) on a big drug case. (Opens June 28)

July

“The Lone Ranger” (not yet rated) – Director Gore Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean“) cast Johnny Depp as the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick, Tonto. Armie Hammer plays the Lone Ranger. (Opens July 3)

“Despicable Me 2” (PG) – The sequel to the 2010 animated hit finds the reformed bad guy, Gru, recruited by an anti-villain league. (Opens July 3)

“The Way, Way Back” (PG-13) – Occasional actors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash wrote and directed this coming-of-age tale, which stars Steve Carell and AnnaSophia Robb, about a boy’s unlikely friendship with the manager of a water park. (Opens July 5)

“Grown Ups 2” (PG-13) – Adam Sandler and his production company, Happy Madison, seem poised to continue their streak of critical bombs and Razzie contenders, which included the first “Grown Ups” installment. (Opens July 12)

“Pacific Rim” (PG-13) – “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro brought this big-budget action movie to life about humans who build robots to defend the Earth. (Opens July 12)

“Turbo” (not yet rated) – The voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Maya Rudolph lend to this animated film about a snail with dreams of racing in the Indy 500. (Opens July 19)

“Girl Most Likely” (PG-13) – “Bridesmaids” proved Kristen Wiig’s talent for portraying rock bottom-bound characters with just the right mix of comedy and emotion. This time around, she’s a failed playwright forced to move in with her mother and younger brother. (Opens July 19)

“Red 2” (not yet rated) – The sequel to the 2010 sleeper hit finds Bruce Willis reassembling a group of over-the-hill assassins. (Opens July 19)

“The Conjuring” (not yet rated) – “Saw” mastermind James Wan dreamed up this horror movie about a couple of paranormal activity investigators. (Opens July 19)

“R.I.P.D.” (PG-13) – Ryan Reynolds plays a recently killed cop recruited by the Rest In Peace Department, which apprehends deceased souls lingering on Earth. (Opens July 19)

“The Wolverine” (not yet rated) – The never-ending saga of the clawed Canadian (Hugh Jackman) continues. (Opens July 26)

“Blue Jasmine” (PG-13) – Director Woody Allen has been cagey about the details of his next film. What we do know: The cast includes Cate Blancett, Alec Baldwin and Peter Sarsgaard, and after a handful of European-set films, the auteur is back on American soil. (Opens July 26)

August

“The Smurfs 2” (not yet rated) – In this cerulean twist on the damsel-in-distress routine, the little blue creatures try to save Smurfette from Gargamel’s clutches. (Opens Aug. 2)

“300: Rise of an Empire” (not yet rated) – The violent CGI-filled action flick is a prequel to the 2007 hit. (Opens Aug. 2)

“2 Guns” (not yet rated) – Baltasar Kormakur, who directed Mark Wahlberg in the well-received “Contraband,” once again collaborates with the actor in this convoluted story about two undercover agents who start out investigating each other and end up allies when they wind up on the wrong side of both the mob and the law. (Opens Aug. 2)

“The Spectacular Now” (not yet rated) – After a drunk high school senior (Miles Teller) passes out on the lawn of his classmate (Shailene Woodley), the pair become friends. (Opens Aug. 2)

“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” (not yet rated) – The sequel to the kid-friendly 2010 fantasy follows Percy on his quest to find the golden fleece. (Opens Aug. 9)

“Elysium” (not yet rated) – In the futuristic sci-fi film, the wealthy live on a state-of-the-art space station, while the prols are stuck on Earth with no hope of gaining access to the Shangri-la above. Matt Damon plays a man capable of bringing the two groups together. (Opens Aug. 9)

“We’re the Millers” (not yet rated) – A small-time drug dealer assembles a faux family – including a stripper, played by Jennifer Aniston, posing as his fake wife. (Opens Aug. 9)

“Planes” (not yet rated) – Think of Disney’s animated feature as “Cars” but in the sky. (Opens Aug. 9)

“Prince Avalanche” (not yet rated) – Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play road workers who become friends – mostly because there’s no one else around. (Opens Aug. 16)

“Kick-Ass 2” (not yet rated) – Jim Carrey joins the crew for this sequel to the comic book adaptation. (Opens Aug. 16)

“The World’s End” (not yet rated) – The British team behind the much-loved “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” team up for this black comedy about a group of hard-partying friends that may be mankind’s last glimmer of hope. (Opens Aug. 23)

“Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (not yet rated) – After her mother is kidnapped by a demon, a teenage girl finds out she may not be human. (Opens Aug. 23)

“Closed Circuit” (R) – Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall star as lawyers and exes forced to work together on a case defending a terrorist. (Opens Aug. 30)

“One Direction: This Is Us” (not yet rated) – “Super Size Me” director Morgan Spurlock directed this documentary about British boy band One Direction. (Opens Aug. 30)

“Getaway” (not yet rated) – Ethan Hawke plays a retired race car driver trying to save his kidnapped wife. (Opens Aug. 30)

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