Summer means vacations, beaches, theme parks and, thankfully, summer movies. Hollywood spends big money producing its loud, funny, scary, and apocalyptic summer party and expects us to slap down a pretty penny to watch. The fun starts today with Robert Downey Jr. returning in “Iron Man 3,” complete with a phalanx of armored soldiers fighting a ruthless and cunning enemy played by Ben Kingsley. And as temperatures rise in the coming weeks, the action will ramp up as well: Superman will return in “Man of Steel,” zombies will attack in “World War Z,” and a masked man will ride back into our lives in “The Lone Ranger.
You'll also see a Wolverine, Smurfs, guys with hangovers and the crew of the Enterprise. Prepare to get a lot of sand between your toes from playing in the cinematic sandbox. Maybe this list will help you budget your summer allowance. MAY “The Great Gatsby” (May 10): The classic literary tale by F. Scott Fitzgerald comes to life – delivered in gimmicky 3D. Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) lives a fantastical lifestyle and shares his riches with a humble yet nosy neighbor (Tobey Maguire) whose curiosity unlocks questions and trouble. Directed by Baz Lurhrmann, let's hope it isn't just dazzling eye-candy. “Star Trek Into Darkness” (May 17): Director J.J. Abrams gives us more of the ultimate geek franchise with Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and crew facing a bad guy (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is hell-bent on destroying anyone and anything. This may be best cinematic vacation one could take this summer. “Epic” (May 24): We'll decide the epic-ness of this animated fairytale adventure, which seems to be the cross-section of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” All-star voice cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz and Pitbull. “Fast & Furious 6” (May 24): Picking up where the last one revved up, Agents Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is still in hot pursuit of the high octane tag-team of Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker). But Hobbs isn't looking to catch them; he wants to recruit them and their team of maverick drivers to do what they do best – controlled chaos behind the wheel. “The Hangover Part III” (May 24): Stop me if you heard this one before: A group of guys hit the road, lose their wits, misplace a friend and incoherently try to put the pieces together. Here's hoping tweaks have been made to this Molotov cocktail or we're all in for another unfunny sequel headache. “Now You See Me” (May 31): Four Las Vegas magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Isla Fisher) are accused of robbing banks while doing their stage show in front of live audiences. Let's hope this trick is a mind-bending treat. “After Earth” (May 31): Will Smith, king of the summer blockbuster, looks to sit on the throne again with this epic sci-fi product set 1,000 years in the future. Smith plays an officer who takes his cadet son (played by real-life son Jaden) on a space excursion that ends in a crash landing on the long-forgotten planet Earth. The duo then navigates the ravaged planet looking for a way off. “The Purge” (May 31): In the not so-distant future, America has hardly any crime, 1 percent unemployment and no poverty. Why? Well, one day a year, anything goes. The government looks away and law enforcement officials take the night-off as society is allowed to be as lawless as it wants to be. If that doesn't hook you, nothing will. Also Playing: “The Iceman” (May 3); “Kiss of the Damned” (May 3) JUNE “The Internship” (June 7): Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite in this workplace comedy in which they become interns at Google. Trying to play off the old guys competing with the younger tech-savvy generation could please the young professional demographic. But don't expect any “Wedding Crashers”-type success or laughs. “Man of Steel” (June 14): The latest attempt to re-launch arguably the greatest superhero franchise ever could soar to new heights, all thanks to a super man working behind the scenes: producer Christopher Nolan. The architect of “The Dark Knight” trilogy has kept a watchful eye on this production, which brings Henry Cavill (“The Tudors”) to the role. “This is the End” (June 12): While a bunch of celebrities (Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson) are partying at actor James Franco's house, the apocalypse occurs, and they must fight for survival. With everyone “playing” themselves, this is either comedic heaven or a disaster waiting to happen. “Monsters University” (June 21): The prequel to Disney/Pixar's animated “Monsters Inc.” chronicles how Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) came together as they attended the scare tactic college for vibrant monsters. “World War Z” (June 21): In what is being touted as the “most expensive zombie movie ever made,” Brad Pitt stars as a United Nations employee seeking a cure for a pandemic that prompts the undead to attack the world's cities. With the zombie apocalypse and an underlying political subtext, this film may be the panacea for audiences looking for both action and intelligence in their summer movie. “The Heat” (June 28): Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy play mismatched law enforcement agents trying to solve a trivial case. If you wanted to see the female version of the stereotypical buddy-cop flick, your wish has been granted. “White House Down” (June 28): When Washington, D.C, is attacked by military forces, a police officer (Channing Tatum) tries to protect the president (Jamie Foxx) and others from mercenaries invading the White House. Can you say “Olympus Has Fallen”? There's a bigger budget, but let's hope there's also a little more brain power this time around. Also Playing: “Much Ado About Nothing” (June 7), “Copperhead” (June 28) JULY “Despicable Me 2” (July 3): Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his minions go all James Bond-like to stop a super-criminal in this 3-D animated adventure. The kids will be into the visually stimulating characters and there should be enough edgy dialogue to please adults. “The Lone Ranger” (July 3): Disney tapped “Pirates of the Caribbean” captain Gore Verbanski to do a big-budget version of the beloved literary/television character. Johnny Depp is Tonto and Armie Hammer dons the legendary mask. Giddy-up! “Grown Ups 2” (July 12): Adam Sandler and friends (Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and just about every other former “Saturday Night Live” cast member they can squeeze in) come together to rip on kids today as they raise their own. The group also gets to relive past high school glories. “Pacific Rim” (July 12): Writer/director Guillermo del Toro lets out his expensive inner-child in this film about Godzilla-like creatures rising from the ocean to wreak havoc on Earth. The remaining humans mount a counterattack by constructing huge robots to destroy the overgrown pets. “Turbo” (July 17): Because there aren't enough animated movies about snails, a freak accident genetically enhances a slug (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), enabling him to earn a spot to race against cars at the Indianapolis 500. Try to enjoy this one, parents. “The Conjuring” (July 19): Local boy Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are paranormal investigators hired by a family to run surveillance at their home. Sound familiar? You know what you're getting here folks: high risk, high reward (scary). “R.I.P.D.” (July 19): Based on a second-tier comic book, Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are two undead cops who patrol a city ensuring their fellow deceased are law-abiding corpses. They could have just called it “Men NOT In Black.” “Red 2” (July 19): Assassins Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren are forced to come out of hiding again as they have a new generation of Interpol agents looking to permanently cancel their health benefits. The bits are usually funnier when older people are doing them, and sticking with that theory, Anthony Hopkins is the insurance policy for this playful action-comedy. “The Wolverine” (July 26): Taking place after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” Marvel Comic favorite Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) ventures to Japan where he confronts a past that will dictate his future existence. This could be more story-driven than usual, yet there should be ample amounts of slicing-n-dicing. “Smurfs 2” (July 31): Not that anyone was clamoring for a sequel, but in this go-around, Gargamel (Hank Azaria) has created evil Smurfs to influence and counteract the little blue guys' wholesome ways. Unless vast improvements were made from the original, adults again will be taking one for the team in bringing the kids to this CGI/live-action film. Also Playing: “The Way, Way Back” (July 5), “V/H/S 2” (July 12) AUGUST “2 Guns” (Aug. 2): Look for this to be anything but a straight-shooting crime drama. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, a DEA agent and Naval Intelligence officer respectively, are working the same case: investigating the Mob. Expect one of the two characters to betray someone by the time this gritty sucker comes to an end. “300: Rise of an Empire” (Aug. 2): The prequel to 2007's “300” promises an excess of steel-piercing-flesh high-end special effects. And, of course, it all will be captured in glorious 3-D and IMAX. Over/under: 37 slow-motion shots of blood splattering. “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” (Aug. 7): Teenagers, the offspring of the Gods of Olympus, venture to the Bermuda Triangle to retrieve the Golden Fleece in order to stop the resurrection of the evil Kronos. And breathe. “Elysium” (Aug. 9): Writer/director Neill Blomkamp apparently wanted to do a super-sci-fi version of “Iron Man.” Set in 2154, elite citizens live on space-station while the unfortunate are left to make ends meet on a ruined Earth. Matt Damon plays a man who gets surgically equipped as a walking weapon and tries to usurp the elitists' regime. Hopefully there will be a point tossed in here somewhere to work the head muscle. “Planes” (Aug. 9): Way to get creative, Disney. If you liked the animated “Cars,” feel free to hop on this flight. “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” (Aug. 7): Teenagers, the offspring of the Gods of Olympus, venture to the Bermuda Triangle to retrieve the Golden Fleece in order to stop the resurrection of the evil Kronos. And breathe. “We're the Millers” (Aug. 9): It doesn't matter who the Millers are – it has Jennifer Aniston in it. “Kick-Ass 2” (Aug. 16): Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the homemade-costumed high school crime-fighter, is back with Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to take on a vengeful Red Mist (Christopher Minz-Plasse). Both sides have assembled eclectic armies of like-minded unorthodox heroes and villains, who will battle for control of the city. This may be the best superhero movie you see all summer, despite its mild spoofing nature. “Paranoia” (Aug. 16): This thriller has the pedigree to warrant its labeling as a hidden late-summer gem. Harrison Ford, Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard, Gary Oldman and Richard Dreyfuss star in this deceptive tale about everyone trying to position themselves for financial success in a corporate environment. Translation: Backstabbing meetings in the office break room. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (Aug. 23): For fans of 2005's “Constantine,” which saw a guy maneuver through the world of angels and demons on Earth, here's the college-kid version. “The World's End” (Aug. 23): Brought to you by the producers that did the meta “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “Paul.” Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright have the ability to tickle the funny bone in these quasi-spoofs. “Getaway” (Aug. 30): Ethan Hawke must drive a car being monitored by a mysterious man who kidnapped his wife. If he doesn't comply with all of the demands given over the cellphone, his wife goes buh-bye. The only ally is his passenger, a computer-whiz played by Selena Gomez. Our advice: Heed the title. Also Playing: “The To-Do List” (Aug. 16), “Grandmasters” (Aug. 23), “Closed Circuit” (Aug. 30), “Satanic” (Aug. 30)