By Joe Hadsall
For the third year in a row, movies with roots in comic book stories, sci-fi and fantasy appear poised to dominate box offices in 2013, including the continuation of Marvel’s “Avengers” universe. But a few comedies and dramas also have us excited to get in line with our popcorn.
‘Beautiful Creatures’ (Feb. 14)
Is this the new “Twilight”? Or will Stephenie Meyer’s fans wait for the movie adaptation of “The Host” on March 29? “Beautiful Creatures” is the first entry in a young-adult book series about a guy and girl living in a small Southern town. They are inexplicably drawn to each other, and have magical connections, but a curse threatens them and their families.
‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ (March 8)
Until Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked,” any story about Oz featured that perky Kansan Dorothy. Maguire’s tale of the green-skinned Elphaba has been transformed into a successful Broadway musical, and the author has continued his take on Oz A.D. (after Dorothy) in three follow-up novels.
But what about the Wizard? Sam Raimi, the director behind the “Spider-Man” reboots starring Tobey McGuire, tells the story of his arrival in Oz and how he became that man behind the curtain. Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz play three good and bad witches.
‘Iron Man 3’ (May 3)
Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” was the biggest movie of 2012. Tying together the stories started in “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor” and “Captain America,” the supergroup kicked extra-terrestrial tush on screen.
Thor will return to theaters in November, but Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man makes the third in this franchise a summer must-see. Directed by Shane Black (2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”), the movie also features Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin.
‘The Great Gatsby’ (May 10)
Leonardo DiCaprio stood out as Romeo in Baz Lurhmann’s stylish “Romeo and Juliet,” so we’re eager to see what he does with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic now that he is more seasoned. DiCaprio plays the enigmatic, dapper Gatsby, and Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan plays Daisy Buchannan.
Even more intriguing is how the movie will be filmed for 3D. On most movies, the gimmick seems to be a waste, but Lurhmann has a long resume of visually dazzling movies, including “Moulin Rouge” and “Strictly Ballroom.” We’ll gladly fork over the extra upcharge to see what he does with the format.
‘Star Trek into Darkness’ (May 17)
J.J. Abrams wasn’t afraid to drastically alter the Star Trek world as we knew it in his 2009 film, what with the planet Vulcan being destroyed, Spock and Uhura hooking up and Kirk getting command of the Enterprise at a really young age. Now it appears Abrams is ready to destroy the entire Federation.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as a terrorist bent on destroying the entire organization. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana also return to their roles as Kirk, Spock and Uhura.
‘Man of Steel’ (June 14)
Christopher Nolan, the director behind the most recent Batman trilogy, is producing this new take on DC’s Superman with Zack Snyder, who directed comic-book adaptations of “300” and “Watchmen.” The cast is loaded as well: Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon have major roles.
The franchise led by Christopher Reeve had a style all its own, but the last reboot, Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns,” didn’t captivate audiences enough to warrant expansion. Nolan and Snyder have already released a stylish new look to the franchise, so box office numbers figure to be healthy.
‘World War Z’ (June 21)
Max Brooks’ compelling tale of a zombie takeover was a standout novel in a flood of zombie fandom over the past few years. Brad Pitt stars as a family man who is called to help fight an outbreak of zombie fever. Trailers show that “Z” will have an epic scale, although fans of the book may note that it doesn’t look terribly faithful to the source material.
‘Monsters University’ (June 21)
Pixar can do no wrong...except for “Cars 2.”
While the animation studio is no stranger to successful sequels with “Toy Story,” “Monsters University” is its first prequel. Billy Crystal and John Goodman return to voice Mike and Sully as they meet as freshmen in college.
‘The Lone Ranger’ (July 3)
Thanks to the “Pirates” franchise, Johnny Depp is synonymous with summer movies. But this time, Depp plays the sidekick. As Tonto, he finds an injured Texas Ranger, played by Armie Hammer. The two help people in need across the wild, wild West.
‘Pacific Rim’ (July 11)
When giant monsters rise from the oceans’ depths, humans create giant robots to do battle with them.
Robots vs. monsters? Helmed by “Hellboy” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro? Sold!
‘Elysium’ (Aug. 9)
Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9” blew us away in 2009. Despite a low budget, lack of recognizable stars and a plot drawn from South African politics, it featured one of the most fresh, original storylines in sci-fi over the past decade.
Now Blomkamp has resources, including a cast featuring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, and a more identifiable story. Above Earth is a high-tech space station where the 1 percent lives. Damon plays a guy stuck on the cesspool of Earth, who accepts a mission to crash the planetary-orbit party.
‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ (Dec. 13)
The title of the next movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth likely reveals director Peter Jackson’s plan to milk three movies out of a much smaller book than “The Lord of the Rings.”
Bilbo, Gandalf and a band of elves trek to reclaim treasure from a vicious dragon. The second chapter also teases the return of Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom, and new characters such as Bard the Bowman and an elf named Tauriel (Luke Evans and Evangeline Lilly, respectively).
‘Anchorman: The Legend Continues’ (Dec. 20)
Maybe it’s because we love media. Maybe it’s because we newspaper journalists love to poke some good-natured fun at our TV friends. But “Anchorman” remains one of Will Ferrell’s finest, funniest movies, and the sequel is long overdue. Also returning are Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner and Christina Applegate.
And lamp. We love lamp.