Summer movie preview: Hollywood bets big again

By Jake Coyle

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 22 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

This summer, two anticipated films — "X-Men" and "Magic in the Moonlight" (July 25) — will have to navigate recent sexual abuse allegations of its directors, Bryan Singer and Woody Allen, respectively. (Both have denied the allegations.)

There are few non-superhero certainties in the movies right now, but Melissa McCarthy is one of them. The star of "The Heat" and "Identity Thief" is virtually unparalleled in her ability to almost single-handedly open a movie. On July 2, she'll debut "Tammy," a road-trip comedy she wrote with her husband, Ben Falcone, who also directs.

"I feel like every day of my life I've been hit with the lucky stick," says McCarthy. "There's not a point where I'm like, 'This seems normal.' It's all crazy. I'm crossing my fingers that it will continue as long as it will. I'm just going to hang on until there's a turn in the universe."

Marvel expands its own all-powerful universe with "Guardians of the Galaxy," a more comical twist for the comics maker about a gang of oddballs in the farthest reaches of space. Chris Pratt, the "Parks and Recreation" actor, transforms to big-budget action movie star.

"It really felt like being drafted by a major league baseball team," says Pratt, who was given a personal trainer and a private gym to prepare. "It was unlike anything I've ever done before in terms of their involvement with all of my preparation and just having a huge budget."

Just as "Guardians" shows Marvel extending beyond its comfort zone, "Maleficent" finds Disney pushing into darker territory. Starring Angelina Jolie in her first major on-screen performance in years, it's "Sleeping Beauty" from the villain's perspective.

It's helmed by Robert Stromberg, the production designer of "Avatar." Even for a longtime visual effects veteran, it's a staggeringly large film for a directorial debut.

"You enter into this position of directing one of these movies with the idea that there are potentially a lot of people who feel maybe the better story is watching the Hindenburg burn," says Stromberg. "What I can do is be the best I can at something, with a lot of great people, and present it, and let the chips fall where they may."

In between the blockbusters, releases like Seth MacFarlane's "A Million Ways to Die in the West" (May 30) and "22 Jump Street" (June 13) will offer comic relief. In "Neighbors" (May 9), Seth Rogen and Zac Efron star as next-door rivals.

"For us, the summer is a treacherous landscape where the rewards can be big, but there's a lot of competition," says Rogen. "One of the hardest things to replicate at home is the feeling of seeing a really funny movie in the theater with hundreds of people. So that's one thing we have going for us."

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle

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