Is Chicago having a big year at the movies or what? One of the spring's biggest films ("Divergent") was set here, filmed here and based on a book by a local author. Now two of summer's biggest movies, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and "Jupiter Ascending," plop the city back on giant screens, this time with even bigger stars (Mark Wahlberg and Channing Tatum/Mila Kunis, respectively).
Yes, there also are "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" sequels on the way, plus "Guardians of the Galaxy," Angelina Jolie being evil in "Maleficent" and more Shailene Woodley in "The Fault in Our Stars." Sounds like the best summer of movies in a while. Maybe.
Movies we're actually excited for this summer
Everyone will be able to take a side, if not both, in the rivalry between a couple (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) and the leaders of a fraternity (Zac Efron, Dave Franco) that moves in next door. Yes, your age will have something to do with your choice. Good news: The movie, directed by Nicholas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), is hilarious regardless.
Safe bets: This American revival of the legendary Japanese monster movie will be better than the widely loathed 1998 effort, and Bryan Cranston's first movie star role will be a better fit than his "Breaking Bad" co-star Aaron Paul's awful "Need for Speed." And director Gareth Edwards, given a much bigger budget than his little-seen "Monsters," will combine a good cast (including Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sally Hawkins) and a really freaking huge beast to deliver something fun.
The Fault in Our Stars
By now everyone should accept that Shailene Woodley can bring truth to anything, as she’s proven in "The Descendants," "The Spectacular Now" and "Divergent." Adapted from John Green's bestselling novel, "TFIOS" takes an unusually non-melodramatic look at characters with cancer, seeking not laughs ("50/50") but honesty and love.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
As if Chicago hadn't taken enough of a beating, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" arrives to subject our city (among others) to the pummeling of massive automobiles-turned-robots. Shia's gone; now it's Mark Wahlberg as a dude fighting to support his smoking-hot daughter (Nicola Peltz) while becoming wrapped up in the latest Bot battle. This time there's one that looks like a dinosaur!
Chicago-native sibling directors Andy and Lana Wachowski ("Speed Racer," "Cloud Atlas") haven't done anything of value since "The Matrix." But this locally shot sci-fi epic, starring Mila Kunis as a woman who doesn't realize her royal power and Channing Tatum as the guy trying to save her (with Eddie Redmayne of "Les Miserables" as the villain!), actually looks pretty awesome.
A Most Wanted Man
In one of his final performances, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the leader of an anti-terror organization trying to evaluate a threat in Hamburg, Germany. Rachel McAdams co-stars in this thriller adapted from a novel by John Le Carre ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"). I saw the film at Sundance and found it both compelling and uneven.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Comic fans know this is part of the Marvel superhero universe, meaning "GOTG" is almost guaranteed to be a huge smash. What I care more about is that this funny-looking action flick is the first starring role for Chris Pratt ("Parks and Recreation"). Also, Bradley Cooper voices a computer-animated raccoon, so there’s that.
From the director of "Patriot Games" comes this adaptation of Lois Lowry's 1993 novel about a supposed utopia that proves less than ideal. On screen, starring Brenton Thwaites ("Oculus"), Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgard and Taylor Swift, it looks more than a little like "Divergent" (obviously published long after "The Giver").
Life of Crime
A heist movie co-starring John Hawkes ("The Sessions") and Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def)? This could be interesting, especially considering "Life of Crime" comes from an Elmore Leonard ("Out of Sight") novel and co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins.
OF COURSE THIS EXISTS
Sequels, sequels and more sequels
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Pretending that "Spider-Man 3" didn’t have too many villains (even though it obviously did), "TAS2" packs in baddies played by Dane DeHaan ("Kill Your Darlings"), Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti and B.J. Novak to take on Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), back defending his city and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Expect about 20 other enemies to emerge mid-movie.