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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to May

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It’s not just the studios that get excited about the beginning of the summer movie season, but audiences as well, because the four-month period marks the release of some of the year’s most anticipated films, from action blockbusters to all-star comedies. This summer is particularly exciting, and it kicks off in May with the latest installments of some of Hollywood’s biggest franchises (“Iron Man,” “Star Trek,” “Fast & Furious” and “The Hangover”), as well as a few lower profile features with the potential to make a big impression.

“IRON MAN 3″

Who: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce
What: When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, Stark starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
When: May 3rd
Why: “Iron Man 2” may be one of the weaker films in Marvel’s Phase One, but it deserves some slack for shouldering a lot of the groundwork leading up to “The Avengers.” With that said, it’ll be nice to see Tony Stark in a more standalone adventure this time out, which is reportedly based on Warren Ellis’ well-received “Extremis” arc, ushering in a change of status quo for the Iron Man armor. The film also marks a change behind the camera as well, with Shane Black taking over for the departing Jon Favreau, although the trailers suggest that it’s business as usual. That’s great news for fans of the first two films, because with the addition of Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley to the cast, “Iron Man 3” is shaping up to the best of the series.

“THE ICEMAN”

Who: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, James Franco and Ray Liotta
What: The true story of notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski, from his early days in the mob until his arrest for the murder of more than 100 men.
When: May 3rd
Why: Millennium Entertainment doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to releasing small movies with big stars, but the cast of “The Iceman” is almost too good to ignore. Michael Shannon tends to deliver his best work in these types of indie films, while Winona Ryder proved in “Black Swan” that she’s still capable of turning in a good performance with the right material. And it wouldn’t be a crime movie without Ray Liotta popping up at some point, so director Ariel Vromen has that box checked as well. Though most people have probably never even heard of Richard Kuklinski or his true life story, sometimes those ones are the best.

“THE GREAT GATSBY”

Who: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire
What: A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor.
When: May 10th
Why: Try as they might to spin the film’s delay positively, Warner Bros. has backed themselves into quite the corner by pushing the release date from December 2012 to this summer. Not only does it make more sense for the movie to be released during awards season, but Warner’s sudden change of heart (having already started the marketing blitz last year) has raised some concerns about the film’s quality. It’s hard to imagine that a big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated novel could be such a disaster with actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in the lead roles, but then again, Jack Clayton’s 1974 version also had a great cast, and that one didn’t go so well either. Factor in the seemingly unnecessary decision to shoot the movie in 3D, and “The Great Gatsby” suddenly sounds like a pretty big gamble.

“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”

Who: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin and Alice Eve
What: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to capture a one-man WMD.
When: May 17th
Why: It’s amazing how much a reboot can do for a franchise when executed successfully, and there’s no better example of that than J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek,” which even made the sci-fi property cool with non-Trekkies. What was really impressive about the 2009 film, however, was the way it reinvented the franchise without alienating older fans, and now that the foundation has been laid, I’m excited to see how the relationships between the various Enterprise crew members continue to evolve in Abrams’ highly anticipated follow-up. Of course, as is usually the case with the “Star Trek” series, the films are only as strong as their villains, and for as great of a job as they did casting the Enterprise crew, hiring Benedict Cumberbatch to play the sequel’s baddie is looking more brilliant with each new trailer.

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