The carefree days of summer are just ahead, which means warm weekends, light traffic and vacation plans. And yet, filmmakers seem to have something darker in mind: doomsday. This summer’s releases promise a zombie apocalypse and massive monsters, humans moving to another planet and others relocating to a space station. There are even a couple of catastrophe comedies. Of course, if armageddon isn’t your thing, there will be other options.
This week, three very different films are among the bigger openings: the high-octane “Fast and Furious 6,” the raunchy comedy “The Hangover Part III” and the animated family film “Epic.”
Read on for a look at upcoming theater releases, including some lighter, less cataclysmic entertainment. Opening dates may change.
Stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith and Isabelle Fuhrman.
Scoop: Centuries after humans emigrated from Earth to a new planet, a father and son crash land in mankind’s unruly former home. M. Night Shyamalan directs.
“Now You See Me”
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo and Isla Fisher.
Scoop: In this mind-bending heist movie, a group of illusionists have some stellar and crowd-pleasing tricks up their sleeves. Their shows feature bank robberies, and the audience members enjoy the spoils. One FBI agent (Ruffalo) is determined to find out how they do it.
Stars: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson and Rose Byrne.
Scoop: Vaughn and Wilson, playing their customary characters (the motormouth and the straight man), are dropped into another fish-out-of-water scenario. After the salesmen lose their jobs, they somehow snag internships at Google, despite their lack of tech knowledge.
“The Kings of Summer”
Stars: Nick Offerman, Moises Arias, Nick Robinson and Alison Brie.
Scoop: Two best friends and one oddball interloper decide to escape their stifling parents and live in the woods for the summer in director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ feel-good feature debut.
“Love is All You Need”
Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Sebastian Jessen.
Scoop: A woman whose husband is having an affair meets a widower at the wedding of their children.
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey and Tony Oller.
Scoop: One night a year, the police let murder and mayhem ensue while turning a blind eye. The 1 percenters bolt their doors and turn on their security systems, but the 12-hour period is going to prove especially harrowing for one family when their daughter lets in an outsider.
Stars: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough and Gillian Anderson.
Scoop: Documentary director James Marsh tries his hand at fiction with an adaptation of Tom Bradby’s novel. Set in the 1990s, the drama follows an Irish woman and IRA member who is forced to supply information to British intelligence.
Stars: Brittany Snow, Shiloh Fernandez, Amber Heard and Kellan Lutz.
Scoop: The adaptation of Max Barry’s cult novel satirizes the gleaming deception of marketing by looking at a slacker with a get-rich-quick scheme.
“Wish You Were Here”
Stars: Felicity Price, Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer.
Scoop: The nonlinear feature debut for Australian writer-director Kieran Darcy-Smith is about four friends who go on vacation together. But when only three return home to Sydney, the group tries to piece together the events of a drug-fueled night in Cambodia.
“This is the End”
Stars: James Franco, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.
Scoop: Members of the cast play themselves, watching Los Angeles collapse around them and facing doomsday with as much urgency as a stoner can muster.
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick.
Scoop: Nearly two decades after “Before Sunrise,” writer-director Richard Linklater concludes his trilogy about the on-again, off-again relationship between an American man and the French woman he met on a train.
“Man of Steel”
Stars: Russell Crowe, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon.
Scoop: It seems like yesterday that Superman was getting a reboot with Brandon Routh as Krypton’s most famous export. But that was seven years ago, which is long enough (in Hollywood years) to warrant another creation story, this time with “The Tudors” star Cavill in the cape. Directed by Zack Snyder.
“Stuck in Love”
Stars: Greg Kinnear, Logan Lerman, Kristen Bell and Jennifer Connelly.
Scoop: This might be the “Crazy Stupid Love” of 2013, starring Kinnear as a recently divorced writer struggling with his single status, just as his kids and ex-wife grapple with their own relationships, both within and outside the family.
“The Bling Ring”
Stars: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard and Emma Watson.
Scoop: Director Sofia Coppola’s latest is inspired by the true story of a group of California teens who robbed the houses of famous tabloid fixtures.
Stars: The voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal and Steve Buscemi.
Scoop: The prequel to Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” chronicles how the odd couple of animation – Mike (Crystal) and Sulley (Goodman) – met.
“World War Z”
Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos and David Morse.
Scoop: If you thought the zombie takeover had run its course, think again. Seven years after writer Max Brooks’ post-apocalyptic thriller, director Marc Forster is bringing the adaptation to life. Pitt plays a United Nations worker who might save humanity if he can figure out how to stop the proliferation of the undead.
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock and Marlon Wayans.
Scoop: “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig oversees this comedy about an FBI agent (Bullock, doing her perfected persnickety thing) forced to work with a disheveled Boston police officer (McCarthy, looking especially unkempt) on a big drug case.
“White House Down”
Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Scoop: It’s the second coming of “Olympus Has Fallen.” The other terrorists-take-Washington film of 2013 comes to the screen courtesy of the prince of the apocalypse, director Roland Emmerich (“2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Independence Day”).
“Despicable Me 2”
Stars: The voices of Al Pacino, Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig.
Scoop: The sequel to the 2010 animated hit finds the reformed bad guy, Gru, recruited by an anti-villain league.
“Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”
Scoop: The concert film trend gets a comedic twist with this chronicle of the “Real Husbands of Hollywood” star’s sold-out stand-up show at Madison Square Garden.
“The Lone Ranger”
Stars: Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, William Fichtner and Helena Bonham Carter.
Scoop: After countless setbacks and budget concerns, audiences finally can confirm that director Gore Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) did in fact cast Depp as the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick, Tonto.
“Hammer of the Gods”
Stars: Charlie Bewley, Clive Standen and James Cosmo.
Scoop: Expect lots of blood as a Viking warrior heads on a quest to find his estranged brother.
“I’m So Excited”
Stars: Javier Camara, Pepa Charro and Lola Duenas.
Scoop: The always outlandish Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar returns to comedy after 2011’s uber-creepy “The Skin I Live In.” The farce centers on a plane full of zany flight attendants and passengers who try to enjoy themselves despite believing they may soon crash.
“The Way, Way Back”
Stars: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Liam James and Sam Rockwell.
Scoop: Occasional actors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who collaborated with Alexander Payne on the Oscar-winning screenplay for “The Descendants,” wrote and directed this coming-of-age tale about a boy’s unlikely friendship with the manager of a water park.
“Grown Ups 2”
Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Chris Rock.
Scoop: Sandler and his production company, Happy Madison, seem poised to continue their streak of critical bombs and Razzie contenders, which included the first “Grown Ups” installment.
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Charlie Day.
Scoop: Humans build robots to defend the Earth after massive monsters emerge from the ocean and threaten to conquer the planet. “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro brought this big-budget action movie to life, which explains why there’s as much early chatter about mood and atmospherics as there is about special effects.
Stars: Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Al Rashid and Devon Brookshire.
Scoop: In the horror sequel, a cache of VHS tapes offers clues in a missing-person case.
Stars: The voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Maya Rudolph.
Scoop: The protagonist of the kid-friendly animated comedy is a snail with dreams of racing in the Indy 500.
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Ron Livingston.
Scoop: “Saw” mastermind James Wan dreamed up this horror movie about a couple of paranormal activity investigators who take on a case that shocks even them.
“Girl Most Likely”
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Matt Dillon and Annette Bening.
Scoop: “Bridesmaids” proved Wiig’s talent for portraying rock bottom-bound characters with just the right mix of comedy and emotion. This time around, she’s a failed playwright forced to move in with her mother and younger brother.
Stars: Bruce Willis, Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich.
Scoop: The sequel to the 2010 sleeper hit finds Willis reassembling a group of over-the-hill assassins.
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Jeff Bridges and Mary-Louise Parker.
Scoop: Reynolds plays a recently killed cop recruited by the Rest In Peace Department, which apprehends deceased souls lingering on Earth. The comedy co-stars Bridges as his grizzled, grumpy partner.
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen and Will Yun Lee.
Scoop: The never-ending saga of the clawed, hirsute Canadian continues, this time in Japan.
“The Smurfs 2”
Stars: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria and Jayma Mays.
Scoop: In this cerulean twist on the damsel-in-distress routine, the little blue creatures try to save Smurfette from Gargamel’s clutches.
Stars: Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist and Christian Camargo.
Scoop: A crew of astronauts head to one of Jupiter’s moons, searching for signs of life.
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin and Peter Sarsgaard.
Scoop: Woody Allen has been cagey about the details of his next film. What we do know: The cast is stellar, and after a handful of European-set films, the auteur is back on American soil.
“300: Rise of an Empire”
Stars: Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Sullivan Stapleton and Lena Headey.
Scoop: The violent CGI-filled action flick is a prequel to the 2007 hit.
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington and Paula Patton.
Scoop: Baltasar Kormakur, who directed Wahlberg in the well-received “Contraband,” once again collaborates with the actor in this convoluted story about two undercover agents who start out investigating each other and end up allies when they wind up on the wrong side of both the mob and the law.
“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters”
Stars: Logan Lerman, Nathan Fillion and Alexandra Daddario.
Scoop: The sequel to the kid-friendly 2010 fantasy follows Percy on his quest to find the golden fleece and save his home.
Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley.
Scoop: In the futuristic sci-fi film, the wealthy live on a state-of-the-art space station, while the prols are stuck on Earth with no hope of gaining access to the Shangri-la above. Damon plays a man capable of bringing the two groups together, but only if he succeeds on a dangerous mission. From “District 9” creator Neill Blomkamp.
Stars: The voices of Dane Cook, Val Kilmer, Gabriel Iglesias and Brad Garrett.
Scoop: Think of Disney’s animated feature as “Cars” but in the sky.
“We’re the Millers”
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Ed Helms.
Scoop: A small-time drug dealer assembles a faux family – including a stripper, played by Aniston, posing as his fake wife — in order to smuggle two tons of weed out of Mexico.
Stars: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch and Lance LeGault.
Scoop: Rudd and Hirsch play road workers who become friends – mostly because there’s no one else around in David Gordon Green’s understated 1980s-set dramedy.
“The Spectacular Now”
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Scoop: After a drunk high school senior (Teller) passes out on the lawn of his classmate (Woodley), the two become friends, despite his live-in-the-moment mantra and her hopes for a bright future.
Stars: Chloe Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Scoop: Carrey joins the crew for this sequel to the comic book adaptation featuring a girl with a foul mouth and some serious martial arts skills.
“I Give it a Year”
Stars: Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall and Minnie Driver.
Scoop: Frequent Ali G collaborator Dan Mazer wrote and directed this British comedy about a mismatched husband and wife trying to make it to their first anniversary.
“Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”
Stars: Lily Collins, Lena Headey, Jamie Campbell Bower and Robert Sheehan.
Scoop: After her mother is kidnapped by a demon, a teenage girl finds out she may not, in fact, be human.
Stars: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg and AJ Bowen.
Scoop: A family’s celebration at a remote vacation house takes a turn when a band of killers with axes interrupts the festivities.
“The World’s End”
Stars: Rosamund Pike, Martin Freeman and Simon Pegg.
Scoop: The British team behind the much-loved “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead,” including actor-writer Pegg and writer-director Edgar Wright, team up for this black comedy about a group of hard-partying friends that may be mankind’s last glimmer of hope.
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Eric Bana and Ciaran Hinds.
Scoop: Bana and Hall star as lawyers and exes forced to work together on a case defending a terrorist in this thriller.
“One Direction: This Is Us”
Scoop: Something seems wrong here, and yet it’s true: “Super Size Me” director Morgan Spurlock directed this 3-D documentary about British boy band One Direction.
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez and Jon Voight.
Scoop: Hawke plays a retired race car driver trying to save his kidnapped wife with the help of a young hacker (Gomez).
Stars: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson and Anna Kendrick.
Scoop: Wilde and Johnson work at a brewery, where they banter all day with amazing chemistry. If only they weren’t dating other people.
Films with Buffalo release date still to be determined:
Stars: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page and Jason Ritter.
Scoop: Marling’s stardom launched at Sundance a couple of years ago with a one-two punch of films she wrote and starred in. She teams once again with writer-director Zal Batmanglij for this thriller about a spy embedded among a group of anarchists that wages war on companies that have nefarious aims.
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner and Adam Driver.
Scoop: Writer-director Noah Baumbach turns awkward situations into watchable entertainment, but his new film adds an element of surprise: Indie darling Gerwig, who worked with Baumbach on “Greenberg,” co-wrote the script. She also stars in this black-and-white tale of an offbeat protagonist adrift in society.
“In a World …”
Stars: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed and Demetri Martin.
Scoop: A Los Angeles voice coach toils away in the shadow of her egotistical father, who happens to be the king of movie trailers. The comedy is Bell’s writing and directing debut, and she snagged a screenwriting award, plus positive reviews, after the film showed at Sundance.
“Much Ado About Nothing”
Stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg.
Scoop: The cast may look familiar to Joss Whedon’s army of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans. Despite populating the film with his usual collaborators, the writer-director defies predictability with a black-and-white adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy.
Stars: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace and Karoline Herfurth.
Scoop: Veteran filmmaker Brian De Palma directs this remake of the French film “Love Crime,” a steamy thriller about a rising star at an advertising agency who gets double-crossed by her boss.
Stars: Min-soo Jo, Eunjin Kang and Jae-rok Kim.
Scoop: Kim Ki-Duk wrote and directed this Korean crime drama about a draconian debt collector who tries to turn his life around when his estranged mother resurfaces.
“What Maisie Knew”
Stars: Alexander Skarsgard, Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan.
Scoop: The modern and loose adaptation of Henry James’ novel tells the story of a little girl as she witnesses her parents viciously part ways and recouple with new partners.