LAS VEGAS – The scorching heat is quickly creeping back to Las Vegas, which means residents and visitors can do one of two things to avoid sweating through the seat of their shorts: take refuge in an air-conditioned sportsbook or hide out in a cool dark movie theater and watch the blockbuster flicks of the summer season.
For those who picked the latter, Vegas movie critic Josh Bell appeals to the movie-loving sports bettors with a rundown of odds for this summer's major motion pictures. He’s priced out which summer movie will be the biggest hit at the box office – in terms of reviews and rake – and included his own special prop bet for each film, so that you can play along while you watch.
Get your popcorn ready!
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (May 5) +2,000
The first "Guardians of the Galaxy," featuring an obscure group of space-faring Marvel superheroes, was the surprise hit of Summer 2014. But following up a surprise hit is tough, since there’s no more room for surprises, and early reviews indicate that the sequel is entertaining but not quite up to the standards of its predecessor. Look for this to be a big hit, but not a bigger one than the original.
Bonus bet: Odds that special "Guardians" guest star Howard the Duck will make another appearance: +150
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" (May 12) +75,000
Since every iconic myth has to become an action blockbuster, director Guy Ritchie is helming this reimagining of the story of King Arthur, which looks more like a superhero origin story than a semi-historical adventure. Ritchie may have succeeded at turning Sherlock Holmes into an action hero, but his King Arthur (which, of course, is meant to start a franchise) has the look of an expensive flop.
Bonus bet: Odds that King Arthur will eventually connect with Robin Hood to form a historically inaccurate cinematic shared universe: -350.
"Baywatch" (May 25) +50,000
Sure, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a massive star, and both he and co-star Zac Efron have shown a refreshing flair for comedy. But the idea of making a comedy out of a dated TV cop/lifeguard show has been played out thanks to two "21 Jump Street" movies and "CHiPs." People who want to ogle hotties in bathing suits just don’t buy enough movie tickets for this one to end up a hit.
Bonus bet: Odds that original "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff will make a self-deprecating cameo: -100,000
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" (May 26) -500
Combined, the first four movies in the Pirates of the Caribbean series have grossed nearly $4 billion worldwide, and the Pirates characters remain popular with Disney theme-park attractions and merchandising. But it’s been six years since the last movie, and star Johnny Depp has had some less-than-flattering publicity in the meantime. There’s a good chance that the new "Pirates" will be a big hit that furthers the franchise, but that may not be enough to make it the biggest movie of the summer.
Bonus bet: Odds that Depp will deliver another drunken speech while picking up an obscure award for this movie: Even
"Wonder Woman" (June 2) -350
Although DC has stumbled with its early forays into building a superhero movie universe ("Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," "Suicide Squad"), "Wonder Woman" looks more promising, with its World War I setting, its strong cast (including star Gal Gadot, who made a promising debut in BvS) and its streamlined origin story. If "Wonder Woman" can score some solid reviews and tap into the underserved market for female action heroes, it just might emerge as the champion of the summer.
Bonus bet: Odds of the infamous invisible jet making a surprise appearance: +1,000,000
"The Mummy" (June 9) +50,000
This is at least the second time that Universal has attempted to launch a cinematic universe built around its classic monster characters (remember "Dracula Untold"?), and this time the studio has enlisted big-name stars Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe to help things along. Cruise is still a big draw, dedicated to doing his own crazy stunts, and the new version of the mummy (played by Sofia Boutella) looks creepy, but this monster-universe concept has clearly been a tough sell.
Bonus bet: Odds that Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll will actually make it into his own planned movie: +1,000
"Cars 3" (June 16) -100
The animation gurus at Pixar may get more acclaim and more award nominations for their other movies, but the Cars series is a moneymaking titan, both at the box office and in retail stores. So while the latest story set in the world of anthropomorphic vehicles may not get stellar reviews, the kids who make up the bulk of the Cars audience (and have watched the previous movies dozens of times at home) won’t care, and their parents will be along for the ride.
Bonus bet: Odds that the movie will finally explain the origins of the bizarre sentient-vehicle universe: +500,000
"Transformers: The Last Knight" (June 23) +2,000
Despite being routinely trashed by critics, the Transformers movies are huge moneymakers, and Paramount and Hasbro have recently committed to an expansion of the franchise with spinoffs and sequels for years to come. Returning director Michael Bay has made all four previous movies into hits, and returning star Mark Wahlberg is arguably as popular as Optimus Prime himself, but franchise fatigue may finally be setting in.
Bonus bet: Odds that, despite once again claiming this is his last movie in the series, Bay will return to direct another Transformers movie: -500
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" (July 7) +1,000
Even in a superhero-clogged movie and TV world, Spider-Man is still one of the biggest names, and this latest reboot has the advantage of being completely integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (star Tom Holland was introduced via a scene-stealing appearance in last year’s "Captain America: Civil War"). At the same time, this marks the third beginning for a Spider-Man movie series in the last 15 years, and at some point audiences may get tired of being reintroduced to the same superhero.
Bonus bet: Odds that the standard post-credits scene will feature an appearance from Marvel’s iconic Peter Porker AKA Spider-Ham: +1,000,000
"War for the Planet of the Apes" (July 14) +50,000
The rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise has proved surprisingly successful both critically and commercially, but the movies are more solid performers than runaway hits. This installment escalates the war between the humans and the hyper-intelligent apes, and chances are it will please fans and turn a decent profit without threatening the summer’s bigger franchise players.
Bonus bet: Odds that a character will once again curse the existence of “damn dirty apes!”: +50,000
This story was a special report from Covers.com, which is also owned by Tribune. Author Josh Bell is on Twitter @signalbleed, Facebook (facebook.com/joshbellhateseverything) and at joshbellhateseverything.com.