I stopped believing in “sure things” when I was 16.
That summer, I worked the night shift at a Jersey shore restaurant as a busboy. Each afternoon, I transformed into a degenerate teenage gambler. I didn’t lose a lot of money because I didn’t have a lot of money, but I played the ponies regularly and sat in a reserved box when I went to the track.
One night, a professional gambler who was a restaurant regular gave my boss a tip on a horse that couldn’t lose. Rumor had it that the trainer of the horse had been holding him back in an attempt to jack up the odds.
Finally, it was time to collect. The horse was going off at 16-1, and he was so lightly regarded from his previous races that he had been dropped in class so that he was competing against inferior animals.
I ran all over town trying to raise money for the bet, and eventually amassed a fortune. I think it was around $60.
The next day, I went to the track and placed the bet. As the race was about to begin, I started to fantasize about how I would spend my winnings. When the bell rang, my horse accidentally bumped the starting gate and got turned around. He stood there dazed and confused, and by the time he realized which way he was supposed to run, the rest of the field was halfway to the finish line.
My horse lost by a nose, proving that the tip wasn’t bad, but there are no sure things. It also proved that crime doesn’t pay, and there are no shortcuts in life. It was a lapse in judgment to go along with a “fix,” but I was a stupid teenager.
I have tried to live an honest life in the ensuing years, but I still feel strongly that there are no sure things.
Nowhere is that more true than in Hollywood, where nothing is guaranteed. For instance, the 1992 movie “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which starred Kristy Swanson, had so much positive buzz surrounding it that everyone in town agreed that it couldn’t miss. So-called experts promised that you could bet the farm on it. Well, it bombed.
That said, here are 10 movies in 2013 that are sure things at the box office.These are not necessarily the best movies of the coming year, but the ones that seem, well, like a sure thing. In chronological order:
1. ‘Iron Man 3’ (May 3):
Billionaire industrialist Tony Stark battles the formidable Asian foe known as The Mandarin, played by noted Asian actor Ben Kingsley. Huh?
2. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ (May 17):
Director J.J. Abrams is back at the helm, and Chris Pine returns as James T. Kirk to lead the crew of the Enterprise into the final frontier in pursuit of a terrorist who turned Starfleet into a shambles.
3. ‘The Fast and the Furious 6’ (May 24):
After the fifth chapter in the film series made $626 million at the box office, it was a sure thing that we’d see a sixth. Dwayne Johnson joins Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.
4. ‘The Hangover Part III’ (May 24):
An Orange County freeway was closed for weekend filming of this sequel, so looking for local landmarks is the only reason I can think of to see this movie.
5. ‘Man of Steel’ (June 14):
Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”) directs this origins story that stars Henry Cavill as Superman and Amy Adams as Lois Lane.
6. ‘The Wolverine’ (July 26):
The world can be divided into two camps: people who love the singing and dancing Hugh Jackman, and people who prefer the actor in his recurring role as this iconic Marvel character. Wouldn’t it be funny to run a double feature of “The Wolverine” and “Les Miserables”?
7. ‘Thor: The Dark World’ (Nov. 8):
Chris Hemsworth is back from “The Avengers” to do a little solo world-saving again. This time, he faces a gang of Dark Elves.
8. ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ (Nov. 22):
It’s still mind-boggling that young actress Jennifer Lawrence successfully alternates teen action movies with Oscar-nominated turns in more adult fare.
9. ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ (Dec. 13):
There were media naysayers who insisted that the first part of the trilogy wasn’t very good and had a disappointing opening weekend at the box office. Truth is that the film received the highest score in a national survey of moviegoers who had just seen it, and the opening weekend’s gross was $223 million.
10. ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ (Dec. 20): The anchorman who is more man than most is back after a nine-year absence. What took so long, Will Ferrell?
Highlights of this year’s film lineup
Highlights of Hollywood’s 2013 schedule (release dates are subject to change):
“Hansel and Gretel: WITCH HUNTERS”: The fairy-tale siblings (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) are all grown-up and bagging crones for a living.
“Beautiful Creatures”: A Southern teen (Alden Ehrenreich) finds love with a mysterious newcomer (Alice Englert) in the adaptation of the best-selling supernatural romance.
“Bullet to the Head”: Sylvester Stallone plays a hit man teamed with a cop as they seek to avenge their respective partners’ deaths.
“Dark Skies”: Keri Russell stars in a supernatural thriller about a family terrorized by an evil force.
“A Good Day to Die Hard”: Bruce Willis and son try to foil a nuke heist in Moscow in the fifth chapter in the “Die Hard” franchise.
“Identity Thief”: Jason Bateman’s desperate to get his good name restored after a woman (Melissa McCarthy) appropriates his identity.
“Snitch”: Dwayne Johnson’s a dad who goes undercover with a drug cartel to clear his son on a narcotics charge.
“Top Gun”: Tom Cruise takes to the air again with a 3-D reissue of his 1986 smash, playing a limited run at IMAX theaters.
“Admission”: Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in the story of a straight-laced college admissions officer bending the rules for an unusual teen.
“The Croods”: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds lead the voice cast in an animated comedy about prehistoric cave dwellers in search of a new home.
“G.I. Joe: RETALIATION”:Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson join up with Channing Tatum as the team battles its old enemy, Cobra, and new foes in their own government.
“Jack the Giant Slayer”: The fairy-tale beanstalk climber (Nicholas Hoult) is hurled into battle against a race of giants.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”: Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi are star Vegas magicians fending off an upstart (Jim Carrey).
“The Last Exorcism: PART II”: Turns out that last exorcism was only next to last as Ashley Bell returns as a teen terrorized by an evil force.
“Oz the Great and Powerful”: Sam Raimi spins the story of how a certain wizard (James Franco) came to the land of Oz.
“Tyler Perry’s Temptation”: The prolific filmmaker tells a dark drama about a married woman caught up with a dashing billionaire.
“The Big Wedding”: Family farce rules in a nuptial comedy featuring Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried and Robin Williams.
“Evil Dead”: Sam Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell produce a new take on their horror tale about friends who unleash demons at a cabin in the woods.
“42”: Harrison Ford plays Brooklyn Dodgers boss Branch Rickey as he signs Major League baseball’s first black player, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman).
“The Heat”: An uptight FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) teams up with a trash-talking cop (Melissa McCarthy) to take down a drug lord.
“Jurassic Park”: Dinosaurs roam the screen world again with a 3-D reissue of Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster.
“Oblivion”: Tom Cruise is a repair guy of the future caught in a fight with aliens on a devastated Earth.
“Pain & Gain”: Three bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie) concoct a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong.
“Scary Movie 5”: The fright-flick lampoon franchise returns to spoof another rush of recent Hollywood hits.
“About Time”: A time traveler (Domhnall Gleeson) gets continual do-overs to re-arrange his romantic life with the woman of his dreams (Rachel McAdams).
“Epic”: Colin Farrell and Amanda Seyfried lead the voice cast in the animated story of a girl transported to a magical forest where a battle rages between good and evil.
“Fast and Furious 6”: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson put on more speed in the follow-up to the franchise’s rejuvenating fifth installment.
“The Great Gatsby”: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan star in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic.
“The Hangover Part III”: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis find more morning-after trouble, this time without even a bachelor party to blame.
“Iron Man 3”: Robert Downey Jr. gets into heavy-metal mode again as the superhero finds his privileged life uprooted by a villain.
“The Purge”: A couple (Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey) fights to survive a government-sanctioned night when all crime, even murder, is legal.
“Star Trek: INTO DARKNESS”: Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the starship Enterprise warp into action in J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi sequel.
“We the Peeples”: A man (Craig Robinson) finds dysfunction galore when he crashes a family reunion to propose to his girlfriend (Kerry Washington).
“After Earth”: Will Smith and real-life son Jaden play a dad and his boy stranded on Earth 1,000 years after humans fled the planet.
“The Internship”: “Wedding Crashers” buddies Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reteam as down-and-out salesmen battling smart, young prospects for jobs at Google.
“Kick-A** 2”: Joined by Jim Carrey as a new vigilante, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz return to battle newly minted super-villain Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
“Man of Steel”: It’s a fresh start for the kid from Krypton, with Henry Cavill as the boy who falls to Earth and becomes its protector as Superman.
“Monsters University”: The prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” chronicles the college days of the lovable beasties voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
“This Is the End”: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and other celebrities cope with the apocalypse while partying it up at James Franco’s house.
“White House Down”: Jamie Foxx is president and Channing Tatum’s the Secret Service guy protecting him when a paramilitary group invades.
“World War Z”: Brad Pitt’s a United Nations guy racing to stop a zombie outbreak that could wipe out humanity.
“The Conjuring”: Paranormal investigators (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) face demonic terror at a secluded farmhouse.
“Despicable Me 2”: Steve Carell returns to voice the reformed super-villain in the animated sequel.
“Grown Ups 2”: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade have some more maturing to do in their comedy sequel.
“The Lone Ranger”: Johnny Depp is spirit warrior Tonto to Armie Hammer’s masked lawman as they hit the trail in the Old West.
“Pacific Rim”: Two pilots (Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi) controlling a giant robot join a last-ditch battle against colossal sea creatures.
“R.I.P.D.”: Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are undead cops dispatched from the great beyond to fight supernatural baddies.
“The Smurfs 2”: The little blue folks return in another live-action and animation combo.
“Turbo”: Ryan Reynolds heads the voice cast in the animated story of a snail with amazing speed who takes on the Indianapolis 500.
“The Wolverine”: Hugh Jackman bares his metal claws again as he continues his “X-Men” superhero spinoff.
“Elysium”: On a blighted future Earth, Matt Damon’s a have-not battling to reach an orbiting paradise where the rich live in splendor.
“Getaway”: A race driver (Ethan Hawke) enlists a computer hacker (Selena Gomez) to help find his kidnapped wife.
“Percy Jackson: SEA OF MONSTERS”: Sea god Poseidon’s son (Logan Lerman) returns in search of the mythical Golden Fleece.
“300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE”: It’s outnumbered Greeks against invading Persians again in the follow-up to the ancient-world hit.
“2 Guns”: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg partner up as feuding feds on the run in an undercover drug operation.
“We’re the Millers”: A stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and a pot dealer (Jason Sudeikis) pose as vacationing parents to smuggle marijuana from Mexico.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”: The machine that turns water into food now is creating strange animal hybrids in the animated sequel.
“I, Frankenstein”: Aaron Eckhart’s the creature made from spare parts, now caught in a war between immortal clans.
“The Little Mermaid”: The animated underwater musical returns in a 3-D re-release.
“Prisoners”: A desperate dad (Hugh Jackman) goes to extremes to retrieve his abducted daughter.
“Riddick”: Vin Diesel’s back as an escaped con fighting aliens and mercenaries in a follow-up to “Pitch Black” and “The Chronicles of Riddick.”
“Runner Runner”: An online gambling whiz (Justin Timberlake) tries to turn the tables on his devious mentor (Ben Affleck).
“Rush”: Ron Howard’s Grand Prix tale stars Chris Hemsworth as British driver James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as Austrian rival Niki Lauda.
“Star Wars EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES”: Surly teen Anakin Skywalker finds love and turns toward the dark side in a 3-D reissue.
“Captain Phillips”: Tom Hanks stars in the true-life story of a U.S. cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates.
“Carrie”: High school’s deadliest wallflower returns in a new take on Stephen King’s horror story, with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.
“Delivery Man”: An underachieving sperm donor (Vince Vaughn) learns he fathered 533 children 20 years earlier.
“Frank Miller’s Sin City: A DAME TO KILL FOR”: Graphic novelist Miller and Robert Rodriguez direct a follow-up to their stylish crime saga “Sin City.”
“The Seventh Son”: A knight (Jeff Bridges) trains his apprentice (Ben Barnes) to fight an evil witch (Julianne Moore).
“Star Wars: EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH”: Darth Vader rises again with a 3-D re-release of the prequel trilogy’s finale.
“Ender’s Game”: Harrison Ford’s a future military leader training youths to fight against invading aliens.
“Frozen”: Kristen Bell voices a spirited hero aiming to save a kingdom trapped in eternal winter in an animated adventure.
“The Hunger Games: CATCHING FIRE”: Jennifer Lawrence is pressed back into the deadly televised competition in part two of the post-apocalyptic series.
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman”: The TV cartoon hits the big-screen as a genius dog and his human pal travel in time to repair history.
“Thor: THE DARK WORLD”: Chris Hemsworth’s Norse god goes solo again after “The Avengers” to battle an ancient race of evil.
“Anchorman II”: This just in, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd return for more newsroom laughs.
“47 Ronin”: Keanu Reeves leads outcast samurai on a mission of vengeance against the overlord who killed their master.
“The Hobbit: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG”: Peter Jackson continues his second Middle-earth trilogy as Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf pals head into dragon country.
“Jack Ryan”: Tom Clancy’s CIA hero gets new life in an action update starring Chris Pine as the agency analyst.
“Last Vegas”: Old guys rule as Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline relive their youth on a bachelor-party bash.
“The Monuments Men”: George Clooney directs and stars in the World War II story of art experts sent into Germany to recover masterpieces stolen by the Nazis.
“Saving Mr. Banks”: Tom Hanks is Walt Disney as he tries to win the film rights to “Mary Poppins” from reluctant author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson).
Henry Cavill is Superman in “Man of Steel.”×
Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man in Marvel’s “Iron Man 3.”×
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts in a scene from Marvel’s “Iron Man 3.”×
Zachary Quinto (from left), as Spock, Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison, and Chris Pine as Kirk in a scene in the film “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”×
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in New Line Cinema’s and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s fantasy adventure “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”×
Ken Jeong stars as Mr. Chow in a scene in “The Hangover Part III.”×
Alan Arkin (from left) as Rance Holloway, Jim Carrey as Steve Gray, Steve Carell as Burt Wonderstone, Michael Herbig as Lucius Belvedere and Jay Mohr as Rick the Implausible in New Line Cinema’s comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”×
Jeremy Irons (from left) as Macon Ravenwood, Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes and Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan Wate in Alcon Entertainment’s supernatural love story “Beautiful Creatures.”×
Sylvester Stallone as Jimmy in Warner Bros. Pictures’, Dark Castle Entertainment’s and IM Global’s action thriller “Bullet to the Head.”×
Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ drama “42.”×
Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan Wate and Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes in Alcon Entertainment’s supernatural love story “Beautiful Creatures.”×
Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Beckett and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi action adventure “Pacific Rim.”×
Ben Barnes (left) as Tom Ward and Jeff Bridges as Master Gregory in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ fantasy action adventure “The Seventh Son.”×
Chadwick Boseman (left) as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ drama “42.”×
Nicholas Hoult as Jack in New Line Cinema’s and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Jack the Giant Slayer.”×
Sarah Shahi as Lisa and Sylvester Stallone as Jimmy in Warner Bros. Pictures’, Dark Castle Entertainment’s and IM Global’s action thriller “Bullet to the Head.”×
Idris Elba (left) as Stacker Pentecost and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Beckett in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi action adventure “Pacific Rim.”×
Jennifer Aniston as Rose in New Line Cinema’s action comedy “We’re the Millers.”×
Zach Galifianakis (from left) as Alan, Ed Helms as Stu, Justin Bartha as Doug and Bradley Cooper as Phil in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ comedy “The Hangover Part III.”×
Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Beckett and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi action adventure “Pacific Rim.”×
Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi action adventure “Pacific Rim.”×
Idris Elba (from left), Rob Kazinsky and director Guillermo del Toro on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi action adventure “Pacific Rim.”×
Harrison Ford (left) as Branch Rickey and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ drama “42.”×
Steve Buscemi (left) as Anton Marvelton and Steve Carell as Burt Wonderstone in New Line Cinema’s comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”×
Sylvester Stallone (left) as Jimmy and Jason Momoa as Keegan in Warner Bros. Pictures’, Dark Castle Entertainment’s and IM Global’s action thriller “Bullet to the Head.”×
Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ fantasy action adventure “The Seventh Son.”×
Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan Wate and Emmy Rossum as Ridley Duchannes in Alcon Entertainment’s supernatural love story “Beautiful Creatures.”×
Emmy Rossum as Ridley Duchannes in Alcon Entertainment’s supernatural love story “Beautiful Creatures.”×
Tobey Maguire (left) as Nick Carraway and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ drama “The Great Gatsby.”×
Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in Warner Bros. PicturesþÄô and Village Roadshow Pictures’ drama “The Great Gatsby.”×
Viola Davis (from left) as Amma, Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes and Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan Wate in Alcon Entertainment’s supernatural love story “Beautiful Creatures.”×
Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ comedy “The Hangover Part III.”×
Selena Gomez as Kid and Ethan Hawke as Brent in Dark Castle Entertainment and After Dark Films’ action thriller “Getaway.”×
Patrick Wilson (from left) as Ed Warren, Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren, Lili Taylor as Carolyn Perron and Ron Livingston as Roger Perron in New Line Cinema’s supernatural thriller “The Conjuring.”×
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren in New Line Cinema’s supernatural thriller “The Conjuring.”×