Sequels, Part 362, 473, 578
The Avengers (May 4)
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Joss Whedon. Marvel superheroes Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, the Black Widow and Hawkeye team up to save the world. Why it might be awesome: All of Marvel’s movies of the last several years have been building to this. Why it might be awful: That’s a surefire recipe for a letdown.
Men in Black 3 (May 25)
Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Smith’s alien-hunting secret agent goes back in time to team up with a younger version of his partner (Brolin as a young Jones) to save the world and keep Jones from having to appear in more than a few scenes. Why it might be awesome: Sonnenfeld brought some stylish fun to the original two movies. Why it might be awful: The movie was plagued with delays and underwent numerous rewrites, with production commencing before a script was even finished.
Piranha 3DD (June 1)
Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, Chris Zylka. Directed by John Gulager. The flesh-eating fish are back to eat some more flesh, in 3D. Why it might be awesome: The DD in the title stands for the cup size of the young women appearing in the film (translation: boobs!). Why it might be awful: Boobs are literally all this movie has going for it.
Critic’s pick! Three reasons to see The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine. Directed by Christopher Nolan.
1. Christopher Nolan makes by far the most intelligent, thoughtful and provocative blockbusters in Hollywood these days. There’ll be spectacle, to be sure, but it won’t be empty spectacle.
2. It’s not in 3D, which Nolan recently dismissed in an interview, correctly noting that we already see movies in three dimensions and that stereoscopic technology just makes the image smaller and dimmer.
3. The primary villain in this final installment, Bane, is played by one of the most electrifying actors to emerge in years, Tom Hardy. “It’s not about fighting,” he claims of his action scenes. “It’s about carnage.” –Mike D’Angelo
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8)
Voices of Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith. Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon. The escaped zoo animals are still trying to get back to New York City, and this time they get waylaid in Europe. Why it might be awesome: Improbably, the screenplay was written by indie-movie darling Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg). Why it might be awful: Baumbach probably just tossed off some lame animal puns so he could score a paycheck.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29)
Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Bruce Willis. Directed by Jon Chu. Now that evil crime organization Cobra has covertly taken over the U.S., the upstanding G.I. Joe commandos must, y’know, retaliate. Why it might be awesome: The Rock and Bruce Willis arrive to up the series’ manliness quotient. Why it might be awful: The action franchise has been handed to the director of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (July 13)
Voices of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah. Directed by Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier. The loveable prehistoric animals return for the fourth movie in a franchise that has now lasted longer than the actual ice age. Why it might be awesome: There must be some reason people went to see the previous three movies, right? Why it might be awful: We can’t really remember what that reason was.
Step Up Revolution (July 27)
Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Misha Gabriel. Directed by Scott Speer. The fourth Step Up movie features another star-crossed love story set against the backdrop of the latest dance moves. Why it might be awesome: This time, the dancing is done in flash mobs! Why it might be awful: Dude, flash mobs are so 2008.
The Bourne Legacy (August 3)
Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton. Directed by Tony Gilroy. Jason Bourne (played in the past by Matt Damon) isn’t in this latest installment, which focuses on a new agent (Renner) who represents the next generation of covert operations. Why it might be awesome: Renner is an up-and-coming action star, with roles in The Avengers and the most recent Mission: Impossible movie. Why it might be awful: They couldn’t even get the title character to appear in his own movie.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (August 3)
Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Rachael Harris. Directed by David Bowers. The wimpy kid writes up a third diary entry about his humiliating middle-school life. Why it might be awesome: Kids can’t get enough of that wimpy kid. Why it might be awful: Kids have terrible taste.
The Expendables 2 (August 17)
Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Directed by Simon West. Virtually every action star of the past 30 years shows up in the second movie about a group of badass mercenaries. Why it might be awesome: Stallone, Statham, Lundgren, Van Damme, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Randy Couture, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all in it. Why it might be awful: Only, like, two of those guys can actually act.
Hey, that sounds familiar: Remakes, reboots and adaptations
Dark Shadows (May 11)
Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green. Directed by Tim Burton. Depp plays an 18th-century vampire resurrected in 1972 in this comedic adaptation of the ’70s soap opera. Why it might be awesome: Depp is great at playing maladjusted weirdos, and the culture-clash humor looks pretty clever. Why it might be awful: A Tim Burton movie starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter? No, that hasn’t gotten old at all.
Battleship (May 18)
Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker. Directed by Peter Berg. Aliens attack Earth via aquatic assault vehicles in this action movie inspired, somehow, by the classic board game. Why it might be awesome: Aliens! Battleships! Liam Neeson! Why it might be awful: Board games are not exactly known for inspiring great cinema.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting (May 18)
Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick. Directed by Kirk Jones. The mega-popular advice book for pregnant women becomes an ensemble comedy, for some reason. Why it might be awesome: Pregnancy sure is hilarious, isn’t it? Why it might be awful: A book without a plot or characters is probably not a good foundation for a movie.
Critic’s pick! Three reasons to see Prometheus (June 8)
Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce. Directed by Ridley Scott.
1. Its status as “official” Alien prequel has been removed, but Prometheus still returns Ridley Scott to the dark sci-fi world of his 1979 classic, albeit on a much grander scale. It’ll be nice to see the series return to form after the dismal Aliens vs. Predator movies.
2. With a script co-written by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, it promises to be a more cerebral, dense kind of sci-fi story, as opposed to the explosion-fests that typify the genre’s summer releases.
3. The epic special effects, impeccable design sense (from original Alien designer H.R. Giger) and impressive cast all contribute to a feel of grandiose, monumental storytelling. –Josh Bell
Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1)
Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron. Directed by Rupert Sanders. Mere months after Mirror Mirror comes another big-budget Snow White retelling, this time in dark action-movie form. Why it might be awesome: Well, it can’t be worse than Mirror Mirror, can it? Why it might be awful: Sadly, it probably can.
Rock of Ages (June 15)
Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Tom Cruise. Directed by Adam Shankman. The Broadway musical featuring the greatest hits of ’80s hair metal gets the big-screen treatment. Why it might be awesome: Who wouldn’t want to see the likes of Brand, Cruise and Alec Baldwin belting out songs by Whitesnake, Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot? Why it might be awful: Lots of people wouldn’t want to see that.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22)
Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Before freeing the slaves, our 16th president, um, fought vampires, apparently. Based on the novel by the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Why it might be awesome: Um, because it has Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires? Duh. Why it might be awful: Um, because it has Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires? Duh.
The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans. Directed by Marc Webb. A mere five years after its most recent installment, the superhero franchise gets rebooted with a new, darker origin story. Why it might be awesome: Webb seems to be justifying the hasty reboot by going in a much edgier direction than Sam Raimi did with his three Spider-Man films. Why it might be awful: It’s hard to imagine anyone doing something exciting and new with Spider-Man’s origin story.
Total Recall (August 3)
Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel. Directed by Len Wiseman. A remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi thriller about a man who may be a freedom fighter or may be suffering under delusions brought on by implanted memories. Why it might be awesome: Advances in special effects could allow the original story by Philip K. Dick to be more impressively realized. Why it might be awful: Advances in special effects could lead the filmmakers to rely more on CGI and less on storytelling.
Sparkle (August 17)
Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke. Directed by Salim Akil. Houston has her final role in this remake of the 1976 drama about a Motown girl group in the 1960s. Why it might be awesome: It could be inspiring to see Houston one last time, doing what she does best. Why it might be awful: Sparks, not Houston, is the actual star, and she’s never acted before.
(Allegedly) funny business
The Dictator (May 16)
Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer. Directed by Larry Charles. The creator of Borat and Bruno debuts his latest character, a buffoonish dictator inspired by Saddam Hussein. Why it might be awesome: Baron Cohen is great at portraying oblivious foreigners who do and say inappropriate things. Why it might be awful: He’s kind of run that well dry at this point.
Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8)
Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. A reporter finds herself drawn to a man who claims he can travel through time. Why it might be awesome: This quirky indie comedy won a screenwriting award at Sundance. Why it might be awful: The premise sounds a little too quirky.
That’s My Boy (June 15)
Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester. Directed by Sean Anders. Despite being only 12 years apart in age, Sandler and Samberg play a father and son trying to reconnect on the eve of the son’s wedding. Why it might be awesome: Sandler and Samberg bring two generations of Saturday Night Live experience to their comedic team-up. Why it might be awful: The movie seems designed to play to each actor’s worst tendencies.
Critic’s pick! Three reasons to see Moonrise Kingdom (May 25 limited; Las Vegas release date TBD)
Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand. Directed by Wes Anderson.
1. In an age when indie films mostly strive to look like documentaries, Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) still creates carefully composed and entirely distinct visual landscapes.
2. No movie featuring Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Bob Balaban could possibly be a complete waste of time.
3. While all of Anderson’s pictures feel as if they inhabit some idealized notion of life in decades past, Moonrise Kingdom is reportedly set in the 1960s, making it his first true period piece. –Mike D’Angelo
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (June 29)
Eugene Levy, Doris Roberts, Tyler Perry. Directed by Tyler Perry. A CFO (Levy) who exposes a Ponzi scheme hides out at the home of sass-talkin’ grandma Madea (Perry). Why it might be awesome: Madea is Perry’s most popular and enduring creation. Why it might be awful: Madea is Perry’s most annoying creation.
Ted (July 13)
Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, voice of Seth MacFarlane. Directed by Seth MacFarlane. Family Guy creator MacFarlane makes his feature debut with the story of a man whose best friend, a sentient talking teddy bear, gets in the way of his latest romance. Why it might be awesome: It has a vulgar, sex-obsessed talking teddy bear. Why it might be awful: It’s basically just Family Guy with more swearing.
Neighborhood Watch (July 27)
Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill. Directed by Akiva Schaffer. A suburban neighborhood watch group finds itself fending off an alien invasion. Why it might be awesome: It’s chock-full of comedic talent onscreen (Stiller, Vaughn, Hill) and off (co-writer Seth Rogen, director Schaffer of The Lonely Island fame). Why it might be awful: Adding huge special effects to comedies never makes them funnier.
The Campaign (August 10)
Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis. Directed by Jay Roach. Ferrell and Galifianakis play rival small-town politicians duking it out for elected office. Why it might be awesome: The comedic talents of Ferrell and Galifianakis could make for a potent combination. Why it might be awful: Both actors have gotten pretty one-note in recent years.
Awards bait is for summer, too
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (May 25)
Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel. Directed by John Madden. A group of British retirees finds new zest for life at a resort in India. Why it might be awesome: The cast is full of distinguished British thespians. Why it might be awful: This sounds like the premise for a bad sitcom.
Brave (June 22)
Voices of Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly. Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. A headstrong princess faces off against dark forces in the latest from Pixar Animation. Why it might be awesome: Pixar has a nearly unimpeachable track record, and this is the studio’s first film with a female protagonist. Why it might be awful: Last year’s Cars 2 was the first real misfire in Pixar history, which sets a troubling precedent.
Critic’s pick! Three reasons to see To Rome With Love (June 22 limited; Las Vegas release date TBD)
Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Ellen Page. Directed by Woody Allen.
1. Woody Allen’s European period, encompassing movies like Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, has been pretty fruitful (duds like Scoop notwithstanding), and To Rome With Love keeps Allen in that mode with its Italian setting.
2. Allen’s light, playful Midnight in Paris was one of his most financially successful movies ever, and Rome looks similarly frothy and romantic.
3. As usual, Allen has put together a great cast of veterans (Alec Baldwin, Judy Davis, himself) and up-and-comers (Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig), and he reunites with Penélope Cruz, who won an Oscar for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. –Josh Bell
Hysteria (June 22)
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett. Directed by Tanya Wexler. A Victorian-era comedy based on the true story of the invention of the vibrator. Why it might be awesome: Victorians + vibrators = hilarity. Why it might be awful: Uptight Victorians flustered by sex is kind of a one-note joke.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (June 22)
Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton. Directed by Lorene Scafaria. Carell and Knightley play two misfits who form an unlikely bond just as the world is about to end. Why it might be awesome: Carell and Knightley could make for an interesting mismatched couple. Why it might be awful: Or they might just be mismatched.
People Like Us (June 29)
Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde. Directed by Alex Kurtzman. After his father passes away, a young man (Pine) discovers that he has a sister (Banks) he never knew about. Why it might be awesome: Mainstream actors Pine, Banks and Wilde deserve a chance to stretch into more serious roles. Why it might be awful: Director and co-writer Kurtzman is known for writing big-budget popcorn movies like Transformers and Cowboys & Aliens, not serious drama.
Hope Springs (August 10)
Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell. Directed by David Frankel. A long-married couple seeks the advice of a relationship guru to reinvigorate their romance. Why it might be awesome: Streep and Jones are two of the world’s greatest actors. Why it might be awful: They’re stuck in what sounds like the film equivalent of a greeting card.
Also ... these movies
Chernobyl Diaries (May 25)
Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney. Directed by Brad Parker. A group of young American tourists visit Chernobyl and find something sinister there. Why it might be awesome: Producer and co-writer Oren Peli, creator of the Paranormal Activity series, has a pretty good track record with horror. Why it might be awful: Could this premise be any more insensitive? What’s next, The Haunting of the World Trade Center?
Magic Mike (June 29)
Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Tatum stars in a story inspired by his real-life experience as a male stripper, playing a veteran dancer who takes on a protégé (Pettyfer). Why it might be awesome: Soderbergh is an inventive risk-taker who can infuse seemingly lackluster material with creativity and style. Why it might be awful: Even Soderbergh may not be able to pull off a movie about male strippers starring Channing Tatum.
Katy Perry: Part of Me (July 5)
Katy Perry. Directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz. In the venerable tradition of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, pop singer Perry gets her own 3D concert documentary. Why it might be awesome: Perry has recruited fans to help shape the content of the movie. Why it might be awful: There’s only so much Perry’s fans can do.
Savages (July 6)
Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta. Directed by Oliver Stone. Stone takes a break from current-events dramas to deliver a pulpy thriller about small-time drug dealers taking on a Mexican cartel. Why it might be awesome: Freed from making important political statements, Stone might be able to cut loose and have fun. Why it might be awful: Stone has never been good at cutting loose and having fun.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (August 15)
Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams. Directed by Peter Hedges. A childless couple prays for a son and is rewarded with a mystical young boy on their doorstep. Why it might be awesome: It could hit the right balance of whimsy and heart. Why it might be awful: Hedges has failed to hit that balance in dreadful previous efforts Dan in Real Life and Pieces of April.
ParaNorman (August 17)
Voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Leslie Mann, John Goodman. Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell. A young boy who can speak to the dead faces down a variety of supernatural creatures. Why it might be awesome: Animation studio Laika produced the wonderful Coraline in 2009. Why it might be awful: The premise sounds like Tim Burton tossed it away on a napkin.