Ever since January, when Variety and the Hollywood Reporter each ran pieces making similar proclamations, the prevailing wisdom in the industry has been that if the 2012 summer slate can’t bring people to the theaters, nothing will. Thus, 2012 has become a make-or-break year for American movie theaters and Hollywood along with it.
That is probably an over-statement, but there is no denying that this is the strongest summer movie slate we’ve seen in years. Here’s a rundown of some of the most promising releases of the season, with release dates.
Men in Black III
“Men in Black II” released way back in 2002 and did much less business than the franchise starter. So do people care about a third installment? Surprisingly, the answer seems to be yes. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back, but it looks like Josh Brolin, doing a hilariously accurate impression of a young Jones, is going to steal the show. The trailer looks fun and there’s healthy buzz building.
Snow White and the Huntsman
The year’s second unconventional adaptation of Show White (that story deserves a whole, separate column), this action-adventure take on the tale features Kristen Stewart as the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen, played by Oscar winner Charlize Theron. The queen finds that this Snow White fights back, thanks to having trained with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) dispatched to kill her. This looks surprisingly good and promises stunning visuals and Theron reveling in the evil queen’s deviance.
Ridley Scott’s prequel to the Alien franchise looks amazing, the cast is a dream team of hot actors (Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba) and the anticipation is feverish. Yet we don’t much about the film’s plot. Space explorers discover something that reveals something about the origins of mankind, and they fight aliens. Who cares? I’m there.
The Amazing Spider-Man
This is one of the fastest reboots we’ve ever seen. The last Spider-Man trilogy, helmed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire, just ended in 2007. Now the franchise is resurrected with a new director, Marc Webb of “(500) Days of Summer,” new Spidey (Andrew Garfield), new love interest (Emma Stone), new villain (Rhys Ifans) and new everything else. I’m dubious about rebooting so soon, but the cast is strong and the writing team boasts great talent: Steve Kloves (Harry Potter franchise), James Vanderbilt (“Zodiac”) and Alvin Sargent (“Ordinary People”). Cautiously optimistic.
The Dark Knight Rises
The epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. What else is there to say? I’ll see you there.
The Bourne Legacy
Is it a good idea to continue the Bourne franchise without Matt Damon or either director of the previous films? Tony Gilroy wrote all three Bourne films; he directs and co-wrote “Legacy,” which is a plus. So is the cast. Jeremy Renner stars and gets support from fellow newcomers Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Oscar Isaac, while franchise veterans Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn reprise their roles. Still, this may have been a very bad idea.
Like “MIBIII,” the question here is whether people will care. There is certainly plenty of room to improve upon the original, especially Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “acting” and the visual effects. Don’t expect this remake to be smarter, but it should provide plenty of thrills and better performances from a cast that includes Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel and Bill Nighy.
The Expendables 2
I wonder is anything will blow up in this movie?
Filmed entirely in Georgia, this could be a great period action movie. Set in the Depression, the move follows a tough-as-nails bootlegging family battling crooked cops and federal agents. Director John Hillcoat (“The Road,” “The Proposition”) directs a script penned by Nick Cave and a heavyweight cast: Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Shia LeBeouf, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman and others. Huge potential here.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe are still fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple and of course, King Julien, Maurice and the Penguins are all along for the comedic adventure. Their journey takes them through Europe, where they find cover in a traveling circus. This franchise has always been about jokes more than story, so let’s hope for more of the same.
Everything about “Brave” signifies a return to top form for its studio, Pixar. They’re back to breaking new visual and narrative ground, with their first female protagonist and first venture into mythological territory. Be excited.
Ice Age: Continental Drift
Manny, Diego and Sid are back a fourth time, and this time there are animal pirates. Hmm. This might be one Ice Age too many.
Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Rushmore”) returns to familiar territory with a coming of age story about exceptional kids. Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Bob Balaban join Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. Even when he isn’t great, Anderson is always worth watching.
To Rome With Love
Here comes Woody Allen’s annual travel comedy, right on time. The last two (“Midnight in Paris” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) were great, so why not go ahead be excited? Starring Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page.
“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane writes and directs his first film, and it is, as expected, a little demented. The live action/CG-animated comedy tells the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a grown man who must deal with the cherished teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish ... and has refused to leave his side ever since. The trailer is a riot.
Your Sister’s Sister
Writer/director Lynn Shelton (“My Effortless Brilliance,” “Humpday”) has built a strong reputation on the indie scene now offers her highest profile release yet. Here, she sheds most of the mumblecore style but keeps the focus on raw, intimate drama and witty comedy. Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass star in a film that will make us both laugh and cry.
Take This Waltz
Sarah Polley’s directorial debut, “Away From Her,” announced her as a major emerging talent. Michelle Williams, widely considered one of the best working actresses, anchors this film, which explores the difficulties of marriage and repressed desires. Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen should lend some levity to the heaviness.
Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play a married couple trying to spice things up and reconnect, with the help of a couple’s specialist played by Steve Carell. Oh yeah, I’ll watch that.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
A 70-mile-wide asteroid is en route to Earth, and humanity will soon end. What do you do? Soft-spoken insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell) and his introverted neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) go on a road trip. Dodge wants to track down the love of his life and Penny wants to reach her family in England before world ends. On the road together, the unlikely traveling companions’ respective personal journeys accelerate, and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten. First-time director Lorene Scafaria explores themes similar to Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” but with much more heart and humor.
Set in the world of male strippers, “Magic Mike” is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women and making easy money. Soderbergh excels at mining unusual scenarios for great filmmaking.
Calvin (Paul Dano) is a young novelist who achieved phenomenal success early in his career but is now struggling with his writing – as well as his romantic life. Finally, he makes a breakthrough and creates a character named Ruby who inspires him. When Calvin finds Ruby (Zoe Kazan, who wrote the screenplay), in the flesh, sitting on his couch about a week later, he is completely flabbergasted that his words have turned into a living, breathing person. This seems like something we’ve already seen, but co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valeria Faris are the team that brought us “Little Miss Sunshine,” so I’m in.
Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.