2012 Summer preview
If you check out the summer roster of movies and don't see much in the way of original programming, you really shouldn't be very surprised. This is the time of year where Hollywood takes few chances and trots out the previously tried and lucratively true. Most of them won't be worth your time but all of them will likely be big, loud and overlong.
Amongst the many retreads, sequels and remakes are a handful or so of works that should make the heat and redundancy of summer more bearable and will provide the infrequent, yet refreshing creative oasis. Please (as always) note: all opening dates are subject to change at the last minute for no apparent reason whatsoever.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL -- John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love," "The Debt") directs this comedy about a sextet of British seniors crossing paths at an Indian hotel while dealing with various midlife crises.
DARK SHADOWS -- Tim Burton and Johnny Depp join forces for the umpteenth time in this comedic farce based on the cult '70s daytime soap opera about vampires. Avoiding most of the original's forced melodrama and upping the camp factor exponentially, Burton, Depp and the stellar supporting cast start will likely become a major franchise.
DARLING COMPANION -- The once-great writer Lawrence Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "Body Heat") directs the once-great Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline in this alleged comedy about a wife who loves her dog more than her husband. The husband then "loses" the dog. Yeah ... sure, whatever.
THE DICTATOR -- Writer/director/lead Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat," "Bruno") tosses the faux-documentary angle aside and goes for full-boar slapstick comedy in this political satire while paying homage to Charlie Chaplin. The au currant disposed Middle Eastern leader motif should prove to be irreverently edgy and appropriately polarizing.
BATTLESHIP -- Remember that simpleton board game with the pegs and holes you might have played with when you were 5? No? Then you might somewhat appreciate this bombastic action/adventure that, based on the trailers, makes "Pearl Harbor" come off looking like "Saving Private Ryan." Expect mindless pyrotechnics and mild carnage.
GOD BLESS AMERICA -- Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait's follow-up to the blistering black comedy "Father of the Year" is about a despondent, unemployed man and his teen female accomplice who, tired of the prolonged U.S. economic recession, begin to kill off what they believe to be bottom feeders, mean people and the undereducated.
FIRST POSITION -- This documentary follows six child and teen dancers who dream of making the final cut for the Youth America Grand Prix competition.
WE HAVE A POPE -- Shortly after being elected the new pontiff by his peers, the man who would be pope has a panic attack. Unsure he is up to the task, he is consoled by the cardinals and a psychoanalyst who try different methods of getting him to snap out of his funk.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING -- This ensemble comedy shot in Atlanta stars Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks and Brooklyn Decker as pregnant women that suffer through mood swings, weight gain, unsympathetic husbands and the like.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES -- Heartthrob Jesse McCartney heads a teen cast playing tourists in Russia whose twisted tour guide takes them to an abandoned (or maybe not) city close to the infamous nuclear disaster.MEN IN BLACK 3 -- The first one was brilliant. The sequel was a total waste of time. This third installment (made for the sole reason of reviving the sagging careers of leads Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) appears to be a desperate attempt to reignite interest in a franchise most audiences couldn't care less about. And it's in 3-D. Whoopee!
TONIGHT YOU'RE MINE -- Shot in Scotland, this musical comedy -- thus far getting terrible word of mouth -- is about two feuding rock singers that are handcuffed together at a festival where they're both scheduled to perform.
FOR GREATER GLORY -- This dramatic/action period piece is set in 1920s Mexico and examines the Cristeros War. Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Ruben Blades and Bruce Greenwood lead the ensemble cast.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN -- Because of the participation of Charlize Theron as the antagonist, this revamping of the Grimm Brothers' classic fairy tale could be a twisted delight. It will also go far in determining whether on not lead Kristen Stewart can open and carry a film that doesn't have the word "Twilight" in the title.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE'S MOST WANTED -- Seriously ... really? No, seriously ... really? What should have gone directly to video shows up in theaters solely for the reason of milking a few dedicated followers one more time.
PEACE, LOVE AND MISUNDERSTANDING -- Atlanta resident Jane Fonda plays an aging hippie living in upstate New York whose tightly-wound attorney daughter (Catherine Keener) shows up with grandchildren in tow for a surprise family reunion.
PROMETHEUS -- At last tabulation, the pre-distribution budget for this semi/quasi/sort-of prequel to "Alien" from director Ridley Scott was hovering at around $300 million. The dark (in content and look) 3-D sci-fi adventure better catch fire very quickly.
MOONRISE KINGDOM -- Acerbic writer/director Wes Anderson's new dark comedy stars Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and Edward Norton as townspeople living in a quiet New England hamlet who collectively freak out when two deeply-in-puppy-love pre-teens run away from home.
POLISSE -- This French drama could prove to be highly controversial. It goes into detail of the private lives of a police unit charged with investigation of the crimes of child molesters.
ROCK OF AGES -- Based on the stage play of the same name, this rock musical (featuring Tom Cruise as pampered '80s hair band singer) could become a breakout along the lines of "Hairspray" or "Mama Mia!" The supporting cast (including Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a killer soundtrack could make it a winning guilty pleasure.
THAT'S MY BOY -- The Worst Actor In The World Adam Sandler (shudder once) and his look-alike "SNL" heir-apparent Andy Samberg (note the similarity of their names) team up as a father and son duo (shudder again) in a mismatched buddy/wedding comedy that will likely (and thankfully) not be screened in advance for the press.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE KILLER -- The latest from acclaimed Russian director Timur Bekmambetov revisits his vampire-themed "Night Watch" and "Day Watch" with a fantasy horror/thriller where the 16th president of the United States (Benjamin Walker) lives a secret double life as a stalker of the undead.BRAVE -- In the wake of its first bona fide commercial and critical failure ("Cars 2"), Pixar studios roars back with what looks to be a cross between "Braveheart" and "Shrek." An impetuous headstrong princess -- also an expert marksman (make that marksperson) with a bow and arrow -- gets herself into and hopefully out of trouble.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD -- Recalling "Melancholia" and "Another Earth," Steve Carell plays a man whose wife -- fearful of falling asteroids -- leaves him. Determined not to face the apocalypse alone, he decides to seek out an old flame and brings his neighbor (Keira Knightley) along for company.
TO ROME WITH LOVE -- Woody Allen follows up his biggest box office hit ever ("Midnight in Paris") with an ensemble, multi-couple romantic comedy set in Italy. Starring Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and Allen, it has been compared by those who have seen it to "Manhattan."
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION -- Sounds like a riff on the latest installment of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise. After appearing to be responsible for a major international incident, the members of the "G.I. Joe" unit go rogue in an attempt to try and clear their names.
MAGIC MIKE -- If for nothing else, this comedy gets points for its believable casting. Channing Tatum plays the title character, a male stripper who acts as the mentor to a promising upstart played by Alex Pettyfer.
PEOPLE LIKE US -- If this morality play drama clicks, it could turn out to be quite good. After the death of his father, a son (Chris Pine, "Star Trek") is given the challenging task of delivering $150,000 in inheritance to the secret love child sister (Elizabeth Banks) he's never met. Michelle Pfieffer and Olivia Wilde co-star.
YOUR SISTER'S SISTER -- For the second dead-relative flick of the week, Emily Blunt plays a woman who -- feeling sorry for an old friend (Mark Duplass) who has just lost his brother -- invites him to spend some time at a cabin with her and her sister (Rosemarie DeWitt). Drunken sex and sibling rivalry ensues.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN -- After too much stalling on a fourth installment from director Sam Raimi, Sony decided to replace him with Marc Webb ("(500) Days of Summer") and ditched Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in favor of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Instead of another sequel, we get a reboot -- which is probably preferred.
KATY PERRY: PART OF ME -- Because she began her career as a (naturally blonde) confessional Christian singer/songwriter, this documentary chronicling the skyrocketing career of bouncy pop star Katy Perry could prove to be highly enlightening and entertaining.
SAVAGES -- Director Oliver Stone is back with this crime thriller about two stoner marijuana farmers who decide to break bad with a Mexican drug cartel. The cartel fights back by kidnapping their shared girlfriend (Blake Lively).
ICE AGE 4: CONTINENTAL DRIFT -- Yet another animated franchise that has long passed its expiration date returns with another (probably) overblown sequel that will make no sense and relieve too many families of their hard-earned cash.TED -- Animation guru Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy," "American Dad") writes, directs and co-stars in this comedy fantasy about a man (Mark Wahlberg) whose childhood teddy bear comes to life. Mila Kunis plays the love interest.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -- As hard as it will probably be, Warner Bros. studios and director Christopher Nolan are going to try to top the previous "Batman" installment with what both are declaring to be the final chapter in the highly profitable, critically acclaimed franchise. Even if that doesn't happen, it will still result in huge coin and sit at the top of the box-office for at least a month.
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH -- Pushed back and toned down after the Trevon Martin shooting, this sci-fi comedy starring Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn fighting aliens looks a lot like the first "Men in Black."
STEP UP 4: REVOLUTION -- Hey, if they keep paying to see them, why not keep making them? Some more dancing and romantic clashes set to a teeth-rattling, bass-heavy Hip-Hop score ... all in glorious 3-D. What's not to like?
THE BOURNE LEGACY -- In the wake of an acrimonious creative fallout with director Paul Greengrass (and by proxy, lead Matt Damon), Universal decided to center the movie around Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross, an agent of Operation Outcome. By hiring franchise writer Tony Gilroy ("Michael Clayton") to direct, the studio could pull off the transition seamlessly.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS -- A sequel to a horribly executed first installment -- in August. 'Nuff said.
TOTAL RECALL -- Most of the target audience (18- to 24-year-old males) have probably never even seen the original so a remake isn't completely out of order here. The technological advancements alone will make this new version -- with Colin Ferrell playing the role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger -- at least visually superior.
THE CAMPAIGN -- As this is an election year, this movie about two North Carolina politicians (Zack Galifianakis and Will Farrell) vying for the (likely Republican) presidential nomination should do OK by mere default. What will be interesting ... can Farrell -- never one to be upstaged by a less astute co-star -- keep up with his more talented foil?
HOPE SPRINGS -- Releasing a Meryl Streep movie in August is not a good initial sign. Here she plays the wife of Tommy Lee Jones and together they visit a touchy-feely couples' retreat that will help them get over their collective bout with middle age. Cross your fingers but don't get your hopes up too high.
WARM BODIES -- "Warm Bodies" (in tandem with the TV show "Waking Dead") could do for zombies what "Twilight" did for vampires. Kind-of, not-quite heartthrob Nicholas Hoult ("X-Men: First Class," the next "Mad Max") falls in love with the surviving, warm-blooded girlfriend of one of his victims.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN - This comedy/drama/fantasy could turn out to be the sleeper hit of the summer. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton star as a childless couple who bury something in their backyard in the hopes of getting pregnant.August 17
THE EXPENDABLES 2 -- The first one astounded everyone by claiming the top spot in box office takes for three straight weeks. There's no reason to think a sequel featuring director Sylvester Stallone and an array of former action adventure stars can't do the same thing a second time around.
SPARKLE -- This remake of the 1976 original -- about a Motown-like girl group that falls apart after hitting the big time -- has a great deal in common with the similarly-themed "Dreamgirls" and marks the final on-screen performance of the late Whitney Houston.
THE APPARITION -- Most likely made because of the success of the "Paranormal Activity" franchise, this horror/thriller starring a mostly scantily-clad Ashley Greene ("Twilight") centers around a young couple whose home becomes overtaken by things that go bump.
PREMIUM RUSH -- Master thriller screenwriter David Koepp directs this edgy action/drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bicycle messenger who picks up a mysterious envelope for delivery and finds himself being followed by a police officer (Michael Shannon).
SINISTER -- The long M.I.A. Ethan Hawke plays a writer whose discovery of some found-footage video propels him to investigate the possible disappearance of his family.
LAWLESS -- Writer Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat ("The Proposition") reteam for this period drama (set in Virginia but filmed in Georgia) about prohibition-era bootleggers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke) who do their best to stay one step ahead of the law.