Your Guide to Highly Anticipated Summer Films

In a movie season worshiped for its CGI-boosted, spiritually bankrupt juvenilia, it's heartening to know that filmmakers still create — and maybe more significantly, that studios still distribute—summer entertainment for grownups. Not that those buckets of popcorn are going to empty themselves, but who needs to be reminded of yet another comic-book reboot (The Amazing Spider-Man), unasked-for remake (Total Recall), or Adam Sandler comedy (That's My Boy)? Here are 23 to watch for in the sweltering months ahead, from thought-provoking indies to big-budget blockbusters. All opening dates are subject to change.

Prometheus (June 8)

Dir. Ridley Scott

Originally conceived as, but not exactly, a prequel to Scott's 1979 sci-fi masterpiece Alien, this mega-expensive, futuristic IMAX thriller instead forges an epic new mythos about our intergalactic origins. Following an ancient star map, a quite face-huggable space crew (including captain Idris Elba, archaeologist Noomi Rapace, android Michael Fassbender, and corporate thug Charlize Theron) investigates an extraterrestrial civilization on a distant, terrifying planet. Just don't expect an appearance from Lieutenant Ripley, believe it or not. (20th Century Fox)

Marina Abramovic: The Artist

Is Present (June 13)

Dir. Matthew Akers

Named for the Museum of Modern Art retrospective on the Serbian performance-art sensation's four-decade body of work, this doc takes a revealing look at Abramovic's complicated relationships with her audience and former lover/collaborator Ulay. From vintage footage of the now-65-year-old radical's public self-flagellation to 2010's main event — a three-month, stone-faced sitting in front of curious, often obsessive museum-goers — the film warmly and perceptively makes a solid case for asking the question: "Is this art?" (HBO Documentary Films/Music Box Films)

Moonrise Kingdom (June 15)

Dir. Wes Anderson

Vintage record players! Letter-writing! Slow-motion sequences and Europop! Anderson's vibrantly meticulous, nostalgia-inducing aesthetic finally gets the '60s period piece it deserves in this small-town dramedy adventure. Twelve-year-olds Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward fall in love and run off into the New England wilderness, much to the chagrin of his scout troop leader (Edward Norton), her folks (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray), and local sheriff Bruce Willis. (Focus Features)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22)

Dir. Timur Bekmambetov

On Broadway, actor Benjamin Walker already reimagined one U.S. president as an emo rock star in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, so why not play Honest Abe as an ax-wielding Abolitionist out to destroy bloodsuckers and slavery? Adapted by hot novelist-cum-screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows, whose director Tim Burton serves as producer here) from his own faux-epistolary mash-up, this action-packed "secret life" chronicle promises an undead body count of at least four score. (20th Century Fox)

Brave (June 22)

Dir. Mark Andrews and Brenda

Chapman

A strong-willed young woman, an expert archer, becomes the talk of her rural kingdom when she takes charge of her own destiny . . . and competes in the Hunger Games? Okay, so Pixar's latest CG-animated fantasy isn't that dark, but it does feature the studio's first-ever female protagonist: Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a flame-haired, 10th-century princess of the Scottish Highlands, whose solo adventure begins after defying a chauvinistic tradition. (Disney/Pixar)

Seeking a Friend For the End of the World (June 22)

Dir. Lorene Scafaria

If Melancholia was too glum in its pre-apocalyptic anxieties, the Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist screenwriter's directorial debut offers up an unlikely alternative for those who take the Mayans' predictions seriously: a rom-com! While humanity awaits doomsday by way of an inbound asteroid, a freshly dumped Steve Carell makes an unlikely connection in his neighbor Keira Knightley. Go for it, girl — it's not like you have to worry about commitment issues. (Focus Features)

To Rome with Love (June 22)

Dir. Woody Allen

The Woodman's follow-up to Midnight in Paris — easily his best and biggest hit in over a decade — continues his recent trend of filming in travelogue-friendly European locales (see also: Match PointVicky Cristina Barcelona). Along with the 76-year-old Allen, this year's Windsor-font-emblazoned ensemble includes Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, and indie darling Greta Gerwig. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (June 27)

Dir. Benh Zeitlin

Punching way above his indie-budget weight, Zeitlin's visually rapturous tale — the Grand Jury Prize and Best Cinematography winner at Sundance 2012 — sees the lawless Louisiana bayou through the imaginative, often blindly optimistic view of a 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis). Like Where the Wild Things Are as conceived by Terrence Malick, this troubling but tender 16mm opus will permanently stain your brain with its fantastical images. (Fox Searchlight)

Magic Mike (June 29)

Dir. Steven Soderbergh

Just as Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience was more focused on the economics of the high-class escort biz than it was on sexuality, it's impossible to imagine this dramatic comedy about male strippers will just be Striptease with chest grease and "banana hammocks." Based in part on Channing Tatum's experience as a 19-year-old dancer, the film stars the barrel-chested G.I. Joe as the eponymous leading man, with Alex Pettyfer as his protégé, and Matthew McConaughey as a skeezy club owner. (Warner Bros.)

Take This Waltz (June 29)

Dir. Sarah Polley

The Canadian actress-turned-filmmaker's sophomore effort behind the camera (following her Oscar-nominated Away from Her) again demonstrates her instincts for sharp, emotionally charged writing and richly developed female protagonists. Happily married to a cookbook-writing goofball (Seth Rogen, never better), Michelle Williams is unprepared for the heat she feels around rickshaw-driving neighbor Luke Kirby. Their unrequited eroticism sizzles like the Toronto summer, but Polley's affectionate drama isn't so much about infidelity as it is about life's thorny impossibilities. (Magnolia Pictures)

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