Summer Film Preview

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After Earth: While it's not being advertised as "An M. Night Shyamalan Film," this big-budget science fiction flick was helmed and co-written by the once-promising filmmaker. Will Smith and son Jaden co-star as space-age foragers on a post-human Earth. The ads suggests this is a Karate Kid-like vanity project to promote Big Willy's kid, but with Shyamalan there's always a twist — maybe it will be that the film doesn't suck.

June 14

After Earth
After Earth
Elysium
Elysium

Man of Steel: Now that Christopher Nolan's Batman is dining (and probably whining) across the Mediterranean, and Marvel is cramming multiplexes with Avengers-Related Entertainment Product, DC and Warner Brothers have prioritized the reboot of the biggest, nicest hero himself. And while director Zack Snyder struck out with Sucker Punch, the most recent Man of Steel trailers suggest this could be a serious, character-driven adventure. And after hearing him read that sorority letter, we can't wait to kneel before Michael Shannon as General Zod!

The Bling Ring: Sofia Coppola's based-on-batshit-true-events drama follows celebrity-obsessed teenage thieves who robbed Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan of roughly $3 million-worth of cash, clothes, and jewelry. Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, and American Horror Story's Taissa Farmiga co-star in Coppola's follow-up to Somewhere, that really good drama starring the guy in those electronic cigarette ads.

June 21 

World War Z: How many people does it take to save a horror-thriller? First, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Strczysnki penned a script, then Lions for Lambs screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan rewrote it, then Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard and Lost show-runner Damon Lindelof stepped up for substantial rewrites — after much of the movie had been filmed. But even after seven weeks of reshoots, and a six-month release delay, we still want to see this compromised adaptation of Max Brooks's popular and imaginative "aural history of the zombie crisis." It's a big-budget zombie movie starring Brad Pitt, and character actor wiz David Morse. Tickets, please.

Monsters University: A prequel to Pixar charmer Monsters Inc., Monsters University reveals the backstory kids have been dying to find out: how exactly Mike the cyclops (Billy Crystal) and Solly the muppet-bear-thing (John Goodman) became BFFs. Besides Pixar's still-fantastic record, the voice cast should sell this: Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion, Sean Hayes, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, and, best of all, Frank Oz reprising his role as Fungus.

June 28

The Heat: Melissa McCarthy is funny as hell, and hopefully, re-teaming with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig for this buddy cop comedy will give her her second big-screen role worthy of her talents. Sandra Bullock co-stars, but then again, so does Marlon Wayans.

Museum Hours: Among the most buzzed-about titles at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Jem Cohen's Museum Hours stood out, partly because it didn't star James Franco with a grill and wasn't directed by P.T. Anderson. Set in the historic Viennese art gallery Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, Cohen's breakout follows a security guard and a mysterious guest as they pore over paintings, and talk about their lives and the city's history. 

July 5

The Lone Ranger: After Rango, we shouldn't underestimate director Gore Verbinski, even if he did direct two of those dire Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. Yes, watching Johnny Depp play Tonto sounds borderline offensive, but the film is bound to be visually dynamic thanks to Verbinski's knack for cartoonish set pieces. Jack White provides the score, and nostalgia provides the audience.

The Way, Way Back: Once the Sundance Film Festival is under way, it takes only a couple of days before a few titles are hyped as that year's must-see films. The Way, Way, Back, a sweet coming of age story set in a water park, is one of this year's word-of-mouth hits. Word is the directorial debut of Jim Rash — the dean on Community! — is a Meatballs-meets-Adventureland pleasure that benefits from stars Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, and Sam Rockwell.

Hammer of the Gods: This bloody Viking drama is the directorial debut of Farren Blackburn, whose previous TV credits include Doctor Who and Luther. The film follows a young, probably often bare-chested, Viking's quest to re-unite with his brother. Let's hope it's not Ragnarok.

July 12

Pacific Rim: Giant monsters fight giant robot in Guillermo del Toro's high-concept action film. If the film anywhere near as violent and operatic as del Toro would have us believe, it might make up for the fact that the Pan's Labyrinth director will never make that adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness he's been trying to land. Bonus: Sons of Anarchy co-stars Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman turn up along with Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, and Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

V/H/S 2: Like pretty much any portmanteau film made by various directors, the first V/H/S, a compilation of found footage horror shorts, was a mixed bag. Still, it proved that creative things that can still be achieved in Paranormal Activity-style found-footage horror films. V/H/S 2 includes new shorts directed by the filmmakers of The Blair Witch Project, The Raid: Redemption, and Hobo with a Shotgun. Seriously, one guy we know really liked it!

The Hot Flashes: Susan Seidelman's latest film sounds like it could be either hellish or delightfully cheesy: a group of middle-aged Texan women try to get their mojo back by challenging a group of high school girls to a basketball tournament. The older women in question include Wanda Sykes, Brooke Shields, Darryl Hannah, and Camryn Manheim. It's been too long since Seidelman's Desperately Seeking Susan, but with luck, Hot Flashes will be Hoosiers for mature actresses who deserve better roles.

July 19

R.I.P.D.: This M.I.B.-esque, high-as-a-kite-concept action-comedy stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridgesas ghost cops — meaning ghosts that happen to be cops rather than cops that gun for ghosts. The Plot: While Bridges shows Reynolds the ropes of ghost cop-dom, the duo try to track down the man who killed Reynolds' character, probably either Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, or James Hong. This is director Robert Schwentke's follow-up to Red, the only comic book movie where Helen Mirren teams up with a really big gun.

Only God Forgives: Ryan Gosling reteams with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn reteams for this bonkers thriller, recently screened at Cannes. Refn has described Only God Forgives as a contemporary western set in Thailand, and the plot synopsis is no less incredible: Gosling plays a drug-dealing cop-killer and Thai boxing club proprietor who also happens to be a hitman who gets tangled up with the crimelord played by Kristin Scott Thomas. Seriously, this is a real film that's coming out.

July 26

The Wolverine: Another would-be blockbuster that might be good, but probably won't, this X-Men spin-off was originally supposed to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, but is instead being helmed by Knight and Day director James Mangold. Based on the debut story in the first solo Wolverine comic series, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller, The Wolverine is set sometime after the events of the more-beguiling-than-actively-bad X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan (Hugh Jackman) fights some yakuza, and falls in love. Could be busy fun, or it could just be busy, like X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Blue Jasmine: There's precious few details available for Woody Allen's latest comedy, but apparently it's about a neurotic housewife. The film's cast is typically varied, and ranges from conventional picks like Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett, to pleasant surprises like Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlberg, Louis C.K., and even Andrew Dice Clay. We're guessing Clay isn't the housewife.

August 2

2 Guns: Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur seems to have adopted a one-for-you, one-for-me approach to filmmaking. Before taking on 2 Guns, a crooked cops-vs.-mob thugs comic book adaptation starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, Kormakur directed soulful, pulpy neo-noirs like Jar City, or last year's The Deep, and, uh, Contraband, a good-enough Wahlberg vehicle. 2 Guns looks like it's Kormakur's return to dum-dum mode, but he's a talented stylist, the cast is solid (Edward James Olmos and Bill Paxton!), and there's nothing wrong with the ol' summer pew-pew.

Europa Report: Most of the people involved with this indie scifi film are unknowns: the closest thing to a recognizable star is Michael Nyqvist, of the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies. Still, since serious science fiction films are now almost as rare as westerns, this story about an expedition to Jupiter's fourth moon deserves a look.

August 9

Elysium: Neil Blomkamp's follow-up to District 9 sounds like more of the same blunt science fiction social critique. In the year 2154, Earth is a ghetto for poor people that can't afford to live on Elysium, an orbiting space station. But the Terran plebs are restless, so it's up to Matt Damon to keep the haves away from the have nots. District 10 co-stars Jodie Foster, Alice Braga, and William Fichtner.

August 16

Paranoia: Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Josh Holloway, and Richard Dreyfuss co-star in Legally Blonde director Robert Luketic's thriller about corporate espionage. Liam Hemsworth of Hunger Games fame plays Adam Cassidy, an entry-level employee who screws up at his job and is then given a choice: spy on a rival corporation or get fired. Is it awful of us to wish the movie were more about one of the old guys?

Kick Ass 2:  Last time, director Matthew Vaughn brought out the best in Kick-Ass, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s obnoxious, hyper-violent satirical superhero comic. Kick-Ass 2's trailer suggests the sequel's subtitle could be More of the Same, but hope stirs in the geek breast thanks to the arrival of new cast members John Leguizamo and Jim Carrey, the latter as a vigilante named "Colonel Stars and Stripes." Carrey's winningly deranged performance in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone suggests that the once-exciting performer can still be funny. And if the trailer is to be believed, Carrey will steal this proudly profane sequel.

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