Summer movie season has arrived. There are an insane number of films on the following list, and plenty of room for optimism. To that end, we've tried to cut back on the snarky comments about pointless sequels and loathsome actors although it's nearly impossible to let those infernal pirates sail by without a slap or two. But, hey, they can take it, because they're really, really rich, and because everyone knows pirates can't read. Happy summer.
All dates listed are tentative.
Starring: Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tom McInerny, Toby Stephens
Directed by: Christopher Smith
On a corporate retreat in Budapest an international arms dealer and his six employees are attacked by crazed mercenaries, who we're just guessing here must be pissed over not having received a bulk discount. (Magnolia) June 8.
Starring: Michel Piccoli, Bulle Ogier, Ricardo Trépa
Directed by: Manoel de Oliveira
For this delightfully unexpected project, 99-year-old Portuguese director de Oliveira, a master himself, wonders what might have become, in their later years, of Severine and Henri, the two main characters from Luis Buñuel's 1967 masterpiece Belle de Jour. Piccoli reprises the role of Henri while Ogier takes over as Severine, a part originally played, so indelibly, by Catherine Deneuve. (New Yorker Films) June.
BRAND UPON THE BRAIN!
Directed by: Guy Maddin
This new 90-minute silent film from Canadian filmmaker Maddin is a black-and-white comedy/melodrama/tragedy about a man who's flashing back to a childhood spent in the orphanage his crazy parents ran inside a lighthouse, on a remote island. There's a mad scientist, twin teen detectives, and a mother who takes turpentine baths to "wash away the sin!" (Tartan) July.
HOSTEL: PART II
Starring: Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, Heather Matarazzo, Roger Bart
Directed by: Eli Roth
In a decidedly unkempt Slovakian dungeon, three vacationing Americans are flayed, decapitated, and generally mistreated by insane rich men with knives. Summer movie fun for the whole family. (Lionsgate) June 8.
LA VIE EN ROSE
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud, Jean-Paul Rouve, Clotilde Courau
Directed by: Olivier Dahan
Raised in a brothel, blind for a time as a child, and suspected of murder, French chanteuse Edith Piaf is long overdue for a biopic. The year's first bit of Oscar buzz is building for Cotillard's fierce performance. (Picturehouse) Mid- to late June.
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
A band of very pretty people rob a casino. (Warner Bros.) June 8.
Starring: Louis Koo
Directed by: Johnnie To
Young Hong Kong gangster Jimmy (Koo) is trying to go straight, but pending corruption charges force him to battle his way to the top of the crime family. (Tartan) Summer.
YOU'RE GONNA MISS ME
Directed by: Keven McAlester
A documentary on the life of Roger Kynard "Roky" Erickson, whose 1960s band the 13th Floor Elevators are considered the inventors of "psychedelic rock." After a drug bust, Erickson went into a Texas mental hospital and came out delusional and paranoid. The film tracks an attempt by his younger brother to save him. (Palm) Late June.
EAGLE VS. SHARK
Starring: Loren Horsley, Jermaine Clement, Brian Sergent, Rachel House
Directed by: Taika Waititi
At a "dress as your favorite animal" party, a New Zealand oddball named Lily (Horsley), dressed as a shark, falls for a lonely guy named Jarrod (Clement), dressed as an Eagle. Love and comic mayhem follow. (Miramax) June 29.
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon
Directed by: Tim Story
In this sequel to a film every comic geek saw but few loved, a silver-skinned cool dude superhero on a surfboard joins forces with the Fab Four to once again defeat the evil Dr. Doom. (Fox) June 15.
Starring: Billy Connolly, Carrie-Anne Moss, Dylan Baker, K'Sun Ray
Directed by: Andrew Currie
In 1950s suburbia, where an invasion of zombies has been thwarted and the flesh-eaters turned into household servants, young Timmy's family finally gets a zombie housekeeper/pet of their own, a benign, wise hulk that Timmy dubs "Fido." (Lionsgate) June 15.
Starring: Sam Worthington, Victoria Hill, Gary Sweet, Matt Doran
Directed by: Geoffrey Wright
Australian filmmaker Wright (Romper Stomper) sets Macbeth (Worthington) and his murderous mum (Hill) in a modern-day Melbourne, where Duncan (Sweet) is a crime boss whose end is near. (Union Station Media/Truly Indie) July.
Starring: Emma Roberts, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tate Donovan
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
The rare summer movie that may appeal to your grandmother, this big-screen adaptation of the young-adult mystery series stars Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric, niece to Julia) as a modern-day version of the plucky 1930s teen sleuth. Give it a chance, though: Fleming wrote and directed Dick. (Warner Bros.) June 15.
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Stephen King, who knows a thing or two about scary hotels, penned the short story that inspired this scary movie about a professional haunted house debunker (Cusack) who checks into a room many have entered and few have exited. We will not reference the Eagles. (Weinstein/MGM) June 22.
A MIGHTY HEART
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Will Patton, Irrfan Khan
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Angelina Jolie stars as Mariane Pearl, whose bestseller A Mighty Heart detailed her 2002 journey to Pakistan to search for her husband Daniel, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and killed by Islamic fundamentalists. Futterman (who wrote Capote) portrays, in flashback, the late Daniel Pearl. (Paramount Vantage) June 22.
Starring: Nathan Meister, Peter Feeney, Danielle Mason, Tammy Davis
Directed by: Jonathan King
In this horror comedy from New Zealand, a young man with a pathological fear of sheep (yes, sheep) returns to his family's farm to find that it's been overrun by mutant, flesh-eating sheep (yes, sheep). (Weinstein) Late June.
Starring: Parker Posey, Melvil Poupaud, Gena Rowlands, Drea de Matteo
Directed by: Zoe Cassavetes
In a rare dramatic role, Posey stars as a Manhattan hotel exec unlucky in love, until the night she meets and falls hard for a visiting Frenchman (Poupaud, who was so good in 2005's Time to Leave). For her feature debut, writer-director Zoe Cassavetes, daughter of the late John Cassavetes, cast her mother, the great Gena Rowlands, to play Posey's disapproving mom. (Magnolia) Late June.
Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gilles, Pruitt Taylor Vince
Directed by: Roland Joffé
A fashion model (Cuthbert) and her chauffeur (Gilles) are kidnapped and tortured by one of her fans (Vince). Locked in a tiny room together, model and chauffeur predictably fall in love and unite to defeat their captor. What's unexpected here is the presence behind the camera of Joffé (The Killing Fields, The Mission), who's either slumming for a buck or attempting to elevate the torture-horror genre to a higher plain. We'll see. (Lionsgate) June 22.
DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE
Starring: Jaime Pressly, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, Natasha Malthe, Devon Aoki
Directed by: Corey Yuen
Scantily clad beauties fight evildoers in this live action version of a popular video game. (Weinstein) June 22.
Starring: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham
Directed by: Tom Shadyac
Morgan Freeman returns in what's shaping up to be the first talking deity series since George Burns started yakking to John Denver. In this not-quite-a-sequel variation on the Jim Carrey hit Bruce Almighty, God comes calling on an arrogant newsman, played by Carell, the new It-Man of Hollywood comedy (sorry, Jim). (Universal) June 22.
Starring: John Malkovich, Veronica Ferres, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Dillane
Directed by: Raoul Ruiz
Malkovich stars as the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, who's lying on his deathbed as the film opens, thinking back to the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris where he meets Lea de Castro (Burrows), a French dancer who became both mistress and muse. (Outsider) July.
Starring: Jon Voight, Trent Ford, Tamara Hope, Terence Stamp
Directed by: Christopher Cain
A bearded Stamp plays Mormon leader Brigham Young in this dramatization of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which 120 settlers in the Utah Territory were murdered by a Mormon militia. Don't expect a Salt Lake City red carpet premiére. And sorry about the timing, Mitt. (Black Diamond Pictures) June 22.
YOU KILL ME
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, Luke Wilson, Philip Baker Hall, Bill Pullman
Directed by: John Dahl
A crime noir comedy from Red Rock West director Dahl about an alcoholic Polish mafia hit man (Kingsley) ordered to dry out in San Francisco, where he finds love and a part-time job as a mortician. (IFC) June 22.
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
Starring: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q.
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Twelve years and many flops after Die Hard With a Vengeance, Willis competes for box office gold as maverick cop John McClane, who takes on a cyber terrorist (Olyphant) with the help of a computer-geek sidekick who just happens to be played by Mac ad kid Justin Long. (Fox) June 27.
DEATH AT A FUNERAL
Starring: Ewen Bremmer, Peter Dinklage, Matthew MacFadyen
Directed by: Frank Oz
A black comedy about a proper British funeral where the mourning family is slowly coming unhinged, thanks to accidental drug trips, unexpected trysts, and the unnerving appearance of the dead patriarch's secret gay lover. Great trailer. (MGM) June 29.
Starring: Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave, Patrick Wilson, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close
Directed by: Lajos Koltai
Novelist Michael Cunningham (The Hours) wrote the screenplay for this star-packed adaptation of Susan Minot's exquisite 1999 novel, in which a dying woman flashes back to a wedding 40 years earlier at which she fell madly, and tragically, in love. (Focus) June 29.
Directed by: Michael Moore
After taking on the car industry (Roger & Me), the gun industry (Bowling for Columbine), and the war industry (Fahrenheit 9/11), Michael Moore shifts his obsessive gaze to the American health care system. Hey, insurance companies: No publicity is bad publicity, right? (Weinstein) June 29.
LICENSE TO WED
Starring: Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, John Krasinski
Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Sadie (Moore) dreams of marrying her fiancé (Krasinski) at her family's church, but it's all booked up for the next two years. Except: There is one open day, and to score it, the couple must survive a marriage-prep course devised by a most unorthodox pastor, played by the ever unorthodox Robin Williams. (Warner Bros.) July 4.
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies
Directed by: Werner Herzog
This taut and surprisingly straightforward action film from iconoclastic director Herzog (Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man) tells the true story of Dieter Dengler (Bale), shot down over Laos in 1964, captured, and thrown into a brutal North Vietnamese prison, where he finds two Americans (Zahn, Davies) reluctant to join his escape plan. (MGM) Mid- to late July.
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson
Directed by: Michael Bay
Imagine if those nimble robot action figures gathering dust under your kid's bed decided to bulk up, rise up, and take over Earth. With the director of Pearl Harbor and Armageddon at the helm, expect a long, noisy war. (Dreamworks/Paramount) July 4.
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga
Directed by: George Ratliff
Everyone's thrilled when parents Brad and Abby (Rockwell and Farmiga) bring home their beautiful, new baby girl. Everyone except 9-year-old older brother Joshua, that is. Soon, evil plagues the family. (Fox Searchlight) Mid-July.
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Directed by: David Yates
An obscure British import, for which there's very little advance publicity. (Warner Bros.) July 13.
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Starring: Steve Buscemi, Sienna Miller
Directed by: Steve Buscemi
Buscemi stars as a hardened political reporter who's sent to interview a soap star (Miller). As their interview stretches into a long night, each discovers unexpected depths in the other. Buscemi directs from a screenplay that he co-adapted from one written by Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was on the verge of directing Buscemi and Miller in the movie when brutally murdered by an Islamic extremist. (Sony Pictures Classics) Mid-July.
Starring: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
In a remote vacation home, a young couple must defend themselves against three masked invaders. (Rogue) July 13.
TALK TO ME
Starring: Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Don Cheadle stars as Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene, a legendary 1960s radio and talk show host who galvanized Washington, D.C., by leading public protests against poverty and racism. (Focus) July 13.
Directed by: Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson
From National Geographic Films, a documentary that tracks an Arctic walrus named Seela and a polar bear dubbed Nanu from birth to adolescence to parenthood. (Paramount Vantage) July 29.