Superheroes and other comic-book creations
Thor [ May 6 ]
Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. The Norse god of thunder (Hemsworth) comes to Earth in the latest Marvel Comics superhero adaptation. Why it might be awesome: Branagh and Hopkins should bring some class and gravitas to the typical superhero bombast. Why it might be awful: It’s another 3D post-conversion, and Marvel seems more interested in creating building blocks for next summer’s The Avengers than in producing quality stand-alone films.
Priest [ May 13 ]
Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet. Directed by Scott Stewart. In a post-apocalyptic world, a warrior priest (Bettany) hunts down murderous vampires. Why it might be awesome: Vampires! Warrior priests! Deadly assassins! Etc.! Why it might be awful: It seems to bear little resemblance to the Korean comic book it’s based on, and the release date has been delayed several times.
X-Men: First Class [ June 3 ]
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne. Directed by Matthew Vaughn. This prequel to the X-Men series chronicles the early rivalry between Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender). Why it might be awesome: Original X-Men director Bryan Singer is heavily involved as a producer, and the movie has a cool 1960s throwback feel. Why it might be awful: This franchise has kind of run out of steam, and it wasn’t crying out for yet another origin story.
Green Lantern [ June 17 ]
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard. Directed by Martin Campbell. The DC Comics superhero (Reynolds), part of an intergalactic peacekeeping force, gets his own movie. Why it might be awesome: Campbell directed some exciting James Bond movies (GoldenEye, Casino Royale), and Reynolds has the right movie-star charisma to play an all-American superhero. Why it might be awful: Green Lantern’s CGI costume looks embarrassingly lame, and DC’s non-Batman movie track record lately is abysmal.
Captain America: The First Avenger [ July 22 ]
Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell. Directed by Joe Johnston. Marvel’s long-running patriotic superhero (Evans) stars in a movie chronicling the early days of his career during World War II. Why it might be awesome: The period setting is a nice change of pace for the onslaught of superhero movies. Why it might be awful: Evans has already shown a lack of charisma and range in one superhero franchise (the Fantastic Four movies).
Cowboys & Aliens [ July 29 ]
Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde. Directed by Jon Favreau. Cowboys, like, totally fight aliens. Why it might be awesome: Favreau brought a great sense of fun and adventure to his two Iron Man movies. Why it might be awful: This just sounds like a concept from a random fanboy-movie generator. Up next: Ninjas & Vikings! Zombies vs. Robots! Vampire Pirates! (Note: One of those is an actual movie in development.)
Conan the Barbarian [ August 19 ]
Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang. Directed by Marcus Nispel. A new take on the warrior hero (Momoa) famous from novels, comic books and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Why it might be awesome: Momoa is an imposing presence, and the movie is supposedly faithful to Robert E. Howard’s original novels. Why it might be awful: Nispel was responsible for the disposable remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th.
Summertime Oscar Bait
The Beaver [ May 20 ]
Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin. Directed by Jodie Foster. A depressed man decides to communicate with the world solely via a beaver hand puppet. Why it might be awesome: The premise is an off-kilter and fresh way to approach a serious subject, and Gibson can draw from personal experience as a man whose life is spiraling downward. Why it might be awful: The premise might be a little too weird, and Gibson might be a little too uncomfortably close to the subject matter.
Beginners [ June 3 ]
Ewan McGregor, Mélanie Laurent, Christopher Plummer. Directed by Mike Mills. A man (McGregor) deals with his father’s late-in-life embrace of homosexuality and his own burgeoning relationship with an unpredictable, free-spirited woman. Why it might be awesome: Mills’ first film, Thumbsucker, was a funny and moving exploration of adolescence. Why it might be awful: The whole premise sounds a little twee.
A Better Life [ June 24 limited; Las Vegas release TBD ]
Demián Bichir, José Julián, Dolores Heredia. Directed by Chris Weitz. A gardener in LA works cutting the lawns of the rich so he can provide a better life for his son away from gangs and violence. Why it might be awesome: Triumph over adversity! Why it might be awful: Triumphing over adversity is totally boring.
The Help [ August 12 ]
Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer. Directed by Tate Taylor. Based on the acclaimed novel about the relationship between African-American maids and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi. Why it might be awesome: Stone is a rising star, and the novel has been both successful and well-reviewed. Why it might be awful: Hollywood has a tendency to obliterate the nuances of racially charged stories like this.
Midnight in Paris [ May 20 limited; Las Vegas release TBD ]
Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates. Directed by Woody Allen. A young engaged couple has a transformative experience while traveling in Paris. Why it might be awesome: Allen has been reinvigorated by working in Europe, as evidenced by movies like Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Why it might be awful: Allen’s European period also brought us Scoop.
CRITIC'S PICK: The Tree of Life [ May 27 limited; Las Vegas release TBD ]
Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain. Directed by Terrence Malick. Terrence Malick movies are arriving more and more frequently—it’s been only six years, not 20, since his last, The New World—but each one is still a major event. Relatively little is known about The Tree of Life, which stars Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and a heretofore obscure actress named Jessica Chastain, but excited buzz, recently confirmed by stills, contends that this period drama about a boy’s troubled journey to manhood, set at least partly in the 1950s, somehow involves dinosaurs (!). The film is set to premiere in competition at next month’s Cannes Film Festival, which is a good sign; the three years that have elapsed since the end of principal photography most likely signify Malick’s usual obsessive tinkering, not a potential disaster. If you’re not excited for this one, better turn in your movie-buff credentials immediately. —Mike D’Angelo
CRITIC'S PICK: Super 8 [ June 10 ]
Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney. Directed by J.J. Abrams. In a summer whose biggest movies are almost all sequels or adaptations, it’s refreshing to see a huge special-effects extravaganza that’s based on an original concept from a filmmaker with a personal vision. Abrams has done a great job with popcorn entertainment like 2009’s Star Trek, and he’s also shown attentiveness to character development at the helm of TV shows like Alias, Lost and Fringe. His story of a group of kids in 1979 who witness a mysterious train crash owes an obvious debt to the early films of producer Steven Spielberg, but it also looks to have an energy all Abrams’ own. It’s that distinctive voice amid a sea of sameness that I’m most looking forward to. —Josh Bell
Larry Crowne [ July 1 ]
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston. Directed by Tom Hanks. In Hanks’ second film as writer and director, the middle-aged title character (Hanks) goes back to college after losing his job, and finds new meaning to his life. Why it might be awesome: Hanks brings just the right balance of sentiment and humor to his work as both an actor and a filmmaker. Why it might be awful: Hanks’ co-writer here is one-trick has-been Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Kung Fu Panda 2 [ May 26 ]
Voices of Jack Black, Gary Oldman, Angelina Jolie. Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson. Po, the panda who knows kung fu, must take down a deadly new enemy. Why it might be awesome: The original movie had a fun energy to it. Why it might be awful: There isn’t really much left to explore about a panda who knows kung fu.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins [ June 17 ]
Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Madeline Carroll. Directed by Mark Waters. The classic children’s novel about a man (Carrey) and his performing penguins is now a movie. Why it might be awesome: Carrey’s slapstick is probably perfect for performing with penguins. Why it might be awful: Carrey’s slapstick got old a long time ago.
Cars 2 [ June 24 ]
Voices of Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine. Directed by John Lasseter. Racecar Lightning McQueen and tow truck Mater go on an international adventure. Why it might be awesome: Animation studio Pixar has never made a bad movie. Why it might be awful: The original Cars was the closest they ever came.
Zookeeper [ July 8 ]
Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb. Directed by Frank Coraci. A zookeeper (James) gets lessons in dating and courtship from the talking animals he takes care of. Why it might be awesome: It’s just like Hitch, except with talking animals! Why it might be awful: That sounds like the worst movie ever made.
Winnie the Pooh [ July 15 ]
Voices of Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, Bud Luckey. Directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall. The bumbling bear who just wants some honey returns in a movie crafted via classic hand-drawn animation. Why it might be awesome: Winnie the Pooh is an icon, and it’s great to see an old-school animated film. Why it might be awful: Pooh’s low-key adventures are a little played out by now.
The Smurfs [ July 29 ]
Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays. Directed by Raja Gosnell. The small blue creatures of indeterminate origin invade New York City. Why it might be awesome: Guarantee: This movie will not be awesome. Why it might be awful: Guarantee: This movie will be smurfin’ awful.
Bridesmaids [ May 13 ]
Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne. Directed by Paul Feig. A maid of honor (Wiig) whose life is a mess tries to help her best friend (Rudolph) prepare for her wedding. Why it might be awesome: It’s great to see a cast full of funny women, and producer Judd Apatow has a proven track record. Why it might be awful: Apatow has also lent his name to such dubious comedies as Drillbit Taylor and Year One.
The Hangover Part II [ May 26 ]
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis. Directed by Todd Phillips. The three friends from The Hangover once again wake up after a wild night of partying (this time in Bangkok) with no memory of what happened. Why it might be awesome: The original was fresh and funny, and the whole creative team has reunited for the sequel. Why it might be awful: This just sounds like a remake of the first movie.
Bad Teacher [ June 24 ]
Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake. Directed by Jake Kasdan. A lewd, foul-mouthed teacher (Diaz) tries to land a hot colleague (Timberlake) while being pursued by a sarcastic gym coach (Segel). Why it might be awesome: There’s a certain pleasure to seeing hot women swear like sailors. Why it might be awful: That pleasure wears off quickly.
Horrible Bosses [ July 8 ]
Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day. Directed by Seth Gordon. Three friends hatch a plan to rid themselves of their horrible bosses. Why it might be awesome: Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston play the bosses, and it could be very funny to see them be flat-out mean. Why it might be awful: When was the last time you thought of Kevin Spacey or Colin Farrell as funny?
The Change-Up [ August 5 ]
Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann. Directed by David Dobkin. Two friends—one a straitlaced married guy (Bateman), the other a single womanizer (Reynolds)—unexpectedly switch bodies. Why it might be awesome: Bateman and Reynolds both get typecast and play against type. Why it might be awful: A body-switching comedy? Did we travel back in time to 1988?
30 Minutes or Less [ August 12 ]
Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson. Directed by Ruben Fleischer. A pizza-delivery guy (Eisenberg) is forced to help two clueless criminals rob a bank. Why it could be awesome: Fleischer and Eisenberg combined action and comedy well in the crowd-pleasing Zombieland. Why it could be awful: Ansari, McBride and Swardson are all basically one-note performers.
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy [ August 26 ]
Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Leslie Bibb, Lake Bell. Directed by Pete Huyck and Alex Gregory. A group of friends throw one last debauched party in a vacation home they’re about to lose. Why it might be awesome: It features an orgy. Why it might be awful: It features comedy performers pretending to be in an orgy.
Our Idiot Brother [ August 26 ]
Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer. Directed by Jesse Peretz. Three sisters attempt to deal with their naïve simpleton of a brother (Rudd). Why it might be awesome: Rudd was born to play a naïve simpleton. Why it might be awful: That character could get annoying pretty quick.
Romantic comedies are neither romantic nor comedic; discuss
Jumping the Broom [ May 6 ]
Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso. Directed by Salim Akil. A couple’s very different families clash during their wedding weekend. Why it might be awesome: Audiences are starved for sophisticated comedies featuring African-American stars. Why it might be awful: The whole thing looks a little too Tyler Perry-lite.
Something Borrowed [ May 6 ]
Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield. Directed by Luke Greenfield. A woman (Goodwin) falls in love with her best friend’s fiancé. Why it might be awesome: Goodwin is charming, and the movie is based on a popular book series. Why it might be awful: Kate Hudson + rom-com = torture.
Friends With Benefits [ July 22 ]
Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson. Directed by Will Gluck. Two friends decide to have a no-strings-attached sexual relationship. Why it might be awesome: Kunis is on a roll after Black Swan, and Timberlake has proved surprisingly funny in his Saturday Night Live appearances. Why it might awful: We saw this movie a few months ago when it starred Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman and was called No Strings Attached, and it was pretty bad.
CRITIC'S PICK: Crazy, Stupid, Love [ July 29 ]
Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Having thoroughly trashed the spirit of Christmas with Bad Santa (which they wrote) and courageously combined morbid black comedy with a sincere gay love story in I Love You, Phillip Morris (which they wrote and directed), Glenn Ficarra and John Requa now turn their caustic sights on the good old heterosexual romantic comedy. Briefly summarized, Crazy, Stupid, Love sounds like every other Hollywood flick in the genre: A schlemiel (Carell) who’s just discovered his wife (Moore) cheated on him gets tutored in the ways of ladies by a younger Casanova (Gosling), who has his own hands full with a new conquest (Stone). But even though Ficarra and Requa are just directors-for-hire on this film—it was written by the talented Dan Fogelman (Bolt, Tangled)—I feel confident that they wouldn’t get involved with anything remotely generic or watered down. Expect serrated edges. —Mike D’Angelo
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides [ May 20 ]
Sequels 2: The Revenge
Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush. Directed by Rob Marshall. Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) returns, this time on a quest for the fountain of youth. Why it might be awesome: Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom’s boring lovebirds have been dumped in favor of more Jack Sparrow antics. Why it might be awful: The last thing this franchise needs is more Jack Sparrow antics.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon [ July 1 ]
Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel. Directed by Michael Bay. The Autobots and Decepticons face off again, in a plot that involves a secret spacecraft hidden on the moon. Why it might be awesome: Bay has admitted that the second Transformers movie was a misstep and vows to do better. Why it might be awful: We’re sort of scared of what Bay’s idea of “improvement” might be.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 [ July 15 ]
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint. Directed by David Yates. In the second part of the seventh Harry Potter tale, the boy wizard (Radcliffe) finally faces down the evil Voldemort. Why it might be awesome: This is a remarkably sturdy franchise, and the filmmakers are likely to pull out all the stops for the final installment. Why it might be awful: It seems like Harry has been preparing to fight Voldemort for decades now, and we may be in for an anticlimax.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes [ August 5 ]
James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow. Directed by Rupert Wyatt. In this prequel to the decades-old franchise, we see how hyper-intelligent apes came to rule the Earth. Why it might be awesome: The apes are being created with state-of-the-art CGI and motion capture. Why it might be awful: When the special effects are the only selling point, you have a problem.
Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World [August 19]
Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. This franchise has been going on so long that the original Spy Kids are now Spy Adults helping out a new generation. Why it might be awesome: Rodriguez has a knack for goofy, over-the-top fun. Why it might be awful: Jeremy Piven plays a maniacal villain called the Timekeeper. No one needs to see that.
Final Destination 5 [ August 26 ]
Emma Bell, Nicholas D’Agosto, Miles Fisher. Directed by Steven Quale. After surviving a bridge collapse thanks to a premonition, a group of friends are punished for cheating death. Why it might be awesome: It features ridiculous death traps in 3D. Why it might be awful: EVERY ONE OF THESE MOVIES HAS THE EXACT SAME PLOT.
The Horror Of Remakes
Fright Night [ August 19 ]
Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Directed by Craig Gillespie. A teenager (Yelchin) suspects his neighbor (Farrell) of being a vampire in this remake of the 1985 horror-comedy. Why it might be awesome: Vampires are so ubiquitous at the movies these days that they could stand to be taken down a peg. Why it might be awful: Let’s face it, the original was kind of lame.
CRITIC'S PICK: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark [ August 12 ]
Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison. Directed by Troy Nixey. Based on a TV movie from the 1970s, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark could be just another lazy horror remake with fondly remembered source material. But with Guillermo del Toro as producer and co-writer and comic-book artist Troy Nixey as director, Dark is likely to have a more sophisticated, atmospheric approach than the typical late-summer time-waster. The trailer for the movie, about a young girl who finds herself living in a house that hides unspeakable terrors, is minimalist and creepy, and that bodes well for the final product. Even if it isn’t groundbreaking, Dark will be better than the vast majority of horror movies if it manages to be genuinely scary. —Josh Bell