Apr. 28: Universal announced that the release date of "The Adjustment Bureau" would be bumped from July 30 to September 17th.
Karate kids and iron men
A flood of commercials featuring Robert Downey Jr. in a metal suit can only mean one thing: summer is just about here. Next week's release of Iron Man 2 kicks off the year's biggest moviegoing season, and the months ahead are filled with major releases from directors such as Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott, and featuring stars ranging from Sylvester Stallone to Angelina Jolie to Tom Cruise. The calendar includes a Twilight sequel, a few comic book adaptations, movies based on TV characters, and even a few odd remakes.
Below, our summer movie preview kicks off with a closer look at the biggest action and genre films arriving over the next four months. In Part 2 of our preview, we'll examine the remaining summer films -- comedies, dramas, animation, documentaries, and more. (And don't forget to enter your Metascore predictions for each of these films.)
Iron Man 2
A now-famous Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is under pressure from the government to share the secrets of his suit, and faces a new nemesis: a Russian inventor with his own powerful armor.
Why it could work: The first Iron Man 79 grossed $585 million worldwide while also managing to impress critics. The sequel can dispense with the origin story and dive right into the action. New cast members include Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, and Garry Shandling.
Reasons to worry: The story was developed specifically for the sequel and isn't taken from the comics. There are too many characters. The first two reviews (Variety, Hollywood Reporter) aren't all that favorable.
Set in 13th century England, this serious, action-filled take on the legend centers on the famous archer as he attempts to win fair treatment from the crown for a group of lower-class villagers.
Why it could work: At the very least, it'll look good: Ridley Scott is the director; Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett star. The film will premiere at Cannes, and a sequel is already in the works.
Reasons to worry: Do we really need another re-telling of the Robin Hood story, especially one that looks to be all action and no fun? The original drafts of the script -- which focused on the Sheriff of Nottingham and had Robin as a villain -- sounded more interesting than the more conventional final version. There are six credited writers.
Three years after she is married, a suburban woman (Katherine Heigl) discovers that her husband (Ashton Kutcher) is actually a government hit man, and now the couple must evade a group of would-be attackers. It's an action-comedy-romance.
Why it could work: The filmmakers were going for a Romancing the Stone vibe, which is a good place to start.
Reasons to worry: The trailer makes us wonder about the "comedy" portion of the action-comedy. Kutcher has yet to star in a well-reviewed movie. The track record is equally bad for director Robert Luketic, whose best movie to date is Legally Blonde 59, and whose last pairing with star Heigl was last year's terrible The Ugly Truth 28.
This action-laden film about a team of soldiers-turned-mercenaries is based on the popular 1980s television series of the same name.
Why it could work: The cast is intriguing on paper, at least: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, and Sharlto Copley (with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson doing his best Mr. T impersonation). With a $100 million budget, there should be plenty of explosions.
Reasons to worry: Take away the A-Team name, and it looks a bit pointless and unoriginal. (Add the A-Team name back, and it looks about the same.) Few people have been very impressed by the trailers, and there seem to be better pure action movies awaiting audiences this summer (for example, The Expendables). And what about the story -- is there one?
The Karate Kid
This remake of the 1984 film transports the action to China, where a boy (Jaden Smith) studies martial arts under an eccentric master (Jackie Chan).
Why it could work: A younger audience could conceivably like it, and early test screenings reportedly produced an enthusiastic response.
Reasons to worry: Despite the title, there's no karate to be found in the film. Director Harald Zwart's best-known film is Agent Cody Banks 41. Exactly zero people were clamoring for a remake of The Karate Kid, and even fewer were hoping that Smith would be cast in the lead role.
A Western based on the DC comic, the action-filled movie centers on a showdown between a scarred bounty hunter and a terrorist unhappy with the outcome of the Civil War.
Why it could work: The leads are Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Megan Fox. Blending campy humor, comic book-style action and dark subject matter is risky, but could pay off in originality. The film is being partially scored by the metal band Mastodon. The release date was actually moved forward into the heart of the summer movie season, so the studio must not think too poorly of it.
Reasons to worry: The movie comes out in less than two months, and Warner Bros. has yet to release any footage (although a 10-second glimpse released earlier this week has generated an unusually high level of buzz). The studio also hired a new director (Francis Lawrence) to re-shoot key scenes earlier this year. Primary director Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who! 71) has no previous live-action film experience.
Knight and Day
A secret agent's blind date turns into a comedic, stunt-filled adventure, as pair get caught up in a mission to protect a scientist who has discovered a new energy source.
Why it could work: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz star. Director James Mangold's films (3:10 to Yuma 76) tend to receive positive reviews. The last time Cruise got to show off his comedic side -- in Tropic Thunder 71 -- resulted in praise for the actor. The trailers are better than you'd think they might be.
Reasons to worry: Mangold has little experience with comedy. The last decent film with Cruise in a leading role was 2006's Mission: Impossible III 66. As with other recent action-comedy trailers (see Killers, above), the action looks a lot more promising than the comedy.
A CIA officer (Angelina Jolie) must go on the run to evade capture when she is outed as a Russian spy on a mission to assassinate the President.
Why it could work: It looks like a Bourne movie with Jolie in the lead role, and the actress has already proven that she can do action as well as anyone. Director Phillip Noyce is capable of making good films (The Quiet American 84), and has experience with action (Patriot Games).
Reasons to worry: Salt seems like it could be a little too much like the Bourne trilogy. Jolie's role was originally intended for Tom Cruise, who turned it down. (Oh, wait -- that's not a reason to worry.)
An homage to 1980s-style action flicks, The Expendables was co-written and directed by Sylvester Stallone (who also stars), and follows a group of mercenaries who are hired to overthrow a South American dictator.
Why it could work: In addition to Stallone, the cast includes Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Eric Roberts, and Dolph Lundgren -- plus two very major cameos that have fans buzzing. There's already talk of a sequel.
Reasons to worry: Expectations might be too high, and the story could wind up being a weakness. Stallone's last film as a writer-director was Rambo 46, and we all know how good that was.
A highly successful, high-tech bank robbing crew set their sights on -- wait for it -- one last score, but a veteran detective hopes to finally nab these elusive thieves.
Why it could work: The cast includes Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Zoë Saldana, rapper T.I., and The Wire's Idris Elba. (OK, so only some of those names are reasons why it could work.)
Reasons to worry: The director is John Luessenhop, whose only other feature is the little-seen Master P-starring Lockdown. The filmmakers seem to be encouraging comparisons to Michael Mann's Heat, but really?
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
This Disney-released, Jerry Bruckheimer-produced epic is based on Ubisoft's 2003 videogame of the same name, centering on an adopted sixth-century prince who seeks the return of a magical, time-controlling device that has fallen into the hands of an evil nobleman.
Why it could work: The cast features Jake Gyllenhaal and Ben Kingsley. Director Mike Newell is known more for smaller-budget films, but his credits include the critically-acclaimed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 81. Despite the Disney banner, it doesn't shy away from violence or action, and the Moroccan setting may prove interesting.
Reasons to worry: Remember all those other good videogame adaptations? No you don't. And die-hard fans of this game may not like the changes that Disney has made to the story.
One of the few sci-fi titles to screen at this year's Sundance festival, Splice also mixes in horror and thrills in what basically amounts to a modern-day Frankenstein that warns about the dangers of bioengineering.
Why it could work: The film stars Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, and is directed by Vincenzo Natali, who also helmed cult favorite Cube 61. Sundance audiences seemed to enjoy the film's twists and turns, and willingness to push the limits, as well as its intelligence. Despite the film's small budget, the special effects also appear to be strong.
Reasons to worry: Not everyone at Sundance enjoyed this wild ride, with some viewers finding it too unbelievable or even laughable. The film may get lost amid the summer blockbusters.
June 4 (Limited)
Neil Jordan's fairytale centers on an Irish fisherman (Colin Farrell) who catches a woman -- who may or may not be a sea nymph -- in his nets.
Why it could work: The film received positive notices when it screened at last year's Toronto festival. The cinematography looks phenomenal. The on-screen relationship between Farrell and Alicja Bachleda should be convincing, as the pair became a real-life couple during filming. Jordan (The Crying Game 90, The Butcher Boy) is certainly capable of making intriguing movies.
Reasons to worry: The early response to the film, while positive, wasn't glowing. Jordan hasn't made a well-reviewed movie since 2002.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
The third chapter in the ongoing sparkly vampire romance finds Bella Swan forced to choose between vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob, while Seattle is plagued by a string of mysterious killings.
Why it could work: The first two installments combined to gross nearly $500 million. Recent Internet rumors about production problems and reshoots proved to be untrue.
Reasons to worry: The previous two Twilight films (Twilight 56, New Moon 44) didn't exactly captivate critics. Former music video director David Slade (30 Days of Night 53) has yet to make a good movie. Can any romantic thriller ever really compare to Birdemic: Shock and Terror?
The Last Airbender
Based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (and you get one guess as to why the first part of the title has been omitted from the film), M. Night Shyamalan's live-action, martial arts-heavy epic follows a gifted 12-year-old boy through a war-torn world where magical "benders" (not to be confused with this one) can control the elements Water, Earth, Fire, and Air.
Why it could work: The visuals look pretty amazing. Paramount is already planning two sequels. Shyamalan seems to have run out of good ideas in recent years, so working from somebody else's material may be just the thing he needs to revitalize his career.
Reasons to worry: Shyamalan hasn't made a good movie in a decade. Will older audiences unfamiliar with the source material turn up for a movie about a young kid saving the world?
A direct sequel to the 1987 film Predator 36, this new sci-fi action film follows a group of eight humans who must battle for their own survival on an alien planet filled with a new breed of hungry Predators.
Why it could work: It's one of several summer movies that has a chance to re-capture the escapist fun of 1980s-style action films. There is very little CG work in the film, which may add a refreshing sense of realism.
Reasons to worry: The casting of Adrien Brody and Topher Grace didn't thrill some fans. The script sat around for 16 years before anyone bothered to do anything with it. The first Predator wasn't exactly a great film, although it did develop a following over time. They've already made an Arnold Schwarzenegger-less sequel to Predator (1990's Predator 2) -- isn't it a little late to be trying another? Director Nimrod Antal has just one decent film to his name.
One of the most intriguing and anticipated films of the summer, this $200-million sci-fi thriller centers on a corporate spy who enters people's dreams to steal their thoughts.
Why it could work: The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, and is directed by Christopher Nolan, who has yet to make a bad film (and whose last summer blockbuster wasn't too shabby). The few details and images to emerge have fans excited, and the film promises something that most summer flicks don't have: originality.
Reasons to worry: The exact details of the story have been mostly shrouded in secrecy, so we still don't quite know what to expect. There's also a chance that it won't make any sense.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Based on the animated Mickey Mouse sequence of the same name in 1940's Fantasia, Disney's new live-action fantasy stars Nicolas Cage as a sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan who takes on a reluctant apprentice (Jay Baruchel).
Why it could work: A lot of money went into this film; expect a ton of CGI effects and a lot of action. Footage screened at WonderCon produced a surprisingly positive response. The film doesn't seem to take itself too seriously, and Cage could prove to be an inspired casting choice.
Reasons to worry: Cage's recent filmography doesn't include many critical hits. Director Jon Turteltaub and Cage previously worked together on National Treasure 39 and its sequel, which weren't exactly quality films. Anyone familiar with the original short may mistake it for a kids movie (when in fact it's aimed at a much broader audience).
The Adjustment Bureau
July 30 September 17
The arrival of a mysterious ballerina impacts the personal and political future of a congressman destined for stardom in this adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story "Adjustment Team." Describing the science fiction aspect of the story would spoil a major plot development, but it's certainly something that has been done before -- and more than once. (Here's a big clue.)
Reasons to worry: It blends so many different genres (thriller, political drama, science fiction, romance) that it might have a hard time pulling them all together. The film marks screenwriter George Nolfi's directorial debut.
Survival of the Dead
George A. Romero's latest Dead film is set on Plum Island -- a scenic locale coming to grips with the zombie apocalypse -- where a conflict between two rival families deepens when they have different approaches to dealing with the undead.
Why it could work: If you're going to see a zombie movie, it may as well be one directed by Romero. The film has a sense of humor, and also borrows from the Western genre a bit.
Reasons to worry: Romero's recent work hasn't been as strong as his earlier films, and 2008's Diary of the Dead 66 wasn't exactly a fan favorite. Reviews for early screenings of the film were mostly negative, although some fans approved. In a world where the Double Down exists, are zombies really all that scary?
Teens are hunted down by a homicidal maniac when they fail to forward an email chain letter. (You don't even want to know what happens when they fail to respond to those Viagra spam emails.)
Why it could work: The cast includes Twilight's Nikki Reed and Brad Dourif.
Reasons to worry: The film has been in production for years, and director Deon Taylor doesn't have much of a track record.
A 3-D remake of Joe Dante's 1978 horror film Piranha -- which was a parody of Jaws (and, oddly, written by John Sayles) -- this new film is set during spring break at an Arizona lake resort, where bikini-clad college students are terrorized by a group of prehistoric fish. (Despite the title, it's not a sequel to James Cameron's Piranha II.)
Why it could work: Elisabeth Shue stars. It could be campy fun; the film features, among other things, an R rating, a parody of the Girls Gone Wild videos, and a Richard Dreyfuss cameo.
Reasons to worry: Piranha was already remade once (in 1995). Director Alexandre Aja also helmed the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes 52, which wowed no one.
The Last Exorcism
Shot documentary-style (think Cloverfield), this horror film centers on a priest who has made a career performing exorcisms even though he doesn't believe in them. But, when he performs one final exorcism, his beliefs are put to the test.
Why it could work: Eli Roth is among the producers.
Reasons to worry: Eli Roth is among the producers.
What do you think?
What summer movies are you most looking forward to this year? Let us know in the comments section below, and be sure to predict the Metascores for the biggest summer films.
Don't forget to check out Part 2 of our Summer Movie Preview, which looks at comedies, dramas, and other films.