Summer Movie Preview: Your Guide to 110 New Films

  • Publish Date: April 25, 2012
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The calendar says spring, but in Hollywood, the first week of May heralds the arrival of summer. Below, we take a month-by-month look at the best and worst that the upcoming season has to offer, starting with a preview of films due in May. You are also invited to give us you Metascore predictions for 30 select films (voting closes at the end of the day on May 1st); we'll post the average predictions next week.

May's key releases

The Avengers Watch Trailer
May 4 | Directed by Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon and Marvel Comics? What's not to like? After introducing Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America in their own movies over the past few years, Disney is bringing the heroes together to save the world in this summer's first tentpole film, under the guidance of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly creator. It's only Whedon's second time directing for the big screen (following the Firefly spinoff Serenity 74), but given that he's a lifelong comic book fan (as well as writer), the screenplay appears to be in good hands, and early reviews are encouraging. He also has the luxury of a star-filled ensemble that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth reprising their starring roles from the previous films, joined by Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury). They'll have to match wits with Tom Hiddleston's evil Loki, though they would appear to have him outnumbered.

Battleship Watch Trailer
May 18 | Directed by Peter Berg

Even though it’s already getting a relatively poor response from critics abroad (where it opened on April 11th), Battleship seems like it might have the same immunity to lackluster reviews as the film it’s most often compared to—Transformers—given that it will soon pass $130 million in foreign grosses. Based on the Hasbro board game (but, you know, with aliens), the film stars John Carter himself, Taylor Kitsch, as a directionless stud who follows his brother (Alexander Skarsgård) into the Navy, dates the daughter (Brooklyn Decker) of the commander of the Pacific fleet (Liam Neeson), and eventually is the only person (along with Rihanna) standing between Earth and its imminent destruction. Peter Berg (Hancock 49, The Kingdom 56) directs with the subtlety of Michael Bay from a script by Erich and Jon Hoeber (Whiteout 28). Will Battleship and its over-$200 million price tag sink at the domestic box office, or can former Friday Night Lights star Kitsch redeem himself as a Hollywood leading man? Given that the only action movie competition standing in its way is Men in Black 3 (and not until the following weekend), Battleship has a fighting chance.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Watch Trailer
May 4 LIMITED | Directed by John Madden

Summer is the season of the blockbuster, but there’s always a need for a bit of counter-programming. So why not check in to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? The cast is excellent (if a bit older than your typical summer movie ensemble), filled with names like Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, and Dev Patel. The director, John Madden, has done solid work in years past (Shakespeare in Love 87) and recently (The Debt 65), and the story, based on Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things, is a genial tale of British retirees spending their waning years in a not quite refurbished hotel run by an young entrepreneur in Jaipur, India.

Dark Shadows
May 11 | Directed by Tim Burton

The latest collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp is a re-imagining of Dark Shadows, the cult TV show from the late 60s and early 70s. In this version of the story, Barnabas Collins (Depp), who two centuries earlier was turned into a vampire and buried alive, wakes up in 1972 to find his beloved home and family in a poor state. As he adapts to this new world and attempts to help his floundering family (including Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller, and Chloe Moretz), Barnabas must resist the advances of the witch (Eva Green) who originally cursed him. The comedic tone of the script from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter author Seth Grahame-Smith might lead to a welcome return to form after Burton’s and Depp’s recent live action collaboration left critics nonplussed, but fans of the original gothic melodrama might be a bit surprised to see their beloved show turned into Beetlejuice.

The Dictator Watch Trailer
May 16 | Directed by Larry Charles

Yes, that's Sacha Baron Cohen dressed as the dictator of fictitious third-world country Wadiya in the third collaboration between the comedian and director Larry Charles (Borat 89, Bruno 54). Unlike their previous two films, The Dictator is structured as a conventional scripted comedy rather than a mockumentary, which comes as a relief after Bruno suggested the format had run its course. The story finds Baron Cohen's Gaddafi- and Saddam Hussein-inspired General Admiral Alladeen deposed from his leadership position and exiled to America. Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris also star.

Men in Black 3 Watch Trailer
May 25 | Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

It has taken eight years and way more than eight rewrites to get Men in Black 3 into theaters (beginning production without a finished script is never a good idea, no matter how much money is being saved through tax deals), but maybe the first 3D film of the lucrative franchise will recapture the billion-dollar-plus box office magic of the first two films (Men in Black 71, Men in Black II 49). This time around, Will Smith’s Agent J must time travel back to 1969 to prevent the assassination of Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K, where Josh Brolin gets to do his best Tommy Lee Jones impression as the young Agent K. Barry Sonnenfeld returns to feature directing for the first time since 2006’s RV 33, but he has a strong supporting cast to help him out including Emma Thompson and Alice Eve as old and young Agent O, plus Jemaine Clement, Rip Torn, Bill Hader, Nicole Scherzinger, Michael Stuhlbarg, and over a hundred aliens created by Rick Baker. And if enough of you see it, the ending reportedly allows the filmmakers to reboot the franchise.

Moonrise Kingdom Watch Trailer
May 25 LIMITED | Directed by Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson may have finally picked a different typeface for his new film's poster (sorry, Futura fans), but everything else appears to be quirky business as usual for the writer-director, and that's nothing to complain about given that his previous six films averaged a 72. Co-written by Roman Coppola (who previously teamed with the director on The Darjeeling Limited), Moonrise Kingdom features Anderson regulars like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman alongside newcomers Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, and Edward Norton, but the real stars are the two young leads (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman) who play a pair of runaways in 1960s New England. The film will open the Cannes Film Festival the week before rolling out in the U.S.

All May releases by date

Friday, May 4

The Avengers: See above.

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel LIMITED: See above.

The documentary First Position LIMITED follows six young dancers as they prepare for and compete in one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world.

The pollution, scarcity, and waste of the world's water supply is examined in the documentary Last Call at the Oasis LIMITED.

Kate Hudson tries to find A Little Bit of Heaven LIMITED with her doctor (Gael Garcia Bernal) as she battles cancer.

After sitting on the shelf for two years, the Miley Cyrus-starring LOL LIMITED will finally get a brief theatrical release to fulfill contractual obligations with zero promotional effort supporting it, and if that doesn't make you want to see this remake of the 2008 French comedy, we don't know what will.

Luke Wilson finds himself Meeting Evil LIMITED (aka Samuel L. Jackson) in this thriller from the director of 2006's panned Dirty and the straight-to-video S. Darko.

Rebecca De Mornay and her criminally inclined offspring terrorize a group of friends in Mother's Day LIMITED.

Kathleen Turner heads what may seem like The Perfect Family LIMITED to outsiders, put proves comically dysfunctional in reality; Emily Deschanel and Jason Ritter also star.

The Occupy Movement is the subject of documentary #ReGeneration LIMITED, narrated by Ryan Gosling.

Wednesday, May 9

Patience: After Sebald NY examines the life of acclaimed German writer W.G. Sebald (1944-2001), and his work The Rings of Saturn in particular.

Friday, May 11

Dark Shadows: See above.

Eva Mendes is a single mom struggling to raise her teenage daughter in Girl in Progress LIMITED.

Bobcat Goldthwait writes and directs God Bless America LIMITED, a violent and satirical shot at American culture (in which Goldthwait does much of the shooting).

Based on the novel by Andrea Portes, Hick LIMITED follows a young Nebraska teen (Chloë Moretz) who runs away to Las Vegas and is taken in by a grifter (Blake Lively).

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's (Still Walking, Nobody Knows) latest film, I Wish LIMITED, looks at the relationship of two brothers separated by divorce.

The offbeat French film noir Nobody Else But You NY/Seattle has been compared to the work of the Coen brothers and David Lynch.

In the romantic comedy Tonight You're Mine LIMITED two musicians get handcuffed together at Scotland's biggest music festival, T in the Park.

Lebanese drama Where Do We Go Now? LIMITED won an audience award at last year's TIFF for its look at the Muslim and Christian residents of a tiny village who must band together when they are isolated by a civil war.

Wednesday, May 16

The Dictator: See above.

The Russian family drama Elena NY won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Samuel L. Jackson plays an ex-con sucked back into the grifter's life in The Samaritan LIMITED.

Friday, May 18

Matt D'Elia writes, directs and stars in the indie American Animal LIMITED, a chamber drama featuring four slackers in a downtown Los Angeles loft.

Battleship: See above.

First-time feature director Panos Cosmatos takes audiences on a hallucinogenic sci-fi mind-fuck with Beyond the Black Rainbow NY.

Fashion doc Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel LIMITED looks at the life of the former editor of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue.

Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story LIMITED traces the life of the Israeli war hero killed during a 1976 hostage rescue at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, and Jonathan Pryce seek good vibes in Hysteria LIMITED, Tanya Wexler's Victorian-era comedy about the invention of a certain sex toy.

Lovely Molly LIMITED suggests it might not be a great idea to move into your deceased father's country house.

Polisse LIMITED looks at the lives of cops who work in the Child Protection Unit of northern Paris.

Heartwarming Japanese drama Quill: The Life of A Guide Dog LIMITED follows a Labrador Retriever from adorable puppyhood through his training and career as a service dog for the blind.

If you are somehow expecting an ensemble comedy about childbirth starring Chris Rock, Elizabeth Banks, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Rob Huebel, and Jennifer Lopez, then you know What to Expect When You're Expecting, inspired by the best-selling pregnancy guidebook.

Friday, May 25

The latest pseudo-documentary-style chiller from Oren Peli (though he only co-writes and produces here, and avoids the "found footage" gimmick he so loves), Chernobyl Diaries finds six young tourists stuck in an abandoned city near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

In the drama Hide Away LIMITED, an aimless Josh Lucas tries to turn his life around by buying a run-down sailboat.

The Intouchables LIMITED is a French comedy that looks at the relationship between a rich, white quadriplegic and his black caretaker.

Men in Black 3: See above.

Chazz Palminteri and Andie MacDowell play a couple who move their family from Brooklyn to New Orleans in the 1970s-set coming-of-age drama Mighty Fine LIMITED.

Moonrise Kingdom: LIMITED See above.

Filmmaker Bud Clayman chronicles his own struggles with OCD, bipolar disorder, and Asperger's Syndrome in the documentary OC87 LIMITED.

Reprise director Joachim Trier and star Anders Danielsen Lie team-up again on Oslo, August 31 LIMITED, a day-in-the-life portrait of a recovering drug addict.

Wednesday, May 30

Sundance doc 5 Broken Cameras LIMITED examines the Palestine-Israel conflict from the standpoint of a father leading a nonviolent resistance to encroaching Jewish settlements.

On the next pages ...

Turn the page to get a look at films due in June, followed by July and August releases.

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