This year’s dog days boast promise when it comes to the big screen. Like last summer, a fair share of superhero flicks will make their way to theaters, such as the anticipated finale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But summer 2012 will also showcase some auspicious films that don’t fit the typical summer mold. From a new work by the idiosyncratic Wes Anderson to the latest from that powerhouse of a studio called Pixar, the months ahead should give us quality fare from all of cinema’s genres.
Bats, Spiders and Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
(PG-13) Directed by Christopher Nolan – July 20
Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has changed the face of superhero movies forever. It has also depicted our world in a grain of sand by allegorizing American culture and its cynical state. In other words, it’s important. The most anticipated movie of the summer, The Dark Knight Rises should not only give us another entertaining feat from the acclaimed filmmaker, but it should also tell us whether Nolan possesses any hope for Gotham and, thus, our country.
The Amazing Spider-Man
(PG-13) Directed by Marc Webb – July 3
For some, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy satisfied despite Toby Maguire going emo in part three. For others it came up short, spawning the need for a reboot. Apparently darker and grittier than the Spiderman of the past, The Amazing Spider-Man will seek to reimagine the series starting with another origins story. But if it doesn’t go far enough, it will be hard to justify, even with the dreamy Andrew Garfield as Spidey.
(PG-13) Directed by Joss Whedon – May 4
The Avengers will, at last, bring the most celebrated Marvel superheroes—including Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Evans’ Captain America—together in a single movie. The story follows the Avengers, as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D summon them to protect Earth from an unexpected enemy. It all seems promising, but in the hands of such an inexperienced director, at least when it comes to movies, the outcome remains seriously uncertain.
The Three Auteurs
(PG-13) Directed by Wes Anderson – May 25
According to Wes Anderson’s track record, it would be difficult for Moonrise Kingdom to be anything but fantastic. The young auteur continues to amaze, movie after movie. Set in the 1960s, his seventh feature film centers on two young lovers who run away from their New England town, prompting a local search party to seek them out. It features an all star cast in Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand.
(NR) Directed by Tim Burton – May 11
Based on an old gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows explores the life of a vampire (Johnny Depp, of course) as he encounters a whole slew of monsters—played by the likes of Chloe Grace Moretz and Helena Bonham Carter (his wife and also a Burton movie staple). It could be everything Burton needs to redeem himself.
Aliens, Pixar and the Future
(R) Directed by Ridley Scott – June 8
A pioneer within the sci-fi genre, Ridley Scott returns to his roots with Prometheus, an Alien prequel with its own mythology and universe. Starring Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, who may just be the most striking actor currently in the industry, the story follows a team of explorers who discover an extraterrestrial race while searching for the origins of humankind. With this premise, the film should be full of thrills and chills—not to mention subtext.
(R) Directed by Len Wisemen – August 3
It’s hard to imagine a Total Recall bettering the 1990 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Big, loud and fast, that famed blockbuster was quite a memorable ride. But with Collin Farrell in the lead role and a more politically driven narrative truer to Philip K. Dick’s novelette, this upcoming reboot certainly deserves a chance. The action adventure also stars Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, who could provide some interesting flare.
(PG) Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman – June 22
Pixar rarely produces a dud, especially when it comes to original stories—not sequels like the tepid Cars 2. For that fact, Brave looks about as hopeful as they come. Featuring the studio’s first female protagonist, the film spins a story of a young princess who defies an ancient custom and brings chaos upon her kingdom. This leaves her cursed and on a quest to undo the spell. It’s a fairy tale in the spirit of Hans Christian Andersen.
Dim-witted Dads, Politicians and Neighbors
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
(R) Directed by Lorene Scafaria—June 22
Lorene Scafaria, the writer of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, makes her directorial debut with this dramedy about, well, the end of the world. The film puts Steve Carell and Keira Knightley together with an asteroid on path to destroy Earth, so clearly Scafaria has her work cut out for her with such a tantalizing story and cast, but with David Gordon Green’s gifted, Tim Orr, shooting the film, she certainly has all the pieces in place for a great movie.
(N/A) Directed by Akiva Schaffer – July 27
A group of friends start a neighborhood watch group to escape their families, but their plan becomes thwarted when they discover a plot to destroy Earth. If this ridiculous plotline isn’t enough to make you a little excited, know that the film stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade. Oh, and it was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and directed by Akiva Schaffer, the brains behind the underrated and hilarious Hot Rod.
(N/A) Directed by Jay Roach– August 10
In this comedy by director Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents), two rival politicians battle it out to win a spot in the House of Representatives, representing their small North Carolina district. But these aren’t–well, maybe they are– your average politicians. These are a few incompetent morons played by Zach Galifanakis and Will Ferrell. Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox and John Lithgow also make up part of the cast.
Bourne for Espionage and Grit
(R) Directed by Ben Affleck – September 14
Ben Affleck’s junior effort takes us to the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, where America and Canada must join together to rescue six U.S. diplomats held captive at their embassy in Iran. With a cast made up of Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), the historical thriller should once again prove Affleck has some notable chops when it comes to directing.
The Bourne Legacy
(PG-13) Directed by Tony Gilroy – August 3
Given the effectiveness of The Bourne trilogy, a fourth entry almost seems unnecessary. But with screenwriter Tony Gilroy back on board alongside a brand new cast of talent, chances are it will be worthwhile. Starting where The Bourne Ultimatum ended, the film welcomes in a new set of characters, specifically Jeremy Renner’s secret agent Aaron Cross and an antagonist played by Edward Norton. It’s bound to be an enjoyable ride.
(N/A) Directed by John Hillcoat– August 31
Hillcoat already made a great period piece in his Australian western The Proposition and followed it with a satisfying take on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. So he’s hit a home run with this adaptation of the novel The Wettest County in the World– a Prohibition story about three bootleg brothers trying to avoid the law. Plus Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman and Mia Wasikowska star.
David Roark lives in Dallas and writes about film and culture for Paste, Christianity Today and RELEVANT. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.