It’s a summer for superheroes at the movies
Comic book crime-fighters are aiming to clobber summer box office records.
The booming success of “The Hunger Games” has Hollywood hoping for a record 2012. If it makes it there, it will be on the shoulders of some of the summer’s superheroes.
Superhero films are expected to take the top spots this summer, with “Marvel’s The Avengers” opening in May, followed by “Amazing Spider-Man” in June and “The Dark Knight Rises” in July. “The Avengers” has already pre-sold more tickets than four of the Marvel films that preceded it, according to MovieTickets.com, so it’s likely to get the summer off with a bang. Spider-Man and Batman are responsible for the two highest-grossing superhero films of all time (2008’s “The Dark Knight” and 2002’s “Spider-Man”), so expectations are high.
Another film based on a comic-book series returns for an anticipated sequel: “Men in Black III,” with Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin.
That’s just one of the typical swath of summer sequels, reboots and reimaginings: Tim Burton returns with “Dark Shadows,” the Rock suits up for “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Total Recall” gets a Colin Ferrell-led remake.
From the “who saw that coming” department, there will be films based on everything from a board game to an instructional manual on pregnancy. But original concepts still have a chance: Pixar provides what looks to be another entertaining animated film with “Brave.”
It all kicks off today as a technological genius, a Norse god, an All-American soldier and a raging green behemoth come together to launch the 2012 summer movie season. But don’t forget that studios love to move around release dates, so check your local listings before heading to the movies.
“Marvel’s The Avengers”
Marvel’s heroes will gather en masse in this anticipated super-blockbuster directed by Joss Whedon (“Serenity”). The film will bring together actors from the casts of “Iron Man” (Robert Downey Jr.), “Iron Man 2” (Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson), “Thor” (Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner) and “Captain America: The First Avenger” (Chris Evans), adding in Mark Ruffalo as the new Hulk for good measure.
Damsels in Distress”
Three girls set out to overturn the male-dominated culture of a college campus in this latest offering from “The Last Days of Disco” writer-director Whit Stillman. Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody and Analeigh Tipton head the cast.
As Tim Burton is wont to do these days, “Dark Shadows” is the latest in the quirky director’s remaking and reimagining of the classics. Originally a Gothic soap opera that played on ABC from 1965 to 1971, Burton’s new version stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, the vampire who returns to his estate after 200 years to find the place in ruins and occupied by dysfunctional descendants. In addition to Depp, “Dark Shadows” also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter and Jackie Earle Haley.
This drama from Israel written and directed by Joseph Cedar is a dual character study involving the rivalry between a father and son (Shlomo Bar-Aba, Lior Ashkenazi) who are both professors in Talmudic studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Sacha Baron Cohen moves from ambush comedy to narrative comedy, parodying notorious Middle Eastern despots as Admiral General Aladeen, dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya. This time he actually acts with a cast, including Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly and Ana Faris, under the direction of Larry Charles, who helmed the outrageous Baron Cohen mocumentaries “Borat” and “Bruno.”
Who knew the Hasbro game of tiny plastic boats and peg holes you used to play with your little brother or sister would one day inspire a big-budget, big-effects sci-fi thriller about an international fleet of ships that comes across an alien armada during a war games exercise? Well, the day has come, whether you were expecting it or not, and Peter Berg directs a cast including Liam Neeson, Rihanna, Alexander Skarsgard and Brooklyn Decker.
“What to Expect When You’re Expecting”
Inspired by the New York Times bestselling pregnancy guidebook of the same name, screenwriters Shauna Cross (“Whip It”) and Heather Hach (“Freaky Friday”) have created a comedy-drama about five expectant couples experiencing the trials and joys of the childbirth process. Kirk Jones (“Everybody’s Fine”) directs an ensemble cast that includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifter Lopez, Matthew Morrison, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Brooklyn Decker, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rodrigo, Rob Huebel, Chace Crwaford, Dennis Quaid and Chris Rock.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
An ensemble cast of British acting royalty — including Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie — star as a group of British seniors seeking golden-years serenity at a retirement haven in India in this comedy from “Shakespeare in Love” director John Madden.
In keeping with “The Big Chill” and “Grand Canyon” tradition, director Lawrence Kasdan brings us another of his boomer-centric dramas, co-written with wife Meg Kasdan, this time about a longtime married couple who’ve slipped into taking one another for granted. Kevin Kline plays the self-absorbed surgeon and Diane Keaton is the wife who seems to love her rescue dog more than she does her husband. Watch what happens when he loses her mutt. Supporting cast includes Dianne Wiest, Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ayelet Zuret and Richard Jenkins.
“Men in Black 3”
A decade after the last installment, the Men in Black are back. The movie series, based on the comic book written by Lowell Cunningham and illustrated by Sandy Carruthers, stars Will Smith as Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K. The agents are members of a secret task force that monitors alien activity on Earth. In “MIB 3,” Agent J must travel back in time to the 1960s to prevent Agent K (played in the 1960s era of the film by Josh Brolin) from being assassinated.
“Men in Black 3” also stars Alice Eve, Emma Thompson and Johnny Knoxville.
Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play young lovers who run away from their small New England town, shaking up the citizenry and triggering a major search party in this romantic comedy-drama from director Wes Anderson (“Bottle Rocket,” “The Royal Tenenbaums”). Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Francis McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Harvey Keitel are supporting players.
Six people take a guided tour of the abandoned city of Pripyat, former home of Chernobyl nuclear reactor workers, and soon discover they are not alone in this horror piece from visual effects specialist and first-time director Bradley Parker.
“Snow White and the Huntsman”
Box office receipts did not reflect well on “Mirror, Mirror” this spring, but director Rupert Sanders’ feature debut takes a darker path into the same woods. Queen Ravenna (Oscar winner Charlize Theron) sends a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth of “The Avengers”) to capture Snow White (Kristen Stewart of “The Twilight Saga”), so the evil queen can achieve immortality, but then the Huntsman has doubts as to who is truly the fairest one of all.
As this sequel’s ridiculously upfront and in-your-face title suggests, this killer-fish splatter comedy set in an infested water park aspires to be a full-bodied success. The follow-up to the over-the-top, ultra-bloody naked hilarity of 2010’s surprise hit, “Piranha 3D” features David Koechner, Katrina Bowden of “30 Rock” and two names synonymous with quality entertainment, David Hasselhoff and Oklahoma’s own Gary Busey.
No, this is not a sequel to John Travolta’s whacked-out Scientology-fi disaster “Battlefield Earth” — this battle takes place with dance, not “Dianetics.” The musical drama follows a young businessman and a choreographer in their efforts to turn a ragtag bunch of misfits into underground dance superstars. In other words, step up, because you got served.
Director Ridley Scott returns to the chest-bursting excitement of the “Alien” universe in a new sci-fi adventure that follows a group of space explorers led by Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender in their quest to find the origin of life. Throughout filming, Scott kept his statements about the “Alien” connection to this new film as vague and elliptical as possible, but allowed that some of the “DNA” of the “space jockey” is present in “Prometheus.”
“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”
Thanks to the questionable navigational skills of monkeys and penguins, the “Madagascar” saga could go on forever. In their never-ending quest to return to their posh digs at the Central Park Zoo, Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, and Gloria the Hippopotamus (voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith) wind up in a circus traveling through Europe.
Dumped just three weeks before her wedding, Lola (Greta Gerwig of “Damsels in Distress”) enlists several friends in a series of adventures in an effort to distance herself from the heartbreak and come to terms with turning 30.
“Rock of Ages”
After humble beginnings as a “jukebox” musical based around hair metal songs, “Rock of Ages” eventually moved to Broadway and now gets its big-screen treatment. Directed by Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”), the comedic musical drama takes place in 1987 at the zenith of the Los Angeles pop-metal explosion and stars Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Paul Giamatti.
“That’s My Boy”
Adam Sandler stars as Donny, who became a father as a teenager and raised his son Todd (Andy Samberg) until becoming estranged after the boy’s 18th birthday. Then Donny disrupts Todd’s wedding in yet another Sandlerian screwball venture that also features the comedy stylings of James Caan and Tony Orlando.
“The Woman in the Fifth”
After losing his job and reputation in a scandal, a college lecturer (Ethan Hawke) goes to Paris, where he meets a widow (Kristin Scott Thomas) who may have been involved in a series of killings.
Pixar’s animation wizards look back to ancient times for their first fairy tale, the story of courageous and impetuous Scottish princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald), a skilled archer who defies a venerable custom and inadvertently causes chaos in the kingdom of her parents, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd also lend their brogues to the Highland adventure.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”
Benjamin Walker stars as the 16th President of the United States in this film from “Wanted” director Timur Bekmambetov. But this is a version that you didn’t read about in history class. Based on the 2010 mashup novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, the film posits that Lincoln was secretly a vampire hunter.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”
The impending worldwide doom of an asteroid crash gets an ensemble comedy treatment from screenwriter Lorene Scafaria (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”), who also makes her directorial debut. After his wife leaves in a panic, a man named Dodge (Steve Carell) teams up with his longtime British neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) to search for his old childhood sweetheart before Earth is obliterated.
After being pushed back several times, “Hysteria” achieves delayed gratification in this historical comedy starring Maggie Gylllenhaal and Hugh Dancy about the invention of the first, um, facial massager.
“Where Do We Go Now?”
Tensions between Christians and Muslims in a Lebanese village are calmed by a group of women in the film festival favorite directed by Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki (“The Father and the Foreigner,” “Caramel”).
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”
To answer for all those people who sat through “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” the sequel features Capt. Duke Hauser (Channing Tatum) facing off against Zartan. Joining in the clanking metal mayhem are Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bruce Willis and Adrianne Palicki.
For more Channing Tatum — much more — there is director Steven Soderbergh’s fictionalization of Tatum’s early, pre-acting days as a stripper in a Southern town. In addition to Tatum, “Magic Mike” stars Matthew McConaughey, Oklahoma’s own Olivia Munn and Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough.
“Madea’s Witness Protection”
Tyler Perry offers his wisdom about Wall Street greed and the horrors of Recession-era swindling in “Madea’s Witness Protection,” in which an investment banker (Eugene Levy) and his wife (Denise Richards) learn a lot about something or other when they are sentenced to live with sassy senior citizen Madea (Perry) after being convicted in a Ponzi scheme.
“The Amazing Spider-Man”
Has there ever been a more appropriately named director than Marc Webb? The “(500) Days of Summer” director takes over for Sam Raimi as the Spider-films are rebooted, with Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) signing on as timid teen Peter Parker, who becomes the Amazing Spider-Man following an encounter with an unusual spider.
“Katy Perry: Part of Me”
The life and music of pop confection Katy Perry is explored in a documentary filmed during her “California Dreams” tour.
“The Queen of Versailles”
Magnolia Pictures film about billionaires Jackie and David Siegel won a documentary directing award at the Sundance Film Festival. The Siegels’ plans to build the largest house in America, modeled after the palace of Versailles, go awry after the 2008 financial crisis. The film also will show June 9 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art as part of the deadCenter Film Festival.
“Ice Age: Continental Drift”
Saber-toothed squirrel Scrat’s pursuit of an acorn has world-changing consequences. Voices include Ray Romano, Queen Latifah and Denis Leary.
“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane directs this film about a grown man (Mark Wahlberg) still dealing with the consequences of a childhood wish: his cherished teddy bear coming to life. Mila Kunis co-stars.
“The Dark Knight Rises”
The big finale to Christopher Nolan’s Bat-trilogy brings in Tom Hardy as bad guy Bane and Anne Hathaway as the sexy Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. Christian Bale returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman for the final time. The movie takes place eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight.”
Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill co-star in a sci-fi comedy about a neighborhood watch group that uncovers an alien plot.
“Step Up Revolution”
Scott Speer, who has directed music videos for Ashley Tisdale and Switchfoot, directs the next installment of the dance franchise, which takes place in Miami.
“The Bourne Legacy”
Matt Damon has finished his stint as Jason Bourne, the super-spy with the foggy memory, but two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Town”) will be introduced as a new CIA operative traversing the murky universe based on Robert Ludlum’s novels in the action-packed franchise’s fourth film. After penning the three previous “Bourne” movies, two-time Oscar nominee Tony Gilroy again takes up the pen but also takes the director’s chair for “Legacy.”
Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston star in director Len Wiseman’s (the “Underworld” franchise) remake of the 1990 sci-fi cult favorite of the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both versions are inspired by the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.”
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days”
The third movie of the unlikely franchise combines the third and fourth books of author/cartoonist Jeff Kinney’s popular six-novel series, with all the principal players returning, including Zachary Gordon, who reprises his role as the series’ adolescent protagonist, Greg Heffley.
Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis face off as rival North Carolina politicians with presidential aspirations in an election-year comedy from Jay Roach (the “Austin Powers” movies).
Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep reunites with “The Devil Wears Prada” director David Frankel for this relationship dramedy. She and Tommy Lee Jones play a couple who after three decades of marriage goes through an in-depth week-long counseling retreat with a therapist played by Steve Carell.
“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”
In this Disney fantasy, Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton), a childless couple unable to conceive, bury all their wishes for a baby in a box in their back yard. After a stormy night, they wake up to find a boy named Timothy (CJ Adams) on their doorstep, but he is not quite what he appears to be. Writer-director Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life”) is working from a story by Ahmet Zappa, son of famed rocker Frank.
“The Expendables 2”
Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews return for more muscular mercenary action, adding Liam Hemsworth, Yu Nan and tougher-than-a-thousand-Internet-jokes Oklahoma native Chuck Norris to the team. Plus, Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as their main antagonist, the leader of a rival band of guns-for-hire.
In what was once meant to be a her cinematic comeback, the late Whitney Houston plays a washed-up professional singer whose three big-voiced daughters — played by Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, and Tika Sumpter — start a 1960s all-girl singing trio but must deal with the fallout of fame, drugs and bad boys. The movie co-stars Mike Epps, Derek Fisher and Cee Lo Green.
Houston, who died Feb. 11, also was an executive producer for the upcoming movie, a remake of the 1976 film of the same name.
Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman and Casey Affleck lend their voices to this animated adventure about a misfit named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who can speak with the dead and faces off against ghosts, zombies and adults to save his town from an ancient curse.
Tulsa-born writer-director Todd Lincoln, who produced the documentary “Biker Fox,” makes his feature film debut with this horror-thriller starring Ashley Greene (“The Twilight Saga”), Sebastian Stan (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) and Tom Felton (the “Harry Potter” franchise).
In this action-thriller, a Manhattan bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) picks up a delivery that attracts the attention of a corrupt cop (Oscar nominee Michael Shannon), who chases the cyclist throughout the city.
“Hit and Run”
More speedy thrills await with this action/comedy/romance in which Dax Shepard (TV’s “Parenthood”) co-directs with David Palmer, writes and stars as a former getaway driver who jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan identity to help his girlfriend make it to Los Angeles. Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper and Broken Arrow native Kristin Chenoweth co-star.
Director John Hillcoat’s (“The Road”) Depression-era crime drama about bootleggers whose livelihoods are threatened when authorities want a cut of their profits stars Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska.
Inspired by a true story, this horror tale about a young girl who buys an antique box at a yard sale unaware that an evil spirit waits inside to possess her comes from Danish director Ole Bornedal and producer Sam Raimi. Formerly known as “The Dibbuk Box,” the movie features Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick.