Film Guide: Blockbuster Movies to Catch in Theaters This Summer

Navigating the Sizzling Summer Cinema

In summer, the multiplex heats up with superhero spectaculars, outrageous comedies, outer-space adventures, and—of course—vampires. But which movies do you choose? Here, our guide to the best of the summer movie season.


Photo by Zade Rosenthal © 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel

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The Avengers
May 4, Walt Disney Pictures
You’ve been a good Marvel fan, studiously following all of the comic-book movies in the run up to this one: Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and maybe even an Incredible Hulk movie or two. It’s finally time to reap your rewards. In The Avengers, they all team up for a super-sized superhero squad. Joss Whedon—comic nerd extraordinaire and creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer—co-wrote and directed the film, so expect some quippy banter to pass between the heroes.


The Dictator
May 11, Paramount Pictures
First it was the English Parliament, then it was the glorious nation of Kazakhstan, and, now, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is setting his sights on the fictional Republic of Wadiya. This time, he’s embodied the character of Supreme Leader Shabazz Aladeen, a tyrant who works tirelessly to keep horrible democracy from coming to his country. Cohen’s in-character appearances to promote his films are almost as funny as the movies themselves, so keep an eye out for Aladeen in real life. (He already dumped what he claimed were Kim Jong-Il’s ashes out on Ryan Seacrest during the Academy Awards red carpet, so his rule of law can’t be all bad.)


Photo courtesy of Focus Features

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Moonrise Kingdom
May 25, Focus Features
On the surface, Moonrise Kingdom seems like a straightforward movie: In the summer of 1965, two kids, supposedly in love, run away together, and a search party goes to look for them. But, in the hands of director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums), the search involves an impeccably uniformed scout troop, precociously mature children teaming up with bumbling adult authorities, absurdly gorgeous shots of the
New England wilderness, and, of course, Bill Murray.

Also Consider: One would hope that, with the addition of aliens and explosions, the movie Battleship (May 18) will be far less boring than playing the grid-based board game. Two May movies explore female lady-business in extremely different ways: What to Expect When You’re Expecting (May 18) follows five women through the turbulent trials of pregnancy, and Hysteria (May 18) deals with the invention of the first vibrator—in the name of medical science, of course. If that’s too much estrogen for you, Men in Black III (May 25)—now with time travel!—will get you back into manly things, like aliens and spaceships (again).

Vampire of the Month:
Barnabas Collins
Dark Shadows
May 11, Warner Bros. Pictures
Dark Shadows gained a cult following as a supernatural soap opera populated by vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and zombies—natural material for noted goths Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, who, in the series, was a vampire looking for his lost love. Though that may not sound anything remotely like Westchester, there is a local connection: The Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown was the stand-in for the haunted Collinwood Mansion in two Dark Shadows films, 1970’s House of Dark Shadows, and 1971’s Night of Dark Shadows. (The new movie was filmed in England. Boo.)



Photo by Kerry Brown TM and © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

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June 8, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Though this isn’t strictly an Alien prequel, director Ridley Scott assures that it takes place in the same world as his Alien movie. Better yet, it has all of hallmarks of what made Alien such a great and terrifying film, exploring consequences of space travel that imperil the human race. The movie follows the spaceship Prometheus’s crew—which features actors Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and Idris Elba—as they uncover clues about the origins of mankind. Of course, being related to the Alien franchise, they uncover something far more dangerous instead.

Rock of Ages
June 15, Warner Bros. Pictures
Tease your hair and pull your studded leather jacket out of storage: it’s time to head back to 1987, when hair bands provided the soundtrack to adolescence—and this movie. Based on the Broadway show, the film, about two kids in Los Angeles trying to fulfill their rock ’n’ roll dreams, features songs by Def Leppard, Poison, Foreigner, Warrant, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, Journey, and other ’80s mix-tape staples.

June 22, Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios
One of the best things about summer is that with the arrival of the season comes the new Pixar movie. Brave, a fairytale-like film, takes place in 10th-century Scotland, where a flaming-haired protagonist (voiced by Boardwalk Empire’s Kelly Macdonald) needs to use her skills as an archer to undo a beastly curse placed on her kingdom. Between this and The Hunger Games, where their heroine is also skilled with a bow and arrow, we expect your daughters to be begging you for archery lessons any minute now.

Also Consider: If Mirror Mirror didn’t exhaust your interest in Snow White, Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1), featuring Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as Snow White and Charlize Theron as the wicked queen, will. We’re into Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8), not just because it’s about magazine writers, but because said writers investigate a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel. Adam Sandler continues to play a series of schmucks when he becomes a foul-mouthed playboy annoying his more conservative son in That’s My Boy (June 15). For a brand of humor that’s the opposite of Adam Sandler’s, there’s Nero Fiddled (June 22), Woody Allen’s follow-up to Midnight in Paris. Choose your Channing Tatum adventure: the men-on-a-mission action sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29), in which Tatum might be relegated to a beefy cameo, or Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike (June 29), partly based on Tatum’s real-life experiences as a male stripper. Show some local pride by seeing Beasts of the Southern Wild (June 29), a fable about New Orleans, which was directed by Hastings-on-Hudson native Benh Zeitlin and won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Vampire of the Month:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
June 22, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Sure, compared to “Count Dracula” or “Lestat de Lioncourt,” the name “Adam” doesn’t sound like such a tough vampire name—but, rest assured, this one is powerful. (And so is his more impressively monikered vampiress, Vadoma.) They need a worthy adversary, and have found one in Abraham Lincoln, the country’s 16th president. We bet you didn’t know that, between dealing with the Civil War and freeing the slaves, Lincoln also killed vampires. The film, based on the novel of the same name, explains how, and Benjamin Walker—who previously took on Andrew Jackson in Broadway’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson—puts on the iconic top hat.



Photo by Jaimie Trueblood © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

The Amazing Spider-Man
July 3, Columbia Pictures
We know it hasn’t been so long since Tobey Maguire donned the Spider-Man mask, but now he’s passing the web-slinging torch on to The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield. Why reboot so soon? If Sony and Columbia Pictures don’t continue to make Spider-Man movies, they’ll lose the rights to the characters, so expect our favorite little arachnid to be a summertime staple for years to come.

The Dark Knight Rises
July 20, Warner Bros. Pictures
The Amazing Spider-Man hopes to do what Christopher Nolan did to the Batman series starting in 2005 with Batman Begins—making it darker and more grounded in the real world. Nolan’s Batman trilogy concludes with The Dark Knight Rises, which sees Christian Bale’s caped crusader going up against the terrifying villain Bane, played by Inception’s muscular Tom Hardy. This film takes place eight years after the events of the previous installment and, even without the Joker, Gotham is still in pretty rough shape.

Neighborhood Watch
July 27, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
After all that moody superhero drama, you’re going to need a good laugh. Luckily, Ben Stiller, Richard Ayoade, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill are joining forces for just such a purpose. The quartet decides to form a neighborhood watch group as an excuse to escape from their families for a little while, but eventually they uncover a plot that requires them to actually snap into action. And, since it’s the summer, the plot they uncover obviously involves aliens.

Also Consider: Greenwich, Connecticut, animation house Blue Sky Studios offers another prehistoric tale with Ice Age: Continental Drift (July 13). Seth MacFarlane, the creative force behind Family Guy and American Dad, tries his hand at live-action directing with Ted (July 13), about a full-grown man and his teddy bear that comes to life. Put on your dancing shoes and see Step Up 4 (July 27), about a woman aspiring to be a professional dancer in red-hot Miami.



Total Recall
August 3, Columbia Pictures
It’s the remake you never knew you wanted: Colin Farrell steps into the role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Underworld director Len Wiseman takes the helm. The new film is reported to be less of an action flick and closer to the original Philip K. Dick short story—but it still has hover cars, so there’s that.  

The Campaign
August 10, Warner Bros. Pictures
Will Ferrell or Zach Galifianakis: Who gets your vote? The two comedians play rival North Carolina politicians, and we expect their rivalry to be way funnier than the Lincoln-Douglas debates.


Photo by Laika, Inc.

August 17, Focus Features
You think your kids are weird? Norman can speak to the dead. It seems like an odd skill, but it comes in handy when he needs to save his town from a centuries-old curse. The stop-motion animated film is from Laika Entertainment, the company behind the delightful Coraline.

Also Consider: A franchise is re-Bourne when Jeremy Renner takes over for Matt Damon in The Bourne Legacy (August 3). Meryl Streep follows up her Oscar win with Great Hope Springs (August 10), about a couple going into intense couples counseling after a 30-year marriage. Meatheads unite for The Expendables 2 (August 17), which features an all-star action cast that includes Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Chuck Norris. Sparkle (August 17) carries the dubious distinction of having Whitney Houston’s final role. Take your cycle-friendly friends to see the bike-messenger action flick Premium Rush (August 24), which stars the pedaling power of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Note: Studios are notoriously twitchy about film release dates, and some of these may have “adjusted” after press time. Check your listings.

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