The summer movie season begins Friday with the star-studded superhero extravaganza “The Avengers.” Here’s a look at that surefire hit and the other major offerings coming your way.
It’s almost summer, and Hollywood has a bevy of cool pictures to get you hot. They run the gamut, too, from action-packed blockbusters to animated adventures to romantic fantasies to outrageous comedies. And it all begins Friday with the star-studded superhero extravaganza “The Avengers.” So here’s a look at that surefire hit and the other major offerings coming your way over the next four months:
The Avengers: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), et al, join forces under the guidance of Samuel L. Jackson, aka Nick Fury, to stop Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), from destroying all of mankind. Filling out the cast (nicely) is Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) directs.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: An all-star cast of golden-aged British superstars (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith) join forces for a quirky comedy in which they get more than they bargained for when they book rooms at what turns out to be a not-so-exotic old-folks home in India. John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) directs.
A Little Bit of Heaven: Another year, another lousy rom-com from Kate Hudson. In this one, she plays a cancer patient (always good for a laugh) who falls in love with her oncologist (Gael Garcia Bernal).
Darling Companion: Filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”) strives – and reportedly fails – to regain relevance with this shaggy-dog drama about a woman (Diane Keaton) who goes off the deep end when her beloved mutt runs away. Kevin Kline co-stars.
The Hunter: Willem Dafoe plays a ruthless mercenary hired by a mysterious band of scientists to hunt supposedly extinct tigers in Tasmania. But in the process, he predictably discovers he has a heart. Sam Neill and Frances O’Connor co-star.
This Is Not a Film: Imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi (“The White Balloon”) secretly uses an iPhone to record this acclaimed documentary about his life as an imprisoned dissident.
Dark Shadows: Tim Burton brings TV’s original vampire soap opera to the big screen with Johnny Depp filling the formidable shoes of the late Jonathan Frid (making his last appearance here in a cameo) as the infamous Barnabas Collins.
The Dictator: Sacha Baron Cohen once again does his Borat thing by playing a Middle East dictator forced to take a penniless exile in the United States.
Page 2 of 7 - God Bless America: Writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait (“World’s Greatest Dad”) is at it again, brutally satirizing the decline of American morals and culture with this dark, hilarious comedy about a dying, disenfranchised man (“Mad Men’s” Joel Murray, brother of Bill) going on a killing spree in which he and his teenage accomplice (Tara Lynne Barr) take out reality TV celebrities they deem “too mean.”
Headhunters: Norway’s most accomplished corporate headhunter (Max Manus) moonlights as an art thief who bites off more than he can chew when he tries to bring his two disparate enterprises together in the form of a wealthy art collector (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Based on the best-selling book by Jo Nesbø.
Sound of My Voice: A documentary film team (Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius) find themselves in danger after they infiltrate a religious cult led by the gorgeous Brit Marling (“Another Earth”), who also co-wrote the screenplay.
Elles: Juliette Binoche plays an investigative journalist (a dying breed) dealing with a troubled home life while trying to sniff out a prostitution ring preying on gullible college coeds. Malgoska Szumowska directs.
First Position: Bess Kargman’s award-winning documentary explores the joys and heartbreaks of aspiring ballet dancers as they compete in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix.
Goodbye First Love: Writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve tries her hand at exploring young love in the form of a 15-year-old French girl (Lola Créton) whose affections for an older boy (Sebastian Urzendowsky) take a heartbreaking turn when he abruptly leaves her to go find himself in South America.
Battleship: Having failed to achieve success kicking alien butt on Mars in “John Carter,” Taylor Kitsch tries his hand at it back on Earth, where he and Liam Neeson battle inhuman invaders in yet another (gasp) film based on a children’s toy.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Indulging her entrepreneurial skills, Elizabeth Banks produces – and stars – in this light, ensemble comedy about the trials and tribulations of several expectant couples. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Dennis Quaid co-star.
Surviving Progress: Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks direct a documentary based on Ronald Wright’s book, “A Short History of Progress,” about the positive – and negative – influences technology and economics have had on our rapidly decaying society.
Page 3 of 7 - May 25
Men in Black 3: Talk about reviving a relic! Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, both obviously looking to cash a big paycheck, reprise their ancient roles as Agents J and K in an adventure in which the renowned alien hunters travel back in time. And when they do, don’t be surprised if Jones suddenly transforms into Josh Brolin, playing a younger, meaner version of K.
Chernobyl Diaries: Rejoice, Jesse McCartney fans, your heartthrob heads the cast of this oddball haunted-town flick in which he plays one of six tourists stranded in the deserted city of Pripyat, former home to workers from the doomed Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
Snow White and the Huntsman: Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth team up as the title characters to take down an evil witch played by an icy-cold Charlize Theron. It will be interesting to see if audiences respond to another revisionist Snow White tale so soon after “Mirror Mirror.”
Prometheus: Director Ridley Scott revisits “Alien” territory with this quasi-prequel in which a team of space explorers encounter a dark, menacing force bent on the destruction of humankind. Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander) leads a cast that reunites Charlize Theron with her “Young Adult” co-star, Patrick Wilson.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted: The third in the inexplicably popular cartoon series finds Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) joining the circus in hopes of finally making it back home to the Central Park Zoo.
Bel Ami: Robert Pattinson makes another stab at acting legitimacy by playing a poor boy whose wits and sexual prowess enable him to amass riches in Paris during the Gay ’90s. Christina Ricci, fresh off her cancelled “Pan Am” flight, co-stars.
Rock of Ages: Tom Cruise leads an all-star cast in this big-screen version of the Tony-nominated musical celebrating the big-hair bands of the 1980s. The story centers on Drew (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie (Julianne Hough), two aspiring stars who fall in love in 1987 Los Angeles. Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) directs.
That’s My Boy: Adam Sandler tries to wash from our mouths the putrid taste of his multi-Razzy “winning” “Jack and Jill” with this family dramedy about a father (Sandler) trying to reconnect with his estranged son (“SNL’s” Andy Sandberg) on the eve of the lad’s wedding.
Page 4 of 7 - June 22
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: Of all the stupid movie ideas Hollywood has devised over the years, this one takes the stake. Honestly, Abe!
Brave: Pixar looks to bounce back from the dud “Cars 2” with this tale about an impetuous young princess (voiced by “Boardwalk Empire’s” Kelly Macdonald) determined to use her archery skills to become a liberated woman free of her strict parents (voiced by Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson). But in so doing, she activates an ancient curse only she can eradicate.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: Steve Carell and Keira Knightley give us an uplifting take on what people might do if they knew Armageddon was close at hand.
To Rome With Love: Woody Allen follows up his Oscar-winning “Midnight in Paris” by traveling to another European capital to explore romance and culture. And what a cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penélope Cruz and Alec Baldwin, to name a few.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Channing Tatum goes mano-a-mano with Channing Tatum, who also stars in this week’s other big entry, “Magic Mike.” In this one, he plays a soldier (albeit one based on a doll) battling the hated Cobra and corrupt factions inside the U.S. government. Dwayne Johnson co-stars.
Magic Mike: Tatum literally doffs his “G.I. Joe” fatigues in this semi-autobiographical story about his former life as a male stripper. Steven Soderbergh directs.
People Like Us: On the occasion of his father’s death, Chris Pine is shocked to learn that he has a long-lost sister (Elizabeth Banks), a discovery that makes him want to be a better man. The film marks the directorial debut of Alex Kurtzman, the man responsible for writing such stinkers as “Transformers,” “Eagle Eye” and “Cowboys and Aliens.”
Take This Waltz: Writer-director Sarah Polley makes her long-awaited follow-up to her 2006, Oscar-nominated beauty “Away From Her,” with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen playing a devoted married couple encountering trouble when one of them is tempted to cheat.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone join with director Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) to re-energize the flagging superhero franchise that reached a creative low with “Spider-Man 3.” An entirely new cast, which also includes Sally Field, Denis Leary and Martin Sheen, should go a long way in aiding the regeneration.
Page 5 of 7 - July 6
Savages: Oliver Stone directs an all-star cast (Blake Lively, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek and Demian Bichir) in a crime thriller based on Don Winslow’s bestseller about a mom-and-pop marijuana operation coming under attack by a large Mexican cartel. Um, sounds a lot like “Weeds” (which coincidentally stars Bichir) without the laughs.
Ice Age: Continental Drift 3-D: Expect more of the same tame jokes and predictable animal banter in this flagging carton franchise about – appropriately enough – dinosaurs. This time, the critters are under attack by – oh, no – PIRATES!
Ted: “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane joins forces with Boston favorite son Mark Wahlberg for an offbeat comedy in which a grown man (Wahlberg) is hounded by his constant companion since childhood – a magical, verbose teddy bear, voiced by MacFarland, who also wrote the script and directs. The gorgeous Mila Kunis co-stars as Wahlberg’s love interest.
The Dark Knight Rises: Christopher Nolan and his charismatic star, Christian Bale, return to the mean streets of Gotham City for another pitch-black adventure with Tom Hardy playing a terrorist so vile he lures Batman back into action after an eight-year hiatus. Also joining the cast are Anne Hathaway and “Inception” veterans Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard.
Neighborhood Watch: Arriving in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, the timing isn’t the greatest for this comedy about a band of stumbling, bumbling neighborhood vigilantes who unwittingly become part of an alien invasion. The cast includes Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn, all working from a script penned by the “Superbad” duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Step Up Revolution: Yet another installment in the lucrative “Step Up” franchise in which exciting dance numbers override pedestrian scripts. In this one, a young woman (Kathryn McCormick) arrives in Miami with big dreams of becoming a traditional dancer until she hooks up with a hot, young street performer (Ryan Guzman).
The Bourne Legacy: Jason Bourne saves his greatest trick for his fourth film by miraculously transforming from Matt Damon into Jeremy Renner. There’s also a new director in the form of the franchise’s chief writer, Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”), but expect more of the same combination of duplicitous identities, corrupt officials and intense action. Joining Renner, who actually plays a completely new character, are fellow rookie cast members Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton.
Page 6 of 7 - Total Recall: James Cameron’s sci-fi classic receives a needless remake courtesy of middling director Len Wiseman (“Resident Evil”) and his wife, Kate Beckinsale, who joins with Colin Farrell (a weak substitute for Arnold Schwarzenegger) to rehash a dystopian tale about a factory worker who becomes a hunted man.
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days: The third movie based on Jeff Kinney’s popular children’s books finds series hero Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) spending his summer working at a country club with predictably disastrous results.
The Campaign: What would summer be without a Will Ferrell comedy? In this one, he plays a veteran congressman whose re-election is seriously threatened by a lowly nincompoop played in a perfect bit of casting by Zach Galifianakis. Look for the political enemies to take their mud slinging and backstabbing literally. Jay Roach directs.
Hope Springs: Oscar-winners Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play a long-married couple on the brink of divorce when they put their trust in a shrink (Steve Carell) to help them regenerate sparks. David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”) directs.
Sparkle: This remake about a musical family on the rocks would have probably come and gone with little fanfare if not for the death of Whitney Houston, who makes her final film appearance playing the mother of three Motown singing sensations.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green: A married couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) becomes an instant family when they welcome a lost little boy (CJ Adams) into their home.
ParaNorman: Anna Kendrick and Leslie Mann lend their voices to this quirky animated tale from the makers of “Coraline” about a teenager (“Let Me In’s” Kodi Schmit-McPhee) who becomes a junior ghostbuster when zombies threaten his hometown.
The Expendables 2: Bruce Willis and his Expendables mates are out for revenge after one of their ranks is murdered by a band of bad guys led by Jean-Claude Van Damme. The action pic also stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, making his return to the movies, and Sylvester Stallone, who co-wrote the screenplay.
Premium Rush: A Manhattan bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) his hunted by a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon) after the kid picks up an envelope containing incriminating information. David Koepp (“Ghost Town”) directs.
Page 7 of 7 - The Apparition: A young couple (Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan) turns to an expert in the supernatural (Tom Felton) after they come under attack by an evil spirit.
Hit and Run: Real-life lovers Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell are being pursued by both the feds and the mob in this cross-country road comedy.
7500: Four friends fight for their lives after the flight they are taking to Japan comes under attack by aliens. Amy Smart and Leslie Bibb star.
The Possession: In what sounds like a rip-off of “The Box,” a family falls under an ancient curse after they take possession of a mysterious container. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick star.
Lawless: John Hillcoat (“The Proposition,” “The Road”) directs Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce in a drama about Virginia bootleggers during the Great Depression.
The Baytown Disco: Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria play a divorced couple entering into an escalating war over possession of a little boy in this Tarantino-style shoot-’em up.