Summer In the Dark

Movie by movie, here's how to get the most out of this summer without having to cake on sunscreen

JUNE 7

After Earth
While it's not being advertised as "An M. Night Shyamalan Film," this big-budget science-fiction flick was helmed and co-written by the once-promising filmmaker. Will Smith and son Jaden co-star as space-age foragers on a post-human Earth. The ads suggest this is a Karate Kid-like vanity project to promote Big Willy's kid, but with Shyamalan, there's always a twist—maybe it will be that the film doesn't suck.

Much Ado About Nothing
The Bard comes to Sunnydale in this adaptation/update of Shakesepare's comedy, all filmed in director Joss Whedon's house. (But not set there. That would be weird.) As Avengers co-creator Stan Lee might put it, the director's handling the greatest English playwrght in the mighty Whedon manor.

Man of Steel
Man of Steel
The Way, Way Back
The Way, Way Back

Passion
Brian De Palma returns with this visually delirious, Hitchcock-inspired pulp remake of 2010 French thriller Love Crime. Rachel McAdams and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace co-star as social-climbing ad women whose rivalry leads to a hilariously convoluted murder plot. The film is full of everything De Palma's fans and detractors have come to associate him with, building to a fantastic orchestra-hall set piece, complete with split-screen photography. It's good, mean fun.

*     *     *

JUNE 14

A Hijacking
Better known as "That Other Somali Pirate Drama, the One Not Starring Tom Hanks," A Hijacking is Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm's follow-up to R, an impressive, uneven, prison drama. In this much-buzzed-about film, pirates hold a Danish ship's crew hostage while that crew's employers work out whether to cut their losses or negotiate a rescue.

The Bling Ring
Sofia Coppola's based-on-batshit-true-events drama follows celebrity-obsessed teenage thieves who robbed Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan of roughly $3 million worth of cash, clothes and jewelry. Emma Watson, Leslie Mann and American Horror Story's Taissa Farmiga co-star in Coppola's follow-up to Somewhere, that really good drama starring the guy in those electronic-cigarette ads.

Man of Steel
Now that Christopher Nolan's Batman is dining (and probably whining) across the Mediterranean, and Marvel is cramming multiplexes with Avengers-related entertainment product, DC and Warner Bros. have prioritized the reboot of the biggest, nicest hero himself. And while director Zack Snyder struck out with Sucker Punch, the most recent Man of Steel trailers suggest this could be a serious, character-driven adventure. And after hearing him read that sorority letter, we can't wait to kneel before Michael Shannon as General Zod!

*     *     *

JUNE 21

Maniac
This remake of sleaze-meister William Lustig's singularly depraved riff on Psycho is shot mostly from the perspective of a killer, as in actual, first-person POV photography. That killer is played by lil' Elijah Wood, so presumably achieving that Wood's-Eye-View involved setting the camera on a Roomba. He may seem a weird choice to play a mommy-and-hooker-obsessed serial murderer, but remember Wood as Sin City's lady-killing cannibal?

Monsters University
A prequel to Pixar charmer Monsters Inc., Monsters University reveals the backstory kids have been dying to find out: how exactly Mike the cyclops (Billy Crystal) and Solly the muppet-bear-thing (John Goodman) became BFFs. Besides Pixar's still-fantastic record, the voice cast should sell this: Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion, Sean Hayes, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina and, best of all, Frank Oz reprising his role as Fungus.

World War Z
How many people does it take to save a horror-thriller? First, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski penned a script, then Lions for Lambs screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan rewrote it, then Cabin In the Woods director Drew Goddard and Lost show-runner Damon Lindelof stepped up for substantial rewrites—after much of the movie had been filmed. But even with seven weeks of reshoots and a six-month release delay, we still want to see this compromised adaptation of Max Brooks' popular, imaginative "aural history of the zombie crisis." It's a big-budget zombie movie starring Brad Pitt and character actor wiz David Morse. Tickets, please.

*     *     *

JUNE 28

The Heat
Melissa McCarthy is funny as hell, and hopefully, re-teaming with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig for this buddy-cop comedy will give her her second big-screen role worthy of her talents. Sandra Bullock co-stars, but then again, so does Marlon Wayans.

I'm So Excited
Pedro Almodovar chases his masterfully disturbing body-horror melodrama The Skin I Live In with this sex comedy about flight attendants who will do anything to keep their customers happy. It's exciting to see Almodovar return to peppy, deranged farces, especially as he's now a better filmmaker than when he made such lopsided gems as Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It would be better still if that Almodovar discovery Antonio Banderas' part in this showcases how far he has come as an actor since Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down!

Museum Hours
Among the most buzzed-about titles at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Jem Cohen's Museum Hours stood out, partly because it didn't star James Franco with a grill and wasn't directed by P.T. Anderson. Set in the historic Viennese art gallery Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, Cohen's breakout follows a security guard and a mysterious guest as they pore over paintings and talk about their lives and the city's history.

*     *     *

JULY 5

Hammer of the Gods
This bloody Viking drama is the directorial debut of Farren Blackburn, whose previous TV credits include Doctor Who and Luther. The film follows a young, often-bare-chested Viking's quest to reunite with his brother. Let's hope it's not Ragnarok.

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