Summer In the Dark

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

The Lone Ranger
After Rango, we shouldn't underestimate director Gore Verbinski, even if he did direct two of those dire Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. Yes, watching Johnny Depp play Tonto sounds borderline offensive, but the film is bound to be visually dynamic thanks to Verbinski's knack for cartoonish set pieces. Jack White provides the score, and nostalgia provides the audience.

The Way, Way Back
Once the Sundance Film Festival is under way, it only takes a couple of days before a few titles are hyped as that year's must-see films. The Way, Way, Back, a sweet coming-of-age story set in a water park, is one of this year's word-of-mouth hits. The directorial debut of Jim Rash—the dean on Community!—is a Meatbals-meets-Adventureland pleasure that benefits from stars Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell.

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Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim


The Hot Flashes
Susan Seidelman's latest film sounds as though it could be either hellish or delightfully cheesy: A group of middle-aged Texans try to get their mojo back by challenging a group of high-school girls to a basketball tournament. The older women in question include Wanda Sykes, Brooke Shields, Darryl Hannah and Camryn Manheim. It's been too long since Seidelman's Desperately Seeking Susan, but with luck, Hot Flashes will be Hoosiers for mature actresses who deserve better roles.

Pacific Rim
Giant monsters fight giant robot in Guillermo del Toro's high-concept action film. If the film is anywhere near as violent and operatic as del Toro would have us believe, it might make up for the fact that the Pan's Labyrinth director will never make that adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness he has been trying to land. Bonus: Sons of Anarchy co-stars Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman turn up along with Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

V/H/S 2
As with pretty much any portmanteau film made by various directors, the first V/H/S, a compilation of found-footage horror shorts, was a mixed bag. Still, it proved that creative things can still be achieved in Paranormal Activity-style found-footage horror films. V/H/S 2 includes new shorts directed by the filmmakers of The Blair Witch Project, The Raid: Redemption and Hobo With a Shotgun. Seriously, one guy we know really liked it!

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Computer Chess
Set in the '80s, this comedy concerns the designers of one of the earliest chess-playing computer programs. Within the short-lived cycle of mumblecore indie dramas about self-involved twentysomethings, Andrew Bujalski's films stand apart. He has an ear for hilarious, naturalistic dialogue, and his scope has grown ambitious: Beeswax, his third feature, was a Whit Stillman-inspired romantic drama, as well as a capitalist critique—will Big Chess feel a sting from this one?

Only God Forgives
Ryan Gosling reteams with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn for this bonkers thriller, recently screened at Cannes. Refn has described Only God Forgives as a contemporary western set in Thailand, and the plot synopsis is no less incredible: Gosling plays a drug-dealing cop-killer and Thai-boxing-club proprietor who also happens to be a hitman who gets tangled up with the crimelord played by Kristin Scott Thomas. Seriously, this is a real film that's coming out.

This M.I.B.-esque, high-as-a-kite-concept action-comedy stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as ghost cops—meaning ghosts who happen to be cops rather than cops who gun for ghosts. The plot: While Bridges shows Reynolds the ropes of ghost cop-dom, the duo try to track down the man who killed Reynolds' character, probably either Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker or James Hong. This is director Robert Schwentke's follow-up to RED, the only comic book movie in which Helen Mirren teams up with a really big gun.

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Blue Jasmine
There are precious few details available for Woody Allen's latest comedy, but apparently, Blue Jasmine is about a neurotic housewife. The film's cast is typically varied, ranging from conventional picks such as Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett to pleasant surprises, including Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlberg, Louis C.K. and even Andrew Dice Clay. We're guessing Clay isn't the housewife.

Fruitvale Station
After winning Sundance's Grand Jury Prize, Ryan Coogler's indie drama was acquired by the Weinstein brothers and sent to Cannes. The Wire's Michael B. Jordan (Wallace!) stars as Oscar Grant, the real-life Bay Area resident gunned down in late 2009. Chad Michael Murray and Kevin Durand co-star as Grant's killers.

The Wolverine
Another would-be blockbuster that might be good, but probably won't, this X-Men spin-off was originally supposed to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, but is instead being helmed by Knight and Day director James Mangold. Based on the debut story in the first solo Wolverine comic series, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller, The Wolverine is set sometime after the events of the more-beguiling-than-actively-bad X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan (Hugh Jackman) fights some yakuza and falls in love. Could be busy fun, or it could be just busy (see: X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

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AUG. 2

Europa Report
Most of the people involved with this indie sci-fi film are unknowns; the closest thing to a recognizable star is Michael Nyqvist, of the original, Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies. Still, since serious science-fiction films are now almost as rare as westerns, this story about an expedition to Jupiter's fourth moon deserves a look.

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