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 Spectacular Now
One year after he broke out at Sundance with Smashed, a drama about alcoholism starring Aaron Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, director James Ponsoldt returns with an even-more-buzzed-about Sundance hit. Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bob Odenkirk join Winstead in this teen romance, which is also to some extent about addiction. Miles Teller (21 & Over) plays Sutter, a popular high-school senior who also drinks a lot. Sutter falls in love with a nice, safe nerdy girl, played by The Descendants' Shailene Woodley. Sounds similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but with booze and scruffy puppy love.

2 Guns
Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur seems to have adopted a one-for-you, one-for-me approach to filmmaking. Before taking on 2 Guns, a crooked cops-vs.-mob thugs comic-book adaptation starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, Kormakur directed soulful, pulpy neo-noirs such as Jar City or last year's The Deep and, uh, Contraband, a good-enough Wahlberg vehicle. With this film, it appears Kormakur is returning to dumb-dumb mode, but he's a talented stylist, the cast is solid (Edward James Olmos and Bill Paxton!), and there's nothing wrong with the ol' summer pew-pew.

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AUG. 9

Blood
Nick Murphy's most flashy directorial credit is a couple of episodes of Primeval, the dino-hunting adventure show that fans of Brit sci-fi watch when Doctor Who isn't on. But his feature debut, The Awakening, was creepy fun, and his new cop drama, Blood, sounds promising. Mark Strong and Paul Bettany co-star as brothers who have to investigate a murder they happen to have committed.

Elysium
Neil Blomkamp's follow-up to District 9 sounds as though it's more of the same blunt, science-fiction social critique. In the year 2154, Earth is a ghetto for poor people who can't afford to live on Elysium, an orbiting space station. But the Terran plebs are restless, so it's up to Matt Damon to keep the haves away from the have-nots. District 10 co-stars Jodie Foster, Alice Braga and William Fichtner.

Metallica Through the Never
This Metallica-concert doc was shot by Hungarian-American filmmaker Nimrod Antal, an exceptional, modern-day B-moviemaker and talented stylist. Even if you're not a Metallica fan (and at this point, who is?), you might want to peek at how good the band will look. (How they'll sound isn't Antal's problem.)

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AUG. 16

Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Easily the biggest word-of-mouth at Sundance this year, St. Nick director David Lowery's breakthrough drama is now headed to the Croisette for the Cannes' Critic's Week sidebar. Casey Affleck stars as a killer who breaks out of jail and makes a long, bloody trek home to his estranged family. Rooney Mara plays his two-timing wife, and Ben Foster is the other man—a cop, of course.

Kick-Ass 2
Last time, director Matthew Vaughn brought out the best in Kick-Ass, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s obnoxious, hyper-violent, satirical superhero comic. Kick-Ass 2's trailer suggests the sequel's subtitle could be More of the Same, but hope stirs in the geek breast thanks to the arrival of new cast members John Leguizamo and Jim Carrey, the latter as a vigilante named Colonel Stars and Stripes. Carrey's winningly deranged performance in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone suggests the once-exciting performer can still be funny. And if the trailer is to be believed, Carrey will steal this proudly profane sequel.

Paranoia
Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Josh Holloway and Richard Dreyfuss co-star in Legally Blonde director Robert Luketic's thriller about corporate espionage. Liam Hemsworth of Hunger Games fame plays Adam Cassidy, an entry-level employee who screws up at his job and is then given a choice: spy on a rival corporation or get fired. Is it awful of us to wish the movie were more about one of the old guys?

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