Summer is upon us again, and that means it’s that time of year for those movies that once again deliver the jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, smile-inducing memories of a lifetime that only come with summer blockbusters. And, given the lineup of films in this year’s Summer Movie Preview, the blockbuster movies of 2012 are going to deliver like never before.
From the superhero team-up event that will kick everything off (Marvel’s The Avengers), to the grand finale in arguably one of the best movie trilogies of all time (Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises), to a master filmmaker returning to the sci-fi/horror sub-genre that catapulted him to fame (Ridley Scott’s Prometheus), to the first princess fairy tale from the best animation studio in the business (Pixar’s Brave) – this summer has something for everyone, and a whole lot extra in between.
Scroll down for Screen Rant’s handy guide to your summer at the movies.
Feel free to scroll through the list below, or jump to any specific months to read about those films:
MAY 2012 MOVIES
The S.H.I.E.L.D. agency brings together a team of superheroes to help save the Earth from annihilation by extraterrestrial invaders. Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston star.
OUR TAKE: This is what it’s all been leading to, folks. Early reviews of The Avengers say that the film lives up to all the hype, and millions of people will be heading to theaters to find out if that’s true. Count us among them. Excelsior!
A gothic-horror tale centering on the life of vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) finally awakes from imprisonment in the 1970s to find his family legacy in shambles. Based on the cult TV series. Tim Burton directs, Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, and Christopher Lee star.
OUR TAKE: Fans of the original Dark Shadows TV show notwithstanding, this looks like a fun (and funny) creation by Burton and his “muse” Johnny Depp. Not saying it’s going to be a modern classic – but some spooky fun with a dash of horror sounds like a good lead-in to the heart of summer.
May 11th (U.S.)
The heroic story of a dictator (Sacha Baron Cohen) who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed. Megan Fox, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, B.J. Novak and J.B. Smoove co-star.
OUR TAKE: Sacha Baron Cohen tends to inspire love/hate responses to his satirical characters (or rather, caricatures). The Dictator will actually have a plot – rich dictator becomes poor American immigrant – and will once again see Cohen working with comedy veteran Larry Charles (Seinfeld), who also helped craft both Borat and Brüno. Expect more of the same (the good, bad, and ugly) from Dictator.
A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna and Liam Neeson star.
OUR TAKE: Battleship maintains it’s negative first impression as a Transformers knock-off that has nothing to do with the board game it’s based on. Still, reports from overseas (where the film has already opened to $58 million and counting) are that director Peter Berg has made the epitome of a mindless, action-packed, summer popcorn blockbuster. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on your tastes.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
A look at the lives of five couples as they prepare to become parents. Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Dennis Quaid, Rodrigo Santoro, Brooklyn Decker, Chace Crawford, Joe Manganiello, Chris Rock, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Megan Mullally star.
OUR TAKE: With its trailers and marketing materials making a big effort to attract the male demographic, fellas are going to have little to object to if their lady suggests What to Expect as good date night viewing. Best of luck with that.
Men In Black III
Agent J (Will Smith) time-jumps back to the 1960s, where an alien with its sights on the younger version of Agent K (Josh Brolin) poses a threat to the future of the MIB organization — and humankind’s very existence.
OUR TAKE: Men In Black III has been plagued by so many script and production problems that it’s hard to view it with anything but skepticism and wariness. After all, how long can a film skate by on Josh Brolin’s uncanny impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones?
May 25th (U.S. – Limited Release)
In this Wes Anderson film, a pair of lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them. Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Ed Norton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray star.
OUR TAKE: Wes Anderson fans have plenty to get excited about: An Anderson film that actually deals with kids as opposed to just privileged (and often pretentious) adults; a cool ’70s cinema look and vibe; a cast of superb actors and an ironic and winking love story at its core. Now that we mention it, Moonrise Kingdom may have enough potential to get even Anderson’s detractors excited.
JUNE 2012 MOVIES
After the events at Lake Victoria, the pre-historic school of blood-thirsty piranhas make their way into a newly opened waterpark. Christopher Lloyd, Gary Busey, David Koechner, Danielle Panabaker, Katrina Bowden and Ving Rhames (yes Ving Rhames) star. David Hasselhoff plays…himself.
OUR TAKE: There is going to be even more “guilt” to this “guilty pleasure” than there was with the first film. Are you in, or are you out?
Snow White and the Huntsman
In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) ordered to take Snow White (Kristen Stewart) into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron).
OUR TAKE: One of the most surprising and appealing blockbuster films this summer is definitely SWATH (even its acronym is cool). Some people feel that star Kristen Stewart has been forever tainted by the Twilight Saga franchise – but it would be a mistake to forget her other, more impressive, acting roles (see: Welcome to the Rileys). Charlize Theron looks amazing as a villain and the world of Snow White as envisioned by first-time director Rupert Sanders is equally impressive.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo join a traveling circus in an effort to get back home to New York. Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Frances McDormand, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, Sherri Shepherd, Andy Richter, Cedrick the Entertainer and Andre 3000 lend voices.
OUR TAKE: Grab the kids and take them for another fun visit with their favorite zoo escapees. Afterwards, perhaps schedule a trip to an actual zoo for some fun family outdoors time.
In this spinoff of Alien, a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race. Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Wilson and Logan Marshall-Green star.
OUR TAKE: The lofty themes and ideas this film will explore are as appealing to the mind as the stunning 3D visuals are to the eye. Director Ridley Scott has arguably seen his talents as a filmmaker diminish in recent years; Prometheus will either earn him new respect, or go down as one of the great disappointments of the summer. We’re betting on the former.
That’s My Boy
A father moves in with his son right before his wedding and soon begins sparring with his daughter-in-law. Adam Sandler, Leighton Meester, James Caan, Susan Sarandon, Milo Ventimiglia, Andy Samberg, Ciara, Todd Bridges, Ian Ziering and Colin Quinn star.
OUR TAKE: This looks a bit like Adam Sandler ripping off Danny McBride’s “Kenny Powers” persona – but that’s probably not enough to stop the legions of fans who have somehow stayed loyal to Sandler through a lot of bad movies. They’ll tell you That’s My Boy is a return to form for comedic actor – question is, do you believe them?
Rock of Ages
Set in 1987 Los Angeles, Drew (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie (Julianne Hugh) are two young people chasing their dreams in the big city. When they meet, it’s love at first sight, though their romance will face a series of challenges. Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, Paul Giamatti, Will Forte, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Cruise star.
OUR TAKE: Rock of Ages is one musical we wouldn’t mind paying Broadway ticket price for – what with its impressive lineup of American rock anthems. The movie looks a bit silly, but the impressive cast and sing-a-long potential should make it fun to experience with your fellow audience members.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
President Lincoln’s mother is killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers. Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anthony Mackie, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk and Rufus Sewell star.
OUR TAKE: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter may not be able to ever overcome the B-movie implications of its own title and premise, but from what footage we’ve seen, it looks like another high-style action flick from Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Wanted.
Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
OUR TAKE: This princess tale is actually pulling double-duty as a thrilling Celtic-themed adventure and a poignant rumination on gender roles and the relationships between mothers and daughters. Knowing Pixar, all of the above will be conveyed in a visually spectacular, genuinely entertaining, and emotionally-stirring fashion. We look forward to it.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan. Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Melinda Dillon, Patton Oswalt, Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, William Petersen, Rob Corddry and Derek Luke star.
OUR TAKE: Another heart-warming and smile-inducing indie comedy from Steve Carell, about broken people and where/how they seek repair. If it’s anything like his past work of similar fashion (see: Little Miss Sunshine, Dan in Real Life) it’ll be a worthwhile time. Is it an ideal choice for the summer blockbuster season? Not so much – maybe it’s being released as an alternative for non-blockbuster movie fans.
June 29th (U.S. – Limited Release)
In this Steven Soderbergh film, an upstart male stripper is taken under the wing of more experienced colleagues. Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Oliva Munn and Weni McLendon-Covey star.
OUR TAKE: It’s going to be hard to convince guys to see this exhibition of male physique on their own – but the central story seems to be a traditional romantic comedy, which gives girls all the reason they need to drag their guys into the theater for the man show.
JULY 2012 MOVIES
The Amazing Spider-Man
Teenager Peter Parker grapples with both human problems and amazing super-human crises. Reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as the villain Curt Connors, who becomes the inhuman Lizard.
OUR TAKE: Amazing Spider-Man has the most to prove out of any other summer movie this year. People have hated on it since it was first announced as the alternative to Spider-Man 4, and that bias isn’t going to let up. The only way Sony will truly win this battle is if (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb and new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield truly deliver a film that blows away Sam Raimi’s previous trilogy. Not an easy feat.
Pot growers Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend (Blake Lively). Emile Hirsch, Uma Thurman, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, and John Travolta co-star. Oliver Stone directs.
OUR TAKE: Like Ridley Scott with Prometheus, Stone has to prove that his best days as a director are not in fact behind him (what we call the Wall Street / Wall Street 2 conundrum) – but to its credit, Savages looks like one of the better films the director has put out in some time.
Ice Age: Continental Drift
Manny, Diego, and Sid embark upon another adventure after their continent is set adrift. Using an iceberg as a ship, they encounter sea creatures and battle pirates as they explore a new world. Voices by Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez, Alan Tudyk, Nick Frost, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Aziz Ansari and Peter Dinklage.
OUR TAKE: The kids love the Ice Age franchise and it even manages to tickle a few adults. Hopefully, things don’t get too heavy with the whole ‘end of the ice age / extinction of ice age animals’ thing looming on the horizon. SPOILER ALERT KIDS! They all die and end up as stuffed displays in the Smithsonian!
From the mind of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane comes a story centered on a man (Mark Wahlberg) and his foul-mouthed teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane), who comes to life as the result of a childhood wish. Mila Kunis, Patrick Warburton, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale and Laura Vandervoort co-star.
OUR TAKE: Basically, it’s a live-action, feature-length version of a Family Guy cutaway skit – meaning, it could actually turn out to be pretty funny – or just plain vulgar, depending on your tastes. We were none too impressed with the shoddy CGI used to create Ted, and hearing a mixture of Peter and Brian Griffin emerge from a teddy bear is a bit distracting.
The Dark Knight Rises
Eight years after the events of previous film The Dark Knight, the terrorist leader Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives in Gotham City, pushing it and its police force to their limits, forcing its former hero Batman (Christian Bale) to resurface after taking the fall for Harvey Dent’s crimes.
OUR TAKE: For many movie fans, summer 2012 basically boils down to Avengers vs. Dark Knight Rises (a reflection of comic book competitors Marvel and DC Comics). Nolan’s finale to his Batman trilogy has the massive critical and financial success of The Dark Knight to best – a feat that may be impossible for any movie. But even if Dark Knight Rises falls short, that’ll still make it a pretty damn good time.
Suburban dads form a neighborhood watch group to get time away from their families, only to discover a plot to destroy Earth. Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Billy Crudup, Will Forte and Doug Jones star.
OUR TAKE: So far this movie has completely downplayed its alien invasion sci-fi identity, in favor of masking itself as a standard Stiller/Vaughn/Hill raunch-com. We’re extremely interested to see how moviegoers will react when they learn the truth – not to mention the comparisons to the Trayvon Marten case that will inevitably come up…
Step Up 4
Emily (Kathryn McCormick) arrives in Miami with aspirations to become a professional dancer. She sparks with Sean (Ryan Guzman), the leader of a dance crew whose neighborhood is threatened by Emily’s father’s development plans.
OUR TAKE: It’s the same old Step Up formula: two dancers from different sides of the tracks fall in love. Cue slick final dance number punctuated by hip-pop club anthem du jour and roll credits. If the formula is to your liking, by all means partake.
AUGUST 2012 MOVIES
The Bourne Legacy
A story centered on a new CIA operative in the universe based on Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels. Starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton and Joan Allen.
OUR TAKE: A lot of people just now realizing this movie exists are complaining that it’s a “knock-off” just because it doesn’t have Matt Damon or his character Jason Bourne in it. Given that Bourne Legacy is being written and directed by Tony Gilroy (who wrote all the previous Bourne films and directed the excellent thriller Michael Clayton), we think this film has everything it needs to succeed.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
School is out and Greg (Zachary Gordon) is ready for the days of summer, when all his plans go wrong. What on earth is he going to do all summer?
OUR TAKE: We’ve never been sure who, exactly, goes to see these movies – but there must be enough of them if they keep making new ones. To those fans of the franchise: enjoy.
As the nation states Euromerica and New Shanghai vie for supremacy, a factory worker (Colin Farrell) begins to suspect that he’s a spy, though he is unaware which side of the fight he’s on. Bryan Cranston, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Ethan Hawke, Bokeem Woodbine and Bill Nighy co-star.
OUR TAKE: Total Recall doesn’t look like THE WORST remake in the world – but then again, it doesn’t look like much more than a generic sci-fi/action flick, either. Worthy of a do-over? Probably not.
Two rival South Carolina politicians (Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis) with presidential aspirations tangle with one another. Dylan McDermott, Jason Sudeikis, John Lithgow, Brian Cox and Dan Aykroyd co-star.
OUR TAKE: It’s hard to joke about politics in America (especially during an election year) without hurting somebody’s sensitive little feelings. Political jibes also makes comedic stars into lightning rods for those “out of touch Hollywood” accusations. Still, if there are two guys who can make the D.C. crowd pucker their puckers, it’s probably Ferrell and Galifianakis.
Three sisters form a successful singing group and must deal with the fallout of fame and drugs. Jordin Sparks, Tika Sumpter, Carmen Ejogo, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Cee-Lo, Omari Hardwick and Whitney Houston star.
OUR TAKE: A familiar rags to riches to emotional breakdown story of superstardom in America. Fans of films like Dreamgirls will be in attendance for another round of soul-singing drama, while morbidly curious moviegoers will turn out to see the last onscreen performance from the late Whitney Houston.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
A childless couple bury a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears. Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Garner, Common, Ron Livingston, and Cameron Adams star.
OUR TAKE: Want to see something heart-warming and tear-jerking in dead heat of summer? (Well… do you?)
The Expendables 2
Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) reunites the Expendables for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge puts them deep in enemy territory and up against an unexpected threat. Jason Statham, Liam Hemsworth, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Scott Adkins, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Arnold Schwarzenegger star.
OUR TAKE: Did you see that list of action stars???? Plus there’s a director with some skill (read: not Stallone) behind the camera this time!? When it comes to purchasing a ticket for this sequel, consider the money in our wallets (wait for it…) expendable.
A misunderstood boy who can speak with the dead, takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse. Voices by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck, Jeff Garlin and John goodman.
OUR TAKE: ParaNorman looks like a good mix of unique animation style for the kids, and fun twists on horror movie tropes for older viewers. Toss in a story with something meaningful to say about what it is to be the “weird” kid, and if all goes well, Laika Entertainment (Coraline) might just deliver a Pixar-level hit.
A couple are haunted by a supernatural presence that is unleashed during a college experiment. Sebastian Stan, Ashley Greene and Tom Felton star.
OUR TAKE: This film has been sitting on the shelf for over a year now – was there really any need to dust it off and put it in theaters? Oh, right: to give hormone-driven teenagers a PG-13 excuse to swarm the theater with their friends before school starts up again.
Hit And Run
Former getaway driver Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan identity in order to help his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) get to Los Angeles. The feds and Charlie’s former gang chase them on the road. Bradley Cooper, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Rosenbaum, Beau Brides, David Keochner, Joy Bryant and Tom Arnold co-star.
OUR TAKE: The film is co-directed by David Palmer and star Dax Shepard and features a cast made up largely of their friends. The last film to fit that description was Brother’s Justice - do you remember that one? Yeah, didn’t think so.
In this film by horror master Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge), passengers aboard a flight across the Pacific Ocean encounter a supernatural force. Amy Smart, Nicky Whelan, Jamie Chung, Leslie Bibb, Ryan Kwanten, Scout Taylor-Compton and Jerry Ferrara star.
OUR TAKE: We’ll skip the more obvious “Ghosts on a plane” jokes and just say that the prospect of a TSA cavity search is already making air travel more frightening. But The Grudge was a freaky (if not overly convoluted) ghost story, so here is hoping Shimizu can creep us out again.
A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit. The girl’s father teams with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport, Grant Show and Natasha Calis star.
OUR TAKE: Another film that has been sitting on the shelf for awhile and has seen virtually no marketing and promotion to speak of. Could be a winner? (Sarcasm.)
Set in the Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by authorities who want a cut of their profits. Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska and Jason Clarke star.
OUR TAKE: We called this film one of our 20 most anticipated of the year, based on its impressive cast alone. The numerous release date shifts and title changes have made us worry a bit, but we still expect good things from this 2012 summer movie finisher.
That’s it for our 2012 Summer Movie Preview. Which film are you most excited for? Which one do you think will be the biggest surprise hit? The biggest disappointment? Is there any film on the list that you think has a shot at Oscars glory in the winter?