Sizzling Cinema! The Hottest Summer Movies of 2012
From Spider-Man to Robert Pattinson's big-screen return in Bel Ami, check out our picks for the season's biggest films!(28 Photos)
'The Avengers' (May 4)
The Plot: Thor's no-good brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has declared war on the good citizens of planet Earth. So the American government calls upon Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- or the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division -- to assemble his team of superheroes to save the day. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) all participate in this ultimate pageant of the masters.
The Buzz: Marvel Studios pulled off a coup in coordinating the releases of Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger (combined domestic gross: $670+ million) throughout the last two years to tease The Avengers. The addition of writer-director Joss Whedon to this project was an inspired one. Whedon, who has spearheaded cult TV series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, has a knack for cooking up quick-witted dialogue, which he tends to give to kick-ass heroines.PHOTO BY ZADE ROSENTHAL/MARVEL
'Dark Shadows' (May 11)
The Plot: Eighteenth-century hottie Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) spurns the advances of a witch (Eva Green), who retaliates by turning him into a vampire. He goofily emerges from his slumber in the 1970s to find his mansion inhabited by a fabulously WASP-y family -- which includes the matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer), bratty teen (Chloe Moretz), and house psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter). While he adjusts to his new life, the witch returns to seduce him. Alice Cooper somehow figures into the story, appearing as himself because... well, why not?
The Buzz: The gothic bromance between longtime collaborators Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd) never fails to intrigue. This one bears even more anticipation because Depp has long declared it a passion project of his. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be Barnabas," he told Entertainment Weekly five years ago. "He was super-mysterious, with that really weird hairdo and the wolf's-head cane. Good stuff."WARNER BROS. PICTURES
'The Dictator' (May 16)
The Plot: Physical-comedy maestro Sacha Baron Cohen stars in this farce, based on Saddam Hussein, about a reviled Middle Eastern dictator who loses his identity during a visit to the U.S. to speak before the United Nations. Destitute, but not humbled, he takes a job under a liberal manager (Anna Faris) at a grocery store while not-quite-adjusting to his new homeland.
The Buzz: Remember that time Cohen glued a bushy beard to his face, donned what appeared to be one of Captain Stubing's uniforms from The Love Boat, and dumped what he claimed were late Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il's ashes on Ryan Seacrest on the Oscar red carpet? That was all to promote this movie, Cohen's comeback as an off-kilter leading man after the disappointment of 2009's Bruno.MARK SELIGER/COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
'Moonrise Kingdom' (May 16)
The Plot: A pair of 12-year-olds (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) fall in love and run away together in this off-kilter comedy. Their disappearance prompts a search instigated by their parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) and involves other colorful locals (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Tilda Swinton).
The Buzz: This is the first live-action dramedy from director Wes Anderson in five years. While his releases are hardly blockbusters, they are artful confections that attract an enviable assortment of A-list talent looking to inject whimsy into their resumes. Perhaps that's why Moonrise was chosen to open the prestigious Cannes Film Festival this May.COURTESY OF FOCUS PICTURES
'Battleship' (May 18)
The Plot: Behold a ship's worth of eye candy in the science-fiction thriller Battleship, based on the board game (if only by name). Along for the ride to battle incoming aliens: Taylor Kitsch, as a bad-boy lieutenant summoned for naval duty after hooking up with the daughter (Brooklyn Decker) of his superior (Liam Neeson); Alexander Skarsgard, as his straight-laced brother; and "Good Girl Gone Bad" Rihanna -- as a weapons specialist!
The Buzz: The reunion of director Peter Berg and his Friday Night Lights leading man Kitsch has fans anticipating a thoughtful take on the alien-invasion genre. However, the movie's bloated $200 million-plus budget has industry reporters predicting either a spectacular failure... or a mind-blowing action smash.FRANK MASI/COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
'What to Expect When You're Expecting'
The Plot: What's not to love about a film with an interconnected cast! Five Atlanta-based couples go through the highs and lows of welcoming new additions in this rom-com starring Elizabeth Banks, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Brooklyn Decker, Dennis Quaid, Chace Crawford, Chris Rock and Matthew Morrison.
The Buzz: Juggling an ensemble cast can be a bit challenging, but it helps that What to Expect’s script was written by the edgy, quip-happy duo of Heather Hatch (Freaky Friday) and Shauna Cross (Whip It). But here's how you really sell an adaptation of a world-reknowned pregnancy guide: recruit a truly coo-worthy cast.MELISSA MOSELEY/COURTESY OF LIONSGATE
'Men in Black 3' (May 25)
The Plot: Agent J (Will Smith) travels back to the 1960s to prevent the murder of his buddy Agent K (played by both Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin) at the hands of an alien. Oh, and in doing that, J can also save the world.
The Buzz: This long-awaited third installment, shot by original director Barry Sonnenfeld, comes almost a decade after its predecessor, which made $441.8 million worldwide (the original took in $589 million globally). The original joker in a glut of sci-fi pictures that take their universes too seriously, MIB continues to stand out as a refreshingly light interstellar offering that's more goofy gags than rocket science.WILSON WEBB/COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES
'Snow White and the Huntsman' (June 1)
The Plot: This violent retelling of the classic fairytale stars Charlize Theron as the ruthless Queen Ravenna, Kristen Stewart as the fairest of them all and Chris Hemsworth as the servant enlisted to kill her. After he takes pity on Snow White, the two band together to organize an uprising to unseat the monarch from her throne.
The Buzz: As stylish as it is sinister, this Snow White is the adult antidote to Mirror, Mirror, a lighthearted take on the tale released earlier this year. And a recent survey by Fandango revealed that the movie is poised to be the No. 1 box-office draw for women this summer.COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
'Bel Ami' (June 8)
The Plot: Based on the novel by Guy de Maupassant (its telling subtitle: History of a Scoundrel), this drama follows the social ascent of a journalist (Robert Pattinson) as he romances and wrongs rich ladies (Uma Thurman and Kristen Scott Thomas).
The Buzz: While his Twilight costar and real-life girlfriend Kristen Stewart is running for her life in the medieval woods (see Snow White and the Huntsman), Pattinson can be found living it up in 19th-century Paris, making all sorts of trouble. That Simon Fuller, the mogul producer behind American Idol, also helped fund the film, speaks volumes about its allure.COURTESY OF MAGNOLIA PICTURES
'Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted' (June 8)
The Plot: The Central Park Zoo expats -- Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) -- continue their long, blundering journey back home to New York City. Only this time, they end up... in Europe. Mon dieu!
The Buzz: This animated franchise -- now in 3-D! -- is unique in that it entertains parents as much as their kids. So it's highly encouraging that veteran Madagascar screenwriter Eric Darnell is back, joined by indie secret-weapon Noah Baumbach (who's co-scripted such clever Wes Anderson films as The Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou). And with Madagascar's track record of hilarious songs ("I Like to Move It," "I Like Them Big"), here's hoping the soundtrack lives up to that of its predecessors.COURTESY OF DREAMWORKS ANIMATION/PARAMOUNT
'Prometheus' (June 8)
The Plot: This sci-fi mystery stars Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron as scientists who travel through space to explore an alien civilization in the hope that they'll uncover secrets about the origins of human life. Instead, the find... something else.
The Buzz: It's still unknown wheter Prometheus is truly a 3-D prequel to director Ridley Scott’s Alien or just a film that, as the director has hinted, shares the same DNA -- but we're itching to find out. Reportedly, every actress from Natalie Portman to Carrie Mulligan jockeyed for a lead role. Given a script co-written by Lost creator Damon Lindelof, hopes remain high that this is will be the next smart blockbuster.KERRY BROWN/COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
'Rock of Ages' (June 15)
The Plot: The still-running Broadway musical gets fitted to the big-screen courtesy of Hairspray director Adam Shankman. In the movie, a waitress (Julianne Hough) falls for a busboy (Diego Boneta) under the backdrop of the 1980s glam-metal scene in L.A. Among the scene stealers: Tom Cruise, as rock legend Stacee Jaxx, and Russell Brand as a club manager.
The Buzz: In addition to Cruise's well-publicized abs, the big draw here might just be nostalgia -- and a rockin' soundtrack that features classics from Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar and Journey. We challenge you not to sing along.DAVID JAMES/COURTESY OF WARNER BROTHERS
'Your Sister’s Sister' (June 15)
The Plot: A woman (Emily Blunt) invites her friend (Mark Duplass) to her family's vacation home to decompress after his brother's death. There, he gets caught up in an, um, interesting scenario with her and her sister (Rosemarie DeWitt).
The Buzz: With a host of lighter fare under her belt -- The Devil Wears Prada, Dan in Real Life, The Five-Year Engagement -- Blunt excels at comedy. Meanwhile, her costar Duplass is quickly becoming one-to-watch. He co-directed Jeff, Who Lives at Home (starring Jason Segel), and will appear in this summer's Safety Not Guaranteed opposite Aubrey Plaza, People Like Us with Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, and Darling Companion alongside Diane Keaton and Elisabeth Moss.COURTESY OF IFC FILMS
'Brave' (June 22)
The Plot: In this animated 3-D picture from Pixar, a Scottish princess named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) -- daughter to Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and King Fergus (Billy Connolly) -- uses her bow-and-arrow skills to rescue her kingdom from a sinister spell.
The Buzz: This movie with a strong female protagonist gives fans who are too young to worship The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen a heroine to adore and an adventure to enjoy.COURTESY OF DISNEY/PIXAR
'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' (June 22)
The Plot: As an asteroid hurtles toward Earth, a jilted husband (Steve Carell) recruits his neighbor (Keira Knightley) to locate one of his old flames -- but they're both surprised to find they share a spark of their own.
The Buzz: Think of this as a comedic reimagining of last year's cauldron of despair, the sci-fi art film Melancholia. That plot thickens when you factor in Knightley, an actress most lauded for her weighty roles, finally returning to her comedic roots (see Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates of the Caribbean).DARREN MICHAELS/COURTESY OF FOCUS FEATURES
'To Rome with Love' (June 22)
The Plot: Directed by Woody Allen (who also stars for the first time since 2006's Scoop), To Rome with Love tracks the romantic confusion of visitors and dwellers (among them Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg) in the Eternal City, where the film was shot.
The Buzz: Allen's follow-up to the lauded Midnight in Paris arrives with an element of mystique, having gone through such head-scratching name-changes as Nero Fiddled and Bop Decameron. More recently, it's won widespread online praise for its trailer, which effortlessly weaves together the film's quirky vignettes.PHILLIPE ANTONELLO/COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
'Magic Mike' (June 29)
The Plot: An exotic dancer (Channing Tatum) teaches the new kid (Alex Pettyfer) the ropes -- and how to have some extracurricular fun -- while they work together at Xquisite, a club run by an ex-stripper (Matthew McConaughey).
The Buzz: Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy this slice of beefcake, which has been breathlessly anticipated every since Tatum hilariously referenced this film and his stripper past (yes, he freely admits to being one) on Saturday Night Live. Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean's Eleven) lends an air of curiosity to this comedy.COURTESY OF WARNER BROTHERS
'People Like Us' (June 29)
The Plot: A cash-strapped man (Chris Pine) debates whether to deliver a sizeable inheritance from his dad to the troubled half-sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had. Things get even more complicated when he befriends her without revealing their connection... and she develops romantic feelings for him.
The Buzz: People Like Us is the directorial debut from screenwriter Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible III). Though his background is in action-drama, his latest film could fill the family-drama void that frequently plagues the summer box office.ZADE ROSENTHAL/COURTESY OF DREAM WORKS
'Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection' (June 29)
The Plot: Feisty grandma Madea (Tyler Perry) inherits another house guest when a corrupt executive (Eugene Levy) and his family (among them, Denise Richards) hides out at her pad following a huge scandal.
The Buzz: There is no shortage of buzz surrounding anything involving Perry, whom Forbes named one of Entertainment’s Highest-Paid Men, beating out even super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio. The proof is in the pudding: Perry's lighthearted Madea franchise has captured a loyal following that started among African-American women and ignited from there. Loyalty and curiosity should buoy this seventh installment as well.COURTESY OF LIONSGATE
'The Amazing Spider-Man' (July 3)
The Plot: Real-life couple Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield star as on-screen pair Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. As Spider-Man, the latter eludes a persistent police captain (Denis Leary) while chasing a family secret that leads him to The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), a villainous geneticist gone rogue.
The Buzz: After shockingly pulling the plug on a Spider-Man 4 -- surprising even its leading-man, Tobey Maguire -- Sony Pictures announced the birth of this reboot, rattling franchise fans. Garfield won the lead after an exhaustive hunt, and should finally come into his own after playing second fiddle to Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network.JAIMIE TRUEBLOOD//COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES
'Ice Age: Continental Drift' (July 13)
The Plot: Manny (voice by Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary), and Sid (John Leguizamo) find themselves stranded together on an iceberg when their continent starts to crack. While seafaring on the makeshift ship, they run into a group of pirates -- and must fight again for survival. Meanwhile, Scrat the Squirrel (Chris Wedge) keeps chasing that nut.
The Buzz: The three previous Ice Age movies have grossed almost $2 billion worldwide. (That’s $4+ billion, if you count video games and other Ice Age products.) Those who aren’t already fans may just want to see what all the fuss is about.COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
'Ted' (July 13)
The Plot: Mark Wahlberg stars as John, whose best friend and roommate happens to be an anthropomorphic teddy bear (voiced by Seth MacFarlane, also Ted’s director). A crude womanizer, Ted starts to get between John and his girlfriend (Mila Kunis).
The Buzz: This is the first feature film from MacFarlane, best known as the creator of Fox’s Family Guy. The fact that his movie contains a hilarious man vs. teddy bear smack-down is a compelling counterargument to the complaint that Hollywood has run out of original ideas.TIPPETT STUDIO/UNIVERSAL PICTURES
'The Dark Knight Rises' (July 20)
The Plot: Director Christopher Nolan reteams with Christian Bale, who stars again as the brooding superhero. In this third Dark Knight installment, Batman crosses paths with the intriguing Selina Kyle (or Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway), while terrorist-types wage devastating attacks on Gotham.
The Buzz: Release of 2008’s The Dark Knight was eclipsed by the untimely death of actor Heath Ledger, who posthumously received an Oscar for his role as the Joker. Nolan was reticent about returning to the franchise, but ultimately co-wrote this third film, which is being billed in the trailers as "the epic conclusion" to the series.COURTESY OF WARNER BROTHERS
'Neighborhood Watch' (July 27)
The Plot: A group of suburban guys (including Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, and Vince Vaughn) avoid home life by forming a humorless, self-important neighborhood-watch group that accidentally stumbles on an alien invasion.
The Buzz: The tragic Trayvon Martin case threw a huge wrench into this movie’s release. Directed by Akiva Schaffer (one of the guys behind SNL’s Digital Shorts), the movie's studio -- 20th Century Fox -- altered its marketing plan, but remained steadfast about hitting theaters this summer. Producers are hoping that this deadpanned caper's summer-alien factor will trump any of its unfortunate real-life associations.COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
'The Bourne Legacy' (Aug 3)
The Plot: In this top-secret spin-off, Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, a new CIA agent (to us, anyway), who hits the ground running, picking up where Jason Bourne left off. Rachel Weisz shares the big screen with Renner, as well as with Edward Norton, who plays the bad guy.
The Buzz: Renner takes over Matt Damon’s reign in the fourth installment of this thinking-man’s action film. Bourne fits right into his resume (The Hurt Locker and The Avengers), where he’s making a name for himself as an action guy.MARY CYBULSKI/COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
'The Campaign' (Aug 10)
The Plot: Two North Carolinians, played by Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, spar with hopes of winning a congressional seat in their teeny district.
The Buzz: The Campaign, a mud-slinging variant on the Parks & Recreation genre, is supported by a totem pole of talent. In addition to its dynamic leading duo, its director Jay Roach is the man behind Austin Powers and Meet the Fockers, and its co-writers Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell are some of the talents behind Entourage and Eastbound & Down.PATTI PERRET/COURTESY OF WARNER BROTHERS
'Hope Springs' (Aug 10)
The Plot: Three decades into their marriage, a couple (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) attempt to reignite that spark by going to a couple's therapist (Steve Carell -- as the straight man).
The Buzz: Streep's first release since her Oscar-winning turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady is intriguingly romantic and light. But the most compelling reason to see Hope? She's re-teaming with director by David Frankel, the helmer behind one of the smartest rom-coms in recent history, The Devil Wears Prada.COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES
'Sparkle' (Aug 17)
The Plot: Three sisters (Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter) become a hit Motown trio, causing strife in their family, which includes their single mom (Whitney Houston), a failed singer.
The Buzz: This remake of the 1976 film took on more poignancy after the sudden death of its star, Houston, in February. Sparkle was meant to be a comeback of sorts for the singer-actress, who movingly performs the gospel staple "His Eye on the Sparrow" in the picture. It it going to be her first feature film in more than 15 years.
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