Could it really get any better than “The Avengers?” In an average movie summer, the answer would be a hesitant “possibly,” but Summer 2012 looks to be anything but average.
Rather than my usual extensive Summer Movie Preview, I’ve assembled a list of 15 movies post-”Avengers” that I am particularly interested in that I think you should all know about. Some of them you’re undoubtedly anticipating, but others might have not even been on your radar. Check it out.
Of all the films that could do the year-long lap from Sundance of one year to the Oscars of the next, it appears “Beast of the Souther Wild” stands the best chance. I would normally have minimal in interest in awards material in a movie season that calls upon my inner pyromaniac, but there’s a strong element of fantasy in this story that looks simply captivating. Focusing on a six-year-old girl with an active imagination forced to come to terms with her place in the world as a result of a storm and the impending attack of wild beasts called aurochs, “Beasts” appears to be a much more entertaining version of last year’s recognized artsy film “The Tree of Life.”
14. Total Recall (Aug. 3)
“Total Recall” is the hot chick at this summer’s party that comes in late and could well have rocks for brains, but you’ll take your chances. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of director Len Wiseman’s work, but I’ve been entertained by his “Underworld” films as well as “Live Free or Die Hard.” With the visual effects at his disposal as evidenced by this trailer, “Total Recall” could be his best film stylistically. As someone not particularly married to the Arnold Schwarzenegger original, I’m open to this futuristic reinterpretation of Philip K. Dick’s story about a man who suddenly realizes he’s a super soldier but unsure which side of a war he belongs on. If nothing else, it looks to be the last piece of eye candy we get to suck on this summer.
13. ParaNorman (Aug. 17)
Outside of Pixar, the other animation studios are offering sequels to drawn-out and boring franchises this summer. Then there’s “ParaNorman.” From two of the talents who worked on “Coraline,” this claymation film blends family comedy with gothic horror elements in a story about a boy with Haley Joel Osment syndrome who must stop the world of the dead from taking over the world of the living. In addition to looking like a fun and silly film for kids, the trailer indicates a strong dosage of horror parody.
12. Lawless (Aug. 31)
Arriving so late in the summer it might as well be fall, “Lawless” boasts too good of an ensemble cast to pass up any time of year, and explosion junkies should take note that this prohibition-era drama looks to be equal parts action. John Hillcoat, who directed the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” a couple years back, continues his trend of gritty filmmaking in this story of three real-life brothers whose bootlegging business is threatened by local authorities who want a piece of the action. Tom Hardy (in what will be his “The Dark Knight Rises” follow-up), Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke star as the brothers while Gary Oldman plays a gangster, Guy Pearce a fed and Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska make things interesting.
11. The Campaign (Aug. 10)
Feelings on the 2012 campaign aside, this is an election we can all get behind. How it took this long for a modern-day political campaign to become comedic fodder is beyond me, and with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis playing North Carolina rivals vying for a congress spot, expect some good old-fashioned mudslinging. Knowing how great at improvisational insults these two can be, a scene showcasing a debate would be all it would take for me to buy this pitch, so as a Hollywood producer it’s a no-brainer.
10. Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8, Limited)
The lighter of the two Sundance entries on my list is this quirky indie inspired by a real-life personal ad about a man (played by Mark Duplass) looking for someone to go back in time with. This is a huge year for Duplass, who outside of his starring role in FX’s “The League” wrote and directed “Jeff Who Lives At Home” and has roles in indies “Darling Companion,” “Your Sister’s Sister” and “People Like Us.” This one looks the most promising. His supporting cast is pretty rad too, with Aubrey Plaza of “Parks & Recreation” and Jake Johnson of “New Girl.” Certainly the notion of whether this guy can really time travel will hang over our heads for most of this film. The Sundance reception was quite positive.
9. Ted (July 13)
Seth MacFarlane of “Family Guy” finally makes the jump to live-action filmmaking with “Ted,” which not surprisingly features a character that’s not human acting like one in a world full of other humans. What makes this comedy so appealing is in the premise, with a boy’s wish for his best friend in the form of a teddy bear coming to life actually coming true and the repercussions of what happens when that teddy bear stays alive and grows up with you. Clearly it involves drugs and sex. Mark Wahlberg looks in the zone and longtime MacFarlane collaborator Mila Kunis is as good a lady comedian as any out there today. Expect this movie to go farther than you ever wanted it to go with the jokes, as the “R” rating for a mind usually confined to TV is like letting a beast out of its cage.
8. Moonrise Kingdom (May 25, Limited)
Wes Anderson has a habit of making his films really damn appealing, but somehow they all end up being just OK. So of course I’m about to tell you that “Moonrise Kingdom” looks like a real step up for the filmmaker. Prime real estate in the Cannes Film Festival doesn’t hurt, and neither do some excellent additions to the usual Anderson crew in Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand. The story is set in motion when two young people (like, 12 young) run away together, but it appears much of the film focuses on the adults searching for them.
7. The Dictator (May 16)
Instinctively, you have to wonder if Sacha Baron Cohen is comedic dynamite whose fuse is getting shorter. His shtick is so bombastic from the films themselves to the publicity stunts that promote them that it’s easy to think its gone stale. But the man has yet to disappoint me. “Bruno” was certainly a step down from “Borat,” but with the mockumentary angle by the way side for “The Dictator,” some clever writing should shine through. I’ll wait until Cohen actually delivers a stinker to make any judgements about his act.
6. Brave (June 22)
After “Cars 2” disappointed following three years of incredible Pixar movies, “Brave” is an interesting rebound as far as original material goes. Featuring human characters (minus an angry bear), a young female lead and set in Scotland, this is anything but traditional CGI fare, which should make it all the more intriguing. The fact that the marketing has shrouded the plot in complete mystery (outside of a princess who wants to change her fate) only adds to the confusion of what exactly Pixar has up its sleeve, but the film looks breathtaking. It’s hard to imagine “Brave” being anything but good, which makes it a summer must-see.
5. Snow White & the Huntsman (June 1)
As far as expectations go, this action fantasy made the biggest leap in buzz from hyped-up concept to trailer. The visual style of director Rupert Sanders, who like so many before him made his name directing a “Halo 3” spot, came straight to the forefront and the sense of danger and grit increased its appeal most drastically. This is what we expected of Tarsem Singh, who made March’s semi-flop “Mirror, Mirror.” “Huntsman” will appeal less to families and more to teens and adults, especially with Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth as the titular characters. The highlight, however, might well be the frightening Charlize Theron as the evil Queen Ravenna. The scope of the action and fantasy here looks astounding, with comparisons to Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro not unfounded.
4. The Bourne Legacy (Aug. 3)
No Damon, no Greengrass no problem. Although this summer has its fair share of reboots, “The Bourne Legacy” hardly counts. Director Tony Gilroy assisted in writing each of the first three films and made an acclaimed one in “Michael Clayton;” Jeremy Renner has become increasingly more badass after “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “The Avengers.” With a supporting cast of returning faces (Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn) and new ones (Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz) this is can’t-miss August material if you like the “Bourne” franchise at all. A big success here could mean a stretch of new films.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
In a summer that includes “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” it’s easy to forget about Sony’s reboot of “Spider-Man.” Sure, fans didn’t ask for complete do-over just five years after “Spider-Man 3,” but a new vision could be exactly what one of Marvel’s most beloved characters needs. Focused on revamping Peter Parker’s origins through a mystery involving his parents, “The Amazing Spider-Man” looks to rely on fans’ pre-existing knowledge of the character to take the story to new places. With stellar young talent at its core in Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone along with a hip young director in Marc Webb “(500) Days of Summer,” this could be the film of the summer had a certain other movie not been slated 17 days later.
2. Prometheus (June 8)
How quickly did this return to science fiction for Ridley Scott go from ambiguous “Alien” prequel to epic sci-fi horror mystery gone viral? Filmed in 3D and rated “R,” “Prometheus” promises exceptional older-audiences entertainment. For a film that’s not a sequel, Fox has played this extremely close to the chest, about as close as Warner Bros. with “The Dark Knight Rises,” and it appears to be working. Scott loaded this film with top-shelf talent in Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce and more and it says everything about the quality of this production. If it’s anything but amazing I will be sorely disappointed.
1. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to “The Dark Knight” wouldn’t just make the top film of the summer, or even the year, but easily the last four years. Nolan took the superhero genre to a whole other level with “Batman Begins” in 2005, showing us a gritty Gotham and a story brimming with intelligence and thematic resonance. “The Dark Knight” went even farther adding a truly ruthless villain and even more entertaining stunts-driven action. We have every reason to expect the nth degree as Nolan brings his trilogy full circle. The addition of Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, not to mention “Inception” alumni Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt suggest the story could be a bit stuffed, but those are excellent talents and Nolan has to this point delivered.