Movies: A not-bummer summer 

click to enlarge The Dark Knight Rises: Opens July 20 - The supercast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Behind the scenes: Christopher Nolan - The lowdown: “The Dark Knight” almost beat “Titanic” at the box office, but can this third in Nolan’s Batman series do the same without the Joker or Heath Ledger? Anne Hathaway may be a cool Catwoman, but if this goes on too long or tries to juggle too much stuff, it could be a big disappointment — or, it could be Bat-riffic. - Rated: PG-13 - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Opens July 20The supercast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-LevittBehind the scenes: Christopher NolanThe lowdown: “The Dark Knight” almost beat “Titanic” at the box office, but can this third in Nolan’s Batman series do the same without the Joker or Heath Ledger? Anne Hathaway may be a cool Catwoman, but if this goes on too long or tries to juggle too much stuff, it could be a big disappointment — or, it could be Bat-riffic.Rated: PG-13

Men in Black 3: Opens May 25

  • The cast in black: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Alice Eve
  • Behind the scenes: Barry Sonnenfeld
  • The lowdown: “Men in Black” was among the best summer movies ever, and “Men in Black II” one of the worst. In this third entry, Agent J travels to the past to meet a young Agent K (Josh Brolin, hilariously imitating Tommy Lee Jones) and save the world. If it lands poorly, viewers should have the option to get the “flashy thing” treatment.
  • Rated: PG-13

Prometheus: Opens June 8

  • The astronauts: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Michael Fassbender
  • Behind the scenes: Ridley Scott
  • The lowdown: Is this a sequel, remake, reboot or prequel to Scott’s “Alien”? No one knows. In any case, a new team of astronauts ventures into space looking for life forms, and instead finds scary, creepy aliens. Whatever it is, it’s likely to be good: Scott is wonderfully proficient at genre films.
  • Rated R

The Amazing Spider-Man: Opens July 3

  • The supercast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen
  • Behind the scenes: Marc Webb
  • The lowdown: This reboot of the supersuccessful series, with a new director and cast, focuses on Peter Parker’s mysteriously absent parents. Following 2007’s busy “Spider-Man 3,” here’s hoping director Webb, who made “(500) Days of Summer,” streamlines this one.
  • Not yet rated

The Bourne Legacy: Opens Aug. 3

  • The spies: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen
  • Behind the scenes: Tony Gilroy
  • The lowdown: After joining “Mission: Impossible” and “Avengers” franchises, Oscar-nominee Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) also takes over Jason Bourne. Though the series has run out of Robert Ludlum books, there’s good news: “Michael Glayton” director Gilroy, who wrote the screenplays for the first three Bourne movies, directs here.
  • Not yet rated

The Expendables 2  Opens Aug. 17

  • The action heroes: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme
  • Behind the scenes: Simon West
  • The lowdown: “The Expendables” gathered up action stars, past and present, for a terrible movie that was a huge hit — Stallone’s biggest since “Rambo II” and “Rocky IV.” Now Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris join in, and Stallone has stepped down as director. Will the filmmaking be better, or the explosions simply bigger?
  • Not yet rated

To Rome with Love  Opens June 22

  • The Romans and countrymen: Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page
  • Behind the scenes: Woody Allen
  • The lowdown: Last year, Allen enjoyed the biggest hit of his career with “Midnight in Paris.” Now, he moves to Rome and features a cast of veterans (Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Judy Davis, himself) and newcomers (Eisenberg, Page, Roberto Benigni). This series of little stories could be funny and bracing — like a vacation.
  • Rated R

The Campaign: Opens Aug. 10

  • The candidates: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Sarah Baker
  • Behind the scenes: Jay Roach
  • The lowdown: Director Roach (“Meet the Parents”) tends to focus on dumb, broad jokes, but maybe the political satire in this comedy of two rival North Carolina politicians (Ferrell and Galifianakis) will bring out some heretofore unseen sharp, dark humor.
  • Not yet rated

A Cat in Paris  Opens June 1

  • The cat people: Dominique Blanc, Bruno Salomone,
  • Jean Benguigui
  • Behind the scenes: Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol
  • The lowdown: In this lovely, Oscar-nominated French animated feature, a cat becomes entangled in a web of robbery, gangsters, deceit and revenge. Well-paced at 79 minutes and atmospheric, but not breakneck, it likely will be a wonderful alternative to more vulgar family movie offerings.
  • Not yet rated

Brave  Opens June 22

  • The Scots: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters
  • Behind the scenes: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
  • The lowdown: Pixar’s first nonsequel since “Up” and first movie with a female hero could strike gold. On the downside, insiders note a change in directors and creators, and the fact that Pixar’s winning streak was undone last year by the dud “Cars 2.” Still, “Brave” looks to be the season’s top family entertainment.
  • Rated PG

ParaNorman  Opens Aug. 17

  • The creeps: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann
  • Behind the scenes: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
  • The lowdown: Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) can see and speak to ghosts, making him the prime candidate to save his town from an old witch’s curse. There are zombies, too. Coming from some artists who worked on “Corpse Bride” and “Coraline,” it may be creepy, spooky, mysterious, and perhaps even ooky.
  • Not yet rated

Moonrise Kingdom  Opens June 1

  • The runaways: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray
  • Behind the scenes: Wes Anderson
  • The lowdown: Anderson’s track record is debatable. Some think he is among today’s most creative filmmakers, but others think he has grown too safe and precious. This story of two young lovers on the run (and the batch of character actors searching for them) looks sweet and simple, and has potential for great jokes and lovely set pieces.
  • Rated: PG-13

Magic Mike  Opens June 29

  • The strippers: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn
  • Behind the scenes: Steven Soderbergh
  • The lowdown: Director Soderbergh remains versatile and intelligent, and even when he takes on routine material such as “find your true self” stories like “Magic Mike,” he does well by them (for example, the recent “Haywire”). Tatum, portraying a popular male stripper, may again prove he’s more than a hunk of meat.
  • Rated: R

Take This Waltz  Opens July 6

  • The love triangle: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby,
  • Sarah Silverman
  • Behind the scenes: Sarah Polley
  • The lowdown: Williams plays a happily married woman who becomes infatuated with a handsome artist (Luke Kirby). Polley, who made an extraordinary filmmaking debut with “Away from Her,” cannily cast Williams, one of the best actors of her ilk working today, as well as comedians Rogen and Silverman in serious roles. This should be a “Waltz” to remember.
  • Rated: R

Rock of Ages: Opens June 15

  • The rockers: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise
  • Behind the scenes: Adam Shankman
  • The lowdown: As he did for “Hairspray,” Shankman hopes to translate another hit Broadway musical to the big screen without getting too stagey. The young stars could be too earnest, but veteran heavyweights like Alec Baldwin and Cruise, as rock god Stacee Jaxx (recalling his Oscar-nominated
  • testosterone-fueled “Magnolia” role) could steal the show in supporting roles.
  • Rated PG-13

Paul Williams: Still Alive  Opens June 22

  • The songster: Paul Williams
  • Behind the scenes: Stephen Kessler
  • The lowdown: Even at 5 feet, 2 inches, Williams once was once a sex symbol. He wrote “The Rainbow Connection” for Kermit the Frog, starred in Brian De Palma’s cult film “The Phantom of the Paradise” and appeared on “The Tonight Show” some 50 times. He had a long, celebrated and varied career, but what happened? Kessler finds out in this documentary.
  • Not yet rated

Hope Springs  Opens Aug. 10

  • The patients: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones,
  • Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue
  • Behind the scenes: David Frankel
  • The lowdown: After winning an Oscar for the dreadful “The Iron Lady,” Streep has a chance to shine, working again for “Devil Wears Prada” director Frankel. Paired with Jones, she attends an intensive weekend marriage-counseling seminar, led by Carell. Possibly both funny and touching, it could bring Streep back to dark territory she hasn’t visited in a few years.
  • Not yet rated

Lawless  Opens Aug. 31

  • The bootleggers: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf,
  • Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman
  • Behind the scenes: John Hillcoat
  • The lowdown: Adapted from a novel by Matt Bondurant and written by singer Nick Cave, this story of Depression-era bootlegging already has strong critical buzz. Australian director Hillcoat’s impressive résumé includes the Western “The Proposition” and the post-apocalyptic drama “The Road.” Think dark, but good. It should feature nifty costumes as well.
  • Not yet rated

 Lola Versus: Opens June 8

  • The ex-lovers: Greta Gerwig, Zoe Lister Jones, Hamish Linklater
  • Behind the scenes: Daryl Wein
  • The lowdown: Multi-talented Gerwig has been winning hearts in indie films and is edging toward higher exposure. Here she plays a girl dumped just before her wedding day who learns to come to terms with being single. Director Wein’s notable indie feature debut was “Breaking Upwards”; this could be an uncommonly intelligent rom com.
  • Rated: R

Your Sister’s Sister: Opens June 15

  • The emotionally entangled: Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt
  • Behind the scenes: Lynn Shelton
  • The lowdown: Iris (Emily Blunt) sends her best friend Jack (Mark Duplass) to stay with her sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt); the two have a drunken encounter, and thus begins a weekend of dramatic and comic self-
  • revelations. Though Shelton, a graduate of the “mumblecore” movement, has graduated to bigger budgets, one hopes her genuine touch for human interaction stays intact.
  • Rated: R

 Savages:  Opens July 6

  • The farmers: Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively
  • Behind the scenes: Oliver Stone
  • The lowdown: Stone adapted Don Winslow’s novel about a successful pair of pot growers who share a girlfriend. Competitors decide to move in by kidnapping the girl, prompting a highly destructive rescue mission. The film may reveal Stone at his most kinetically over-the-top, slathered in blood, debris and pot smoke.
  • Rated: R

Premium Rush: Opens Aug. 24

  • The riders: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung
  • Behind the scenes: David Koepp
  • The lowdown: The high-profile writer behind “Jurassic Park” and “Spider-Man” returns to his smaller-scale, but interesting, directing career (“Stir of Echoes,” “Secret Window,” “Ghost Town”) with this tale of a bike messenger who gets stuck with the wrong package on the wrong day. Chased through Manhattan streets, can he save the day with high-speed pedaling and maneuvering?
  • Not yet rated

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
Pin It

Speaking of Entertainment

More by Jeffrey M. Anderson

Latest in Movies

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation