Despite the occasional film like "John Carter," the major studios are having a pretty good time of it in 2012. The box office is up all over, and films like "The Hunger Games," "21 Jump Street" and "The Avengers" have performed above expectations with both critics and audiences. There's plenty more to come in the summer, as we discussed yesterday in our blockbuster preview, but what of films of the non-explode-y variety in the warmer months?
While it may seem like there aren't that many options to compete with fare like "Prometheus" and "The Dark Knight Rises," there are some gems to look forward to; some of the best-received films of 2012 so far are making it to theaters in the next few months, along with a few others that we've got high hopes for. (And yes, we're cheating a bit with two studio movies in there, but they come from decidedly out-of-the-box auteurs Steven Soderbergh and Oliver Stone, each delivering something very different to the summer season). So if you need something with a bit more brain or edge than your standard cartoon or comic book fare, we've picked out ten highlights of the summer schedule below.
"Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
Synopsis: In a Louisiana community, a young girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father (Dwight Henry) must battle for survival against poverty, apocalyptic floods and prehistoric beasts.
What You Need To Know? Every year, one film comes out of Sundance with a hurricane of plaudits and critical applause, and the film everyone was talking about in Park City in 2012 was "Beasts Of The Southern Wild." The magic-realist feature film debut from director Benh Zeitlin got rave reviews from the first screening (including our own), and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the festival. Not only that, the Cannes Film Festival has nodded their approval as well, selecting the film for an Un Certain Regard slot. And soon, the rest of us get to check it out, with Fox Searchlight hoping that it can become the same kind of summer-long critical favorite that "The Tree of Life" was for them last year. They've been playing their cards close to the chest so far, but with a poster arriving last week, we should be seeing a trailer any day now.
When? June 27th
"Celeste And Jesse Forever"
Synopsis: A former married couple (Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg) struggle to keep their friendship alive after they get divorced.
What You Need To Know: While she's been consistently charming on both the big screen ("I Love You, Man") and the small ("Parks & Recreation"), Rashida Jones so far hasn't managed to be the leading lady it always seemed she'd been destined to become. So, as actors so often do, she turned to writing, and teaming with Will McCormack, delivered this sort-of-romantic comedy. Lee Toland Krieger (the young helmer behind the excellent "The Vicious Kind") directs, and Jones and Adam Samberg step into the lead roles, with a supporting cast that includes Emma Roberts, Andy Samberg, Chris Messina, Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen. Reviews from the film's Sundance debut were warm (particularly our own), and with an August release date, it looks like Sony Pictures Classics have their fingers crossed for a "(500) Days Of Summer"-style summer indie hit.
When? August 3rd
"To Rome With Love"
Synopsis: A collection of short stories involving a prostitute (Penelope Cruz), a man who suddenly finds himself unexpectedly famous (Roberto Benigni), an older couple (Woody Allen and Judy Davis) whose daughter (Alison Pill) is seeing an Italian man, and a love triangle (Greta Gerwig, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page).
What You Need to Know: Every year for the past two decades, at least one critic has loudly proclaimed that the latest Woody Allen film was "a return to form." But in 2011, it actually seemed to apply as the director got his best reviews in years for "Midnight In Paris," and it became his biggest box-office hit to date, going on to earn an Oscar for Best Screenplay. But none of that distracted Woody, and last summer he got rolling on his next effort, which this time sees him decamp to Rome, with a cast that includes both old favorites (Davis, Baldwin) and a new generation of Allen players (Eisenberg, Pill, Page, Gerwig), along with the first screen appearance from Woody himself in many years. Reviews from Italy (where the film is already out) haven't been raves, but they were likely to be less forgiving anyway, and the fairly promising trailer suggests that even if it doesn't spark in the way that "Midnight in Paris" did, it's not going to be as painful as "Cassandra's Dream" or "Whatever Works" either.
When? June 22nd
Synopsis: A male stripper (Channing Tatum) takes on a young protégé (Alex Pettyfer), only to fall for his sister (Cody Horn).
What You Need To Know: Channing Tatum is having a pretty good year so far. The actor has had two $100 million hits with "The Vow" and "21 Jump Street," and in the process he's won over doubters, showing he can do drama and comedy, while bringing in the bucks to boot. The biggest test of his new A-list status comes with this film, not just because it's an indie mainstream hybrid from Soderbergh at the height of summer, but also because Tatum is a producer on the pic and came up with the idea, which is based on his own life. Matthew McConaughey leads the buff bods in this one, including Pettyfer, Matt Bomer, Joe Mangianello and more, and advance word is that this is a gigantic crowd-pleaser for dudes and ladies alike.
When? June 29th