"The Dark Knight Rises"
Synopsis: After eight years of relative peace, a terrorist known as Bane (Tom Hardy) begins wreaking havoc on Gotham City. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is forced to don the Batman mask once more, but has he finally met his match?
What You Need To Know: The final installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, no film can match the feverish anticipation that this has been generating. And what we've seen so far suggests that Nolan has delivered a film with even bigger scope than either "Batman Begins" or "The Dark Knight" to close off his time with the character. One could argue that Nolan's yet to truly drop the ball with a film, so this seems like a safe bet for something close to excellence. That said, faced with living up to the late Heath Ledger, Nolan's stacked the film, not just with Hardy but also with Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Juno Temple all joining the principles. But does bigger necessarily mean better? In Nolan we trust, and all, but is there the risk that this might get away from him?
When? July 20th
Synopsis: Having been turned into a vampire and buried alive 200 years earlier, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) arrives in the 1970s, and helps his family take on the same witch (Eva Green) who cursed him.
What You Need To Know: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's collaborations now stretch to seven films across 22 years, but given that their last team-up, "Alice in Wonderland" made a billion dollars, shareholders are particularly excited that the two are working together, on a version of the cult 1960s supernatural soap penned by Seth Grahame-Smith ("Pride & Prejudice & Zombies"). And maybe we're being optimistic, but after a string of disappointments, this looks like Burton's most promising film in a while, seemingly harking back to earlier work like "Beetlejuice" in its mix of horror and broad comedy. There's a strong cast on board with Chloe Moretz, Eva Green and Michelle Pfeiffer, in her first work with Burton since "Batman Returns," and a sense of stylish fun in the trailers. Advanced word is good too, and Paramount was worried enough that they moved "The Dictator" off the same head-to-head date to make room.
When? May 11th.
Synopsis: A group of suburban men get together to form a neighborhood watch group, but soon discover that aliens may be at work in their community.
What You Need To Know: The sci-fi comedy is a tricky beast to pull off, which explains why it's taken years to get "Neighborhood Watch" made. But a script rewrite from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg finally put it into greenlight territory, and snapped up a mean list of comic talent: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade as the leads, while Will Forte, Billy Crudup and Rosemarie DeWitt are among the supporting stars, and "Hot Rod"/"Lonely Island" helmer Akiva Schaffer directing. The cards are still being kept close to the chest at this point, although Fox's hand has been forced somewhat due to the Trayvon Martin case. This could be a pleasant surprise, or it could be this year's "Land of the Lost," but in a year where many of the big comedies look very weak ("Men In Black 3," "That's My Boy") we'll take the talent assembled over anything else.
When? July 27th.
Synopsis: After an archaeological find, a crew of scientists journey to distant planet to investigate mankind's origins, only to find unimaginable horrors.
What You Need To Know: Ridley Scott has only made two sci-fi movies in his long, diverse career. Those two, "Alien" and "Blade Runner," happen to number among the very finest ever made in the genre. Now, 30 years later, he's gone back to sci-fi, and indeed back to the "Alien" universe that made his name, for the much-anticipated "Prometheus." Working from a script by Jon Spaihts and "Lost" writer Damon Lindelof, it's clearly set within the same world as the 1979 original, but focuses on a new set of characters, played by the likes of Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Bowie-like android Michael Fassbender, who look to come across the space jockeys from the original film, as well as, possibly, much more... We've got a few reservations, it should be said; we weren't terribly impressed by Rapace in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows" and it remains to be seen if she can match up to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley as a heroine. But Fox have pulled off a killer marketing campign on this one so far, with great trailers and viral spots, and our hopes are that, more than any other film this summer, it'll combine amazing spectacle and serious smarts.
When: June 8th
"Snow White And The Huntsman"
Synopsis: Discovering that her step-daughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is destined to be the most beautiful in the kingdom, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) tasks a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) with disposing of her, but the huntsman is sympathetic to the girl, and the two are soon leading a rebellion.
What You Need To Know: While they're having success on TV thanks to "Once Upon A Time" and "Grimm," the fairy-tale craze has yet to deliver a home-run hit at the multiplex, with "Red Riding Hood" and "Mirror Mirror" both underperforming. But if anything has a chance to pull it off, it's "Snow White And The Huntsman." Starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth, who've both made their names on major franchises, "Twilight" and "Thor," and Charlize Theron, it's got A-list talent, and has displayed some impressive visuals, courtesy of first-time director Rupert Sanders. It certainly has the scope, and a cast of ace character actors playing the dwarves worth the price of admission alone (Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan et al), but whether it has the right stuff in the script to bring something fresh to a tired tale remains to be seen (although a rewrite from "Drive" writer Hossein Amini will hopefully help).
When? June 1st
Also In Theaters: We're yet to be convinced by Sacha Baron Cohen's "The Dictator" (May 16th), which looks worryingly close to his answer to "The Love Guru" meanwhile, while having caught it in the U.K., where it opened six weeks earlier, we already know that "Battleship" (May 18th) is a terrible, awful piece of shit. "What To Expect When You're Expecting" (May 18th) looks more bearable than "Valentine's Day" and the other films that spawned it. Our aversion to found-footage horror means that we're likely to avoid "Chernobyl Diaries" (May 25th), while "Men In Black 3" is yet to suggest that the franchise deserved to be resurrected, ten years after the dire second film.
"Piranha 3DD" (June 1st) is getting a limited roll-out, which isn't a great sign, even if the first film was more fun than you'd imagine. While we find DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar" among the least essential franchises around, the new installment, "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" (June 8th) does at least have a script by Noah Baumbach, and the voice talents of Frances McDormand, Jessica Chastain and Bryan Cranston, so we could be persuaded to check it out. As far as guilty pleasures go, musical "Rock of Ages" (June 15th) could fill the gap, while Adam Sandler starrer "That's My Boy" (June 15th) looks particularly wretched, even by his standards. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (June 22nd) has the same stylish violence that Timur Bekmambetov made his name on, for better or worse, and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (June 29th) looks more of the same, with added the muscle of The Rock, Bruce Willis and sword-fighting-ninjas-on-mountains.
July brings another kid-friendly sequel, "Ice Age: Continental Drift," (July 13th) which at least is the only time you'll see Peter Dinklage, Drake, Nick Frost and Nicki Minaj on the same cast list. "Family Guy" head honcho Seth MacFarlane moves into the movie world with "Ted" (July 13th) and we're sure fans will be delighted, although those of us who find him a bit one-note haven't yet found much to love. "Step Up Revolution" (July 27th) brings the dance franchise into the Occupy Wall Street era, for what that's worth.
Bourne has competition in August with "Total Recall" (Aug 3rd), which looks entirely redundant, while the same day brings resilient tween franchise "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days." Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell bring some rare adult fare with "Hope Springs" (Aug 10th), and Disney are hoping to capture families with the sugary-looking "The Odd Life Of Timothy Green" (Aug 15th). Sylvester Stallone has re-opened the action heroes retirement home for "The Expendables 2" (Aug 17th), while Whitney Houston's last screen performance arrive in musical "Sparkle" (Aug 17th). One of the most promising films we didn't have room for in our main feature is "ParaNorman" (Aug 17th) a creepy stop-motion animation from the studio behind the excellent "Coraline." And the season closes out with horror "The Apparition" (Aug 24th) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt bicycle actioner "Premium Rush" (Aug 24th).