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Superheroes abound in this summer's crop of movies

It's a summer for superheroes at the movies. Comic book crime-fighters are aiming to clobber summer box office records.
by Brandy McDonnell Published: May 4, 2012

The booming success of “The Hunger Games” has Hollywood hoping for a record 2012. If it makes it there, it will be on the shoulders of some of the summer's superheroes.

Superhero films are expected to take the top spots this summer, with “Marvel's The Avengers” opening in May, followed by “Amazing Spider-Man” in June and “The Dark Knight Rises” in July. “The Avengers” has already presold more tickets than four of the Marvel films that preceded it, according to, so it's likely to get the summer off with a bang. Spider-Man and Batman are responsible for the two highest-grossing superhero films of all time (2008's “The Dark Knight” and 2002's “Spider-Man”), so expectations are high.

Another film based on a comic-book series returns for an anticipated sequel: “Men in Black III,” with Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin.

That's just one of the typical swath of summer sequels, reboots and reimaginings: Tim Burton returns with “Dark Shadows,” the Rock suits up for “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Total Recall” gets a Colin Ferrell-led remake.

From the “who saw that coming” department, there will be films based on everything from a board game to an instructional manual on pregnancy. But original concepts still have a chance: Pixar provides what looks to be another entertaining animated film with “Brave.”

It all kicks off today as a technological genius, a Norse god, an All-American soldier and a raging green behemoth come together to launch the 2012 summer movie season. But don't forget that studios love to move around release dates, so check your local listings before heading to the movies.


“The Avengers”

Marvel's heroes will gather en masse in this anticipated super-blockbuster directed by Joss Whedon (“Serenity”). The film will bring together actors from the casts of “Iron Man” (Robert Downey Jr.), “Iron Man 2” (Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson), “Thor” (Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner) and “Captain America: The First Avenger” (Chris Evans), adding in Mark Ruffalo as the new Hulk for good measure.

Damsels in Distress”

Three girls set out to overturn the male-dominated culture of a college campus in this latest offering from “The Last Days of Disco” writer-director Whit Stillman. Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody and Analeigh Tipton head the cast.

May 11

“Dark Shadows”

As Tim Burton is wont to do these days, “Dark Shadows” is the latest in the quirky director's remaking and re-imagining of the classics. Originally a Gothic soap opera that played on ABC from 1965 to 1971, Burton's new version stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, the vampire who returns to his estate after 200 years to find the place in ruins and occupied by dysfunctional descendants. In addition to Depp, “Dark Shadows” also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter and Jackie Earle Haley.


This drama from Israel written and directed by Joseph Cedar is a dual character study involving the rivalry between a father and son (Shlomo Bar-Aba, Lior Ashkenazi) who are both professors in Talmudic studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

May 16

“The Dictator”

Sacha Baron Cohen moves from ambush comedy to narrative comedy, parodying notorious Middle Eastern despots as Admiral General Aladeen, dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya. This time he actually acts with a cast, including Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly and Anna Faris, under the direction of Larry Charles, who helmed the outrageous Baron Cohen mocumentaries “Borat” and “Bruno.”

May 18


Who knew the Hasbro game of tiny plastic boats and peg holes you used to play with your little brother or sister would one day inspire a big-budget, big-effects sci-fi thriller about an international fleet of ships that comes across an alien armada during a war games exercise? Well, the day has come, whether you were expecting it or not, and Peter Berg directs a cast including Liam Neeson, Rihanna, Alexander Skarsgard and Brooklyn Decker.

“What to Expect When You're Expecting”

Inspired by The New York Times best-selling pregnancy guidebook of the same name, screenwriters Shauna Cross (“Whip It”) and Heather Hach (“Freaky Friday”) have created a comedy-drama about five expectant couples experiencing the trials and joys of the childbirth process. Kirk Jones (“Everybody's Fine”) directs an ensemble cast that includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Morrison, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Brooklyn Decker, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rodrigo, Rob Huebel, Chace Crwaford, Dennis Quaid and Chris Rock.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

An ensemble cast of British acting royalty — including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie — star as a group of British seniors seeking golden-years serenity at a retirement haven in India in this comedy from “Shakespeare in Love” director John Madden.

“Darling Companion”

In keeping with “The Big Chill” and “Grand Canyon” tradition, director Lawrence Kasdan brings us another of his boomer-centric dramas, cowritten with wife Meg Kasdan, this time about a longtime married couple who've slipped into taking one another for granted. Kevin Kline plays the self-absorbed surgeon and Diane Keaton is the wife who seems to love her rescue dog more than she does her husband. Watch what happens when he loses her mutt. Supporting cast includes Dianne Wiest, Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ayelet Zurer and Richard Jenkins.

May 25

“Men in Black 3”

A decade after the last installment, the Men in Black are back. The movie series, based on the comic book written by Lowell Cunningham and illustrated by Sandy Carruthers, stars Will Smith as Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K. The agents are members of a secret task force that monitors alien activity on Earth. In “MIB 3,” Agent J must travel back in time to the 1960s to prevent Agent K (played in the 1960s era of the film by Josh Brolin) from being assassinated.

“Men in Black 3” also stars Alice Eve, Emma Thompson and Johnny Knoxville.

“Moonrise Kingdom”

Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play young lovers who run away from their small New England town, shaking up the citizenry and triggering a major search party in this romantic comedy-drama from director Wes Anderson (“Bottle Rocket,” “The Royal Tenenbaums”). Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Harvey Keitel are supporting players.

“Chernobyl Diaries”

Six people take a guided tour of the abandoned city of Pripyat, former home of Chernobyl nuclear reactor workers, and soon discover they are not alone in this horror piece from visual effects specialist and first-time director Bradley Parker.

June 1

“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Box office receipts did not reflect well on “Mirror, Mirror” this spring, but director Rupert Sanders' feature debut takes a darker path into the same woods. Queen Ravenna (Oscar winner Charlize Theron) sends a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth of “The Avengers”) to capture Snow White (Kristen Stewart of “The Twilight Saga”), so the evil queen can achieve immortality, but then the Huntsman has doubts as to who is truly the fairest one of all.

“Piranha 3DD”

As this sequel's ridiculously upfront and in-your-face title suggests, this killer-fish splatter comedy set in an infested water park aspires to be a full-bodied success. The follow-up to the over-the-top, ultra-bloody naked hilarity of 2010's surprise hit, “Piranha 3D” features David Koechner, Katrina Bowden of “30 Rock” and two names synonymous with quality entertainment, David Hasselhoff and Oklahoma's own Gary Busey.

“Battlefield America”

No, this is not a sequel to John Travolta's whacked-out Scientology-fi disaster “Battlefield Earth” — this battle takes place with dance, not “Dianetics.” The musical drama follows a young businessman and a choreographer in their efforts to turn a ragtag bunch of misfits into underground dance superstars. In other words, step up, because you got served.

June 8


Director Ridley Scott returns to the chest-bursting excitement of the “Alien” universe in a new sci-fi adventure that follows a group of space explorers led by Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender in their quest to find the origin of life. Throughout filming, Scott kept his statements about the “Alien” connection to this new film as vague and elliptical as possible, but allowed that some of the “DNA” of the “space jockey” is present in “Prometheus.”

“Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted”

Thanks to the questionable navigational skills of monkeys and penguins, the “Madagascar” saga could go on forever. In their never-ending quest to return to their posh digs at the Central Park Zoo, Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, and Gloria the Hippopotamus (voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith) wind up in a circus traveling through Europe.

“Lola Versus”

Dumped just three weeks before her wedding, Lola (Greta Gerwig of “Damsels in Distress”) enlists several friends in a series of adventures in an effort to distance herself from the heartbreak and come to terms with turning 30.

June 15

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by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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