Summer normally deserves its reputation for offering explosive lightweight fare, but the hot months of 2012 produced some of the best films of the year, including “The Dark Knight Returns,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “The Avengers.”
The period typically known as “awards season,” those last months leading up to the holidays and the cutoff date for Oscars, generally is packed with more thoughtful fare, but the best films of summer set a high bar for the prestige acts coming in the fall.
Just based on pedigree and buzz, autumn's offerings look stellar, including Paul Thomas Anderson's “The Master,” Disney's “Wreck-It Ralph,” the 50th anniversary James Bond entry, Rian Johnson's “Looper” and the long-awaited adaptation of David Mitchell's “Cloud Atlas.” And for viewers who cannot get that fizzy summer feeling out of their systems, the studios are rolling out a new version of “Dredd,” the final installment of “The Twilight Saga” and yet another “Resident Evil” creepfest.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick play parents whose young daughter (Natasha Calis) encounters a malicious spirit after buying an antique box at a yard sale. Billed as based on a true story, the horror-thriller carries Sam Raimi's (the “Spider-Man” and “Evil Dead” movies) production stamp.
‘Celeste and Jesse Forever'
In this comedy-drama, a couple (Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg) in the midst of a divorce try to stay friends while simultaneously seeing other people.
Director William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”) teams again with Tulsa native playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts; the pair previously worked on the 2006 film “Bug.” In this NC-17-rated black-as-pitch comedy, a Texas drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) hires a hit man (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his mother.
‘Robot & Frank'
In the near future, a humanoid robot (voice of Peter Sarsgaard) moves in with a retired cat burglar (Frank Langella) in order to help take care of the aging man's needs. The film, which played at the 2012 deadCenter Film Festival, co-stars Oklahoma native James Marsden.
Bradley Cooper stars in a romantic drama about an up-and-coming novelist who didn't actually write his breakout book. Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Jeremy Irons and Dennis Quaid also star in the movie, which got people talking at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
‘Searching for Sugar Man'
Two South African fans go on a search for 1970s folk singer-songwriter Rodriguez, who became big in South Africa but was relatively unknown in the U.S. and was rumored to have killed himself. This documentary won the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's prestigious Special Jury Prize and World Cinema Audience Award.
‘The Cold Light of Day'
Soon-to-be Superman Henry Cavill stars as Will Shaw, a man on vacation in Spain whose family is kidnapped. Sigourney Weaver and Bruce Willis co-star in this action thriller.
Kirsten Dunst plays an overachieving maid of honor named Regan, whose best friend Becky (Rebel Wilson) is about to wed. Becky wants a tame bachelorette party, but her friends Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher) have other plans in this raunchy comedy. Oklahoma native James Marsden (“X-Men”) co-stars.
Co-starring Max von Sydow, Leelee Sobieski and Jeffrey Tambor, this sci-fi thriller is set in a dystopian near-future where corporate brands have created a disillusioned, dependent and passive populace. One man (Ed Stoppard) embarks on a mission to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy and stop it from destroying our world.
‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: The IMAX Experience'
The cinematic classic that introduced the world to adventurous archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) rolls into IMAX theaters for an exclusive one-week engagement.
‘Finding Nemo 3D'
This Academy Award-winning film will be rereleased in a 3-D version. In the Oscar-winning 2003 Pixar film, a clown fish (voice of Albert Brooks) goes searching for his missing son.
‘Resident Evil: Retribution'
Milla Jovovich returns as Alice in the fifth installment of the sci-fi/zombie film franchise based on the video game “Resident Evil.” In “Retribution,” Alice goes worldwide in a hunt for those responsible for the outbreak of the zombie-causing virus.
Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a hedge fund magnate attempting to sell his business before his double-dealings are uncovered. Susan Sarandon plays Miller's wife; Tim Roth is a New York police detective on Miller's case.
‘For a Good Time, Call'
Finances force straight-laced Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller) and flirty Katie (Ari Graynor) to move in together, and Lauren finds out Katie is a phone-sex operator.
Recently single Jesse Fisher (Josh Radnor), in his mid-30s, goes back to his college campus to speak at the retirement dinner of his favorite professor. While there, he falls for a sophomore, Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen). Radnor directs and wrote the film; Zac Efron, Allison Janney and Richard Gleason co-star.
Karl Urban stars as the ultraviolent “judge” of Mega City One. Lionsgate hopes fans of the violent comic like this more than the 1995 Sylvester Stallone-Rob Schneider version. Lena Headey and Olivia Thirlby co-star; “Dredd” co-creator John Wagner consulted.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the founder of a faith-based group in the post-World War II era, and two-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix is a Navy veteran who becomes enthralled with the charismatic leader in this drama. Amy Adams, Lara Dern and Jesse Plemons co-star.
‘Trouble With the Curve'
Clint Eastwood comes out of his acting retirement to star as Gus, an aging baseball scout who may be losing his touch. Needing insight on a hot prospect in the draft, Gus takes his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) on a scouting trip, potentially putting her legal career in jeopardy. Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Robert Patrick and Matthew Lillard also star.
‘End of Watch'
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena play Los Angeles police officers in a found-footage-style film set in south-central L.A.
‘House at the End of the Street'
“The Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence co-stars with Elisabeth Shue, who plays her mom, in the horror thriller. The film takes place when the two move to a new town, across the street from a house where a double murder occurred.
This film follows a group of friends at their 10-year high school reunion, including Jake (Channing Tatum), who's about to propose to his girlfriend (Jenna Dewan-Tatum), until running into his high school ex (Rosario Dawson). Chris Pratt, Justin Long, Oscar Isaac and Kate Mara co-star.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, a time-traveling hired gun, in this sci-fi action-thriller in which time travel is possible, but illegal. When criminal organizations want to make someone disappear, their targets are sent to the past, where they encounter specialized assassins known as “loopers.” Joe is a successful looper until one day he sees himself staring into the face of his next target — and it's himself, 30 years older. Bruce Willis plays the older Joe.
Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of “Dexter's Laboratory,” directs this animated film about a hotel run by Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) as a place to relax and kick back. But when a regular guy stumbles upon the hotel and falls for Dracula's daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), Dracula may not be relaxed anymore. Steve Buscemi, Kevin James and Fran Drescher are among the stars also lending their voices to the family comedy.
‘Won't Back Down'
Two mothers (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis) aim to get a charter school started in their neighborhood.
Writer-director Tim Burton (“Corpse Bride”) expands his beloved 1984 animated horror-comedy short into a full-length stop-motion feature about a boy and his dog. After losing his pup Sparky, young Victor (voice of Charlie Tahan) uses the power of science to bring back his best friend — with some distinct differences. Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short lend their voices to the feature, and Oklahoma City's own The Flaming Lips and Grace Potter have collaborated on the song “My Mechanical Friend” for “Frankenweenie Unleashed!,” the 14-track compilation of music from and inspired by the upcoming film.
Back in 2008, “Taken” propelled Irish actor Liam Neeson (“Schindler's List”) to unlikely action hero status in the role of a retired CIA agent who uses his Special Forces skills to save his kidnapped daughter (Maggie Grace). Neeson, 60, returns to presumably kill everyone in his path once again in the sequel, in which he and his wife (Famke Janssen) are taken hostage by a kidnapper who clearly has a greater sense of vengeance than wisdom.
Ethan Hawke plays a true-crime novelist who finds disturbing home movies inside his new house, making his family the target of a vicious supernatural force.
Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”) stars as a college freshman who gets talked into joining her school's all-girl singing group and shakes up the troupe's tired repertoire in this musical comedy co-starring Brittany Snow, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Elizabeth Banks.
‘Chicken With Plums'
Co-writers/directors Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi follow up their 2007 Oscar-nominated animated drama “Persepolis” with a period film about a renowned musician (Mathieu Amalric) who takes to his bed to wait for death after his beloved violin is broken.
Actor/director Ben Affleck tests a lumberjack beard and the adage truth is stranger than fiction with this fact-based thriller set in the midst of the Iranian revolution. He portrays a CIA “exfiltration” expert who devises a dicey scheme to smuggle out six Americans hiding in the home of a Canadian ambassador. Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Kyle Chandler co-star.
Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko are the crazies in question in the latest crime comedy from Golden Globe-winning Irish writer/director Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”).
‘Here Comes the Boom'
Kevin James reunites with his “Zookeeper” director Frank Coraci to play a high school biology teacher who pursues a sideline as a mixed-martial arts fighter to raise money to prevent his school from making severe budget cuts in this action-comedy co-starring Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler and Melissa Peterman.
‘Middle of Nowhere'
Writer-director Ava DuVernay won the best director award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival with this drama about a bright medical student (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who puts her dreams on hold when her husband (Omari Hardwick) is sentenced to eight years in prison.
Tyler Perry looks to fill some big shoes with his decidedly non-Madea lead role in the reboot of the film franchise based on James Patterson's series of novels about the titular homicide detective/psychologist. Not only will he face off against a serial killer (Matthew Fox) who isn't afraid to make their cat-and-mouse game personal, Perry also will fill the role formerly played by Oscar winner Morgan Freeman in 1997's “Kiss the Girls” (1997) and 2001's “Along Came a Spider.”
‘Killing Them Softly'
Brad Pitt reteams with writer/director Andrew Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) to star as an enforcer investigating a robbery that went down at a mob-protected card game in this crime thriller.
‘Paranormal Activity 4'
The popular found-footage horror franchise continues. At this point, it's practically a bargain-budget Halloween tradition.
Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent are featured in the Wachowski siblings' (“The Matrix” movies) and Tom Tykwer's (“Run Lola Run”) adaptation of British author David Mitchell's award-winning sci-fi novel that explores how individuals' actions affect the lives of others across the past, present and future.
Oscar winner Curtis Hanson (“L.A. Confidential”) and Michael Apted (“Gorillas in the Mist”) co-direct this biopic of surfing legend Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), his friendship with seasoned surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) and his quest to take on the massive, dangerous waves off the coast of Half Moon Bay in Northern California.
Nickelodeon TV star Victoria Justice hits the big screen in this romp about a high schooler whose mother (Chelsea Handler) forces her to take her weirdo younger brother (Jackson Nicoll) trick-or-treating, jeopardizing the teenager's plans to attend a coveted party hosted by her crush (Thomas McDonell).
‘Silent Hill: Revelation'
Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell, Carrie-Anne Moss, Malcolm McDowell and Adelaide Clemens are plunged into the horrific world of the popular survival video game series in this sequel to the 2006 film “Silent Hill.”
‘The Big Wedding'
Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton play a long-divorced couple forced to fake that they are still happily married at their son's nuptials in this ensemble comedy co-starring Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes and Robin Williams.
Classic arcade game fanatics will want to blow all their quarters on this Disney computer-animated feature about an 8-bit villain (voiced by John C. Reilly), who escapes from his “Donkey Kong”-like game after 30 years and jumps into a new adventure to prove his good-guy credentials. Other voice talent includes Sarah Silverman, Mindy Kaling, Alan Tudyk and Jack McBrayer.
‘The Man With the Iron Fists'
The directorial debut from Wu-Tang Clan leader and “Kill Bill” composer RZA hews close to his longtime martial arts fixation: a 19th-century weapons maker known as the Blacksmith (played by the director) must come to the aid of his Chinese village when a traitor threatens the peace. The film also stars Lucy Liu, Russell Crowe, Pam Grier and Jamie Chung.
After a full decade of working on motion-capture films, director Robert Zemeckis returns to the real world with “Flight,” starring Denzel Washington as an airline pilot who saves a passenger jet from crashing, but does so under mysterious circumstances. John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Don Cheadle and Kelly Reilly also star in this thriller written by John Gatins (“Real Steel”).
In the 23rd film in the James Bond series, 007 (Daniel Craig) disappears after a mission in Istanbul fails and the identities of MI6 agents are revealed in a WikiLeaks-style operation, and his loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is challenged when her complicated past comes to light. Directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Road to Perdition”), “Skyfall” also stars Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris.
‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2'
In the final installment of the popular vampire series based on Stephanie Meyer's books, Bella and Edward (Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson) must protect daughter Renesmee as the Cullens face down the Volturi. Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Dakota Fanning and Ashley Greene return for this conclusion.
Daniel Day-Lewis transforms into President Abraham Lincoln in director Steven Spielberg's epic biographical drama featuring Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Jared Harris as Ulysses S. Grant and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln. Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) wrote the screenplay based in part on a biography by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Taking on the role previously brought to life by Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh, Keira Knightley plays Leo Tolstoy's tragic heroine in this new version directed by Joe Wright, who previously directed Knightley in “Atonement” and “Pride & Prejudice.”
Also for fall
‘The Perks of Being
Novelist Stephen Chbosky, who published “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” in 1999 and went on to create the CBS drama “Jericho,” adapts his epistolary novel and directs the story about a quiet boy (Logan Lerman) using an alias throughout high school and the two seniors (Emma Watson and Ezra Miller) who take him under their wings.
Director Lee Daniels (“Precious”) returns with an adaptation of Peter Dexter's novel about a reporter coming back to his Florida hometown to cover the story of a convicted murderer. Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Zac Efron star.