By Stephanie Zacharek
By Simon Abrams
By Michelle Orange
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Nick Schager
By Amy Nicholson
By The Invisible Woman
By I Used to Be Darker
Explosions, pratfalls and robots, heroes, aliens and blondes: It must be summertime at the movies.
Beyond the flash, though, it's striking to note just how many movies will require us to actually think this summer. (Aren't we supposed to save thinking for the fall?) Maybe it's the election, but there are some pretty serious and intense flicks coming our way — docs and foreign films and dramas that don't guarantee a happy ending. The distributors must be nuts, but in a sweetly brave and naive way. And so, as an act of solidarity, we're taking the pledge: For every movie we see that's playing on more than one screen at the multiplex, we hereby vow to see one film that might be good for us. Because after all, as with pop idols and presidents, we get the movies that we deserve.
THRILLS & CHILLS: The summer in action and horror
A retirement-home caregiver (Mena Suvari) hits a newly homeless executive (Stephen Rea), and his body gets stuck in her windshield. She goes to bury him, but — uh-oh — he's still alive. Based on a true story. From Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon.
The Mother of Tears
The Incredible Hulk
Edward Norton goes green.
Will Smith as a modern-day superhero who's becoming more famous for being drunk than for his ability to lift a whale with one hand.
Hellboy: The Golden Army
The Dark Knight
Midnight Meat Train
Bradley Cooper stars as a Manhattan photographer who becomes obsessed with finding a subway serial killer. The first in a series of films to be based on Clive Barker's hard-core horror collection, "Books of Blood."
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Brendan Fraser, lifelong mummy-catcher, goes to China.
In this remake of a South Korean film, Kiefer Sutherland battles a vengeful ghost in a haunted department store. In other words, stay out of the dressing room.
Nicolas Cage is a hitman on assignment in this action thriller from China's talented Pang Brothers (The Eye), here remaking their 1999 debut film.
Vin Diesel in a near-future world all gone to hell, trying to protect a woman whose baby will be the next Messiah. Don't worry: Vin will save us.
BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS: The summer in drama
When Did You Last See Your Father?
Quid Pro Quo
Love — or is it abuse? — blossoms between a shy meter maid (Samantha Morton) and her aggressive co-worker (Jason Patric). This film marks a welcome return to the screen by the recently ill and always delightful Teri Garr, in a dual role.
Josh Hartnett is a Manhattan entrepreneur riding the rise and rapid fall of the dot-com boom and bust. (Not a horror movie.)
After spending most of his life in prison for a notorious crime, a young man (Andrew Garfield) adjusts to life on the outside.
In a film reported to be heavier on character development than psycho-terror, two couples in a remote cabin are being watched by a potential killer. Oddly, this is a mumblecore movie (by the brothers Duplass).
Henry Poole Is Here
A dying man (Luke Wilson) is forced to face his religious beliefs when his neighbors begin to see Christ's face in a stain on the side of his house.
Although it's probably the last film people would have expected him to helm, rock star Fred Durst makes his directorial debut with the true story of the teenage girl who became the first female to play on a Pop Warner football team. Akeelah and the Bee's Keke Palmer stars, with Ice Cube as the coach.
Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America
Two Vikings lost in eleventh-century North America attempt to survive and then rebuild, while struggling to overcome their instinct toward war. Features very little dialogue and a reportedly intense rock soundtrack. Headbangers take notice.
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
A sex-addicted con artist (Sam Rockwell), his deranged mother (Anjelica Huston), and a recovering chronic masturbator (Brad Henke) populate Clark Gregg's adaptation of Chuck "Fight Club" Palahniuk's novel.
Ben Kingsley is a womanizing English professor who's slowly come unraveled by his obsessive affair with a student (Penelope Cruz). Based on a novella by Philip Roth, with Dennis Hopper and Patricia Clarkson.
A love-it-or-loathe-it film from Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) about a thirteen-year-old Lebanese-American girl (Summer Bushil) who encounters racism and sexual abuse when she moves to Houston. With Aaron Eckhart.
STUDY ABROAD: The summer in foreign film
The Unknown Woman
Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore's complex thriller about a Ukrainian woman (Kseniya Rappoport) with a tragic past but questionable motives who insinuates herself into the life of a young Italian family.
This recent foreign film Oscar nominee recounts the early years of Genghis Khan, the mighty twelfth-century warrior and conqueror of all he surveyed.
Elsa & Fred
The Last Mistress
Director and provocateur Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl) heads to nineteenth-century France, where a young nobleman (Fu'ad Ait Aattou) tries to shake his obsession with his longtime mistress (Asia Argento, 2008's most prolific actress).
Tell No One
A Girl Cut in Two
Reportedly inspired by the 1906 murder of New York architect Stanford White, this thriller by French director Claude Chabrol concerns a TV reporter (Ludivine Sagnier) torn between two charismatic and possibly treacherous men (Benoit Magimel and François Berleand).
JUST THE FACTS: The summer in docs
Bigger, Stronger, Faster
The war over steroids in sports, as experienced by filmmaker Christopher Bell and his pro-wrestler and pro-lifter brothers, both unapologetic juicers.
Encounters at the End of the World
Chris & Don: A Love Story
Utilizing his signature mix of silent film, animation and delightfully weird melodrama, Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin composes a love letter to his Canadian home town.
The Sky Turns
After 35 years away, filmmaker Mercedes Alvarez returns to the tiny Spanish village where she was the very last child to be born.
Gunnin' for That #1 Spot
This tribute to blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, Johnny Got His Gun) written by his playwright son, Christopher, features readings by Joan Allen, Kirk and Michael Douglas and Paul Giamatti.
Gonzo: The Life & Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
With the help of Johnny Depp, illustrator Ralph Steadman and a treasure trove of 1960s and '70s archival footage, filmmaker Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side) tracks the life of the mad-genius journalist.
Lou Reed's Berlin
In a concert film directed by Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Lou Reed performs, for the first time ever, his magnificent 1973 song-cycle "Berlin."
In this Sundance hit, filmmaker Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture) tracks a year in the life of four Indiana teens.
Man on Wire
Filmmaker James Marsh explores the ultimate high-wire act: tightrope walker Philippe Petit's 1974 illegal stroll between the Twin Towers.
TAKE THE KIDS: The summer in family fare
Kung Fu Panda
The new computer 'toon from Pixar director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) takes place 700 years in the future, when a lonely Earth robot called WALL-E and a sleek 'bot from space named EVE team up for adventure.
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Brendan Fraser digs deep.
Animated monkeys blast into space to head off approaching aliens.
Fly Me to the Moon
Animated 3-D astronaut flies (very cute flies) go to the moon.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
A LAUGH RIOT: The summer in comedy, romantic and otherwise
The Foot Fist Way
Sex and the City: The Movie
Josh Peck as a teenage pot dealer in 1994 New York. His best client? His shrink, played by Ben Kingsley (who's everywhere this summer).
You Don't Mess With the Zohan
The Love Guru
Mike Myers dons a Mahatma beard and golden swami robes to play an American raised in India who dreams of becoming a Brooklyn hairstylist (or America's go-to self-help guru). With Jessica Alba and Justin Timberlake.
On the heels of his wife's SATC shebang, Matthew Broderick opens another movie, this time starring as a brain-injured man who hits the road with his dementia-addled uncle (Alan Alda) and high-school sweetheart (Virginia Madsen).
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly reunite as newly related men who discover that two fools are better than one.
Dave (Eddie Murphy) is an alien, new to Earth. Dave tries to adjust to Manhattan life, all the while being supervised by a command post of tiny (alien) people in his head (whom we see).
In Search of a Midnight Kiss
On the eve of the presidential election, one drunken ne'er-do-well (Kevin Costner) has the power to cast the sole deciding vote. Could be non-fiction.
Seth Rogen and James Franco are stoned on the best weed of their life, and also running for their lives from a killer cop in a film penned by Rogen and Superbad writing partner Evan Goldberg and directed by indie darling David Gordon Green. (Admission is half-price if you bring your own bong.)
Based on the true story of a French wine-shop owner (Alan Rickman) who traveled to Napa in 1976 to set up a blind taste test between French and California wines. The must-see summer flick for wine lovers.
Ben Stiller (who also directs), Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. go all Rambo as Hollywood actors who don't realize that their military training is actually in a real war. With Tom Cruise in a fat-suit cameo all the world wants to see (including you).
The House Bunny
Ditzy Playboy bunny Anna Faris becomes college sorority housemother, a plot line that must have made for a terribly efficient pitch meeting.
The Accidental Husband
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
DANCING QUEEN: The summer in ABBA films
***As with summer weather, baseball, and presidential race forecasts, all dates are subject to change.
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