Prometheus: Blue mist ... why haven't astronauts figured out that blue mist = bad stuff?
Prometheus: Blue mist ... why haven't astronauts figured out that blue mist = bad stuff?

Summer Movies 2012: The Season Brings a Crop of Films Suitable for All Ages -- Including Adults

In a movie season worshipped for its CGI-boosted, spiritually bankrupt juvenilia, it's heartening to know that filmmakers still create — and maybe more significantly, that studios still distribute — summer entertainment for grown-ups. Not that those buckets of popcorn are going to empty themselves, but who needs to be reminded of yet another comic-book reboot (The Amazing Spider-Man), unasked-for remake (Total Recall) or Adam Sandler comedy (That's My Boy)? Here are 24 to watch for in the sweltering months ahead, from thought-provoking indies to Piranha 3DD. All opening dates are approximate.

Moonrise Kingdom (June 1)

Directed by Wes Anderson


Summer Movies 2012

Vintage record players! Letter writing! Slow-motion sequences and Euro pop! Anderson's vibrantly meticulous, nostalgia-inducing aesthetic finally gets the '60s period piece it deserves in this small-town dramedy adventure. Twelve-year-olds Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward fall in love and run off into the New England wilderness, much to the chagrin of his Scout troop leader (Edward Norton), her folks (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) and local sheriff Bruce Willis. (Focus Features)

Piranha 3DD (June 1)

Directed by John Gulager

That's pronounced "Double-D," as in the jiggly, eye-popping flesh that'll be chewed up (and spat at the audience) by prehistoric fanged fish, much as it was in the proudly, viciously campy Piranha 3D. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water park, terror swims anew for survivors Ving Rhames, Paul Scheer and Christopher Lloyd. (Dimension Films)

Prometheus (June 8)

Directed by Ridley Scott

Originally conceived as, but not exactly, a prequel to Scott's 1979 sci-fi masterpiece Alien, this mega-expensive, futuristic IMAX thriller instead forges an epic new mythos about our intergalactic origins. Following an ancient star map, a quite face-huggable space crew (including captain Idris Elba, archaeologist Noomi Rapace, android Michael Fassbender and corporate thug Charlize Theron) investigates an extraterrestrial civilization on a distant, terrifying planet. (20th Century Fox)

Marina Abramovi: The Artist is Present (June 13)

Directed by Matthew Akers

Named for the Museum of Modern Art retrospective on the Serbian performance-art sensation's four-decade body of work, this doc takes a revealing look at Abramovic's complicated relationships with her audience and former lover/collaborator Ulay. From vintage footage of the now 65-year-old radical's public self-flagellation to 2010's main event — a three-month, stone-faced sitting in front of curious, often obsessive museum-goers — the film warmly and perceptively makes a solid case for asking the question: "Is this art?" (HBO Documentary Films/Music Box Films)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

(June 22)

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

On Broadway, actor Benjamin Walker already reimagined one U.S. president as an emo rock star in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, so why not play Honest Abe as an ax-wielding abolitionist out to destroy bloodsuckers and slavery? Adapted by hot novelist-cum-screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows) from his own faux-epistolary mash-up, this action-packed "secret life" chronicle promises an undead body count of at least four score. (20th Century Fox)

Brave (June 22)

Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

A strong-willed young woman and expert archer becomes the talk of her rural kingdom when she takes charge of her own destiny ... and competes in the Hunger Games? OK, so Pixar's latest CG-animated fantasy isn't that dark, but it does feature the studio's first-ever female protagonist: Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a flame-haired, 10th-century princess of the Scottish Highlands, whose solo adventure begins after defying a chauvinistic tradition. (Disney/Pixar)

Seeking a Friend For the End of the World (June 22)

Directed by Lorene Scafaria

If Melancholia was too glum in its pre-apocalyptic anxieties, the Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist screenwriter's directorial debut offers up an unlikely alternative for those who take the Mayans' predictions seriously: a rom-com! While humanity awaits doomsday by way of an inbound asteroid, a freshly dumped Steve Carell makes an unlikely connection in his neighbor Keira Knightley. Go for it, girl — it's not like you have to worry about commitment issues. (Focus Features)

To Rome With Love (June 22)

Directed by Woody Allen

The Woodman's follow-up to Midnight in Paris continues his recent trend of filming in travelogue-friendly European locales. Along with the 76-year-old Allen, this year's Windsor-font-emblazoned ensemble includes Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and indie darling Greta Gerwig. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (June 27)

Directed by Benh Zeitlin

Punching way above his indie-budget weight, Zeitlin's visually rapturous tale — the Grand Jury Prize and Best Cinematography winner at Sundance 2012 — sees the lawless Louisiana bayou through the imaginative, often blindly optimistic view of a 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis). Like Where the Wild Things Are as conceived by Terrence Malick, this troubling but tender 16mm opus will permanently stain your brain with its fantastical images. (Fox Searchlight)

Magic Mike (June 29)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Just as Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience was more focused on the economics of the high-class escort biz than it was on sexuality, it's impossible to imagine this dramatic comedy about male strippers will just be Striptease with chest grease and "banana hammocks." Based in part on Channing Tatum's experience as a 19-year-old dancer, the film stars the barrel-chested G.I. Joe as the eponymous leading man. (Warner Bros.)

Take This Waltz (June 29)

Directed by Sarah Polley

The Canadian actress-turned-filmmaker's sophomore effort behind the camera (following her Oscar-nominated Away from Her) again demonstrates her instincts for sharp, emotionally charged writing and richly developed female protagonists. Happily married to a cookbook-writing goofball (Seth Rogen, never better), Michelle Williams is unprepared for the heat she feels around rickshaw-driving neighbor Luke Kirby. Their unrequited eroticism sizzles like the Toronto summer, but Polley's affectionate drama isn't so much about infidelity as it is about life's thorny impossibilities. (Magnolia Pictures)

The Queen of Versailles (July 6)

Directed by Lauren Greenfield

The photographer-filmmaker behind such doc provocations as Thin and Kids + Money hits the morbidly curious mother lode in this depiction of the American dream gone sour. When the billionaire time-share king of Florida and his ex-model wife begin construction on a 90,000-square-foot palace — the largest home in the United States, including 30 bathrooms, a bowling alley and baseball diamond — they aren't prepared for the credit crunch to shrink their empire. Their post-recession behavior is the stuff of reality-television nightmares. (Magnolia Pictures)

Savages (July 6)

Directed by Oliver Stone

There is no historical profiling or arch sociopolitical conscience in the latest from the iconoclast behind JFK and World Trade Center, a brutal crime thriller reminding us that he's also the guy who wrote Scarface. Based on Don Winslow's bestseller, Savages stars Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as Laguna Beach pot dealers forced to square off against a corrupt DEA agent (John Travolta), a cartel leader (Salma Hayek!) and her enforcer (Benicio Del Toro). (Universal Pictures)

Ted (July 13)

Directed by Seth McFarlane

Boston slacker Mark Wahlberg might be able to salvage his relationship with long-suffering girlfriend Mila Kunis if he can get his best friend since childhood to move out. Oh, and his friend happens to be a CG-animated, foul-mouthed, bong-smoking, sexually harassing teddy bear (voiced by McFarlane). Patrick Warburton, Giovanni Ribisi and Joel McHale co-star. (Universal Pictures)

The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Really, who won't be watching the final act of Nolan's Caped Crusader trilogy, arguably the high-water mark of superhero cinema? Christian Bale's gravelly voice returns as haunted billionaire Bruce Wayne and his winged alter ego, now facing two foes of fanboy legend: Anne Hathaway's slinky Catwoman and Tom Hardy's gas-masked juggernaut Bane, who infamously broke Batman's back in the comics. (Warner Bros.)

Klown (July 27)

Directed by Mikkel Nørgaard

Hands down the funniest film of the year, this irreverent Danish comedy plays like a superior, way grosser version of The Hangover (and Todd Phillips is producing an American remake!). Discovering that everyone except him knew about his girlfriend's pregnancy, a nebbishy man-child — about to take a canoe trip to an exclusive brothel with his ultra-perverted pal — unwisely kidnaps her young nephew for the ride. From ill-advised threesomes to photographing little boy penises, they don't call them "gags" for nothing. (Drafthouse Films)

Killer Joe (July 27)

Directed by William Friedkin

In debt to a drug kingpin, Emile Hirsch hires a sociopathic Dallas cop (Matthew McConaughey) to take out his mother for the life insurance policy. The Exorcist director reteams with Pulitzer- and Tony-winning writer Tracy Letts (Bug) for what's been labeled both a sleazy noir-thriller and an eccentric, pitch-black comedy. (LD Entertainment)

The Watch (July 27)

Directed by Akiva Schaffer

Formerly called Neighborhood Watch before the Trayvon Martin shooting prompted an essential title change, this profane comedy concerns a quartet of Costco employees and drinking buddies (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Submarine director Richard Aoyade) who form a crime watch to escape their humdrum suburban existence. Oh yeah, and then they accidentally uncover an alien-invasion plot that only they can thwart to save all of humanity. (20th Century Fox)

The Bourne Legacy (August 3)

Directed by Tony Gilroy

Whoa, how do you make a Jason Bourne thriller without Matt Damon, or even the Bourne identity? Expanding on novelist Robert Ludlum's universe of top-level espionage, the underrated director of Duplicity and Michael Clayton (and screenwriter on every Bourne flick thus far) brings new hero Jeremy Renner into the fray — along with Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz and the previous films' Albert Finney and Joan Allen — as another bad-ass CIA operative. (Universal Pictures)

The Campaign (August 10)

Directed by Jay Roach

The mud-slinging political comedy we deserve in this circus of an election year, this broad farce stars Will Ferrell as a long-sitting congressman from North Carolina whose CEO rivals dig up their own untrained Manchurian candidate (a mustachioed Zach Galifianakis) from the local tourism center. Fun fact: Galifianakis' uncle was also an NC congressman, unseated by Jesse Helms in the '70s. (Warner Bros.)

ParaNorman (August 17)

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

The Oscar-nominated animation company behind Coraline presents this stop-motion 3-D comedy-thriller about a spiky-haired misfit (voiced by Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee) with the ability to speak to the dead. Unable to win over friends or even his family, Norman's ghost whispering sure comes in handy when his small town is overrun by a plague of zombies. (Focus Features)

The Loneliest Planet (August 24)

Directed by Julia Loktev

Hiking through the otherworldly Caucasus Mountains in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, Alex (Gael García Bernal) and his flame-haired fiancee Nica (Hani Furstenberg) seem like the perfect hipster couple, until a subtle, split-second choice irreversibly cracks the veneer. Loktev's marvelous, slow-burning follow-up to her minimalist thriller Day Night Day Night somehow manages to be both audacious and subtle: Awkward silences are deafening, and the wilderness, though wide open, brings on a devastating claustrophobia. (Sundance Selects)

Premium Rush (August 24)

Directed by David Koepp

Anyone who has ever shared the road with a Manhattan bicycle messenger knows they're a thrill-seeking, possibly suicidal, lot. Koepp, who also scribed this season's Men in Black III, gives the Speed treatment to the fixed-gear, no-brakes set in this against-the-clock thriller, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a skilled cyclist whose delivery payload is being hunted by Michael Shannon's homicidal cop. One ill-timed passenger door opening and it's all over, roll credits. (Sony Pictures)

Lawless (August 31)

Directed by John Hillcoat

Adapted by Australian rock icon and screenwriter Nick Cave (The Proposition) from Matt Bondurant's true-life family tales in his lyrical novel The Wettest County in the World, this Prohibition-era crime drama chronicles the three Bondurant brothers of Franklin County, Virginia, (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke) and their fight against outsiders — including gangster Gary Oldman and deputy Guy Pearce — who want a taste of their moonshine bootlegging operation. The ubiquitous Jessica Chastain also stars as Hardy's love interest from the big city. (The Weinstein Company)


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