My favorite movie season of the year is here again, bringing the usual mix of intelligent fare and dumb fun—plus a sing-along re-release of Grease, which falls into some other category entirely.
There’s the obligatory raft of sequels—a third Twilight, a second Sex and the City, a fourth Shrek, the return of the Predators, a Forgetting Sarah Marshall spinoff and follow-ups to Nanny McPhee and Cats and Dogs that no one asked for—along with intriguing star vehicles like the actioner Salt starring Angelina Jolie and Nicolas Cage in a souped-up reimagining of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (yes, the brooms make an appearance).
Then there’s the controversial Princess Kaiulani, in limited release this May after premiering at the Hawaii Film Festival last October, where it tied for the Best Feature Film award with Precious. Its much-hated former title, Barbarian Princess, has been tossed, but passionate debate is still guaranteed.
Finally, there’s the summer’s biggest question mark, a remake of one of my favorite movies, The Karate Kid, which I’ll give a fair chance, despite my loyalty to Pat Morita’s unbeatable wax on/wax off technique.
Here are ten more to catch in between bouts of surfing and guri-guri consumption.
Iron Man 2 (May 7)
The Gist: Robert Downey Jr. is back as Tony Stark and his metallic alter ego, while Mickey Rourke provides the villainy.
Why It Could Rock: Downey Jr. is on a roll, it has almost the same cast and crew as the original, plus Rourke, Don Cheadle and Scarlett Johansson.
Unless: Too many new characters crowd the story, a common problem in superhero sequels. If it’s not better than the first, it could drop faster than you can say “Wolverine.”
Best-Case Scenario: It’s so good, audiences forget they wasted time watching Transformers 2.
Robin Hood (May 14)
The Gist: Ridley Scott’s take on the Prince of Thieves and his Men in Tights stars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.
Why It Could Rock: Scott and Crowe in their element, the unbeatable combo of action and romance and, really, when has this story not worked?
Unless: Instead of Gladiator, it’s another Kingdom of Heaven. Can Crowe still open a movie? Will Bryan Adams provide a song?
Best-Case Scenario: Ten years after Gladiator, Scott reminds us why he’s one of our best visual storytellers.
The A-Team (June 11)
The Gist: Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper star in action ace Joe Carnahan’s adaptation of the ’80s TV series.
Why It Could Work: Looks exactly like the mixture of action and laughs that made the first Charlie’s Angels so much fun.
Unless: It plays more like the overblown, obnoxious Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
Best-Case Scenario: T-shirts declaring “I Pity the Fool!” make an epic comeback.
Toy Story 3 (June 18)
The Gist: Pixar reunites Tom Hanks and Tim Allen for another installment in the beloved franchise.
Why It Could Rock: Pixar’s model of story and character first, visual razzmatazz second is what makes their movies unbeatable.
Unless: Did we really need another Toy Story? Wouldn’t The Incredibles Return have been better?
Best-Case Scenario: We get a scene where Buzz Lightyear knocks Tickle-Me Elmo on his furry butt.
Knight and Day (June 18)
The Gist: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in a sexy action/comedy.
Why It Could Rock: The Top Gun and Maui’s favorite celebrity surfer girl, dodging bullets and trading kisses.
Unless: The similar Killers, which stars Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl and opens a month earlier, steals its thunder.
Best-Case Scenario: Cruise scores a solid comeback, finally earning forgiveness for what he did to Oprah’s couch.
Inception (July 16)
The Gist: Bat-director Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this thriller about corporate espionage and the nature of dreams. Stars Leonardo Di Caprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Ken Watanabe.
Why It Could Rock: The plot is top secret, the trailer is jaw dropping and it looks smart and exciting enough for adults and teens alike.
Unless: The story is more confusing than dazzling to audiences. The Dark Knight is a tough act to follow.
Best-Case Scenario: The mixture of smarts and thrills make it the summer’s most talked-about film.
The Adjustment Bureau (July 30)
The Gist: Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in this Philip K. Dick fantasy thriller.
Why It Could Rock: Dick’s best stories gave us Blade Runner and Total Recall.
Unless: Green Zone proved that Damon’s star power has its limits. This is screenwriter-turned-director George Nolfi’s first movie; does he have what it takes?
Best-Case Scenario: A sci-fi date movie better than The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Eat Pray Love (August 13)
The Gist: Julia Roberts stars in this romantic comedy based on the bestselling novel.
Why It Could Rock: Ladies, this is supposed to be this summer’s Julie & Julia. The book is on Oprah’s Book Club and it’s one of the few female-friendly summer attractions.
Unless: The plot is a lot like Under the Tuscan Sun, which was no Julie & Julia.
Best-Case Scenario: Roberts reminds us why she is America’s favorite actress.
The Expendables (August 13)
The Gist: Hardcore action/adventure starring Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham…
Why It Could Rock:…Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Unless: Writer/director Stallone is hit and miss with dialogue, not that anyone will care. Will the summer’s action overload make it old hat come August?
Best-Case Scenario: Makes The A-Team look wimpy by comparison.
Piranha 3-D (August 27)
The Gist: Horror remake stars Elisabeth Shue, Richard Dreyfuss (yes, he’s gonna need a bigger boat…) and hundreds of hungry fish.
Why It Could Rock: Girls and gore, what every 17-year-old wants to see in 3-D. It should wipe the floor with Step Up 3-D; The Final Destination racked up $70 million in this slot last year.
Unless: 3-D fatigue finally kicks in. Plus, The Final Destination sucked.
Best-Case Scenario: It scares tourists away from Maui beaches and gives locals more leg room on the sand.