This week's release of Fast Five didn't just herald the rebirth of the cars-and-hot-girls franchise as a series of heist movies, it also marked the official start of Summer Movie Season, that time of year when studios push out their biggest and best, and multiplexes get filled by aliens, robots and superheroes. But what films should you make a point of seeing? Here's our pick of the five big names, and the five you might not have heard of -- but should seek out.
What is it? Oh, you know what it is by now. The first of Marvel's two movies this year -- Captain America follows in July, and worryingly enough is still rumored to be in reshoots -- and the one that's already getting some great reviews and word of mouth, compared with cautious excitement or outright worrying for Cap. The casting looks spot-on, and the trailers seem to promise the mix of comedy and action that made Iron Man work so well, but with added epic scale and Shakespearean gravitas, courtesy of director Kenneth Branagh and Anthony Hopkins' Odin. Dare we hope that it'll be great?
Released: May 6th.
The Hangover, Part II
What is it? The sequel to the, let's face it, surprise blockbuster from 2009, The Hangover, Part II takes Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis to the next level of pre-wedding insanity... if you consider the next level to be defined by chain-smoking monkeys, long-lost relatives and waking up with no idea of what's going on in the middle of Bangkok (Doesn't everyone?). Director Todd Philips promises "something I know people want to see," which suggests that he knows that the pressure is on to deliver something that eclipses the first outing. Here's hoping he delivers.
Released: May 26th.
What is it? Well, that's kind of the question, isn't it? JJ Abrams' tribute to the early movies of (executive producer) Steven Spielberg, Super 8's trailers have given hints as to a story filled with Spielbergian touches like teen nerds having to save small-town America from something unknown but not necessarily evil. If the finished product is anywhere as good as the trailer - which manages to evoke early Spielberg without parodying what made his movies great -- then this could be the big movie of the summer.
Released: June 10th.
What is it? DC Comics tries to jump-start its (non-Batman) competition with Marvel with this high-profile, special effects-heavy adaptation of its top non-Batman franchise. The first teaser left fans a little flat, but everything we've seen since the second trailer has gotten the buzz back towards positive. Director Martin Campbell promises a "realistic" superhero epic, but considering the source material has aliens, cosmic personifications of existential emotions and magic rings, it'll be interesting to see how well that turns out for him. If nothing else, Ryan Reynolds will probably have fun as the cocky, Han-Solo-as-superhero Hal Jordan.
Released: June 17th.
Cowboys & Aliens
What is it? It's the genre match-up the world always wanted but never knew it, with the kind of creative line-up that promises interesting, if not outright great, things: Indiana Jones co-starring with James Bond and 13 from House, directed by the guy behind Iron Man and written by the men behind Star Trek and Transformers! How could this go wrong? Well, there are the two slightly underwhelming trailers to contend with, as well as the stated intention "not to have it play like camp," according to co-writer Bob Orci. With that title? Isn't camp exactly what people will be wanting to see?
Released: July 29th.
Hobo With A Shotgun
What is it? The second movie to go from Grindhouse trailer joke to full-length exploitation flick, Jason Eisener's movie begins what I can only hope is a full-scale comeback for Rutger Hauer, who's so committed to the role that he's already talking about his hopes for a trilogy. As to what the movie is about, doesn't the title say it all?
Released: May 6th.
What is it? Videomaker-turned-feature director Mike Mills follows up Thumbsucker with this movie about romance, family and people starting over after everything in their life changes. It might not be for everyone, but the trailer shows Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer (playing McGregor's dad, coming out of the closet after 75 years) and the woman McGregor falls in love with, Melanie Laurent, to be handling the story with understated skill and a good sense of humor.
Released: June 3rd.
What is it? Already a hit at this year's Sundance, this low-budget science fiction movie about the discovery of an alternate Earth identical to our own has been compared to movies like Moon and Primer -- pretty good company to be in, really. The idea may be big, but the scale is purposefully small, allowing director Mike Cahill to focus on the characters in the story, as well as keep the budget sensible.
Released: July 22nd.
30 Minutes or Less
What is it? A heist gone wrong is at the center of this new comedy from Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, but the story really comes secondary to the cast list, which includes Danny McBride, Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari and The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg. Crime may not pay, but it's pretty much a certainty that this movie will be worth its weight in comedy gold.
Released: August 12th.
Our Idiot Brother
What is it? Again, this one - described as a cross between Alexander Payne (Sideways) and Woody Allen, about a slacker who ends up couch surfing between the homes of his three successful sisters after a drugs bust - might be all about the cast list. But when that cast list includes Paul Rudd, Parks and Recreation's (again!) Adam Scott, 30 Rock's Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Steve Coogan, that's a cast worth showing up to see.
Released: August 26th.