So begins the summer movie season, when we willingly pay to see movies we know will be bad. But between the raunchy comedies (A Good Old Fashioned Orgy) and silly sequels (Spy Kids 4, Final Destination 5)—some of which we’ll love!—are many intriguing flicks well worth watching, and not just to escape the heat. Below, a totally incomplete rundown of the good, the bad, and the we-will-reserve-judgment-for-now films of the coming months. Happy summer, movie fans. (As always, all dates are subject to change.)
The Hangover 2
Best buds Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who barely survived the drunken mayhem of their last vacation head to Bangkok, Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Todd Phillips returns as director but the tiger in the bathroom has reportedly been replaced by a chain-smoking monkey.
Kung Fu Panda 2
In this sequel to the 2008 animated hit, Jack Black once again provides the voice of Po, the Bruce Lee–channeling panda, whose reign as the benign Dragon Warrior is threatened by all manner of villains, including an evil peacock voiced by Gary Oldman.
The Tree of Life
Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and newcomer Jessica Chastain star in this latest film from director Terrence Malick (Badlands, The New World), who has succeeded Stanley Kubrick as the filmmaker most likely to make film critics swoon before the opening credits even roll.
Michael Sheen and Maria Bello star as a couple whose troubled marriage is upended completely by news that their son (Kyle Gallner) has killed himself after going on a shooting rampage at his college. Shawn Ku directs from a script he wrote with Michael Armbruster.
Drawing on experiences with own father, now deceased, writer-director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) has cast Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor as a father and son who must recalibrate their relationship after the father, age 75, comes out as gay. Mélanie Laurent co-stars.
The Last Mountain
David battles Goliath as documentarian Bill Haney (The Price of Sugar) tracks an Appalachian community’s fight to prevent a coal conglomerate from strip-mining their mountain home.
Love Wedding Marriage
A newly married marriage counselor (Mandy Moore) gets so wrapped up in keeping her parents (James Brolin and Jane Seymour) from divorcing that she begins neglecting her own spouse (Kellan Lutz). Directed by actor Dermot Mulroney.
Rejoice and Shout
Legendary gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson and the Blind Boys of Alabama as well as dozens of lesser-known performers get their due in this documentary history of African-American gospel music. Don McGlynn directs.
Oliver (Craig Roberts), a 15-year-old British schoolboy, has two goals for his summer vacation: sleeping with his romance-hating gal pal (Yasmin Paige), and saving the marriage of his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor). Directed by Richard Ayoade.
X-Men: First Class
In this prequel, director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) tracks the formative years, circa 1963, of the mutant heroes. James McAvoy portrays the young Charles Xavier, the role previously played by Patrick Stewart. Michael Fassbender, January Jones, and Kevin Bacon co-star.
Beginning with a 1953 European air race, this drama from director Ben Sombogaart (the Oscar-nominated Twin Sisters) tracks the intertwining lives and decidedly complex loves of three young Dutch women who meet during the race and become lifelong friends.
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Third-grader Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) and her little brother, Stink (Parris Mosteller), are spending the summer with their Aunt Opal (Heather Graham), who thinks Judy’s plan for a summer filled with wild dares—ride an elephant, capture Big Foot—sounds swell. Based on the popular children’s-book series by Megan McDonald. Directed by John Schultz.
Just Like Us
Comedians beware: A joke that gets a laugh in Cairo may be greeted with anger in Dubai, a fact the Western comics touring the Middle East learn the hard way. Directed by comic Ahmed Ahmed who also performs in this tour diary doc.
Road to Nowhere
The first feature in 22 years from Monte Hellman, the iconic director of the B-movie classic Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), is, appropriately enough, about a first-time director (Tygh Runyan) who finds the lines between truth and fiction blurring dangerously while on a North Carolina shoot. Shannyn Sossamon co-stars.
Ohio, 1979. Three teens, one of them a budding Spielberg, are out late at night, making a Super 8 movie. Suddenly, a freight train crashes, and lo and behold, a space alien the Feds have been hiding at Area 51, escapes. We’re thinking he probably won’t be as friendly as E.T. was, way back in the day. Co-produced by Spielberg, and written and directed by J.J. Abrams.
In this re-edited version of a six-part BBC series, comic actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon travel England’s Lake District in search of fancy restaurants for Coogan to review in print. Mostly, though, the men riff and ramble and do killer impersonations of Al Pacino, Richard Burton, and Woody Allen. Directed by Michael Winterbottom.
There be trolls in them there hills, and they’re not real happy that a group of film students are trying to track them down. This mockumentary horror comedy from writer-director André Øvredal was a big hit in Norway—can Troll Hunter 2 be far behind?
In a crime thriller built around the real-world fuel wars that plague the Congo, a young gangster (Patsha Bay Mukuna) foolishly steals truckloads of petrol from his ruthless boss and soon finds himself surrounded by hit men and sexy women with secret agendas. Directed by Djo Tunda wa Munga.
The Art of Getting By
George (Freddie Highmore), a disaffected Manhattan teen on the verge of expulsion at a posh private school, finds a kindred spirit, and a possible love interest, when he befriends a beautiful classmate (Emma Roberts). Michael Angarano, Rita Wilson, and an un-credited Alicia Silverstone co-star in this debut feature from writer-director Gavin Wiesen.
Wyoming horseman Buck Brannaman is an honest-to-goodness horse whisperer, and his gentle touch with wild horses (and ornery humans) is captured in this documentary by first-time director Cindy Meehl.
Ryan Reynolds goes sleekly green as the DC Comics superhero who keeps the universe safe from otherworldly villains with dastardly plans but less form-fitting outfits. Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale).
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Six penguins, to be exact, which unexpectedly enter the lonely life of New York real estate mogul Tom Popper (Jim Carrey), who immediately sends out for extra ice. Angela Lansbury co-stars. Directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls).
My Afternoons With Margueritte
In this gentle comedy from director Jean Becker, Gérard Depardieu stars as Germain, a small-town handyman who begins eating his lunch in the park each day alongside the 95-year-old Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus), whose love of language and literature proves infectious.
Page One: Inside the New York Times
Filmed over the course of 14 months, Andrew Rossi’s documentary captures the Times and its staff—with a special emphasis on media journalist David Carr—as the Grey Lady is besieged by financial woes, Internet competition, and a bad case of the jitters.
Sure, she drinks Jack Daniels in class, smokes pot on break, and ridicules her students, but junior high teacher Ms. Halsey (Cameron Diaz) sure is pretty, and now that she’s trying to snare a hopelessly wholesome substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake), she might stop sleeping in class. Jake Kasdan directs.
A Better Life
A Los Angeles gardener (Demián Bichir), who’s constantly worried about being deported, struggles to raise his teenage son (José Julián), as neighborhood gangs begin enticing the boy to join up. Directed by Chris Weitz (About A Boy).
Radiators Springs’ resident race car champ, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), is off to Europe for the World Grand Prix, along with his best buddy, Mater the tow truck (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). Michael Cain and Emily Mortimer voice the spy cars who think Mater’s a secret agent. Directed by John Lasseter.
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
Filmmaker Rodman Flender follows Conan O’Brien on the 32-city comedy tour he embarked upon shortly after losing his “Tonight Show” hosting gig. Jim Carrey, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert appear in selected concert segments.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
In this documentary, co-directors Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman tell the complex story of Daniel McGowan, an environmental activist whose crusade against timber companies involved in deforestation eventually led him to be indicted as an “eco-terrorist” by the U.S. government.
A Little Help
A recently widowed, possibly alcoholic woman (Jenna Fischer from The Office) tries to pull herself together for the sake of her young son. Chris O’Donnell, Rob Benedict, and Lesley Ann Warren co-star for writer-director Michael J. Weithorn.
The Names of Love
In this satirical French comedy, a young woman named Bahia (Sara Forestier), who is half-Algerian, falls in love with a middle-aged, half-Jewish scientist (Jacques Gamblin). “This is so cool,” Bahia exclaims. “The two of us embody France!” Directed by Michel Leclerc.
Newly unemployed, the perennially optimistic Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) enrolls in junior college and begins to woo a perpetually cranky professor (Julia Roberts). Hanks directs, from a script he wrote with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding).
The dream trip 18-year-old Grace (Selena Gomez) and her two friends (Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy) have taken to Europe is going horribly wrong until the press mistakes Grace for a British heiress. Suddenly, fancy hotel rooms, champagne, and hunky men are flowing their way. Directed by Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone).
Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is an overweight 15-year-old with no friends and no parents (he lives with his crazy uncle). When he starts wearing pajamas to school, the vice principle (John C. Reilly) decides to begin weekly counseling sessions, sparking a friendship that has unexpected repercussions for both. Directed by Azazel Jacobs.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Shia LeBeouf, Josh Duhamel, and Tyrese Gibson, seasoned veterans of the never-ending robot wars, head to Chicago to stop a fresh assault by the evil Decepticons. Michael Bay directs. In 3-D!
Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
For his first film as director, actor Michael Rappaport documents the history of A Tribe Called Quest, the influential hip-hop band from Queens. Film footage includes the band’s 2010 reunion show in Japan.
Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day as three men who decide to actually do what so many worker bees before them have dreamed of doing: kill their bosses. Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston co-star as the respective targets. Directed by Seth Gordon (The King of Kongs: A Fistful of Quarters).
A man (Charlie Hunnam) stands on the edge of a high building, preparing to jump. The cop (Terrence Howard) trying to talk him down, gradually learns that the jumper is involved in a complicated love triangle (Patrick Wilson and Liv Tyler) and that this suicide attempt may actually be part of a murder scheme. Written and directed by Matthew Chapman.
Filmmaker James Marsh’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire uses archival and re-enacted footage to tell the weird, sad, crazily true story of Nim, a chimpanzee who, in the 1970s, was taught sign language and raised as if he were a human child.
The Sleeping Beauty
French filmmaker Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl, The Last Mistress) stages a series of lushly produced vignettes to imagine what was in the mind of Anastasia (Carla Besaïnou), the princess who slept for 100 years in Charles Perrault’s 17th-century fairy tale.
The animals are talking to the zookeeper (Kevin James) and—even better—giving him sage advice on how to improve his love life. Rosario Dawson co-stars. Directed by Frank Coraci (The Wedding Singer).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
“Voldemort had raised his wand. His head was still tilted to one side, like a curious child, wondering what would happen if he proceeded. Harry looked back into the red eyes, and wanted it to happen now, quickly, while he could still stand, before he lost control, before he betrayed fear…” Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Ralph Fiennes. Directed by David Yates.
Life, Above All
In this adaptation of Allan Stratton’s bestselling novel, “Chandra’s War,” Khomotso Manyaka stars as a 12-year-old girl struggling to protect her AIDS-stricken mother from the superstition and fear that rule their South African village. Directed by Oliver Schmitz.
Pastor Dan (Pierce Brosnan), TV evangelist, is all set to break ground on a pre-fab Christian community when he accidentally shoots a visiting atheist (Ed Harris). Greg Kinnear co-stars as the disciple who helps the good pastor cover up the mess. Directed by George Ratliff.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
The friendship between two women in 19th-century Shanghai is contrasted with a similar bond between two of their descendants, living in present-day China. Directed by Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) and based on Lisa See’s 2005 novel.
The latest film from documentarian Errol Morris (The Fog of War) is centered on an extended interview with Joyce McKinney, a beauty pageant queen who became a sensation in 1970s England after she was accused of kidnapping a young Mormon man. He claimed that she raped him. Then things got strange.
Winnie the Pooh
There are serious questions to be answered in the Hundred Acre Wood: Can an Eeyore become a Tigger? How big a hero can a Piglet be? And most importantly, does no one have a fresh pot of Honey for a Pooh Bear that missed breakfast? John Cleese narrates. Directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall.
In this sci-fi-tinged love story from first-time writer-director Mike Cahill, the discovery of a 10th planet—a duplicate Earth—helps to unite a music professor (William Mapother) and the woman (Brit Marling) who killed his wife and child in a car accident.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a runty little guy who volunteers for a World War II Army experiment that turns him into a muscle-ripped superhero ready to take on a Nazi weapons genius named Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Tommy Lee Jones co-stars for director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman).
Friends With Benefits
“No emotion. Just sex,” is the mantra agreed upon by two friends (Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake) who’ve decided that they’re both too damaged for love, and just need good, regular, no-strings sex. Good luck with that. Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson co-star. Directed by Will Gluck (Easy A).
The Myth of the American Sleepover
It’s another suburban Saturday night in Michigan, and the handful of teens who fill this debut film from writer-director David Robert Mitchell are busy sneaking out of the house, smoking pot, and generally breaking the rules as they chase down adventure and romance.
Winner of the World Cinema Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this documentary by Asif Kapadia tells the life story of Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian racecar driver who died in a 1994 Grand Prix crash.
Cowboys & Aliens
In the Wild West of old, Lonergan (Daniel Craig) and Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) are enemy gunslingers but their shootout will have to wait until they kill off the space aliens that have just landed in their dusty desert town. Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man).
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Night after night, sad-sack Cal (Steve Carell), whose wife (Julianne Moore) has left him, sits in a bar and watches a young guy named Jacob (Ryan Gosling) effortlessly pick up women. Desperate, Cal asks him for a ladykiller make-over. Co-directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris).
The Devil’s Double
The true story of the Iraqi army lieutenant who was forced to undergo plastic surgery to become the body double for Uday Hussein, Saddam’s psycho-killer son, inspired this Scarface-like thriller. Dominic Cooper plays both versions of Uday. Ludivine Sagnier co-stars. Directed by Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day).
“I’ve been gearing up to do something incredible for the past . . . 15 years,” declares Sophie (Miranda July) as she and her boyfriend, Jason (Hamish Linklater), embark on a 30-day life experiment they hope will open them up to new ways of living. Written and directed by July, whose first film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, was a 2005 hit.
Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, and Emily Hampshire co-star in this off-beat Canadian thriller about an apartment complex whose residents are on edge over a serial killer on the loose in their neighborhood. Written and directed by Jacob Tierney.
Brendan Gleeson is Boyle, an unkempt, vulgar Irish policeman who teams with a straight-laced FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to solve a series of Galway murders. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh.
In the new thriller by director Fred Cavayé, a rising star in French cinema, a male nurse (Gilles Lellouche) is forced to kidnap a criminal patient in order to meet the demands of the bad guys who are holding his pregnant wife hostage.
Young men with too much time on their hands, Woodrow (writer-director Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) like to play with flamethrowers, which they figure will come in handy when the end-times come. Or maybe they’ll be useful if Woodrow’s new girlfriend (Jessie Wiseman) does him wrong.
Two buddies—a hunky single guy (Ryan Reynolds) and a bored married guy (Justin Bateman)—experience a magical body switch and discover the pros and cons of living the other’s life. Directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers).
The infamous 1964 cross-country trip novelist Ken Kesey and his band of “Merry Pranksters” took across America—while happily blitzed-out on a new drug called LSD—is recalled in this new documentary by Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) and Alison Ellwood (American High). Narrated by Stanley Tucci.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
After altering the genetics of a chimpanzee, a young scientist (James Franco) is astonished when his test subject escapes and then launches a primate war against humans. Directed by Rupert Wyatt.
They’re back and bluer than ever. Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays star. Directed by Raja Gosnell (Beverly Hills Chihuahua).
Rachel Weisz stars as the real-life Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who went to Bosnia in 1999 as a U.N. peacekeeper and eventually uncovered a sex-trafficking operation with ties to the U.N. itself. Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci, and David Strathairn co-star for director Larysa Kondracki.
Final Destination 5
Death, that ultimate serial killer, continues to hunt down the lucky, then not-so-lucky teens who escaped his first attempt to claim them, this time during a bridge collapse. Directed by Steven Quale.
In 1962, a budding journalist (Emma Stone) returns to her Jackson, Mississippi, hometown and stirs up trouble when she begins interviewing and writing about the black women who work as maids for the town’s rich whites. Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Sissy Spacek, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Cicely Tyson co-star. Written and directed by Tate Taylor, adapting Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller.
Making her directorial debut, Vera Farmiga stars as a lifelong evangelical Christian and community leader who begins to question her faith in mid-life, a journey that eventually affects everyone around her. Based on a true story.
When their car breaks down in a tiny town outside Los Angeles, Japanese tourists and siblings Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka) and Rintaro (Rintaro Sawamoto) stay a while, and become involved in the lives of the locals. This is the debut film of writer-director Mike Ott.
Seven Days in Utopia
After suffering a public humiliation, a promising young golfer (Lucas Black) hits the road but gets stranded in a Texas town where he’s befriended by a rancher (Robert Duvall) who happens to know a thing or two about golf, and about life. Melissa Leo co-stars. Directed by Matthew Dean Russell.
30 Minutes or Less
The only method Dwayne (Danny McBride) can devise to raise the cash he needs to hire a hitman (Michael Peña) to kill his father (Fred Ward) is to strap a bomb onto a pizza delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg) and order him to go rob a bank. Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland).
The rarely discussed U.S. occupation of the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century is dramatized in the new film from writer-director John Sayles (Matewan). Joel Torre stars as a mild-mannered village elder torn between loyalty to his people and a desire to appease the Americans. Garret Dillahunt co-stars.
In present-day Tehran, two high school girls, Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) and Shireen (Sarah Kazemy), fall in love. Written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz.
Conan the Barbarian
Jason Momoa stars as the sword-and-sorcery hero who battles ancient gods, monsters, and other big-pec’d men. Rose McGowan co-stars. Directed by Marcus Nispel.
They were made for each other, but it takes Emma (Anna Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) half a lifetime to figure that out in this time-jumping romance, based on David Nicholls’s bestseller. Directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education).
Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World
Only a retired secret agent (Jessica Alba) and her stepkids (Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook) can save the world from the evil Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven). Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez.
Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) produced this documentary-style thriller that purports to tell the true story of the alien life forms that ate the crew of Apollo 18. Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Once upon a time—1973, to be exact—a TV-movie about a woman being terrorized by whispering, invisible goblins living below her chimney scared the heck out of many a viewer. Katie Holmes stars in this long-in-the-works remake, with Guy Pearce as her clueless husband. Co-produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by newcomer Troy Nixey.
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy
The Hamptons home where 30-year-old Eric (Jason Sudeikis) and his friends have partied for years is being sold. What to do? Throw an orgy, of course. Lake Bell, Leslie Bibb and Will Forte co-star. Written and directed by Pete Huyck and Alex Gregory.
Our Idiot Brother
Paul Rudd stars as the idiot in question, who is broke and homeless and creating havoc in the lives of his three sisters (Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, and Elizabeth Banks). Directed by Jesse Peretz.
In this remake of an Israeli film, Helen Mirren stars as a former Mossad agent whose assignment, in 1966, to track down a Nazi war criminal is coming back to haunt her. Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, and Tom Wilkinson co-star. Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love).