Action is the name of the game this summer, and it’s not just men in tights
Remember last year when it seemed as though “Bridesmaids” would herald some exciting new era in which women would have a bigger stake in the summer? Oh well. It’s back to the usual assortment of capes, cars, and codpieces — back, in other words, to action.
At least, though, the vision has expanded enough to let more women in on it. “The Dark Knight” has Catwoman. Ridley Scott’s return to scary outer space (“Prometheus”) has Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron. “Battleship” has, um, Rihanna. “Brave” is the first Pixar fantasia imagined entirely around a female protagonist, and, in “Hope Springs,” Meryl Streep is seeing Dr. Steve Carell to work on her marriage to Tommy Lee Jones.
And men appear to be horning in on the lady’s action. That counts as an expansion of sorts. Really, it’s the summer boys’ club 2012. The Snow White myth now makes room at the top for a “huntsman,” the season’s baby comedy (“What to Expect When You’re Expecting”) appears to be as much about daddies as their kids and mothers, and Tyler Perry’s Madea gets her first summer movie.
Dwayne Johnson joins G.I. Joe. Jeremy Renner becomes Jason Bourne. Andrew Garfield turns into the amazing Spider-Man. And, in “Total Recall,” Colin Farrell takes over for the Guvernator. Mark Wahlberg reconnects with his vulgar childhood teddy bear (“Ted”). Sylvester Stallone and the other Expendables are back for what we liked better when it was called “Grumpier Old Men.” Adam Sandler annoys Andy Samberg. Zach Galifianakis annoys Will Ferrell — or is that the other way? And — holy of holies — Abraham Lincoln is a hot, vampire-slaying elected official.
What follows is a seasonal guide to those movies, plus everything else to expect when you’re expecting.
BARFI! You read that title and kind of hold your stomach. But would it help to know that, in India, barfi is just a sweet treat? Knowing that might make you more curious about the rest of this romantic comedy in which the Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra play, respectively, a deaf-mute and autistic woman in love.
DARK SHADOWS The eerie old black-and-white soap opera about vampires, ghosts, and werewolves, etc. in love is now, somewhat inevitably, a garish-looking Tim Burton comedy with Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Grace Moretz, and, of course, Johnny Depp as the frigidly sexy neck-biter Barnabas Collins.
ELLES Juliette Binoche plays a French magazine journalist who expects that her story about female prostitution will turn up tales of degradation and misery. Her reporting reveals the opposite: These young women, two of them, anyway — Joanna Kulig and Anais Demoustier — discover power and freedom. Directed and co-written by Malgorzata Szumowska.
FIRST POSITION This documentary follows half a dozen dancers as they prepare for and compete in the Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious ballet competition.
GOODBYE FIRST LOVE From the writer and director Mia Hansen-Love (“The Father of My Children”), who deserves to be better known. She makes these lush, naturalist, wonderfully paced romances. This new one is about two young paramours (Lola Créton and Sebastian Urzendowsky) and eight years in and around their lives.
HEADHUNTERS From Norway, a thriller about a corporate headhunter who becomes obsessed with obtaining a pricey piece of artwork from a dangerous man. With Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Directed by Morten Tyldum.
SOUND OF MY VOICE Actress-writer Brit Marling was the It Girl of Sundance 2011 with “Another Earth” and this similarly spooky film, just now making it to theaters. Marling plays an LA cult leader who claims to be from the future; Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius play a journalist and his girlfriend who go undercover to debunk her. It’s not as easy as they think. Marling is carving out an unusual niche: smart indie sort-of-sci-fi.
THE DICTATOR The candid-camera schtick that worked so brilliantly in “Borat” and failed so miserably in “Bruno” has been jettisoned for a standard fish-out-of-water scripted comedy in this, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s third big-screen outing. In case you’ve been in a cave since he destroyed Ryan Seacrest’s tux at the Oscars, Cohen plays a Khadafy-esque tyrant who loses his beard and identity on a trip to Manhattan. Larry Charles again directs the mayhem, but despite some pro forma shock gags, this has the feel of an Eddie Murphy movie from 1986. Surprise us, Sacha, surprise us.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA The great Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new film is an epic police procedural focused on the long journey to the scene of a crime, and the forensic particulars of what’s discovered there. It’s partly a comedy of police manners, mostly something stranger and grimmer.
THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY The Museum of Fine Arts will present all 900 hours — in two-hour blocks of two episodes each — of Mark Cousins’s BBC special, whose title requires no further explanation, but it’s also more than the standard clip show with talking heads. The telling word is “story” rather “history.” The odyssey is about sensation.
BATTLESHIP Since “Transformers” and its sequels were hits, here’s another “toyetic” spin-off: An alien-invasion war movie adapted from the Milton Bradley game that involved pegs and grids and guesswork. No extraterrestrials, as we recall. Taylor Kitsch (“John Carter”) is the lead navyman, model Brooklyn Decker is the love interest, singer Rihanna makes her movie debut packing a big fat gun. Liam Neeson is on board, reportedly very briefly, to remind everyone what acting is about. Not that the acting is what you’re here for. Someone please make a movie out of Stratego next.
BERNIE A comedy directed and co-written by Richard Linklater based on the true case of a mild-mannered Texas undertaker (Jack Black) who befriends a cantankerous widow (Shirley MacLaine) then shoots her dead. Matthew McConaughey plays the investigating district attorney.
CROOKED ARROWS Whether this will be the best movie set against the backdrop of the lacrosse world remains to be seen, but its makers seem really psyched that it’s one of the first. It was shot in Boston and features a ragtag team of Native American players whose coach is Brandon “Superman” Routh.
DARLING COMPANION Diane Keaton plays a woman — that woman, really — the sort who might love her dog more than anyone else in her life. Isn’t this the woman the mild-mannered undertaker shoots? One day her husband (Kevin Kline) “loses” the dog and a psychic is consulted (Dianne Wiest). Directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote the film with his wife, Meg.
GOD BLESS AMERICA Bobcat Goldthwait wrote and directed this satirical rant about a suicidal depressive (Joel Murray) and a chirpy teenager (Tara Lynne Barr) who team up for a crime spree that sends them across the country killing people who get on their nerves.
THE HUNTER An environmental action thriller with Willem Dafoe as a mercenary hired to capture a rare Tasmanian tiger ripe for pharmaceutical exploitation.
MANSOME The documentary personality Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me,” “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”) applies himself to the world of male grooming. Maybe there’s a chance for an in-theater game. Anytime Spurlock makes a pun (“manscaping,” say) or uses the term “metrosexual,” give yourself a pedicure.
SURVIVING PROGRESS A documentary by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks about the possibility that all of our progress is killing us. With thoughts from Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, Colin Beavan, and Margaret Atwood.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING Another week, another movie based on a guide book about how to do stuff that stars 2,000 actors. This one focuses on a handful of couples and the babies they’re having. With Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Anna Kendrick, Elizabeth Banks, Rodrigo Santoro, Brooklyn Decker, Chris Rock, Chace Crawford, Matthew Morrison, and Dennis Quaid.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES Another week, another found-footage thriller. This one might take the cake. American tourists are led to Pripyat, home to former workers at the Chernobyl nuclear plant and whatever killer beasts the disaster produced.
I WISH From the Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda (“After Life,” “Nobody Knows”) comes this story of two young brothers who long to see each other again. Koreeda cast Koki and Oshiro Maeda, real brothers, in the starring roles.
MIB 3 The most ingenious casting move of the summer might be having Josh Brolin play a less craggy Tommy Lee Jones in this new “Men in Black” installment. Will Smith and his mustache pinball between the 1960s and the “present” and the two versions of Agent K, whom aliens want to kill. It happens.
POLISSE This explosive cop thriller follows the doings of Paris’s embattled child-protective-services detectives, whose lives are almost as melodramatic as the kids’. Co-written and directed by Maïwenn, who also plays the mousy photographer embedded with the cops.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW? Nadine Labaki (“Caramel”) directed and co-wrote this musical dramedy about a Lebanese village beset by Islamo-Christian strife that breaks down along gender lines. The women wish the men would cool it.
ELENA For his third film, the Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev (“The Return”) tries something like film noir with the tale of a woman forced to come up with cash to reroute her grandson away from the army draft and into a university.
FOR GREATER GLORY If you know little about the Cristero War, which began in 1926 with a rebellion against the Mexican government’s persecution of Catholics, this movie starring Andy Garcia, Oscar Isaac, and Eva Longoria would like to fill your brain with knowledge and your eyes with cheekbones. Directed by Dean Wright, a veteran visual-effects supervisor directing his first movie.
HIGH SCHOOL Oh, Adrien Brody what is going on? Your can’t seem to gain any traction. You were great in “Predators” (you were!) and funny in “Midnight in Paris,” but where are all the movies you should be starring in? While we await an answer, there’s this comedy with Brody as a stoner supplying kids with pot. We’re calling it “Saved by the Bong.”
HYSTERIA A romantic comedy set in Victorian-era London and more or less about the development of the vibrator as the cure for what ails women. With Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Felicity Jones, Jonathan Pryce, and Rupert Everett. Directed by Tanya Wexler.
THE INTOUCHABLES In the feel-good dramedy that recently conquered France, Francois Cluzet plays a quadriplegic moneybags whose new caretaker (Omar Sy) is an African-born ex-con who shows him how to love being alive. Sy won the César for best actor.
LAST CALL AT THE OASIS A documentary about a possible global water crisis.
MOONRISE KINGDOM — Wes Anderson brings the quirk again, this time to a fictional New England island in the summer of 1965. A 12-year-old Boy Scout (Jared Gilman) and his young ladylove (Kara Hayward) run away, and the adults — parents Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, scoutmaster Edward Norton, social services lady Tilda Swinton, and local cop Bruce Willis — fan out to find them. Bruce Willis? That is quirky.
PIRANHA 3DD The title of this sequel to the 2010 gnarly horror comedy refers to a bra size. But it’s safe to assume that that’s purely aspirational since there doesn’t promise to be filmmaking or fright enough to fill it out.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN Charlize Theron hires a Dark Ages contract killer (Chris Hemsworth) to murder Kristen Stewart and bring her the dead girl’s heart, which would give her immortality. It’ll either be a blast or a fiasco, although there seems no way for it not to be, at least, kind of hot.
BEL AMI It seems Kristen Stewart can’t go five feet without Robert Pattinson on her heels. Here he’s Guy de Maupassant’s scheming scoundrel being lusted after by Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Christina Ricci. Down, girls. You’re just rungs on his social ladder.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED Well, at least they’re still wanted somewhere. With the voices, once again, of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, and David Schwimmer.
NOBODY ELSE BUT YOU A romantic thriller, written and directed by Gérald Hustache-Mathieu, about a crime novelist (Jean-Paul Rouve) who stumbles into the murder of a TV celebrity who fancied the second coming of Marilyn Monroe. The French title — “Poupoupidou” — is much cleverer.
PEACE, LOVE AND MISUNDERSTANDING After her husband files for divorce, an uptight corporate attorney (Catherine Keener, who else?) takes her two kids (Nat Wolff and Elizabeth Olsen) home to meet her mother, a flaming hippie, played by — who else? — Jane Fonda. “Home,” for the sake of symbolic obviousness, is Woodstock. Directed by Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”).
PROMETHEUS This “Alien” prequel returns Ridley Scott, we hope, to suspense and creatures, as a late-21st-century space crew explores an advanced alien civilization. The cast includes Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, and Charlize Theron. Let’s begin the betting for who’s not entirely human and who’s tummy is some little critter’s home.
CAPE SPIN: AN AMERICAN POWER STRUGGLE A documentary by Robbie Gemmel about the battle over Cape Wind and wind farms. Gemmel promises satire and activism. No, we don’t know where all the sanely titled narrative nonfiction features are this summer, either.
LOLA VERSUS Yes, Greta Gerwig is the star of this comedy about a jilted woman coming to terms with her singleness. But, really, it’s just a relief to see her costar Joel Kinnaman away from the dreariness of “The Killing” and wearing something other than a hoodie. He has hair! And an Adam’s apple! With Bill Pullman, Hamish Linklater, and Debra Winger.
ROCK OF AGES The Broadway hair-metal jukebox musical comes to the screen with — are you ready? — Tom Cruise as dissolute rock star Stacee Jaxx, leather chaps, Axl-’danna, and all. Director Adam Shankman has been here before with “Hairspray,” but the world may not be ready for actors Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, and Catherine Zeta-Jones bawling out cover versions of “Any Way You Want It” and “Cum on Feel the Noize.”
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED Aubrey Plaza stars in a time-travel comedy. Honestly, Aubrey Plaza could star in a bowl of fire ants and we’d beg you to go.
THAT’S MY BOY A movie whose premise hinges on our belief that Adam Sandler could be Andy Samberg’s obnoxious, long-lost father. Obnoxious, sure. But they’re really only 12 years apart. Presumably, that’s part of the joke. Still, if you’ve ever watched Samberg on “SNL” and thought “He’s a Sandler sequel,” then never mind.
WHORE’S GLORY The finger-pointing, occasionally misguided Austrian polemicist Michael Glawogger strikes again. This documentary is a prostitution triptych that looks at sex workers in Mexico, Bangladesh, and — how could he not? — Bangkok.
5 BROKEN CAMERAS Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s documentary offers five years of Palestinian protests against Israeli settlements, during which Burnat also became a father. The title refers to the number of cameras that were destroyed (more than once by bullets) during the protests.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER Just to get a jump on Steven Spielberg’s drama about the 16th president, this action-horror farce, directed by Timur Bekmambetov and based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s hit novel, imagines that Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) had a secret identity as the Van Helsing of 19th-century USA. Who knows what Spielberg has up his sleeve, but it’s certain not to involve Lincoln swinging an ax at oncoming creatures of the night.
BRAVE The center of Pixar’s annual summer entry is an archer (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) put under an evil spell that turns her into a witch. Breaking it requires an adventure through the Scottish highlands. That’s not much of a description, but we also once wrote that “Toy Story” was about a bunch of talking toys. With the voices of Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson.
PINK RIBBONS, INC. A documentary by Lea Pool that argues that the world’s biggest symbol of the fight against cancer is demeaning, infantilizing, and hypocritical.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD In this science-fiction comedy, a pending divorce puts Steve Carell in the company of Keira Knightley, who agrees to help search for his childhood sweetheart before an asteroid destroys the planet. I know this isn’t the point but: Why are women always leaving Steve Carell?
YOUR SISTER’S SISTER Lynn Shelton wrote and directed this comedy about two sisters (Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt) and the unattached friend (Mark Duplass) they share.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD Benh Zeitlin’s enchanted first feature is set down in the Delta; includes characters named Hushpuppy, Wink, and T-Lou; unleashes a gallery of strange creatures; and pretty much ate Sundance when the festival premiered it in January. Now it’s coming for you.
A CAT IN PARIS Not the story of that time Sammy Davis Jr. went to France but one of this year’s animated-feature Oscar nominees. Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli wrote and directed this mystery-adventure set during one night in the capital.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson join Channing Tatum for rock-em-sock-em-ness. But we’re confused. We saw the last installment of this series. Shouldn’t we be retaliating?
MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION Tyler Perry’s Madea finds herself hosting a Bernie Madoffy executive (Eugene Levy) with mob ties after the government hides him and his family with her and her nasty brother Joe, both of whom Perry plays. With Denise Richards, Doris Roberts, Romeo Miller, and — thank you, Lord — John Amos, and Marla Gibbs.
MAGIC MIKE This is looking to be Channing Tatum’s breakout year, and what better way to celebrate than by honoring his roots — as a male stripper. Director Steven Soderbergh has taken the star’s semi-sordid past and built a male bonding movie around it, with Tatum as a bow-tied beefcake veteran teaching newcomer Alex Pettyfer the ropes and routines. Matthew McConaughey plays their manager.
PEOPLE LIKE US A drama with Chris Pine as the son of a man tasked with delivering $150,000 to an alcoholic sister (Elizabeth Banks) he didn’t know he had. Well that at least saves him from the obligation of falling in love with her. Unless. . . Never mind. The directing debut of Alex Kurtzman. Also starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, and Mark Duplass, who, apparently, is in everything small and potentially funny this summer.
TAKE THIS WALTZ The actress Sarah Polley’s second feature as a writer and director (“Away From Her” was the first) is a dramatic comedy about a married writer (Michelle Williams) attracted to an artist (Luke Kirby) who is not her husband. That guy is played by Seth Rogen, who could actually be required to move us with his feelings of hurt and betrayal. We just wrote that! About Seth Rogen! And we’re not even stoned!
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN The Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire Spidey trilogy ran out of gas and “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” was a Broadway fiasco. Gasp! Can this franchise be saved? Director Marc Webb and star Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) leap to the rescue with this reboot of yet another superhero series. The good news: Webb (“(500) Days of Summer”) may bring a little of his indie sensibility along and everyone’s favorite new star, Emma Stone, is playing Peter Parker’s new love, Gwen Stacey. (Rhys Ifans plays supervillain The Lizard.)
KATY PERRY: PART OF ME The mega-selling pop star’s life on and off stage is the focus of this 3-D documentary. “Part of Me”? Sounds like “Most of Me.”
NATURAL SELECTION An oddball road-movie comedy-romance about an evangelical Christian (Rachael Harris of “The Hangover”) bonding with her husband’s illegitimate ex-convict son (Matt O’Leary). See, they do make them like they used to. Houston filmmaker Robbie Pickering’s feature debut is itself coming off a long road of festival exposure.
THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES The documentary hit of Sundance and the Independent Film Festival Boston finally comes to the paying customers. It’s an acrid slice of schadenfreude about nouveau richies David and Jackie Siegel building the largest McMansion in America, only to see it and the rest of their lifestyle slide into the black hole of the recession. Will economic reality bring self-awareness? Don’t bet the mortgage on it. Lauren Greenfield (“Thin”) directs with a mixture of fondness and horror.
SAVAGES Oliver Stone tones down the politics and ramps up the action in this thriller about two pot farmers (busy summer-movie boy Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson from “Kick-Ass”) who go to war against the Mexican cartel strongwoman (Salma Hayek) who has kidnapped their mutual girlfriend (Blake Lively). John Travolta, Benicio del Toro, Uma Thurman, and recent Oscar nominee Demian Bichir pop up in support. Honestly, it looks like more fun than we’ve had from Stone in years.
TO ROME WITH LOVE Can Woody Allen keep his lucky streak going after last year’s “Midnight in Paris” became his biggest hit ever? The filmmaker’s past history indicates . . . that you shouldn’t get your hopes too high. But the cast, as always, intrigues: Who else would put Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, and Roberto Benigni in the same movie? And if nothing else, armchair travelers should be happy, since Rome reportedly gets the same treatment Allen’s last film gave the City of Light.
EASY MONEY This 2010 Swedish action film, based on a hit novel, follows a young man (Joel Kinnaman) whose itch for the lush life leads him into cocaine trafficking and various unholy alliances. The first in a trilogy; you may want to see the original before Zac Efron stars in the planned Hollywood remake. (That should be a joke, but it’s not.)
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Diego the sabre-tooth tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid the ground sloth (John Leguizamo) set off on an iceberg for new lands. New voices, too: Jennifer Lopez, Aziz Ansari, Heather Morris of “Glee,” and Peter Dinklage all chime in for this fourth installation of 20th Century Fox’s CGI family franchise. Next stop: The Bronze Age.
NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS Director Jonathan Demme can’t get enough of rock ’n’ roll’s ornery Old Man; “Journeys” is his third Young concert doc after 2006’s “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and 2009’s raucous “Neil Young Trunk Show.” This one features the singer-songwriter playing a solo gig at Toronto’s Massey Hall and driving around his adolescent haunts. Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain.
TED Mark Wahlberg’s best bud is a teddy bear. Its potty mouth belongs to Seth MacFarlane, who also wrote and directed this movie. Shot in and around Boston, it also stars Mila Kunis and Giovanni Ribisi.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Football fields collapse, the Williamsburg Bridge explodes, mobs descend on Manhattan — and the eeriest part of the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s final installment in his “Batman” trilogy is how quiet it is. After 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” expectations are beyond high and probably insurmountable. For additional insurance, there’s Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman bedeviling Christian Bale’s Batman, and British sensation Tom Hardy as Bane, a terrorist villain with a Hannibal Lecter facemask and a sepulchral voice. In a summer overloaded with masked avengers, this is the one we’re waiting for.
TRISHNA British director Michael Winterbottom (“The Trip,” “24 Hour Party People”) can’t not think outside the box. His latest is a vivid, melodramatic retelling of Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” set in India, with Freida Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”) as the poor girl who is lifted up and laid low by her love for rich boy Riz Ahmed.
Also opening: Unforgivable.
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY An appropriate title for a dissident rock star or an artist who simply won’t back down. First-time filmmaker Alison Klayman captures China’s Ai as his artworks transform from aesthetic statements to incendiary political happenings, fueled by his outrage over the government’s suppression of information and heavy-handed attempts to contain him (including 81 days in detention). Even tweets become agit-art in the hands of this master provocateur.
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH Semi-notorious as the film that had its trailer pulled from theaters after the Trayvon Martin shooting, the new Ben Stiller comedy is a buddy flick (co-written by Seth Rogen) about suburban dads (Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade) forming a watch group to get out of the house. Aliens are discovered. No, not the illegal kind. No, they’re not wearing hoodies. Bad headline vibes may possibly crimp this lightweight summer yukfest.
STEP UP: REVOLUTION The fourth iteration in the popular dance series, once again featuring fast-moving newcomers you’ve never heard of and may never hear from again. The location (Miami this time) and the choreography are the real stars.
THE WELL-DIGGER’S DAUGHTER Calling all Francophiles. Long-established French actor Daniel Auteuil (“Jean de Florette”) goes behind the camera for an adaptation of a Marcel Pagnol novel (first filmed in 1940) about, um, a well-digger (Auteuil) and his saintly daughter (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). It’s a run-up to the filmmaker’s remake of Pagnol’s classic “Fanny” trilogy, currently in production.
360 Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”) teams up with British screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon”) for an ensemble drama that travels from character to character in the manner of the Max Ophuls classic “La Ronde.” The difference is that the connections are international and even more fleeting in these days of global travel. Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Moritz Bleibtreu, and Jamel Debbouze are among the emotional relay racers.
THE BOURNE LEGACY Check the title: This isn’t your older brother’s Jason Bourne. In fact, it’s not Jason Bourne at all but Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), the latest CIA killing machine to wake out of amnesia. Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”) steps up from writing the series to directing this one as well, and the cast of Cross’s minders is a heavy-hitting crew that includes Edward Norton, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Donna Murphy, and Rachel Weisz. Can an action franchise survive the loss of its star (Matt Damon), its director (Paul Greengrass), and even its title character?
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS Talk about striking while the iron is hot: This is the third “Wimpy Kid” movie in as many years. Presumably 14-year-old star Zachary Gordon has an expiration date for playing the put-upon middle school hero immortalized in Jeff Kinney’s best-selling books. In other words, “Diary of a Wimpy College Student” is an entirely different movie.
RUBY SPARKS A would-be novelist (Paul Dano) creates the perfect girl on paper only to find her living in his house in the flesh (of Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the script). This “true but impossible” love story gives Dano a chance to repay directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for giving him his breakthrough role in “Little Miss Sunshine” six years ago. Chris Messina plays the hero’s brother, Annette Bening his mother, and Elliott Gould his psychiatrist. We’ll be ready for a flaky feel-good romance by early August — as long as it’s not too flaky.
TOTAL RECALL Why remake the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger mind-game action movie? Because it was based on a perfectly good Philip K. Dick short story. Colin Farrell now has the role of a factory drone who learns his memories are implanted and that his real identity is a lethal agent in a global war. Problem is he’s not sure which side he’s on, or why his lovely wife (Kate Beckinsale) is trying to kill him. Len Wiseman directs, Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston costar. If it works, how about remaking “Kindergarten Cop” next?
THE CAMPAIGN A broad farce about two Southern politicians psyching each other out on the campaign trail? With Will Ferrell as the smooth incumbent and Zach Galifianakis as the populist basket case? Directed by Jay “Meet the Parents” Roach? This will seem like either the best idea for an election-year tonic or the worst. Here’s hoping for some stinging bipartisan pratfalls.
HOPE SPRINGS Here’s a shock: Meryl Streep is playing a non-famous person who looks quite a bit like Meryl Streep. She and Tommy Lee Jones are cast as a husband and wife who head into a week of intense couples therapy to save their marriage of 30 years — she willingly, he anything but. Steve Carell has a straight dramatic role as their therapist in a frisky comedy-romance about second chances. Since director David Frankel already worked so well with Streep in 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada,” it’s not too much to hope for a return to grace onscreen and off.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN A one-of-a-kind documentary that won an audience award and a special jury prize at this year’s Sundance. Director Malik Benjelloul follows two South African music fans as they crisscross the globe trying to find Rodriguez, a two-album no-hit wonder from early 1970s Detroit who is as huge in their country and the Pacific Rim as he is forgotten in America. Did Rodriguez commit suicide onstage or is that just an urban legend? If he’s alive, does he even want to be found? It’s a journey into the heart of cult-artist darkness.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN What is it with people in this summer’s movies wishing loved ones into existence out of thin air? There’s “Ruby Sparks” (see above) and then there’s this PG Disney fantasy about a childless couple (Jennifer Garner and Australia’s Joel Edgerton) who put their wishes for a son into a box in the backyard and somehow grow a real boy (CJ Adams). Writer-director Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life”) brings it to the screen from a story by Ahmet Zappa, Frank’s son. Presumably the latter knows from odd family lives.
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER Andy Samberg (of “SNL”) and Rashida Jones (who co-wrote the script) play a married couple who decide they’d be much better friends if they split up. This
THE EXPENDABLES 2 You think Sly Stallone knows a movie franchise when he sees one? His new series might not go the distance like “Rocky” (five sequels) or “Rambo” (three), but it may make more noise than all of them combined. The central gimmick still holds — aging action lunks return for campy one-liners and maximum firepower — and the tag-team of Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren is joined by Jean-Claude van Damme and the king of tough-guy jokes, Chuck Norris. Liam Hemsworth (“The Hunger Games”) is on hand for the kiddies.
PARANORMAN Laika, the Portland, Ore.-based stop-motion animation company that gave us “Coraline” and “The Corpse Bride,” goes for more family-friendly ghoulishness with a tale of an adolescent outcast (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee of “Let Me In”) who may be all that stands between his Massachusetts town and a zombie invasion.
SPARKLE This remake of the 1976 Irene Cara musical about a Supremes-style singing group has become an unexpected memorial for the woman who moved mountains to get it made: Whitney Houston. The late R&B star, who drowned in a hotel bathtub this February, executive produced and costars as the disapproving mother of the lead character (“American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks) and her sisters. Derek Luke, Mike Epps, and Omari Hardwick are the men in their lives, and Cee-Lo Green lends his voice and massivity to the proceedings, but it’s doubtful anyone will be talking about anyone other than Whitney.
COMPLIANCE Purportedly based on real events, this ultra-creepy ultra-low-budget drama examines what happens when a fast-food manager (Ann Dowd) takes a phone call from a man who claims to be a policeman and who informs her that one of her staffers (Dreama Walker) is a thief. Craig Zobel’s film is both a psychological horror story and a case study in how our innate obedience to authority can lead to humiliation and much worse. It was booed at Sundance, but that just means it worked.
HIT & RUN Actor-comedian Dax Shepard has written and co-directed (with David Palmer) a starring vehicle for himself as Charlie Bronson (you read that right), a former getaway driver chased across the country by the FBI and his former gang. Bradley Cooper costars, as does Shepard’s fiancée, Kristen Bell (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”). This sounds an awful lot like the movie people were expecting “Drive” to be.
THE LONELIEST PLANET Something new from the writer and director Julia Loktev, whose previous movie was the terrorism astonishment “Day Night, Day Night.” Her second film is about a flaky young couple (Hani Furstenberg and Gael Garcia Bernal) on a guided hike through the Caucasus. It’s all going swimmingly, then one moment of amazing panic subtly changes everything.
PREMIUM RUSH A.k.a. the bike-messenger movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes the lead as the fastest guy on two wheels in midtown Manhattan — of course he rides a fixie — and Michael Shannon is the corrupt cop who wants the mysterious envelope the hero has in his messenger bag. Sound silly? Maybe, but we’d watch these two play Parcheesi. The trailer features enough stunts to give a pedestrian a coronary, and real-life bike Nazis will probably have fun pointing out all the things Hollywood got wrong.
SLEEPWALK WITH ME Comedian Mike Birbiglia, he of the bone-dry delivery and bedhead hairdo, expands his off-Broadway one-man show into an actual movie, with actors and stuff. He directed, too. Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”) plays the long-suffering girlfriend of “Matt Pandamiglio” (Birbiglia), a wannabe stand-up whose anxiety over commitment leads him to go for midnight rambles. With a script co-written by Ira Glass of “This American Life,” the film made a recent splash as the opening night film of the Boston Independent Film festival.
Also opening: The Apparition.
CHICKEN WITH PLUMS Marjane Satrapi and her co-director Vincent Paronnaud won a faithful following with their 2007 adaptation of Satrapi’s graphic novel “Persepolis.” Now they go the live-action route with a melancholy fable (again adapted from a Satrapi comic) about a Fellini-esque musician (French actor Mathieu Amalric) and his love for a woman (Golshifteh Farahani) and a violin. Not necessarily in that order.
LAWLESS John Hillcoat directed this bootlegging western. with Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hardy, and Guy Pearce. A movie that looks this good opening on this date means one of two things: It’s not that good or Aug. 31 is the new Dec. 23.
Also opening: The Possession.