Alongside the the tentpole franchise blockbusters -- 'Star Trek,' 'Terminator Salvation,' 'Harry Potter,' and 'X-Men' -- there's a lot more going on this summer. Check out this year's summer movie list.
May 1 Now that the X-Men franchise has been virtually ruined by increasingly deranged sequels, the only thing left to do is start over. But instead of just rebooting the franchise (as with Incredible Hulk and, as unsubstantiated rumor likes to insist, Man of Steel), the film series is restricting its focus to the only character it ever really cared about anyway -- Hugh Jackman's Wolverine -- while indulging in many a comic book fan's favorite kind of tale, the origin story. Set roughly twenty years before X-Men, this film will focus on Wolverine's dark and dangerous past, his early encounters with William Stryker (Danny Huston), and his relationship with Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber). The director is indie wunderkind Gavin Hood.
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X
May 1 The latest in the retro, drive-in B-movie spoof sweepstakes, Johnny X comes from Paul Bunnell, a writer/actor who's directing his first film. The plot: Johnny X (Will Keenan) and his rebellious gang of juvenile delinquents from outer space -- the Ghastly Ones -- have been banished to hard time on planet Earth until they can pay for their crimes. But the Ghastly Ones are also in hot pursuit of a mysterious femme fatale named Bliss (De Anna Joy Brooks), who has stolen their most prized possession: a suit with magical powers that lets Johnny X control anyone against their will. How can you go wrong with a storyline like that? And it's got the first appearance of that iconic 70s icon Paul Williams since Georgia Rule.
May 8 The prequel to the Star Trek franchise takes us back beyond the original 1960s series, to the youth of James Kirk (Chris Pine) and his future best friend, the half-Vulcan Spock (Heroes's Zachary Quinto), along with the whole crew of the Enterprise. We even get glimpses of key figures in Kirk's history, including the Enterprise's captain before Kirk, Chris Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, makes an appearance to frame the story (but not original Kirk William Shatner, much to the actor's chagrin). By all accounts a lovingly crafted tribute to the classic series by J.J. Abrams, it's also intended to be accessible to nonfans: the villain, for example, is a newcomer to the franchise (Eric Bana's Nero).
May 21 In the future, all heroes will be played by Christian Bale. Here the Great Welsh Mutterer (The Dark Knight) takes a crack at fated resistance leader John Connor, currently played on TV as a sullen teenager by Thomas Dekker and previously seen on screen as precocious brat Edward Furlong. Now we're in 2018 after Judgment Day, where John is facing an altered future. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and a man he doesn't know whether to trust, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), uncover an unexpected secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind. With so much revealed about the Terminator future, new secrets are good news. The only question is, will this be the Crystal Skull of the Terminator franchise?
May 22 Summer is the time for sequels, especially for movies that did okay in the theaters and better in DVD and international sales. In the latest outing for the hectic Ben Stiller, his character from the first movie, security guard Larry Daley, decides to infiltrate the Smithsonian in order to rescue Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Octavius (Steve Coogan), who have been shipped to the museum by mistake. This offers a new venue for goofy caricatures of famous figures: here Robin Williams's reprise of Teddy Roosevelt is joined by Eugene Levy as Einstein, Bill Hader [!] as Custer, Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible, and so on, plus Dick van Dyke as Cecil, Larry's venal nemesis. Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther) returns as director.
June 5 What's this summer's Will Ferrell movie? Land of the Lost, the film based on the ultracheap but fondly remembered 1974 Saturday morning TV series created by Sid and Marty Krofft (also responsible for H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, and a string of similar fare from those days). Only a handful of episodes, starring a young Timothy Bottoms, were made, yet the imagery -- including effects that looked one step up from being filmed in a bathtub -- stayed with its audience. Here meek Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) is sucked into a alternate, dinosaur-filled universe with his research assistant (Anna Friel) and a redneck survivalist (Danny McBride). In the midst of danger and betrayal, will Dr. Marshall step up? You betcha.
June 6 Want something trashier than all these high-minded blockbusters? Consider Chrome Angels, a so-called "rednecks versus rogue robots" shoot-em-up with Richard Lynch and Paul Le Mat, not to mention a coterie of curvy ladies led by Stacey Dash (Cher's sidekick from Clueless, if you remember back that far). The writer-director is Leigh Scott, shifting slightly from his usual horror/thriller fare (previous films include titles like Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse).
June 12 Wow, is Eddie Murphy still making live-action movies? How did that happen? Actually he's quite busy -- he's now working on Beverly Hills Cop IV, a Richard Pryor biopic, and a dozen other projects -- but after the public ignored Meet Dave last year and the massive stink surrounding Norbit, it's a surprise to see him in a mainstream Hollywood movie that doesn't involve ogres and donkeys. Here Murphy plays a too-busy-for-his-daughter financial executive who can't stop his career downspiral; but in his daughter's imaginary world there are solutions to his problems. Considering I just saw this plot on Medium, I have low expectations for this movie; still, Murphy is famous for a reason: he can be hilarious, and he might be here.
June 12 This summer's sleeper. Three years into a solitary stint on the moon with only a robot (Gertie, voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company, salvaging a resource that holds the key to Earth's power problems, astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has a strange encounter that leads him to expect he's not alone after all. Moon is the first feature film directed by Duncan Jones, who co-write the screenplay with Rockwell in mind, and we should be grateful: Rockwell is a much better actor than his most prominent yahoo-type roles (Hitchhiker's Guide, Galaxy Quest) have led the public to believe. Jones's small-budget indie film emulates Silent Running (1972) and other films of that era, creating a tight atmosphere and using models instead of CGI.
June 24 More candy-colored explosions from Michael Bay. In the sequel to 2007's big summer hit, Decepticon forces return to Earth bent on capturing Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), who's learned the truth about the ancient origins of the Transformers. (I guess Sam finally checked out Toys R Us.) Joining the mission to protect humankind is Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), who forms an alliance with international armies for a second epic battle. That cast includes such stalwarts as Rainn Wilson, Hugo Weaving, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, and indispensable voice artist god Frank Welker. This time Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg up the ante, throwing in lots more robots and expanding the locations to places like Egypt.