Made in America—mostly. Sure, Hollywood’s still pulling the strings, but a lot of the season’s flicks are either set in foreign locales (India, Sweden, Scotland, outer space), and/or filmed beyond Tinseltown (Louisiana, Paris, Russia).
As usual, audiences can choose from plots upbeat and less so, from a gaggle of Brits nervously sampling India and an apprehensive quintet of married couples facing parenthood to a documentary about our water crisis and a Swedish crime novel exploring that country’s lower depths. Superhero fans can check out three major releases: The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises. Animation for the younger set: Madagascar 3, Brave, Ice Age, and ParaNorman.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy
Directed by John Madden
Release date May 4 (Fox Searchlight)
Tie-in from Random House Trade Paperbacks: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
Leave it to the Brits—or, There Is Nothing Like a Dame (in this case, deux dames). No matter the rest of the film (which is studded with recognizable British character actors), Judi and Maggie, two of the funniest females of a certain age, will absolutely be worth la prix d’admission.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Directed by Joss Whedon
Release date May 4 (Disney Pictures)
Tie-ins from Disney Publishing Worldwide/Marvel Press: seven tie-ins, including a junior novel, three picture books, two level 2 early readers, and a reusable-sticker book. From Marvel: two graphic novels. Avengers: Road to Marvel’s The Avengers was released in March, and Marvel’s The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week pubs on May 2.
After a series of big-screen prequels—Iron Man, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor—the Marvel Comics heroes known as the Avengers assemble in one highly anticipated film. Directed by Whedon—best known for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer—the film’s first and second trailers broke iTunes download records upon release, with 10 million and 13.7 million downloads, respectively, in their first 24 hours online.
Last Call at the Oasis
Starring Erin Brockovich, Robert Glennon, Peter Gleick
Directed by Jessica Yu
Release date May 4 (ATO & Participant Media)
Tie-in from PublicAffairs: Last Call at the Oasis: The Global Water Crisis and Where We Go from Here, edited by Karl Weber
“You know you’ve entered new territory when your outfit cost more than your film,” quipped Jessica Yu when her 1996 movie, Breathing Lessons won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. She’s since received several awards for her documentaries, been Emmy-nominated, and has directed major TV series such as The West Wing and Grey’s Anatomy. Last Call, about looming water crises, is from the same company that brought us An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., and the widely acclaimed Waiting for “Superman.”
Starring Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård
Directed by Peter Berg
Release date May 18 (Universal)
Tie-in from Del Rey: Battleship by Peter David
Universal’s pulling out all the stops, although Reelz.com reports the film’s been delayed twice: “It was originally set for a May 2011 and then an August 2011 release—which doesn’t bode well for its non-awfulness.” Based on the classic Hasbro naval combat game, the movie centers on an international fleet that encounters an alien armada on a naval war games exercise. Berg’s already established a terrific reputation for his seven-season direction of TV’s just-shuttered Friday Night Lights.
What to Expect When You're Expecting
Starring Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Matthew Morrison
Directed by Kirk Jones
Release date May 18 (Lionsgate)
Tie-in from Workman: What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
What to expect, indeed. One might say that this megaselling pregnancy guide—with some 30 million copies in print across four editions—has been long a-borning as a movie adaptation. Murkoff’s tome has now become a heartfelt tale of five apprehensive couples whose intertwined lives are turned upside down by the challenge of impending parenthood.
Starring François Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny
Directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache
Release date May 25 (Weinstein Co.)
Tie-in from Atria: A Second Wind by Philippe Pozzo di Borgo
In di Borgo’s memoir—a #1 bestseller in France—an aristocrat becomes a quadriplegic after an accident and hires as a caregiver a hot-headed Algerian immigrant. If the European movie grosses are any barometer, Weinstein’s got a hit. Figures from the release in Belgium and France last November and December are impressive—in France, the week of December 4 brought in 10,675,000 euros, or approximately $14 million, on a mere 508 screens.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Release date June 1 (Universal Studios)
Tie-in from Little, Brown/Poppy: a trade paperback with a fold-out film poster gets a one-day laydown on June 1.
The second of this year’s two Snow White films (after February’s Mirror Mirror, which opened to tepid box office), Huntsman pits Stewart—who needs no introduction to Twihards—against Oscar-winner Theron’s evil queen. In this more sober outing, Snow dons chain mail and teams up with the huntsman (Hemsworth) to defeat her tyrannical stepmother.
Starring Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas
Directed by Declan Donellen and Nick Ormerod
Release date June 8 (Sony Pictures Worldwide and Magnolia Pictures)
Tie-in from Penguin Classics: Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant
Who knew this French classic was so popular? According to IMDb.com, nine previous film versions have been made, including a 2005 TV movie, a 1976 Swedish adaptation, a 1955 Austrian version, and a 1919 silent. Mon dieu. Balancing out the Gallic story are two noted British theater directors who in 1981 founded Cheek by Jowl, a theater company working in English, French, and Russian that’s toured to more than 200 cities in 40 countries.
Madacascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith
Directed by Eric Darnell
Release date June 8 (DreamWorks Animation)
Tie-in from Penguin/PSS: Mad Libs, a novelization, a nonleveled reader, a sticker book, and an 8×8 storybook, out April 26.
Madagascar 3, the first in the franchise to open in 3D, finds the Central Park Zoo escapees still trying to make it home—this time via Monte Carlo, London, Rome, and the Swiss Alps. Fittingly, the Eurocentric flick premieres at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Expectations here run high; the two predecessors together grossed more than $1.1 billion worldwide.
Voices of Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly
Directed by Mark Andrews
Release date June 22 (Walt Disney Pictures/Disney/Pixar)
Tie-in from Disney Publishing Worldwide/Disney Press: a Brave picture book and storybook/CD, plus a picture book tie-in to La Luna, an animated short airing before Brave, publish May 15. From Random House: 13 tie-ins, including story books, a board book, and five activity books, publish May 15. From Reader’s Digest Children’s Books: Disney/Pixar Brave Movie Theater Storybook & Movie Projector publishes May 15.
Pixar’s first cinematic release with a female protagonist, Brave draws inspiration from Celtic folklore. Native Scots figure prominently among the actors, who include the Glaswegian Macdonald as Merida, a headstrong, flame-haired archer who sets out to change her fate. Since the destiny Merida is flouting is a royal one—her parents are king and queen of the land—she’s poised to join the sisterhood of Disney princesses.
Abraham Lincoln: Bounty Hunter
Starring Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Release date June 22 (20th Century Fox)
Tie-in from Grand Central: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
When Honest Abe discovers that vampires are planning to take over the U.S., he makes it his mission to eliminate them. In addition to Grahame-Smith’s bestselling mashup—300,000 hardcover copies in print — he also wrote the movie’s screenplay. The Russian-Kazakh Bekmambetov is known for the vampire franchise Night Watch and Day Watch; he’s also coproducing Lincoln with Tim Burton, whose company is releasing, in May, another vampire epic, Dark Shadows, with Grahame-Smith on script duty. (All vampires, all the time.)
The Amazing Spider-Man
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
Directed by Marc Webb
Release date July 3 (Columbia Pictures)
Tie-in from Disney Publishing Worldwide/Marvel Press: five tie-ins—a junior novel, a storybook, a reusable sticker book, a picture book, and a level 2 early reader—arrive JUne 5. From Marvel: a graphic novel publishes June 20.
Director Sam Rami bowed out of Marvel's blockbuster franchise, so a mere five years after his Spider-Man 3, the web-spinner gets a greitty reboot. Garfield (The Social Network) plays the title role, and The Help's Stone is Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's first love. Webb, who helmed the 2009 indie hit (500 Days of Summer), directs the film, which is subtitled The Untold Story.
American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars
Starring Nia Vardalos, Ian Ziering, Cathy Rigby
Directed by Vince Marcello
Release date July 3 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Tie-in from American Girl Publishing: two novels published January 1.
McKenna, 2012's Girl of the Year, is a competitive gymnast who's having trouble keeping up with her schoolwork, so—much to her embarrassment—her teacher recommends a tutor (Kerris Dorsey, Brad Pitt's daughter in Moneyball). Former Olympic gymanst Rigby plays Coach Isabelle. The direct-to-DVD release will air on NBC on July 14.
Starring Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, John Travolta
Directed by Oliver Stone
Release date July 6 (Universal)
Tie-in from Pocket: Savages by Don Winslow
Two film personalities—one veteran, one newbie—play major roles in this story of two pot growers who face off against the Mexican drug cartel. The veteran is director Oliver Stone, a three-time Oscar-winner (Platoon, Midnight Express, Born on the Fourth of July); the newbie, Taylor Kitsch, is a Friday Night Lights alumnus who Variety last year called one of 10 actors to watch. His lead performance in the poorly received John Carter wasn’t his fault; we’re betting that here and in May’s Battleship he’ll show his stuff.
Ice Age: Continental Drift
Voices of: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo
Directed by Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier
Release date July 13 (Blue Sky Studios)
Tie-in from HarperCollins: five tie-ins—two I Can Read paperbacks, two 8×8 storybooks, and a junior novel—will be out in May.
The three previous entries in the franchise have grossed more than $4 billion across all media. As in previous installments, the saber-toothed squirrel’s pursuit of his precious acorn kicks off the plot—in this case, the separation of the continents. New voice talent: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Jennifer Lopez.
The Dark Knight Rises
Starring Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Release date July 20 (Warner Bros.)
Tie-in from HarperCollins: Eight tie-ins—two 8×8 storybooks, two I Can Read paperbacks, a doodle-and-draw, a sticker book, a scrapbook, and a junior novel—go on sale in June.
The final installment in Nolan’s caped-crusader trilogy introduces a main character played by Gordon-Levitt, who also figured prominently in the director’s award-winning Inception. The first two films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Returns, pulled in a combined $1 billion at the box office. In January 2012, six months before Rises opens, tickets to midnight IMAX screenings of the third film sold out in New York and Los Angeles almost as soon as they became available.
Starring Joel Kinnaman, Matias Padin Varela, Dragomir Mrsic
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Release date July 27 (Weinstein Co.)
Tie-in from Pantheon: Easy Money by Jens Lapidus
Lapidus, whose Easy Money is the first installment of his recently completed Stockholm Noir trilogy, is a criminal defense lawyer who’s represented some of his country’s most notorious offenders. PW’s starred Money review called the novel “a searing debut... full of offensive language, [it] exposes moral degradation of every stripe while relentlessly depicting Sweden’s underworld and the reasons it exists and grows.”
Chicken with Plums
Starring Mathieu Amalric, Edouard Baer, Maria de Medeiros
Directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
Release date August 1 (Babelsberg Studios, Berlin)
Tie-in from Pantheon: Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi
Satrapi and Paronnaud’s film was just added to the slate of New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs from April 18 to 29. Also, Chicken with Plums was the big winner at last October’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival, scooping the Best Narrative Film prize and a monetary award of $100,000.
The Bourne Legacy
Starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Release date August 3 (Universal)
Tie-in from St. Martin’s: The Bourne Legacy by Eric Van Lustbader
This major espionage franchise has earned nearly $1 billion at the global box office. The latest incarnation expands the Bourne universe and introduces a new hero—played by Jeremy Renner, Oscar-nominated for The Hurt Locker and The Town—whose life or death stakes have been triggered by events in the first three films (all written by Gilroy, though this is his first Bourne directing gig).
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Starring Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Rachel Harris
Directed by David Bowers
Release date August 3 (20th Century Fox)
Tie in from Abrams/Amulet: Jeff Kinney’s The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary (Dog Days edition), available in July.
Based on books three and four in the series, the follow-up to the Wimpy Kid’s 2010 big-screen debut finds Greg Heffley set for summer—when, naturally, all his plans go wrong. The tie-in explores the book-to-movie-process, a view fans seem eager for: according to Abrams, the revised and expanded movie diary for the first film, which published in 2011, sold nearly 400,000 copies.
Voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell
Release date August 17 (Laika)
Tie-in from Little, Brown: a middle-grade novel by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (the Suddenly Supernatural series) with a one-day laydown June 5, plus an 8×8 storybook and an early reader, both with a one-day laydown July 3.
A 3D, stop-motion animated feature from the studio behind 2009’s Coraline, ParaNorman arrives with a strong children’s literary adaptation pedigree. Fell directed The Tale of Despereaux, and Butler was the storyboard supervisor on Coraline (he also wrote ParaNorman's original screenplay). Smit-McPhee, the 15-year-old who voices the movie’s hero, also played the Boy in the decidedly kid-unfriendly film version of The Road. If he could survive Cormac McCarthy’s bleak, postapocalyptic world, ParaNorman’s comical zombies should be no problem.
Starring Jessica Chastain, Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman
Directed by John Hillcoat
Release date August 21 (Sony Red Wagon Entertainment)
Tie-in from Scribner: Lawless (originally published as The Wettest County in the World) by Matt Bondurant
Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition) has assembled an impressive cast—in addition to the trio above, which includes Oscar nominees Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help) and Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), are Guy Pearce (The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker) and Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right). Nick Cave, of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame, wrote both the movie’s screenplay and soundtrack.