Summer Grows Up

The season of big-budget bangs uses its brain.

Explosions, pratfalls, and robots; heroes, aliens, and blondes — it must be summertime at the movies.

Beyond the flash, though, it's striking to note just how many movies will require us to actually think this summer — aren't we supposed to save thinking for the fall? Maybe it's the election, but there are some pretty serious and intense flicks coming our way. And so, as an act of solidarity, we're taking the pledge: For every movie we see that's playing on more than one screen at the multiplex, we hereby vow to see one film that might be good for us. Because after all, as with pop idols and presidents, we get the movies we deserve.

THRILLS & CHILLS: The summer in action and horror

May 22*

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Man. Hat. Whip.

May 30

The Strangers

In a remote cabin, Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman match wits with three home invaders wearing creepy masks ... very creepy masks.

June 13

The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton goes green.

June 27

Wanted

Angelina Jolie, once again channeling her inner assassin, teaches James McAvoy the tricks of the trade in this adaptation of Mark Miller's graphic novel. With Morgan Freeman.

July 2

Hancock

Will Smith plays a modern-day superhero who's becoming more famous for being drunk than for his ability to lift a whale with one hand.

July 11

Hellboy: The Golden Army

Ron Perlman returns as the lobster-hued demon with the mean right punch, and this time he's guided by Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro.

July 18

The Dark Knight

It's Batman (Christian Bale) versus the Joker (Heath Ledger). And an excuse for the tabs to rehash Ledger's death for newsstand sales. Christopher Nolan directs.

July 25

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson return as Mulder and Scully, a sorta-kinda couple whose kid must be in high school by now.

August 1

Midnight Meat Train

Bradley Cooper stars as a Manhattan photographer who becomes obsessed with finding a subway serial killer. The first in a series of films to be based on Clive Barker's hard-core horror collection "Books of Blood."

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Brendan Fraser, lifelong mummy catcher, goes to China.

August 22

Bangkok Dangerous

Nicholas Cage is a hit man on assignment in this action thriller from China's talented Pang Brothers (The Eye), here remaking their 1999 debut film.

August 29

Babylon A.D.

Vin Diesel in a near-future world all gone to hell, trying to protect a woman whose baby will be the next Messiah. Don't worry: Vin will save us.


BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS: The summer in drama

May 30

Savage Grace

Scandalous events in the lives of the Baekeland family — heirs to the inventor of plastic — are recounted by director Tom Kalin (Swoon) and actors Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, and Eddie Redmayne.

July 25

Henry Poole Is Here

A dying man (Luke Wilson) is forced to face his religious beliefs when his neighbors begin to see Christ's face in a stain on the side of his house.

The Longshots

Although it's probably the last film people would have expected him to helm, rock star Fred Durst makes his directorial debut with the true story of the teenage girl who became the first female to play on a Pop Warner football team. Akeelah and the Bee's Keke Palmer stars, with Ice Cube as the coach.


TAKE THE KIDS: The summer in family fare

June 6

Kung Fu Panda

Po the Panda learns martial arts in order to protect his village against a marauding snow leopard. Featuring the voices of Dustin Hoffman and Jack Black.

June 27

WALL-E

The new computer toon from Pixar director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) takes place 700 years in the future when a lonely Earth robot called WALL-E and a sleek 'bot from space named EVE team up for adventure.

July 11

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

Brendan Fraser digs deep.

July 18

Space Chimps

Animated monkeys blast into space to head off approaching aliens.

August 8

Fly Me to the Moon

Animated 3-D astronaut-flies (very cute flies) go to the moon.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

The magic jeans follow America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively, and Alexis Bledel to college and beyond.

August 15

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

George Lucas, who sure knows how to stretch an idea, produced this animated film about Anakin Skywalker's glorious Jedi days, before Darth got his mitts on him.


A LAUGH RIOT: The summer in comedy, romantic and otherwise

May 23

Postal

German action director Uwe Boll — a.k.a. the man bloggers love to hate — pokes fun at contemporary America in this comedy about two thieves who run afoul of Osama bin Laden and George W. (traveling separately) while planning a heist.

May 30

Sex and the City: The Movie

Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon as four New Yorkers with unlimited clothing and brunch budgets.

June 6

You Don't Mess with the Zohan

A pumped-up Adam Sandler stars as an Israeli Mossad agent fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a Brooklyn hairstylist.

June 20

Get Smart

Steve Carell is Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway is Agent 99 in this film version of the mid-Sixties TV show about an inept superspy and his smarter, sexier sidekick.

The Love Guru

Mike Myers dons a Mahatma beard and golden swami robes to play an American raised in India who dreams of becoming a Brooklyn hairstylist (or America's go-to self-help guru). With Jessica Alba and Justin Timberlake.

July 25

Step Brothers

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly reunite as newly related men who discover that two fools are better than one.

July 11

Meet Dave

Dave (Eddie Murphy) is an alien, new to Earth. He tries to adjust to Manhattan life, all the while being supervised by a command post of tiny (alien) people in his head (whom we see).

August 1

Swing Vote

On the eve of the presidential election, one drunken ne'er-do-well (Kevin Costner) has the power to cast the sole deciding vote. Could be nonfiction.

August 8

Pineapple Express

Seth Rogen and James Franco are stoned on the best weed of their life, and also running for their lives from a killer cop in a film penned by Rogen and his Superbad writing partner Evan Goldberg and directed by indie darling David Gordon Green. (Admission is half price if you bring your own bong.)

August 15

Tropic Thunder

Ben Stiller (who also directs), Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. go all Rambo as Hollywood actors who don't realize their military training is actually in a real war. With Tom Cruise in a fat-suit cameo all the world wants to see (including you).

August 22

The House Bunny

Ditzy Playboy Bunny Anna Faris becomes college sorority house mother, a plot line that must have made for a terribly efficient pitch meeting.

The Accidental Husband

Grey's Anatomy heartthrob Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the ubiquitous Colin Firth compete for Uma Thurman's heart in this romantic comedy from actor-turned-director Griffin Dunne.


DANCING QUEEN: The summer in ABBA films

July 25

Mamma Mia!

Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Amanda Seyfried dance and sing to the music of — who else? — ABBA.

* As with summer weather, baseball, and presidential race forecasts, all dates are subject to change.

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