The beginning of May brings us so many things to celebrate: warm weather, late sunsets, flip-flops, May-he-co. It's also the start of the summer movie blockbuster cash-grab. To commemorate it, we've provided our humble predictions for the summer's obnoxious hits, laughable misses, erstwhile sleepers, and inevitable trends.
Highest Grossing Film of the Summer (behind The Dark Knight Rises): The Avengers
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson
Dir: Joss Whedon
Do you like superheroes? Duh. How about seven of them? Duh to the seventh power. Marvel spent much of last summer advertising for this (Captain America was basically a two-hour commercial leading up to it) and it's paid off: its opening weekend haul was almost $200 million and it hasn't yet opened in the United States. Early reviews suggest that Joss Whedon's assemblage of Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Captain American and more amounts to piles of mindless fun, which complements its no-brainer appeal.
Wildcard Grosser: Snow White and the Huntsmen
Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron
Dir: Rupert Sanders
Snow White is our best bet for justifying why fairy tales are all the rage in pop culture right now. (It's certainly not the decent-to-middling ratings of Once Upon a Time or the not-so-hot ones of Grimm; recent films Red Riding Hood and this year's other Snow White movie, Mirror Mirror weren't runaway successes, either.) Snow White and the Huntsman looks like the one to do it. Visually, the trailer alone blows Tarsem's costume-fixated version out of the water. And by aligning itself with the dark tone and nasty spirit of the original story before Disney made it cuddly, it's made all the more intriguing. If this is as satisfying as it seems, it'll nab the required repeat business to secure the box office's still-beating heart. If you don't think this movie looks good, you probably don't have eyes.
Surprise Sleeper of the Summer: Sparkle
Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo and Whitney Houston
Dir: Salim Akil
Sparkle is the remake of the 1976 original, about a trio of girls in the 60's and the challenges and successes they face as they go from girl group to Motown sensation. If the sweeping critical and financial success of Dreamgirls is any indication, it will do well. Oh plus, this Sparkle features a posthumous performance from Whitney Houston. Rich told me that the trailer showed before Think Like a Man and the crowd's reaction was nothing short of rapturous joy.
Wildcard Sleepers: Tie between Magic Mike and Moonrise Kingdom
Magic Mike, June 29
Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Olivia Munn
Dir: Steven Soderbergh
Moonrise Kingdom, May 16
Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton
Dir: Wes Anderson, Written: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
While Wes Anderson typically has full, wistful reign over the sleeper category, this summer might see a tie between his Moonrise Kingdom and Steven Soderbergh's
From Chippendales to Coffee Tables: The Tatum Channing Story Magic Mike. At a glance, Mike looks offensively dim, but then we see another side of Mike, who has dreams of one day becoming a furniture designer. There just might be something here. We'll see if a movie about male strippers can outdo Anderson's palate of waning primary colors and incredibly cast ode to young love.
Movie that will gross over $150 million but will suck (otherwise known as the Transformers effect): The Amazing Spider-Man
Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen
Dir: Marc Webb
We do not need this. A reboot of the Spider-Man franchise that comes just five years after the last one ended is particularly wasteful. We're snoring already.
Populist Oscar Nod: The Dark Knight Rises
Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Dir: Christopher Nolan
The Academy loves sentimentalism, and accordingly says goodbye via trophies (it saved the bulk of its Lord of the Rings love for its final chapter, The Return of the King, which took home all 11 Oscars it was nominated for that year). Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise has already struck Oscar gold (The Dark Knight was up for eight awards and nabbed Best Sound Editing and a posthumous Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger in 2009). It's generally thought that its Best Picture slight that year is why the category has since been opened up to more than five nominees. Unless The Dark Knight Rises is god-awful and Batman eats a baby while spouting hipster racism, we don't expect that will happen again. This summer blockbuster could very well end up awards fodder with no stretching or affirmative action needed. Shit, this movie is going to be so popular, it will probably be elected president. The Dark Knight Rises is our future.
This summer's Bridesmaids (the acclaimed comedy, surprise award winner): Girls
While The Campaign looks great (bolstered by a parade of Hollywood's funniest), and Rashida Jones' screenwriter debut with Celeste and Jesse Forever looks quietly sad and affecting, neither of these will garner the same acclaim that Bridesmaids did last summer. More than that, neither will spark the same kind of conversation. For better or for worse, Girls has done that and more. There's not a movie out there this summer that will come close to making the same kind of waves, so we are forced instead to default to the HBO show everyone has an opinion on.
Career changer/Actress: Greta Gerwig (Lola Versus, To Rome with Love)
With two movies out this summer, Greta Gerwig's is a career you want to root for. It's like watching her climb a ladder in which every rung edges her closer to rom-com stardom: first, the sans-budget indies, followed by the bigger but not too much bigger and well-received Greenberg. She's played the blonde in the terrible horror, the best friend and the bright eyed do-gooder; her inevitable next stop is rom-com's leading lady. She is relatable, funny and smart in a Meg Ryan of the 90's kind of way. Plus, Gerwig's mumblecore start will always emit just enough indie-flick credit to keep her clear of dreaded Katherine Heigl territory.
Career Changer/Actor: Taylor Kitsch (Savages)
We're not expecting much out of Oliver Stone's grimy looking Savages. The movie itself will do well enough opening weekend, but it's Taylor Kitsch who will emerge as This Year's Gosling. Whether or not he truly has the acting chops to back it up remains to be seen (that's if five seasons of Friday Night Lights wasn't enough for you). Not that he even needs to prove he can act — Kitsch is well on his way to superstardom regardless. Remember the mega-flop that was this spring's John Carter? Neither do we. Kitsch rebounded so quickly with Savages and next year's Lone Survivor that his turn in Carter was a thing of the past while still playing near you. Rigs is on his way.
Trend on the Rise: '80s-style sci-fi
Ridley Scott's Prometheus (June 8) is far from a sure thing as far as the box office is concerned: a claustrophobic sci-fi thriller seems like a hard sell in 2012. But maybe that's only because it's been so long since we've had one of those perform well. With A-listers like Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron guiding this thing, as well as the built-in appeal of it being an Alien prequel of sorts (at least in the last 7 minutes), this could help bring us back to the future. It'll have some help from Len Wiseman's Total Recall (August 3) reimagining reportedly stunned theater owners who were recently shown select scenes and then marveled at its Blade Runner-like qualities. Scott directed that one, too, so he may own summer both directly and indirectly. Finally, ParaNorman (August 17) is a CG zombie comedy but it was inspired by The Goonies, Poltergeist, and John Hughes. That's one way of making a cartoon appeal to people who are probably way too old for it.
Trend on the Wane: Celebrity karaoke
I make this call based entirely on what looks to be the atrocity of Rock of Ages (June 15). The show ends with "Don't Stop Believin'," the cornerstone of half-assed, nostalgic schmaltz. Kill this thing with fire.
Expiring Franchises: Madea/Bourne
Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection (June 29) is the sixth Madea movie since that character made her debut in 2005's Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Talk about diluting a brand. The last two Madea movies (Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family and Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself) have made a little over $50 million domestically, down considerably from the $90 million that 2009's Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail took in. This franchise has to break at some point – why not now? Perry deserves it for terrible sentence construction of his titles alone. Meanwhile, Universal is attempting to hold onto its Bourne franchise, one that is virtually synonymous with Matt Damon's name, without Matt Damon. Good luck with that. The Bourne Legacy (August 3) looks like the cinematic equivalent of peanut-butter-and-jelly-hold-the-jelly.
[Image by Jim Cooke]