Summer movie preview

A look ahead at the season's hottest films

Savages

There's no historical profiling or arch sociopolitical conscience in the latest from Oliver Stone, the iconoclast behind JFK and World Trade Center. This brutal crime thriller reminds us that he's also the guy who wrote Scarface. Based on Don Winslow's bestseller, Savages stars Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as Laguna Beach pot dealers forced to square off against a corrupt DEA agent (John Travolta), a cartel leader (Salma Hayek!), and her enforcer (Benicio Del Toro). (Universal Pictures)

July 13

Ted

Joseph Gordon-Levitt 
in Premium Rush
Sony Pictures
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush

Boston slacker Mark Wahlberg might be able to salvage his relationship with long-suffering girlfriend Mila Kunis if he can get his best friend since childhood to move out. Oh, and his friend happens to be a CG-animated, foul-mouthed, bong-smoking, sexually harassing teddy bear (voiced by first-time director Seth McFarlane himself, creator of Family Guy). Patrick Warburton, Giovanni Ribisi, and Joel McHale co-star in this high-concept comedy of arrested development.  (Universal Pictures)

July 20

The Dark Knight Rises

Really, who won't be watching the final act of Christopher Nolan's Caped Crusader trilogy, arguably the high-water mark of superhero cinema? Christian Bale's gravelly voice returns as haunted billionaire Bruce Wayne and his winged alter-ego, now facing two foes of fanboy legend: Anne Hathaway's slinky Catwoman and Tom Hardy's gas-masked juggernaut Bane, who infamously broke Batman's back in the comics. Get off the internet to avoid further spoilers.  (Warner Bros.)

July 27

Klown

Hands down the funniest film of the year, this irreverent Danish comedy plays like a superior, way grosser version of  The Hangover  (and Todd Phillips is producing an American remake!). Discovering that everyone except him knew about his girlfriend's pregnancy, a nebbishy man-child — about to take a canoe trip to an exclusive brothel with his ultra-perverted pal — unwisely kidnaps her young nephew for the ride. From ill-advised threesomes to photographing little-boy penises, they aren't called "gags" for nothing. Directed by Mikkel Nørgaard. (Drafthouse Films)

Killer Joe

In debt to a drug kingpin, Emile Hirsch hires a sociopathic Dallas cop (Matthew McConaughey, already earning career-high praise) to take out his mother for the life insurance policy. Exorcist  director William Friedkin reteams with Pulitzer- and Tony-winning writer Tracy Letts (Bug) for what's been labeled both a sleazy noir-thriller and an eccentric, pitch-black comedy. Either way, you know by its NC-17 rating that this bloody hicksploitation freak-out ain't going easy on its players. (LD Entertainment)

The Watch

Called  Neighborhood Watch  before the Trayvon Martin shooting prompted an essential title change, this profane comedy concerns a quartet of Costco employees and drinking buddies (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and  Submarine  director Richard Aoyade) who form a crime watch to escape their humdrum suburban existence. Oh yeah, and then they accidentally uncover an alien-invasion plot that only they can thwart to save all of humanity. Directed by Akiva Schaffer.   (20th Century Fox)

August 3

The Bourne Legacy

Whoa, how do you make a Jason Bourne thriller without Matt Damon, or even the Bourne identity? Expanding on novelist Robert Ludlum's universe of top-level espionage, Tony Gilroy, the underrated director of Duplicity and Michael Clayton (and screenwriter on every Bourne flick thus far) brings new hero Jeremy Renner into the fray — along with Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, and the previous films' Albert Finney and Joan Allen — as another bad-ass CIA operative. (Universal Pictures)

August 10

Red Hook Summer

Do the Right Thing's pizza delivery boy Mookie may make an early cameo, but don't call Spike Lee's ambitious, uncompromising, self-financed, and musically charged return to Brooklyn a sequel. Red Hook Summer is about what happens when "fro-hawked" Atlanta teen Flick (Jules Brown) is dumped on his preacher grandpa Enoch (The Wire's Clarke Peters) in the titular Brooklyn projects for the summer, and the generational and ideological clashes that ensue. (Variance Films)

The Campaign

The mud-slinging political comedy we deserve in this circus of an election year, this broad farce stars Will Ferrell as a long-sitting congressman from North Carolina. His CEO rivals dig up their own untrained Manchurian candidate (a mustachioed Zach Galifianakis) from the local tourism center. Fun fact: Galifianakis's uncle was also a North Carolina congressman, unseated by Jesse Helms in the '70s. Directed by Jay Roach. (Warner Bros.) 

August 17

ParaNorman

The Oscar-nominated animation company behind Coraline presents this stop-motion, 3D comedy-thriller about a spiky-haired misfit (voiced by Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee) with the ability to speak to the dead. Though Norman is unable to win over friends or even his family, his ghost whispering sure comes in handy when his small town is overrun by a plague of zombies. Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell. (Focus Features)

August 24

The Loneliest Planet

Hiking through the otherworldly Caucasus Mountains in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, Alex (Gael García Bernal) and his flame-haired fiancée, Nica (Hani Furstenberg), seem like the perfect hipster couple, until a subtle, split-second choice irreversibly cracks the veneer. Director Julia Loktev's marvelous, slow-burning follow-up to her minimalist thriller Day Night Day Night somehow manages to be both audacious and subtle: Awkward silences are deafening, and the wilderness, though wide open, brings on a devastating claustrophobia. (Sundance Selects)

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