Time just keeps slipping away. It seems like just last week we were looking ahead to the promising pre-summer releases, and now in about a month’s time the summer movie season is set to kick into high-gear with the new “Pirates” movie. I suppose it’s just as well that these past couple months have passed in a blur, because frankly there wasn’t too much worth getting excited about. Save for “Rango,” I never encountered anything truly worthwhile — and last week’s “Sucker Punch” provided one of the most physically painful and soul-crushing movie experiences I’m ever likely to have. So yeah, I’m ready to look ahead to greener pastures. In that spirit, here are 15 upcoming movies (compared to the usual 10) that I’m counting on to alleviate the cinematic doldrums for the foreseeable future. Gotta look on the sunny side.
“Hobo with a Shotgun” (April 29, limited) — With such a catchy and delightfully reductive title, this exploitation ode — inspired by a fake trailer that hit the Internet a couple years back — looks to be this year’s “Snakes on a Plane.” The presence of Rutger Hauer as the shotgun-wielding hobo only sweetens the deal.
“Sympathy for Delicious” (April 29, limited) — I’m always intrigued when talented actors step behind the camera, and Mark Ruffalo’s debut feature — set in the treacherous world of faith healing — looks like a promising start to Ruffalo’s directorial career. Doubt he’ll be another Ben Affleck, but one can hope.
“Thor” (May 6, wide) — This one could easily go either way. The previews look by turns both awe-inspiring and cringe-inducing, and honestly I’m still puzzled as to why Alexander Skarsgaard didn’t land the lead role. But no matter: Kenneth Branagh displays the skill of a master when he’s at the top of his game, and if he can maintain focus and steer clear of his more self-indulgent tendencies, we may have another superhero franchise.
“The Beaver” (May 6, limited) — This bizarre slice of life may be Mel Gibson’s triumphant return to the screen following a total professional meltdown, but the fact that it keeps getting pushed back does not bode well. Still, the prospect of seeing an unhinged Gibson walk around with a filthy beaver puppet is too weird to ignore.
“Bridesmaids” (May 13, wide) — Okay, so I have a thing for Kristen Wiig. Under normal circumstances I might avoid this chick-flick comedy, which is being touted as “’The Hangover’ for women.” But it is Wiig’s first starring role, and the trailer actually doesn’t look half-bad, so I’ll probably be there for moral support.
“Hesher” (May 13, limited) — Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of our great young up-and-comers, and this film-fest favorite reportedly has him in top form as a nihilistic force of nature who befriends and influences another, more straight-laced 20-something — with hopefully disastrous results.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (May 20, wide) — I was rather deflated by the last “Pirates” installment, but with director Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Nine”) now taking the reins, I’m expecting some new life to be breathed into this still-promising series. Marshall’s last two films have been severe disappointments, but I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“The Hangover 2” (May 26, wide) — The first “Hangover” has been unfairly adopted as an “instant comedy classic,” and although I’m not willing to go nearly that far, there’s no denying that it was one funny flick. This inevitable sequel switches the action to Thailand (an inspired choice of locale), so if this thing isn’t filled to the brim with jokes about ladyboys, sex tourism and black-market panda meat, I will be quite disappointed.
“Tree of Life” (May 27, limited) — I don’t know a lot about Terrence Malick’s (“Badlands,” “Days of Heaven,” “The Thin Red Line,” “The New World”) latest surefire masterpiece, other than the fact that it’s directed by Malick and stars Sean Penn and Brad Pitt. This alone is more than enough reason to catapult it to the top of any cinephile’s must-see list.
“X-Men: First Class” (June 3, wide) — Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake,” “Stardust,” “Kick-Ass”) has gotten a hold of a superhero franchise, and this can only be good news. James McAvoy as a young Professor X and Michael Fassbender as Magneto seem like perfect casting to me, and the use of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a primary plot point strikes me as equally adventurous.
“Bad Teacher” (June 24, wide) — Everyone loves a good raunchy comedy, and here’s one that digs into the oft-neglected comedy goldmine of the world of substitute teaching. The plot — featuring Cameron Diaz as a horrible sub who straightens up her act to win a statewide contest based on student test scores — is flimsy, but with this kind of thing it may not matter.
“Cars 2” (June 24, wide) — “Cars” didn’t leap out at me as the one Pixar film besides “Toy Story” that warranted a sequel (and I’m still not even sure an animated remake of “Doc Hollywood” was the best idea to begin with), but whatever. It’s Pixar, and that’s definitely good enough for me.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II” (July 15, wide) — The first volume of “Deathly Hallows” served as a much-needed rebound for a series that recently took a huge creative plunge. So I see no reason to doubt the follow-up, which should close out this long-running and beloved franchise with both heart and style.
“Winnie the Pooh” (July 15, wide) — If this sucks, Disney, then the fun-loving five-year-old in me will throw the biggest temper tantrum you’ve ever seen. At Disneyland. In the middle of the Winnie the Pooh ride, just for spite. Watch me.
“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (Aug. 12, wide) — I’ve always been an admirer of the original TV movie-of-the-week upon which this Guillermo del Toro-produced remake is based. And I tells ya, this could be one hell of an update (despite the presence of Katie Holms), provided del Toro ensures an elaborate visual design and insists that the studio keep the original’s horribly depressing conclusion. I’m confident on both counts.
“The Debt” (Aug. 31, limited) — Sketchy info on this one, but check this out: Helen Mirren. Ciaran Hinds. Tom Wilkinson. Director John Madden. Screenwriter Matthew Vaughn. What more could one want? Oh, yeah: Mossad agents and Nazi war criminals.
Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.