• (500) Days of Summer (July 17)
Music video director Marc Webb takes a stab at directing features, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who recounts his relationship with the one and only Zooey Deschanel on shuffle.
• The Brothers Bloom (May 15)
Though its release has twice been delayed, I'm still quite excited about Rian Johnson's follow-up to his incomparable debut Brick. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo play brothers/con artist out to score one last job against eccentric heiress Rachel Weisz. But who's really getting played?
• Brüno (July 10)
Sacha Baron Cohen is at again, slyly revealing the worst of human nature while in disguise as a foreigner. Here, he's gay Austrian TV reporter Brüno, trekking across America, ruining fashion shows, adopting African children, and seducing U.S. Congressmen. It's laughter with a side order of guilt.
• Drag Me to Hell (May 29)
The trailer bills it as "the return of true horror." It's a lofty claim, but if anyone can make it, it's Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead trilogy), who's making a much smaller scale project after the over-indulgent Spider-Man 3.
• The Hangover (June 5)
It seemed as if Todd Phillips had lost his way for a bit there. After hitting it big with the ultra-raunchy Road Trip and Old School, then played it safe with the humorous Starsky & Hutch and humorless School for Scoundrels. Now he's found his mojo again, directing this tale of a bachelor party gone awry. Missing teeth, a baby, a tiger, and Mike Tyson singing "In the Air Tonight." No one knows exactly what's going on, but I definitely want to find out.
• Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15)
All I can say is it's about time. After Warner Bros. scheduled this for a Thanksgiving release, they moved it back to this summer to keep shareholders happy and consistent after the overwhelming success of The Dark Knight and other 2008 hits. Now, we finally get to probe Lord Voldemort's psyche as Harry and co. prepare for the battle royale.
• Inglourious Basterds (August 21)
Pretty much everyone had written off Quentin Tarantino's claims last year that we would have his WWII epic (starring Brad Pitt no less) done in time for May's Cannes Film Festival. Well they'll all have to eat their words as this brutal film is slated to compete for the prestigious Palme d'Or. Tarantino wants that award (it would be his second--he won in '94 for Pulp Fiction). And his scalps.
• Public Enemies (July 1)
It's not every day a director as brilliant as Michael Mann gets a major summer tentpole release, but here we are. Johnny Depp stars as infamous bandit John Dillinger with Agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) hot on his trail. Mann needs to recover after his near-disastrous Miami Vice adaptation and Depp must prove himself a bankable star post-Pirates. I expect all those things to happen in this top-shelf gangster tale.
• Star Trek (May 8)
While he can't keep his projects from maintaining their luster throughout the years, J.J. Abrams sure knows how to blow away his audience for the first time. His M:i:III was easily the best of the franchise and the completely unique Cloverfield (which he produced) made for quite the cinematic divide in 2008, so I'm expecting nothing less than an massively entertaining box office smash from this reboot of the USS Enterprise.
• Up (May 29)
Another year, another Pixar masterpiece. But for the first time, the animation geniuses have kept their story entirely in the human world. Ed Asner voices the crotchety Carl Fredericksen, who attaches a bevy of balloons to his roof and simply floats away to embark on the adventure he never had. The script is rich with universal humor and biting honesty. It's easily the best movie of 2009.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
• Angels & Demons (May 15)
Ron Howard is hot off another Oscar nod for Frost/Nixon and Tom Hanks of course needs no introduction, but their last collaboration, The DaVinci Code was disappointing to say the least. But the source material here (where Dr. Langdon uncovers some nasty murder business in the Vatican) is superior to Dan Brown's monster best-seller and they've likely listened to some of the complaints about their last outing, namely Tom's hairdo.
• Away We Go (June 5)
To paraphrase Bart Simpson's reaction to the Planet of the Apes musical: "This movie has everything." Highly esteemed director? Check. Gushed-over writer? Check. Folksy music in the trailer? Oh, yeah. And it's a road trip movie. But this indie dramedy might be too
• Funny People (July 31)
Judd Apatow is pretty much a god among men when it comes to comedies lately, having stumbled only a few times here and there. His latest is more ambitious, delving into James L. Brooks territory as Sandler plays a comedian who may or may not be dying. It could be his best work as a director, but it could be a maudlin mess.
• Julie & Julia (August 7)
Nora Ephron adapts to bestsellers to spin the twin tales of world-famous spy/chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and neurotic New Yorker Julie Powell (Amy Adams). While a chance to see either of these ladies act is worth seeing (let alone together again, right after the devastatingly powerful Doubt), it may be chick-flick overload. Besides, Ephron hasn't done anything truly worthwhile cinematically since, uh, Sleepless in Seattle.
• Land of the Lost (June 5)
I love Will Ferrell and Danny McBride as much as the next guy, but do they really belong in a Sid & Marty Krofft adaptation aimed at families?
• The Proposal (June 19)
I really want to hate this movie (about a Canadian boss marrying her hated assistant for a green card) but it's hard when the two leads are this dern likable. Throw in Betty White, Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi, and Reno 911!'s Niecy Nash and this might be the year's most pleasant surprise.
• The Taking of Pelham 123 (June 12)
I love battle-of-wills movies where two great actors square off (i.e. The Prestige, Doubt) and I'm happy to see John Travolta do something a bit darker (he takes a subway train hostage), but this wasn't a movie that was really begging to be remade and director Tony Scott is notoriously hit-or-miss. Then again there's always the Denzel Washington card. And it's usually well-played.
• Terminator: Salvation (May 21)
Even during the original films, you always knew that someone was going to have to do another trilogy about the actual battle between humans and machines; it was only a matter of time. And while I'm excited about this Christian Bale-led franchise, I don't know if McG (Charlie's Angels) is really the man to be undertaking such a project.
• X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1)
As a huge X-Men fanatic, I've been dying for another fix, especially one that would make up for Brett Ratner's rather awful The Last Stand, and Wolverine's backstory has needed proper treatment. And while I'm glad an indie director (one with an Oscar win, no less) is getting the chance to tell such a grand story, someone more accomplished should probably have tackled this. Also, if this is Wolverine's origin, why do we also need to introduce a half-dozen new characters?
• Year One (June 19)
When I first heard about this Biblical comedy starring Jack Black and Michael Cera, I got very excited. I don't believe in sacred cows. But after seeing the lackluster Super Bowl ad and the subsequent trailer, I'm wondering where the humor is. Hopefully director Harold Ramis (Caddyshack) can find it.
TURN BACK NOW
• Dance Flick (May 22)
Looks like the Wayans have brought us back to the '90s. A CGI dancing baby? Heaven help us.
• G-Force (July 24)
Who could have guessed the saddest and most racist movie of the year is aimed at kids? This amalgamation of crude stereotypes, played by the likes of Tracy Morgan, Steve Buscemi, Penelope Cruz, and the one and only Nic Cage. They voice an elite task force of guinea pigs. I'm not kidding.
• G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA (August 7)
More noise from a line of HASBRO toys, this one courtesy of Stephen Sommers (The Mummy). I don't even think the peerless Joseph Gordon-Levitt can save this one.
• Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (May 1)
McConaughey grin time. Here he plays a man living out a Valentine's Day Carol of sorts as his past relationships come back to haunt him.
• H2 (August 29)
The sequel to the remake of the original modern slasher flick from Rob Zombie. Will Hollywood ever come up with an original horror movie?
• Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (July 1)
The first one was tolerable. The Meltdown was irritating. This one will be downright insufferable, despite its 3-D presentation.
• Imagine That (June 12)
Eddie Murphy continues his intense decline after his momentary Dreamgirls upswing. Imagine that. Here, he plays the father of a girl whose imagination comes to life.
• My Life in Ruins (June 5)
We wanted you back, Nia Vardalos, but not like this. Not in this cliché story of a 40-something who still wants to find true love. I think it's your career that's in ruins.
• Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (June 24)
Big robots! Loud noises! Eye candy for boys and girls! BOOM!
• The Ugly Truth (July 24)
Did you know that men and women are different? Like, all women make relationships complicated and men just want sex 24/7. How clever!