Summer starts early at your local cineplex. The season doesn’t technically begin until June 20, but movie studios long ago decided May marked the start of the sweltering summer months.
And when the first film is the hotly anticipated “Avengers,” who wants to quibble over calendar dates?
“The Avengers” (May 4) Popcorn Potential: 10 – We’ve essentially watched five feature-length commericals for this super-duper hero adventure (“Iron Man 1 & 2,” “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Incredible Hulk”), and now it’s time for the main event. The villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steals an energy source which puts the entire globe in danger, forcing Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to initiate the Avengers protocol. Writer/director Joss Whedon knows comic books and their geeky machinations better than arguably any of his peers, and the film’s already staggering overseas sales suggest Whedon’s near impossible mission has been achieved. Sucker Punch Potential? Whedon admitted to cutting a liberal rant from Captain America, and Occupy supporter Mark Ruffalo takes over for Edward Norton as the Hulk’s calm half.
“Men in Black III” (May 25) Popcorn Potential: 4 – Will Smith suffered a rare box office disappointment with the 2008 film “Seven Pounds.” He licked his wounds by signing up for this sequel, which arrives a decade after the second “Black” outing. The sour whiff of desperation is understandable, making our expectations more modest than the usual Smith confection. Sucker Punch Potential: Unlikely, although the film's rogues gallery of aliens is liable to say just about anything.
“Prometheus” (June 8) Popcorn Potential: 8 – Director Ridley Scott returns to his “Alien” franchise – or does he? The marketing diversion behind the new film may be disingenuous, but it’s hard not to rally around Scott revisiting the sci-fi genre after both “Alien” and “Blade Runner.” Add a deliriously cool cast – Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace – and you’ve got the sci-fi event of the summer, and we don’t care if that sounds like marketing material ripped right from the film's PR division. Sucker Punch Potential: The “Alien” films routinely depict corporations in an unflattering light, so we could see more of the same with this quasi-sorta-maybe “Alien” prequel.
"That's My Boy" (June 15) Popcorn Potential: 6 - Adam Sandler's latest man-child comedy finds him pairing with underrated funny man Andy Samberg. The duo play an unlikely father/son pair in this comedy from the hit machine known as Happy Madison Productions. Sucker Punch Potential: Nil. Sandler and co. know better than to insult their audience in an unnecessary fashion.
“Rock of Ages” (June 15 ) Popcorn Potential: 6 – The smash Broadway musical hits theaters with a cast good enough to populate three films (Tom Cruise, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julianne Hough to name check just a few). It's '80s hair band mania recast as a primal scream for our freedom to rock. But did they have to stick that stinker song "We Built This City" into the trailer? Sucker Punch Potential: Strong – Zeta-Jones plays a Bible thumper sick and tired of nasty, drug obsessed rock ‘n’ roll. In the ‘80s, that role was played in real life by a Democrat – Tipper Gore. But it’s unlikely “Ages” will play up the Tipper ties.
“Brave” (June 22) Popcorn Potential: 8 – Pixar’s latest confection looks like both a return to form following “Cars 2” and a chance to flex the animation studio’s serious storytelling muscle. It’s an original yarn with a heroine as fiery as her red mane. Sucker Punch Potential: Limited, although Pixar sneaked in some liberal memes in both “Wall*E” and “Cars 2,” so anything may go.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (July 3) Popcorn Potential: 7 – Spidey is back, and his origin story is being rebooted only a decade after Sam Raimi’s brilliant take on the wall crawler’s early days. It doesn’t make much sense, but the cast isn’t making our Spider sense jangle (Andrew Garfied, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans) and the trailers look like this is clearly not a quickie cash in on the Spider-Man brand. Sucker Punch Potential: None, although if the franchise is smart it could sock the dying newspaper industry with a few well-placed jabs.
“The Dark Knight Rises” (July 20) Popcorn Potential 11 (in honor of “Spinal Tap”) – The third and final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Bat franchise arrives with even more hype and hope than “The Avengers.” The early trailers suggest an OWS-themed storyline, and given Nolan’s sneakily right-of-center “Dark Knight,” this could be a double treat for conservative movie goers. Sucker Punch Potential: Mark this down as the one summer blockbuster which openly embraces the Right.
“The Bourne Legacy” (Aug. 3) Popcorn Potential: 6 – Franchises never die. They simply get handed off to new actors. Jeremy Renner isn’t much younger than former “Bourne” star Matt Damon, but he’s a new face willing to help re-start a flagging franchise. The film’s August release date doesn’t inspire confidence – the best summer films usually come out in May, June and July – but Renner is proving to be a reliable action hero via films like “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “The Avengers.”
“Total Recall” (Aug. 3) Popcorn Potential: 6 –Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mind-bending 1990 thriller is getting the remake treatment. Colin Farrell replaces Ah-nuld, but it’s the talent dip behind the camera that’s more alarming. Director Len Wiseman is best known for his pedestrian “Underworld” films, while original “Recall” director Paul Verhoeven’s prickly vision made it unique among the era’s sci-fi offerings. Sucker Punch Potential: Unlikely, although co-star Kate Beckinsale isn’t too fond of conservatives, and her husband is behind the camera.
"The Campaign" (Aug.10) Popcorn Potential: 5 – Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis square off in this political comedy directed by Funny or Die co-founder Adam McKay. Ferrell plays a slick incumbent, while the "Hangover" star is cast as the neophyte nudged into the political arena. Sucker Punch Potential: Off the charts. Hard to imagine liberals like Ferrell and McKay planting this in the heart of election season and not letting their ideological impulses come to the fore.
“Expendables 2” (Aug. 17) Popcorn Potential: 7 – Sylvester Stallone proved he could outgun his much younger peers with the 2010 original. Now, he must incorporate new faces while balancing the egos - and iron weights - on set. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his full-on return to acting alongside Bruce Willis, Liam Hemsworth and - gasp - Jean-Claude Van Damme as the film's heavy. Girly men need not apply or even attempt to buy a ticket. And the oldest member of the latest "Expendables" gang is the ageless Chuck Norris. Sucker Punch Potential: Anyone offended by awesome '80s action should steer clear.