Well, it’s not even May yet, but in the movie world Summer is upon us. The Summer season — home of the blockbusters, sequels and an occasional original idea (and sometimes a combination of the three) — kicks off this Friday with Iron Man, Jon Favreau’s comic book flick with the wonderfully twisted Robert Downey Jr. in the starring role.
I’m really looking forward to that one — and 17 others. Follow me to the jump to see exactly which ones, in order. Disclaimer: These rankings are subject to change… titles will no doubt fall off this list, and dark horses I’ve left out might emerge.
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (May 22) — I didn’t realize exactly how much I’m looking forward to this one until all the press started. Raiders of the Lost Ark remains one of my all-time favorite films… in fact, it could well hold the #1 spot on that list, depending on my mood. And while I find the first two sequels vastly inferior, there is no denying the excitement that comes with a new Indiana Jones adventure. The casting of Shia Lebouf and Cate Blanchett, and the return of Karen Allen, is just icing on the cake.
2. Hancock (July 2) — Peter Berg (yay!) directs Will Smith (double yay!) and Jason Bateman (triple yay!) in a comedy/drama about a man whose super powers don’t make up for his miserable life. I don’t know much about this one but the trailer is hilarious and everyone involved can do pretty much no wrong in my eyes. I hope it’s the hit that Berg and Bateman so richly deserve (Smith already has his share).
3. The X-Files: I Want to Believe — Another film I didn’t know I was anticipating until it was around the corner. I’ve been remembering lately just how groundbreaking and creative this show was, in both its mythology and the superb standalone episodes. I’m thrilled to hear that the film falls into the latter category — I always felt that the best one-off episodes of The X-Files were better than any science fiction movie I’d ever seen. I hope this film can live up to that precedent.
4. Wall-E (June 27) — This is a leap of faith, a vote of confidence in the Pixar brand. I haven’t been wowed by the trailers, but that’s often been the case with Pixar films. I was pleasantly surprised by Cars and blown away by Ratatouille. If Wall-E can fall somewhere in between those — perhaps reaching the heights of Andrew Stanton’s last outing, Finding Nemo — I’ll be a happy man.
5. The Dark Knight (July 18 ) — It’s hard to separate this one from the tragedy of Heath Ledger’s death, and in a sick way that makes it even more of a must-see. All indications are that Ledger delivers a powerfully creepy performance as the Joker, one that will certainly now gain cult status. Director Christopher Nolan has consistently crafted excellent films (The Prestige was an underrated gem) and the weakest link in his first Batman film (Katie Holmes) isn’t along for the ride this time.
6. Iron Man (May 2) — Here’s hoping the summer starts off with a bang, courtesy of Favreau, Downey Jr., Terrance Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow — certainly the unlikeliest team to ever produce a film about a man who flies around in a metal suit. Early word is strong.
7. Tropic Thunder (August 15) — Robert Downey Jr. again, in what’s sure to be one of the most talked about performances of the year. He plays an Australian method actor who dies his skin to portray a black soldier. Now if that isn’t a good time waiting to happen, I don’t know what is. Throw in Ben Stiller and Jack Black and you’ve got a very promising comedy.
8. Pineapple Express (August 8 ) — The Apatow train just keeps on rolling… question is, will this one be closer to Knocked Up or Drillbit Taylor? The pairing of Seth Rogen and James Franco as in-over-their-heads stoners looks like pure gold based on the leaked scenes. Franco, in particular, appears to be working on a whole new level (channeling Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, perhaps).
9. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (July 11) — This is here because Guillermo del Toro is a friggin’ genius and I’m still riding the high I got from Pan’s Labyrinth, easily one of the best films of the past twenty years. Del Toro generally brings the same artist’s touch and attention to detail to his Hollywood films that he does to his more personal work, and I hope this film is no exception.
10. Speed Racer (May 9) — I don’t remember the show, so I have no built-in affinity for the subject matter. But I’m excited to see the Wachoski Brothers back behind the camera, and the visuals are literally out of this world.
12. The International (August 15) — Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. I don’t know anything else. I don’t need to.
13. Get Smart (June 20) — Could be incredibly stupid, but I have faith in Steve Carrell (Evan Almighty aside) and I’m eager to see Anne Hathaway in a sexy comic role.
14. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (August 29) — It’s sad that Woody Allen’s films are no longer immediate must-sees. But Penelope Cruz in her first starring role since Volver and Javier Bardem in his first since No Country For Old Men up the buzz on this one.
15. The Incredible Hulk (June 13) — I’m not sure why this movie was made, unless they felt they had to erase the memory of Ang Lee’s failed attempt. The trailer is pretty lackluster. But Ed Norton could make things interesting.
16. The Happening (June 13) — M. Night Shyamalan has been on a downhill slide ever since The Sixth Sense and finally hit rock bottom with The Lady on the Water. Maybe this will be the start of his redemption.
17. Wanted (June 27) — Probably just another horrible Matrix wannabe, but the trailer is kinda cool. Will have to get really good reviews.
18. Made of Honor (May 2) — Generic rom-com with nothing to recommend it but the presence of Michelle Monaghan. That might be enough.