Summer movies: From “The Amazing Spider-Man” to “The Dark Knight Rises,” the heat is on


With June already gone, the summer movie season is in fast gear now—and so is the heat. The first week of July will be in the mid to high 90s all week, and nothing sounds more comfortable than an air-conditioned movie theater. Each week in July, new theaters will be rotating some of the most anticipated films of not only the summer, but of the year. There is one film in particular on everyone’s mind that does not need any help getting bodies into the seats and could contend for the biggest film of the year, even though The Avengers just crossed the $600 million mark last week. However, there is another comic book hero who might have something to say about that and will likely jumpstart filmgoers in July.

The Amazing Spider-Man, opening Tuesday, July 3, is a reboot of the popular comic book and film series that former director Sam Raimi ended in 2007. The question is, will relatively new—and appropriately named—director Marc Webb, who gave us a different and lovely take on the rom-com in 2009’s 500 Days of Summer, succeed now that he’s been given the keys to a franchise with lofty expectations and a potential global hit with mostly a new cast of characters? Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) steps in for Tobey Maguire in the Peter Parker/Spider-Man role and Emma Stone (Easy A) becomes his new love interest as Gwen Stacy, whose storyline is familiar to fans of the comics. the two together are an intriguing pair. Another bonus to the new reboot is that screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) has been teamed up with Alvin Sargent (the two-time Academy Award winner), who wrote the last two Spider-Man films and Steve Kloves (screenwriter of seven of the Harry Potter films), so story and dialogue-wise, I’m prepared for something amazing indeed.

Opening this Friday, July 6, Oliver Stone returns with what looks to be a sure-fire action-adventure thriller: Savages, based on Don Winslow’s 2010 book. Starring Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass), Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), John Travolta, Salma Hayek, and Benecio Del Toro, it looks to be a wild ride of sex, drugs, violence and mayhem.  Count me as someone looking forward to seeing how all this plays out and discovering whether Stone can find his groove again—it seems to have been missing for almost a decade.

On Friday July 13, the much-ballyhooed Sundance and Cannes film festival winner, Beasts of the Southern Wild, opens at a Landmark Theater—most likely the Lagoon—and will be a hard ticket to get opening weekend. Having seen the film twice now, a third time is certainly guaranteed. It’s unlike any American independent film to be made in a very long time. I have already written about the film, I’ll just say: don’t read too much about it and go in without much knowledge about the story, and you will be handsomely rewarded with a magical experience that you will want to share with everyone. I’m not one to really make Oscar predictions in July, but it seems certain that Beasts of the Southern Wild will gather some nominations—a no-brainer should be for co-writer/director Behn Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar, creating a fantastical world in a region few of us know anything about.

The Dark Knight Rises—there, I said it—opens on Friday July 20 and without a doubt, I cannot remember a summer movie I have been more excited to see since probably 2008’s The Dark KnightGet your advance tickets now for opening weekend at the Great Clips IMAX so you can avoid anyone else telling you anything about it. Director Christopher Nolan might be one of the most important directors in the world, and after two tours of duty with this new Batman series, the pressure is on. That said, for anyone who has seen any trailers or saw the film’s opening screened before Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol last year, there’s reason enough to either go to the 3:50 a.m. screening or start lining up at the door very early on opening day. Joining the already remarkable cast of Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman will be Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Tom Hardy playing Bane, the new nemesis for our dark cape crusader. Needless to say, expectations are at a fever pitch for what’s supposedly the last Batman film Nolan will be directing.

Opening on Friday, July 27 at a Landmark Theater is another film with a dark title and subject matter: Dark Horse, the new film from provocateur Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Doll House, Life During Wartime). Though it’s not quite as distributing as his best film, the brilliant Happiness, Solondz does provide another warped look at life; in this case, as seen through the eyes of 30-something man-child Abe (wonderfully played by Jordan Gelber), still living at home with his toy collection and with his parents, Phyllis and Jackie (Sissy Spacek and Christopher Walken, both terrific) as they try to help Abe grow up and become more independent.  When Abe meets Miranda (deadpan sad sack Selma Blair) at a wedding party, sparks sort of fly, and things are starting to look up.  Solondz is a filmmaker whose work I always see and am usually less than impressed with, but Dark Horse has some really memorable moments. Dark Horse features some great banter and the has one of the most awkward conclusions to a film you will see this year—and that’s a good thing.