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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2)
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Dane DeHaan undergoes an elaborate transformation from wealthy scion Harry Osborn, boyhood pal of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), into the unhinged Green Goblin. It took plenty of time, makeup, and costuming to physically create his character, but it also helped the actor prepare mentally. ''When you look at yourself in the mirror and you're in the suit and full-on Goblin makeup? You feel like a badass,'' says DeHaan. ''I look at myself and think, 'Hell, yeah, I'm the Green Goblin! Let's go do this.''' —Sara Vilkomerson
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Belle (May 2)
Dido Elizabeth Belle (newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was an anomaly in 18th-century England. The mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy admiral (Matthew Goode), she was raised by her aristocratic great-uncle, the First Earl of Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), and his wife (Emily Watson). Director Amma Asante's fact-based epic charts the animosity Belle faced from her highborn peers (including Harry Potter's Tom Felton) as well as her positive influence on Lord Mansfield, a noted judge who helped abolish slavery in England in 1772. The focus is on the heroine's growing sense of empowerment. ''She goes from 'as you wish' to 'as I wish,''' says Asante. Like Belle, though, the filmmakers had to adhere to certain social constraints of the era. ''Gugu didn't wear any makeup on screen,'' says Asante. In that era, ''there wasn't any for women of color.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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Neighbors (May 9)
Seth Rogen will be the first to admit that the frat-movie genre doesn't have the most distinguished history: ''There's basically one and a half good ones — Animal House and the first half of Old School — and then a whole lot of bad ones.'' Rogen hopes to add to that short list with Neighbors, in which he stars as a new parent who, along with his wife (Rose Byrne), goes to war with a fraternity that moves into the house next door. The couple find their ultimate nemesis in a raucous frat led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco. ''It quickly becomes very personal,'' Rogen says. ''There's a lot of betrayal and emotions there.''
Not to mention a whole lot of filthy humor. ''Somehow we've broken new dick-joke ground,'' says director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement). ''Given the people I'm working with, that's kind of hard to accomplish, but we did it.'' Rogen puts it this way: ''There were a lot of days on set where we'd be measuring which dildo to use in the scene and we'd just look over and be like, 'This is the movie we're making, huh?' 'Yup, this is a frat movie.''' When it comes to the genre, a great dick joke is pretty much the alpha and omega. —Josh Rottenberg
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Chef (May 9)
For moviegoers over 40, Jon Favreau is still the heartbroken schlub from Swingers, his 1996 writing debut, in which he mortified himself on an answering machine in a misguided attempt to get a girl. After directing studio tentpoles like the first two Iron Man films, he returns to his indie roots with a dramedy about a once-lauded chef who starts a food truck, aided by his ex (Sofia Vergara) and young son (Emjay Anthony). ''I'm trying to speak to my audience in the same way that I spoke to them 20 years ago when we were the young whippersnappers,'' says Favreau, who wrote, produced, directed, and stars in the film. ''Now we've got careers. It's no longer about finding someone, it's about keeping a relationship going.'' —Nicole Sperling
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Palo Alto (May 9)
A soccer coach who, in an eerie parallel to recent real-life accusations against James Franco, hits on a virginal high schooler (Emma Roberts). The episodic film is based on Franco's own 2010 story collection. ''It really captured teenagers in an accurate way,'' says first-time director Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis). But don't expect to see too many hyphens in Franco's billing. ''I thought about adapting my own stories,'' admits the actor, ''but that's just too much James Franco in one project.'' —Stephan Lee
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Godzilla (May 16)
When Gareth Edwards got the offer to direct a big-budget Godzilla reboot, the first thing out of his mouth wasn't exactly a triumphant roar. ''I think I said, 'F--- me.' And then it was quiet,'' recalls Edwards, whose only prior credit was the critically acclaimed 2010 minibudget indie Monsters. ''Then, to be honest, I was really nervous. If somebody's going to do a new Godzilla, they've got to do it right.''
It's been done wrong plenty of times, most recently in 1998's Roland Emmerich-directed Godzilla and the campy nonevent Godzilla 2000. But Edwards is betting he can avoid havoc (while still wreaking lots of it on screen) by making a film with a dead-serious tone and top-shelf CG — as well as a high-caliber cast. Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston stars as a nuclear physicist who investigates suspicious events at a Japanese nuclear facility, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) plays his son, a soldier called to duty when the beast starts trashing cities. According to Taylor-Johnson, the mere presence of Cranston caused the entire cast and crew to step up their game. ''You know when he's on set, because there's a vibe,'' says Taylor-Johnson. ''Everybody's getting a bit high off Cranston, you know?'' Walter White would be so proud. —Adam Markovitz
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Million Dollar Arm (May 16)
Jon Hamm is a sucker for baseball movies and a die-hard Cardinals fan, but that's only part of the reason he chose to make Million Dollar Arm. Directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), the film, inspired by true events, tells the redemption tale of sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Hamm), a real-life Jerry Maguire who strikes out on his own only to have the ace defensive lineman he's been trying to land as a client ditch him for a big corporate agency. So in a Hail Mary pass to save his business, Bernstein hightails it to India with a mission: to find cricket players he can morph into Major League Baseball's next superstars. He finds two (Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma and Slumdog Millionaire's Madhur Mittal), but air-dropping these boys from remote Indian villages smack into the middle of the American dream forces Bernstein to realize that he is responsible for more than just making a commission. He is responsible for them. ''He learns how to be a better human being,'' says Hamm, who saw the role as an antidote to his Don Draper on Mad Men. ''I spend the majority of my year playing not the best human being on the planet.'' The production shot in India for almost a month, often in 120-degree heat, which gave Hamm perspective on what Bernstein had achieved. ''Once you see India, you see what J.B. met with on day one,'' Hamm says. ''If it were me, I would have been like, 'Nope, this is never going to happen.''' —Nicole Sperling
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X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23)
Director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise he launched with 2000's X-Men and the sequel X2 — and with a $200 million-plus budget, making Days of Future Past the priciest and most complicated X-Men film to date. It's not hard to see where the money went: Past, in which a distant-future Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to the '70s to prevent war, combines the casts of both the first X-Men trilogy (Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, etc.) and 2011's prequel X-Men: First Class (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence) in a time-travel story involving two time periods, six countries, and hundreds of giant killer robots. ''We have to deliver, and that's really hard,'' says Lauren Shuler Donner, who's produced all of the X-Men films. ''Plus, we don't use guns, we use powers. The power is a visual effect. So by its very nature it's going to be pricey.''
Past aims to boost X-Men's fortunes by bringing back marquee stars such as Jackman and Berry as well as younger ones like Lawrence and Fassbender whose profiles have risen in recent years. ''The hope is that Days of Future Past will broaden the audience for X-Men such that it will motivate potential spin-offs even more,'' Kinberg says.
In the X-Men fan community, the comic story line ''Days of Future Past,'' written in 1980 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, is hallowed ground. It imagines the time-traveling brain of Kitty Pryde and a desolate future in which X-Men are hunted by machines called Sentinels. When captured, the mutants are either killed or placed in internment camps. It seemed like the perfect vehicle for a film that could link Stewart and McKellen with the First Class cast.
There was just one seemingly insurmountable problem: In the X-Men movieverse, present-day Kitty is played by 27-year-old Ellen Page. So in the movie version of Past, it's gruff, unaging Wolverine who returns to his 1973 body to stop Mystique (Lawrence) from assassinating the inventor of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage). Keeping Trask alive prevents a devastating war between mutants and humans — and keeps Mystique among the do-gooding mutants. As Kinberg explains, ''A lot of people have an emotional investment in her not going to the dark side.'' Speaking of dark sides, Wolverine must also unite frenemies Erik (Fassbender), who's been (wrongly?) imprisoned for the JFK assassination, and Charles (McAvoy), now a drugged-up recluse living with Hank, a.k.a. blue-furred Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Says McAvoy, ''Wolverine has to help me figure out who I really am, what I really want in life, and what I'm willing to sacrifice to get that.'' The film cuts back and forth in time, but the majority of Past takes place, appropriately, in the past. —Tim Stack
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Cold in July (May 23)
At the start of this thriller, Michael C. Hall kills a burglar, and then checks out the funeral. Did the man who played both serial killer Dexter and a funeral director on Six Feet Under think he was being pranked when he read the screenplay? ''I'm often sent scripts that have some murderous or graveyard element,'' he says. The shooting puts Hall's frame-store owner into conflict with the perp's dad, played by Sam Shepard. (Don Johnson also turns up as a pig farmer/PI.) Shepard, a Pulitzer-winning dramatist, helped director/co-writer Jim Mickle by polishing a problematic script passage. ''He showed up with this one-page scene, which was much simpler,'' says Mickle. ''So I just got that framed.'' —Clark Collis
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Tracks (May 23)
Stars from Julia Roberts to Nicole Kidman circled the role. But it's taken three decades to adapt Robyn Davidson's 1980 memoir about her 1,700-mile walk across the deserts of West Australia with only a dog and four camels. In the end, the part went to Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), an Australian-born Davidson look-alike who grew up trekking into the bush. ''Robyn didn't have a GPS, a cell phone, email, all these things that are so much a fabric of our lives today,'' says director John Curran (Stone). ''That idea of a young person confronting this fear of loneliness by pursuing solitude means something completely different today than it did in the '80s.'' —Karen Valby
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Blended (May 23)
In their third film together, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler play single parents who go on a disastrous first date, then wind up on the same safari vacation with their respective children. But, as in any good romantic comedy, the seemingly mismatched pair find themselves falling for each other. ''It's just so easy to pretend to be in love with him,'' says Barrymore of working with her 50 First Dates and Wedding Singer costar again. The cast shot for two months on location in South Africa, which was a little overwhelming for Barrymore because she took along her then-6-month-old daughter, Olive. ''That was crazy,'' she admits. ''I tried to show her animals. It ended up being the coolest experience.'' —Tim Stack
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Maleficent (May 30)
She can fly! She can fly! She can — well, not anymore. In Disney's new take on its animated Sleeping Beauty, the wicked fairy Maleficent once had (and then lost) a pair of fearsome black wings. Blame an unspecified betrayal by the slumbering princess' royal father (District 9's Sharlto Copley). ''Children have always been told she's pure evil. And she is evil, but it's not all she is, and it's not fair that her story was left there,'' says Angelina Jolie, who dons black horns for the role. ''For kids it will be like unwrapping a mystery, unwrapping a present, finding out what was really going on. It's a fun discovery.''
Maleficent inhabits a shadowy wilderness where fantastical beasts rely on her as a kind of protector. ''It's the world beyond the human world. She's a nature girl,'' says first-time director Robert Stromberg, who won Oscars as a production designer for Alice in Wonderland and Avatar. ''She's respected, and perhaps lets her guard down.'' So when Maleficent loses her ability to fly, her fall from grace begins. And woe to any princess (Elle Fanning) who gets between her and revenge. —Anthony Breznican
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A Million Ways to Die in the West (May 30)
Seth MacFarlane's directorial follow-up to the adorably raunchy Ted imagines a historical American West that's less about high-noon machismo and romantic rides into the sunset than it is about snakebites to the crotch and debilitating bouts of dysentery. The Family Guy creator tackles his first lead role in a feature as Albert, a lily-livered sheepherder who loses his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) because of his cowardice. But what he lacks in bravery he makes up for with social commentary and observational humor far beyond his era. Albert meets Anna (Charlize Theron), who shares his forward-thinking mindset, and they bond over the film's titular running joke: the myriad death traps awaiting the denizens of the wide-open prairie (including Anna's husband, a nasty quick-draw outlaw played by Liam Neeson). ''Some of the more horrific deaths amuse me to no end,'' says Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the mustachioed suitor to whom Albert has lost his girl. ''They just keep happening and they become such an afterthought. In the middle of a monologue someone will be trampled by a herd of cattle and [the person speaking will] just keep talking.''
While MacFarlane shies away from comparisons to Blazing Saddles, he does think the 1974 Mel Brooks classic contains the key to making a successful period comedy. ''At the core of it you had Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little essentially playing men of the '70s,'' he says. ''And that's all it took to bring it into the modern day and give it a relatability, so that's what I tried to do.'' The film is packed with MacFarlane's typically outrageous humor, so you can expect to see some things you wouldn't catch in an old John Wayne feature on Turner Classic Movies. Case in point: The comedy's prime gross-out sequence involves Harris in a state of extreme gastrointestinal distress. ''I think that was my first day of filming,'' he says. ''I felt the worst for the poor extras who were watching on the side of the street behind me. I had to reveal my butthole. I wasn't conscious of what was happening behind me, but I just kept looking back and saying, 'I'm so sorry you have to be seeing this.''' Well, howdy, partner. —Keith Staskiewicz
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The Fault in Our Stars (June 6)
In a young-adult literary landscape populated by all stripes and claws of the supernatural, John Green's The Fault in Our Stars was a welcome shot of reality when it hit shelves in 2012 — even with its reminder that the real world can be every bit as dangerous as any dystopian future. Fault tells the funny, sweet, and poignant love story of Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), two teens who meet in a cancer support group. The Divergent star fought hard for the role, writing impassioned letters to both Green and director Josh Boone (Stuck in Love). ''If I'm passionate about something, I'll do everything I can to try to be a part of it,'' she says.
While mentally casting his perfect Hazel, Boone didn't initially picture Woodley for the part. That is, until she read for him. ''I was blown away,'' he says, adding that the actress had the entire room in tears. ''We were all crying. It was actually sort of bad,'' he says with a laugh. ''But it was hers from that moment on.'' The filmmakers didn't have to look far to cast Augustus: Ansel Elgort was shooting Divergent, playing Woodley's brother, when he went for a screen test. Woodley insisted that he read not just the script but also Green's novel before his first meeting with the filmmakers. ''I thought, 'If I tell her I haven't read it, she'll be mad during our audition and it would be a mess,''' he says. ''So I literally read it for Shailene. And then I was freakin' obsessed.'' Hey, join the club. —Sara Vilkomerson
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Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)
You know the old saying: If at first you don't succeed, die horribly in an alien battle and come back to life right before the fighting starts. That's the time-bending conundrum facing Tom Cruise's Maj. Bill Cage, a military PR officer who harbors a cowardly streak in the midst of an alien invasion. After crossing the wrong general and being sent on a suicide mission, he gets locked in a time loop — repeatedly dying and then returning just before combat, a wiser and increasingly dangerous soldier. ''The reason the aliens are winning is they can replay the day over and over again until they figure out how to win,'' says director Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith). ''Tom gets infected, basically, by one of the aliens, and gains their power.''
Emily Blunt costars as a hero of the resistance who gained fame in battle after experiencing the same Groundhog Day-type phenomenon. ''She no longer has the power but knows exactly what he's going through. So she's the only person on the planet who believes him,'' says Blunt, who had to don an armored exoskeleton for the role. ''Mine weighed about 85 pounds,'' she says. ''We really were jumping and sprinting in those suits. The first time I put it on, I started to cry!'' Luckily, she got a lot of do-overs. —Anthony Breznican
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Obvious Child (June 6)
In an indie that drew raves at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Saturday Night Live alum Jenny Slate plays a twentysomething comedian who, in rapid succession, endures a breakup, gets fired, has a one-night stand with a guy (Jake Lacy), and learns she's pregnant — all in time for what's supposed to be the most romantic day of the year. ''It's a very exaggerated version of the way Valentine's Day can go,'' says Slate. ''[But] every woman dreams of a partner who would support her in everything that is trying or new or scary.'' Sounds pretty romantic after all. —Nina Terrero
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22 Jump Street (June 13)
22 Jump Street isn't just another bigger, louder, pricier sequel. It's a knowingly bigger, louder, pricier sequel. ''The only interest for me in doing this movie was to make fun of the idea of a sequel,'' says Jonah Hill, who co-wrote the story and returns as nebbishy cop Schmidt, paired with studly partner Jenko (Channing Tatum). ''We riff on the idea that people just want to see the same thing they saw the first time.''
So while Schmidt and Jenko are back busting drug rings, this time posing as college students, Hill and Tatum are also poking fun at their public images. ''I always joke with Jonah about how serious an actor he is now that he's been nominated [for an Oscar] twice, and how I'm always trying to do big action movies,'' says Tatum. ''So he takes his character super-serious when he's undercover, and I'm always doing unnecessary action. There's even a dig at White House Down.''
Fans, be warned: This may be the duo's final bust. ''It was kind of natural that we went to college after going to high school in the first movie,'' says Tatum. ''Where do you go next? Med school? Grad school?'' If anyone could turn the MCAT into comedy gold, it's these guys. —Adam Markovitz
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How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13)
Hiccup, the clever boy who brokered peace between Vikings and dragons in 2010's CG-animated hit How to Train Your Dragon, is poised to enter a bigger world. While exploring new lands with his dragon, Toothless, he meets his long-lost mother (Cate Blanchett), a Dian Fossey of dragons — and battles dragon trappers hoping to build an evil fire-breathing army. He's also now a leather-clad 20-year-old. ''It's like the first time you see Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back and he's got that whole badass outfit on,'' says Jay Baruchel, who voices the gangly hero who made him an unlikely star among very young fans. ''When This Is the End came out,'' the actor recalls, ''so many kids on Twitter said, 'All I see is Hiccup swearing.''' —Jeff Labrecque
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The Rover (June 13)
After the collapse of the Western economy, the dregs of society collect like flies in Australia's mines. There, a shy, broken man (Robert Pattinson) falls in with a grizzled drifter (Guy Pearce) to pursue a gang of bandits who've stolen his car. Look out for murderous carnies, inscrutable aboriginals, and a sun-bleached matriarch who runs an opium den (Gillian Jones). Director David Michôd, whose Aussie-set crime drama Animal Kingdom earned Jacki Weaver an Oscar nom, even cast some nonprofessionals from the outback. ''You can't meet these people and not think, 'Oh, there's got to be a way of getting you in this movie,''' he says. —JoJo Marshall
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Think Like a Man Too (June 20)
The key to a great sequel is knowing how to raise the stakes. That's why the follow-up to Think Like a Man — 2012's sleeper-hit ensemble comedy based on Steve Harvey's advice book — takes place in a locale synonymous with high stakes: Las Vegas. Think Like a Man Too transplants the first film's six women and six men to the City of Sin, where they are tasked with pulling off dueling bachelor(ette) parties. ''We've taken every relationship to the next level,'' says director Tim Story (Ride Along). ''If a couple got married in the first one, now we see how marriage is treating them. If they started dating, they're now moving on to the next phase of dating.''
But while some couples are using the trip to get closer, Kevin Hart's Cedric is seeking some distance. ''He's going stag,'' says Hart, whose character's reconciliation with his estranged wife in the first film seems to have been short-lived. ''His relationship remains in a rough spot, and he basically goes to Vegas to get away from [his ex]. But he's still loud, exuberant, and with his personality all over the place.'' Hart admits he is a big fan of Vegas, although for his director it was another matter. ''There's some of my cast, I won't name names, but they know how to party in Vegas,'' Story says. ''I had to learn to avoid them because I needed to wake up the next morning.'' —Keith Staskiewicz
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Jersey Boys (June 20)
John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony award in 2006 for his portrayal of the falsetto giant Frankie Valli in the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys, didn't realize that a routine Sunday-matinee performance was his big-screen audition. ''The first time I met Clint Eastwood was backstage after the show,'' says Young. ''And the next time was on set. I can't imagine a better beginning to what I hope will be a Hollywood career.'' Young's Valli ages from 16 to 60 in the rags-to-riches Cinderfella story, which also stars Christopher Walken as the mobster who's a father figure to the young Four Seasons. —Karen Valby
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Third Person (June 20)
James Franco plays a New York-based painter squabbling with his ex (Mila Kunis) over custody of their son in one of three intersecting stories set in three major cities. ''I wanted to arrange these narratives in a way that's a puzzle,'' says writer-director Paul Haggis. Franco jokes of his frequent costar, ''Mila and I have done approximately a million things together at this point.'' —Keith Staskiewicz
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Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27)
Age of Extinction is not a sequel but a reboot of the shape-shifting alien-robot series. ''It's kind of like a new Transformers,'' director Michael Bay says. ''We had three, the first trilogy, and this is going to be the next one.'' The next... trilogy? ''Yeah, it's the first of a new trilogy,'' he says after a moment of hesitation. ''I'm not necessarily sure that I'm doing [the others], but that's what it's meant for.''
What kind of filmmaker blows up his own billion-dollar franchise and starts over? One with a lot of firepower. Bay's reboot doesn't scrap the previous story line — the destruction of Chicago in the last film has turned humans against all alien robots. And Peter Cullen, who started doing Optimus Prime's voice on the 1984 cartoon series, returns as the stentorian Autobot leader. But most of the cast is new. Taking over the lead human role from three-time star Shia LaBeouf is Mark Wahlberg, playing an aspiring inventor who discovers that the battered Freightliner truck he's about to dismantle is actually a dormant Optimus in disguise. The new — or, rather, old — vehicle design is an homage to the '80s Hasbro toys. Another tribute to yesteryear: Age of Extinction features fanboy favorite Grimlock, a rambunctious Dinobot who shifts from robot form into a metallic T. rex-like creature.
While the villainous robots remain under wraps, Kelsey Grammer joins the fray as a shadowy government op determined to rid the planet of mechanical invaders. When he sets upon Wahlberg's farmhouse, the blue-collar hero finds himself siding with the bots instead of his own government. Nicola Peltz (A&E's Bates Motel) plays Wahlberg's short-shorts-wearing daughter, who is first menaced by Grammer's goons, then scooped up accidentally by hostile robots in midbattle. Her rally-car-racing boyfriend (Delivery Man's Jack Reynor) joins forces with her old man to rescue her. —Anthony Breznican
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La Bare (June 27)
After stripping for the role of Big Dick Richie in 2012's Magic Mike, Joe Manganiello set out with his brother, Nick, to make a documentary about men who drop trou as a way of life. So together they headed to La Bare, a Dallas-based male strip club that's been around since 1978. ''I really wanted as close to a scientifically controlled group as possible, and Dallas is about as American apple pie as you can get,'' says Manganiello, who was especially impressed with the club's commitment to excellence. ''There's a Great American Strip Off every year for the best male dancers in the world, and La Bare Dallas wins almost every year. It's a hotbed of talent!'' —Lynette Rice
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They Came Together (June 27)
With his new satire, David Wain is trying to do for the romantic comedy what his 2001 cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer did for the camp genre. He even brought back many of Wet Hot's stars, including Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, who skewer many a rom-com cliché as a shopkeeper (Poehler) and a corporate executive (Rudd) who fall in love. ''We threw in every element: the opposites-attract story line, the Jewish-but-not-too-Jewish funny leading man, the klutzy woman whom you kind of love, the sassy best friend, the black best friend, the wise old grandmother,'' Wain says. ''Anything we could think of, we found a place for it in there.'' —Josh Rottenberg
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Jimi: All Is by My Side (June TBA)
The obstacles to a Jimi Hendrix biopic are huge. The rock god's estate has long refused to part with the rights to his most famous songs. So Oscar-winning scribe John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) zeroed in on the year before Hendrix skyrocketed to fame at 1967's Monterey Pop Festival (and the covers he was performing at the time). OutKast's André Benjamin plays Hendrix, who begins as a guitarist in blues musician Curtis Knight's rhythm section; Imogen Poots (Need for Speed) is his muse, model Linda Keith. ''This is a story about relationships,'' says Ridley. ''If there are folks who just want the music, there are record stores for that.'' —Karen Valby
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Tammy (July 2)
Unlike some high-profile summer tentpoles, Tammy — the raunchy road-trip comedy written by Melissa McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone — didn't start out as a glimmer in a studio exec's eye. Far from it. ''About six years ago, Ben came downstairs — hair all over, he had just gotten out of bed — and he says, 'I wanna write a story where you and your grandma take a road trip and she's an alcoholic and she sleeps around,''' recalls McCarthy. ''I was like, 'Uh, okay! Great!'''
From those humble, bed-headed beginnings comes a comedy about Tammy (McCarthy), a crass fast-food worker who gets fired the same day she learns her husband is cheating. Fed up, she sets out on a rollicking cross-country car ride with her frequently tipsy grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon).
Sarandon is an unorthodox choice to play Tammy's boozing grandma — at 67, she's only 23 years older than McCarthy — but the actress was undeterred. ''I was just like, 'Am I supposed to do a funny voice and wear glasses?''' says Sarandon, who does neither in the movie. She does sport a gray wig and prosthetic feet for a few scenes involving swollen ankles. ''Since it was hot, they would get pretty squishy. Who ever knew your feet could get that squishy?'' For better or for worse, we do now. —Adam Markovitz
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Begin Again (July 4)
In Begin Again, which debuted at last fall's Toronto Film Festival under the title Can a Song Save Your Life?, Once helmer John Carney goes deeper and darker into the music world he knew intimately as a bassist for the Frames — fronted by Once star Glen Hansard. Mark Ruffalo plays Dan, a washed-up label exec who retreats into the bottle as his career and family life crumble. He's out of step with the modern music industry, he's separated from his wife (Catherine Keener), and their teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) is embarrassed by him. Things are so dire that he's about to end it all — until he hears the sweetest sad song performed at an NYC dive bar. The British singer, Gretta (Keira Knightley), is also at rock bottom: Her boyfriend and collaborator, Dave (Adam Levine), got famous overnight and dumped her to go solo. Inspired, Dan takes a reluctant Gretta under his wing to record an album that channels the spirit of New York.
Despite its desperate characters, Begin Again gives Dan a second chance. ''It's a fairy tale set in New York,'' says Knightley. The movie is a love letter to the city, but also a rebuke to the current homogenized state of the music industry. Maroon 5's Levine played along, making his film debut as the superficial rocker who breaks Gretta's heart. ''I got to have my cake and eat it with Adam,'' says Carney. ''I got to make that joke, having the guy in The Voice, and play with the idea of fame and stardom. But he's actually not a pop star at all. He's a funny, self-deprecating chap.''
Like Once, Begin Again is a feel-good story about struggling musicians — and contains several candidates for a Best Original Song Oscar. So might it follow the path of Once to Broadway? ''I don't think lightning strikes twice in life, and I would never tempt fate,'' says Carney. ''But in theory, yes, it could work [on the stage].'' Either way, it's already proved itself worthy of New York. —Jeff Labrecque
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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11)
No animals were harmed in the making of this movie, except maybe the humans. The chimps, orangutans, and gorillas in the sequel to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes are entirely CG — think PETA meets Weta. ''This is definitely the most ambitious performance-capture movie ever,'' says Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, the primate protagonist. The new film picks up 10 years after Caesar led a rebellion of hyperintelligent apes through the streets of San Francisco and a deadly pathogen wiped out much of human civilization. ''They have watched for a decade over the skyline as the lights have dwindled,'' says Serkis. ''And it would seem that humanity has disappeared.'' In fact, we don't see a single hairless face until well into the film, when an outpost of humans — including Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, and Keri Russell — clashes with Caesar and his clan. ''This is the apes' movie,'' says director Matt Reeves (Let Me In). ''We immerse you in this culture they built before they have to defend it.'' —Keith Staskiewicz
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Boyhood (July 11)
No heavy makeup or special effects were needed to transform Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from a child into a young man in the coming-of-age drama Boyhood. Director Richard Linklater (Before Midnight) had a lean shooting schedule of just 39 days, but they extended over 12 years. ''I wanted to make a portrait of maturing,'' says Linklater. ''I was thinking of the grid we all grew up in — you're stuck in your parents' house and the public-school education system. I remember thinking, 'After this, my own life will begin.''' Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Linklater's daughter, Lorelei, round out a family that deals with unhappy marriages, divorce, puberty, and first love. For the actors, watching themselves age over a decade was quite an experience. ''There were brutal elements, I will say that much,'' says Arquette with a laugh. Linklater advised Coltrane, who began the project at age 7, to watch the completed film alone. ''There was a point when I just stepped back and realized the magnitude of the project,'' says Coltrane, now 19, ''and just what a massive part of my life it has been.'' —Sara Vilkomerson
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The Purge: Anarchy (July 18)
Last June's low-budget horror film The Purge grossed an impressive $65 million but left many complaining that its single-house setting did not do justice to the premise of a night during which citizens can commit any crime, including murder. In the Warriors-esque sequel, five folks make their way across a city as the titular event is in full swing. ''I feel I've delivered on that promise of a world that has descended into madness,'' says returning writer-director James DeMonaco. While the first movie concentrated on suburban one-percenters played by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, the follow-up details the travails of ''people who can't afford to protect themselves.'' And that could be a 99 percent improvement. —Clark Collis
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Wish I Was Here (July 18)
In Zach Braff's Kickstarter-backed dramedy, a struggling actor (Braff) homeschools his two kids when his rich, disapproving dad (Mandy Patinkin) is diagnosed with cancer and can no longer pay for private school. Like his last film, Garden State, Wish features paternal issues, noodling on the meaning of life, a great rock soundtrack, and a hilarious cosplay scene. ''People joked that I made Garden State so I could make out with Natalie Portman,'' says Braff, who wrote the script with his brother Adam. ''I made this film so my brother and I could have intelligent, brave conversations with our father about life and death.'' Oddly, there's no Harry Chapin on the soundtrack. —Jeff Labrecque
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Sex Tape (July 25)
Paris and Rick. Pamela and Tommy. Kim and Ray J. Couples who record themselves getting busy have a funny tendency to let the tape slip from their possession. Take Annie and Jay (Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel), who attempt to spice up their marriage by making their own little dirty movie. ''They sort of do every position in The Joy of Sex and kinda go crazy,'' says Diaz. ''In the end, they don't take into consideration that there's technology that shoots it up into a place called the cloud.'' But retrieving the errant clip proves to be a challenge. ''They know somebody's got it, they're not sure who, and they need to get it back,'' says director Jake Kasdan, who worked with Diaz and Segel on the 2011 hit Bad Teacher.
The stars' familiarity with each other helped in shooting the new film's racier scenes. ''Jason and I are, like, naked together,'' Diaz explains. ''You don't wanna be with a dude that's a total skeebag. You have to be with somebody you trust. We really just had a great partnership.'' Not for nothing, that's also the prerequisite for any good sex tape. —Tim Stack
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Lucy (July 25)
From Nikita to Joan of Arc, director and roi of Euro-action Luc Besson has always had a penchant for women who kick ass. The heroine of his new film is no exception: Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a drug mule who turns on her tormentors when the experimental pharmaceuticals in her system give her increasingly omnipotent mental powers. Just imagine an action-thriller version of Flowers for Algernon. ''It's the story of this girl who was using 10 percent of her brain capacity,'' says Besson, ''and goes to using 100 percent in a couple of days, and what this does to her as a person.''
The role required Johansson to be almost entirely reactive to the craziness around her. ''She's basically a raw nerve,'' says the actress. ''Everything is happening so fast for her, and it's totally overwhelming.'' Of course, Lucy is soon doling out superpowered punishment in the mold of Alien's Ripley and The Terminator's Sarah Connor — role models Johansson appreciates. ''There's a warm spot in my heart for the woman who means business and doesn't use every opportunity to pose and look sexy in a catsuit,'' she says. —Keith Staskiewicz
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Hercules (July 25)
In a new sword-and-sandal epic, Dwayne Johnson plays the mythological hero seeking vengeance for the death of his family. ''He has to kill a lot of people while keeping his loincloth down,'' says the actor, who sports a beard made of yak hair. When he asked the beard designer what part of the animal supplied his facial fuzz, Johnson recalls, ''he says, 'His balls.' I said, 'No wonder I feel comfortable.''' The star confirms he would love to reprise the role. One group hoping that he won't: male yaks. —Clark Collis
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A Most Wanted Man (July 25)
In one of his final performances, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Gunter Bachmann, a calculating German intelligence operative who's stalking a potential Islamic terror suspect in Hamburg, Germany. The late actor immersed himself in his lonely, obsessive character from John le Carré's 2008 novel. He mentored costars such as Daniel Brühl (Rush), who plays one of his underlings, while steering clear of castmates who portrayed rivals or threats. ''He went through a very difficult period when we were making it, and you can see that [on screen],'' says director Anton Corbijn (The American). ''You really feel how he struggles. At a certain point, Phil and Gunter become one during the making of it.'' —Jeff Labrecque
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Magic in the Moonlight (July 25)
For years, Woody Allen had kicked around the idea of a rom-com about an Englishman (Colin Firth) who sets out to expose a phony mystic (Emma Stone), only to end up falling for her. ''I had it on a piece of notepaper in my drawer for ages,'' Allen says. ''I knew it was a good plot, but I kept seeing it as a contemporary thing and something about that just didn't smell right to me. Then when it occurred to me it could be set in the south of France in the 1920s, all of a sudden it just felt good.''
For Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Stone's mother and co-conspirator, shooting a Woody Allen film on the French Riviera certainly sounded good. ''It was a no-brainer,'' she says. ''Working with Woody has been on my bucket list for years, and there's nothing I love more than travel.'' Allen is practically a travel pro; Magic is his eighth film shot overseas in the past decade. ''By sheer accident, because I was getting European financing,'' he says, ''I've wound up being a foreign filmmaker.'' —Josh Rottenberg
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Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1)
If The Avengers are Marvel's equivalent of a rock supergroup — think Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young but with six-packs — then what does that make the Guardians of the Galaxy? ''We're the Sex Pistols,'' says Zoe Saldana. ''We're the renegades. We'll come in drunk, we'll save the day, but check your wallet — we might have taken it.''
Not only are the Guardians less well-known than the likes of Iron Man and the Hulk, but the movie introducing them is set almost entirely in spaceships and on distant planets. They're also just plain weird. Saldana plays the green-skinned assassin Gamora, wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista is the gray-skinned behemoth Drax the Destroyer, and Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt is the self-proclaimed Star-Lord, Peter Quill. The other two? Well, that's where it gets very...CG. Bradley Cooper voices a genetically enhanced raccoon-like creature named Rocket, and Vin Diesel breathes vocal life into a walking tree, Groot. Says Diesel, ''Groot's a bad mofo from Planet X.''
And the supporting characters are a freak show all their own: the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), Nebula (Doctor Who's Karen Gillan), and the Collector (Benicio del Toro). Finally, there's Marvel's baddest bad guy, Thanos (no word yet on who will be playing the motion-capture character, but director James Gunn describes him as ''the head of the snake.'')
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige admits that this tale of obscure, off-kilter superheroes represents its biggest roll of the dice since the original Iron Man. ''But we like that the Guardians are unfamiliar to people,'' he says. ''I didn't know who Indiana Jones was before I went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark as a kid. I didn't know who Luke Skywalker was. Really, it's about making a great movie.'' —Clark Collis
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Get On Up (Aug. 1)
When word got around that Hollywood was tackling the story of Godfather of Soul James Brown, Chadwick Boseman kept his head down. The actor had just taken on a giant with his stoic and elegant turn as Jackie Robinson in 42. ''Somebody said something to me about the script and I was like, 'No, I'm not going to even read it,''' says Boseman. ''It felt like one of those roles that nobody should try, ever. And I had just gone through so much scrutiny doing a biopic. Nope, I'm not doing that.''
But director Tate Taylor, who proved himself an agile storyteller on matters of race and regionality in The Help, was a winning pitchman. ''I never thought I would be doing a biopic because so often they're by-the-numbers,'' says Taylor. ''But when I dug in, I started to discover the good and bad of James Brown. A lot of the younger generation think of him as Eddie Murphy on SNL. But this guy was a stud!'' Even so, Boseman wasn't convinced until he watched his screen-test performance of ''Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud.'' ''I needed to see the wig,'' he says with a laugh. ''I needed to see myself on stage.''
The actor had no trouble tapping into his funky side. ''Oh my God, he's sexy, let me tell you,'' says Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar as a feisty maid in The Help and plays Brown's aunt Honey, the no-nonsense brothel owner who takes the young boy in after his mother (Viola Davis, another Help alum) abandons him. Spencer says she actually mistook Boseman's screen test for documentary footage. ''Chad can do all of it,'' she says. ''When he pops down in that split, he can pop right back up.'' —Karen Valby
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What If (Aug. 1)
Daniel Radcliffe plays Wallace, a med-school dropout still reeling from a breakup when he meets — and hits it off with — a quirky animator (Zoe Kazan). The hitch? She already has a boyfriend (Rafe Spall). Still, the two build a platonic bond through clever dialogue, which was mostly improvised on set. ''A lot of the movie is our characters making each other laugh, and in those moments, I'd focus on saying whatever I thought would crack Zoe up most,'' says Radcliffe. ''Wallace's sense of humor is closer to my own than any character I've played.'' —Pamela Gocobachi
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Child of God (Aug. 1)
Jerry (James Franco), a member of the vigilante mob hunting down Lester Ballard (Scott Haze), the murderer and necrophiliac at the heart of Cormac McCarthy's pitch-black 1973 novel. Franco, who previously adapted difficult literary source material with his version of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, also has writing and directing credits on the film. Said the multi-hyphenate, ''The question is: How do I make this movie watchable? He's out in the woods, killing people and having relations with the bodies. It's not a walk in the park.'' —Keith Staskiewicz
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Aug. 8)
What could possibly entice Megan Fox to sign up for another effects-heavy production from Michael Bay (her Transformers director, with whom she notoriously feuded)? Let's just say that martial arts aren't the only strengths of a certain quartet of mutant turtles named for Renaissance artists and made famous by a 1980s animated series. ''Michelangelo was my first crush,'' says Fox, who plays TV-news reporter and Turtles ally April O'Neil in the modern-day reboot. ''I just loved that he didn't take himself too seriously. He kind of embodied the free spirit that I recognized in myself.'' (As for working with Bay again, the actress calls the reunion ''lovely.'')
The Turtles are all CG this time, and Fox's April swaps her '80s yellow jumpsuit for a leather jacket and skinny jeans. ''I'm completely clothed for the entire movie,'' she adds — a departure for a star known for scantily clad sexpot roles. Her makeover isn't restricted to her clothes. ''She's more of a leader instead of just a companion along for the adventure,'' she says. And cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) is more wisecracking, less wimpy. Although he played Batman in The LEGO Movie, Arnett admits he felt skittish about shooting ''pretty death-defying'' live-action fight scenes: ''I gotta protect the face.'' —Nina Terrero
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The Hundred-Foot Journey (Aug. 8)
It's curry versus coq au vin in The Hundred-Foot Journey, a culture-clash tale directed by Lasse Hallström, who last dipped into the foodie-film genre with his 2000 confection Chocolat. Produced by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and Juliet Blake, and based on the novel by Richard C. Morais, the movie tells the story of the Kadams, an Indian family that opens a restaurant in rural France just 100 feet from a Michelin-starred establishment owned by a haughty haute cuisiniste (Helen Mirren). She is, to put it mildly, not impressed with their boisterous Bollywood-style eatery. Their rivalry escalates until young cook Hassan (Manish Dayal) and sous-chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) fuse their cultures as they would flavors in a five-star entrée. ''It's a bit of a fable, but a fable that wants to be realistically told,'' Hallström says. ''It's a melting pot of languages, of food, and of people.''
For the director, the most rewarding part of making the movie came when he got to work directly with Spielberg after wrapping. ''It's like a dream of mine,'' Hallström says. ''To have him sit next to me in the editing room and give me comments on the film was just heavenly.'' Kind of like perfectly cooked chicken tikka...or duck à l'orange. —Nina Terrero
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Let's Be Cops (Aug. 13)
We all know crime doesn't pay, but apparently neither does fake crime-fighting. In this action comedy, Jake Johnson and his New Girl costar Damon Wayans Jr. team up to play a pair of aimless dudes who, after dressing up as police officers for a costume party, keep up the lame badge act long after they should have called it quits. Turns out they're not very adept at answering actual distress calls and busting real bad guys. Good news: They are very, very dirty. ''What I really want people to know is that this movie is a hard R,'' Johnson says. ''We go for it.'' —Andrea Towers
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The Giver (Aug. 15)
Director Phillip Noyce knows fans are obsessive about The Giver, Lois Lowry's 1993 novel about a dystopia where people see in black and white and only the Giver (Jeff Bridges) is aware of human history. Noyce has already gotten heat for aging the Giver's protégé, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), from 12 to 16. When the first trailer hit last month, devotees cringed at the full-color scenes, the fighter planes, and the imagery that wasn't in Lowry's book. ''Any adaptation involves change,'' says Noyce, noting that Lowry signed off on all tweaks. Adds Bridges: ''The spirit of the story is there.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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The Expendables 3 (Aug. 15)
In the action threequel, Sylvester Stallone's mercenary leader Barney Ross faces a new foe, Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). ''Conrad is a former member of the Expendables,'' explains director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill). ''There's a dark history between the pair.'' Other well-known newcomers to the already star-larded franchise include Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, and Harrison Ford, who plays a mysterious CIA type. Last August, Stallone tweeted that Ford was ''in'' but Expendables two-timer Bruce Willis was ''out,'' and then slammed the Die Hard star as ''greedy and lazy.'' Hughes coyly claims ignorance of the flap. ''I wasn't aware — what did he tweet?'' he says, laughing. ''I could run for Congress, couldn't I?'' —Clark Collis
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Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Aug. 22)
Sin City redefined noir aesthetics with its stylized broads and nebulous con men. Now, nine years and a hundred rip-offs later, comics legend Frank Miller and codirector Robert Rodriguez are pushing the visual envelope into three dimensions. ''I was resistant to 3-D at first till I saw what [Rodriguez] had in mind,'' says Miller. Adds Rodriguez: ''It feels like you are really in Sin City. When you look down at your wrist and your hand, you expect that to be black and white too.''
Joining familiar faces like Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke in the film's four vignettes are newcomers Eva Green as a femme fatale, Lady Gaga in a mysterious role, and Josh Brolin, replacing Clive Owen as PI Dwight McCarthy. Jessica Alba returns as a hardened exotic dancer. ''A girl who's dancing for the first time is different from the girl who's still doing it in the same scummy bars 10 years later,'' says Alba. ''She kind of goes psychotic.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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When the Game Stands Tall (Aug. 22)
For 12 years, De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., never lost a football game. Then, in 2004, the record-breaking streak ended. When the Game Stands Tall, based on Neil Hayes' nonfiction book, details how the Spartans fought their way back: by learning to love the game more than the win. Jim Caviezel plays the head coach, Bob Ladouceur; Laura Dern, his wife. ''I encouraged [the cast] to talk to their counterparts,'' says director Thomas Carter (Swing Kids), who cast The Shield's Michael Chiklis as assistant coach Terry Edison. ''Michael was thrilled when Terry came on set. He would go up to Terry, asking him how he would say a line.'' Even acting takes teamwork. —Jake Perlman
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If I Stay (Aug. 22)
Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) is not your usual teenage heroine. For one thing, the 17-year-old cellist is comatose after a car accident that killed her parents. In the adaptation of Gayle Forman's 2009 YA best-seller, the story turns on whether she will keep fighting for her life — including her romance with a young singer-guitarist (Jamie Blackley) — or let it all slip away. Portraying Mia in this in-between state was a challenge for documentary director R.J. Cutler (The September Issue). ''She's not transparent. She doesn't walk through the walls,'' he says. ''We used sound, costume, performance, and Steadicam so you connect with the spirit Mia in a real, grounded way.'' —Nicole Sperling