From Harry Potter to Capt. Jack Sparrow, here's your week-to-week guide to all the season's new movies

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Starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin
Directed by Jodie Foster
Rated PG-13
Release Date May 6

To prepare for The Beaver, a dramedy about a suicidal man who starts speaking through a beaver puppet on his left hand, Mel Gibson decided to go Method. ”I’d put the puppet on and go to the dry cleaner and stuff,” the star told EW on the set in October 2009. ”The beaver would talk to people: ‘Could you alter my suits?’ The way people would react to it — they don’t know who to look at. They’d wonder if there was a reality TV camera around.” —Benjamin Svetkey


Starring Rutger Hauer
Directed by Jason Eisener
Rated Not rated
Release Date May 6

This berserkly violent paean to low-budget ’80s actionfests began life in the spring of 2007 when Canadian director Jason Eisener entered a fake-trailer contest set up by Robert Rodriguez to promote Grindhouse. Almost three years after winning, Eisener bagged real-life low-budget ’80s action star Rutger Hauer to play the homeless vigilante in a feature-length version. Eisener hopes the film will beget more hobo Mayhem: ”I’d love to make a trilogy.” Hobo With Two Shotguns, anyone? —Clark Collis


Starring Paula Patton, Angela Bassett
Directed by Salim Akil
Rated PG-13
Release Date May 6

Two headstrong African-American families — one upper-crust, the other working-class — collide at a Martha’s Vineyard wedding in the second producing effort from popular pastor T.D. Jakes (the first was 2009’s Taraji P. Henson starrer Not Easily Broken). ”It’s a really open-minded faith movie,” says Paula Patton (Precious), who plays the cultured bride (the groom is Avatar‘s Laz Alonzo). ”You don’t feel hit over the head with it.” While the couple’s battling mothers, Angela Bassett (hers) and Loretta Devine (his), provide the film’s gravitas, many of Jumping the Broom‘s laughs come from Modern Family costar Julie Bowen’s silly turn as a racially clueless wedding planner. ”She killed it,” says Patton. ”We were allowed to improv, and she just went nuts. We’d all have to hold our mouths until they yelled ‘Cut.”’ —Dave Karger


Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson
Directed by Luke Greenfield
Rated PG-13
Release Date May 6

A heroine doesn’t usually fall into bed — or in love — with the fiancé of her best friend. But in Something Borrowed, based on Emily Giffin’s 2004 best-seller, audiences will be rooting for the man stealer, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a good-girl singleton who has played second fiddle to the dynamic yet egotistical Darcy (Kate Hudson) since childhood. ”The film poses the question, If it is true love, do all the rules and your moral code go out the window?” says Hudson, who couldn’t resist the challenge of playing prickly Darcy. ”She’s a very fun character. She’s so self-centered but still the life of the party. It lent itself to some good comedic things for me to play.”

To prepare for the shoot, director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door) watched plenty of female-driven films, such as Beaches. His discovery? ”Women’s friendships are a lot more complicated than guys’,” he says. ”The male version of Something Borrowed would be one page long, and it would have one guy punch the other in the face and say, ‘Dude, don’t f—ing do that again.”’ Now, where’s the fun in that? —Sara Vilkomerson


Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Rated PG-13
Release Date May 6

First off, he’s not really a god. At least, he’s no more of a god than, say, Superman, who also hailed from a remote celestial world populated by high-powered pseudo-humans. But he still has a lot to learn about mortals when he plummets to Earth via a wormhole that links his home planet, Asgard, with ours, after his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), casts him out for his arrogance and belligerence. (Odin hopes his son will learn humility among the earthlings.) ”It is a kind of coming-of-age story. He has this great gift, this great strength, and pointed in the wrong direction it can be quite destructive,” says star Chris Hemsworth. ”He’s working out his relationship with the rest of the world, as well as what his responsibility is to it.”

Odin also strips Thor of his hammer, the source of his power, and sends it to Earth separately. It remains mystically locked to the ground, giving the plot an Arthurian ”sword in the stone” element. Thor can still throw a mean punch, but until he proves himself worthy of reclaiming his hammer, he remains just a man. That makes him vulnerable both to his malevolent younger brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who’s willing to wipe out Earth to become his father’s sole heir, and to the charms of a comely astrophysicist (Natalie Portman). ”It’s an origin story in a unique fashion,” says Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios. ”Thor is a hero who had powers his whole life, didn’t know how — or when — to use them, loses them, and because of that now needs to learn again.” —Anthony Breznican


Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm
Directed by Paul Feig
Rated R
Release Date May 13

Though the trailer for Bridesmaids makes it look like the female equivalent of The Hangover, director Paul Feig believes his film occupies territory of its own. ”It’s a new genre that I like to call a ‘sismance,”’ says Feig, who along with Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow is responsible for the beloved cult series Freaks and Geeks. ”I wish that it was a more elegant word. A ‘galmance’?”

Whatever the term, Bridesmaids is definitely a female-centric story. Kristen Wiig stars as a forever-single failed cake-shop owner whose bond with her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is strained when Lillian gets engaged. ”Her one friend that she had with her throughout being single is getting married,” explains Wiig, who co-wrote the script with Annie Mumolo. ”So she’s feeling not just the loss of that friendship but, What am I supposed to do now? But in a funny way! It’s about losing your friend in a really funny way!”

Luckily, the two stars were already pals from their days on SNL. ”We only overlapped for a short time, but there are those people you instantly click with,” says Wiig of Rudolph. The cast also includes Damages‘ Rose Byrne as an uppity bridesmaid, Mike & Molly‘s Melissa McCarthy as Lillian’s scene-stealing future sister-in-law, and Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm as Wiig’s sleazy on-again, off-again boyfriend. The movie opens with a hilarious montage of Wiig and Hamm in a series of uncomfortable sex positions. ”When we got Hamm on board, we didn’t really even fully have his character fleshed out,” says Wiig. ”Then he showed up and it’s like, ‘Okay, take your clothes off…and we’re doing a sex scene!’ We had so much fun trying to think of ways he could just throw me around.” Sounds like a tough day at the office. —Tim Stack


Starring Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall
Directed by Dan Rush
Rated R
Release Date May 13

Loosely based on a Raymond Carver short story, the bittersweet comedy Everything Must Go follows a man (Will Ferrell) who comes home one day to find that his wife (who remains unseen in the film) has locked him out of the house and put all his possessions on the front lawn. He decides to transform his predicament into a yard sale and starts to unload all the detritus of his life. ”I can kind of relate,” says Ferrell. ”I’ve got all this stuff from movies that I don’t know what to do with, just boxed in the attic. It sometimes feels like an episode of Hoarders.” —Keith Staskiewicz


Starring Paul Bettany, Lily Collins, Maggie Q
Directed by Scott Stewart
Rated PG-13
Release Date May 13

Set during the aftermath of a human-versus-vampire war, Priest follows a former supersoldier (Paul Bettany) who comes out of retirement to rescue his niece (Lily Collins) from blood-sucking captors. For one scene in the action thriller, Bettany had to don a harness with wires and leap from a motorbike onto a train going 50 miles per hour. ”I thought, ‘This is really cool, f—ing terrifying, and a really weird way to earn your money,”’ says the actor, who also wielded daggers and a handful of ninja throwing stars for the role. ”It was amazing to be involved with a production of that size with that many toys.” —Bryan Lufkin


Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates
Directed by Woody Allen
Rated PG-13
Release Date May 20

Try as we might, we couldn’t get Woody Allen to spill much about the plot of his 42nd film. ”People think I’m being secretive, but it would be like if you bought a book and I told you, ‘Oh, I read that book, here’s what happens,’ ” he says. ”I mean, this isn’t Psycho, where no one will be seated after it starts. It’s just the less you know, the more enjoyable it is.”

Here’s what we could sleuth out: Owen Wilson stars as a writer who travels to the City of Light with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams). During an evening stroll, something enchanting, mystical, and utterly incroyable happens to him. Allen’s the first to admit that Wilson isn’t his typical alter ego. ”He seems like he’d be more natural with a surfboard in his hand,” Allen says. ”I knew I’d have to rewrite the script a bit, but it was worth it. Owen has a real comic flair.”

One thing the writer-director will discuss is his affinity for shooting movies abroad. ”They don’t have a studio system in Europe, and [producers there] don’t fancy themselves as collaborators,” he says. ”They just put up the money. Plus, these are cities that are a real joy to be in for a few months with my family. It’s not like I would make one in the Sudan.” So much for Vicky Cristina Khartoum. —Chris Nashawaty


Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane
Directed by Rob Marshall
Rated PG-13
Release Date May 20

Those who know the backstory of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now understand that you need to be very brave, or very foolish, to film in a jungle. And Coppola didn’t have to deal with 3-D cameras. ”I couldn’t decide if we were stupid or pioneers,” says director Rob Marshall, who kicked off the production of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in some of Hawaii’s leafier locales before moving to L.A., Puerto Rico, and London. ”But there’s nothing like doing it for real and not being on a stage with a green screen.” Marshall (Chicago) replaces Gore Verbinski, who opted to leave the franchise after directing the first three films. Other fresh faces include Ian McShane, who plays the evil Blackbeard, and Penélope Cruz, who portrays Blackbeard’s daughter, Angelica. There is also a new quest, for the Fountain of Youth — plus zombies and mermaids.

Of course, Johnny Depp returns as Capt. Jack Sparrow, and Keith Richards reprises his role as Jack’s father. ”We needed his character back,” says Depp of Richards. ”That was one of the things I felt very strongly about.” What was it like to hang out with the Rolling Stones legend again? ”It was perfection!” laughs Depp. Marshall relished the chance to work with Richards too. ”I did not expect him to be so funny,” says the director. ”After one take I said, ‘Keith, you’re such a good actor.’ He said, ‘You should see my Hamlet!”’ —Clark Collis


Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong
Directed by Todd Phillips
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date May 26

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis are accustomed to being put in uncomfortable situations. When you’re a member of the Hangover Wolfpack, a little pain just goes with the territory. During production on the 2009 blockbuster comedy about a Las Vegas bachelor party gone horribly awry, director Todd Phillips wanted to use a real Taser gun on the actors during a scene involving schoolkids in a police station — until Warner Bros. lawyers put the kibosh on the idea. Even so, nothing could have prepared the actors for the punishing experience of filming the Hangover sequel for nearly nine weeks in sweltering, chaotic Bangkok, Thailand. ”We were shooting long f—ing days, sometimes six days a week,” says Helms. ”People would ask, ‘What are you doing on your day off?’ I’d be like, ‘My friends are going to visit this temple, but I’m just going to sleep.”’

When you’re making the follow-up to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time (worldwide total: $467.5 million), you have to raise the stakes. For Phillips, that meant finding a new locale to equal Las Vegas’ mix of danger and insanity. Hence Bangkok, where mild-mannered dentist Stu (Helms), hunky schoolteacher Phil (Cooper), and eccentric misfit Alan (Galifianakis) end up after reuniting for Stu’s wedding. This time, the epic morning after involves the missing brother (Mason Lee) of Stu’s fiancée; a drug-dealing, cigarette-smoking monkey; and the return of Ken Jeong’s criminal, Mr. Chow. ”I just pictured Stu, Alan, and Phil walking down a street in Bangkok with an elephant behind them,” Phillips says. ”That’s sort of where the whole movie came from.”

Bangkok may be one of the world’s most exotic tourist hot spots, but don’t expect a picture-postcard version of the city. ”One reason the first Hangover resonated was that, as absurd as what those guys went through was, it felt drawn in a very real world,” says Phillips. ”We really were in, like, a parking lot in Vegas — we didn’t make it look any prettier than it was. It was the same approach with the sequel.” So just how unpretty did it get in Thailand? ”We’d be on the ground, dirty, with fish blood dripping on us,” says Cooper, laughing. ”And that became normal.”

Last October, soon after shooting began, a bit of Mayhem spilled off the set when word leaked that Mel Gibson was in talks to do a cameo as a tattoo artist. With Gibson’s phone rantings to ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva having made ugly headlines that summer, some members of the cast and crew protested his casting. Within days, Gibson was out and Liam Neeson took the role. Phillips denies reports that Galifianakis was the chief instigator of the change. ”Zach is an easy target, poor guy, but it really wasn’t him,” the director says. ”It just created friction on an otherwise harmonious set. On my movies, it’s really one big family, and you don’t want to rupture that kind of family.” After all that drama, Neeson himself wound up being cut from the film due to a scheduling conflict during reshoots; he was replaced by Nick Cassavetes. (Phillips also shot down rumors of a Bill Clinton cameo — though the former president did visit the set while he was in Thailand to give a speech.)

Anticipation for The Hangover Part II certainly runs high — but Phillips, for one, welcomes the challenge of trying to top his past success. ”There’s actually more pressure on a movie like the first Hangover, when you’re standing in an alley at four in the morning in Vegas, thinking ‘God, is anybody ever going to see this movie?’ With this one, we’re making something I know people want to see. This time, the pressure is energizing.” —Josh Rottenberg


Starring Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Rated PG
Release Date May 26

By the end of the original Kung Fu Panda, Po (Jack Black) had proved himself as the new Dragon Warrior and, ergo, the most awesome martial-arts bear the world has ever known. But what good is knowing kung fu if its very existence is eradicated? In the sequel to the 2008 animated megahit, a heinous peacock named Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) invents a weapon that could do just that. ”This ain’t no regular peacock,” says Black. ”He’s got a crazy look in his eyes, and he’s got Gary Oldman’s brain, which is terrifying in and of itself.”

To overthrow the feathery tyrant, Po and his best buds, the Furious Five, summon new allies, including the former bandit Master Croc (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and a fortune-telling goat called Soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh). Also, Po will have to unravel his own enigmatic past: Yes, we’ll finally learn how a panda came to have a goose for a father. ”That story is actually very emotional,” says director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, ”and it’ll cause some awkward moments for the two of them.” Interspecies daddy issues can be tough, even for a kung fu warrior. —John Young


Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain
Directed by Terrence Malick
Rated PG-13
Release Date May 27

Fans of Terrence Malick are a patient bunch. Nearly three years after he completed shooting on The Tree of Life, the film is finally reaching theaters — following another one of the director’s notorious editing marathons and a few distribution snags. And no one is more pleased about its release than Jessica Chastain, who stars as a 1950s housewife opposite Brad Pitt. ”I was telling people that I was working with Terrence Malick, and Brad Pitt was my husband,” she says. ”And they would look at me like, ‘Sure, you were.’ It was a very happy day when the trailer came out, because I could say, ‘I told you guys!”’

Details on the plot are scarce, but it involves the maturation of a boy named Jack (played by Sean Penn as a grown-up) as he struggles between the twin poles of his parents. ”The mother is the embodiment of grace, of selfless love and generosity,” says Chastain, who also appears in this summer’s The Debt and The Help. ”And Brad’s character is the representation of nature, this primitive form of survival of the fittest.” As rumored, the film includes a brief sequence with dinosaurs. As for the rest, filmgoers will have to wait and see. What’s a few more weeks after all this time? —Keith Staskiewicz

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Starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent
Directed by Mike Mills
Rated R
Release Date June 3

Beginners is all about fresh starts — like the one between Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), after Hal comes out of the closet at age 75. The film shuttles between Hal living as an openly gay man (then developing a terminal illness) and Oliver grieving after his father’s death but finding love with an eccentric beauty (Mélanie Laurent). The story May sound far-fetched, but it’s based on the real-life experience of writer-director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) and his father, Paul, who died in 2004. ”Our relationship went from very nice but muted straight-son-and-straight-dad to a much more wild and uncontained relationship between a straight son and a gay dad,” says Mills. ”We had lots of great arguments about love and relationships and what you can expect and what you can’t.”

Despite the intense emotions on screen, the set was a happy place. ”There was no horrible Method pain going on,” says Plummer. ”[Ewan and I] were just two old hams getting together and having fun.” There was even an on-set romance — involving the dog who plays Hal’s Jack Russell terrier, Arthur, whom Oliver inherits. ”Ewan and Cosmo really fell for each other,” says Mills. ”Ewan ended up getting a dog right after we finished.” But proving that life doesn’t completely imitate art, the actor got a poodle. —Sara Vilkomerson


Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, January Jones, Kevin Bacon
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date June 3

A prequel to the previous X-Men movies, First Class promises to resolve mysteries about the past of Professor X and his team of mutants. But fans initially just care about what that past looks like. ”People want to know if he’s bald, or if he’s in a wheelchair,” says James McAvoy, taking on the Charles Xavier role from Patrick Stewart. ”He’s not bald, though I was quite keen on getting my head shaved. And he’s not in the wheelchair, though he may be by the end of the movie.”

First Class also explores how Xavier becomes a peaceful revolutionary, leading a worldwide movement of mutants. It’s clear that he hasn’t yet grown into the wise old man Stewart portrayed. ”In [the other X-Men] movies, he’s very selfless and egoless and sexless. He’s like the personification of good,” McAvoy says. ”We just wanted to go the opposite way. We couldn’t make him a bad guy, but we’ve made him sort of amoral.” In the film, set in the early 1960s, he’s a little more reckless, dangerous, and, as the actor puts it, ”definitely no longer sexless.” He’s still best friends with future nemesis Magneto (Jane Eyre‘s Michael Fassbender), and he helps defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. ”He’s not the holistic world healer he will become,” McAvoy says. ”X-Men is always about the mutant who’s uncomfortable in his own skin. He’s just a little too pleased with who he is.” —Anthony Breznican


Starring Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Jaleel White
Directed by John Schultz
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date June 10

Judy Moody (Australian newcomer Jordana Beatty) is an imaginative third grader on a quest to have the best summer ever by becoming the first of her friends to score 100 ”thrill points.” Jaleel White — best known as Urkel on the ’90s sitcom Family Matters — plays her wacky teacher. ”[Director] John Schultz told me to try to be part Richard Pryor and part Mister Rogers,” says White. ”I don’t know what the heck that is even now, and I already completed the role.” —Maggie Pehanick


Starring Riley Griffiths, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date June 10

As a cinema-loving pop culture sponge growing up in Los Angeles in the 1970s, J.J. Abrams used to make little movies with his Super-8 camera alongside pals who would grow up to have Hollywood careers themselves, actor Greg Grunberg (Heroes) and director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield). Not long ago, the Lost co-creator came across what he calls a ”lost film” from his amateur oeuvre featuring another famous Friend. ”It starred Greg Grunberg and David Schwimmer. I totally forgot making it,” says Abrams. ”It was about a kid who finds this bizarre alien thing — so I guess you can say it was a precursor to Super 8.”

With the third film of his adult directing career, the helmer of Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek has created an ode to a childhood spent making and watching movies. Set in 1979 in an Ohio steel town Abrams named ”Lillian,” after his grandmother, Super 8 follows a group of teenagers growing up geeky before geeky became cool. Newcomer Riley Griffiths plays strong-willed Charles, the budding auteur, and Joel Courtney plays his quiet, loyal best friend, Joe, who crushes on rebellious Alice (Somewhere‘s Elle Fanning). One night while making a zombie flick, they witness — and nearly get killed by — a derailed train carrying cargo from Nevada’s famed Area 51. Some creature of possible extraterrestrial origins breaks free, and all sorts of otherworldly hell break loose. ”When I was a kid, I was always doing violent, crazy, dangerous things on film, whether it was blowing things up, or fight scenes, or makeup effects,” says Abrams. ”I thought it would be fun — and funny — to tell a coming-of-age story about being that age, at that time, making movies.”

Abrams began discussing the idea with Steven Spielberg — who also, famously, made Super-8 films as a kid — but Abrams says the project really jelled when he decided to combine the nostalgic story of young filmmakers with another idea he’d already pitched to Paramount: a monster movie set in a Midwestern town, inspired by the genre films he loved as a kid, like Jaws, An American Werewolf in London, and Halloween. ”I thought, ‘Let’s mix the chocolate and peanut butter together,”’ he says. ”And suddenly there was a concoction that I was really excited about.”

Abrams, who shot Super 8 last fall in West Virginia and Los Angeles, sought to synthesize a variety of tones — humor, heart, horror — and feature relatable, emotionally complex characters. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) plays the town’s deputy, a grieving widower struggling to connect with his son, Joe. ”It very much has the vibe of those early Spielberg films that capture the way people live even as they’re cracking open your skull and capturing your imagination,” says Chandler, who grooved on Super 8‘s meticulous re-creation of late-’70s culture, from cars to clothes to haircuts. ”My character’s son is 14 in the film,” says the actor, ”and it so happens that in 1979, I was also 14. Being on that set, in his room, it just took me back.” Expect a Farrah pinup — or, knowing Abrams, a Star Wars poster or two. Or eight. —Jeff Jensen


Starring Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts
Directed by Gavin Wiesen
Rated PG-13
Release Date June 17

In writer-director Gavin Wiesen’s anti-Gossip Girl take on NYC high school dramas, Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) plays an artistically inclined teen who faces expulsion unless he completes a year’s worth of assignments in three weeks. He finds motivation in a popular classmate (Scream 4‘s Emma Roberts). Highmore, a London native, mastered an American accent for the role, practicing on set and off. Roberts didn’t hear her costar’s true voice until seeing him at Sundance this year: ”I was like, ‘I can’t even believe how British you are!”’ —Stephan Lee


Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins
Directed by Martin Campbell
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date June 17

Blake Lively is not what you’d call a comic-book nerd — shocker, we know — so when the prospect of starring as aerospace exec Carol Ferris in Green Lantern first cropped up, she wasn’t sure what to make of it. ”I’d actually never heard of Green Lantern at all, which is probably terrible to say,” Lively admits. ”Then I got on the set of Gossip Girl and told a couple of crew members I was doing this movie, and they were freaking out.” Indeed, to legions of fans, Green Lantern is a beloved character with a legacy stretching back seven decades. The hero, played by Ryan Reynolds in the film, is a green-suited interstellar space cop who keeps the universe safe from the likes of telekinetic villain Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard). To lure an audience beyond the comic-book contingent, director Martin Campbell hopes to successfully blend eye-popping sci-fi adventure with the sort of gut-punching action he delivered in the James Bond films GoldenEye and Casino Royale. ”I’m always skeptical when I see a superhero movie where someone is thrown 100 yards into a brick wall and briefly shakes his head,” Campbell says. ”In our movie, when people get hit, they get hurt.” Just ask Reynolds, who was put through the wringer on set in the name of realism, shot 300 feet into the air on wires and propelled at 60 feet per second to create the illusion of flight. ”I started screaming the most random thoughts,” says Reynolds. ”Something about owning my own dolphin, I remember, and something about Alan Thicke. All I could do was laugh.” —Josh Rottenberg


Starring Jim carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury
Directed by Mark Waters
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date June 17

It’s been 17 years since Jim Carrey became a superstar by talking to the animals, and the actor’s out to show that he still has a way with the critters. Loosely based on the 1938 children’s-book classic Mr. Popper’s Penguins, the film tells the story of New York real estate developer Tom Popper (Carrey), who has sacrificed his family and moral compass to get ahead. But then he receives an unexpected gift from his estranged father that resets that compass: six gentoo penguins.

”Jim’s one of the few actors who actually relishes working with animals,” says director Mark Waters (Mean Girls), who borrowed Popper’s pint-size tuxedoed costars while they were en route from an exhibit in Montreal back to their home in Hong Kong. ”People think of Jim Carrey as the king of improv. And it’s true, whatever those penguins gave him he’d find a way to use.” Well, almost. Waters says there were some scenes his leading man forced him to junk. ”He’d be like, ‘I did a bit just like this in Ace Ventura, we can’t do it!”’ Then again, that film was a massive hit. Maybe audiences wouldn’t mind seeing the talking-butt joke again. —Chris Nashawaty


Starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Rated R
Release Date June 24

Last fall, Justin Timberlake told EW that Cameron Diaz, as the world’s worst educator in Bad Teacher, reminded him of Bill Murray. Now he’s taking it a step further: ”No one else in the world can do what she did in this movie. Not even Bill Murray. It’s just one of a kind.” For Diaz, the gleefully dark tale of a misanthrope who neglects her seventh-grade charges while keeping alcohol and pot in the classroom is the closest she’s come to revisiting the comedic sensibility of 1998’s There’s Something About Mary. ”There’s the same irreverence,” she says, ”the blatant disregard for anybody’s feelings. We’re not solving any problems or making any statements here. We just made a movie to make people laugh. Period.”

Timberlake, Diaz’s real-life ex-boyfriend, plays a newly arrived substitute teacher caught between Diaz and her nemesis (Dinner for Schmucks‘ Lucy Punch). ”The tone of this movie was so specific and so weird,” Timberlake says. ”I kept asking, ‘How can I make this more weird?”’ Well, for one thing, Timberlake’s dorky character croons a self-penned love song called ”Simpatico” that’s easily the worst tune since Rebecca Black’s ”Friday.” ”I didn’t want it to be even good enough to be able to be used in the trailer,” he says. Mission accomplished. —Dave Karger


Starring Demián Bichir, José Julián
Directed by Chris Weitz
Rated PG-13
Release Date June 24

New Moon director Chris Weitz leaves vampires behind for an intimate drama about a Mexican-born gardener (Weeds costar Demián Bichir) trying to keep his teenage son (José Julián) out of the Los Angeles gang world while avoiding possible deportation himself. ”It has as many twists and turns as a thriller,” says Weitz of the film. Already it’s generating awards buzz for Bichir, a megastar in his home country of Mexico. The story has a personal meaning for Weitz, who is one-quarter Mexican and married to a Hispanic woman. And despite its under-$10 million budget, the director insists, ”This is the biggest film I’ve ever made.” Summit Entertainment seems to recognize the drama’s potential: The indie distributor is releasing the film the same week it put out The Hurt Locker two years ago. —Dave Karger


Starring Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer
Directed by John Lasseter
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date June 24

Disney/Pixar honcho John Lasseter got the idea for a Cars sequel while traveling the globe promoting the blockbuster 2006 original. ”I kept looking out the window and found myself thinking about what Mater would do in these situations,” Lasseter recalls. ”Like how confusing the streets are in Tokyo, driving on the wrong side of the road in London, and in Italy, where the traffic signals are a mere suggestion.”

In Cars 2, provincial tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) visits all three locales to cheer on his racecar buddy Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), who’s competing in the World Grand Prix. Mater is also mistaken for an American spy and gets swept up in a mission with two British agents: a vintage sports car named Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and a high-tech coupe named Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). ”I don’t think I’ll ever look as good in a movie,” jokes Mortimer. ”I would have imagined myself as a battered old Mini.” McMissile is a stylish relic who might have felt right at home in classic ’60s spy thrillers. ”He’s very technical, like James Bond, but humble, like Harry Palmer,” says Caine, who played the latter character in five films. ”He’s a classy English car, which I think is a great compliment to me!” —John Young

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Starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts
Directed by Tom Hanks
Rated PG-13
Release Date July 1

Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is a resourceful and popular employee at a big-box retailer who gets the ax when layoffs hit (because he lacks a college degree) and sees it as just another problem that needs fixing. He enrolls in junior college and meets a grumpy professor (Julia Roberts, Hanks’ costar in 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War) and soon begins to melt her pessimism with his high-octane positivity. ”Larry chooses not to let cynicism take over, a fight that is a tough one,” says Hanks, who steps behind the camera for his first feature since 1996’s That Thing You Do!

Unlike the optimistic hero Hanks famously played in Forrest Gump, Crowne is a smart guy who has let himself settle into a rut. ”I think he blames himself for his failed marriage and is gun-shy about intimacy and the give-and-take of a relationship,” Hanks says. Roberts’ character inspires him to get over that, as well as improve his style, which could only be described as…”uncool?” says the actor. ”Yes, but he’s taking lessons from Lamar next door” (played by ultrasmooth Cedric the Entertainer).

Hanks, who co-wrote the script with My Big Fat Greek Wedding‘s Nia Vardalos, based the story on his own experiences at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif., which he attended after high school alongside retirees, housewives, and Vietnam vets. ”Our lives were in flux,” he says, ”and junior college was the departure terminal for our futures.” We’re guessing he was the only one who went on to win two Academy Awards. —Anthony Breznican


Starring Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Tyrese Gibson
Directed by Michael Bay
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date July 1

Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) may boast the résumé-enhancing experience of having saved the world twice, but he starts the third edition of the Hasbro-toy-inspired franchise unable to find a decent job. He has a new girlfriend, Carly (model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), but feels guilty about the danger she faces due to his relationship with those shape-shifting robots.

And it’s quite a bit of danger. The evil Decepticons have set their sights on Chicago, where Carly is trapped. Luckily, Sam and Maj. William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) — the foremost experts in surviving robot-on-robot carnage — are on hand to guide her through the chaos. What do the bad guys have against the Windy City? ”I don’t know if I want to say that, but the Decepticons have a plan,” says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

Director Michael Bay, who admits that 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen had an overly busy plot, wanted to fashion a tighter story in Dark of the Moon. ”It’s way more intense, and feels more real,” Bay says. ”It’s got a slow build of action, unlike on the second one, where it was just slam-bam the whole way.” The new film’s 3-D camera work also called for a steadier perspective. ”To really feel 3-D, you need to hold the shot,” Bay says.

To hold fans of the series, though, you also need souped-up hardware. Several new robots appear in Dark of the Moon, including vintage ones from the original 1980s TV show and comics. The cyclopean villain Shockwave leads an assault on Chicago (”He’s kind of an enforcer,” says Bay), and Optimus Prime’s long-lost predecessor Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) turns up in wreckage found on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. —Anthony Breznican


Starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day
Directed by Seth Gordon
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date July 8

Three pals (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day) decide that they would all be better off without their respective employers — and set out to kill their bosses one by one. ”It’s 9 to 5 meets The Hangover,” says Bateman. The nightmare bosses in question are played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston, who appears as a sexually aggressive dentist. According to Bateman, the raunchy movie ”takes full advantage of the [expected] R rating, which is always good.” —Dave Karger


Directed by James Marsh
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date July 8

The most buzzed-about documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival recounts the twisty, ultimately heartbreaking tale of a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky, who was the subject of a famous study in the 1970s to determine whether a nonhuman primate could be taught language. Oscar winner James Marsh (Man on Wire) tracked down the people who raised Nim as a human child and taught him sign language, only to find out he was becoming too difficult to handle. ”I was surprised at the strength of feeling that came out 25 or 30 years after the events in the story,” Marsh says. ”The movie is really about human behavior as much as it is about animal behavior.” —Josh Rottenberg


Starring Kevin James, Leslie Bibb, Rosario Dawson
Directed by Frank Coraci
Rated PG
Release Date July 8

In the high-concept family film Zookeeper, Kevin James stars as the title character, whose love life gets a helping hand (or paw) from the animals in his care. But for Rosario Dawson, who plays a veterinarian, seeing the finished film meant a bit of mental adjustment. While shooting at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo, she’d gotten to know the real-life animals — who in the film are voiced by a starry cast that includes Cher, Sylvester Stallone, and Judd Apatow. ”It was so weird. Like, there was this little capuchin monkey named Crystal, and then [after seeing the film] ‘Whoa, that’s Adam Sandler,”’ laughs Dawson. ”Adam Sandler is cute little Crystal?” —Sara Vilkomerson


Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by David Yates
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date July 15

The Great Hall — the cafeteria of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — is the oldest standing set inside Leavesden Studios, the drafty Harry Potter movie factory located outside London. So much drama has been staged inside its towering walls of ersatz stone over the past decade, from the ritual of the Sorting Hat to the intrigue of the Goblet of Fire. But its days are numbered. On a dreary afternoon in March 2010, the fabled hall is seeing some of its final moments of action, as is one of the characters, Severus Snape. We are witnessing the first salvo in the Battle of Hogwarts — the very beginning of the final act of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2. The Great Hall’s long tables and benches have been shoved aside for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and a small army of allies — including Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) — to rumble with Snape (Alan Rickman), the apparently loathsome professor of potions. The day’s work involves Radcliffe and Rickman exchanging a couple of snarls and threatening quips, and the stunt doubles for Rickman and Smith engaging in a wand duel that resembles an Olympic fencing match. Filming lasts late into the evening. When his part is complete, an emotional Rickman quietly acknowledges the ovation from cast and crew and quickly exits without comment.

During a break, Radcliffe takes a seat in Albus Dumbledore’s chair at the head table and shakes his head in disbelief. ”Alan Rickman’s last day. Bizarre,” he says. ”For years, we felt: ‘It’s never going to end!’ Now it’s all starting to sink in.” With his days as a boy wizard coming to a close, the young actor says one of the hardest challenges of shooting the last Harry Potter film has been relishing the moment and taking nothing for granted. ”I’ve become particularly aware on this film that I’m not always going to be able to play these action-hero-type parts,” he says. ”You really have to enjoy it, make the most of it, have fun with it.”

Fans of Harry Potter should embrace that wisdom as well, because this is it, friends. The End. The climactic installment in the biggest movie franchise in Hollywood history (total domestic gross to date: $2 billion), and the final movement in a cultural phenomenon that began in the U.K. in 1997 with the debut of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel. Part 2 — adapted from the second half of the author’s seventh novel, which was published in 2007 — finds Harry, Hermione, and Ron (Rupert Grint) preparing to take their fight to snake-snouted despot Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) after spending much of Part 1 on the run. The estimated $200 million-plus production Deathly Hallows — Part 2 begins where Part 1 left off, with Voldemort raiding Dumbledore’s tomb for the Elder Wand, one of three Deathly Hallows that can grant him immortality. Meanwhile, Harry and his friends, reeling from the heroic death of liberated house elf Dobby, are on the hunt for magical objects called Horcruxes that hold fragments of Voldemort’s soul. The quest brings them back to Hogwarts, now run by Snape following the death of Dumbledore a couple of movies ago. ”The new film is just a relentless action movie,” says Radcliffe. ”It. Just. Does. Not. Stop.”

Okay, it stops a few times — but for some of the most pivotal emotional moments in the saga. A ghostly reunion of departed friends and family. An encounter in limbo with Dumbledore’s specter (Michael Gambon), who reveals dark secrets about his past. And, of course, Ron and Hermione’s kiss. ”It has to be the most anticipated moment between the two of them in the whole series,” says Watson. ”In general, though, Part 2 is just plain hell-raising and scary. I get to get my Lara Croft on.”

Both parts of Deathly Hallows were shot simultaneously over 261 days. Keen-eyed Potterphiles will note a number of tweaks to Rowling’s climactic tale. The filmmakers have added a new structure to the sprawling Hogwarts campus — a glass boathouse where a certain iconic character will perish. (Hint: In the book, the scene takes place at the Shrieking Shack.) The final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort — a wand duel in the novel — has been expanded to include a chase through Hogwarts and a very physical brawl as the two foes ”apparate” (i.e., teleport) toward and away from each other. At one point, the rivals seem to fuse, creating a striking, symbolically loaded visual effect.

One of the trickiest sequences for the filmmakers was the movie’s epilogue, set 19 years after the heroes’ graduation from Hogwarts. Director David Yates first shot the scene during the middle of production, with the young stars wearing makeup to look like the adult versions of their characters. ”I didn’t want older actors,” says Yates. ”If you spent seven movies with these guys, you know these kids, and you want to end with them.” But looking at the footage, he felt the epilogue fell short of magical. ”We ended up with a scene that, for all sorts of reasons, not just the makeup, just didn’t work,” says the helmer. So late last December, months after the end of principal photography, Yates called the actors back for a do-over. ”We came up with a very simple solution — simple makeup, which May be enhanced slightly with special effects — that’s really charming.” According to producer David Heyman, the new epilogue also led to a change in the portion of the film that plays during the closing credits. ”We thought about a nostalgic look back at how the kids have grown over the previous films,” says the producer. ”We decided against it because this ending captures all of that.”

Of all the moments in Deathly Hallows — Part 2, the one that may exude the strongest sense of closure comes right before the epilogue, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione stand on a bridge outside Hogwarts, looking back at the school. ”I like it very much because it wasn’t just the actors playing the scene, it was the kids reflecting on growing up in this moviemaking world, and I believe a bit of that has ended up on [film],” says Yates. ”For anyone who knows them or can identify with these three, as characters or actors, it’s quite moving.”

Now they’re all moving on — into adulthood as well as to new projects. Just a year after relishing his last moments as an action hero inside the Great Hall, Radcliffe is singing and dancing on Broadway in a well-reviewed revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying — and Harry Potter already seems to be in the actor’s rearview mirror. ”My grieving period has come and gone,” Radcliffe told EW last month. ”The end of Potter is exciting in its own way…. It’s a [new] beginning for me.” For the rest of us, graduation is still a few months away. —Aubry D’Arminio


Starring Li Bingbing, Gianna Jun, Vivian Wu
Directed by Wayne Wang
Rated PG-13
Release Date July 15

Director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) returns to the world of female intimacy in his adaptation of Lisa See’s 2005 best-seller about two 19th-century Chinese girls bound by love and tradition. The story shifts between past and present Shanghai, where the women’s descendants lean equally heavily upon one another. ”It’s about friendship between women,” says Wang. ”They have emotional marriages.” Bonus: Hugh Jackman, who turns up briefly as a modern nightclub owner, has a song-and-dance number. —Karen Valby


Starring Jim Cummings, John Cleese, Craig Ferguson
Directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall
Rated G
Release Date July 15

Disney’s reboot of the beloved franchise follows the silly old bear and his pals on a day full of adventures, including the search for a new tail for Eeyore. Even at age 87, Pooh, who sings a duet with his tummy, remains a cub at heart. ”We don’t really want to see these characters change,” says Don Hall, who shares directing duties with Stephen J. Anderson. Adds Anderson: ”It’s nice to go back to a place like the Hundred Acre Wood, where problems are very small.” —John Young


Starring Brit Marling, William Mapother
Directed by Mike Cahill
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date July 22

Equal parts astronomy and philosophy, Another Earth is — like 2004’s Primer — a Sundance darling that does smart sci-fi on the cheap. The discovery of another planet identical to ours serves as the backdrop to the story of a young woman (Brit Marling) who accidentally kills a family while driving drunk. Director Mike Cahill says the film’s modest budget was a virtue, allowing him to focus on the story’s character-based sensibilities. ”If we had a huge budget, we might have been tempted to have rocket ships nuking Earth 2,” says Cahill. ”Or explosions and Will Smith in a cowboy hat and cigar rescuing everybody.” Save that for the sequel. —Keith Staskiewicz


Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones
Directed by Joe Johnston
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date July 22

When he was cast as Marvel Comics’ shield-bearing WWII-era super-soldier, Chris Evans sweated the prospect of bulking up his body to fill out the hero’s tight star-spangled threads. But he was even more concerned about how the filmmakers intended to deal with the character behind the mask — Steve Rogers, the scrawny lad with a big heart who volunteers for a top secret experiment that turns 4-H runts into Nazi-fighting studs. ”When I signed up, I thought they were going to use special effects to shrink me down,” says Evans, perhaps best known for playing another Marvel hero, the Human Torch, in two Fantastic Four films. When he heard the producers were considering using somebody else to double as Skinny Steve, Evans protested. ”Not to be an annoying actor about this, but the skinny part of the performance is going to be when the audience decides if they care about Captain America, because Captain America is that little guy at heart. It had to be me.”

In the end, the filmmakers employed a variety of techniques, and the results — showcased in the most recent trailer — are helping win over those who’ve had doubts about a period superhero flick. ”It’s a great story about a relatable guy,” says Evans. ”He’s an underdog who despite shortcomings chooses the good instead of bitterness.” The film sets up next summer’s mega-Marvel superhero ensemble The Avengers, which takes place in the present. But according to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Captain America creates a world that will allow for more WWII-era flicks with the hero.

In this first screen outing, Cap battles the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a Nazi weapons genius who goes rogue to pursue his own plans for world domination. In spite of the hero’s all-American name, director Joe Johnston insists his film isn’t celluloid propaganda (in a few foreign markets, though, it will be titled The First Avenger). ”If you want to root for the red, white, and blue, that’s great, but that wasn’t our primary focus,” he says. ”We’re here to entertain with a hero anyone, anywhere can find inspiring.” —Jeff Jensen


Starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis
Directed by Will Gluck
Rated R
Release Date July 22

In the latest buddies-who-boink romantic comedy following Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman’s No Strings Attached, an executive headhunter (Mila Kunis) tries for a sex-only relationship with a hunky new hire (Justin Timberlake). ”The only way we all agreed to do the movie, and what interested us all, was that it had to be real. And real means [rated] R,” says writer-director Will Gluck (Easy A). The stars spent three straight weeks between the sheets, shooting scenes of comically frank friskiness. ”I got used to showing up to work at 5 a.m. and having my makeup artist put me in my little pasties and airbrush me, and then walking to set and dropping my robe,” says Kunis. Timberlake wasn’t quite as blasé about baring all. ”I’m trying to cut down my ass time [in the film],” he says. ”I’m slowly chipping away in the editing room every time I can get on the Sony lot. Because it’s my ass, dude!” Security, for fans’ sake, please escort Mr. Timberlake off the lot. —Adam Markovitz


Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Directed by Jon Favreau
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date July 29

Think Indiana Jones meets James Bond. With cowboy hats and six-shooters. And the actress who plays Thirteen on Fox’s House. And a battalion of high-powered producers (Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer, to name a few). And, of course, aliens. Put that all together, and what you’ve got is this summer’s highest-concept tentpole — a sci-fi Western called Cowboys & Aliens.

Daniel Craig plays Jake Lonergan, a gunslinger in 1875 Arizona who wakes up in the desert with a mysterious shackle around his wrist and his memory wiped clean. When he wanders into a small pioneer town called Absolution, he runs into Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), an old enemy Lonergan doesn’t remember, and Olivia Wilde’s Ella, a beautiful gold digger — as in, prospector. All three reluctantly join forces when aliens swoop in and start abducting townspeople. ”But they don’t know that they’re aliens,” explains director Jon Favreau, who passed on making a third Iron Man movie in part to do this estimated $100 million film. ”In the 1800s, nobody knows what aliens are. They think they’re demons.”

This sort of genre mashing is pretty trendy these days. There’s a movie in the works based on that best-selling novel about Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter, as well as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But Cowboys & Aliens was actually way ahead of this pop culture curve. The premise and catchy title have been floating around Hollywood since Men in Black creator Scott Mitchell Rosenberg released a graphic novel called Cowboys & Aliens in 2006. ”We saw it on a list of old projects laying dormant in development and brought it to DreamWorks three years ago,” recalls Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote the script with Roberto Orci (they’re the team who helped J.J. Abrams reboot Star Trek). ”And it just so happened that the week we brought it to the studio, Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard were having lunch and talking about how they wanted to do a movie together.”

The idea that Kurtzman and Orci had seen on that old development list was more of a comedy in the Men in Black vein. What the writers ended up pitching — and what caught Howard’s and Spielberg’s attention — was a tonally deadpan thriller that addresses both the Western and alien genres on their own terms, without any winking. ”The key to the whole thing was not to have it play like camp,” says Orci, ”even if the title suggested camp.” However, Kurtzman adds, ”we didn’t want to lose the title. It was just too sticky.”

Originally, Robert Downey Jr. was attached to play Lonergan, but he dropped out because of a scheduling conflict with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, leaving the part open for Craig, who was looking for something to do while the next Bond movie was being sorted out. Ford came aboard later, thanks to some coaxing by his old Indy director, Steven Spielberg. ”We didn’t think he’d do it,” says Kurtzman. ”When Harrison’s agent called to say he was interested, we thought somebody was playing a joke.”

Not surprisingly, Spielberg and Howard aimed their producing powers at different aspects of the story. ”I was more involved with the Western elements,” says Howard, who not only directed a Western (2003’s The Missing) but also starred in one (as a young actor, Howard rode alongside John Wayne in 1976’s The Shootist). ”I was the one pressing on the authenticity and plausibility of the West. And Steven — nobody understands aliens and sci-fi quite the way he does.” —Benjamin Svetkey


Starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Rated R
Release Date July 29

When Steve Carell was casting the ensemble film Crazy, Stupid, Love (which he also produced), he wasn’t convinced that Ryan Gosling had the comedy chops to play Jacob, the lady-killer who mentors suburban dad Cal (Carell) after Cal’s wife (Julianne Moore) cheats on him. ”Before I met Ryan, I thought, ‘Fantastic actor, but he May turn out to be one of these moody, Method guys,”’ admits Carell. ”But he’s not that way at all. He’s really playful and fun. And terrific at improv.”

Cal and Jacob form an unlikely bond while Cal is rebounding from his wife’s infidelity and Jacob is wooing a cautious law student (Emma Stone). ”It’s uncomfortable territory for a romantic comedy,” says codirector John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris). ”The thing about this script is it really represents love in all its comedic ugliness.” Which makes Carell, master of the awkward laugh, a perfect choice to play the lead. ”Steve’s got a unique gift, because he can really show the humiliation of being this guy who’s thrust into the dating world again, and still make it funny,” says Requa. ”You want him to succeed, but you enjoy watching him squirm a little bit.” Or, if we’re lucky, a lot. —Adam Markovitz


Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Hank Azaria
Directed by Raja Gosnell
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date July 29

It’s about smurfing time! The iconic blue clan make their first big-screen appearance since 1983’s The Smurfs and the Magic Flute. A mix of live action and CG animation, the story starts in the Middle Ages, when the maladroit sorcerer Gargamel (Hank Azaria) finally discovers the location of Smurf Village. A chase ensues, ending with six Smurfs (plus Gargamel) getting sucked into a magical portal and winding up where all magical portals inevitably lead: New York City.

The transplanted Smurfs — Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy, Gutsy, Brainy, and Smurfette — are temporarily adopted by a married couple (Neil Patrick Harris and Glee‘s Jayma Mays), who vow to help the wee ones get back home. Easier said than done.

One big challenge for the human cast was shooting scenes opposite cartoons. ”They’d put a sticker where each Smurf would be so that your eye line would match, and there were literally hundreds of stickers all around the room,” says Mays. ”I thought I was going crazy.” For his part, Harris found himself easily distracted by working with Mays. ”I wanted us to have a kind of 1940s quick-witted dialogue with each other, and Jayma’s caustic, funny, and incredibly beautiful,” says Harris. ”She made me wish I was straighter.” —John Young

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Starring Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by David Dobkin
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date August 5

Jason Bateman knows what you’re thinking. Another body-swapping movie? Really? He had precisely that reaction too. ”But in the same sentence that I was told what the movie is about,” he recalls, ”they said, ‘But the guys who wrote The Hangover wrote it, and the guy who directed Wedding Crashers is directing it.’ And I thought, ‘Ah, I get it.’ Because no one’s ever done the R-rated version of that story.” Well, they have now. Instead of family-friendly mother-daughter high jinks, the mischief involves a womanizing bachelor (Ryan Reynolds) who trades bodies with his married pal (Bateman) — and may even get it on with his pal’s wife. ”They each covet the other person’s life,” says Reynolds. What’s the cause of the magical swap? ”As you typically do when you switch bodies with your best buddy, we were pissing in a fountain that happened to contain mystical powers,” he says. ”It’s preposterous. It’s just the stupidest thing ever, but it’s all in the execution.” For Bateman, who’s made a career out of playing responsible, put-upon heroes, The Change-Up offers an opportunity to channel his rowdier side. ”I remember that guy from my 20s,” he says. ”I just had to dust him off a little bit and away we went.” And what was it like to essentially play Ryan Reynolds in a movie? ”Never have I felt prettier.” —Dave Karger


Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis
Directed by Rupert Wyatt Rated Not yet rated
Release Date August 5

More than 40 years ago, Charlton Heston pounded the sands of Point Dume and bemoaned the folly of humankind, shouting, ”You maniacs! You blew it up!” But in the 2011 prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the world ends instead with a rebellion. Coming off his controversial Oscar-hosting gig, James Franco plays a scientist whose genetically enhanced subject, Caesar (Andy Serkis, who did similar motion-capture work as King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 film), tires of his shabby treatment and transforms into a sort of Chimp Guevara, a revolutionary who prompts the world’s apes to overthrow their human oppressors. The apes haven’t fully evolved into humanoids, so the film depicts them with CGI rather than the franchise’s trademark makeup. ”Because effects have gotten so good,” says Franco of acting with a motion-capped Serkis, ”it’s like working opposite an actual chimp, but with all the best instincts of an actor.”

Caesar’s uprising starts off small, as he directs his captive brethren to flee the research facility. ”It becomes in many ways like an escape movie,” says director Rupert Wyatt, who would know, having directed 2009’s The Escapist. Along the way, Caesar enlists the help of Maurice, an orangutan who knows sign language, and a big bruiser of a chimp named Rocket. ”They all have very distinctive looks and qualities to them,” says Wyatt. ”It’s an A-Team of apes.” —Keith Staskiewicz


Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date August 12

See if you can follow this: A dim-witted goon named Dwayne (Danny McBride) needs money to hire a hitman (Michael Peña) to knock off his dad (Fred Ward), who’s about to piss away the family fortune he won in a lottery jackpot. So Dwayne straps a bomb onto Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), an unsuspecting pizza-delivery guy, and forces him to rob a bank. Still with us? According to director Ruben Fleischer, the zany, curlicue plot of 30 Minutes or Less is the key to its appeal. ”It’s not the first-ever bank-heist movie, but at the same time it’s not predictable,” he says. ”Just when you think you know where it’s headed, it goes in a different direction.”

Some of those directions lead Eisenberg’s Everydude to finally confront his own unrealized goals, including a romance with the sister (Dilshad Vadsaria) of his best friend (Aziz Ansari). ”My character spends the first 25 years of his life being lazy, and then one day making up for it,” says Eisenberg, who appeared in Fleischer’s 2009 movie, Zombieland. ”He has this extreme experience and uses that day to correct all the mistakes he’s made.”

30 Minutes also let Eisenberg realize one of his secret goals — working with comic Nick Swardson (Just Go With It), who plays McBride’s partner in crime. ”I’ve had a head shot of Nick up in my bedroom since I was 14,” admits Eisenberg. ”I saw him on a TV show called Make Me Laugh. I watched it over and over and memorized his stand-up comedy.” So how did Swardson react when Eisenberg shared his fan behavior? ”Nick was very, um, flattered and very sweet. And creeped out.” —Adam Markovitz


Starring Katie Holmes
Directed by Troy Nixey
Rated R
Release Date August 12

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was once terrified of chimneys, and the 1973 TV movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was partly to blame. In this remake, which del Toro co-wrote and produced, a young girl (Bailee Madison) moves into a Victorian mansion with her dad (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes). But nasty, goblin-like creatures dwell beneath the fireplace. Del Toro says he’s since overcome his phobia, and even has a chimney in his current home. ”But it doesn’t have an ash pit that goes into a cavern,” he adds, ”so I’m okay.” —John Young


Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer
Directed by Tate Taylor
Rated PG-13
Release Date August 12

Emma Stone’s mother, like many moms across America, is an enormous fan of The Help, Kathryn Stockett’s beloved 2009 novel about African-American maids in early-1960s Mississippi and the white families who depend on them. So when Stone, who’d never read the book, called home last year with the news that she was going to meet the director of some movie called The Help, her mother exploded with glee. ”She screamed in my ear,” says the young actress, ”and proceeded to tell me that ‘Oh my God, this is the most unbelievable thing that’s ever happened to you! Do you realize the weight of this?!”’

That evening, Stone, armed with an email from her mother summarizing the book, walked into the bar of Manhattan’s Four Seasons restaurant to see director Tate Taylor. Taylor, for his part, had someone very specific in mind for the role of frazzle-haired Skeeter, the gawky college graduate who starts secretly interviewing a few brave women about their fraught experiences with their white employers. ”My prototype was loosely based on Joan Cusack at 22,” he says. ”To me that was Skeeter.”

Within minutes of meeting Stone, Taylor knew he had found just the woman for the role. ”Emma was completely awkward and dorky, with her raspy voice,” he says, ”and she sat down and we got a little intoxicated and had a blast, and I just thought, ‘God! God! This is Skeeter.”’ The next time they went out for drinks, Stockett, Taylor’s best friend since kindergarten, came along and gave her blessing to the casting choice as well.

Stockett and Taylor grew up together in Jackson, Miss., and were themselves cared for and loved by black housekeepers. (Carol Lee, the woman who helped raise Taylor, has a small role in the film.) Taylor was one of the first people to read Stockett’s manuscript for the book and even optioned the film rights before publication. Stockett had decided that Taylor — whose last directorial effort, 2009’s Pretty Ugly People, grossed less than $7,000 at the box office — was the only person who could properly adapt a screenplay and direct a movie version. ”Then the book came out,” remembers Taylor, ”and all the sharks of Hollywood were like, ‘Oh my God, we want the rights!’ But Kathryn called me and was like, ‘F— ’em all, we’re doing it!”’

From that call on, the stars have literally aligned for Taylor. Joining Stone in the cast is a deep bench of talent. Viola Davis plays stoic maid Aibileen; Cicely Tyson plays Skeeter’s childhood maid Constantine, now mysteriously absent; Allison Janney plays Skeeter’s rigid mother; and Sissy Spacek plays the mother of Skeeter’s even more uptight society friend, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard). And then there’s Octavia Spencer, who plays the tart-tongued maid Minny. Though the studio pushed hard for Taylor to cast a bigger name in that showy role, the director fought hard for Spencer, whom he’d met when they were both working as production assistants on 1996’s A Time to Kill. (Later, the fast friends would go on to share an apartment in L.A. for four years.) In fact, the character of Minny was partly based on Spencer, whom Stockett had met through Taylor. ”She is Minny,” Taylor says.

The director went yet another round with the studio in order to shoot The Help in his home state. ”We dumped, like, 17 million bucks into a very poor county in Mississippi,” he says proudly. ”This movie is magical. I’ve already prepared myself that this whole experience is once in a lifetime.” —Karen Valby


Starring Vera Farmiga, Dagmara Dominczyk, John Hawkes
Directed by Vera Farmiga
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date August 12

In her directorial debut, Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) plays Corinne, a woman wrestling with her Christian faith while living in a born-again hippie community in upstate New York. Higher Ground generated a good deal of buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, perhaps in part because it’s the rare Hollywood film that depicts the devoutly religious in a positive light. ”Vera did an amazing job representing these people with respect and empathy,” says Dagmara Dominczyk, who plays Corinne’s best friend, a woman who loves God as deeply as she does more earthly pleasures. Oscar nominee John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) also stars, as Corinne’s father. —Karen Valby


Starring Jason Momoa
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date August 19

How do you outdo Arnold Schwarzenegger as the sword-swinging, leather-thonged Cimmerian? For advice, director Marcus Nispel turned to John Milius, who helmed the 1982 original and suggested he start his search in Iraq. ”So we actually looked in Iraq,” says Nispel. ”We looked in Russia. We looked everywhere. Then we found Jason [Momoa, of Stargate Atlantis] in California literally four minutes from where I live.” Seems that big-screen barbarians are always in the last place you look. —Keith Staskiewicz


Starring Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date August 19

Colin Farrell is a nasty neighbor who doesn’t care if you’re on his lawn. He’d just rather put you beneath it. This 3-D update on the 1985 cult-favorite suburban-vampire thriller features the Irish actor as a centuries-old bloodsucker who moves in next door to a meddlesome teen (Anton Yelchin) who begins to suspect his secret. When the boy, his affable mom (Toni Collette), and his girlfriend (Imogen Poots) get wise, they are promptly marked for gruesome death. ”He’s kinda trying to bolster his ranks a bit,” Farrell says of his monster’s goal. ”He’s lonely enough that he’s trying to make a tribe. He’s a snacker. He’s a strain of vampire who feeds, and buries the undead that he feeds from in the ground and uses them for three or four days. But he’s turning them as well. Making a little family.”

Fright Night isn’t just out for blood, considering it’s scripted by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum Marti Noxon. ”It is a horror film, but we have the trick of injecting some humor,” says director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl). ”But Colin, for the most part, is a brooding, serious, ominous presence. Around him, there are some humorous things that happen, but he is a genuine threat.” —Anthony Breznican


Starring Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date August 19

It’s been eight years since Spy Kids 3-D, so writer-director Robert Rodriguez needed to give his franchise a reboot: This time, the action centers on Jessica Alba as a former spy and current mom brought back into duty to fight the Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven), who’s bent on stopping time. Rodriguez says the idea hit him while working with Alba on Machete, when the actress came to his house and had trouble getting her uncooperative child out of the car. ”It was so funny. She’s so glamorous and she’s in these high heels and yet carrying this baby,” says Rodriguez. ”I thought, ‘I’d love to see her as a spy.”’ —Sara Vilkomerson


Starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer
Directed by Jesse Peretz
Rated Not yet rated
Release Date August 26

In the opening scene of Our Idiot Brother, a uniformed cop talks easygoing Ned (Paul Rudd) into slipping him a baggie of weed. Poor guy gets arrested, loses his job and girlfriend, and then spends the movie couch-surfing at the homes of his three uptight New York sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer). Despite the setup and the image of a Jesus-bearded Rudd wearing Inca-print shorts and shapeless tank tops, don’t expect the typical burnout jokes. ”This is not a broad comedy at all,” says Jesse Peretz, who also directed Rudd in 2002’s The Château. ”I’d say it’s more in the world of Alexander Payne or, in our dreams, early Woody Allen.” The script, by Peretz’s sister Evgenia Peretz and her husband, David Schisgall, explores the complicated and loving bonds among grown siblings — and the headache of dealing with their significant others (Steve Coogan gets his ooze on playing Mortimer’s obnoxious, politically correct husband). ”Ned’s like a tornado who comes in and upsets the balance of each of his sisters’ lives,” says Rudd. ”He’s on a very lo-fi frequency wherever he goes.” —Karen Valby


Starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds
Directed by John Madden
Rated R
Release Date August 31

A remake of a 2007 Israeli thriller, The Debt tells the story of a young Mossad operative named Rachel (Jessica Chastain) who teams up with two spies (Marton Csokas and Avatar‘s Sam Worthington) to track down a Nazi doctor hiding in East Berlin in 1966. Fast-forward 30 years, when an older Rachel (Helen Mirren) must face the legacy of her past mission — and its unnerving loose ends. ”The unusual thing about this story is that it works on different levels,” says director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), likening The Debt to films like The Parallax View (1974) and Three Days of the Condor (1975). ”It has the visceral pleasures of a thriller along with emotional complexity.” Casting Mirren as the haunted, mature Rachel was ”a no-brainer,” says Madden, who worked with the star on 1995’s Prime Suspect 4: The Lost Child. ”We needed a fearless actress, not a vain actress. And that’s Helen.” —Adam Markovitz

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