When the source material for the movie headliners is comic books and a fairy tale, popular toys and a vampire soap, the season can only be summer — which, in Hollywood, starts now.
So do the sequels, prequels and franchise restarts. In addition to all the Marvel Comics heroes opening the season at midnight tonight with “The Avengers,” this summer brings new chapters of Batman, Spider-Man, Men in Black, Jason Bourne, G.I. Joe, the Expendables and the animated gangs from Madagascar and Ice Age.
Let's start with the expected top opener for each weekend, then follow up with the best — or at least, most intriguing — of the rest.
Hits Waiting to Happen
May 4: “The Avengers.” Thor's exiled brother, Loki, attacks Earth, so the squabbling superheroes join forces to fight back. Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) directs an all-star cast.
May 11: “Dark Shadows.” Director Tim Burton goes for comedic camp in this adaptation of the 1966-71 gothic soap. Johnny Depp is newly awakened vampire Barnabas Collins, whose family includes Michelle Pfeiffer.
May 18: “Battleship.” Director Peter Berg turns the Hasbro board game into a what-if, imagining an alien invasion by sea. Taylor Kitsch and Liam Neeson star, along with a lot of digital effects.
May 25: “Men in Black 3.” Agent J (Will Smith) must go back in time to the 1960s to stop an alien (Jemaine Clement) from killing Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Josh Brolin plays K's younger version.
June 1: “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The fairy tale takes a dark turn. Monstrous queen Charlize Theron orders the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to go after Snow White (Kristen Stewart). This Snow wears armor and carries a sword.
June 8: “Prometheus.” It's still unclear if Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller is a prequel to his classic “Alien.” A spaceship crew led by Noomi Rapace heads to a distant planet, whose residents visited Earth long ago. Michael Fassbender co-stars.
June 15: “Rock of Ages.” The Broadway musical built on 1980s hair-band hits stars Tom Cruise as megastar Stacie Jaxx. Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) directs Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta as up-and-comers.
June 22: “Brave.” Animation leader Pixar's first female lead is a feisty Scottish princess (voice of Kelly Macdonald) who prefers independence to marriage. Her entanglement with a witch (voice of Julie Walters) endangers the kingdom.
June 29: “Magic Mike.” Steven Soderbergh directs Channing Tatum as a male stripper (he was one in real life) who takes a new dancer (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing. Matthew McConaughey plays the leader of the all-male dance troupe.
July 3: “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Sony's franchise reboot features a new director (Marc Webb, “(500) Days of Summer”), a new star (Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”) and a new girl for Spidey, Gwen (Emma Stone).
July 13: “Ice Age: Continental Drift.” Pirates and sea creatures appear when Manny the mammoth (voice of Ray Romano) and his friends ride an iceberg after their home continent begins to drift. New this time: Wanda Sykes voices a grandma sloth.
July 20: “The Dark Knight Rises.” The summer's most anticipated movie features Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Tom Hardy as terrorist Bane and Marion Cotillard as a new love interest for Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).
July 27: “Neighborhood Watch.” Funnymen Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are unlikely crime-stoppers who find themselves up against an alien invasion. Seth Rogen co-wrote the script.
Aug. 3: “The Bourne Legacy.” No Matt Damon this time. Instead, Jeremy Renner plays another CIA assassin on the run. Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton co-star. Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote all the Bourne scripts, directs.
Aug. 10: “The Campaign.” Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis go for each other's jugular in a North Carolina race for the U.S. House. Ferrell's sexual texting scandal boosts his naive Republican challenger, starting an all-out laughfest.
Aug. 17: “The Expendables 2.” It's a slow weekend for film. Uber-macho heroes Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Dolph Lundgren are back with explosions, guns and hand-to-hand combat.
Aug. 24: “Premium Rush.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a bike messenger in New York City. A corrupt cop (Michael Shannon) wants something he's delivering.
Aug. 31: “Lawless.” Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke are brothers who bootleg in this period drama. Guy Pearce is the government agent pursuing them.
Also on the Radar
May 16: “The Dictator.” Sacha Baron Cohen is back, playing a North African strongman. Political incorrectness reigns.
May 25: “Moonrise Kingdom.” Director Wes Anderson's movie is about a pair of runaway kids with a crush. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play parents, and Edward Norton is a scoutmaster.
June 8: “Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.” The animated zoo animals join a European traveling circus but are pursued by an animal-control officer.
June 15: “That's My Boy.” Adam Sandler appears as a playboy who became a dad at 13, then shows up on the doorstep of his grown son (Andy Samberg).
June 22: “To Rome With Love.” Woody Allen's 43rd film is a romance with a big international cast including Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and Allen himself.
June 22: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” A far-out story has vampires feeding on slaves, leading up to the Civil War.
June 29: “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis join the fight against Cobra.
July 6: “Savages.” Director Oliver Stone's action thriller is about marijuana growers fighting a Mexican cartel. Taylor Kitsch, Salma Hayek and John Travolta appear.
July 13: “Ted.” Mark Wahlberg's teddy bear is alive, and it's ruining his life. Seth MacFarlane's profane, gross-out comedy co-stars Mila Kunis.
Aug. 3: “Total Recall.” Colin Farrell stars in this remake of the 1990 Schwarzenegger sci-fi thriller about a freedom fighter.
Aug. 10: “Hope Springs.” Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones star as a couple who seek counseling for their foundering marriage from Steve Carell.
Aug. 17: “Paranorman.” From the animators who made “Coraline,” the story of a boy who can talk to ghosts.
Aug. 17: “Sparkle.” The late Whitney Houston headlines this remake of a 1976 Irene Cara movie. Jordin Sparks plays the star in the making.
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