For the rest of the 2012 summer slate, it's going to be a tough climb to the top.
That's because The Avengers opened the season by smashing numerous box office records with the same ferocity that Hulk smashes his enemies. In fact, only one film realistically has a shot at outgrossing the superhero saga. Hint: It's another superhero saga, and it's among the 16 titles (out of approximately 50) listed below as the most promising ones to land in theaters between now and Labor Day.
Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1). The second of the year's competing Snow White movies certainly should be better than the first, the drab Mirror Mirror. Kristen Stewart (as Miss White) is a better actress than Lily Collins, Charlize Theron (as the evil Queen) is (usually) a better actress than Julia Roberts, and Chris Hemsworth (as the Huntsman) is coming off two excellent flicks (The Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods).
Prometheus (June 8). Ridley Scott, director of the sci-fi classic Alien, returns to a place where no one can hear you scream: outer space, as the crew of the spaceship Prometheus (among them Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender as the requisite android) have a deadly encounter in a galaxy far, far away.
Rock of Ages (June 15). It might be necessary to have come of age in the '80s to hold hope for this adaptation of the stage hit, with Tom Cruise as rocker Stacee Jaxx, a potent supporting cast that includes Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand and the underrated Malin Ackerman, and a soundtrack ranging from the highs of Joan Jett and Def Leppard to the lows of Journey and REO Speedwagon.
Brave (June 22). After suffering its first-ever critical underachiever with Cars 2, Pixar should be back in the good graces of everyone with this animated yarn about a plucky princess who tries to save the kingdom from a curse. This movie is especially notable for presenting Pixar's first female protagonist.
The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3). Yes, a complete overhaul so soon after Spider-Man 3 is absurd, but let's go with the flow, shall we? Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) is the new Peter Parker, Emma Stone, whose gorgeous red hair would have made her a natural for Mary Jane Watson, goes blonde as Gwen Stacy, Sally Field plays doting Aunt May, and Rhys Ifans gets villain honors as The Lizard.
Savages (July 6). Oliver Stone hasn't been relevant as a filmmaker since the mid-1990s, so I'm cautiously optimistic about this adaptation of Don Winslow's best-selling novel about two pot growers (Taylor "John Carter" Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) who, with the help of a crooked DEA agent (John Travolta), go after the Mexican drug lords (Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro) who kidnapped their mutual girlfriend (Blake Lively).
The Dark Knight Rises (July 20). Let's face it: This is the only movie that stands any chance of taking the box office crown away from The Avengers. It's three-and-out for director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, as they wrap up their Batman trilogy with a saga that finds the Caped Crusader squaring off against the brutal Bane (Tom Hardy), with Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) also coming into play.
The Bourne Legacy (August 3). Even accepting that this sounds like a shameless attempt to cash in on Matt Damon's successful Jason Bourne trilogy, this might turn out OK: Writer-director Tony Gilroy penned all three previous Bourne flicks, the cast includes such notables as Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz and Albert Finney, and new series star Jeremy Renner is coming off Oscar nominations for The Hurt Locker and The Town and box office blockbusters Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and The Avengers.
Hope Springs (August 10). A counselor (Steve Carell) works to keep a long-married couple (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) together in this comedy that reunites Streep with her The Devil Wears Prada director, David Frankel.
Premium Rush (August 24). An NYC bike messenger becomes a target after picking up a mysterious package. This could be good mindless fun; if not, at least it boasts a super-cool twofer in Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the cyclist and Michael Shannon as his pursuer.
Lawless (August 31). The Aussie Western The Proposition is the sort of sleeper gem that should be in everyone's Netflix queue. The latest pairing of director John Hillcoat, writer Nick Cave and actor Guy Pearce is a Depression-era drama about three brothers (Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke) trying to protect their moonshine business. Pearce plays a lawman; Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska portray women who become involved with the siblings.
Killer Joe (limited; no Charlotte date set). Advertised as "A Totally Twisted Deep-Fried Texas Redneck Trailer Park Murder Story," this NC-17 affair stars Matthew McConaughey as the title character, a hit man hired by a drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) to kill his mother for the insurance money. Tracy Letts, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner for August: Osage County, adapts his own play, with William Friedkin (The Exorcist) in the director's chair.
Ruby Sparks (limited; no Charlotte date set). Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the directing team behind Little Miss Sunshine, helm a quirky romance about an author (Paul Dano) who somehow transforms his female literary character (Zoe Kazan, who also scripted) into a flesh-and-blood person.
Take This Waltz (limited; no Charlotte date set). I was a huge fan of the Alzheimer's drama Away from Her, with actress Sarah Polley doing fine work behind the camera as director and (Oscar-nominated) writer. So I'm interested in her follow-up effort about a would-be writer (Michelle Williams) who's married to a cookbook author (Seth Rogen) but pines for a handsome artist (Luke Kirby) living in the neighborhood.
360 (limited; no Charlotte date set). Festival-circuit reviewers haven't been too kind to this drama about strangers from around the globe finding themselves intertwined through various story threads involving sex and love, but with director Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener) at the helm, Peter Morgan (The Queen) contributing the script, and Rachel Weisz and a reportedly non-hammy Anthony Hopkins heading the cast, I'm there.
To Rome with Love (limited; no Charlotte date set). Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris unexpectedly became his biggest box office hit and also won him another Oscar. Now he heads to the Italian capital to spin more amorous escapades, this time with the help of Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and, uh, Roberto Benigni.