THE SUMMER movie season commences today with "The Avengers," a giant Thor-gasm of Marvel superheroes wrapped in one package.
It has the star attractions — Iron Man, Thor, Captain America — from previous summer hits, and magnanimously gives The Hulk yet another chance to make his blockbuster bones. For good measure, it also offers Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, a night-of-a-thousand-stars cast, a $220 million budget, and geek-guru director Joss Whedon.
You could pretty much see the "Avengers" and take the rest of the summer off, but you'd miss 50 other blockbusters ("The Dark Knight Rises") , schlockbusters ("G.I. Joe: Retaliation"), and "Twilight" wannabusters ("Snow White and the Huntsman") not to mention quirky cinematic asides from Woody Allen, Wes Anderson and Sacha Baron Cohen.
But with so many summer movies to choose from, choices must be made. Here are the films our staff is looking forward to seeing.
Daily News film critic Gary Thompson
"ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER." Director Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted") directed the Russian vampire movies "Daywatch" and "Nightwatch" and I was a big fan. Plus, this premise is so colossally weird, the movie couldn't possibly be boring. Could it?
"BERNIE." I'm putting this on my list because I've already seen this amusing Richard Linklater movie, one that takes a couple of genre styles (like true crime docudrama) and manages to craft from them something memorably one-of-a-kind. Based on the true story of a churchgoing mortician (Jack Black) who ends up killing a disagreeable elderly companion (Shirley MacLaine) in a small Texas town that approved of his crime.
"PROMETHEUS." Ridley Scott's original "Alien" grows in my estimation every time I see it. I'd like to see him reclaim the movie from the "Alien vs. Predator" schlock that followed.
"NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH." The studio is suddenly nervous about this title because of the Trayvon Martin killing, but I'd like to see Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade (from the cult show "The I.T. Crowd") as four dudes repelling an alien invasion. Shades of "Attack the Block?" Let's hope so.
"THE CAMPAIGN." This comes out in August, when we'll all surely be ready for a satire of the perpetual election season. Jay Roach directs Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as North Carolina Senate candidates.
Inquirer movie critic Steven Rea
"MOONRISE KINGDOM." From Wes Anderson, the dapper artiste behind "Rushmore" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox," about two kids who run away from it all.
"PROMETHEUS." Whatever the "Alien" connection is or isn't, Ridley Scott is back in space, and Charlize Theron is on board.
"YOUR SISTER'S SISTER." Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt are sisters in Lynn Shelton's followup to her inspired and uncomfortable improv indie, "Hump Day."
"THE DARK KNIGHT RISES." Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale return to the Bat Cave, where darkness and dread lurk. Artfully.
Daily News features writer and movie fanatic Molly Eichel
"THE EXPENDABLES 2." Otherwise known as Sylvester Stallone's Home for Aging Action Heroes, "The Expendables 2" is one of those summer movies that I live for. Barely-there plot, groan-worthy one-liners that we'll happily repeat with aplomb and enough explosions to give your retinas a tan. Joining the fun this year is Mr. Miley Cyrus — "Hunger Game's" Liam Hemsworth — and Jean Claude Van Damme as — and we promise we're not making this up — a villain named Vilain. Break out the jumbo tub of popcorn and let your brain melt in ecstasy. Aug 17.
"SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN." 2012 was supposed to be Snow White's year. But with the Julia Roberts-starring "Mirror Mirror" underperforming at the box office, it's Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron's duty to save the damsel in distress in "Snow White and the Huntsman." First-time feature director Rupert Sanders brings a music-video aesthetic to his version of the Brothers Grimm saga. Theron plays the Evil Queen in what seems like a take on Faye Dunaway in "Mommie Dearest," while Stewart leaves behind the passivity of Bella Swann to play the butt-kicking Ms. White. June 1.
"MAGIC MIKE." Dear Hetero Ladies and Gay Men: Consider this movie Hollywood's apology for the male gaze. Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer and a bevy of studly men take it all off in "Magic Mike," the heart-warming story of an experienced stripper (Tatum) who takes a young buck ("I Am Number 4's" Alex Pettyfer) under his tanned and toned wing. The first trailer made it look like your average Tatum romantic romp, but the film is directed by Academy Award-winner Steven Soderbergh (Palm d 'Or-winning-"sex, lies and videotape," "Traffic"). So maybe there's more underneath the breakaway pants than meets the eye. June 29.
"THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN." So soon? Didn't we already get a Spider-Man origin story with Tobey Maguire as Spidey just a scant decade ago? Marc Webb, whose first feature was the delightfully quirky rom-com "(500) Days of Summer" promises a different take, with Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network") as his titular web-slinger. Rather than focus on his days with love interest Mary Jane, "Amazing" subs in It Girl Emma Stone as the bombshell blonde Gwen Stacy. July 3.
"TOTAL RECALL." Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger's original sci-fi epic have only one question about the new flick. It's not "Can Colin Farrell fill Ah-nold's shoes?" or "Can 'Underworld' director Len Wiseman bring the same originality that Paul Verhoeven brought to the first adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's short stories?" The burning question on everyone fanboy's mind is: Will the woman with three boobs be in the movie? Never fear, "Total Recall" fans. Your prayers have been answered. And another generation of teenage boys will have their minds blown by a trio of breasts. Aug. 3. n