The summer's biggest box office bankers

From Batman to Bourne, it's blockbuster season again. By Francesca Steele

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The Independent Culture


Friends with Kids (29 June)

This parenting romcom has been billed as a sort of sequel to Bridesmaids because of the shared cast (Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd) but don't be fooled. These are very different characters leading a more complicated life. Written, directed by and starring Hamm's other half, Jennifer Westfeldt, it's a quirky look at a friendship group after they have children, in particular one platonic couple, who decide to make a baby together but not get involved romantically. And then, of course, decide they don't feel quite so platonic after all.

Box office buzz: Westfeldt wrote the script after she and Hamm, who don't have kids, lost touch with friends who do.

The Amazing Spider-Man (3 July)

The release of this reboot so soon after Sam Raimi's Noughties trilogy smacks of Hollywood greed. But it may still be a crowd-pleaser. In what is allegedly more of an origin story than previous films, Andrew Garfield feels like a good fit as lanky nerd Peter Parker, alongside real-life girlfriend, the sassy Emma Stone. Director Marc Webb's familiarity with coming-of-age stories ((500) Days of Summer) should serve him well here.

Box office buzz: Be prepared for a quippier Spidey, in a welcome return from long-faced Tobey Maguire to Stan Lee's original wise-cracking hero. "You seriously think I'm a cop in a skintight red and blue suit?"

Magic Mike (11 July)

Few directors could tackle the, ahem, meaty subject of male strippers without making it tacky but if anyone can lend the topic a touch of class, it's the Traffic director Steven Soderbergh. Channing Tatum, his lead, used to be a stripper before finding Hollywood success, injecting a level of sincerity into a film that aims to be more than just a parade of pectorally advantaged, butt-naked boys shaking their booty. One for ladies' night, though.

Box office buzz: This may be Matthew McConaughey's funniest role since Tropic Thunder.

The Dark Knight Rises (20 July)

The Batman franchise has so far unified fanboys and critics in admiration for Christopher Nolan – and there's plenty to look forward to in this final instalment. We have a new villain, the super-intelligent Bane, played by Nolan favourite Tom Hardy, a new gal in Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), and a new ride, with the Batmobile getting some wings. The story, however, has been shrouded in secrecy. Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character Robin? And – the big question – will our Caped Crusader die?

Box office buzz: Bane's voice. Completely inaudible in early footage, it seems to have been fixed in post-production.

The Bourne Legacy (13 August)

There's no Matt Damon but the fact that this spy spin-off is directed by Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter behind the original films, has given it more street cred than it might have had otherwise. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) is perfectly cast as Aaron Cross, the CIA operative with all of Jason Bourne's skills and less of his heart, with a stellar cast behind him that includes Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz.

Box office buzz: Cross is a genetically modified spy, in an update on the old Treadstone model.

Brave (17 August)

The most spectacular-looking Pixar film since Toy Story 3, Brave looks set to capitalise on the natural cinematic grandeur of Scotland when it closes the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Forget Shrek – there's nothing faux about the Scots here, with voiceovers from Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Robbie Coltrane. Macdonald stars as Merida, a hot-tempered Highlands princess who is nifty with a bow and arrow, and who must undo a family curse to save her kingdom.

Box office buzz: Merida is the first female heroine lead ever from Pixar.

The Expendables 2 (17 August)

Expendables, assemble! Forget Marvel's box-office hit from earlier this year – this is the ensemble movie we've all been waiting for. Action icons Arnie, Sly Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin and Terry Crews are back from the original, this time joined by Chuck Norris and, at last, Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was supposed be in the 2010 film but by all accounts failed to reach agreements with Sly.

Box office buzz: Stallone has handed over directing duties to Simon West (Con Air).

Total Recall (29 August)

Colin Farrell has some big shoes to fill in this remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger hit, based on the Philip K Dick story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". The film's marketing team has been at pains to point out differences between the two – the less beefy Farrell heads to New Shanghai, not Mars, and there are strong political overtones – while cashing in on the brand recognition of the original.

Box office buzz: Len Wiseman is back directing his wife, Kate Beckinsale, with whom he made the Underworld series.

Anna Karenina (7 September)

Leo Tolstoy's 19th-century tragedy has been adapted for the big screen many times, but with director Joe Wright reuniting with Keira Knightley (they made Atonement and Pride and Prejudice together), a screenplay by Tom Stoppard and the backing of Working Title, this is likely to be a stylish one. Wright tends to make beautiful films, and the St Petersburg high life and bleak Russian winters seem like perfect fodder.

Box office buzz: Jude Law plays Knightley's cuckolded husband, 20 years her senior.

Dredd (7 September)

Star Trek's Karl Urban plays the law-enforcer lead in a violent, futuristic city in the summer's last big comic-book film. Dogged by rumours of production disagreements, the film was only just scheduled to release a trailer as we went to press. Most expect it to have an edgier vibe than the 1995 film, Judge Dredd, which starred Stallone: one exec described it as "Dirty Harry meets District 9".

Box office buzz: The script was penned by Alex Garland, of The Beach fame.