Summer Movie Guide: July

One hero returns, another says goodbye.

It's no wonder the July release calendar isn't as crowded as the other summer months -- rival studios have generally steered clear of Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man and, even more notably, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, though two dark horses are the concert movie Katy Perry: Part of Me and Oliver Stone's Pulp Fiction-like Savages. Sony has a great deal riding on this Spider-Man, which opens July 3 to dominate the holiday weekend. A retelling of the familiar origins story, it is headlined by Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, the high schooler who becomes the iconic superhero, and Emma Stone as his love interest. Although it has been only five years since the previous Spider-Man movie (directed by Sam Raimi), the studio is calculating that a redo will refresh its marquee franchise. The bar is high: The three Spider-Man films starring Tobey Maguire were among the most successful titles in Hollywood history, with the third entry grossing more than $890 million worldwide. If Spider-Man doesn't work, Sony will have to go back to the drawing board.

An even bigger behemoth -- Dark Knight -- arrives July 20. The conclusion of Nolan's wildly successful Batman trilogy aims to gross more than $1 billion worldwide. A week later, Fox debuts its big summer comedy Neighborhood Watch, starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill. Although its premise is pure escapism -- the Akiva Schaffer-directed movie centers on a neighborhood watch group that fights off an alien invasion -- its marketing just got a whole lot trickier in the wake of Trayvon Martin's death at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer. Also opening July 27 is Tyler Perry's Kim Kardashian starrer The Marriage Counselor, the first of Perry's 12 films to open in the summer.

JULY AT A GLANCE

July 3:

  • The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony)

July 5:

  • Katy Perry: Part of Me (Paramount)

July 6:

  • Savages (Universal)

July 13:

  • Ice Age: Continental Drift (Fox)
  • Ted (Universal)

July 20:

  • The Dark Knight Rises (Warners)

July 27:

  • Neighborhood Watch (Fox)
  • Step Up Revolution (Summit)
  • Tyler Perry's The Marriage Counselor (Lionsgate)

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JULY 13: Ice Age: Continental Drift

Fox Animation and its Blue Sky Studios, which most recently released 2011's Rio, return to their blockbuster franchise this month. Ice Age: Continental Drift couldn't have a better date; it is the only studio animated film in the marketplace for the rest of the summer. (Focus Features' quirky ParaNorman, a follow-up to Coraline, opens Aug. 17.) Still, box-office observers will be watching to see if there's Ice Age fatigue for this fourth installment. That certainly wasn't the case with the threequel Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which earned a massive $886.7 million worldwide in summer 2009, a franchise best.

JULY 20: The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan's final Batman film could easily be the biggest hit of summer 2012, considering that The Dark Knight grossed $1 billion worldwide for Warner Bros. after opening in summer 2008. Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after Dark Knight left off and, in addition to Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne/Batman, sees the return of characters played by Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. New to the franchise are Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Tom Hardy as the villainous Bane. Warners can't be happy that the superhero will be retiring, at least temporarily, but it's already looking ahead to the summer 2013 Superman reboot Man of Steel.

JULY 25: Ruby Sparks

The team behind indie blockbuster Little Miss Sunshine returns to theaters with the Fox Searchlight specialty release Ruby Sparks, which opens July 25 in a limited run -- nearly six years to the day after Sunshine did. That film, also released by Searchlight, grossed north of $100 million at the worldwide box office, earned an Oscar nomination for best picture and showered directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris with critical acclaim. In Ruby, Paul Dano, who also starred in Sunshine, plays a novelist who achieved phenomenal success early in his career but is in a slump. Finally, he has a breakthrough and creates a character named Ruby (Zoe Kazan), who turns up on his couch a week later. Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan and Elliott Gould also star.

Indies to Watch:

  • Trishna (July 13, IFC)
  • Ruby Sparks (July 25, Fox Searchlight)
  • Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry July 27, IFC)
  • Easy Money (July 27, The Weinstein Co.)
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