Box office sizzlers?

Illustration by Jennifer Pritchard/MCT

Here’s your front-row ticket to the season’s hottest flicks,
organized by the scheduled month of release.
Here’s your front-row ticket to the season’s hottest flicks, organized by the scheduled month of release.

MAY

– “Bridesmaids” (out now): Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph team up, and big and bawdy laughs abound. This is the perfect girls night or date night, so long as you head into the theater expecting the jocularity producer Judd Apatow does best (“Knocked Up,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”). If you can get past the occasional gross-out joke, you’ll be rewarded with huge belly laughs as the film culminates.

– “Everything Must Go” (out now in limited release): Will Ferrell portrays a man on the brink, battling alcoholism, and he does so with aplomb. A real treat for those who loved the “Saturday Night Live” stalwart’s dramatic work in “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Everything Must Go” is a worthy addition to your summer movie schedule.

– “The Hangover Part II” (May 26): Great comedies don’t tend to yield spectacular sequels, which makes the wolf pack’s far-flung adventure to Bangkok all the more audacious. Can history repeat? Will it work? Should they truly call them “floories”? Here’s hoping we all find out the answers together!

– “Kung Fu Panda 2” (May 26): Never fear, children have their own frivolity to look forward to this summer. The voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie are back in action, ready for kung fu! Experts in “escapist” animation, Dreamworks provides a natural counterbalance to Pixar’s more sentimental fare.

– “The Tree of Life” (May 27, limited release): Enigmatic director Terrence Malick always delivers deliberate and evocative cinema. Sometimes the result is majestic (“The Thin Red Line”), while occasionally the work is more germane (“The New World”). Still, as he only averages a couple of films a decade, he’s always worth a watch, especially when he nabs Brad Pitt and Sean Penn for leading roles.

JUNE

– “X-Men: First Class” (June 3): There are four superhero options this summer … but only one was directed by Matthew Vaughn of “Stardust” and “Layer Cake” fame. Vaughn is a rangy director, and if anyone can survive taking the X-Men back to the origins, it will be him.

– “Beginners” (June 3, limited release): Ewan McGregor and talented French actor Melanie Laurent take a crack at explaining the magic and cynicism that hangs over the outset of every relationship. Bonus: A Jack Russell terrier plays a prominent (and hilarious) role.

– “Super 8” (June 10): J.J. Abrams’ homage to Steven Spielberg, produced by Steven Spielberg, looks to be “Goonies” meets “E.T.” meets “Stand by Me.” The only summer film with a legitimate chance to stand the test of time, “Super 8” has stylish mystery in abundance.

– “Buck” (June 17, limited release): Summer doesn’t have to be all about explosions and car chases. For instance, here’s a compelling documentary about an empathetic horse trainer just to keep things interesting. It’s the perfect remedy for the superficial vibe of summer.

– “Bad Teacher” (June 24): Fans of “Bad Santa” will find this dark comedy in the same vein, as Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz team up for laughs. Though it looks extremely R-rated, it also looks to be chasing extreme amounts of levity.

JULY

– “Larry Crowne” (July 1): It’s a simple equation. Tom Hanks plus Julia Roberts in a modern romantic comedy is likely to equal captivating. As we’re never going to get a sequel to “Forest Gump,” we will have to pin our entertainment hopes here instead.

– “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (July 1): Speaking of hope, most summer movie fans have given up hope that the third “Transformers” will be anything nearing transcendent. At this point, the real bright spot is that director Michael Bay’s robot franchise probably can’t get any worse. That’s got to count for something.

– “Winnie the Pooh” (July 15): Disney hopes to capture both your nostalgia and an entirely new generation of fans. John Cleese and Craig Ferguson are modern additions to the beloved classic, and the trailer already has fans fondly reminiscing.

– “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” (July 15): Saying goodbye to the Potter franchise isn’t going to be easy, but this action-packed 3-D film hopes to send the series out on a high note. Given the track record of the previous seven films, all signs point to “massive hit.”

– “Cowboys and Aliens” (July 29): Sci-fi Westerns never have gotten their full due as a genre. Until now. Seeing Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig battle galactic baddies should be the ultimate in popcorn fun.

AUGUST

– “The Change-Up” (Aug. 5): If it didn’t have Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, the “switcheroo” premise would be an active contrivance. But Reynolds and Bateman have proven to be particularly likable, so audiences should be willing to take the ride with them.

– “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (Aug. 5): The very definition of cheesy action fun, James Franco’s latest summer offering should be one of the last big box-office draws, and a chance at redemption for his underwhelming Academy Awards performance.

– “30 Minutes or Less” (Aug. 12): Jesse Eisenberg needs to get out from under the shadow of Mark Zuckerberg, and fast. This comedy about a pizza boy caught up in a bank heist should fit the bill nicely.

– “Conan the Barbarian” (Aug. 19): There’s very little reason to think the latest take on “Conan the Barbarian” will deliver. This, oddly, is precisely why it should play well with an audience coming down from a massive summer movie binge.

– “Our Idiot Brother” (Aug. 28, limited release): Paul Rudd wowed audiences at Sundance with this sentimental (but raucous) family comedy. It’s more “Family Stone” than “Hangover,” the perfect film to consider as you shake the sand out of your shorts.

Breakout Stars

– Olivia Wilde: You’ve seen her in “Tron: Legacy” and “House.” Now comes the big summer splash, with “Cowboys and Aliens” and “The Change-Up” seeking to deliver her into the rarest of air as a crossover action-comedy star.

– Jason Momoa: Jason Momoa’s turn at Khal Drogo on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has proven that he’s a physical force in the action game. Now he gets his shot at the iconic “Conan the Barbarian.”

– Tyrese Gibson: The “Fast and Furious” series keeps steaming along, and Tyrese is perfectly positioned for the new “heist” vibe they are shooting for. Plus, he’s back to reclaim his role as Robert Epps in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Could this be the summer Gibson makes the leap to leading man?

– Kristen Wiig: She’s made us laugh since 2005 on “Saturday Night Live,” so it’s good to see her get a shot to carry her own feature film. “Bridesmaids” is possibly the funniest film of the summer, so Wiig should have her choice of projects going forward. Tina Fey might be passing off the “funniest woman in America” belt, and Wiig looks to be a contender

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