The cinema is not a slice of life but a piece of cake," Alfred Hitchcock once said, and if that's true — and who are we to dispute the master? — then summertime is when we gorge (unhealthily, most of the time, on ear-splitting smash-'em-ups and nerd-filled sex comedies). This year's summer movie season is sure to contain its share of brain goo — is that the march of angry robots we hear? — but there are more satisfying things on the menu, too. Gorging, we say, is good — it's the American way — but as we peruse the upcoming multiplex offerings, let's pledge to seek out the occasional rare delicacy. To help, we've narrowed down the season's gazillion releases, and what follows is our list of the best, most intriguing and most promising films. All dates are subject to change. Happy viewing.

MAY

Terminator Salvation
Christian Bale goes ballistic in this reboot of Governor Schwarzenegger's signature film series. It's 2018, and Bale is John Connor, the resistance leader whose birth Arnie was trying to prevent, way back in the day. Reviewed in full in this issue. Directed by McG. Release date: May 21

Dance Flick
Damon Wayans Jr. dons tights and ballet shoes for this parody of those teen dance dramas in which a white girl from the 'burbs and a black youth from the 'hood find true love in time for the big recital. Directed by Damien Dante Wayans. Release date: May 22

Easy Virtue
Jessica Biel moves up the social ladder in this adaptation of Noël Coward's 1920s comedy about an American bombshell about to marry into an aristocratic British family. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Biel's future mother-in-law/nemesis. Directed by Stephan Elliott. Release date: May 22

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Ben Stiller returns as a museum security guard who discovers that the statues and exhibits come to life at night. This time, the guard gets to fall in love with a real-life human (played by the increasingly ubiquitous Amy Adams). Directed by Shawn Levy. Release date: May 22

Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Evil Dead trilogy) returns to his horror-film roots for this tale of a young banker (Alison Lohman) who makes the fatal mistake of denying a loan to an old gypsy woman. Demonic curses soon follow. (Does this explain the banking crisis?) Directed by Sam Raimi. Release date: May 29

Kambakkht Ishq
Bollywood stars Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor head from India to Hollywood in this romantic comedy about a stuntman and a supermodel who become media sensations. Cameos by Sylvester Stallone and Superman's Brandon Routh. Directed by Sabbir Khan. Release date: May 29

Munyurangabo
This debut feature from a New York-based Korean American filmmaker follows two Rwandan boys out for a walk in the countryside. One boy is Hutu; the other, Tutsi. Wildly acclaimed at recent film festivals, Munyurangabo reportedly begins with the sight of a bloody machete and ends with a poem. Directed by Lee Isaac Chung. Release date: May 29

Pontypool
Veteran character-actor Stephen McHattie stars as a Canadian DJ trying to figure out what's going on when reports start coming in of townspeople viciously attacking each other. Bruce McDonald directed the little-seen but visually remarkable film The Tracey Fragments, starring a pre-Juno Ellen Page. Directed by Bruce McDonald. Release date: May 29

Departures
This year's surprise winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar tells of an unemployed cellist (Masahiro Motoki) who lands a job for which he displays an unexpected aptitude — bathing, dressing and grooming the dead before cremation. A comedy, with tears. Directed by Yojiro Takita. Release date: May 29

Up
Only a Pixar animator — in this case, Monsters, Inc. director Peter Docter — would dare ask studio bosses for millions of dollars to make an animated movie about a depressed 78-year-old widower (voiced by Ed Asner) who doesn't like children. We trust all things Pixar, but don't expect a run on Ed Asner plush toys at your local superstore. Directed by Peter Docter. Release date: May 29

JUNE

Away We Go
Married novelists of staggering genius, Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, team with Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road) to send pregnant newlyweds (John Krasinki and Maya Rudolph) on a sweetly comic road trip across America. Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Paul Schneider costar as the friends and family (a.k.a. eccentrics) who offer the couple temporary refuge. Directed by Sam Mendes. Release date: June 5

Séraphine
Yolande Moreau
stars as the French painter Séraphine Louis, who worked as a servant girl before her gift for painting was discovered in 1912. Martin Provost tracks Séraphine's fast rise and heartbreaking fall in a film that won seven César Awards (the French Oscars), including Best Picture and Best Actress. Directed by Martin Provost. Release date: June 5

Tetro
In writing his first original screenplay since 1974's The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola reportedly mined his own back-story for this tale of two brothers (Vincent Gallo and Alden Ehrenreich) trying to come to terms with their complex family history. Set in contemporary Buenos Aires, Tetro was filmed in black-and-white, a style Coppola last employed for 1983's Rumble Fish. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Release date: June 11

Food, Inc.
Moviegoers aren't likely to rush to the supermarket after seeing this disturbing exposé of the under-regulated, profit-mad American food industry. It's time to plant that garden. Directed by Robert Kenner. Release date: June 12

Moon
After three years alone on the moon, a spaceman of the near future (Sam Rockwell) begins hallucinating — and eventually wakes up to find that he's sharing the ship with an exact replica of...himself. This is the first feature for Duncan Jones, whose father (just so you know) is David Bowie. Directed by Duncan Jones. Release date: June 12

Whatever Works
Allen returns to Manhattan after an extended European vacation and casts Larry David as a hypochondriac physicist whose spirits are lifted when he befriends and later weds a dippy twenty-year-old (Evan Rachel Wood). The film is reportedly based on a script Woody Allen wrote 30 years ago — luckily, neuroticism is timeless. Directed by Woody Allen. Release date: June 19

$9.99
New York animator Tatia Rosenthal traveled to Australia to make this acclaimed stop-motion comedy concerning the peculiar adventures of the residents of an Aussie apartment building, including two boys who've spent $9.99 (and not a penny more) on a book that promises the secret to life. Directed by Tatia Rosenthal. Release date: June 19

The Hurt Locker
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Guy Pearce go to war in this intense drama about a bomb-defusing unit stationed in Baghdad at the height of the Iraq War. Look for cameos by Ralph Fiennes and David Morse. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Release date: June 26

Quiet Chaos
Nanni Moretti stars as an Italian film exec devastated by the death of his wife. Left to raise a ten-year-old daughter, the man finds himself unable to part from her and ends up spending his days in the park opposite her Rome school. Featuring Roman Polanski in a small role. Directed by Antonio Grimaldi. Release date: June 26

JULY

The Beaches of Agnès
The renowned French filmmaker Agnès Varda (Vagabond), now 80, continues her ongoing cinematic autobiography with this César Award-winning documentary. Using the world's beaches as both backdrop and metaphor, Varda recalls the important people of her life, including her late husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy, as well as rock star Jim Morrison. Directed by Agnès Varda. Release date: July 1

Public Enemies
Johnny Depp is 1930s bank robber extraordinaire John Dillinger; Christian Bale is FBI super-agent Melvin Purvis, hot on his trail, Tommy gun in hand. The director is Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Heat), who knows a thing or two about bad-guy/good-guy showdowns. Bullets will fly. Directed by Michael Mann. Release date: July 1

Brüno
Sacha Baron Cohen
jettisons Borat for Brüno, a gay, hot-pants-wearing Australian fashion reporter. Beyond that, words fail us. Directed by Larry Charles. Release date: July 10

Humpday
It seemed like a fun idea at the time: Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard), lifelong buds, get high at a party where they agree, in front of witnesses, to "do it" (with each other) for a sex-tape film festival. Their girlfriends are amused, and then...they're not. Directed by Lynn Shelton. Release date: July 10

Soul Power
In the days preceding Muhammad Ali and George Foreman's '74 fight, musical giants such as James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers and Celia Cruz gathered in Zaire for a three-day concert. Oscar winner Jeffrey Levy-Hinte (When We Were Kings) has restored a mountain of found footage of the concert and the chaos that surrounded it for this high-energy doc. Directed by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte. Release date: July 10

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
A nerdy but increasingly sexy teenage boy with magical powers and an invisible cloak learns the true history of his archenemy, whose name we dare not utter. Directed by David Yates. Release date: July 15

500 Days of Summer
An LA greeting-card writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds true love in the form of a beautiful coworker (Zooey Deschanel) in Webb's romantic comedy, which literally counts the days of this up-and-down relationship. Directed by Marc Webb. Release date: July 17

In the Loop
British satirist Armando Iannucci (BBC's The Thick of It) goes to Washington in this fictional riff on the political scrambling — British and American alike — that preceded the Iraq War. Starring Tom Hollander, and featuring James Gandolfini as an American general who speaks in snappy one-liners. Directed by Armando Iannucci. Release date: July 17

Flame and Citron
Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) were the code names for two resistance fighters in Denmark during the Nazi occupation. Ole Christian Madsen tells their story in a film that's been a smash hit in its home country, where Mikkelsen is a superstar. Directed by Ole Christian Madsen. Release date: July 31

Lorna's Silence
Belgium's Dardenne brothers (La promesse, L'enfant), among the world's finest filmmakers, return with this story of an Albanian refugee (Arta Dobroshi) who finds herself going to extremes in order to gain Belgian citizenship. Advance buzz, including a screening at last year's Cannes Film Festival, heralds Dobroshi as a great discovery. Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Release date: July 31

The Cove
In the 1960s Richard O'Barry captured five dolphins and trained them to play "Flipper" on the popular TV show. Since then, he's become obsessed with getting footage of the brutal slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese port town. Louie Psihoyos tracks O'Barry's quest in this wrenching documentary. Directed by Louie Psihoyos. Release date: July 31

AUGUST

Julie & Julia
Nora Ephron adapts Julie Powell's memoir of the year she spent making all 524 recipes in Julia Child's classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Amy Adams portrays Powell, whose inner musings on Child's life and times are enacted by none other than Meryl Streep. Looking forward to that accent. Directed by Nora Ephron. Release date: August 7

Paper Heart
In a documentary that's not really a documentary, comedian Charlyne Yi (Knocked Up) conducts interviews to see if anyone still believes in true love. Enter actor Michael Cera, playing himself (sort of) and falling for Yi, who, in real life, is already his girlfriend. Got that? Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec. Release date: August 7

District 9
From first-time director Neill Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson, a sci-fi epic about extraterrestrials that landed in South Africa 30 years ago, only to be captured, segregated and brutally mistreated by the government. The rest of the plot is a secret (so far), but we all know what happens when you piss off a space creature. Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Release date: August 14

Ponyo
From Disney, the new film by master Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle). In Miyazaki's take on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Little Mermaid," a goldfish named Ponyo longs to become human. (Looks like Ariel's got competition.) Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Release date: August 14

Taking Woodstock
The Brokeback Mountain director lightens up for this tie-dye-filled adaptation of Elliot Tiber's terrific Woodstock memoir. Tiber, played here by comedian Demetri Martin, isn't famous, but his family's dilapidated motel was ground zero for the iconic festival. Directed by Ang Lee. Release date: August 14.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Henry (Eric Bana), a Chicago librarian, is forever bouncing around in time (literally). This makes life/marriage hard for Clare (Rachel McAdams), his wife, whose attempts to hold him still are captured in this film version of Audrey Niffenegger's bestseller. Directed by Robert Schwentke. Release date: August 14

Inglourious Basterds
Blame the bad spelling of the title on those infernal Nazis, who refer to the band of Jewish American soldier-assassins led by Brad Pitt as "The Basterds." Quentin Tarantino's World War II action flick also stars Diane Kruger, B.J. Novak (The Office), Hostel writer-director Eli Roth and last, but never least, the mighty Cloris Leachman. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Release date: August 21

It Might Get Loud
The Oscar-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth cuts loose in his new documentary, which finds rock gods Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White singing the praises of their respective electric guitars. Then they jam. (Loudly.) Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Release date: August 21

The Boat That Rocked
It's 1966, and rock & roll has yet to make it to the airwaves of the BBC, which controls all radio stations in England. So Philip Seymour Hoffman leads a renegade band of disc jockeys as they broadcast the Devil's music from a boat off the UK shore in this comedy from the director of Love Actually. Directed by Richard Curtis. Release date: August 28

Mesrine: A Film in Two Parts
Vincent Cassel, who was so extraordinary as the mob boss' son in David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, moves up the crime ladder in this four-hour epic about the action-packed life (murders, kidnappings — the works) of modern-day French criminal Jacques Mesrine. Directed by Jean-François Richet. Release date: August 28

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