Sure, the late fall brings the Oscar contenders – but summer’s when we find ourselves hitting the Cineplex at least once a week. It may only be April (and barely breaking 60 degrees), but we’re already anticipating this summer’s most noteworthy movies: the big-budget popcorn blockbusters (X-Men: First Class, Captain America); the high-profile cineaste fodder (Terence Malick’s Tree of Life, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris); the comedies your one annoying friend will be quoting into next summer (Bridesmaids, 30 Minutes or Less). And this summer is a particularly good one for some of our very favorite stars – people we’re glad to shell out $14 to spend two hours watching. Click onwards for the stars we’re most anticipating seeing onscreen this season -Penélope Cruz, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, and more – and their ratings on our very scientific Heat Index.
KRISTEN WIIG in Bridesmaids (out May 13)
We know what she did last summer: Wiig co-starred in MacGruber, the goofy action comedy based on the Saturday Night Life sketch by the same name, with her SNL castmate Will Forte. She also lent her voice talents to the animated hit Despicable Me.
And this summer: She wrote and stars in Bridesmaids, directed by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow, as Annie, the maid of honor in her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph)’s wedding. When she meets the other bridesmaids (Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Melissa McCarthy) and they head to Vegas, things quickly escalate into zany, and hopefully very funny, chaos. It’s already been called the female Hangover, and we’re hoping it’ll do quite a bit to dispel that whole “women aren’t funny” notion.
Heat index: Hot
After Bridesmaids, Wiig has The Castle and Friends with Kids coming up; the latter was written and directed by Jon Hamm’s main squeeze, Jennifer Westfeldt. And, of course, we’re always game to see Wiig play one-half of our very favorite SNL duo, Garth and Kat.
PENÉLOPE CRUZ in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (out May 20)
We know what she did last summer: Cruz played Carmen Garcia Carrión in Sex and the City 2, but managed to escape mostly unscathed.
And this summer: She’s joining the massively profitable Pirates franchise as Angelica, a mysterious lady from Captain Jack Sparrow’s past who’s either his true love or a grifter out to use Sparrow to find the Fountain of Youth. Either way, barbed wordplay between Cruz and Johnny Depp will be involved, and that alone is enough to keep us interested.
Heat index: Hot
She has two films in pre-production: next year’s The Wrong Picture, directed by Woody Allen and co-starring Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg; and 2013’s Venuto al Mondo, based on the novel by Margaret Mazzantini.
RACHEL MCADAMS in Midnight in Paris (out May 20)
We know what she did last summer: The plucky actress was between two big roles, in Sherlock Holmes and Morning Glory – both of which we must admit we sort of think of as summer movies, even if they came out in December 2009 and November 2010, respectively.
And this summer: McAdams plays Inez in Woody Allen’s latest offering, Midnight in Paris, a romantic comedy in which she shares the screen with Kathy Bates, Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, and – in her acting debut! – Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
Heat index: Scorching
McAdams’ range is well documented (who else could play both Regina George and The Notebook‘s Allie?), and she’s putting it to good use in the next year or two. She’s lined up roles in three distinctly different kinds of films: a big-budget action sequel (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), an auteur film (Terrence Malick’s as-yet-untitled 2012 offering), and a romantic drama (The Vow, with Channing Tatum). We’re not sure if she qualifies as A-list just yet – but we think by this time next year, she’ll be there.
BRAD PITT in The Tree of Life (out May 27)
We know what he did last summer: Last year was a pretty quiet one for the Oscar nominee – though he did produce Kick-Ass and Eat Pray Love. Angelina Jolie has said that she and Pitt try to switch off their time working, and she had a high-profile turn in Salt to promote last year, so presumably he spent last summer hanging out with Zahara, Maddox, Shiloh, Pax, Knox, and Vivienne.
And this summer: The Tree of Life, the first film in six years from celebrated director Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven), is possibly our single most-anticipated summer movie. It’s a multi-generational story; Pitt plays the mid-century dad of a little boy, Jack, who grows up to become Sean Penn. The trailer is short on details, but we almost prefer it that way.
Heat index: Super Hot
The Tree of Life isn’t the only big-profile picture Pitt’s anchoring this year; he also stars in Bennett Miller’s much-buzzed-about Moneyball, written by Aaron Sorkin, which tells the true story of Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane. Next year brings Cogan’s Trade, which in addition to Pitt stars some heavy hitters including Ray Liotta, Casey Affleck, and James Gandolfini.
JENNIFER LAWRENCE in X-Men: First Class (out June 3)
We know what she did last summer: Oh, no big deal, only broke our hearts as Ree Dolly, the tough-as-nails Ozarks teen out to save her family in Winter’s Bone. She was rightfully Oscar-nominated for the role, and looked damn good in a cherry-red Calvin Klein sheath when she gracefully lost to Natalie Portman.
And this summer: Lawrence has a supporting role in Jodie Foster’s much-delayed Mel Gibson vehicle, The Beaver – but what we’re really looking forward to seeing is her turn in X-Men: First Class as Mystique, the shapeshifting human chameleon.
Heat index: Scorching
She’s a lead in Sundance hit Like Crazy, out in October, which has been compared to Blue Valentine. Next year brings the eerie-sounding House at the End of the Street, in which Lawrence’s character moves in next door to a house where a little girl murdered her parents and subsequently finds that all is not as it appears… Oh, and she’s got the coveted role of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, which we’re willing to bet real American money will be 2012’s biggest-grossing film. Lawrence’s career couldn’t be any hotter.
ELLE FANNING in Super 8 (out June 10)
We know what she did last summer: Just before Labor Day, Somewhere, the Sofia Coppola-directed film starring Fanning as the daughter who makes arrested-development case Stephen Dorff grow up a bit, premiered at the Venice Film Festival. A slew of other fests followed, taking Fanning all the way up to December (when she also starred in The Nutcracker in 3D).
And this summer: Fanning stars in Super 8, the new Spielberg-produced J.J. Abrams movie, which is set in 1979 and is about a group of friends who investigate the mysterious goings-on in their town after a train crash. After the full-length trailer came out, /Film’s Adam Quigley called it “my most awaited movie of 2011” – and after seeing that trailer, we can see why.
Heat index: Super Hot
We’re documented fans of la jeune Fanning, but even so, we think our rating is objectively correct. Besides Super 8, she’s booked for Twixt Now and Sunrise, an upcoming thriller from Francis Ford Coppola; We Bought a Zoo, the new Cameron Crowe comedy co-starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, and biopic Vivaldi.
RYAN REYNOLDS in Green Lantern (out June 17)
We know what he did last summer: Reynolds was gearing up for the release of Buried, the critically acclaimed film in which he starred, along with a lighter and a cell phone, as a man trapped in a coffin after being buried alive.
And this summer: Reynolds plays the titular role in superhero flick Green Lantern, about a test pilot thrust into a world of galactic power (and, as we’ve learned from this sort of movie before, responsibility!) when he receives a magic ring. He’s also starring in August’s The Change-Up, a body-switching caper the likes of which probably haven’t been seen since Freaky Friday.
Heat index: Super Hot
If you didn’t know Reynolds was hot, you could’ve consulted People magazine (they’ve made him a Sexiest Man Alive three times). And he’s got a career to match! Action movies Safe House and R.I.P.D. are due out next year, and he’s got three more films slated for 2013 and 2014: The Croods, Turbo, and Deadpool.
JIM STURGESS in One Day (out July 8)
We know what he did last summer: The Way Back, the Peter Weir-directed Siberian-refugee movie in which he shared the screen with Saoirse Ronan and Ed Harris, premiered at Telluride Film Festival at the end of last summer to complimentary reviews. He also lent his voice talents to Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, but we don’t have to talk about that.
And this summer: We can’t wait for One Day, the movie directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education) based on the book by David Nicholls, which stars Sturgess and Anne Hathaway as Dexter and Emma, who spend the eve of their college graduation together and are then revisited year after year, together and apart, by the movie’s narrative. It’s like Michael Apted’s Up series, but with romance!
Heat index: Very hot
There’s more romance on the horizon for Sturgess, who also stars this year in Upside Down, an alternate-universe love story with Kirsten Dunst. He’ll switch gears a bit for thriller The Promised Land and film noir Ashes, which co-stars the excellent, underappreciated Lesley Manville and was apparently co-financed by Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
CHRIS EVANS in Captain America: The First Avenger (out July 29)
We know what he did last summer: Evans was perfectly cast as the second of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s second evil exes, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. As Lucas Lee, a “pretty good” action-movie star, Evans lampooned genre clichés to hilarious effect.
And this summer: Patriotism never looked so good! Evans has the title role in Captain America: The First Avenger; in case you don’t know the story, he plays a man deemed unfit for military service in 1942 who volunteers for a top-secret research project instead. He becomes a super-soldier, Captain America, who fights Hitler’s head of advanced weaponry, the Red Skull. Will America prevail?! (We’re going to guess probably so.)
Heat index: Hot
In the early fall, Evans co-stars in the bawdy Anna Faris comedy What’s Your Number?. He’s also set, naturally, to reprise his role as Captain America in the Joss Whedon-directed The Avengers next year.
RYAN GOSLING in Crazy, Stupid, Love (out July 29)
We know what he did last summer: We like to imagine Gosling spent summer 2010 caring for injuried puppies and buying lattes for cute brunette assistant web editors. In reality, he spent much of the summer (and much of last year in general) following Blue Valentine on the festival circuit – Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, and lots more – and collecting praise for his role in the critically-adored film.
And this summer: In Crazy, Stupid, Love, Gosling finally seizes the role he was born to play: a cool guy beloved by everyone. (Seriously, it’s been hard to hold onto a crush while he’s played a neo-Nazi, a crack addict, a murderer, and a cross-dressing murderer – but we feel our investment is now paying off.) When Steve Carell and Julianne Moore’s characters’ marriage gets rocky, Gosling swoops in Hitch-style to school Carell in suaveness. But his tricks don’t work on the one girl Gosling most wants to impress, played by Emma Stone. Seriously, have you seen this trailer? Also, you’ve read Carell’s epic interview with Gosling, right?
Heat index: Very Hot
Gosling next stars in The Ides of March, written and directed by George Clooney based on the play by Beau Willimon, as a staffer for a presidential candidate played by Clooney. Next year, he stars in the remake of sci-fi drama Logan’s Run; and he’s rumored to be in 2013’s The Gangster Squad with Sean Penn and Josh Brolin.
DANIEL CRAIG in Cowboys & Aliens (out July 29)
We know what he did last summer: After 2008’s Defiance (which, we’ll admit, must have been emotionally draining!), Craig laid low for a little while; his only credits from last year were lending his voice talents to two James Bond video games.
And this summer: Like another summer-movie classic, Snakes on a Plane, Craig’s upcoming film Cowboys & Aliens is sort of exactly what it sounds like. Aliens land on Earth in 1873 intending to take over the world, and a bunch of cowboys (including Paul Dano, Harrison Ford, and Sam Rockwell, in addition to Craig) try to stop them. Jon Favreau directed it, and we’ve got to say: it looks kind of amazing!
Heat index: Super Hot
In the fall, he stars in Dream House, about a family who moves into a new home and then discovers a brutal crime was committed in it. Winter will bring two huge-profile movies within a few days of each other: Steven Spielberg’s animated Tintin and David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Next year, he’s back to business as usual in Bond 23; rumored co-stars include Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem.
JESSE EISENBERG in 30 Minutes or Less (out August 12)
We know what he did last summer: Uh, he starred in a little film called The Social Network, about a little social network called Facebook? Ever heard of it? (Okay, so technically it premiered on September 24, but it was 75 degrees in New York on that day, so it counts.) He also starred in Holy Rollers as an Orthodox Jewish drug smuggler. Big summer!
And this summer: Eisenberg stars in 30 Minutes or Less as a hapless pizza delivery guy who’s kidnapped and forced to rob a bank in under a half hour. It’s directed by Rubin Fleischer, whose previous credits – Zombieland, Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, Rob & Big – suggests the film will be very dude-y, very twisted, and very funny.
Heat index: Very Hot
Like Penélope Cruz, he’s due to star in next year’s Woody Allen film The Wrong Picture. He’s also got Free Samples, a dramedy with Jess Weixler and Halley Feiffer, and (rumor has it) A-bomb drama Midnight Sun on tap for later this year; next year, he’ll star in mother-son comedy Predisposed with fellow Oscar nom Melissa Leo. But still, we have the feeling he won’t stop there. After all, 26 film credits isn’t cool. Know what’s cool? A billion film credits.