Since its original publication in 1984 (it’s now on its fourth edition) What To Expect When You’re Expecting has become the Bible for expectant mothers, selling more than 14 million copies—and now it’s been turned into the most anticipated movie of the summer! Along with offering practical advice for the many stages of pregnancy and early childhood development, the guide has been notorious for stoking the fears of first-time mothers on everything from their dietary habits to the myriad routes to scary complications. And with that, we have our metaphor for the summer movie season, a time when Hollywood entertainment comes tumbling out of the birth canal, all covered in vernix and wailing at the top of its lungs, in Dolby surround sound. When you clean it off, will it lift a car over its head, or will it be one of those terrifying mutants from David Cronenberg’s The Brood? Below, The A.V. Club film staff brings you the ultimate, half-informed self-help guide to what to expect from your summer movie season. This section covers new releases through the end of June; check back tomorrow for July and August releases.
Dark Shadows (May 11)
What to expect: Tim Burton teams up with professional life partner Johnny Depp in their apparent never-ending quest to revive every oddball-friendly piece of creative property that hasn’t been revived in a while. Here they rework Dan Curtis’ cult-favorite soap opera, which ran from 1966 to 1971 and featured a vampire named Barnabas (played here by Depp), and has to be one of the weirdest shows ever to make it onto the air, much less stay there for more than 1,000 episodes.
Practical advice: Take a deep breath. Relax. Remember you can still be funny. Where recent Depp and Burton collaborations Alice In Wonderland and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory used familiar stories as launching pads for eye-popping (and often eye-gouging) special effects, the supernatural culture-clash comedy of Dark Shadows looks more of a piece with Beetlejuice, which used visual inventiveness to more amusing, character-friendly ends. Factoring out the superior Stephen Sondheim adaptation Sweeney Todd, it looks like the most warm-blooded Burton film in years.
Cause for irrational alarm: Never forget: Alice In Wonderland’s Futterwacken dance.
The Dictator (May 16)
What to expect: After the success (albeit diminishing) of Borat and Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen ditches the faux-documentary format and creates a new character in Admiral General Aladeen, the democracy-hating dictator of a North African country named the Republic Of Wadiya. It’s Charlie Chaplin meets Muammar Gaddafi meets…well, Borat and Brüno again.
Practical advice: When your last two movies have followed a winning formula—like say, putting outrageous made-up characters in real situations—it’s best to revisit the scripted fish-out-of-water antics that made the movie before those (Ali G Indahouse) such a stilted disaster. If at first you don’t succeed…
Cause for irrational alarm: A satirical critique of extremists like Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad, or Bashir will only make them angrier, which will amplify their rhetoric, thus dramatically increasing the number of baby strollers mangled by bomb-defusing robots at the airport.
Battleship (May 18)
What to expect: NASA sends a signal out into space, and it’s all like, “D-3!” and “G-6!” But when the aliens get the signal, they don’t say, “Hit” or, “Miss” or, “You sunk our destroyer”; they send a whole fleet of ships to Earth, like they’re trying to cover all the squares at once! That’s how Battleship the movie is exactly like Battleship the game. Also Taylor Kitsch is in it.
Practical advice: Next time your parents chastise you for all the time you spend playing board games, you can point to this movie as an example of how you might one day have to put your skills to use. For example, what if space aliens build a hotel on Park Place? What if space aliens draw a “Sorry” card when you’re only three squares from the Safety Zone? There are so many potential situations where an alien invasion and the basic premise of a board game might overlap.
Cause for irrational alarm: Though Peter Berg is a good action director, and Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, and Liam Neeson are all charismatic stars, there comes a point when all concerned have to admit that they’ve poured time, talent, and effort into what is, in effect, a $200,000,000 commercial for a game so simple that it used to be played with paper and pencil.
What To Expect When You’re Expecting (May 18)
What to expect: In a loose adaptation of the self-help bible—there are pregnant women featured in both book and movie, and then they have babies—five interconnected couples all experience the miracle of childbirth and the reality of sleepless nights and poopy diapers. Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Brooklyn Decker, and Anna Kendrick play the mothers-to-be.
Practical advice: If you have morning sickness, try eating six or seven small meals instead of three larges ones and be sure to keep yourself hydrated. During the birthing process, you can manage your pain with an epidural, but the agony of natural childbirth is much funnier, especially if you take it out on the father. Once the baby is born, umbilical cord care is very important: Be sure to keep the site clean using alcohol swabs. And when the cord hardens and falls off, simply drop it in your husband’s coffee.
Cause for irrational alarm: Sex is okay during pregnancy, but oral sex can create an embolism that could kill both mother and fetus. Feeling an unborn child’s hiccups are a great affirmation that there’s life inside you, but they may also indicate a knotted umbilical cord and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. And if your “incompetent cervix” isn’t threatening enough to your poor little lamb, that sushi you shouldn’t be eating will be.
Chernobyl Diaries (May 25)
What to expect: Based on the title: a sensitive film about living in the shadow of one of history’s worst nuclear disasters. Based on the fact it’s produced and co-written by Paranormal Activity’s Oren Peli: a scary movie in which nothing happens, and then a little bit happens and it’s pretty scary, and then something else happens that’s a little scary, and then a whole bunch of scary things happen. And then it ends abruptly.
Practical advice: Make careful travel plans and stick with them. The film’s protagonists discover as much when they hire a guide to take them to a ghost town of Pripyat outside Chernobyl only to discover it’s also apparently a g-g-g-g-ghost town!
Cause for irrational alarm: No cause for alarm here. Everything’s quiet. Very quiet. Even a little boring. Wait? What was that? No… that! OH GOD NO!
Men In Black 3 (May 25)
What to expect: Normally the artist formerly known the Fresh Prince releases an infectious pop-rap ditty to let audiences know exactly what to expect from a new Men In Black movie. Smith unwisely relegated theme song duty to Miami rapper Pitbull this time out, and we’re afraid the resulting track, “Back In Time,” doesn’t explain shit and kinda sucks to boot. Nevertheless, some Internet searching reveals that Men In Black 3 finds Will Smith’s very secret agent traveling back in time to keep an alien from changing history by assassinating the younger, Josh Brolin-looking version of Smith’s stone-faced partner Tommy Lee Jones. Will Smith also use time-travel to go back in time and keep Pitbull from recording the theme song to Men In Black 3? Probably not, but he really should. Man, does that song suck.
Practical advice: The first two Men In Black movies grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide. Why? Because they featured Will Smith theme songs like Men In Black II’s timeless classic “Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head).” That’s pretty much it. Without a Will Smith theme song, Men In Black 3 is doomed to flop, but it’s not too late for Smith to rush into a recording studio and record a theme song that will save the film and the franchise from certain failure.
Cause for irrational alarm: Men In Black 3’s plot might give real-life aliens ideas about how best to attack our planet. And who’s going to be the primary victim of a full-scale alien attack? That’s right: the babies. Oh, won’t someone think of the children?
Moonrise Kingdom (May 25)
What to expect: The latest Wes Anderson film abandons all pretense that that the writer-director might one day move on from Close ’N Play record players and transistor radios, and instead returns to Anderson’s motherland of the 1960s for a story about a boy scout and his girlfriend disappearing into the wilderness and alarming their New England island community. Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton join Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman to tell the tale.
Practical advice: Anderson is nothing if not a fetishist for plans and diagrams, so there’s a good chance that he and co-writer Roman Coppola will offer real tips on how to survive in the wild.
Cause for irrational alarm: On the other hand, those tips will likely involve foodstuffs and gadgetry that are no longer being manufactured, and will require you to wear an easily identifiable article of clothing and walk in slow motion as a wispy old pop song plays. In other words: You might be stuck in the woods for a while.
Piranha 3DD (June 1)
What to expect: The 2010 remake of Joe Dante’s Jaws spoof/homage Piranha was even campier and more preposterous than a 3-D film about killer fish that prominently features the severed penis of Jerry O’Connell had any right to be. As the title suggests, Piranha 3DD ups the camp factor to RuPaul’s Drag Race levels by adding David Hasselhoff and Gary Busey to the mix.
Practical advice: Piranha 3DD’s title goes a long way toward establishing the leering, lascivious, and proudly tasteless tone of the movie and the franchise. But does it go far enough? Wouldn’t an on-the-nose subtitle like Piranha 3DD: That Is A Rather Large Bra Size, Like, Tura Satana Big do a more thorough job of establishing appropriate expectations?
Cause for irrational alarm: Prolonged exposure to the acting of Gary Busey has been shown to warp the fragile psyche of children and adults alike, so hopefully the film will dole out scenes featuring the grating, crazy-inducing thespian sparingly.
Snow White And The Huntsman (June 1)
What to expect: Twilight star Kristen Stewart brings her unchanging “Who farted?” expression to this straight-faced, big-budget retelling of the Snow White legend. Charlize Theron co-stars as the wicked queen out to get her. Thor’s Chris Hemsworth plays the huntsman who, spoiler, saves her. Also: There are dwarves (played by Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, and others).
Practical advice: Need to remake a familiar story? Bring on the CGI! Why settle for a mere mirror when you can have a talking, gelatinous mass of liquid glass that slithers on the floor. Cool, right? Why have a creepy forest when you can fill it with grabby, hostile trees. It’s bigger! It’s bolder! It’s LOUDER! HAPPILY EVER AFTER, EVERYONE!
Cause for irrational alarm: Nobody seemed to like the last Snow White movie, this spring’s lighthearted Mirror, Mirror, and that one starred universally beloved actress Lily Collins.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8)
What to expect: What you got in Madagascar and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, only this time the animals are in Europe, or something.
Practical advice: Settling is underrated. Look, we all know Pixar makes the best animated movies these days. But it’s only one studio, okay? Someone has to fill the void the rest of the time. DreamWorks has shown some encouraging ambition in recent years, but the studio still leans hard on established void-fillers like Madagascar, a hodgepodge of funny animals voiced by celebrities, pop-culture references that fly clean over the kids’ heads, and poop jokes. Eh, the kids have to watch something right?
Cause for irrational alarm: And yet, the screenplay is co-credited to Greenberg and The Squid And The Whale filmmaker Noah Baumbach, meaning this could double as a generation of soon-to-be-traumatized kids’ introduction to awkwardness, alienation, and discontent. In 3D (in select theaters).
Prometheus (June 8)
What to expect: Well, we don’t really know now, do we? Early word pegged the Ridley Scott-directed film as a prequel to Alien. Then Scott said it wasn’t but contained some Alien DNA. Then trailers started surfacing that made it look a lot like an Alien prequel. So expect an Alien prequel. Or not. It’s all so confusing.
Practical advice: That planet, the one it looks like it would be cool to visit? It’s not. Stay away. Even if you’re Noomi Rapace, robot Michael Fassbender, or Idris Elba, something bad is going to happen to you. Don’t you hear that ominous music? Don’t you see that dripping ooze?
Cause for irrational alarm: Consider this: As cool as it is that Ridley Scott is directing this, whatever it is, it’s been a while since he made a really great film. (Consider the preceding wet blanket emblazoned with Russell Crowe’s face and the words Robin Hood.)
Rock Of Ages (June 15)
What to expect: The showbiz dreams of a waitress (Julianne Hough) and a busboy (Diego Boneta) grow in the musical Petri dish of The Bourbon Room, a Hollywood club that plays host to various ’80s hair-metal bands. Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, and Tom Cruise also star in this adaptation of the hit Broadway musical.
Practical advice: The ’80s rock of bands like Def Leppard, Foreigner, and Twisted Sister were the sound of musical rebellion, and thus should never be cheapened by a synthetic, whitewashed Broadway-to-movie adaptation. But if you must, borrow nearly every century-old backstage cliché you can, thread them all together with Journey and REO Speedwagon lyrics, and have your director liken a stunt-cast Tom Cruise to Axl Rose, Jim Morrison, and Keith Richards combined.
Cause for irrational alarm: A mash-up of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “We Built This City” is a musical earworm so infectious that the CDC might have to intervene. Combine that with the raw sexual power of Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx and Giamatti’s oversized porn mustache, and it could be a national crisis.
That’s My Boy (June 15)
What to expect: Sure, Adam Sandler played a lovably irresponsible man-child in, well, everything he’s ever done. But has he ever played the father of a full-grown adult before? Sandler does just that in That’s My Boy, a wacky comedy about a man-child who sired a son while still a teenager and raised him as a single parent. The son grows up to be Andy Samberg, and after years of estrangement, his terrible father Sandler shows up at his wedding and engages in monkeyshines.
Practical advice: When you’re one of the biggest movie stars in the world, it’s wise to tie your commercial fortunes to those of someone whose only other starring cinematic vehicle is the hilarious but under-performing Hot Rod.
Cause for irrational alarm: Teenaged fatherhood is no laughing matter—neither are Sandler’s comedies these days—and seeing a kiddie icon like Sandler as a man who sired a son while still a kid is liable to make impressionable young people think that teen parenthood is “jiggy” and “funky-fresh” and “way moby,” especially when a “cool dude” like Sandler is doing it.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22)
What to expect: It’s all there in the title, really.
Practical advice: “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” Abraham Lincoln once said, a wise piece of practical wisdom that has absolutely nothing to do with this adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s follow-up to his surprise bestseller Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. Here, Lincoln leads the United States in a Civil War that’s also a war against slave-holding vampires. Silly, right? So why does the trailer to the film, which is directed by Wanted’s Timur Bekmambetov, look so deadly serious?
Cause for irrational alarm: Lincoln fighting vampires: A funny, weirdly compelling idea. But is it a funny, weirdly compelling idea that can be stretched to feature length?
Brave (June 22)
What to expect: Kelly Macdonald lends her voice to the latest Pixar protagonist: a 10th-century Scottish princess who defies tradition and looks to be taken seriously as a huntress, rather than being forced into a life as a prim and proper lady. Other voice performers include Emma Thompson as Macdonald’s exasperated mother and the inevitable Billy Connolly as her Da, the king.
Practical advice: Given the alarming number of recent news stories about bears galumphing their way into urban and suburban areas, a refresher course on how to hone our collective archery skills to ward off predators could well be in order.
Cause for irrational alarm: The fiery-haired heroine of Brave also gets a witch to cast a spell to “change her fate,” which causes everything in the kingdom to go kerflooie. Follow her path at your own peril. (And pack an extra quiver.)
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (June 22)
What to expect: Steve Carell stars as a man whose wife leaves him on the eve of an asteroid crash that promises to destroy our fragile planet. Carell tries to make the most of his limited time left by seeking out his childhood sweetheart with the help of charming neighbor Keira Knightley. Will Knightley and Carell find love with one another? No. Obviously that’s not going to happen. Knightley will help Carell find his childhood sweetheart and that will be that.
Practical advice: Nothing says “summer fun” quite like an apocalypse-themed title and premise. The end of the world equals boffo box-office.
Cause for irrational alarm: What if very stupid people mistake Seeking A Friend for a documentary featuring people who look uncannily like movie stars, panic, and commit mass suicide in a massive War Of The Worlds-type misunderstanding? There are a lot of stupid people out there, and if this guide has proven anything, it’s that you can never be too careful.
To Rome With Love (June 22)
What to expect: A year after Midnight In Paris became the unexpected sleeper hit of the summer, Woody Allen returns with another homage to an enchanting European city, this one told in four comic vignettes. Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, and Allen himself are among the big names in the white-text-on-a-black-background credits sequence.
Practical advice: When in Rome, try to do the same thing you did when you were in Paris, because people liked that better than when you were in London those last two times. According to Anthony Bourdain, the toilet paper in Rome is very abrasive, so you may want to bring your own. And before seeing To Rome With Love, the producers advise you to see the Kristen Bell vehicle When In Rome for comparison’s sake—that’s the standard by which this movie should be judged.
Cause for irrational alarm: Allen hasn’t fully invested himself in a movie in about 20 years, and all of his successes in that period have been relative to a declining scale. His insights into European cultural capitals have, to date, suggested a combination of casual tourism, assumptions about libertine sexuality, and repurposed bits from past Woody Allen movies. And did we mention that Roberto Benigni is in this movie?
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29)
What to expect: G.I. Joe. Also: retaliation. Also: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis.
Practical advice: You never get a second chance to make a first impression, but if your first impression doesn’t work out so well you can recruit movie stars like Willis and Johnson to help out. Johnson steps into the designated hitter slot here as Roadblock, a sensitive, bookish type who stays far away from the action and lets the other team members do the dangerous stuff. (Or he’s a tough guy who likes to blow things up. We might have gotten some bad intel.)
Cause for irrational alarm: Did you see G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra? There’s nothing irrational about any alarm around this film.
Magic Mike (June 29)
What to expect: The ever-eclectic Steven Soderbergh—who, if his retirement proclamations are to be believed, is in the twilight of his career—delivers one of his least-expected projects to date, a thong-filled journey into the world of male strippers. Channing Tatum stars as the titular “Magic Mike,” Alex Pettyfer plays his protégé, and Matthew McConaughey summons his skeezy Wooderson charm as the owner of a club called Xquisite.
Practical advice: There’s nothing to be done about thongs riding up—just be sure not to use the same pair on consecutive nights to prevent rashes and general butt-smell. Soderbergh will have other insights into the profession, in addition to the rare and welcome sight of male bodies trotted out for delectation.
Cause for irrational alarm: The last time a high-profile stripper movie was released in the summer, it was Demi Moore’s notorious Striptease on June 28, 1996, almost 16 years ago to the day. That’s a chilling legacy, but if anyone can transcend it through the power of dopey charm, it’s Channing “The Big Brisket” Tatum.
People Like Us (June 29)
What to expect: Oft-employed screenwriter Alex Kurtzman (one half of the Alex Kurtzman/Robert Orci team behind the Transformers movies, Fringe, and more) makes his directorial debut with the tale of a fast-talking businessman (Chris Pine) who discovers he has a half-sister (Elizabeth Banks) he didn’t know about until after his father’s death, then befriends her without telling her who he is.
Practical advice: No matter how fast-paced life gets, always take the time to call your parents. Because you never know when they might die without telling you about that long-lost sibling you never knew you had. And then you might have to kind-of sort-of stalk her in a non-creepy way in order to get to know her better.
Cause for irrational alarm: The film’s based on a true story, meaning it could happen to you. (Just like Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen.)
Madea’s Witness Protection (June 29)
What to expect: When the CFO (Eugene Levy) behind a massive Ponzi scheme goes into the witness-protection program after running afoul of the mob, he ends up cohabitating with the titular sassy old lady (writer-director Tyler Perry) and her brother (also Perry).
Practical advice: When looking to keep a low profile and stay off the radar of the mob, the best possible place to stay is alongside a sassy, bellowing, drunken, and profane exhibitionist who constantly calls attention to herself and her over-the-top antics.
Cause for irrational alarm: Kids might unintentionally learn the lesson that if they commit shady, illegal acts they’ll get to hang out with a weed-smoking, wisdom-dispensing barrel of fun like Madea as well.