Ten great films of summer 2012

From superheroes to hot docs, here’s our critics’ picks for the summer’s best films

  • 1

    The Amazing Spider-Man

    Released 3 July 2012

    The buzz: Andrew Garfield steps into Tobey Maguire’s skin-tight Spidey suit.
    Now, on the face of it Garfield doesn’t look like anyone’s idea of a superhero. But then, quite a lot about this reboot suggests we might be in for an action blockbuster with an indie-heart and plenty of backstory. This is only director Mark Webb’s second film after the alt romcom ‘500 Days of Summer’, and he reckons he hired Garfield not for his pecs, but for his ‘emotional gravitas’.
    Summer smash potential? Looking good. Few actors do vulnerable and underdog like Garfield (‘Never Let Me Go’, ‘The Social Network’). And from the trailer this looks like no slouch in the action department either.

    Read The Amazing Spider-Man review
  • 2

    Magic Mike

    Released 11 July 2012

    The buzz: Channing Tatum in a thong.
    If the very thought engages your gag reflex, look away now. Everyone else… he is stripper Mike, who dreams of making it big as a furniture designer. The script is based on Tatum’s own experiences stripping as he struggled to get into acting. And if that all sounds beyond cheesy, what might lift this above guilty-pleasures-entertaining is that it’s directed by Steven Soderbergh.
    Summer smash potential? Well, the fact that a ‘serious’ director is involved is already drawing comparisons to ‘American Gigolo’. And 2012 is officially year of ‘mummy porn’ (cross ref with literary smash ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’), so maybe they’re on to something.

  • 3

    Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

    Released 13 July 2012

    The buzz: Keira Knightley and Steve Carell hook up for an apocalyptic road trip.
    As double acts go, Knightley and Carell don’t look like a natural pairing. But here they are, in Lorene Scafaria’s directing debut (she wrote ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’). It’s set in the weeks before a 70-mile asteroid slams into Earth. Carell’s insurance salesman heads back to his hometown to find his teenage sweetheart. Knightley is his neighbour, who tags along for the ride.
    Summer smash potential? ‘The Road’ without the cannibalism and packed with indie-quirks? It has potential.

  • 4

    Something from Nothing: the Art of Rap

    Released 20 July 2012

    The buzz: Ice-T’s directing debut.
    Ice-T takes time out of his busy ‘Law & Order: SUV’ schedule to go back to his roots with this history of the hip-hop scene. It premiered to rave reviews at Sundance, in part thanks to its blingy solid gold line-up of rappers: everyone from Snoop to Kanye West, Ice Cube, Nas and Afrika Bambaataa makes an appearance. And rumour has it that the mother of all live events is being lined up in London to tie in with the release.
    Summer smash potential? Smash might be pushing it, but we’ll be hearing a lot more old school rap leaking out of headphones on the bus.

  • 5

    The Dark Knight Rises

    Released 20 July 2012

    The buzz: Christopher Nolan’s last Batman.
    ‘Avengers Assemble’ came and conquered. So is that it: the year’s biggest superhero movie done and dusted? Well, maybe not quite yet. Brit director Nolan’s third and final Batman is set eight years after ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008): Batman is in hiding after taking the rap for crimes committed by bent district attourney Harvey Dent. Tom Hardy looks to be on scene-stealing, skull-crushing, man-mountainous form as villain Bane.
    Summer smash potential: This could knock it out the park. And that broodingly bleak, end-of-days trailer even raises the prospect that, for once, maybe the good guys don’t come out on top.

    Read The Dark Knight Rises preview
  • 6

    The Bourne Legacy

    Released 13 August 2012

    The buzz: The franchise lives on.
    Matt Damon has departed. So too has director Paul Greengrass. And they’re still calling it ‘Bourne’?! Well as a spook says grimly on the trailer: ‘Jason Bourne was the tip of the iceberg.’ Stepping into the line of fire is Hollywood’s new favourite action man, Jeremy Renner. He’s Aaron Cross, like Bourne a CIA-programmed killing machine who goes on the run when his puppet masters pull the plug.
    Summer smash potential? Director Tony Gilroy has clearly been chosen as a safe pair of hands – he wrote the three previous films. And if the thumping, breakneck trailer is anything to go by, there’s plenty bang for your buck.

    Read The Bourne Legacy preview
  • 7

    Take This Waltz

    Released 17 August 2012

    The buzz: The film that finally gives Michelle Williams an Oscar?
    In 2006 the Canadian actress Sarah Polley (aged just 27) made a stunning directing debut with ‘Away From Her’. Now she’s back with this astonishingly mature relationship movie starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen (both incredible) as an ever so slightly smug Toronto couple. It’s about long term relationships: what happens when the honeymoon period ends? Williams in particular gives the performance of her career. Yes, even better than in ‘Blue Valentine’.
    Summer smash potential? It might not set the multiplexes on fire, but it’s a guaranteed arthouse hot ticket.

  • 8

    The Imposter

    Released 24 August 2012

    The buzz: The most talked about doc at Sundance.
    When ‘The Imposter’ premiered at Sundance in January, a small contingent in the crowd assumed it was a fake. Certainly the story is like something out of an airport thriller: in 1994 a young boy, Nicholas Barclay disappeared without a trace in Texas. Three years later he was found thousands of miles away in Spain. A happy ending? Not quite, the newly-found Nicholas was in fact Frédéric Bourdin, a French man with a criminal record.
    Summer smash potential? For a smash, best wait for the Hollywood version (it’s got to be right around the corner).

  • 9


    Released 17 August 2012

    The buzz: Pixar does ‘Braveheart’.
    The studio behind ‘Toy Story’ and ‘WALL-E’ have set their latest animation film in tenth century Scotland (everyone’s got flaming red hair like the Weasleys in ‘Harry Potter’). ‘Brave’ is Pixar’s first fairy tale, and their first (a bit shocking this) to feature a female lead. She is Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), an unruly princess in ye olde Highlands who wants to be a warrior like the boys.
    Summer smash potential? Ordinarily box office domination comes as standard with Pixar. But early reviews have been so-so and word is that they might have played it safe this time around.

    Read Brave preview
  • 10

    Total Recall

    Released 29 August 2012

    The buzz: Colin Farrell does Arnie but NOT his one-liners.
    ‘No one does one-liners like Arnie’ says Colin Farrell. And this remake is shaping up to be a leaner, meaner, more faithful adaptation of Philip K Dick’s short story (‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’) than director Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original. Farrell is Doug Quaid, the construction worker who has memory implants to relieve his boredom. only to discover he isn’t who he thinks he is.
    Summer smash potential? As far as Farrell and action remakes are concerned the only way is up... anyone remember his last effort, ‘Miami Vice’?

    Read Totall Recall preview