School is out. The mercury is topping 90 with regularity. Must be time for Hollywood to unleash the big dogs.
It’s summer, so we’re not talking about the small art flicks that will bring home Oscars. This is the time for the big-budget blow-em-ups that will have you coming back for another box of popcorn.
What follows is a guide to the biggest stars, the most action-packed films and the best that Hollywood has to offer this summer.
■ “Shrek Forever After,” starring the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy. In the fourth edition of this animated franchise, big green ogre Shrek finds himself bored with domestic life. So he cuts a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to have one day of his old life back. Sent to a bizzaro version of Far Far Away, Shrek must figure out a way to restore the balance of things and get Fiona back.
Also opening: Will Forte and Kristen Wiig star in “MacGruber,” in a possibly futile attempt to turn a mildly funny “Saturday Night Live” skit into 90 minutes of laughs. Something tells us they haven’t seen “A Night at the Roxbury.”
■ “Sex and the City 2,” starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristen Davis and Cynthia Nixon. Is there one more workable story line in the venerable series designer handbag? Carrie Bradshaw and company head to the Middle East where Samantha’s ex-boyfriend is shooting a movie. There married Carrie runs into old flame Aiden. Will she be able to stay faithful to Big?
Also opening: Jake Gyllenhaal plays a poor kid who rises to royalty with the help of a special dagger in the video game remake “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” Horror movie legend George A. Romero returns to the zombie well again for “Survival of the Dead.”
■ “Killers,” starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher. Blend the secret identity comedy of “True Lies” with the sexiness of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and you get “Killers.” In it, Kutcher stars as an undercover assassin who has been hiding his true identity from his wife of three years (Heigl). But when he becomes the target of other assassins, the domestic goddess has to become a killer in order to save her husband.
Also opening: Russell Brand revives his character Aldous Snow from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” in “Get Him to the Greek.” Owen Wilson dips into the mischievous but lovable dog well again with the live action remake of “Marmaduke.” Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley deal with the ramifications of their genetic experiments in “Splice.”
■ “The A-Team,” starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel. This reboot of the ’80s TV franchise, brings the A-Team into the new millennium. Now they are framed Iraq War vets who are out on a mission to clear their names and punish the people who sent them to jail. Smells like a potential franchise, doesn’t it?
Also opening: Speaking of the ’80s, Will Smith’s son Jaden takes over the titular role in “The Karate Kid” with Jackie Chan as his reluctant sensei. Start practicing your crane kicks.
■ “Toy Story 3,” starring the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. A decade after the last “Toy Story” film, the toys find themselves dumped at a day-care center after their owner Andy heads off to college. Now they have to learn the ropes with a whole new cast of toys.
Also opening: In the sci-fi western comic book remake “Jonah Hex,” bounty hunter Josh Brolin must take down terrorist John Malkovich before he can unleash Hell on Earth. John C. Reilly tries to woo Marisa Tomei only to find that her son (Jonas Hill) doesn’t want to relinquish his mother in “Cyrus.”
■ “Grown Ups,” starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Kevin James. Can Sandler and company do for the middle-age comedy what they did for 20-somethings 15 years ago? We’ll find out when box office number come back for this film about a group of high school basketball teammates reuniting over a long weekend.
Also opening: In “Knight and Day,” Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz set out to prove they can still headline a big summer tentpole film by playing a couple on the lam trying to stay alive.
■ “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Tickets are already on sale and girls around the country are waiting with bated breath. The popular vampire romance series opens its third movie chapter with Bella Swan going back and forth between vampire Edward Cullen and werewolf Jacob Black. Just try avoiding this film. We dare you.
Also opening: Based on a popular children’s show “The Last Airbender,” brings with it hope of an M. Night Shyamalan renaissance. “Gossip Girl” star Chace Crawford plays a drug dealer dealing with the death of his cousin and the arrest of his best friend in “Twelve.”
■ “Despicable Me,” starring the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Jason Segel. Universal does its best Pixar imitation in this film about a villain whose plans to steal the moon are upended by three girls. With an all-star voice cast and pretty adorable animated characters, this one seems destined for success.
Also opening: “Predators” reboots the franchise that launched the career of two governors, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger, with Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Alice Braga.
■ “Inception,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe and Ellen Page. Top-secret script. Cryptic trailers. Fuzzy concept. Director Christopher Nolan is trying to make a big-budget psychological thriller a la his breakthrough movie “Memento.” Fresh off the triumph of “The Dark Knight,” Nolan’s film follows a group of corporate thieves who steal ideas from people’s dreams. Confused yet?
Also opening: Nic Cage and Jay Baruchel star in a modern, live action interpretation of the classic Disney story “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
■ “Salt,” starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Angie’s back to kicking butt and taking names. Envisioned as a female equivalent of Jason Bourne, Salt finds Jolie on the run after being called a double agent by a Russian defector. How can she clear her name, when she isn’t even sure who she is?
Also opening: In the remake of the dark French comedy “The Dinner Game” Paul Rudd plays a successful executive who thinks Steve Carell’s IRS agent is the perfect idiot to ridicule in his monthly “Dinner for Schmucks.” Ramona Quimbly is back in “Ramona and Beezus.”
■ “I Love You Phillip Morris,” starring Jim Carey, Ewan McGregor and Leslie Mann. If following Carey on Twitter has gotten you hyped for a comeback from the rubber-faced funny man, this is your flick. Maybe. Carey plays a loyal husband and father who realizes he’s gay and goes on a con spree that lands him in jail. There he falls in love with Phillip Morris (McGregor).
Also opening: “Beastly” is a modern remake of the “Beauty and the Beast” set in Manhattan and stars Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer and Mary-Kate Olsen.
The world’s cats and dogs put their on going war on hold to stop a rogue cat bent on destruction in “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.”
■ “The Other Guys,” starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Can we forgive Will Ferrell for “Land of the Lost” or “Semi-Pro”? If he has hope, it’s with this buddy-cop comedy directed by “Anchor Man” honcho Adam McKay. The premise looks like a winner. Ferrell and Wahlberg play detectives who try to step up their game to disastrous results.
Also opening: It’s time to dance in Paris. “Step Up 3-D” heads to the City of Lights for some underground dance battles.
■ “Eat Pray Love,” starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem and Viola Davis. If there’s such a thing as a blockbuster chick flick, then this is surely it. Based on the mega-bestselling book by Elizabeth Gilbert, Julia Roberts plays a woman searching for enlightenment and fulfillment after a painful divorce. “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy directs.
Also opening: Michael Cera plays an indie kid who must defeat the seven exes of his would be paramore in the comic book remake of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Cast every aging action star this side of Jean Claude Van Dam and through them into an impossible situation. Stir and serve up “The Expendables,” with Sylvester Stalone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Austen and Mickey Rourke.
■ “Takers,” starring Matt Dillon, Paul Walker and Idris Elba. How do you juggle a cast of big name, that includes some unseemly baggage — T.I. gun rap and Chris Brown’s possibly toxic career? If Screen Gems executives can figure out that riddle, then “Takers,” which finds Dillon trying to break up a bank robbery, could pull in good box office numbers.
Also opening: Emma Thompson reprises her role as the magical governess in “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.” “The Switch,” the year’s second insemination comedy, finds Jennifer Aniston realizing the sperm she used to become pregnant was from her best friend (Jason Bateman). In “Lottery Ticket,” Bow Wow must protect a winning ticket worth $370 million from his greedy neighbors.
■ “Piranha 3-D,” starring Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell and Richard Dreyfuss. A campy horror classic gets remade for modern technology. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, an earth quake unleashes a school of prehistoric piranhas which the local sheriff (Shue) must stop. How will all the gore play out in 3-D?
Also opening: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long try to keep their trans-continental love alive in “Going the Distance.” Think of “The Last Exorcism” as the spawn of “Paranormal Activity.” In the horror film, an evangelical minister allows his final exorcism to be filmed by a documentary crew.