"Mess with us and many of us will take our shirts off."

Summer doesn’t start when the calendar (or the solar system) says it does. It doesn’t start on the last day of school, and it certainly doesn’t start on Memorial Day. Summer begins when movie budgets get big and stuff starts blowing up. Brace yourself, because this summer’s box-office offerings promise not only adventure and explosions, but a number of films that actually look pretty good. Here’s a peek at the hottest ticket for each month (and a close runner-up).


It’s great when a plan comes together, and “Marvel’s The Avengers” (out May 4) takes parts of some of the best superhero movies of the past few years and blends them in a comic-book-y explosion of awesome. And we can say “comic book-y” because it’s something Joss Whedon would say, and he’s directing. It can’t get any better.

Also in May: “Dark Shadows” with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (May 11).


“Snow White and the Huntsman” (June 1) doesn’t look like it will follow in the footsteps of “Mirror Mirror,” which took the story of Snow White and the Queen to a happy, sometimes-silly place. Charlize Theron looks deliciously evil as the woman who wants to consume Snow White’s heart (a detail Disney left out), Chris Hemsworth looks buff as the Huntsman, and Kristen Stewart … well, she’s better here than in “Twilight.”

Also in June: “Brave,” Pixar’s first animated story with a female protagonist (June 22).


Christian Bale scowls under the cowl for the last time in “The Dark Knight Rises” (July 20), the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” series. The Caped Crusader continues his journey by battling Bane (Tom Hardy), and the rest of the cast is strong, too: Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine either join the cast or reprise their roles.

Also in July: “The Amazing Spider-Man,” with Andrew Garfield as Spidey and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy (July 3).


Jeremy Renner steps into Matt Damon’s shoes — kind of — in “The Bourne Legacy” (Aug. 3). Renner plays Aaron Cross, a CIA operative in the vein of Damon’s Jason Bourne, which means there will be running and jumping and improbable driving and much double-crossing and probably Russians at some point. Not a bad recipe for summer fun.

Also in August: “Total Recall,” a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film with Colin Farrell in the Ah-nold role (Aug. 3).