There’s nothing better than grabbing a book and wiling away a lazy summer afternoon reading under a tree—but for those days when it gets so hot your sunglasses are slipping off of your nose and you can no longer focus on the pages in front of you, perhaps a trip to the cineplex is in order. You’ll cool off in the frigid A/C, and as long as you see one of the season’s much-anticipated book adaptations, you can kind of, sort of count your expedition as reading.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27), directed by James Bobin, based on the book by Lewis Carroll
After Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland grossed over $1 billion wordwide, it wasn’t a question of if, but when we’d see more of the young woman’s journey down the rabbit hole—or through a mirror, as the case may be. The Muppets‘ helmer James Bobin replaces Burton, but most of the original cast (including Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen of Hearts) returns for more madcap 3-D adventures in a land where anything can happen, thanks to the unparalleled imagination on display in Lewis Carroll’s original books, and an assist from wall-to-wall CGI. This one looks even nuttier than the last, which is saying something.
Me Before You (June 3), directed by Thea Sharrock, based on the book by Jojo Moyes
Load up on extra tissues before you head out to see this year’s contender for the “Fault in Our Stars Memorial Award for the Film Inducing the Most Heaving Sobs in a Single Viewing.” BBC television veteran Thea Sharrock (whose work on Call the Midwife proves she knows from tragedy) directs Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke in this adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ breakout tearjerker about Louisa Clark, a home health aid who gets a job caring for a wealthy, formerly adventurous man recently paralyzed in an accident. After he fails in a suicide attempt, Louisa convinces him to agree to go another six months before he tries to end his life again. She’s determined to prove to him that live is worth living. We’re determined to leave the theater without visible snot dripping from our noses.
The Free State of Jones (June 24), directed by Gary Ross, based on the book by Victoria E. Bynum
Director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) is at the helm of this period drama inspired by real history, as recounted in the same-titled book by historian Victoria E. Bynum. Matthew McConaughey plays Civil War rebellion leader Newton Wayne, who was injured in the Battle or Corinth in 1862 and went on to assemble a band of fellow disgruntled soldiers to fight against the Confederacy in their hometown of Jones County, Mississippi. The supporting cast includes Keri Russell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Brendan Gleeson.
The BFG (July 1), directed by Stephen Spielberg, based on the book by Roald Dahl
The master of fun-for-the-whole-family entertainment looks to be back in top form with this lavish adaptation of one of Roald Dahl’s creepiest, most beloved children’s books. A young girl named Sophie befriends the towering giant (played in a motion-capture performance by recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance) who steals her from her bedroom at night and whisks her off to Giant Country, and on a quest to put a stop to the terrible band of man-eating giants that have been preying on our world (preferring mostly to consume children, naturally). Wait, no, it really is for kids. Early reviews indicate that Spielberg is true to the darkness lurking in Dahl’s beloved original, and Rylance looks like he walked out of one of those dreams the BFG delights in blowing into children’s bedrooms at night.
The Legend of Tarzan (July 1). directed by David Yates, based on the book by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A book with too many film versions to count, Edgar Rice Burrough’s seminal lord of the jungle is swinging back to theaters. Creators have struggled with Burroughs adaptations in the past (see: the underrated and underperforming John Carter). Tarzan is a character who sounds silly in the blurb, but works best when treated with some (but not too much) seriousness. If they can nail the tone with this one, it should be a lot of fun. Veteran Harry Potter director David Yates directs, and in the title role, True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård absolutely looks the part.
The Infiltrator (July 13), directed by Brad Furman, based on the book by Robert Mazur
Bryan Cranston stars in this sure-to-be-harrowing adaptation of former Federal agent Robert Mazur’s memoir of a five-year deep-cover assignment within a money-laundering operation that provided capital to one of the most notorious criminals in modern history: drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Here’s hoping The Lincoln Lawyer director Brad Furman takes as much time exploring the surprisingly mundane world of the corrupt bankers who funneled cash to a murderous cartel with the efficiency of Wall Street wealth managers as he does setting up the tense action set-pieces, including a climactic standoff at a wedding attended by dozens of high-ranking criminals.
Ben-Hur (August 19), directed by Timur Bekmambetov, based on the book by Lew Wallace
If you’re going to remake Ben-Hur, one of the splashiest spectacles of Hollywood’s Golden Age, you need to go big, or go home. That’s probably why MGM picked Timur Bekmambetov, the mad genius behind Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, to take a second stab at adapting Lew Wallace’s classic book, which has been called “the most influential Christian novel of the 19th century.” Who better to tell the story of a man’s rise from slave to celebrated charioteer (not to mention the story of Jesus) than the guy who taught Angelina Jolie to bend bullets?