The marketing campaigns for Inception, The A-Team and Toy Story 3 have been absolutely solid, and I like enough of the people involved in each of those productions enough to want to see those movies as soon as possible.
I’m also intrigued by Predators simply because Nimrod Antal has proved to be a pretty capable director of suspenseful, claustrophobic B-movies (at least based on his last two films, Vacancy and especially Armored).
I also like the concept behind The Adjustment Bureau, at least insofar as it has been explained to me so far.
But beyond that, yeah, I can’t think of anything I’m particularly itching to see this summer.
Re: star power, I think Johnny Depp may be the exception that proves the rule. One of the lessons of the past year, I’d say, is that movie stars are nowhere near as important to a movie’s success as the “property” value of each movie.
If you look at, say, the ten top-grossing movies worldwide in 2009, they break down into categories like so:
—Avatar, 2012 and The Hangover had no major stars to speak of, and were sold purely on concept.
—Harry Potter 6, Transformers 2 and Twilight 2 were sequels to movies that had *made* stars of their actors; to the extent that any of those actors are “stars”, it is because those films were hits, not vice versa.
—Ice Age 3 and Up were cartoons, and extensions of popular brands, at that.
—Sherlock Holmes was sold largely on the star power of Robert Downey Jr. (which, at the time of the film’s release, hadn’t really been proved yet outside of the Iron Man franchise).
—Angels & Demons was a sequel to a hit film that starred Tom Hanks.
And for what it’s worth, if we look just a bit beyond the Top Ten, we can also find relatively star-less movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 (#11) and Star Trek (#13). And further down the list, we’ve got star-free films like District 9, which cost only $30 million to produce yet somehow grossed over $200 million worldwide (and it scored a Best Picture nomination, to boot—very rare for a sci-fi film!).
In contrast, relatively expensive star-powered movies like A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey, or The Taking of Pelham 123, starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta, didn’t do so well.
And two of the supposedly biggest stars of our time, Will Smith and Tom Cruise, basically sat the year out—possibly because some of their most recent films (Seven Pounds, Lions for Lambs) have been box-office disappointments too. (Cruise did have a modest success with Valkyrie, but “modest” is still a bit of a comedown for a star of Cruise’s calibre.)
So, um, make of that what you will. Once in a while, sure, with films like Alice in Wonderland or Sherlock Holmes, a bit of star power can help at the box office—but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.