Summer sneaks: Film

Valentina Fung/Staff

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The wait is almost over.

It began in early 2006, in the immediate wake of the release of "The New World." Just as Terrence Malick's rapturous meditation on the Jamestown settlement story reaffirmed his lofty position in American cinema, it raised another, far more pressing question: How many years would it take for him to make a film again?

Five years and myriad delays later, the notoriously elusive director provides a resounding answer. His latest feature, "The Tree of Life," billed as a coming-of-age tale about a "lost soul in a modern world," arrives in theaters on the 27th of May. It is Malick's fifth film in 38 years, and as such, arrives draped in both mystery and considerable fanfare. The film's lone trailer tantalizes us with stirring glimpses: a baby's foot, the weight of time on the human face, galaxies in breathtaking stasis.

With "The Tree of Life" also competing for the top prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival - running from May 11 to 22 - American cinema rides gallantly into the international film circuit. The 64th iteration of the gala also features a host of notable filmmakers returning to the fold, from Pedro Almodovar ("The Skin That I Inhabit") to Lars von Trier ("Melancholia").

For those craving lighter fare, stateside audiences can turn to the latest entries in popular franchises. The indefatigable Kenneth Branagh ventures into comic book territory with "Thor" (May 6), while Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender round out the exquisite cast of "X-Men: First Class" (June 3). Action icons from different moments in film history - Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig - unite on July 29 in "Cowboys & Aliens," Jon Favreau's sci-fi-Western hybrid.

For cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike around the world, a rich summer of movies awaits.

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