Though that menacing monster with the glitter bomb in its hand got a little excited this year and released some of the season’s best perhaps a tad prematurely, there’s lots more where that came from. Audiences reeling from the somewhat surprising genius of The Avengers still have The Dark Knight Rises to look forward to, and fans of The Dictator — or those who missed it — should find something to laugh about in Will Ferrell’s political comedy The Campaign. It’s been said that there are “more colons in this summer’s movie titles than in most doctors’ offices,” but don’t confuse the reboots with the remakes (or the sequels with Nyquil) — The Amazing Spider-Man might actually be. (Amazing, keep up.) If zombies are the new vampires (ParaNorman) and historical fiction is the new mashup flavor (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is 3-DD the latest technology? Nope, it’s shorthand for close-up shots of buxom blondes in bikinis getting destroyed by ferocious fish. This year’s sexism however is gender equitable thanks to Channing Tatum’s real life stripping skills (Magic Mike) and the cock rocker we always suspected was living inside Tom Cruise (Rock of Ages.) As always, there’s plenty to keep the kids quiet for at least an hour and a half, and a few their parents might actually enjoy, namely Brave, ParaNorman and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. So, fear not Hollywood with all its shiny explosions and vapid characters; it’s just the summer movies and everything looks bigger on-screen.
MEN IN BLACK III
Agent J (Will Smith) travels to the past to save the world (of course) and learn the secrets of the universe that his stoic partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has heretofore failed to reveal. Josh Brolin plays the young Agent K, and the two ride some pretty neat “monocycles” along the way. Fans will no doubt receive the third installment in the franchise with open arms, but the real question is whether or not Men in Black III will be as tasty as the Baskin Robbins treats released earlier this month in its honor.
Do people really visit the decayed ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the abandoned city of Prypiat while on vacation in Russia? Yes, people do. It’s called extreme tourism and it’s as real as the piles of gas masks littering the landscape there. The creator of the Paranormal Activity franchise decided to turn the phenomenon into a thriller about a group of friends who take the tour only to find out they are not alone there. Scary? Perhaps. Capitalizing on the horrific misfortune of those affected? You decide.
Babes, blood and … Hasselhoff? When the filmmakers say DD, they mean it. An R rating will eliminate the pubescent boys (unless they sneak in) from the audience. That leaves stoners, perverts and you, if you’re brave enough to see this — we’re not referring to the gore. Be thankful you don’t have to clean the theater afterward.
Hipsters everywhere are waxing their mustaches in anticipation of this release. From king of quirk Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, The Royal Tenenbaums) comes this story about a prepubescent boy and girl who fall in love and run away together as a deadly storm looms in the distance. The girl’s parents are Bill Murray and Frances McDormand; Bruce Willis is the sheriff. Need we say more?
Award-winning commercial director Rupert Sanders’ first attempt at a feature-length film looks promising. This macabre interpretation of the fairy tale stays truer to the genre than modern treatments, which is to say it will scare the poop out of young children, so don’t bring them. The beautiful soul-sucking Charlize Theron does evil good, and the chemistry between her and co-star Kristen Stewart (Snow White) is, um, noticeable.
Apparently, what happens in space, stays in space — at least until the movie officially opens. Director Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator), who has called the film “2001 on steroids,” has been protective of what the film’s protagonists actually discover on their journey to find God. An odd bunch with ulterior motives are led through the cosmos by Noomi Rapace, who captivated audiences and critics in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Though Scott has said it’s not a prequel to Alien, both films, he hints, do share the same bloodline. If you didn’t get enough of Charlize Theron in Snow White, here she is again along with Guy Pearce and Michael Fassbender (X-Men First Class, Inglourious Bastards). Scott’s been spending a fair amount of time in the (gasp!) world of television and he hasn’t put out any sci-fi since 1982’s Bladerunner if you can believe it — expectations are high.
ROCK OF AGES
Originally a Tony award-winning musical that amassed a cult following, Rock of Ages fortunately doesn’t take itself too seriously — which is important to understand for those who aren’t in on the joke. The strategy to release the soundtrack 10 days ahead of the film’s opening was a clever one because once you hear Tom Cruise sing “Pour Some Sugar on Me” you know you’ll have to see it. Ever since Top Gun, we’ve suspected his inner rock star wanted out, and Cruise’s aging rocker will probably be the movie’s best shot at entertaining us.
Not yet rated
There seems to be a 50/50 split on this one: it looks cheesy or it looks epic. Director Bryan Singer is highly regarded in the industry, but it might be optimistic to think he could make this story translate to the big screen. It’s also not for kids, which could present a demographic problem. On the other hand, given the popularity of Game of Thrones, it could be well-received by fantasy genre and Tolkien nerds or those who interpret it as a nod to the working class (the meek farmer) in an era of fat cats (giants). Occupy your plush reclining movie seat.
Why, Adam, why? Remember when you were experimenting with dark psychological themes? Yeah, that was cool. A 13-year-old boy impregnating his middle-school teacher and every horrible consequence that follows is not a dark, psychological theme. It’s also not funny. Snap out of it, Sandler! That’s My Boy is either a very sad testament to mankind’s devolution or it’s just a shitty attempt at comedy. Either way, don’t encourage it.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
Not yet rated
Adapted from the best-selling novel by literary-genre alchemist Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the screenplay, the story goes something like this: that tall drink of water who was the 16th president of the United States, wasn’t as honest as we thought, see. He had a secret life killing vampires to avenge the murder of his mother, but things got complicated when they began appearing on the battleground during the Civil War. Being an election year and all, it might be refreshing to imagine a president with actual balls, and Grahame-Smith’s president has them in spades. (Could there be an X-Men/Lincoln mashup in the future?) The filmmakers were adamant about keeping the camp factor to a minimum, so don’t expect Bill Compton in a top hat. Genre fans and historical fiction buffs should find this equally entertaining — or infuriating — but critics are bound to embrace it.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
Not yet rated
For everyone who harshed on 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra, director Jon Chu wants you to know that this G.I. Joe movie will be nothing like that one. Unlike the director of Cobra, Chu is a real fanboy and therefore tried to stay true to the character’s original comic book roots. Starring Bruce Willis and “The Rock” and it-boy Channing Tatum (enough already), expect all the action, state-of-the-art special effects and plot development you’ve come to rely on from a summer blockbuster.
What’s magical about raw beefcake flexing, grinding and gyrating to Rihanna? Ask the hordes of salivating females and their gays who are counting the days until the film’s release. Channing Tatum (yes, him again) in a semi-autobiographical role, is Magic Mike, a male stripper with a lot of fans, who never needs change for a $100 bill. Mike, who’d really rather make custom furniture than perform for cash-carrying horny chicks (right) falls for a girl-next-door type who isn’t super-keen on his lifestyle — every story needs a conflict to resolve. No worries, there are plenty of waxed chests and tatted triceps to offset the dialogue. It’s maybe a bit of a departure for director Steven Soderbergh (The Hunger Games, Oceans 11) but for Matthew McConaughey, strip show emcee is the role he was made to play.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Not yet rated
There’s been some debate over why a Spider-Man remake is necessary. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Other than the fact that finding an original idea in Hollywood is about as likely as getting The Real Housewives of Orange County to stop getting plastic surgery, some of the reasons for refreshing the Spider-Man story include: a kinder, gentler girlfriend for Peter Parker in Emma Stone (The Help); a webshooter made by Parker that isn’t a part of his physiology as it was in the Sam Raimi franchise; and a more traditional, old-school presentation of the comic-book hero’s story. Don’t write it off as another soulless reinterpretation.
It’s been a minute since we’ve seen anything remarkable from director Oliver Stone — and we probably shouldn’t get our hopes up now. Known for his embrace of controversial subject matter in politics and popular culture (Natural Born Killers, Born on the Fourth of July, J.F.K.), the only thing risky about this film, as far as we can tell, is the casting. Salma Hayek as a marijuana cartel boss? A dread-headed Aaron Johnson as a botanist? Blake Lively as a dimwitted beach nymph? Oh … On the other hand, Benicio Del Toro makes an excellent villain and John Travolta was hired long before his recent massage scandal. While this may not be a ground-breaking film, nor is it light on camp, it still promises to deliver exactly what you want from a sexy action/suspense date night film.
Finally, the perfect co-star (besides Mila Kunis) for “Marky” Mark Wahlberg: a cuddly teddy bear. But don’t get it fucked up; this is not, we repeat not, a film for the kids. The brainchild of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, Ted is the story of a cherished plush toy that’s a little too attached to his owner — and his bong. The television series Wilfred shared a similar premise with less raunch, and while it did fill a niche, niches don’t make it rain, so it’s anyone’s guess how MacFarlane will fare with Ted. Word to the wise: satiating the munchies at the movies can get awfully pricey so you better hit the supermarket on your way.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Will the most anticipated comic-spawned film of the year be upstaged by the fervor over The Avengers? Will Anne Hathaway as Catwoman butter more popcorn than Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow? Will Christian Bale’s Batman voice cease to be made a mockery of? Will Joseph Gordon-Levitt be able to act without irony? These questions and more will be answered by director Christopher Nolan with the final installment of The Dark Knight trilogy.
Not yet rated
Unfortunate timing threatened this comedy’s future until Twentieth Century Fox decided to change the title from Neighborhood Watch to the far less offensive The Watch in light of the highly publicized Trayvon Martin case. Both Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn comedies can be pretty hit or miss, but this one looks as though it might actually deliver the laughs we could use right about now.
THE BOURNE LEGACY
Not yet rated
This fourth installment in the hugely successful (read: profitable) franchise could have had the alternate title Bourne-Free as Jason Bourne will not be in it, which means that neither will Matt Damon. And the director of the first three films, Paul Greengrass, will also be MIA. In fact, very little about this movie bears any resemblance to the others. The only thing they do share, it turns out, is the title. Don’t go into the theater with expectations. Instead, view it as a stand-alone film with no connection whatsoever to the others. If you didn’t get enough of Jeremy Renner (is there ever enough?) in The Avengers, here’s your chance to see him again.
Not yet rated
A remake of the 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger based on the Phillip K. Dick sci-fi short story, which was then novelized by author Piers Anthony. In this version, which producers say will stay truer to Dick’s narrative than the original, Bryan Cranston is leader of the free world and Colin Farrell is confused a lot. Film nerds or serious fans of the original movie are likely to be very critical. Everyone else will enjoy trying to figure out what the hell is happening, and ogling Jessica Biel.
Not yet rated
The season’s token romantic comedy for the AARP set looks to be as mature as its audience will be, despite co-starring Steve Carell. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones have been married a long time and she wants to spice things up so they visit a couples therapist (Carell). If you’re entertained by the idea of Streep reading gay porn on the toilet while eating a banana, then this is probably a safe bet.
Not yet rated
Will Ferrell plays a smarmy career politician, a character he’s not unfamiliar with, whose incumbency is challenged by a rather mousy Zach Galifianakis in this well-timed election year comedy. Written by the guys from HBO’s Eastbound and Down and directed by Jay Roach of Austin Powers and Meet the Parents fame, you can safely bet The Campaign will be funny, if offensive. Ferrell fans will no doubt gush over this one. Everyone else? Is there anyone else?
Not yet rated
Keeping with America’s current fascination with the mid-20th century is this Dreamgirls-lite story of a young singing group (the Supremes meet En Vogue) whose main attraction (Jordin Sparks) is trying to make it in the shadow of her mother who didn’t. Her mother is Whitney Houston — in her last role before her untimely death earlier this year — and probably the main draw for audiences.
Not yet rated
Remember earlier this year when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone circulated photos of their twinsy shoulder surgeries following filming of this movie? The two literally sacrificed their aging, battered bodies so you could enjoy even more nonstop action and mercenary mayhem. Considering that the first Expendables grossed more than $273 million worldwide, don’t feel too bad. They’re limping all the way to the bank.
The season’s family-friendly flicks
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED
PG for some mild action and rude humor
The tenacious three return courtesy of Dreamworks, once again trying desperately to get back to New York, only this time penguins are involved — and a traveling circus. One of many charming family films to cool off by this summer, featuring the voice talent of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Frances McDormand and Sacha Baron Cohen.
PG for some scary action and rude humor
Pixar’s first heroine is a feminist named Merida who knows how to handle a bow and arrow. Set in Scotland and inspired by Scottish folk tales, Brave is the standout animated family film of the season. A refreshing spin on the archetypal princess narrative, Merida is a strong female who is easily as capable of brave acts as her male suitors — the most courageous of all perhaps being her resistance to her mother’s expectations and gender stereotypes. This film should hail the return of the Pixar we’ve come to love but lost faith in temporarily last summer.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT 3-D
Not yet rated
Sweet, silly formulaic family fare guaranteed to have at least one fart joke. This time there are pirates. Take the kids, enjoy their laughter and remember the vodka you stashed away for the end of a day such as this.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS
PG for some rude humor
The third in this franchise adapted from the best-selling book series is another tweener comedy about tweener issues from a tweener POV. This one finds Greg (Zachary Gordon) wreaking havoc while working at a country club for the summer.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN
PG for mild thematic elements and brief language
Disney kicks down with a family film of substance that has great potential not to annoy the crap out of parents while still entertaining the kids. From the director of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Dan in Real Life comes this tale of a lovely young couple who magically conjure up the child of their dreams.
Not yet rated
Using state-of-the art technology, the makers of Oscar-nominated Coraline present a stop-motion “comedy thriller” about a young boy, a social outcast whose ability to talk to dead people comes in handy when his town is threatened by zombies. Visually lush and abundant in nerd revenge and redemption moments, ParaNorman is probably Brave’s sole contender for best animated family film of the season.