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This is a summer season straight out of the Comic Con program. Superhero sequels, two vampires strolling into town, and a slew of alien invasions are geared up for the summer blockbuster lineup, taking the occasional break for children’s films about being “Brave”, and a bunch of zoo animals and a few from several million years back.
The big opening is clearly “The Avengers”, coming to an all-but-insured climax after five solo films. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo/Lou Ferrigno), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and, of course, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) take on Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his army in an epic thrill ride that’s received some very positive early buzz.
Come July, the blue and red web slinger returns in “The Amazing Spider-Man”. In place of Tobey Maguire, we’ve got a younger and scrawnier Andrew Garfield, taking Peter Parker/Spider-Man back to high school. With sophomore director Marc Webb at the helm (“500 Days of Summer”), hopefully this one’s set to make us forget “Spider-Man 3” ever happened.
And will the masked vigilantes peak with the epic conclusion of the caped crusader’s saga, “The Dark Knight Rises”? Christian Bale returns as Batman, but can Tom Hardy as the villainous Bane top Heath Ledger’s Joker? Faith in director Christopher Nolan says yes, but the continual pattern of awful third installments in superhero franchises say no. Either way, this last hurrah is sure to dazzle with an ensemble cast and fan favorite, Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) introduction.
Tim Burton desperately needs a win, but “Dark Shadows”, an odd adaptation of the 1960’s horror soap opera, hardly looks promising. No amount of Johnny Depp stardom can save this odd vampire film from going to the grave after opening weekend. “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter”, on the other hand, is just off-the-wall enough to draw a crowd. Based on the popular book by Seth Grahame-Smith (co-author of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”), the premise appears too obscure, but director Timur Bekmambetov made the odd popular before with his last film, “Wanted”. There are no curving bullets here, but he’s got the nation’s favorite president swinging an ax in near inconceivable ways, just like curving bullets.
Now, the aliens. One of the most anticipated films of the summer has to be “Prometheus”, a prequel to one of the all-time most popular sci-fi/horror films, “Alien”. Ridley Scott returns to the franchise with an A-list cast: Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Noomi Rapace and Patrick Wilson. At the opposite end of the sci-fi summer scale, we’ve got “Battleship”. Very, very, very loosely based on the board game (probably just to get funding from Hasbro), a battleship exercise gets too real when some rather aggressive alien ships surface. Get ready for a Naval officer to declare, “You sunk my battleship.”
Produced by Michael Bay, this one already looks like “Transformers 4”, with the same eye-shattering incoherence. We’ll just have to see how pop star Rihanna handles her first filmic role.
On the comedy end of sci-fi, we’ve got two contenders: “Men in Black 3” and “Neighborhood Watch”. “MIB3” will hopefully be more enjoyable than the second installment, but I ain’t holding my breath. As for “Neighborhood Watch”, starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, this one’s sure to be hilarious as aliens invade the suburbs.
A few questionable additions, taking a break from the “Underworld” films, Len Wiseman remakes “Total Recall” with Colin Farrell front and center. “The Expendables 2” returns with every classic-actioner out there — Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Jason Statham and Randy Couture — and ads a few more familiar faces — Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van-Damme and Liam Hemsworth. Will this one be good? Absolutely not, but I must support the theatrical return of “Walker Texas Ranger”. A “Jason Bourne” film without Matt Damon? Jeremy Renner is a stellar performer and great in action roles, but replacing Damon might be a tough sell in “The Bourne Legacy”. Despite the awkward facelift, it’s sure to pump out the espionage goods.
The first “G.I. Joe” was just as awful as the “Transformers” films, and it’s difficult to imagine the “Step Up 3D” director saving the franchise from such a tragic origin. Still, the Rock knows how to entertain, and somehow Bruce Willis is on board. We’ll see. And can Snow White really function as an action story? “Snow White and the Huntsman” is a reimagining that gives “Wicked” a run for its creative liberties money. Likable Chris Hemsworth stars as the Huntsman opposite perceptually pale Kristen Stewart as Snow White, who takes a break from all those vampires and werewolves to sport some armor and fight a witch queen (Charlize Theron), a troll and a bunch of “Lord of the Rings” rejects. Surefire awfulness.
Oliver Stone hasn’t made a good film in more than 15 years, so it’s difficult to think “Savages” will redeem him. “Katy Perry: Part of Me”…don’t care. “Ice Age: Continental Drift”, these prehistoric mammals don’t know how to go extinct with any semblance of dignity. “Piranha 3DD”? Somebody please tell Tyler Perry to stop the “Madea” cash cow as she goes into “Witness Protection”.
No matter what happens, there are a few things I’m confident about. “Brave” and “The Dark Knight Rises” are sure things, while Channing Tatum stripping in “Magic Mike” is sure to at least turn heads. And if you’re looking for a good laugh now, check out the trailer for “Ted”, “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s first feature film.
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