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Summer Movie Preview 2012
Posted By: Sam, on host
Date: Tuesday, April 3, 2012, at 13:51:34

The summer movie season starts in the spring now. We've already gotten Wrath
of the Titans out of the way, which is a good place for it.

April 13 - The Three Stooges

The Farrelly brothers are back with a bizarro attempt to redo The Three Stooges.
Can you separate the characters from the performers? Wouldn't this be like
redoing The Marx Brothers or Abbott and Costello? I don't care about the
Stooges at all, but this just doesn't seem...right. I suppose the Farrellys
have as good a shot as anybody at doing this sort of thing. For all the
crassness of their gross-out comedies of the past, they've tended to transcend
the genre, while imitators tend to stoop to it. But it's not reassuring that
this project had once attracted some prestige performers that all ultimately
bowed out. And when was the last time the Farrellys made a good movie? 2005,
and then just by a nose?

April 13 - Lockout

The IMDb summary says it all: "A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit
espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the
president's daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates."

This is another Luc Besson production, meaning that the pace and tone of this
will be insane. That worked for Taken, but surely this won't be grounded
enough to give weight to the theatrics. I'm predicting something on the order
of The Transporter and District B13, which were entertaining in the moment and
quickly forgotten afterwards.

April 27 - Raven

Someone is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's freaky stories and begins committing
copycat murders. Poe and a cop team up to try to track him down. This looks
fun, especially with John Cusack playing Poe and director James McTeigue
(V For Vendetta) behind the camera.

But a side note: With this, Anonymous, and the forthcoming "Abraham Lincoln,
Vampire Hunter," are we done with actual historical biographies and taking up
mythology instead? I'm not opposed to it on principle -- except in Anonymous'
case, where the movie actually believes in its gimmick -- just pointing out
the fad.

April 27 - The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Aardman Animations (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run) hasn't struck out yet.
Flushed Away was their weakest film to date, but while that was a detour into
computer animation, this is a return to stop-motion. While the trailer makes
the comedy look a lot broader than the delightful Britishness that infuses
their better work, this is one of the summer movies I'm most looking forward

The one caveat is that Nick Park, the man behind the studio's best work, isn't
involved on this one. Instead, the director is Peter Lord, Park's partner on
Chicken Run. Lord hasn't proven himself on his own the way Park has, but with
this film he stands a good chance of doing just that.

April 27 - Safe

Jason Statham does some stuff with a gun and lots of badguys. It might or
might not be fun. It almost can't be great. I'm convinced these movies are
generated automatically by some sort of computing algorithm.

April 27 - Bernie

Richard Linklater doesn't seem to be doing the "one for them, one for me" thing
anymore. It's pretty much just doing "one of me"s, which is just as well,
since who cares about The Newton Boys and the Bad News Bears remake, anyhow?

Bernie apparently puts a leash on Jack Black and turns Weekend At Bernie's
into a subdued black comedy. The title is either a coincidence or a sly
tip of the hat to the Weekend films, as other than the name and a surface plot
similarity, the movies are unrelated. Shirley MacLaine, meanwhile, takes
another shot at showing she's still got it.

May 4 - The Avengers

However this ultimately turns out, let's take a moment to appreciate the
unprecedented way in which this franchise has been built. Usually you start
with a hit and spit out sequels until they stop making money. With The
Avengers, Marvel pulled off more of a slow-burn: put out a bunch of unrelated
superhero movies with hooks in them (centered around Samuel L. Jackson's Nick
Fury) to foreshadow The Avengers, which brings them all together. It was an
interesting way to build a franchise and seems to have worked: anticipation
for The Avengers is high, and has been for a very long time.

But now let's talk about how this is going to turn out. Of all the Avengers
prequels, only Iron Man and Captain America have been great superhero movies.
A third, Iron Man 2, was okay. The other two -- The Incredible Hulk and
Thor -- are storytelling trainwrecks. The Incredible Hulk was simplistic and
obnoxious, even worse than the joyless "Hulk" just because it lacked
any attempt at creativity. Thor exhibits the classic symptoms of
development-by-committee, every scene being at odds with the ones around it.
So what was Thor, anyway? Shakespearean tragedy or laugh-a-minute camp fest?
The worst problem was that the world was utterly unconvincing. Bunch of
regal space creatures standing around in space being profound. Green Lantern
had this problem too. You know what made Star Wars so completely absorbing?
(And why the prequels less so?) Because it had Stormtroopers shooting the
breeze with each other. Whining about the daily routine. Because Luke wasn't
about saving the world at first -- he just wanted some power converters. The
world felt real. Thor had gamepieces disguised as "characters." They stood
around where you wanted them to stand until the plot dictated that they do
something. Where does the Gatekeeper go to pee? Tell me that, if you can.

Anyway, my tangent isn't as irrelevant as it sounds. Because my question is,
how can you take all these disparate tones and mash them into a single movie
that does NOT suffer from the identity crisis that Thor suffers all by itself?
How do the Captain America and Incredible Hulk movies possibly inhabit the same

It doesn't bode well that the main antagonist is an utterly depthless character
from one of the worst prequels. Maybe Joss Whedon will be able to sort out
the ungainly mess of the Avengers universe into a cohesive, entertaining movie.
But his work is cut out for him.

May 11 - Dark Shadows

Johnny Depp as a 70s vampire? Surely not. Directed by Tim Burton. Ah, now
it makes sense. This is Burton's particular kind of weirdness. The fact that
Dark Shadows is based on a prior television series (unseen by me) is probably
irrelevant: this is surely all Burton, directing Depp as only he can.

Burton is hit-and-miss with me, but even his misses are inventive and visually
stimulating and quirky like nobody else's movies. That makes this worth
watching regardless of the final verdict.

May 18 - Battleship

The trailer hilariously informs us, "From Hasbro, the company that brought you
Transformers." So what's the logic here? If I like the movie Transformers,
I'll surely like this other movie, made by different people and based on other
toys, because the toys had the same manufacturer??

But what if I didn't like the Transformers movies?

May 25 - Men In Black III

Josh Brolin should probably get an Oscar nomination for his impersonation of
Tommy Lee Jones. And he would, if he turned in the exact same performance in
a biopic of Tommy Lee Jones. Instead, he plays a younger version of Jones'
character from the Men In Black franchise, so it doesn't count.

Men In Black II was so wretchedly awful that a third movie, by the same
director no less, has no right to exist. But I do so love the first one, and
I have to admit that the trailer looks like they just might have gotten the
series back on track. Barry Sonnenfeld hasn't made a good movie since 1997,
but he was once one of my favorite directors, and I'd love to see him recover
from his staggeringly awful more recent work.

May 25 - Moonrise Kingdom

I know nothing about this except that it's the next work by Wes Anderson and
something of a change of pace for him. His past work has had some great stuff
in it, but his style and sensibility so narrow that a change of pace might be
a good thing.

June 1 - Snow White and the Huntsman

I'm in love with the idea of a gorgeous, dark fairy tale spectacle, something
that retells a classic fairy tale as a gothic romance thriller. It ought to
be easy, because that's what a lot of these stories are at heart. But has
there ever been a good one? Probably there has, and I'm just blanking. But
Snow White: A Tale of Terror, from 1997, wasn't so hot. Last year's Red Riding
Hood disappeared without a trace. Television is making an impressive go at
it with Grimm and Once Upon a Time. But what about the movies?

Mirror, Mirror just opened, and while I haven't seen it, indications are that
it doesn't quite strike the right tone between darkness and camp. Will Snow
White and the Huntsman fare any better? I'll tell you one thing: I'll see
Charlize Theron in anything. Her performance in Young Adult last year was
criminally overlooked. The cinematography looks gorgeous, too, though I don't
suppose it outdoes Tarsem's Mirror, Mirror for zealous splendor. The question
mark is whether Kristen Stewart can carry the lead role. She can do forlorn
just fine, but if the script needs her to crack at smile, we might be in

June 1 - Piranha 3DD

Get it? Har har har.

June 8 - Prometheus

Speaking of Charlize Theron, she's got a role in Ridley Scott's Alien prequel.
Except it's not really a prequel! Shhh! But it is. But not really. I mean,
really, but "not really."

It's kind of bizarre how the cagey the filmmakers are on this point. Maybe
the fear is that calling it "Alien: The Beginning" would make it sound like
just another cash-in project. Still, the name "Alien" has value that this
movie doesn't seem to want. And maybe the crazy strategy is working, because
as the word spreads about this is-and-isn't prequel, people are getting
intrigued about what this is really all about.

The key here is that Ridley Scott is at the helm. Although he kicked off the
alien franchise with the first movie, the sequels were all done by others.
Interestingly, Damon Lindelof, one of the key creative leads on "Lost" served
on the writing team here.

June 8 - Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

The Madagascar movies haven't been my thing. The wacky antics are just too
overboard, and some of the characters have been over-the-top quirky without
being the least bit funny or compelling. I mean, they're not terrible, but
DreamWorks Animation has been on a roll lately with How To Train Your Dragon,
the Kung Fu Panda movies, and a surprisingly strong close to the Shrek series.
So it's disappointing to see the studio dipping into a dry well.

June 15 - The Woman In the Fifth

Here's a movie I'm excited about. I have a soft spot for this kind of thriller
anyhow, but put Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas in the lead roles -- two
actors who are not only great on-screen but have an eye for choosing smart,
interesting projects -- and I'm there. Word is that this is a bit of a puzzle
movie, too, with an unreliable narrator. If it's even half the movie Memento
is, it'll be a good night at the theater.

June 15 - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Hey, why not, right? In the summer of Raven and Dark Shadows, this oddball
project might not even stick out. So here's the thing. Obviously with a
title like that, you can have a lot of fun. But the director is Timur
Bekmambetov, a name you probably didn't know and still don't know even after
reading it. But he was the dude behind "Wanted" from several years back, and
that was ridiculous. Nothing about that movie says to me that he can strike
the right tone here. Instead of being the campy fun this needs to be, it's
probably going to try to actually be cool and impress us with speed-ramped
fetishistic shots of swords and fangs. Ugh, please no.

June 15 - Brave

Here it is, the most likely Best Film of 2012. Even if it isn't that, it'll
surely have the best hair of any film you're liable to see this year.
Seriously, look at that hair.

If you haven't heard, this is the next Pixar movie and -- as the media has
been quick to note -- the first one with a female lead character. Male,
female, whatever. What matters is making a great movie, and Pixar has done
that with barely a hitch for approaching 20 years now. Okay, so Cars 2 was
a step down, but a step down from a very high place. Let's chalk Cars 2 up to
an indulgence of John Lasseter's love for cars. The studio earned the right,
and now it looks like they're back on track with great stories greatly told.

And look at that hair!

June 29 - G.I. Joe: Retaliation

This is a sequel to the 2009 movie. It got a critical drubbing that would have
been worse except that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a higher profile
trainwreck that distracted everybody. I didn't think G.I. Joe: Rise of the
Cobra had made enough money to warrant a sequel, but here we are.

What's weird is that this doesn't seem to be a quick cash sequel but something
the studio is seriously investing in. Adding Bruce Willis and Dwayne "The
Rock" Johnson to the cast can't have been cheap. But I don't see a great
action movie coming from the director of Step Up and the Justin Bieber concert
film. No doubt the second unit will do its thing and get some hyper action
footage done, but there ought to be a story in there somewhere, and I'm not
seeing where that would come from.

July 6 - The Amazing Spider-Man

Cool poster. But what's with a reboot so soon? Then again, if this proves to
be a good movie, who cares that it's a reboot so soon? I didn't think
Spider-Man 3 was so bad in the grand scheme of things, but I was never as up
on Sam Raimi's vision of the character as a lot of other people anyway. The
second movie was pretty good, but there wasn't enough in the series as a whole
for me to bite into. The marketing materials for this version suggest there
will be, but we'll see. On the other hand, how can you not go wrong with a
Spider-Man movie directed by a guy named Webb?

Maybe his name is really how he got the job, too, because his only other
high-profile directorial effort was for "(500) Days of Summer." Exactly what
about that screams "Let's get this guy for Spider-Man!"? But hey, that was a
great movie, so I say let's see what he can do with tights and a budget.

July 6 - Savages

After caring for their father in his advancing years, learning to reconnect
with each other in the process, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney go
on to shoot it out with a Mexican drug cartel. Oh wait, I'm confusing
"Savages" with 2007's "The Savages." Did you see what I did there? Funny,

Actually, this is an Oliver Stone movie about a drug gang that kidnaps
somebody, and her boyfriends go rescue her or something. All the blurbs of
this talk about the re-uniting of John Travolta and Uma Thurman, whose careers
got a jumpstart in Pulp Fiction. I don't know much about this, but Stone is
too heavyhanded for me, and other than "World Trade Center," surprisingly
free of political manipulation, when was the last time he made a good movie?

July 13 - Ice Age: Continental Drift

This series is on the fence for me. I enjoy them, but I forget them promptly
afterward. I'm fine with another installment, but as I understand it there's
a new creative team in place, which means the quality of this entry might swing
wide either way.

July 20 - The Dark Knight Rises

If Brave isn't the best film of 2012, maybe it'll be this. Although
Christopher Nolan's last two movies have set a high bar for himself -- and he
was one of my favorite directors even before The Dark Knight and Inception --
I'm confident he'll hit another one out of the park. He's never made a bad
movie, almost never even made a merely good one, and has churned out two of the
best superhero movies of all time. Nolan, who makes great story-driven dark
thrillers, is perfect for Batman, who was always one of the darker superheroes.

So far, though, the title and the trailer have left fans unimpressed. I see
where they're coming from, but lots of great movies don't compress into
trailers all that well. The movie is what counts.

I also like that this is the planned end of Nolan's Batman trilogy. No doubt
we'll get more Batman movies soon after this one, but with Nolan behind all
three entries in his own rebooted series, he gets to tell a cohesive three-act
story about the character, rather than just getting to tack sequels onto a hit
until the money stops coming.

June 27 - Step Up: Revolution

Like its precedessor, this series entry is being shot in 3D. As much as I
dislike 3D most of the time, it was great for this series, as it forced the
camera and editing to slow down and let the dancing speak for itself. I'm sure
this film will have no more story than the others did, I see this series more
as concerts than storytelling. The dancing was spectacular in the last one,
and I don't know why it wouldn't be in this one, too.

August 3 - The Bourne Legacy

This is neither a sequel nor a reboot but a spin-off of sorts. Jeremy Renner
plays Aaron Cross, a new hero whose connection to Jason Bourne is (I think)
as yet unknown. I love the Bourne series, but I wasn't thrilled about Paul
Greengrass directing the last two installments. Greengrass cut the action up
too heavily. That style worked well for the absolutely brilliant United 93,
one of the best movies of the last decade. And it somehow worked for the third
Bourne movie (though it hurt the second). But I'm pleased as punch Tony Gilroy
is taking over. Gilroy has a short but excellent track record with me: the
outstanding Michael Clayton and the fun, very underrated Duplicity. He seems
perfect for Bourne, and Jeremy Renner is perfect for a Bourne-like part.

August 3 - Total Recall

Most remakes are of classic films everybody loves and nobody wants redone.
There is exactly one kind of remake worth doing, and that's a remake of a movie
with a a great idea poorly executed. Total Recall (and, indeed, just about
the entirty of Paul Verhoeven's filmography) is exactly that. It may still
fail -- and unfortunately I'm guessing that it will, given that director Len
Wiseman specializes in hacky action movies -- but at least it's worth trying.
Colin Farrell looks pretty good in the trailers.

August 10 - Sparkle

First Glitter, now Sparkle? No, not quite. Sparkle is a remake of a 1976
film, which itself was the inspiration behind Dreamgirls, and all of which were
inspired by The Supremes. Confused yet?

The 1976 film was a cult hit, usually the sort of thing you shouldn't remake,
but there's some real potential here. After Whitney Houston's premature
passing, this project, once to be her movie comeback, will now be her
swan song.

August 17 - ParaNorman

Here's the second stop-motion animated film this summer. Nice to see the
format isn't dead. This one has a lot of the creative team from Corpse Bride
and Coraline behind it, which is a great sign. And indeed, this appears to be
another quirky excursion into the macabre, what with ghosts and zombies and
an ancient curse.

August 17 - The Expendables 2

How can you not read the cast list of the first Expendables and not laugh?
It's practically a who's-who of action heroes from the 80s and 90s, with some
wrestlers thrown in for good measure. The shocker was that the movie was
pretty good. Now we get a sequel that reunites most of the original cast,
adds in Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris, and beefs up the cameo
appearances by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. How can this not be

Well, the MPAA rating has sure been worrying fans. The original was rated R,
and the sequel was looking like it would be a PG-13. So what? There are tons
of great PG-13 action movies, even some hard-hitting ones. But now the word
is that it's getting an R anyway, so simmer down.

Also, it's kind of neat that the director isn't Stallone this time but Simon
West, whose first film, Con Air, is one of the targets of the joke.

August 24 - Premium Rush

This is classic August fare. By August, all the superhero movies are over
with, and we get nutso action movies. Check out the IMDb synopsis: "In
Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest
of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city." I can't get the
image out of my head of Joseph Gordon-Levitt pumping his ten-speed as fast as
he can, while swarms of grizzly badguys gun through the streets in hot pursuit.
I'd be down with 105 minutes of that.

The director, David Koepp, is better known for his writing work. When we
find out how Men In Black III turns out, maybe that'll be a clue as to how
sharp his creative skills are these days.

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