SUMMER MOVIES PACK HEAT
By Kat Murphy
Special to MSN Movies
As the weather warms up, so do our movie screens. Summer's the season when
hulky superheroes rise and tentpole franchises rule, all aiming to break the
bank big-time. Get ready for close encounters with a posse of cinematic bad boys
-- dark knights, men in black, aliens and bloodsuckers, grifters and drug lords.
Grrl power comes in two colors: Snow White or Black Widow and Catwoman. Looking
for giggles? The comedy slate's full of movies that send up hilariously
dysfunctional families and their running-wild offspring, as well as slaphappy
grown-ups stuck in their second childhood. For laughs, the kids can pack a
picnic lunch for animated tours of the Ice Age or sizzlin' Madagascar. And, as
always, keep your Ray-Bans peeled for cinematic wild cards, any one of which
might turn out to be a summer sleeper.
So check out our menu of summer movies for a taste of what's cookin' in your
air-conditioned multiplex May through July.
'THE WORLD AIN'T SAVIN' ITSELF'
That wisecrack's growled by the inimitable Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, as
Roadblock in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," this summer's sequel to
2009's "Rise of the Cobra." Could be the battle cry of all of his comrades in
Spandex and high-tech gear, superheroes of every stripe and style, permanently
poised to defend the world against ... whatever. By law, their fan boy-pleasin',
CGI'd crusades must feature ear-splitting explosions, humongous machines,
Godzilla-scale destruction and the nonstop display of bulging muscles.
Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" calls up a super-endowed posse from
Marvel's comic-book universe: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). The mission? To save the world
(from now on, just STW), this time from Norse god Thor's ill-tempered brother
Loki (Tom Hiddleston, so deceptively sweet in Spielberg's "War Horse"). Can't
beat that cast; gotta wonder if, to paraphrase snarky Tony Stark, they will
"play well together."
From Marvel Comics to Hasbro games and toys: "G.I. Joe" is back for a second
tour of duty, buffed up with another unstoppable cast -- The Rock, Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum (briefly), Walton
Goggins, et al. -- after most of the original unit gets killed off. Then
make way for "Battleship," an 81-year-old board game blown up
into big-screen action flick, as badass aliens begin their assault on Earth with
an epic naval battle. Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard
and Liam Neeson strike courageous poses -- and STW.
In "MIB3," Agent J (Will Smith) time-travels back to 1969, to save his
partner's life and -- getting tiresome -- STW. Turns out Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K) was once Josh Brolin, Andy Warhol was actually an undercover MIB agent,
and Jemaine Clement, that quirky chap from "Flight of the Conchords"? An alien.
But you knew that. Also web-swinging into the past, "The Amazing Spider-Man" spins an origin story, and
gives our boy a new face -- Andrew Garfield ("The Social
Network") replaces Toby Maguire-- and a new girlfriend, raspy-voiced Emma Stone.
This time it's arachnid vs. giant lizard. Game on!
Hard to swallow, but the world also gets saved this summer by the Great
Emancipator ("Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter") and "Twilight"'s droopy Bella ("Snow White and the Huntsman")! Lincoln wields his
hatchet against slave owners and vampires (to the tune of Johnny Cash's apocalyptic "The Man Comes Around"),
while Kristen Stewart, sheathed in chic silver armor,
takes shield and sword in hand to wage war on wicked queen Charlize Theron (a "young adult" suffering from a
case of extreme narcissism).
Sundance fave "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a dream film
verging on fairy tale: A 6-year-old superhero named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané
Wallis) tries to save her sick dad, if not the world, as signs of impending
apocalypse loom over her Delta home. Take shelter!
A wild card in the STW deck is the Seth Rogen-scripted sci-fi comedy "Neighborhood Watch," featuring suburban schlubs
(Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Will Forte, Vince Vaughn, et al.) whose neighborhood watch is
just an excuse for the boys to bond and play hooky from adulthood. It's all fun
and games until the big, bad aliens show up. (Studio's been scrambling to detox
the film's title in the wake of Florida's neighborhood watch shooting.)
Two bravura STW mythologies loom large on summer marquees. The first, "Prometheus," Ridley Scott's big-budget sci-fi saga about a
potentially universe-ending quest for humankind's origins, draws on the Greek
myth of Prometheus, creator and protector of humankind. Set in a time before the
"Alien" series, this much-anticipated opus by the director who launched the
modern space opera stars Idris Elba, Noomi Rapace (Sweden's Lisbeth Salander) as a
scientist who's lost her faith in God, Michael Fassbender as a "Blade Runner"-style
android and Charlize Theron as a morally ambiguous corporate
spy. Expect grandeur.
For some, summer's high point will come when "The Dark Knight Rises" hits screens. In the final
chapter in Christopher Nolan's darkly mythic Batman trilogy,
our brooding, almost anti-hero (Christian Bale) must battle brutal Bane (Tom Hardy) -- "When Gotham's in ashes, then you
have my permission to die." The old bat bunch -- Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman -- is back, joined by Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard (veterans, along with Hardy, of
Nolan's "Inception"). Will "The Dark Knight Rises" match its predecessor in
blowing away box offices -- and provoking usually mild-mannered critics into
duels to the death? Could Nolan's brainy comic-book epic take home an Oscar this
NEXT: BAD BOYS & FLAGGING