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The Rotten Truth: My Summer Must-See, Must-Avoid List

Weighing in on non-horror fare, for once

And now for something a bit different.

Unless I opt to take an assignment for ComingSoon.net/SuperHeroHype.com (our Crave network brethren), I never really get a chance to cover the big summer blockbusters. Occasionally, there’s cross-over fare. Big ticket projects that sit on the fringe of the genre Shock loves to cover. See, for instance, this year’s Super 8 which promise Spielberg-style awe as well as creature terror. But when it comes to the usual summer titans, I sit by the sidelines and write solely about the horror flicks that may pop up between the months of May and August.

Summer season used to be a big deal for me. Especially the summer of 1989 – when Tim Burton’s Batman hit – which served a milestone that fueled my personal fandom, much to the chagrin of my folks, I’m sure, who tirelessly made sure I had every Batman t-shirt out there. Before that, yes, summer was a big deal for me movie-wise and I have a lot of fond memories of those years prior to ‘89, however, the Burton/Batman year really kicked things into high gear. The decades that followed were kind, but as I got older, the “summer movie season” that I used to eagerly read about in the pages of “Premiere” and “Entertainment Weekly” lost its appeal.

That said, I’d like to use this column to weigh in on the spate of lavish eye candy that’s on the way in the coming months because I’m more curious/eager than I have been in a while about what’s to come. (As usual, click on the title for a link to photos and trailers, courtesy of Coming Soon).

• THOR: This was a comic book my dad was raised on, but I never really saw the fascination in Thor – a big lug who wielded a hammer. Out of the Marvel crop of characters, I was an “X-Men,” “Punisher” and “Spider-Man” kid. I always thought “Thor” looked a bit tacky, so the draw just wasn’t there. Film-wise, well, the material lends itself to something fantastical…but silly. Those trailers and clips back that up. “Thor” is one of a few characters hitting the screening this year I believe are best left on the comic book page, so consider my expectations in check. If I have a blast, I’ll consider that a win. [Update: After writing this, I saw the movie and holy shit, I dug the hell out of it.]

• PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES: The first chapter filled me with ennui. I fell asleep on part two and don’t remember a thing; part three I simply skipped. Part four, I presume, will be a bloated, incoherent mess with Johnny Depp looking wide-eyed through heavy eyeliner in every shot with canon balls, mermaids and other shit being thrown at him.

• THE HANGOVER: PART II: As far as comedies go, this is a big ‘un. The first film drove me to tears, I laughed so hard. A second one? The teaser and full trailer have me asking, “Cute, but why bother?” It looks exactly the same. Seriously? Spin the formula differently, man. Don’t give me another story about losing someone. Don’t give me a goddamn animal. It could be funny. But I don’t really care at this point.

• KUNG FU PANDA 2: Did the first one do that well? I tried to watch it on the plane once. I got about ten minutes in, thinking it was nothing more than a glorified Saturday morning cartoon with no heart. Passing on the panda’s further adventures.

• X-MEN: FIRST CLASS: After X-Men 3 I figured I’d be apathetic about any new film, be it a sequel, a reboot or a prequel. The first images did little to stir my interest, but then the trailers began that online onslaught and I liked what I was seeing. For one, I’m a Michael Fassbender fan. Also, it’s classic X-Men. I think it will be refreshing to see other students under Xavier’s guidance other than Wolverine, Storm, et al. Plus, Muties involved in the Cuban missile crisis? Count me in.

• GREEN LANTERN: The jury is still out for me. I admire that Ryan Reynolds is veering all over the map with his career (from something generic like The Proposal to something risky like Buried) and I think he deserves something big like this. But goddamn that CGI suit. The teaser trailer looked awful. The extended footage that hit the web following WonderCon gave me hope. I liked the scope and the intergalactic sense of it all, and I especially enjoyed seeing the Green Lantern Corps brought to life. There’s still all of that stuff from the teaser I’m worried about. Unfortunately, that’s still in the film. And so is that goddamn suit.

• TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON: Say what you will, but I had a blast with the first film. I’m a sucker for Transformers. I grew up with them. The second film, well, I was slightly blitzed from one too many margaritas, so yes, while I grinned from ear to ear watching Revenge of the Fallen, it is a vapid experience, even with big robots going BOOM over and over and over again. Michael Bay showed us 25 minutes of Dark of the Moon recently and it looks a helluva lot different from its predecessor. Lean, mean and violent, although we’ll see just how violent it gets – after all, this isn’t an R-rated action fest. The FX were, of course, stellar. It’s killer to see Shockwave, who makes his appearance, being brought to life. I don’t want to get fooled again, but, to repeat myself, I’m hopeful.

• HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS PART 2: Whoops. Almost forgot to include this on the list. I’m so out of the loop on this series, it’s ridiculous, however, I might just jump into this film quick to see who lives, dies and how it ends. What’s the last Potter flick I saw, you ask? Maybe the third one. Commissioner Gordon was held captive or something and he turned into a werewolf, I think. Oh, and I remember the film being especially grim-looking, stylistically.

• CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER: Of the films Joe Johnston has directed, The Rocketeer is probably my favorite. Highly entertaining, warm and clever, that film was everything it needed to be, and it had a stellar cast. I’m hoping he brings the same vibe to the table here. Ol’ Cap, however, is one of those characters that, like Thor, might not be best suited for the screen. Too campy, perhaps. I wasn’t one of the many who balked at the casting of Chris Evans. He’s okay in my book (did you see Sunshine?). Regardless of the trailer, which didn’t do much for me, I’ll be there opening weekend to see how Marvel establishes one more integral chunk of The Avengers puzzle.

• THE SMURFS: You’re f**kin’ kidding, right? Get the hell out of here.

• CARS 2: I couldn’t wrap my head around the Godless logic (that’s sarcasm, I’m hardly a religious man) where a world is populated with talking vehicles. Out of Pixar’s efforts, this is one property I turn my back on.

• COWBOYS AND ALIENS: I might be the only person who has no interest in this. It feels like something that should have come out during the glut of alien movies that we were hit with in ‘96 and ‘97. John Favreau’s a competent director, though, so maybe he’ll pull it off.

• RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: I’m a glutton for punishment. But I’m also a Planet of the Apes fan. The prequel faces an uphill battle in that we know how this story is going to end, but I love the notion that if this chapter is well-told, there could be more stories to explore. But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. There are a lot of factors I’m not keen on. James Franco is one. The story, at its core, is similar to Deep Blue Sea. And, it’s 20th Century Fox (which means possible extensive creative meddling). Still, I love me some Apes.

• Conan the Barbarian: Sorry, Marcus Nispel. Arnold is the only Conan for me. Even if that Conan sequel was abysmal.

Other films I’m eager to see: The Tree of Life and Super 8 (of course).

Again this list reflects the non-horror fare arriving this summer. What about you? What are you eager to see?

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor