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Summer movies preview: Get ready for a lot of action

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

The summer is setting up for an epic showdown of comic proportions. Marvel ushers its all-star team, "The Avengers," into theaters to start the summer, and DC Comics follows in July with the third part of director Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Everything else this summer likely will pale in comparison.

In addition to the usual slate of unnecessary sequels ("Men in Black III") and those that are slightly more welcome ("Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"), directing titans Ridley Scott and Oliver Stone have new films that have the directors getting back to their roots. On a lighter note, Sacha Baron Cohen should keep cineplexes brimming with laughter with his send-up of narcissistic power lords in "The Dictator."

Folks with ties to Texas will make a splash, as well. University of Texas graduates Mark and Jay Duplass produced the Sundance and South by Southwest hit, the touching and funny "Safety Not Guaranteed;" fellow Longhorns Wes Anderson ("Moonrise Kingdom") and Matthew McConaughey ("Magic Mike") have highly anticipated movies of differing tones hitting theaters, and Corpus Christi native Eva Longoria explores the socio-religious history of Mexico with Andy Garcia in "For Greater Glory."

Below we take a look at 30 of the biggest movies that will keep audiences laughing, groaning and teetering on the edge of their seats all summer.

Friday

"The Avengers"

Like a family reunion of the Marvel family. All of your favorites — Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — join forces under the direction of supernerd Joss Whedon to fight for justice and box-office glory.

May 11

"Dark Shadows"

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton re-team for a kooky and campy gothic tale based on the 1960s TV show. Burton's eerie and beautiful wife, Helena Bonham Carter, joins the fun as well.

May 16

"The Dictator"

Sacha Baron Cohen returns to offend with his latest creation, the ultimate high-status boob — an Arab dictator who looks like a Saddam Hussein/Moammar Gadhafi mash-up and lacks any self-awareness.

May 18

"Battleship"

"Friday Night Lights" director Peter Berg snagged "FNL" heartthrob Taylor Kitsch to play a wayward naval officer who springs to attention to fight alien ships. Things go "boom" and "zoom" and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker (wife of sometime-Austinite Andy Roddick) goes "kapow" in a bikini.

May 25

"Men in Black III"

Will Smith does a little time traveling and encounters a young Agent K, Josh Brolin doing a wicked Tommy Lee Jones impression with a twinge of George W. Bush. There's really no need for this third, and hopefully final, installment of the series, but it may be worth checking out simply to see Bill Hader channel his "Saturday Night Live" character Stefon to portray Andy Warhol.

June 1

"For Greater Glory"

Andy Garcia stars as a renegade soldier of faith in this period epic about the Cristeros War of the early 20th century. Originally titled "Cristiada," the film co-stars Eva Longoria and Garcia's epic mustache.

"Snow White and the Huntsman"

Kristen Stewart's pout wins over the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) enlisted to kill her. Instead, the huntsman takes the young maiden under his wing and trains her to take out the evil queen, played with wicked relish by Charlize Theron.

June 8

"Moonrise Kingdom"

Precocious children, fantastical set design, artsy direction and French music. Looks like classic Wes Anderson fare. Along for the ride is, as always, a great ensemble cast, one that includes Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Anderson go-to-guys Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman.

"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"

Anthropmorphism doesn't come much funnier for the whole family than in the form of Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra and friends. The castaways, voiced by Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer and Chris Rock, try helplessly to get back to New York. High jinks ensue.

"Prometheus"

"Alien" and "Blade Runner" director Ridley Scott gets back to his science-fiction roots with this saga of a team of explorers who stumble upon evidence of the origin of life on Earth. Original "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Noomi Rapace, takes the plunge with Charlize Theron.

"Safety Not Guaranteed"

A big hit at Sundance and SXSW, this film produced by University of Texas graduates Jay and Mark Duplass, stars Mark as a slightly manic and lonely man looking for someone to take a time-traveling jaunt with him. The usually sarcastic Aubrey Plaza of "Parks and Recreation" fame is still dry, but shows some warmth and emotional range as the girl who may just make that cosmic leap.

June 15

"Rock of Ages"

Those who've been dying to see Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin in a rock musical can finally rest easy. Choreographer and "Hairspray" (2007) director Adam Shankman helms this retelling of the Broadway musical about two aspiring artists (Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough) hoping to make it big in hair-metal-infused late-'80s Los Angeles.

"That's My Boy"

Adam Sandler will stop making dumb comedies when you stop paying $11 to go see them, people. Here he plays a lovable loser who speaks with a wicked mixture of accents from seemingly every character he's ever played. Andy Samberg plays his long-lost son who wants nothing to do with pops.

June 22

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"

Yes, you read that right. Relative unknown Benjamin Walker stars as the 16th president, who, you guessed it, hunts vampires. The son-in-law of Meryl Streep, Walker has already portrayed the seventh president, Andrew Jackson, in "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" on Broadway, so maybe his genre-bending experience will come in handy. The sexy Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as the decidedly unsexy Mary Todd Lincoln

"Brave"

The enchanting Kelly Macdonald ("Boardwalk Empire") lends her dulcet voice to heroine Princess Merida in this Scottish story of female empowerment and mother-daughter relationships. It is a Pixar film, so expect movie magic.

June 29

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation"

Thirty-four percent and $302,469,017. Only one of those numbers matter. The latter. The first is the Rotten Tomatoes score of the original movie based on the action figure, and the second is the film's total take at the worldwide box office and the reason for a sequel. The ‘Real American Hero' team will get an added boost of heroism from action stars Bruce Willis and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who join the returning Channing Tatum for a thrilling tale of ... . zzzzzzzzzzz.

"Magic Mike"

Über hunks Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey as strippers on the big screen? There are probably a lot of women (and men) saying, "Alright, alright, alright." Steven Soderbergh directs, so expect much more than just good looks.

July 3

"The Amazing Spider-Man"

Andrew Garfield follows up on his breakout role in "The Social Network" by crawling inside the web-slinger's iconic suit. Director Sam Raimi has left the franchise, and "(500) Days of Summer" director Mark Webb will have his hands full trying not to let down fans of the comic hero. The adorable and solid Emma Stone should help.

July 5

"Katy Perry: Part of Me"

If bubble gum could talk (or sing), this is what it would sound like. Are you ready for 90 minutes of the pop star's life on and off stage thrown into your eye holes via the magic of 3D? Is anyone?

July 6

"Savages"

Can Oliver Stone redeem himself for "Wall Street 2" (and several other of his recent movies)? Given the juicy material — pot growers have their girlfriend kidnapped by a Mexican cartel — and the solid cast — Taylor Kitsch, Uma Thurman, Benicio del Toro and Salma Hayek — the answer is a decided maybe.

July 13

"Ice Age: Continental Drift"

Find good gimmick, make loads of money, repeat. The silly Manny, Diego and Sid are back and facing some serious problems (global warming) in this fourth installment of the frigid franchise.

July 20

"The Dark Knight Rises"

(Michael Buffer voice) "The new heavyweight champion of the worrrld ... ." Yep, Christopher Nolan's trilogy-capping film is garnering that kind of early buzz. And for good reason. Nolan may be the most visionary director working today, and Christian Bale has come to embody the Dark Knight. Here, Bale brings Batman out of hiding and then, as they say, it is on.

July 27

"Neighborhood Watch"

Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Billy Crudup and Will Forte play dads who bond to protect their neighborhood. But things take a dramatic turn when aliens enter the picture. Lonely Island member Akiva Schaffer, one of the men behind the usually great "Saturday Night Live" digital shorts, directs a movie that will feel oddly timely.

Aug. 3

"The Bourne Legacy"

Jeremy Renner takes the torch (and briefcase full of fake passports and high-tech gadgets) from Matt Damon. Renner plays CIA operative Aaron Cross. While the hero's name may be different, the Bourne franchise continues under the skilled hand of writer-director Tony Gilroy, so expect awesomeness.

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days"

How do a bunch of wimpy kids spend their summer? Probably the way all kids do — swimming, chasing girls, getting into trouble with mom and pop, etc. Apparently enough people care to find out, because this is the third Diary chapter.

"Total Recall"

Yep, the original "Total Recall" has been out so long (22 years), someone figured it was time for a remake. Feeling old yet? Colin Farrell takes the place of Arnold, so expect much better acting but much weaker straining muscles and pulsating forehead veins.

Aug. 10

"The Campaign"

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis star as two warring North Carolina politicians in this comedy from director Jay Roach ("Meet the Parents," "Austin Powers"). Two of Hollywood's funniest men in a satire about politics in the middle of what should be an interesting election cycle? Sounds like a winning formula.

Aug. 17

"The Expendables 2"

Like a live-action version of "The Avengers." Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li and their butt-kicking pals return, this time under the guidance of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" director Simon West. Are you ready for some testosterone!?

Aug. 31*

"7500"

Japanese director Takashi Shimizu has scared folks senseless with his "Grudge" series, and now he takes the chills and thrills to the air, as the supernatural interrupts a trans-Atlantic commercial flight.

*After publication, the studio pushed back the release date of “7500.”

"Lawless"

A depression-era tale about bootleggers, this crime drama from the director of "The Road" features an impressive cast that includes Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Shia LaBeouf and Guy Pearce.

Contact Matthew Odam at 912-5986.