SOMEWHAT, BUT NOT TOTALLY, ORIGINAL

Super 8

Even a quick look at this list shows that 12 of the 21 movies feature characters that have been tried on screen before, and the overlapping remainder are from major comic books. Originality is in short supply, but while championing it, we can also celebrate the throwback Spielbergian feel that Super 8 is going for. The inspiration is clearly there, and for fans who tear up a little when they see the Amblin logo slide across the screen, it’s a welcome element.

So maybe an homage this direct isn’t pristinely original, but who cares? This movie looks like it’s going to rock (and rock emotionally). When you already feel nostalgia for an original film that hasn’t been released, you know someone is doing something right. -CA

Cowboys & Aliens

This genre mash-up sees two mainstays of American cinema come together… and while I could be referring to Harrison Ford and a hot lady (Olivia Wilde) I actually mean the western and sci-fi genres. That idea alone makes this film a must-see, but the addition of Ford, Daniel Craig, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Miss Wilde, and Jon Favreau in the director’s chair make it even more appealing.

Favreau has proven himself capable of mixing action and humor into top notch entertainment with films like Iron Man and, well, with Iron Man anyway. The trailers for his latest have been extremely promising and offer the possibility that even with four superhero movies in the mix this may actually be the comic book adaptation to beat this summer. Even though the film is based on a comic, it still feels like an original creation in a marketplace saturated with sequels, remakes, and known comic book entities. Will that originality be enough to make it stand out from the pack? -RH

COUNTER-PROGRAMMING or UNDERDOGS

The Tree Of Life

This particular tree has been growing for a long, long time. Cannes will see it, and then a number of screens will feature the new Terrance Malick epic that features (as far as we know) absolutely zero people in spandex. It’s one of the very few flicks that’s not a reboot, sequel, or comic book adaptation, so hopefully it won’t be so convoluted that it gives big-budget originality a bad name.

It’s too early to tell, but this might go perfectly with a Fountain chaser. Jokes aside, it’s nice to see that amongst the costumes and familiar faces, there will be a beautifully-shot, existential think piece floating around out there to crunch some popcorn to. -CA

Rise Of the Planet Of the Apes

A mad but very cool scientist (James Franco) develops some very smart apes… which turns out to be a very stupid idea. This prequel to the Planet of the Apes films we know and love is a crap shoot for several reasons. First and foremost is the fact that our last exposure to the monkey-verse was Tim Burton’s laughable reboot with Mark Wahlberg. That debacle is still fresh in the audience’s collective memory, so how do you get them back into theaters for another go around? A slick and effective trailer sure doesn’t hurt.

The official trailer that just posted last week looks quite good with its mix of cautionary science, promising action scenes, and Franco’s squinty eyes. The practical ape effects were the only part of Burton’s film that truly kicked ass, but while the decision to go CGI with the new film is questionable they actually looked pretty damn good. But all that said… do we really need another Planet Of the Apes movie? -RH

Don’t Be Afraid Of the Dark

This remake became a summer movie almost by accident when it was moved from a January release. So how will horror fare in the end of beach season? Hopefully it’ll be a reminder that it’s always a good time for a scare, even if you can smell tanning lotion in the theater.

A couple moves into a house with a boarded-up fireplace, and what lives in that fireplace really wants to get its slimy, tiny little mitts on the couple’s young daughter. Huh. A bunch of creepy monsters keep hounding Katie Holmes to get a piece of her daughter. I wonder if that’s a role she can relate to at all. -CA

Fright Night

A vampire moves in next door to a teenage boy in this remake of the beloved 80s classic. Okay, maybe “beloved” and “classic” aren’t exactly terms one should use when describing Tom Holland’s 1985 horror comedy, but damn it, it’s a fun movie. The remake sees Colin Ferrell step into the vampire’s teeth and Anton Yelchin hop into the role of Charlie Brewster with Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, and the awesomely named Imogen Poots on hand as well.

Director Craig Gillespie and writer Marti Noxon are looking to keep the balance of horror and laughs that made the original so much fun, and from what I’ve seen so far they’ve succeeded. The question is can a relatively small horror comedy find an audience in the heat of summer? Of the five films in this Under-Dog category I think this is the one with the most potential to become a breakout hit. What say you? -RH

Conan the Barbarian

The 80s remakes keep on rolling with another adaptation of Robert E. Howard iconic, shirtless character. Jason Momoa takes his stab at the character in the sword and sandal Summer movie that doesn’t feature a giant red cape or Natalie Portman as a hot scientist.

Last year saw the hilarious misstep that was Prince of Persia, but maybe the genre will get a revival from an old, familiar character. As well it should. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a guy fresh from the gym slicing his way through a bunch of bad guys and drinking way too much malted ale. The big question, of course, is whether Kevin Sorbo and Arnold Schwarzenegger will make cameo appearances in their loin cloths. -CA

COMEDIES HOPING TO BE THE NEXT HANGOVER

Bad Teacher

Teachers are people too, and if the surprisingly hilarious red-band trailer for this comedy is any indication they’re foul-mouthed people at that. Director Jake Kasdan has yet to return to the highs of his debut film, Zero Effect, but that’s coming from someone who loves that movie and thought Orange County and Walk Hard were just okay. His latest looks to be a deliriously profane romp through the daily drudgery of one of the world’s most thankless jobs, but the biggest surprise is with the casting.

Lovable lug Jason Segal stars alongside the one-note but entertaining Justin Timberlake, but the film’s main lead is Cameron Diaz. She hasn’t been appealing since she stole our hearts and Ben Stiller’s jizz in There’s Something About Mary, but not only does she look fantastic in the trailer but she’s funny as hell in it too. What are the odds that sexy and dirty appeal will carry over from a two minute trailer through the ninety minute movie? -RH

Friends With Benefits

It used to be you’d have to wait years for a remake of a mediocre film, but here we are with a remake of the Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher starrer No Strings Attached just six months after it was released. Crazy! The guy and the girl struggling to remain fuck-buddies without falling in love are played by Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis this time, so it’s not as if the cast is a step up for the reboot. The director is an improvement though as Will Gluck seems far more capable of entertaining these days than Ivan Reitman.

As is par for the course with big screen comedies the true appeal is often found in the supporting cast, and this one does not disappoint. Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Rashida Jones, Richard Jenkins, Patricia Clarkson, and Andy Samberg are all on hand to pick up the slack Timberlake is bound to leave behind, but will it be enough to make this stand apart from the source material? -RH

Horrible Bosses

Three men finally realize that the thing keeping them from being happy is their respective bosses. Instead of writing a stern letter, they decide to kill all of them. The trio of Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman is the real draw here (as well as the morbidly funny premise), and it’s also the next feature from Seth Gordon who has seemed content to rock middling comedies since his King of Kong triumph.

As is par for the course with big screen comedies, the true appeal is often found in the supporting cast, and this one does not disappoint. Jennifer Aniston is involved, sure, but there’s also Colin Farrell (probably fangless), Kevin Spacey, Julie Bowen, Donald Sutherland, John Francis Daley, the guy from the Old Spice commercials, and Jamie Foxx playing a character named Motherfucker Jones. -CA

The Hangover Part II

If there’s any one film that’s truly trying to become the next Hangover, it’s The Hangover Part II. Devin Faraci over at Bad Ass Digest recently asked why anyone on the planet was looking forward to this movie while bravely admitting that he hadn’t seen the first. The answer to his crucially philosophical question is that the first one was hilarious, and there are people out there that actually hope movies are good.

I don’t see why this one wouldn’t be. It’s a re-tread of the same situation and the same wolfpack tossed into a new Thai-based setting, and that means more of the same style of humor. It also promises that the ante will be proverbially raised. What worked so well about the first was the dynamic between Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms. With that back in place, the foundation has been set, sprayed down with a hose, and prepared for the potential of great comedy. Plus, it’s the second-most anticipated Part II of the summer. -CA

What do you want to see the most?


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