Summer Movies: The Sequel

flm sparks  Gems to look out for in the second wave of summer blockbusters 

We’re still cleaning up the debris after the first tidal wave of blockbuster summer movies—the one that began last month with The Avengers, and subsided last week with Moonrise Kingdom.

But another tsunami is on its way, a second wave of diverse summer movies before the inevitable doldrums of August set in. In a crowded field, here are some interesting contenders to look out for, from big budget to wildly offbeat.

film brave

In this Disney/Pixar animated adventure, a 16-year-old medieval Scots princess defies the marriage custom of her realm and must defend her kingdom against an ancient curse. What’s cool: It seems to have a girl-empowering YA vibe, and it’s nice to see a Disney Princess who eschews a tiara for something more useful—a bow and arrow. (Katniss Everdeen goes to Scotland?) Not so much: Animator Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt) who conceived of and labored on the project for six years, was replaced at the helm by two male directors. (Opens this week.)

film safety
Three jaded Seattle journalists spot a classified ad from a guy looking for a time-travel companion, and decide to investigate. Mark Duplass stars. What’s cool: The incredible hook of the time-travel ad. (“Must bring your own weapon. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.”) Not so much: Well, who knows? It all depends on how they handle the material, and SF filmmaker Colin Trevorrow is still largely unknown. (Opens this week; see Greg Archer’s *** review in Film Guide.)

film mike
Channing Tatum stars as a guy who moonlights as a male stripper, teaching the biz to new kid, Alex Pettyfer. What’s cool: Hopefully, director Steven Soderbergh will bring his indie spirit to this story based on Tatum’s real-life experiences as a young actor learning to strip for fast cash. Not so much: Warner Bros distributes, which may indicate a Hollywood cheese-fest about ogling scantily clad men (including Matthew McConaughey and Matt Bomer)—not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Opens June 29)

film rome
Woody Allen’s Grand Tour of Europe continues; after successful whistle-stops in Barcelona and Paris, he takes a typically eclectic cast of lovers and dreamers to the fabled Italian capitol for romantic and comic escapades. What’s cool: A cast that includes Woody himself (his first onscreen appearance since Scoop), Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, and the divine Judy Davis. Also, it’s an anthology, a collection of short vignettes that loosely pay homage to Boccaccio’s “Decameron.” Not so much: Roberto Benigni pops up in one episode, although it’ll be interesting to see what Allen does with the ebullient Tuscan ham. (Opens July 6)

film spiderman
it seems like only yesterday at Tobey Maguire was shouting “Woo-Hoo!” whilst rappelling between the skyscrapers of NYC, but there’s already a newer, younger Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) ready to launch his own franchise. What’s cool: Garfield was stalwart in Never let Me Go, and The Social Network. Director Marc Webb handled (500) Days of Summer with humor and panache. The plot goes all Dark Knight on us, with Peter delving into his painful past and the disappearance of his parents. Not so much: Too much Spidey too soon? The Maguire trilogy only ended in 2007. (Opens July 6)

film beasts
An intrepid six-year-old girl living in the Southern Delta lowlands invents her vision of reality as Katrina roars through her community. What’s cool: Everything! Beloved at Sundance and Cannes, this rookie feature from Benh Zeitlin promises to dabble in magic realism and fairy tale mythos with its daring child’s-eye-view of irrational events. It’s also said to have a killer performance from tiny non-professional actress Quvenzhané Wallis. Not so much: I can’t think of a thing. (Opens July 13, Nick)

film darkknight
Christopher Nolan returns with the final installment of the brooding Christian Bale revisionist Batman trilogy. What’s cool: Nolan recruits Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy (they all worked together on Inception) for this installment. Not so much: Nolan has an unfortunate penchant for letting lots of explosions and noise engulf his stories. (Opens July 20)

film ruby

A blocked writer (Paul Dano) gets inspired when one of his fictional characters (Zoe Kazan) comes to life and becomes his muse. What’s cool: From Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the husband/wife filmmaking team who made Little Miss Sunshine. Not so much: Writers and writing are often elusive subjects for the movies to get right. (Opens August 3)

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