ORLANDO, Fla. — Summer cinema is always a minefield of movies that somebody thought were a good idea — that maybe they convinced you were a good idea — but weren't.
"Smurfs" and "Jonah Hex" and "Cowboys & Aliens," anyone?
This summer is more fraught with peril than usual. Loaded with sequels, top-heavy with re-boots and remakes, the titles may look familiar, making movie marketing departments happy. But the movies? A real crapshoot.
Disney has so much riding on "Marvel's The Avengers" (May 4) that they added "Marvel" to the title, lest people confuse it with the 1998 Uma Thurman/ Ralph Fiennes bomb that was based on the British TV show.
Universal is so hedging its bets on "Battleship" (May 18) that they opened it in the rest of the world before unleashing it here. And they're saying their prayers that "Snow White and the Huntsman" (June 1) will not disappear the way the "Other Snow White Movie" ("Mirror Mirror") did in March.
Sacha Baron Cohen's "The Dictator" moved to May 16, to protect it from "Dark Shadows" and "Battleship." (Did they make it funnier than the trailers?)
You know what you're getting with "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" (June 8), "Madea's Witness Protection" (June 29), "Ice Age: Continental Drift" (July 13) and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (June 29) and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" (Aug. 3).
Summer officially begins with "Marvel's The Avengers." It pretty much ends Aug. 17 with with "The Expendables 2." And in between, here are the red-letter dates that could help us navigate that minefield of movies.
"Dark Shadows" pairs up Johnny Depp and Tim Burton in what is being sold as a dark, edgy but somewhat camp version of the 1970s TV soap opera about vampires. (No, not "Dallas.")
"Men in Black 3" makes one long to have been a fly on the wall when Oscar winner and perma-grump Tommy Lee Jones was pitched this. Agent J (Will Smith) travels back to the "Mad Men" '60s to keep aliens from killing his then much-younger partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones in the present, Josh Brolin in the '60s). Might this be a comeback for director Barry Sonnenfeld?
"Chernobyl Diaries" is a horror picture based on an idea by Mr. "Paranormal Activity" (Oren Peli) about "extreme tourists" who get more than they bargained for when they travel into the radioactive forbidden zone around the infamous reactor. Is there found footage? Are there supernatural scares? The odds are good that these goods are odd.
"Rock of Ages" has an all star cast — Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Malin Akerman, Alec Baldwin — the director of "Hairspray" and a lot of movie stars singing '80s "hair metal" anthems in a film based on the hit stage musical. It's "Glee" with spandex, sweat and mousse-mopped guitar heroes.
"That's My Boy" might allow Adam Sandler to pass the baton to the next generation (Andy Samberg). Sandler's the loutish loser who hasn't seen his super-successful son (Samberg) in years. The back story? Dad, still a kid himself, had an affair with a teacher that ended up with her in prison and him raising a boy while still a boy himself. Yeah, this is Sandler's Father's Day present to America.
"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel, imagines Honest Abe as an honest-to-Pete American Van Helsing, a buff vampire slayer of the 19th century. Benjamin Walker plays Abe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Mary Todd Lincoln, with Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie and Rufus Sewell also on board director Timur Bekmambetov's Gothic goof on American history.
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