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Chris Hicks: More to summer movies than comics

Published: Thursday, May 3 2012 5:49 p.m. MDT

Judi Dench as Evelyn and Celia Imrie as Madge in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

Ishika Mohan, Ishika Mohan

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If you thought last summer's movie fare was overloaded with superheroes — well, let's just say that what seemed like something trending over the past few years has become business as usual, run-of-the-mill, the expected, the norm. Or perhaps the cliche.

Summer 2012 is poised to bring you Iron Man, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Nick Fury — and that's just in one movie, "The Avengers" (opening today, as if you didn't know).

If D.C. Comics ever learns from Marvel Comics how to develop superhero film franchises outside of Batman and Superman, maybe someday we'll see "The Avengers vs. the Justice League."

Talk about fanboy heaven.

Anyway, aside from "The Avengers," other superhero movies this summer include the final episode of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises," and a new reboot of another Marvel favorite, "The Amazing Spider-Man."

And the success of "Transformers" is surely to blame for a pair of toy/game movies on the horizon, "Battleship" and a sequel GI Joe sequel, "GI Joe: Retaliation."

Then, there are the usual sequels, remakes and 3-D epics of all stripes, along with revisionist history as fantasy — Honest Abe going all Buffy in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."

But amid the mayhem and strangeness, if you dig deep into the list of upcoming movies over the next four months ("summer" on Hollywood's calendar is May 1 to Sept. 1), you can actually find a few films about human beings in stories that resemble real life.

And if you narrow the field a bit more, there are even a few titles geared toward the parents and grandparents of Hollywood's usual target demographic.

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," which opens next week, is a light comedy from England, with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy among a group of retirees on an excursion to India, seduced by advertising for a hotel that proves to be less exotic than they were led to believe. No doubt everyone will eventually be charmed by the surroundings.

Another comedy marks Lawrence Kasdan's return to filmmaking after a nine-year absence, "Darling Companion," opening May 18 (and filmed in Utah). Kasdan wrote the screenplays for "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" before becoming a writer-director with "Body Heat," "The Big Chill" and "Silverado," among others, and he has recruited one of his most frequent collaborators, Kevin Kline, to star as a distracted doctor married to Diane Keaton (the sterling supporting cast includes Dianne Wiest and Sam Shepard). The plot is simple: Keaton rescues a dog that Kline later manages to lose in the woods, which brings family conflicts to the surface.

"To Rome With Love," due in June, takes Woody Allen from France to Italy in this follow-up to last year's hit, "Midnight in Paris." Leaving fantasy behind and appearing on camera for the first time in six years, Allen's latest comedy explores an ensemble of tourists and locals in Rome, among them Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page.

Meryl Streep's latest is also comedy, "Hope Springs," opening in August, with Streep playing a neglected wife in a longtime marriage who wants to enter an intensive, weeklong therapy session with her husband, grumpy, reluctant Tommy Lee Jones. The therapist and best-selling author is Steve Carell. The possibilities are endless.

Hopefully, these movies will reach out and appeal to an audience beyond just baby boomers. It's only fair. After all, baby boomers will be heading to films outside of their demographic.

Some of us are looking forward to "Men in Black 3," reuniting Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones; the Batman sequel "The Dark Knight Rises"; Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's campy "Dark Shadows"; the latest from Pixar, "Brave"; "The Bourne Legacy," to see if a reboot means less shaky-cam; and "Prometheus," if only to see if it is indeed a prequel to "Alien."

And, yes, many of us will even take in "The Avengers." Though we may wait a month for the crowds to die down.

EMAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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