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A family guide to 2012's summer movies

By Jeffrey Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, May 2 2012 10:18 a.m. MDT

Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight Rises."

Warner Bros.

Related list: Summer 2012 movie preview

This week’s release of Marvel’s superhero mash-up “The Avengers” officially kicks off the summer movie season — a period defined by cutting-edge special effects, superheroes and supervillains, alien invasions and shameless efforts at four-quadrant hits.

With so many potential blockbusters on the horizon, though, it can be difficult to gauge what movies are appropriate for families. With that in mind, here is a guide to some of the biggest movie releases this summer (PG-13 and under) and what concerned parents can expect from them.

May

“The Avengers” (PG-13) — As one might expect from any summer action flick, especially one whose roster of heroes includes a “green rage monster,” “The Avengers” is a pretty violent movie with enough explosions and buildings getting destroyed to make even Michael Bay smile. But as long as parents don’t mind their kids “hulking out” every now and then, this is the kind of PG-13 movie that might be OK to let slightly older children see, too.

Related list: An introduction to the heroes, allies and villains of 'The Avengers'

“Dark Shadows” (PG-13) — Continuing the lengthy and lucrative partnership of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Alice in Wonderland”), “Dark Shadows” updates the 1960s Gothic soap opera of the same name, this time as a horror-comedy about an 18th-century vampire coming to grips with 1970s America.

Best guess: Audiences, especially parents, may want to exercise caution with this one as it does contain some sexual content (partially evident in the trailers) in addition to recreational drug use.

“Battleship” (PG-13) — “Battleship” is being marketed as the next “Transformers” (both are based on Hasbro products), and if trailers/early reviews are any indication, it seems to follow basically the same formula of flat characters, unrealistically attractive love interests and massive CGI effects sequences.

The extreme level of violence may be an issue for some moviegoers. Once again, “Transformers” is probably a decent example of what to anticipate content-wise.

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (PG-13) — Even “how-to” books are fair game in Hollywood, as this ensemble comedy about the wonderful misadventures of pregnancy demonstrates. “What to Expect” seeks to duplicate the success of movies like “New Year’s Eve” and “Valentine’s Day” and provide an alternative for women not willing to sit through “The Avengers” one more time with their husbands.

The MPAA’s parental advisory warns of “crude and sexual content.” Kids probably aren’t going to be begging to see this one, though.

“Men In Black III” (PG-13) — After a 10-year absence, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reprise their iconic roles as agents J and K with Barry Sonnenfeld once again in the director’s chair.

If the previous two films are any indication, “MIB-III” will probably play to a slightly younger audience than something like “Battleship,” using violence and exploding aliens more for laughs than dramatic effect — which might actually be of greater concern to some parents.

“Moonrise Kingdom” (PG-13) — In spite of its setting at a Scout camp, a whimsical style and two 12-year-olds as lead characters, Wes Anderson’s latest film — following up on the critical and commercial success of “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” — is not a kids’ movie.

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