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A baker's dozen for summer 2012

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Previewing some of this season's cinematic offerings

The summer movie season used to be easy to pinpoint. For years, Memorial Day marked the season's official unofficial beginning. That was just how it worked. However, over the past few years, that starting date has been slowly creeping earlier and earlier into May. It's clear that the first big summer film of 2012 is 'The Avengers' despite the fact that it comes out on May 4. That's right. May 4. We're only a year or two away from a summer movie season that starts in April.

Let's have a look at some of the more eagerly-anticipated films of this summer. Granted, it's a whole lot of what we've come to expect out of Hollywood: there are sequels and reboots galore. That's not necessarily a bad thing; some of these movies look absolutely spectacular. But there are also some star-studded comedies, adaptations of books and musicals and some animated fare as well.

Check out one man's highlights.

'The Avengers' (May 4)

This film doubles as both the first and most anticipated film of the summer of 2012. Marvel Studios has spent the last few years steadily building to the 'Avengers' crescendo, tying together an assortment of films featuring different characters over the span of years. This movie is the culmination of that effort. Directed by Joss Whedon and featuring an all-star cast, 'The Avengers' is a fanboy's dream made reality. If nothing else, it'll be great to finally see the culmination of this lengthy cross-promotional effort. Plus, superheroes are awesome.

'Dark Shadows' (May 11)

For those too young to remember, 'Dark Shadows' was a gothic soap opera that aired in the 1970s and featured a vampire. In this film version, Johnny Depp plays the vampiric Barnabas Collins. He has finally emerged from centuries of imprisonment only to encounter his descendants living in his old estate. Oh, and this comedy (yes, comedy) is directed by Tim Burton. Frankly, this capsule could easily consist of the sentence: 'Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton team up again' and that would be plenty. Luckily for us, there's so much more.

'Men in Black 3' (May 25)

Under ordinary circumstances, one might question the wisdom of releasing a sequel a full decade after the previous installment. These are not ordinary circumstances. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are teaming up once again as members of everybody's favorite intergalactic police organization. This time, there's some time travel. While it's nice to see Will Smith back on his summer blockbuster perch, one of this film's highlights has to be Josh Brolin's uncanny resemblance to a young Tommy Lee Jones. It'll probably be brainless, but it'll be a heck of a lot of fun.

'Snow White and the Huntsman' (June 1)

It's always funny when Hollywood accidentally doubles up. That's when you get seasons with two volcano movies ('Volcano' and 'Dante's Peak') or two asteroid movies ('Deep Impact' and 'Armageddon'). This year, it's Snow White. First came the comedic 'Mirror Mirror' and now there's this grittier, darker interpretation of the story. It stars the ever-emotionless Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Chris Hemsworth as the titular huntsman and Chalize Theron as the Wicked Queen. Hemsworth and Theron are pros, but Stewart will likely drag down the proceedings. Expect more misses than hits with this one.

'Prometheus' (June 8)

The movie 'Alien' is one of the all-time science-fiction classics, though the franchise definitely lost its way through the years. 'Prometheus' is a sort of spiritual prequel to those films, filling in the backstory that led to the 'Alien' universe that we know. By all appearances, this movie looks to have recaptured the soul of that first movie. This time, however, the filmmakers have the budget to match the epic scale of the project. Combine stunning visuals with the chance to see mankind's first contact with those H.R. Geiger-designed nightmares and you've got summertime gold.

'Rock of Ages' (June 15)

Based on the Tony Award-winning musical of the same name, 'Rock of Ages' is a musical built around the rock music of the 1980s. While Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are the 'stars' of the film, it's the rest of the cast that causes you to sit up and take notice. Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston and Catherine Zeta-Jones are all here, although Tom Cruise is probably the highlight. His turn as heavy-metal rocker Stacee Jaxx looks to be a masterpiece of ludicrous camp. It'll be big, bright, loud and a heck of a lot of cheesy fun.

'Brave' (June 22)

It's Pixar; if there's a Pixar movie, we need to discuss it because it is going to be awesome. This crew has never had a misfire (though arguments will be accepted for 'Cars 2') and there's no reason to think 'Brave' will be anything but great. Adding to the excitement is the fact that 'Brave' is Pixar's first film with a female protagonist. It's set in Scotland, where young princess Merida decides to take her courage and archery skills and make her own way, despite the misgivings of her royal parents. Anything short of a home run will be a surprise.

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' (June 22)

Just look at the title. How can you not want to see this movie? Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' is exactly what it says it is. It's the story of a young Abraham Lincoln, played by Benjamin Walker, who becomes a vampire hunter. Dominic Cooper plays his instructor in the ways of nightwalker assassination and Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Lincoln's wife Mary. Maybe you've been wondering 'How could Abe Lincoln possibly be more badass?' This movie is all the answer you need.

'GI Joe: Retaliation' (June 29)

2009's 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra' was a bit of a misfire; the film never quite seemed to figure out what it wanted to be and hence didn't quite hit its stride. This sequel adds action superstars Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Bruce Willis into the mix between Johnson's current hot streak and Willis's history, you won't find better action movie bona fides. However, if additional attention wasn't paid to the story this time around, it's a safe bet that this film will fail to meet its potential just as its predecessor did.

'The Amazing Spider-Man' (July 3)

Despite the passing of just a few years since the last 'Spider-Man' film, apparently it's time for a reboot. This time, Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker while Emma Stone plays love interest Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans will be the villain. It's not ideal that we're getting the origin story again, but hopefully this time they'll stick closer to canon. Will this edgier take on the character reinvigorate the franchise? Perhaps it is too soon to say, but there's plenty of potential here to take everybody's favorite webslinger in a new direction.

'The Dark Knight Rises' (July 20)

I'm clearly obsessed with the summer's superhero offerings, which should come as no surprise to regular readers. And while 'The Avengers' is probably the biggest of the bunch, 'The Dark Knight Rises' is director Christopher Nolan's chance to complete his brilliant Batman trilogy. What Nolan did with the help of star Christian Bale is take a ubiquitous pop culture property and turn it into either the most artistically valid popcorn movies (or the most commercially viable art films) in recent memory. Word is that it's Nolan's last go at the character, so expect some real surprises.

'Total Recall' (Aug. 3)

There are some big shoes to fill here; the original 'Total Recall' starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is a sci-fi action classic. This remake stars Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale. However, it also follows a different storyline than the original, set in a dystopian future wrought with power struggles. There's a lot of star power and the studio apparently has high hopes for a franchise. It all sounds good, but at the end of the day, can it possibly measure up to the gory majesty of the original? It seems unlikely.

'The Expendables 2' (Aug. 17)

The first 'Expendables' was a ridiculously over-the-top homage to the cartoonish brutality and disregard for physics that made the action movies of the 1980s so much fun. Expect more of the same from this installment. Sylvester Stallone is back; he wrote the script, although this time he let someone else take the reins as director. Not only do action stalwarts such as Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham and Jet Li return, but we've got some new additions. Jean-Claude Van Damme is in the house. Oh, and by the way? Chuck. Freaking. Norris.

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