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On movie screens: What's playing this summer

Super summer? Maybe not. Unlike previous years, it doesn’t seem like Hollywood is trying to fill the season with a potential blockbuster every weekend. After “The Avengers” officially kicks off the season, the pace slows considerably. Still, we’ve highlighted a few films we’re looking forward to escaping into as the temperatures outside rise.

All dates are U.S. release dates unless otherwise noted.

 

“Dark Shadows,” May 11, starting May 18 in overseas installation theaters

They sure don’t make vampires like they used to! “Dark Shadows” was originally a TV show in the 1960s, and its main character Barnabas Collins was a slightly over-the-hill vampire with bad skin. He was enticingly sinister but not as glamorous as the more recent “Interview with a Vampire” or “Twilight” models. In an age when hair was a form of self-expression, Barnabas had his lacquered to his head in unbecoming wisps. Handsome, he was not. But he was wealthy and mysterious, and that was enough to send me and my girlfriends straight home after school to see him bite people.

Jonathan Frid was only in his 40s when he played Collins, but that’s still old when you’re hardly a teenager. Johnny Depp, who takes on the vampire who is released after a long imprisonment into the 1970s in this modern version of the tale, is not much younger, but his Barnabas will undoubtedly be better-looking – and infinitely quirkier in keeping with the Tim Burton tradition of darkly entertaining movies. I hope Depp is not as creepy as his Willy Wonka character, but curiosity will surely get the better of me at the box office this summer.

The movie, rated PG-13, also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Chloe Grace Moretz.

– Meg Irish, director of marketing

“Snow White and the Huntsman,” June 1

“Snow White and the Huntsman” looks to be an interesting take on the fairy tale of old.
For the fans of the “Twilight” series, Kristen Stewart will again be running for her life from crazed killers with Chris Hemsworth (“Thor,” “The Avengers”) leading the charge as the Huntsman with a change of heart (yup, I went there). I’m sure it will be a stretch in Stewart’s prolific acting career. Oh, wait, no. It won’t. But at least there won’t be any glittery vampires.

If you’re a fan of villains, you’ll be happy to know that Oscar winner Charlize Theron will be tearing up the screen (and the good guys) with dark magic that can break people into shards of glass. Something else to reflect on – it seems like a lot of the very cool-looking special effects are glass-oriented.

I’m looking forward to those special effects, and to see what other surprises producers Joe Roth (“Alice in Wonderland”) and Sam Mercer (“Sixth Sense”) and newbie director Rupert Sanders have decided to put into this fractured fairy tale.

As you might have guessed, I will be rooting for the Evil Queen. Sometimes it’s good to be bad.

- Roni Breza, graphics artist

“Prometheus,” June 8

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I vividly recall sitting through “Alien” in the theater as a 14-year-old in 1979. A buddy and I had bought tickets to a PG movie and snuck into Ridley Scott’s R-rated sci-fi thriller.

I don’t know if I’d ever been that scared and thrilled by a movie up to that point in my life. It’s safe to say Scott set the bar pretty high for my future moviegoing experiences.

So, it almost goes without saying I’m eagerly awaiting Scott’s second foray into space, “Prometheus.” Even better, as evidenced by the trailers, it’s supposed to be a prequel to “Alien” (even though Scott will neither confirm nor deny it).

While the original “Alien” spawned sequel after sequel, Scott never helmed any of them. The story was taken in directions he probably never imagined. So, instead of adding to that list, he’s taken it upon himself to set the record straight and take us back to the beginning with a cast of heavyweights that includes Swedish actress Noomi Rapace in her second English-speaking role, Michael Fassbender and Oscar winner Charlize Theron. Rapace first attracted notice as the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in the Swedish versions of the Millennium Trilogy. Fassbender’s star has been on the rise since his turn as a German-speaking British agent in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

Scott’s special effects in the original “Alien” were groundbreaking. Considering how far the industry has come with computer graphics since 1979, I can only imagine how good they’re going to be in “Prometheus.”

Add all that together, and it’s a film I simply don’t want to miss.

– Rich Killmon, sports copy editor

"Rock of Ages," June 15

I have a soft spot for “Rock of Ages” – the first show I saw on Broadway – so I’m eager to see how it translates to the big screen.

The plot is a string of clichés (boy makes it big then sells out, boy loses girl but wins her back, scrappy underdogs fight corporate takeover) but this show isn't here to tell a story; it wants to rock. (Rock!) The plot points are just excuses for high-energy performances of '80s classics, such as "We're Not Gonna Take It," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "Here I Go Again." (Shut up, that is a classic.) 

The movie has a great cast, including Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad"). The big draw here, though, is Tom Cruise, busting out the vocal chops that made a million teenage girls swoon when Maverick and Goose decided Kelly McGillis had lost that lovin' feeling in "Top Gun." As an aging rock star trying to hang on to his lost glory, this could be Cruise's funniest performance since "Tropic Thunder." Plus, the soundtrack promises to be the only compilation of hair metal's greatest hits you'll ever need. 

– Karen Willenbrecht, Pacific web editor

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” June 22

Apparently, Honest Abe was splitting more than rails when he was swinging his ax. He also split a few undead skulls.

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is based on a novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, which tells an alternative account of the 16th president’s course from log cabin to the White House. Apparently, his mother was killed by a vampire, spurring a fervent desire to rid the world of the blood-sucking fiends. If the movie follows the book, the desire to whack vampires will spark a few well-known events in American history. Being a history buff – and a fan of slaying vampires, zombies and other ghoulish baddies – I can’t wait to check out the action.

And the action looks pretty cool. The trailer shows Benjamin Walker in the title role, swinging an ax with awe-inspiring skill. He’s a veritable vamp-o-matic.

It definitely makes me fantasize about an encounter between Abe and the glittery fools from “Twilight.”

One caveat on this pick: Abe will fall to No. 2 on my list if they finally decide to add “Iron Sky” to the summer release list. The flick depicts an invasion of the Earth by Nazis who’ve been hiding on the dark side of the moon since the end of World War II. Unfortunately, it’s only scheduled for European release at this point. 

 – Brian Bowers, assistant managing editor, Europe & Mideast

“Brave,” June 22

With “Brave,” Pixar is poised to add another redhead to the pantheon of Disney princesses. One handy with a bow and arrow, no less! There will be no American accent (I’m looking at you, “Beauty and the Beast”); Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald of “Boardwalk Empire”) spits out her brogue along with the rest of the voice cast. A spicy Scottish lass, she’s determined to forge her own path in life but, in doing so, unwittingly unleashes a “wee ancient curse” that she must then set right.

Judging from the trailers, the attention to detail is admirable. The movie appears to include a lot of typical Scottish-style touches (bagpipe music!) and humor (they don’t wear anything under their kilts!). But the real reason to hope for something good from this Celtic tale: After last summer’s “Cars 2” letdown, Pixar owes us.

– Kate Maisel, Features editor

“The Dark Knight Rises,” July 22

This year’s movie season has been referred to as the summer of superheroes. There’s a bunch of them flying, smashing and smirking on screens in “The Avengers,” and at least one in the Spider-Man reboot. But the hero of my summer is the man behind the last film in the Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises”: Christopher Nolan.

Why Nolan? There’s lots of good reasons. First off, you can tell he really cares about the source material and bringing it to life. He has stuck with the trilogy about a tortured man and masked vigilante, shaping it as a writer and director into something dark and terrible and wonderful. His attention to detail, to story, to setting and to mood has been nothing short of amazing. Nolan has also gone to great lengths to keep the latest Batman flick shrouded in such mystery that no one is sure about the plot, the direction or the characters played by two of my favorite actors, Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And he’s kept his bad guy, Bane, played by Tom Hardy, looking like a bad guy in the previews. But most importantly, Nolan fought hard to keep the last film in the trilogy NOT 3-D. (It has been shot for IMAX.) Thank you, sir, for remembering that story and characters are far more important than the Batmobile shooting over the shoulder of the person in front of you. 

The movie also stars Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine.

– Danielle L. Kiracofe, entertainment editor, @dorogaya26

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