Summer movie preview

A look ahead at the season's hottest films

Summer movie preview
Twentieth Century Fox
Prometheus

In a movie season worshipped for its CGI-boosted, spiritually bankrupt juvenilia, it's heartening to know that filmmakers still create — and maybe more significantly, that studios still distribute — summer entertainment for grown-ups. Not that those buckets of popcorn are going to empty themselves, but who needs to be reminded of yet another comic-book reboot (The Amazing Spider-Man), unasked-for remake (Total Recall), or Adam Sandler comedy (That's My Boy)? Here are films to watch for in the sweltering months ahead, from thought-provoking indies to  Piranha 3DD. (Opening dates are subject to change, and some limited-release movies may open later in the Twin Cities.)

June 8

Prometheus

Originally conceived as a prequel (but not exactly) to Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi masterpiece Alien, this mega-expensive, futuristic IMAX thriller instead forges an epic new mythos about our intergalactic origins. Following an ancient star map, a quite face-huggable space crew (including captain Idris Elba, archaeologist Noomi Rapace, android Michael Fassbender, and corporate thug Charlize Theron) investigates an extraterrestrial civilization on a distant, terrifying planet. Just don't expect an appearance from Lt. Ripley. (20th Century Fox)

June 13

Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros.
Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises
Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz
Magnolia Pictures
Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz

Marina Abramovi: The Artist Is Present

Named for the Museum of Modern Art retrospective on the Serbian performance-art sensation's four-decade body of work, this doc from director Matthew Akers takes a revealing look at Abramovi's complicated relationships with her audience and former lover/collaborator Ulay. From vintage footage of the now 65-year-old radical's public self-flagellation to 2010's main event — a three-month, stone-faced sitting in front of curious, often obsessive museum-goers — the film warmly and perceptively makes a solid case for asking the question: "Is this art?"  (HBO Documentary Films/Music Box Films)

June 22

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

On Broadway, actor Benjamin Walker already reimagined one U.S. president as an emo rock star in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, so why not play Honest Abe as an ax-wielding abolitionist out to destroy bloodsuckers and slavery? Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and adapted by hot novelist-cum-screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows, whose director, Tim Burton, serves as producer here) from his own faux-epistolary mashup, this action-packed "secret life" chronicle promises an undead body count of at least four score. (20th Century Fox)

Brave

A strong-willed young woman and expert archer becomes the talk of her rural kingdom when she takes charge of her own destiny. No, Pixar's latest CG-animated fantasy isn't another version of The Hunger Games, but it does feature the studio's first-ever female protagonist: Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a flame-haired, 10th-century princess of the Scottish Highlands, whose solo adventure begins after she defies a chauvinistic tradition. Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. (Disney/Pixar)

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

If Melancholia was too glum in its pre-apocalyptic anxieties, this directorial debut of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist screenwriter Lorene Scafaria offers an unlikely alternative for those who take the Mayans' predictions seriously: a rom-com! While humanity awaits doomsday by way of an inbound asteroid, a freshly dumped Steve Carell makes an unlikely connection in his neighbor Keira Knightley. Go for it, girl — it's not like you have to worry about commitment issues. (Focus Features)

To Rome With Love

Woody Allen's follow-up to Midnight in Paris — easily his best and biggest hit in over a decade — continues his recent trend of filming in travelogue-friendly, European locales (see Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona). Along with the 76-year-old Allen, this year's Windsor-font-emblazoned ensemble includes Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, and indie darling Greta Gerwig. (Sony Pictures Classics) 

June 27

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Punching way above his indie-budget weight, director Benh Zeitlin spins a visually rapturous tale — winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Best Cinematography at Sundance 2012 — that sees the lawless Louisiana bayou through the imaginative, often blindly optimistic view of a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis). Like Where the Wild Things Are as conceived by Terrence Malick, this troubling but tender 16mm opus will permanently stain your brain with its fantastical images. (Fox Searchlight)

June 29

Magic Mike

Just as Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience was more focused on the economics of the high-class escort biz than it was on sexuality, it's impossible to imagine his dramatic comedy about male strippers will just be Striptease with chest grease and "banana hammocks." Based in part on Channing Tatum's experience as a 19-year-old dancer, the film stars the barrel-chested G.I. Joe as the eponymous leading man, with Alex Pettyfer as his protégé, and Matthew McConaughey as a skeezy club owner.  (Warner Bros.)

Take This Waltz

Canadian actress-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley's sophomore effort behind the camera (following her Oscar-nominated Away from Her) again demonstrates her instincts for sharp, emotionally charged writing and richly developed female protagonists. Happily married to a cookbook-writing goofball (Seth Rogen, never better), Michelle Williams is unprepared for the heat she feels around rickshaw-driving neighbor Luke Kirby. Their eroticism sizzles like the Toronto summer, but Polley's affectionate drama isn't so much about infidelity as it is about life's thorny impossibilities.  (Magnolia Pictures)

July 6

The Queen of Versailles

Lauren Greenfield, the photographer-filmmaker behind such documentary provocations as Thin and Kids + Money, hits the morbidly curious motherlode in this jaw-dropping depiction of the American Dream gone sour. When the billionaire time-share king of Florida and his ex-model wife begin construction on a 90,000-square-foot palace — the largest home in the U.S., including 30 bathrooms, a bowling alley, and baseball diamond — they aren't prepared for the credit crunch to radically shrink their empire. Their post-recession behavior is the stuff of reality-TV nightmares.  (Magnolia Pictures)

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