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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June

With the exception of Marvel’s “The Avengers” (which not only lived up to expectations, but is also currently destroying the competition at the box office), last month wasn’t exactly the greatest start to the summer season. Thankfully, June looks like it’s going to fare a little better, with a return by director Ridley Scott to the genre that made his name, the latest from animation giants Pixar, and even some good old schlock in the form of Abraham Lincoln versus vampires. It’s hardly the type of blockbuster month we’re used to, but there’s enough variety and promise among these films that it doesn’t matter.

“SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”

Who: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Sam Claflin
What: A twist on the classic fairy tale where the Huntsman ordered to kill Snow White winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
When: June 1st
Why: First-time director Rupert Sanders’ coming out party looks mighty impressive from a visual standpoint, and I’d like to believe that a cast of this caliber (from the three leads down to the seven dwarfs) wouldn’t have signed on to the project if the script wasn’t good. The idea of adapting the popular story into a fantasy action film is certainly an inspired one, as it not only broadens audience appeal, but allows for the introduction of newer elements as well. I’m a bit surprised that Universal hasn’t revealed more of the aforementioned dwarfs in the marketing campaign, but while they’ll likely play a bigger part in the movie, it’s quite refreshing not to have every single detail ruined in advance.

“PROMETHEUS”

Who: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron
What: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind, leading them to a distant world where they must fight to save the future of the human race.
When: June 8th
Why: Whether or not “Prometheus” has anything to do with the original “Alien” (and at this point, I don’t think even Ridley Scott knows for certain), it’s shaping up to be one of the coolest movies of the year, despite my concerns that it’ll pull a “John Carter” at the box office. The trailers have done an excellent job of whetting our appetites while still remaining fairly elusive about what the hell is going on, and from the footage I’ve seen, it’s obvious that the film shares many of the same visual and tonal cues with the 1979 sci-fi horror classic. Though Noomi Rapace has a lot to prove in her first Hollywood leading role, Scott has smartly surrounded her with enough talent that she’s under no real pressure to carry the movie on her own. With that said, however, she certainly looks the part of an Ellen Ripley substitute, and that’s something worth getting excited about.

“SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED”

Who: Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Mark Duplass and Karan Soni
What: Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
When: June 8th
Why: I had the good fortune of seeing the Sundance hit at SXSW earlier this year, and I can’t say enough great things about it. Based on a real-life classified ad that became an Internet meme, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a magical film about the human spirit whose charm is difficult to ignore. The character-driven dramedy is an amalgamation of everything that’s great about indie filmmaking – from its hugely original script, to the quirky characters, to the incredibly honest and funny performances by its cast. But the one thing that it does better than anything else is create a cinematic experience that’s rich in both comedy and emotion. A lot of movies have tried to juggle the two in the past, but “Safety Not Guaranteed” is one of those rare few that pull it off almost effortlessly.

“ROCK OF AGES”

Who: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Tom Cruise
What: Set in 1987 Los Angeles, small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew fall in love while pursing their Hollywood dreams on the Sunset Strip.
When: June 15th
Why: After stealing the show in “Tropic Thunder” and reclaiming his box office mojo with the fourth installment of “Mission: Impossible,” Tom Cruise’s latest step towards career rejuvenation has the actor playing rock god Stacee Jaxx in this big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical. But while there’s a lot of great talent involved in the film (like Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Paul Giamatti), “Rock of Ages” doesn’t look nearly as much fun as it should be. “Hairspray” director Adam Shankman appears to have done a good job of retaining the theatricality of the musical numbers while still making them cinematic, and 80s rock music was tailor-made for the genre, but if you’re expecting “Rock of Ages” to be the next great movie musical, prepare be disappointed.

“BRAVE”

Who: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson and Julie Walters
What: After Princess Merida is granted a wish, she must rely on her bravery and archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
When: June 22nd
Why: If you’re still fuming over last year’s blatant “Cars 2” cash grab, you’re not alone, and the only way that Pixar can make things right is by bouncing back with another instant classic. The studio owes its audience that much, although that may be easier said than done, because “Brave” already stinks of a typical Disney princess movie. But if anyone can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary, it’s the guys at Pixar, who have excelled at doing precisely that since the first “Toy Story.” The news surrounding the film hasn’t been very encouraging – with original director Brenda Chapman booted from the project – but it looks stunning (especially Merida’s bouncy, curly red hair), and when it comes to Pixar, sometimes you just have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

“ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER”

Who: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
What: Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over America and makes it his mission to eliminate them.
When: June 22nd
Why: Author Seth Grahame-Smith’s first revisionist monster mash-up “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” didn’t really live up to my expectations, and although I never got around to reading his follow-up novel as a result, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” has the makings of a much more interesting movie. It’s been awhile since Russian director Timur Bekmambetov’s last effort, the 2008 action film “Wanted,” but he’s done the vampire thing before, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve this time around. The decision to cast an unknown like Benjamin Walker in the title role is encouraging, and it’s also fitting that the actor donning Lincoln’s trademark beard and top hat played another U.S. president in the rock musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” because the movie promises to be every bit as gory as its R rating allows.

“SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD”

Who: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Gillian Jacobs, Connie Britton and Melanie Lynskey
What: As an asteroid falls toward Earth, a man is joined by his neighbor on a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart after his wife leaves in a panic.
When: June 22nd
Why: The idea of pairing Steve Carell with Keira Knightley may sound a bit weird, but since the movie is about the end of the world anyway, it might just work. Though this is exactly the type of project that Carell has been actively seeking lately (one that allows him to flex both his comedic and dramatic muscles), it’s surprising to see someone like Knightley stray so far from her comfort zone of bleak dramas and stuffy period pieces. I’ll watch anything that the British actress is in, however, and her involvement should be considered nothing short of a coup on the part of first-time director Lorene Scafaria, who’s perhaps best known for writing the hugely underrated 2008 rom-com “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Carell’s name may get audiences into the theater, but Knightley lends a distinct credibility to the material that simply cannot be ignored.

“TO ROME WITH LOVE”

Who: Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and Alec Baldwin
What: A series of vignettes that take place in Italy involving the romances, adventures and predicaments that its residents and visitors get into.
When: June 22nd
Why: Woody Allen may be coming off the biggest commercial success of his career with “Midnight in Paris” (a film that also netted him another Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), but unfortunately, that can only be seen as bad news for his next European adventure, because Allen hasn’t had back-to-back hits in over a decade. And despite the talented cast that he’s assembled (including frequent collaborators Penelope Cruz and Judy Davis, and the incredibly Allen-esque Jesse Eisenberg), the trailer doesn’t inspire much confidence that “To Rome with Love” is going to buck that trend. While it’s nice to see Allen stepping back in front of the camera for the first time since “Scoop,” that’s not exactly the best of omens considering how awful that movie turned out to be.

“TED”

Who: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi and Joel McHale
What: The story of a man who must deal with the cherished teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish and has refused to leave his side ever since.
When: June 29th
Why: I haven’t laughed this hard at a movie trailer in a long time. Granted, it was the NSFW red band trailer and not the clean version embedded below, but that only makes me even more excited, because it means that Seth MacFarlane’s raunchy and mildly controversial brand of humor hasn’t been neutered by the studio. It’ll be interesting to see how MacFarlane fares working in live action after spending so much of his career in animation, but based on the early buzz so far, his directorial debut is shaping up to be the must-see comedy of the year. The concept is original and ripe with comedic potential, Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis are perfect choices for the two leads, and Ted (who is voiced by MacFarlane) looks every bit the scene stealer he was intended to be.

“MAGIC MIKE”

Who: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn and Matthew McConaughey
What: An experienced stripper takes a younger performer called The Kid under his wing and schools him in the arts of partying, picking up women and making easy money.
When: June 29th
Why: Reportedly based on Channing Tatum’s real-life experience as an exotic dancer (but not autobiographical in any way), “Magic Mike” actually sounds pretty interesting for a movie about male stripping. The first trailer didn’t do a very good job of showcasing everything the film has to offer (focusing mainly on the budding relationship between the title character and his pupil’s sister), but the cast is great and Steven Soderbergh is usually reliable. Though I’m still not as convinced that Tatum is genuine leading man material as most people (particularly Soderbergh, who’s so sweet on the actor that they’re reuniting for a third project together next year), after his hilarious turn in “21 Jump Street,” this could be the role that finally legitimizes him as a major Hollywood player.

  

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