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Summer movie preview (Part I): Season now a smorgasbord of flavors

POSTED: April 7, 2010 11:30 p.m.
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Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Mark Wahlberg hatch schemes in an evening of unintended consequences in "Date Night."

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For decades, Hollywood stuck to a predictable calendar. Studios released family fare and their better-genre pictures during fall, offered their award winners for our consideration in the winter, dumped their losers and specialty pics each spring, and unleashed their tent-pole blockbusters every summer.

It worked, and we movie geeks could determine the date by merely looking at what’s playing.

But Hollywood, usually a sluggish and stubborn industry, has changed in recent years. Just like television networks, they’ve tried to extend their most lucrative season, morph the other seasons into something more profitable and draw in audiences more consistently throughout the year.

The result? These days the differences between seasons are negligible at best. Just take a look at the marquee at your local cinema. There’s 3-D action spectacular "Clash of the Titans," 3-D animated feature "How to Train Your Dragon," Tim Burton’s big budget 3-D fantasy "Alice in Wonderland," drive-in comedy throwback "Hot Tub Time Machine," drive-in science fiction throwback "Repo Men," political action movie "Green Zone" and a handful of romantic flicks featuring big-name stars.

These are exactly the sorts of movies we used to see in June and July, and several more summer-type releases will compete with them during April and May. The whole notion of separate movie "seasons" is becoming irrelevant. And it’s gettin’ so a fella doesn’t know what to expect anymore.

So if running a summer preview this week seems premature, don’t blame me. Summer isn’t when it used to be.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.

Kick-Ass’

In theaters: April 16

High school nobody Dave Lizewski reinvents himself as a superhero named Kick-Ass, even though he has no powers, training or special skills of any kind. Others follow his example, and it becomes a phenomenon. This tongue-in-cheek, rebellious adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic series stars Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Lyndsy Fonseca and Elizabeth McGovern. The web clips and festival screenings have generated huge buzz, and word has it the movie is a riot.

‘Oceans’

In theaters: April 22

Disneynature now releases one ecological documentary — with a bit of drama thrown in — each Earth Day, and they offer some of the best wildlife cinematography around. I’m particularly excited about this one because it’s directed by the guys who did the inexplicably beautiful "Winged Migration." You can wait to see "Oceans" on television if you’d like, but there’s no substitute for letting the big screen immerse you in the beauty of nature.

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’

In theaters: April 30

Jackie Earle Haley revives Freddy in this remake helmed by music video director Samuel Bayer. I’m sure some of you are excited about this, though I can’t imagine why.

‘Iron Man 2’

In theaters: May 7

Director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. stunned everybody with the first "Iron Man," which managed to be one of the smarter superhero movies to come along in years while also refusing to take itself too seriously. Hopefully this sequel will maintain that tone. The original cast gets support from Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson and too many others to list. We can’t wait.

‘Robin Hood’

In theaters: May 14

We’ve seen plenty of incarnations of Robin Hood, but director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, who teamed on "Gladiator," "American Gangster" and "Body of Lies," should make this at least watchable. But the real reason to see it? Brian Helgeland ("L.A. Confidential," "Mystic River," "Man on Fire") penned the script and Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow and William Hurt round out the cast.

‘Letters to Juliet’

In theaters: May 14

Amanda Seyfried continues to be the hottest young actress in Hollywood, but this one is risky. Seyfried’s character finds an unanswered letter to Juliet while vacationing in Verona, Italy, and decides to track down the lovers mentioned in the letter. Intriguing story, but the movie is directed by Gary Winick, whose "Bride Wars" was arguably the worst movie of 2009. Proceed with caution.

‘Shrek Forever After’

In theaters: May 21

We can only hope that someone kills Shrek in this completely unnecessary fourth entry in the series. Too harsh? Maybe, but Dreamworks had milked these characters completely by the end of the second Shrek. Thankfully, they’re marketing this as the final chapter in the ogre-exposed franchise.

‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’

In theaters: May 28

2010 is quickly becoming the year of heroes in sandals. Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton play a prince and princess battling an evil force for possession of a powerful dagger. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina lend support, and director Mike Newell has a solid back catalog ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," "Mona Lisa Smile," "Donnie Brasco" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Surprisingly, this just might work.

‘Sex and the City 2’

In theaters: May 27

Does anyone NOT know what to expect from this movie? The girls go to Morocco this time, which seems like a very bad choice for those of us who think New York is the real star of the franchise. We’ve all formed an opinion about Carrie and the girls, and neither this column nor this sequel will change that. So there.

‘Date Night’

In theaters: Friday

Steve Carell and Tina Fey play a bored married couple looking to spice things up with a glamorous night out. But a case of mistaken identity sends them on a dangerous, exhilarating adventure, during which they encounter Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Leighton Meester and others. This is about as promising as romantic comedies get.



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