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Peter Travers’ 2012 Summer Movie Preview

From ‘The Avengers’ to ‘The Campaign,’ the season’s 10 must-see flicks

summer movie preview

Damn summer. It gets us hard about hitting the multiplex, even though we know from experience that 90 percent of what we see will be supersize crap. Still, there's nothing like IMAX-big, Dolby-loud, school's-out escapism to bring out our inner geek. Hollywood's lined up more than 100 temptations: a prequel to Alien, a sequel to The Dark Knight, a remake of Spider-Man, an army of Avengers, plus stars (Downey! Sacha! Streep!), surprises (Tom Cruise sings!), Pixar dust in Brave and Oscar bait in Christopher Nolan's Knight and Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. So here's my shortlist of summer movies (seen whole or in part) that may actually be worth getting gouged for the price of admission. 

Rock of Ages

© 2011 New Line Productions, Inc.

‘Rock of Ages’

In Theaters: June 15th

"It's a challenge – I learned electric guitar, acoustic and singing." That's Tom Cruise. You heard me. As 1980s rock god Stacee Jaxx in Adam Shankman's film version of the Broadway hit Rock of Ages, Cruise is fueled by sex, drugs and ample doses of rock & roll. He's primed to  tear it up on Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." Cruise is not the whole story, which zeroes in on two pretty young things (Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta) trying to make it in the killer world of Los Angeles music. There's also Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand as club owners in love. But Cruise is the dude creating all the advance buzz. They're already talking Oscar. 

• The Travers Take: Reviews and Interviews From Peter Travers 


©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved


In Theaters: June 22nd

"It was kind of scary being the first female lead in a Pixar film." So says Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald, of Boardwalk Empire, who voices the role of Merida in Brave, an animated 3D fantasy set in medieval Scotland. The thinking is that boys will only accept boys as action heroes. Wake up, you dumb jocks. Merida is a firecracker, and Pixar has outdone itself in visual magic and vivid storytelling. Merida is a teen redhead whose skill with a bow and arrow could knock the stuffing out of Katniss Everdeen. But she isn't playing any hunger games. She's rebelling against her parents, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), who want her to marry some royal dude. Sheesh! That's when she asks for help from a witch (Julie Walters), sparking funny and scary twists you won't see coming. Heads up, superheroes, there's a new kid in town, and Merida's out to beat you at your own game.

• The Travers Take: Reviews and Interviews From Peter Travers 


Sony Pictures

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’

In Theaters: July 3rd

"There was no underwear between me and the suit." That's Andrew Garfield delivering the hard truth about what it's like to squeeze into the Spider-Man costume. The bigger question may be: Is five years too soon to reboot the Spider-Man franchise? Aren't Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi still fresh in our minds? I'm betting that Garfield and director Marc Webb ([500 Days] of Summer) are adding something new to the game. And what with Emma Stone playing girlfriend Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans doing the villain thing as the Lizard, this new Spider-Man could actually be as amazing as the title promises. 

• The Travers Take: Reviews and Interviews From Peter Travers 


Tippett Studo/Universal Pictures


In Theaters: July 13th

"I want to make it clear that all these things are written by Seth MacFarlane, not me, and I didn't improvise any of it, and he's gotta take full responsibility for all the people he's offended." In this wussified manner, Mark Wahlberg absolves himself of all blame (and credit?) for this R-rated comedy about a dude (Wahlberg) and his dirty-talking teddy bear. Hey, Family Guy MacFarlane is making his feature-directing debut. Case closed. Be there. 

• The Travers Take: Reviews and Interviews From Peter Travers 

dark knight

Ron Phillips/Warner Bros

‘The Dark Knight Rises’

In Theaters: July 20th

"Without getting into specifics, the key thing that makes the third film a great possibility for us is that we want to finish our story." And so, in the words of director Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises ends his Batman trilogy. Cue the tears. This will be the last of Christian Bale in the bat suit, fighting crime – in this case Tom Hardy's dastardly Bane – as a psychological night falls over Gotham City. Nobody really knows anything about this finale, though the trailer, currently on the Web, is a knockout. What's clear is that The Dark Knight Rises is the movie against which every movie this summer, this year, will be measured. Nolan is a true artist. His accomplishment goes beyond escapism. Nolan makes comic-book art. If you think you've seen everything, listen to the Caped Crusader: "Not everything – not yet."

The Travers Take: Reviews and Interviews From Peter Travers 

bourne legacy

Mary Cybulski

‘The Bourne Legacy’

In Theaters: August 3rd

"There is no taking over for Matt Damon – Matt will always be Jason Bourne." Props to Jeremy Renner for explaining that Aaron Cross, the CIA assassin he plays in The Bourne Legacy, is a new character. Damon can come back when the spirit moves him. My money is on Renner to give summer audiences the jolt they're looking for. Hell, he's Hawkeye in The Avengers.

• The Travers Take: Reviews and Interviews From Peter Travers 

the campaign

Patti Perret/© 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

‘The Campaign’

In Theaters: August 10th 

"I think the timing for this one is ideal," understates director Jay Roach. He's talking about The Campaign, a political comedy that makes a perfect run-up to the November elections. August usually produces one surprise hit. I'm betting The Campaign is it. How do you beat Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis playing dirty politics to win a congressional seat? Alexander Payne used a high school campaign to skewer hypocrisy in Election. And Roach (HBO's Recount and Game Change) is just the satirist to raise the stakes with the help of two comic icons. 

The Travers Take: Reviews and Interviews From Peter Travers 

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