Summer movie season! When Hollywood unveils the shiny movie behemoths meticulously crafted to pry enough cash from air conditioner-starved audiences to sustain it through the rest of the year. Sure, you might not find a lot of Oscar bait in your summer multiplex, but things are gonna blow up real good.

This year’s summer slate promises superheroes, crude guy-centric comedies, superheroes, crude guy-centric comedy sequels, superhero sequels, unnecessary TV show adaptations, superheroes, horror sequels and the odd film about people who dress up in costumes and fight crime.

So should you join the sweaty throng lining up to give Stan Lee your hard-earned money? Well, I suggest using my utterly scientific Summer Fun Index (SFI), which compares the potential enjoyment you’ll get from each offering to a traditional summer activity. (Here’s a tip: If the SFI activity sounds more fun than the movie, just do that instead. It’s summer in Maine, for crying out loud.)

Release dates, by the way, are subject to change.


“THOR” (PG-13): The first of the approximately 47 superhero films coming out this summer, “Thor” brings the titular Norse god/crimefighter into the swelling ranks of the Marvel movie heroes. The preview looks fine, and Chris Hemsworth is suitably buff and Nordic, but my inner geek must admit that Thor was always borderline dull/silly. And as huge a fan as I am of director Kenneth Branagh’s acting, the last time he helmed a high-profile Hollywood event, it was “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Ouch.

Summer Fun Index (SFI): A gorgeous, elaborate Viking ship-shaped kite that might fall apart in the first big breeze.


“SOMETHING BORROWED” (PG-13): If the phrase “Kate Hudson romantic comedy” doesn’t fill you with dread, well, you haven’t been paying attention. Here, terminally bland Kate finds out her best friend (played by the least-interesting wife from “Big Love”) has the hots for her fiancee. The undeniably cool Jon Krasinski tries to look interested. By the director of Rob Schneider’s “The Animal,” so you know it’s good

SFI: A perfect Maine summer day spent shoe shopping.


“JUMPING THE BROOM” (PG-13): Comedy/drama about the two economically disparate sides of an all-African-American wedding clashing on Martha’s Vineyard. Sure, it doesn’t look like anything special, but I think it’s a better world where black actors, directors and writers have the opportunity to make run-of-the-mill romantic comedies too. Plus, Angela Bassett should be in every movie ever, and thankfully, Tyler Perry is not involved in any way.

SFI: A nice, sunny day for a family reunion.


“THE BEAVER” (PG-13): Hoo-boy. Legendarily long-unproduced script about a depressed middle-aged man who finds a ratty beaver puppet and discovers that, by talking through/to it, he’s a much better person. Seems like the sort of bananas indie concept that, in the right hands, could become a cult classic. (Like “Being John Malkovich” maybe.) Unfortunately, or maybe courageously, director/co-star Jodie Foster has cast pal Mel Gibson in the lead, and thus has cast the ability of audiences to sympathize with her protagonist in serious question.

SFI: Shakespeare in the park, with a drunk uncle.


“EVERYTHING MUST GO” (R): When his alcoholism costs him his marriage and his job, a middle-aged man decides to hold an all-inclusive yard sale in order to start over in this bittersweet drama starring Will Ferrell and based on a short story by the legendary Raymond Carver. Even in his comedy roles, there’s always a core of desperate sadness in Ferrell’s persona and, as he’s shown in movies like “Stranger Than Fiction,” there’s a lot more to the man than Ron Burgundy. (Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with “Anchorman.” At all.) I look for Ferrell to get some Oscar buzz. Yeah, I said it.

SFI: A graveyard tour from a clown.


“PASSION PLAY” (R): Mickey Rourke is a down-on-his-luck trumpet player who runs afoul of Bill Murray’s ruthless gangster and hooks up with a be-winged sideshow attraction (Megan Fox) who may, in fact, be an angel. Now I love a nutty premise, I remain entertained by Rourke’s continued comeback and Murray can do literally anything in my eyes, but this one has some bad press, from Rourke for one. Of course, Mickey’s nuts, but the fact that Fox (the most popular/least talented actress around) will be mannequin-ing around in a major role is not a good sign.

SFI: Heading down to the train yards, hoping for a wreck.

MAY 13

“BRIDESMAIDS” (R): I maintain that Judd Apatow has saved American screen comedy, and the fact that he’s producing this girl-centric version of one of his guy comedies and that his former “Freaks and Geeks” partner Paul Feig is directing fills me with confidence. Sure, the premise (cash-strapped maid of honor attempts to provide her best friend with her dream wedding) sounds terrifyingly similar to something like “27 Dresses.” But the outstanding cast of very funny comediennes (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and Ellie Kemper, plus certified goofball Jon Hamm) and a script from “SNL”‘s Wiig makes me optimistic of the rare rude, funny comedy worthy of funny women’s talents.

SFI: I can’t think of a better comparison than a champagne-happy wedding reception with these funny ladies.


“PRIEST” (PG-13): In a post-apocalyptic world where Vatican-trained warrior priests fight vampires, a rogue cleric heads off to try and rescue his bloodsucker-kidnapped niece. “Priest” marks the second, strikingly similar film collaboration between star Paul Bettany and director Scott Stewart after 2010’s “Legion,” where Bettany played a butt-kicking angel fighting off demons. I like to imagine the two of them playing D&D in Bettany’s basement coming up with these ideas, but “Legion” really stunk.

SFI: A beautiful Maine summer day spent in the basement pounding Mountain Dew and playing “World of Warcraft.”


“HESHER” (R): In the pantheon of actors I never, ever thought I’d look forward to watching, the kid from “Third Rock from the Sun” would be right up there. But Joseph Gordon-Levitt has earned my admiration with compelling performances in “Mysterious Skin,” “Brick,” “Inception” and “(500) Days of Summer.” Now he’s got me looking forward to this intriguing-looking indie about a mysterious metalhead drifter who, well, drifts into the depressed lives of a grieving family as a possibly-benevolent, tattooed, pyromaniac Mary Poppins.

SFI: Riding the tilt-a-whirl at a shady traveling carnival.

MAY 20

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” (PG-13): Look, I know you guys love Johnny Depp, but I have a visceral aversion to bloated, massively hyped third sequels based on corporate theme-park rides. Call me crazy. This’ll make a frillion dollars no matter what I say, so have fun.

SFI: Two hours and 21 minutes on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World.


“MIDNIGHT IN PARIS” (PG-13): Middle-aged marrieds discover life can be disappointing in the new Woody Allen movie starring the usual all-star cast (this time: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody, etc.) There’s no bigger fan of Woody’s than I, up to, oh, about 1999, but he has lost the ability to write the way actual human beings talk. I’m still rooting for the fabled late career comeback, but

SFI: A pity visit to a once-favorite restaurant whose food all tastes the same now.

MAY 27

“THE HANGOVER PART II” (R): Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and that boring guy are back in a sequel that recycles the plot of the original to a shameless degree. (This time, Helms gets married and — SPOILER!! — everyone blacks out and scrambles around trying to uncover what the hell happened.) The original was pretty lazy but partially redeemed by some funny people, and the sequel promises exactly the same, lucrative formula.

SFI: A Sunday-night party thrown to finish off Saturday night’s warm keg.


“KUNG FU PANDA 2” (PG): Jack Black’s roly-poly ursine animated avatar returns for more comedic butt-kicking in this sequel with one of those absurdly overqualified voice casts (Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, David Cross, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Michelle Yeoh) that tries to make up for sub-PIXAR quality.

SFI: Watching a toddler’s martial arts class.


“THE TREE OF LIFE” (PG-13): Since 1973’s “Badlands,” director Terrence Malick has graced us with one visually stunning, brilliantly enigmatic masterpiece every decade or so (“Days of Heaven,” “The Thin Red Line,” “The New World”), and he’s brought us another gift with this 1950s-set, coming-of-age story starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. The preview’s a stunner, and Malick means “must-see” for any real film fan.

SFI: Staying up all night reading poetry, then watching the sun rise and marveling at the beauty of it all.


“X-MEN: FIRST CLASS” (PG-13): The superhero onslaught continues with this prequel detailing the birth of the Marvel Comics mutant team whose grown-up exploits have inspired films of decreasing quality. Some talented Brits (Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy) and “Mad Men” ‘s dull-but-dishy January Jones as the legendarily underdressed Emma Frost try to pep up this origin story, with “Kick Ass” director Matthew Vaughn promising similarly hyped-up action.

SFI: A really professional “Mutants on Ice” show.


“BEGINNERS” (R): Old pro Christopher Plummer shocks son Ewan McGregor with the all-time double-whammy surprise announcement (I’m gay. I’m dying.) in this heartwarming-looking drama.

SFI: An awkward family picnic with serious hugs at the end.


“SUPER 8” (NOT YET RATED): The master of neat ideas and so-so execution, J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” “Alias,” “Star Trek,” “Cloverfield”) cranks out this thriller about some spunky kids (including Elle Fanning) in smalltown 1979 who investigate the supernatural weirdness resulting from a nearby train crash. As usual, I anticipate the trailer being more satisfying than the actual film.

SFI: A “world’s biggest flea market” sign advertising a dinky yard sale where you take home a lamp with no shade.


“GREEN LANTERN” (NOT YET RATED): DC Comics makes its stand against the Marvel summer invasion with the cosmic adventures of Hal Jordan, Earth’s first member of the magic ring-slinging intergalactic police force the Green Lantern Corps. On the plus side, Ryan Reynolds’ cocky wisecracks seem suited to Jordan’s daredeviltry, and director Martin Campbell has helmed the best Bond films of two generations (“Goldeneye,” “Casino Royale”). On the worrisome side: late reshoots, and the fact that Jordan was always a bit of a stiff.

SFI: A lighthouse tour on a fast, leaky boat.


“MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS” (PG): Jim Carrey adopts penguins. People love penguins.

SFI: An afternoon at the zoo watching penguins.


“CARS 2” (PG): “Cars” was my least-favorite PIXAR movie. Which means I only really liked it. A lot. Seriously, PIXAR is the patron saint of parents beleaguered by shrill, insulting “children’s” entertainment, not to mention the rest of us who just love great, imaginative, exciting movies. In this sequel, Owen Wilson’s racecar takes off to challenge the best in the world, including cult hero Bruce Campbell’s Euro-car. Guaranteed fun.

SFI: Taking your favorite niece to the best carnival in town.


“BAD TEACHER” (R): Cameron Diaz plays the unscrupulous vixen educator who gloms onto rich good-guy teacher Justin Timberlake when her rich fiancee dumps her, with slacker gym teacher Jason Segel looking to score her on the rebound. Some funny people and a script from a couple of writers from “The Office” make this dark comedy seem like a solid bet.

SFI: Summer school with the one fun teacher.



“TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON” (PG-13): BIG TRUCKS GO SMASH! (If you need any more information than that, then you’re probably not going to see this second sequel based on a toy line anyway.) On the plus side, Megan Fox has left the series, ensuring that only the robots will seem robotic.

SFI: A night at the demolition derby, except that the cars all have really bad dialogue.


“LARRY CROWNE” (PG-13): America’s co-sweethearts Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts team up to conquer the world with their combined wholesome star power in this Hanks-directed comedy about a recently unemployed middle-aged guy who goes back to college. Don’t try to resist Tom and Julia — they will destroy you.

SFI: A pleasant picnic lunch with lots of Wonder Bread.


“MONTE CARLO” (PG): Disney-spawned tween stars Leighton Meester and Selena Gomez have family-safe romantic adventures in this movie I’ll never see.

SFI: Summer school.



“ONE DAY” (PG-13): Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess play a pair of on-again, off-again lovers we see on the same day every year — some spent together, and some not. Sometimes such gimmicky premises pay off (“Betrayal”), and sometimes they don’t (“Same Time Next Year”).

SFI: Asking your ex out for a romantic dinner: risky, but possibly rewarding.


“ZOOKEEPER” (PG): Adam Sandler continues to set up his pals with high-concept comedy vehicles. This time, it’s Kevin James as a lovelorn zookeeper whose animal charges organize to help him win Rosario Dawson’s improbably attractive hand.

SFI: I’d say a day at the zoo, but I like zoos.


“HORRIBLE BOSSES” (NOT YET RATED): Three very funny guys (Jason Sudekis, Charlie Day, Jason Bateman) form an alliance to kill the titular jerks who they’ve decided are ruining their lives. The three leads, plus evil bosses Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell, promise some dark laughs.

SFI: Tipping your boss’ garbage cans over in the middle of the night: juvenile, but satisfying.



“HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2” (PG-13): If you’ve come this far with the young adult mega-franchise, you’re gonna go the whole way. I predict an opening weekend of all the money in the world.

SFI: I’d make an analogy, but this movie has sucked up all the world’s creative energy this week.


“WINNIE THE POOH” (G): Sure, it’s unnecessary, but who can be mad at Pooh Bear, especially with voice talent like John Cleese, Craig Ferguson and Tom Kenny on board?

SFI: A nice nap with your favorite stuffed animal.


“CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER” (PG-13): Even though star Chris Evans has already starred in a horribly botched Marvel Comics franchise, I’m sorta excited for this one. The trailer looks OK, and Evans’ earnestness seems to suit Steve Rogers just fine. Director Joe Johnston (“Jumanji,” “The Wolfman”) is a hack, though.

SFI: Weaving through the Independence Day parade on your skateboard.


“FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS” (NOT YET RATED): Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. Romantic comedy. Next.

SFI: Next.


“ANOTHER EARTH” (NOT YET RATED): Nerds (like me) are always looking for the next smart, low-budget sci-fi film (like “Primer” or “Moon”), and this one, about the discovery about a parallel Earth, emerged from Sundance with an intriguing, geeky aura.

SFI: An afternoon watching old “Space 1999” episodes.


“COWBOYS VS. ALIENS” (NOT YET RATED): Director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2”) knows what he’s doing in the action/adventure genre, and the preview for this sci-fi/action flick (the title should clue you in) is awesome. Throw in a cast including Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Sam Rockwell, and you’ve got as close to a sure thing as I see this summer.

SFI: A ride on the Astrosphere at Funtown. (Those who’ve been there know how much fun it is.)


“CRAZY, STUPID LOVE” (PG-13): All great comic actors knock the occasional dramatic role out of the park. Now it’s Steve Carell’s turn as a jilted husband taking dating lessons from younger slicky boy Ryan Gosling in this dramedy, and, as he’s shown in “Dan in Real Life,” Carell’s able to bring the soulfulness.

SFI: Getting maudlin drunk with your funniest friend.



SFI: No.

AUG. 5

“RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES” (NOT YET RATED): While it has to be better than Tim Burton’s misbegotten remake, this sci-fi tale of how the damn, dirty apes knocked us off the top of the evolutionary pyramid has me nervous. Mainly because James Franco seems less credible as a genius scientist than as a guy giggling at YouTube videos of monkeys in funny hats.

SFI: A visit to the zoo, casting suspicious sideways glances at the monkeys.


“THE CHANGE-UP” (NOT YET RATED): Genuine funny guys at the service of a hackneyed premise, Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds swap bodies somehow so that harried, married Bateman can pursue comely co-worker Olivia Wilde in swinging Reynolds’ body. Is there any way they’ll emerge triumphant? Well, they’re funny, and the director mostly succeeded with “Wedding Crashers.”

SFI: Watching “Vice Versa” with “Girls Gone Wild” on picture-in-picture.


AUG. 12

“30 MINUTES OR LESS” (NOT YET RATED): Jesse Eisenberg brings his geeky charm to this dark comedy about a pizza delivery guy who’s strapped with explosives by some fledgeling crooks and forced to rob a bank. From Eisenberg’s “Zombieland” director, look for some similarly quirky laughs, especially with alt-comedy icons such as Danny McBride, Nick Swardson and Aziz Ansari on hand.

SFI: Pizza and a brick of firecrackers.


“THE HELP” (PG-13): A small town’s thrown into turmoil when its unspoken 1960s racism is exposed by an unlikely friendship. I like the cast (Emma Stone, Viola Davis), but this might fall victim to the dreaded “preachy”s.

SFI: A well-meaning lecture in an un-air conditioned church basement.


“DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK” (R): Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) wrote this horror remake about a family’s new house filled with skittering little monsters. The original, while cheesy, gave me the heebie-jeebies as a kid, and del Toro can only up the creep factor.

SFI: Nice cold chills on a hot day.


AUG. 19

“FRIGHT NIGHT” (NOT YET RATED): Another horror remake of a cheesy-fun favorite, this one about a kid who discovers that his hunky neighbor is a vampire and enlists a local horror host to battle him. This boasts a good cast (Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant) and a script from “Buffy” writer Marti Noxon. I’m in.

SFI: An Elvira marathon.


“CONAN THE BARBARIAN” (NOT YET RATED): I call “unnecessary” on this remake. Nice abs though, guy.

SFI: Two hours listening to a bodybuilder talk about his workout.


“SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD” (PG): Speaking of unnecessary. And loud.

SFI: Dropping the kids off at Chuck E. Cheese and hitting the hammock for a few hours.


AUG. 26

“FINAL DESTINATION 5” (R): But the last one was called “The Final Destination!?” You promised!

SFI: Asking your dad, “Are we there yet?” For 90 minutes.


“OUR IDIOT BROTHER” (NOT YET RATED): An impractically idealistic stoner sibling (the great Paul Rudd) wreaks accidental havoc on the lives of his more worldly sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer) in this queasy comedy. Love the cast (including Steve Coogan, and Rashida Jones), and Rudd is always money.

SFI: Visiting your beloved activist cousin at college: an uneasy mix of booze and guilt.


Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer who likes penguins.


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