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25 hot summer movies

Somewhere much chillier than here, Superman sits in his Fortress of Solitude and worries that summertime is passing him by.

BATMAN has another movie. So does another SPIDER-MAN. Heck, THE AVENGERS has six comic book superheroes crammed into one blockbuster. Showoffs.

Meanwhile, Superman anxiously awaits an interplanetary crisis erupting, or June 2013 and his next movie Man of Steel, whichever comes first. Making a bundle next year will be hollow success.

Relax, Superman. Get out of the fortress, go to a movie.

There's plenty of super stuff in the 2012 summer movie lineup: supernatural, super human, super stupid. Sequels, remakes and reboots. Animated adventures and live actors behaving like cartoons. Even ABRAHAM LINCOLN gets into the spirit, splitting vampires like log rails. Beats getting poked in the eye with a Kryptonite stick.

We're assisting Superman and all planets he protects with our annual summer movie preview, showcasing the 25 releases that will dominate the box office charts.

Since that status doesn't guarantee maturity or originality, we'll toss in 10 more that are probably too smart to become hits. As always, release dates are subject to change.

Dark Shadows

MAY

11

Tim Burton squeezes Beetlejuice on the 1960s gothic soap opera, with Johnny Depp (of course) as campy vampire Barnabas Collins. This looks more fun than a casket of monkeys.

The Dictator

MAY

11

More offensive antics from Sacha Baron Cohen, playing a blend of every despot who died in the past year. If it flops, Cohen's career is ashes. Dumped on Ryan Seacrest's tuxedo.

Battleship

MAY

18

Michael Bay turns a simple board game into Transformers at sea. Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna save the world. Please, just one scene of an alien warcraft poking a gigantic plastic peg into a battleship.

Men in Black III

MAY

25

Welcome back to summertime, Will Smith. Now make up for Hancock. Going back to his biggest franchise is a good start, with Smith's Agent J going back in time to save Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones, or is that Josh Brolin's uncanny impersonation? I can't tell.).

Snow White and the Huntsman

JUNE

1

After Mirror Mirror cracked, the prospect of more Snow in summer is dim. This version is more Braveheart than heartwarming, with Kristen Stewart swinging swords while Chris Hemsworth (Thor) remains happy to be in The Avengers. (Charlize Theron as the evil queen, pictured)

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

JUNE

8

The animated zoo squad (left) finally decides to return to New York, joining a traveling circus along the way. As long as there are fearless penguins we'll be fine.

Prometheus

JUNE

8

Ridley Scott says don't call it a prequel to Alien, just because he's directing, the set design looks familiar and space creatures are slaughtering astronauts. I mean, this one has Charlize Theron, not Sigourney Weaver. What prequel? (Michael Fassbender, above)

Rock of Ages

JUNE

15

Listen. Do you hear that? It's the death rattle of '80s nostalgia. This should be an appropriately loud and dumb send-off, with Tom Cruise belting Bon Jovi hits, in a splashy adaptation of the Broadway smash.

That's My Boy

JUNE

15

No, Adam Sandler isn't old enough to be Andy Samberg's father, but he's shameless enough to play it for laughs. Any movie with Vanilla Ice, Tony Orlando and James Caan in the cast is worth a try.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

JUNE

22

Our 16th president was quite a ghoul slayer in his youth, according to director and high Scrabble score Timur Bekmambetov. I must have skipped that American history class. (Benjamin Walker, above)

Brave

JUNE

22

In the (fill-in-your-adjective) tradition of Pocahontas and Mulan, Pixar makes its first animated feature with a strong, human female hero. Princess Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) uses keen archery to save Scotland. You know, like Katniss.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

JUNE

29

IT'S CHANNING TATUM DAY AT THE MOVIES!

The former Tampa resident (above) leads a strike force against C.O.B.R.A., and this time he has reinforcements: Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. Or, get your Tatum fix with ...

Magic Mike

JUNE

29

Tatum (pictured at left with Matthew McConaughey) flaunts another set of big guns in a comedy inspired by his first job, dancing for dollars in a male revue. Director Steven Soderbergh filmed several scenes locally, so keep your eyes peeled while Tatum strips.

The Amazing Spider-Man

JULY

3

Yes, a solid Spidey trilogy wrapped only five years ago but 3-D greed inspires a reboot. Andrew Garfield goes through the origins motions while Tobey Maguire wonders exactly what he did wrong.

Ice Age: Continental Drift

JULY

13

How this glacial franchise earned the privilege of four movies is a mystery. And the short subject Scrat's Continental Crack-Up was tacked onto other movies so often that it feels like we've seen this one.

Ted

JULY

13

Not a big Seth MacFarlane fan but the notion of Mark Wahlberg cuddling a foul-mouthed teddy bear is promising. Not to mention the shocked parents at Toys "R" Us.

The Dark Knight Rises

JULY

20

The summer's 800-pound gorilla. Christopher Nolan concludes his thrilling trilogy with Christian Bale (right) again donning the cape and cowl, Anne Hathaway sharpening Catwoman claws and Tom Hardy (left) as the Bane of Batman's existence.

Neighborhood Watch

JULY

27

The summer's most ill-timed release, after Trayvon Martin's death at the hands of a community watchdog. Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are chasing aliens, who can't possibly do as much damage as that title. (Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Richard Ayoade and Vince Vaughn)

The Bourne Legacy

AUG.

3

Matt Damon wasn't interested in returning for a fourth movie, so Jeremy Renner plays a different double-crossed CIA agent. His first mystery to solve: Why "Bourne" is in the title if he isn't in the movie.

Total Recall

AUG.

3

Remaking the sci-fi hit is fine by me, with digital special effects that didn't exist in 1990 and Colin Farrell enunciating better than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Len Wiseman (the Underworld series) directs, so contractually his wife, Kate Beckinsale, co-stars.

The Campaign

AUG.

10

As if the real thing isn't absurd enough, Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell co-star as rival politicians vying for the U.S. presidency. No confirmation that Newt Gingrich made a cameo then refused to leave the set.

Sparkle

AUG.

17

Rare summertime Oscars prediction: Whitney Houston (pictured with Jordin Sparks) will be a best supporting actress nominee, playing the mother of three rising pop stars. Houston gives goose bumps in early clips, and sentimental is what the academy is all about.

The Expendables 2

AUG.

17

Stallone. Willis. Schwarzenegger. Van Damme. Statham. Lundgren. Jet Li. Just about the only world-class butt kicker who isn't here is Chuck Norris. Oh, he is? Please don't tell him I forgot.

ParaNorman

AUG.

17

A creepy kid summons the dead to save his town from zombies and ghosts. An animated box office mop-up before school resumes, not to be confused with Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, coming in October.

Premium Rush

AUG.

24

And you thought Quicksilver was the final word in bike messenger movies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt zips through Manhattan with an envelope of secrets and a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon) on his tail.

Also keep an eye out for ...

Maggie Gyllenhaal assisting the invention of the vibrator in Hysteria; Wes Anderson guiding Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Bruce Willis through summer camp in Moonrise Kingdom; Matthew McConaughey leaving an NC-17 trail of blood in Killer Joe; Steve Carell and Keira Knightley Seeking a Friend at the End of the World; Woody Allen moving from an Oscar in Paris To Rome With Love; Michelle Williams torn between Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby in Take This Waltz; Oliver Stone growing pot with a Mexican cartel in Savages; Julie Delpy and Chris Rock spending 2 Days in New York; the Sundance hit Celeste & Jesse Forever; and the marital problems of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in Hope Springs.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365.

25 hot summer movies 05/02/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 2:18pm]

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