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Top 10 most promising summer releases

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Posted: Saturday, May 22, 2010 12:00 am

I took the week off to celebrate graduation at Disneyland, so reviews will return next week with looks at both "Macgruber" and "Shrek Forever After."

(I was originally going to include "Robin Hood" as well, but the fact that it has already established itself as one of the most widely reviled major films of the year leads me to the fair conclusion that we should all just wait for the DVD. Hey, I'm allowed to listen to critics, too.)

For now, let's look forward to sunnier days with a quick peek at 10 upcoming summer releases that will hopefully improve upon the rocky start we've seen with the disappointing "Iron Man 2" and the presumably horrible "Robin Hood."

1. "Toy Story 3" (June 18, wide)

Fun fact: "Toy Story 2" is the greatest family-oriented animated film ever made. Most people seem to prefer the first, but hard evidence proves that the sequel offered, minute for minute, more wit, more laughs, and far more pathos than the great-but-overrated first entry. If this trend of improvement can continue, then this new film (debuting in 3-D, of course) could very well be the movie event of the year. The story sees Andy's beloved toys carted off to a daycare center as he leaves for college, opening up infinite possibilities for not only hilarious shenanigans, but also emotional poignancy. This one will be competing with the fourth "Shrek" and the third "Twilight" entry for the summer box office crown, and I'm placing my early bets on Woody and Buzz. Call me a rosy optimist.

2. "Inception" (July 16, wide)

I'm not quite sure what to make of the previews either, but the fact of the matter is that this is a Christopher Nolan film starring Leonardo DiCaprio (temporarily on loan from Martin Scorsese). Nolan, as you may recall, gave us not only "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," but also the superb, mind-bending "Memento." With him as writer/director, and DiCaprio headlining as a mind crime investigator, this top-secret project will, at the very least, be the most impressive and comprehensive display of talent we'll see from a studio film all summer. Even if the story turns out to be nonsensical, there's no arguing with the weight that such pedigree brings to a summer blockbuster.

3. "Winter's Bone" (June 11, limited)

This one has seen huge success on the festival circuit, and is being unanimously praised as a perfectly assembled dramatic thriller that hits every note just right. The plot, involving a young girl's search for her drug-dealing father in the harsh social climate of the Ozark Mountains, sounds original and intriguing. And there are few things in this world more admirable than a character-based thriller that tells a compelling human story while at the same time delivering pitch-perfect suspense. I really, really doubt this one will disappoint.

4. "The A-Team" (June 11, wide)

All right, here's my thinking: Liam Neeson is awesome, and parachuting a fully operational and manned battle tank out of a jet is awesome. So when you combine these two things, how could you end up with anything but one of the most thoroughly awesome movies of the summer? My logic is flawless. You'll see.

5. "The Expendables" (Aug. 13, wide)

Same logic applies here. And with a cast that includes Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke and Dolph Lundgren, with cameos by both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, I think it's a safe bet that "The Expendables" will deliver precisely what is promised: a whole lot of explosions and more dead bad guys than anyone could possibly count. It's written and directed by Stallone (who has always shown more talent behind the camera than in front of it), so expect the biggest, baddest and most self-indulgent '80s action throwback you've ever seen. Sounds good to me.

6. "Centurion" (Aug. 27, limited)

Again, it's a question of pedigree: Neill Marshall ("Dog Soldiers," "The Descent") directs, and Michael Fassbinder ("Inglourious Basterds," the Bobby Sands bio pic "Hunger") and Dominic West (HBO's "The Wire") star. The story, involving a group of Roman soldiers who become trapped behind enemy lines, could go either way. But those three names should be enough to get anyone into the seat.

7. "Knight & Day" (June 25, wide)

I'm ready to like Tom Cruise again. Even if he is irretrievably insane, he's nevertheless capable of being one of the most absurdly magnetic performers in all of A-list Hollywood, despite his natural handicap. In this action-comedy he plays a screwball government agent who becomes embroiled in an international spy plot along with the hapless Cameron Diaz, and I don't think a return to form is out of the question.

8. "Piranha 3-D" (Aug. 27, wide)

What? Come on, it even has Christopher Lloyd and Elizabeth Shue. You know you can't wait either.

9. "Cyrus" (June 18, limited)

John C. Reilly stars as a recently divorced man who is trying to woo a single mom (Marisa Tomei), but runs into trouble from her protective and clingy grown son, played by Jonah Hill ("Superbad," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"). With any luck, this will be an example of top-notch talent overcoming too-familiar material.

10. "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" (Aug. 13, wide)

I think Michael Cera, starring here once again as an awkward and lovelorn young geek, might want to think about expanding the scope of roles that he accepts. The better reason to get excited about this hipster rom-com is writer/director Edgar Wright, who has previously brought all sorts of funny with the modern classics "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." There's no Simon Pegg to rely on this time around, but I trust Wright will manage.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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