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Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:11 am

The 10 top flicks of the season

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Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, more than 80 different films will be released in North American movie theaters. Some will fly under the radar, with total budgets amounting to less than what’s spent on advertising for a studio blockbuster. Others will be so overhyped it will seem like they’ve been in theaters long before they actually arrive. With so many movies to choose from, it’s difficult to determine which are worth your money and your time. While there are plenty of popcorn movies on tap, there’s an inordinately large number of smart films coming as well that could provide relief from the usual vacuous fare. The catch is most of these films will be released a bit later in the season, so discerning viewers will have to exercise a bit of patience. What follows is a list of 10 films that, in this humble critic’s opinion, are your best bets at the box office this summer.

1. The Killer Inside Me
(June 18) - Casey Affleck stars in this adaptation of the sordid Jim Thompson pulp crime novel. Ben’s little bro stars as a Texas deputy sheriff who hides a horrible secret that eventually consumes him. Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson costar in this film that’s being compared to the work of director David Lynch (Blue Velvet) after its successful opening at the Toronto International Film Festival. This one sounds like a good alternative to the slam-bang action flicks that will be cluttering the multiplex.

2. Toy Story 3
(June 18) – I’m always a bit leery of sequels, but with the success of the second entry in this series from Pixar Studios and the fact that all of the original talent is on board here, this followup has all the signs of being a success. After their owner Andy heads to college, Woody, Buzz and the rest of his toys end up being donated to a local daycare center. Will they be able to survive after not being played with for years? Will Andy come back to retrieve them? I’ll let you know as I will be first in line for this one.

3. Knight and Day
(June 25) - Tom Cruise stars as a rogue secret agent intent on protecting a scientist the government wants to control and Cameron Diaz is the lovely innocent who gets swept into his adventure. As directed by James Mandgold (Walk the Line), this action-comedy is reminiscent of North by Northwest and True Lies, and looks like a whole lotta fun. While both of these stars have fallen out of favor with audiences in recent years, this feature looks like it will remind us of why we loved Cruise and Diaz in the first place.

4. Inception
(July 16) – Director Christopher Nolan takes a break from the Batman franchise to tackle a mind-bending adventure about dream thieves who are able to enter a person’s mind and steal their ideas, which are then used by corporations for profit. Warner Brothers and Nolan have been mum about specific plot details but the film’s trailer and its cast, which includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Michael Caine and Ken Wantanabe, make this one of the most intriguing films of the season. Be prepared to be wowed and surprised.

5. Dinner for Schmucks
(July 23) – This remake of the French feature The Dinner Game, finds Paul Rudd as Tim, an up-and-coming executive who participates in his boss’s cruel monthly ritual called “dinner for idiots.” The idea is to bring the biggest moron you can find and Tim thinks Barry (Steve Carell), a clueless employee for the IRS, will impress his boy so much that it will help him climb the corporate ladder quickly. Big laughs are to be had here as well as a bit of heartwarming redemption.

6. The Other Guys
(Aug. 6) – Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as detectives Gamble and Hoitz, cops regulated to desk duty who live in the shadow of two hotshot colleagues (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) whose outlandish actions put them in the spotlight. Needless to say, when Gamble and Hoitz try to solve a case of their own and grab a bit of the glory that’s been eluding them, chaos reigns. As directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman), this promises to be not only a ribald laugh riot but also a sharp skewering of the cop film genre.

7. Eat Pray Love
(Aug. 13) – Julia Roberts stars in this adaptation of the best-selling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert that finds her reconnecting to the world after a painful divorce. While traveling, she rediscovers her passion for living, and falling in love with Felipe (Javier Bardem) doesn’t hurt either. This is the sort of adult fare that emerges from the trash heap of summer films to offer up a bit of mature drama that audiences are starved for by mid-August.

8. The Expendables
(Aug. 13) – Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars in this throwback to ’80s action flicks about a gang of mercenaries who are hired to overthrow a South American dictator. The cast is an action fan’s dream. In addition to Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke are all on board while Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger lend their weight in key cameos. Yeah, it’s probably a big dumb movie that exists only to blow stuff up real good, but it looks like great fun too.

9. The Switch
(Aug. 20) – Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman star as best friends who are reunited after seven years, one bearing a child, the other a secret. Seems as though years ago when she was artificially inseminating herself with donor sperm, he switched the sample with one of his own. The success of this dramady will depend on the skill of its stars, both of whom are experts at handling deft material of this sort.

10. The Last Exorcism
(Aug. 27) – What would the summer season be without an effective horror film? This tale from director Eli Roth (Hostel), who serves as producer here, concerns a troubled priest who allows his final exorcism to be filmed by a documentary filmmaker. The realism lent to the material by this approach could give the movie a visceral quality that should have audiences leaping out of their seats. If this is half as effective as last year’s Paranormal Activity, Roth could have a major hit on his hands.

Contact Chuck Koplinski a ckoplinski@isd116.org.

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