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Summer movie preview

From pirates to apes to Transformers: How hot are this summer's films?

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JAY MAIDMENT/MARVEL STUDIOS
  • Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios

Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22)

The gist: During World War II, puny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans as a CGI skinny guy) takes a "super-soldier serum" to become both a physically enhanced commando and a symbol of American resolve.

Fresh factor: Captain America first appeared in comics 70 years ago (before Pearl Harbor, even), but has never been in a decent movie. If director Joe Johnston emulates his 1991 comic book adaptation The Rocketeer, another cliff-hanging period piece, it could be a fun popcorn movie.

How's it look: So far, the trailers convey little beyond the first act of the movie — but it looks like a good first act. But will it feel merely like a prologue to next year's The Avengers?

TIMOTHY WHITE/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
  • Timothy White/Universal Studios

Cowboys & Aliens (July 29)

The gist: In the Wild West, an amnesiac loner (Daniel Craig) wearing a high-tech bracelet must battle both a powerful landowner (a villainous Harrison Ford) and flying saucers.

Fresh factor: It's based on a relatively obscure graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, although the title kind of speaks for itself.

How's it look: Very entertaining, like director Jon Favreau got his mojo back after Iron Man 2.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug. 5)

The gist: Geneticist James Franco (is there anything he can't do?) tests an Alzheimer cure on primates, only to create a super-intelligent breed of rebellious apes.

Fresh factor: It's the seventh feature film in the franchise and follows in the narrative paw-prints of 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but the premise and special effects seem drastically different.

How's it look: Like it has a chance at proving to be the sleeper hit of the summer. Thanks to CGI, the apes have these human expressions that'll give you the willies.

RICHARD CARTWRIGHT/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
  • Richard Cartwright/Universal Studios

The Change-Up (Aug. 5)

The gist: Jason Bateman's family man and Ryan Reynolds' single Lothario switch bodies and discover than neither has the wonderful life the other thought.

Fresh factor: It's Hollywood's umpteenth body-transfer comedy, although admittedly the characters in Freaky Friday didn't swap minds by peeing in the same fountain.

How's it look: Like yet another Judd Apatow wannabe comedy, but it was filmed locally so you can check out the Atlanta landmarks if it gets boring.

DALE ROBINETTE/DREAMWORKS II DISTRIBUTION CO.
  • Dale Robinette/DreamWorks II Distribution Co.

The Help (Aug. 12)

The gist: In 1960s Mississippi, the lives of two African-American maids (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) intersect with a white college graduate (Emma Stone).

Fresh factor: It's based on the hit novel by Atlanta's Kathryn Stockett.

How's it look: The trailer seems to overemphasize Stone's character's involvement with the Civil Rights Movement (you expect someone to say, "Save us from racism, nice white lady!"). But also looks like a viable Oscar contender.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Aug. 26)

The gist: A young girl (Bailee Madison) moves in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in a creepy old house that may have tiny monsters living in the walls. Produced and co-written by Guillermo del Toro.

Fresh factor: The original 1973 made-for-TV horror film is exactly the kind of inventive, half-forgotten project that Hollywood should be remaking.

How's it look: The teaser trailer will scare the crap out of you.

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