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Summer in the cineplex: the non-comedies

Posted 6:57am on Friday, May. 02, 2014

Summer is the perfect season for comedies. Vacations beckon, thermometers soar and no one wants to ponder anything too deep beyond the far end of the swimming pool.

Yet, even though heat and hilarity go together like beer and baseball, there are many other films to consider between now and Labor Day. Of course, there will be sequels and superheroes — beginning this weekend with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — and science fiction as well as loud action-adventure. But there will also be dramas aimed at adults who want to go to a summer movie that doesn’t come with accompanying action figures or Adam Sandler.

Here are 10 of the non-comedies I’m looking forward to this summer.

Godzilla

Release date: May 16

The Japanese original has its charms but isn’t really scary these days and Roland Emmerich’s 1998 reboot with Matthew Broderick was regarded as an insult to the mighty monster. Maybe young director Gareth Edwards will bring the goods. His previous film, the low-budget but eerily effective Monsters (about strange creatures appearing along the U.S.-Mexico border), showed he could deliver the shivers and he’s blessed with a strong cast including Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche and Ken Watanabe.

Million Dollar Arm

Release date: May 16

Jon Hamm takes off his Mad Men necktie and neuroses to play a sports agent who recruits two young Indian cricket players for a major-league baseball team. Produced by Disney, written by Thomas McCarthy (one of the writers of Up), directed by Craig Gillespite (the indie rom-com Lars and the Real Girl, TV’s United States of Tara) and also starring Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton, the PG-rated family film promises to be inspirational, touching and with just enough chuckles to make you smile through the tears.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Release date: May 23

The last X-Men film, First Class, was a surprisingly entertaining sequel so hopes are high for this one that someone remains in charge of quality control. The cast is once again top-notch: Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Page, James McAvoy, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Anna Paquin. Directing is Bryan Singer, who did the first two “X-Men” films. But it remains to be seen if the increasingly public legal controversies surrounding Singer (he has been accused of sexual abuse of a teenager) will affect this film’s box-office.

The Fault in Our Stars

Release date: June 6

This story of a romance between two young people who meet through a cancer-support group has a couple of things going for it: it’s based on the bestselling and critically adored novel by John Green; and it stars the hot star of the moment, Shailene Woodley, who’s coming off the film Divergent. To top it off, the soundtrack reads like an indie-rock wish list: M83, Grouplove, Ray LaMontagne, Lykke Li, Ed Sheeran and many more.

Snowpiercer

Release date: June 27

Fans of South Korean films know the name Bong Joon-ho as well as their own. The acclaimed director of the films The Host and Mother has a reputation for mass audience creep-out and that should extend to his English-language debut, Snowpiercer, starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris and Octavia Spencer. It’s set in the near-future, where climate change has rendered the world uninhabitable. What’s left of mankind survives amid chaos aboard a high-speed train that travels around the planet. The film has earned raves since it opened in South Korea last year and has been shown on the festival circuit.

Boyhood

Release date: July 11

Texas director Richard Linklater ( Dazed and Confused, the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy) has long had a knack for blending pathos with smartly written characters. But Boyhood is by far his best work yet, a cinematic accomplishment that may not only be the best film of the summer but of the year. Filmed over 12 years, Linklater follows the tribulations of a suburban Houston family as they come apart and grow together as seen through the eyes of the youngest child, Mason (phenomenal newcomer Ellar Coltrane). The viewer sees Mason — as well as the rest of the family, mom (Patricia Arquette) and dad (Ethan Hawke) — age and mature against the backdrop of turbulent times like the 2008 presidential election. It’s a fascinating work, not only for its pioneering process but for its deeply human story.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Release date: July 11

Admittely, I’ve always been a sucker for all of the “Apes” movies. But this one seems like it might have enough going for it to attract those previously immune to these simians’ charms. It has a great cast — Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke and the return of Andy Serkis (Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, Cesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes) — and the director is Matt Reeves who did Let Me In, the well-regarded remake of the chilly Swedish vampire tale, Let the Right One In. (He also is responsible for the misguided monster movie Cloverfield, but we’ll let that go for now.)

Jupiter Ascending

Release date: July 25

Though I’ve not really been on the love train for the directing team of Andy and Lana Wachowski since the first “Matrix” movie, no one can deny they have an original vision. With Jupiter Ascending, they return to a story conceived by them (as opposed to Cloud Atlas or Speed Racer, which were based on outside source material) so here’s hoping it has some of The Matrix’s sensibility. It’s a futuristic science-fiction tale about a woman who wages war on the Queen of the Universe. Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum star.

Get on Up

Release date: Aug. 1

Chadwick Boseman snagged moviegoers’ attention last year playing Jackie Robinson in the biopic 42 and now he threatens to generate even more heat as he portrays the late R&B singer James Brown, in all of his strutting glory. Helping him out is a stellar cast including Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, Dan Aykroyd and True Blood’s Nelsan Ellis. It seems like every August, a film aimed at adults comes out as an antidote to all the shooting and crashing elsewhere in the multiplex. Think of Lee Daniels’ The Butler from last year. For 2014, that film could be Get on Up.

The Giver

Release date: Aug. 15

Meryl Streep and director Phillip Noyce (Rabbit-Proof Fence, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) don’t do much science fiction but the source material — a 1993 novel that some say is a classic that has spawned a book series — has many fans across the cultural spectrum. Set in a utopian future where a young boy is elected to be the storehouse of all of humanity’s memories, it also has an intriguingly eclectic cast including Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift, Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard.

Cary Darling, 817 390-7571

Twitter: @carydar

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