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Summer movie guide | Bring on the bad guys

By DAVID FRESE
The Kansas City Star

No one would want to spend more than five minutes with Batman.

Put your empty yogurt container in the wrong recycling bin, and he’d punch you in the kidney. Fail to come to a complete stop at an intersection, and he’d run you off the road with the Batmobile. Jaywalk and he’d swing down from a rooftop, grab you by an ankle and throw you in the Dumpster behind a Popeye’s Fried Chicken.

He spends his free time as a mopey billionaire, whining about his personal tragedies. And all the while he’s dating supermodels, driving in fancy cars with supermodels and sleeping on mattresses of money with supermodels.

And that voice — “Commissioner Gordon-grawr-rawr-justice-grawr-rawr-Alfred-fetch-me-my-slippers-grawr-rawr.”

Yeesh. Ease off the death metal, bro’.

But Batman’s appeal has survived six movies — two with director Joel Schumacher and his bat-nipples — and it’s not because we wanted to spend all those hours in a dark room with a grim avenger of the night.

We bought tickets — and before that, comic books — because of Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, the Scarecrow, the Riddler, two Two-Faces, two Jokers — and now two Banes and two Catwomen. (Three if you count Halle Berry, and we don’t.)

Evil equals box office. It’s a universal truth especially applicable to summer movies. What would May through August be without the shark from “Jaws,” the White House-destroying aliens from “Independence Day” or Darth Vader from “Star Wars”?

A box-office hero can’t be great without a truly despicable nemesis. Look no further than last year’s $250-million megaflop “Green Lantern.” It pitted one of the coolest comic-book heroes ever against … a giant splortch of space diarrhea. Or consider the truly terrible “Spider-Man 3,” where the web-slinger fought an oil slick and a pile of sand.

Even our favorite heroes need to have a dark side. We want Johnny to lift Baby above his head. We might even take a look at Minny’s recipe for chocolate pie.

Luke Skywalker? No thanks. Han Solo shoots first.

Never has this been clearer than in “The Avengers.” The malevolent Loki declares war on Earth, only to be opposed by an arrogant demi-god, a smug billionaire, a monstrous green rage-aholic, two murderous assassins … and a World War II-era goody two-shoes super-soldier.

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

It’s the opener to a dastardly season at the cineplex. Soon we will be bombarded by wicked witches, mysterious aliens and undead confederates.

What follows is our guide to the summer’s most wanted — the bad, the worst and the truly heinous.

Enjoy. Or, as a great movie villain might say, “Mwah-ha-ha.”


Loki

“The Avengers”

After a botched attempt to rule Asgard in last May’s “Thor,” the thunder god’s half-brother (played by Tom Hiddleston) recruits an army to help him enslave Earth. It’s a threat so massive, the Marvel universe’s mightiest heroes must settle their differences and join together if the world is to survive. (And if you think Loki’s a tough customer, wait’ll you get a load of the guy who is rumored to be in the post-credits scene.) You may bow down to Loki’s minions beginning Friday.

Director: Joss Whedon (“Serenity,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”)

Additional cast: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans

Evilometer rating: 8


Angelique Bouchard

“Dark Shadows”

Her affections spurned, Angelique (Eva Green) casts a spell on 18th century playboy Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) that turns him into a vampire. Just to make sure he gets the point, she buries him alive. When he’s accidentally freed in the 1970s, she gives him another chance to love her. The witching hour is May 11.

Director: Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Corpse Bride”)

Additional cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz

Evilometer rating: 6


General Aladeen

“The Dictator”

Perhaps the finest tagline of the summer: “The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.” Sacha Baron Cohen’s Aladeen comes to America to address the United Nations. He might take exception to being called a villain — he’s the one who is kidnapped and stripped of his beard. Not the beard! The dictating begins May 16.

Director: Larry Charles (“Bruno,” “Religulous”)

Additional cast: John C. Reilly, Anna Faris, Megan Fox, Ben Kingsley

Evilometer rating: 5


The Regents

“Battleship”

We can all agree a movie based on a board game sounds lame. But when it’s an alien force called the Regents waging war against an international fleet of ships (and all mankind), suddenly we’re looking at an international box-office success. Aliens will sink your battleship May 18.

Director: Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” “Hancock”)

Additional cast: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard

Evilometer rating: 7


Boris

“Men in Black 3”

It’s been 10 years since the last “Men in Black” movie, so you may need a refresher: There’s an agency that oppresses all intergalactic visitors to this planet, and the most diabolical agents among them are Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith). So when Boris (Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords”) kills K in 1969, that should alter the timeline sufficiently enough to destroy the Men in Black. The plan sounds foolproof. History is irrevocably changed May 25.

Director: Barry Sonnenfield (the previous “Men in Black” movies)

Additional cast: Alice Eve, Josh Brolin

Evilometer rating: 2


Queen Ravenna

“Snow White and the Huntsman”

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know Ravenna (Charlize Theron) gives a whole new meaning to a murder of crows. The evil queen of fairy tales is out for eternal youth, and to have it she has to eat the heart of Snow White. She will suck out your soul on June 1.

Director: Rupert Sanders (directorial debut)

Additional cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Toby Jones, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone

Evilometer rating: 10


Prehistoric piranha

“Piranha 3DD”

If you staff a water resort with “water certified” exotic dancers and invite David Hasselhoff to preside over a grand opening party, you really are inviting trouble. This one’s worth seeing just to hear Ving Rhames say, “Bring me my legs.” There’s blood in the water beginning June 1 in select cities (no KC date yet).

Director: John Gulager (“Feast”)

Additional cast: David Koechner, Katrina Bowden, Christopher Lloyd, Gary Busey, Allison Mack

Evilometer rating: 7


This guy

“Prometheus”

A new international trailer released over the weekend is full of awesome. The best part, however, is we got a clear shot of the aliens who have lured naive earthlings to their planet. Could these be the xenomorphs? The alien hordes will be arriving June 8.

Director: Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Blade Runner”)

Additional cast: Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender

Evilometer rating: 10


Captain Chantel DuBois

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

Is she a Parisian animal control officer or something more sinister? DuBois (voiced by Frances McDormand) is on the trail of a zebra, lion, giraffe, hippo and a whole flock of ninja penguins running amok across Europe. Heads will roll, and then they may get stuffed and mounted. The chase begins June 8.

Directors: KC native Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon (the previous “Madagascar” movies)

Additional cast: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith

Evilometer: 1


The Wise Woman

“Brave”

When you’re a character in a Disney/Pixar movie, you have to be careful what you wish for, because somewhere there’s a witch or wise old woman willing to grant it. The Wise Woman of “Brave,” voiced by Julie Walters, gives a girl who is unhappy with her station in life exactly what she asks for. Your wish is granted, my pretty, on June 22.

Directors: Mark Andres (writer on “John Carter”) and Brenda Chapman (writer on “Cars” and senior creative team member on “Up”)

Additional voice cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson

Evilometer rating: 1


Civil War-era vampires

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

As if the idea of human slavery isn’t despicable enough, imagine Southern plantation owners as vampires who bought slaves … for food. That’s right. Johnny Reb was a vampire (as was John Wilkes Booth). And the Confederate States of America really wanted to enslave the entire nation. All that stands in their way is the 16th president of the United States, played by Benjamin Walker. The feeding begins June 22.

Director: Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”)

Additional cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anthony Mackie

Evilometer rating: 9


Asteroid

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”

“Hi, I’m a giant space rock, barreling toward Earth, seeking to destroy not only civilization but your marriage, too. What’s that? Can we delay the total planetary devastation long enough for you to reconcile with your high-school sweetheart? OK, Steve Carrell, but show some hustle.” Impact is assured June 22.

Director: Lorene Scafaria (writer of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”)

Additional cast: Keira Knightley, Patton Oswalt, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry

Evilometer rating: 6


Cobra

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

Cobra Commander and Zartan have taken over the U.S. government. Storm Shadow is back from his seeming death at the hands of Snake Eyes. And if that’s not enough, there’s an army of red ninja Cobra soldiers ready to start stabbing. So long, G.I. Joes. Been nice knowing you. The worldwide takeover begins June 29.

Director: John M. Chu (“Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”)

Additional cast: Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, Channing Tatum, Elodie Yung, Ray Park

Evilometer rating: 6


The Lizard

“The Amazing Spider-Man”

Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) develops a serum that will help him regrow his missing arm. Side effects could include headache, nausea, vomiting, megalomania, slight green discoloration of the skin, tail-growth and an intense hatred for any nerdy science whiz kid with the proportional strength and speed of a spider. The lizarding begins July 3.

Director: Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer”)

Additional cast: Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield, Sally Field, Martin Sheen

Evilometer rating: 3


Drug dealers

“Savages”

There isn’t much in the way of a good guy in this one. When a couple of Laguna Beach marijuana growers develop a crop of super-weed, Mexican drug cartel leader Elena (Salma Hayek) has henchman Lado (the excellent Benicio del Toro) kidnap their shared girlfriend. The murder and mayhem begin July 6.

Director: Oliver Stone (“Platoon,” “JFK”)

Additional cast: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively

Evilometer rating: 5


Captain Gutt

“Ice Age: Continental Drift”

The primate pirate Captain Gutt (voiced by Peter Dinklage) leads a rogue band of skunks, manatees and one-eared rabbits as they pillage the prehistoric seas. And they aren’t about to let Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) sail peacefully back to their families. The Earth splits wide open July 13.

Directors: Steve Martino (“Horton Hears a Who”) and Mike Thurmeier (“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”)

Additional cast: Jennifer Lopez, Seann William Scott, Heather Morris, Queen Latifah, Aziz Ansari, Wanda Sykes

Evilometer rating: 3


Bane and Catwoman

“The Dark Knight Rises”

He’s an international terrorist out to destroy Gotham City (played by Tom Hardy). She’s a burglar (Anne Hathaway) looking to get even with the 1 percenters. Together they may be too much for the Batman (Christian Bale), who’s feeling the effects of his decade-long war on crime. To make matters worse, the Dark Knight’s love interest (Marion Cotillard) may or may not be the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), last seen plummeting to his death in a previous installment. The Bat will be broken July 20.

Director: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight,” “Inception”)

Additional cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Juno Temple, Michael Caine

Evilometer rating: 9


Lori Quaid

“Total Recall”

Kate Beckinsale plays the wife of Douglas Quaid (Colin Ferrell), a factory worker who suspects he might be a spy whose memory was erased. “I’ve never been the villain, so that is very exciting for me,” Beckinsale told RealBollywood.com. “I love the fact my character slips from being this very concerned wife into this killing machine.” The lie is revealed (or is it?) Aug. 3.

Director: Len Wiseman (the “Underworld” series)

Additional cast: Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel

Evilometer rating: 4


Zombies

“ParaNorman”

The dead rise to attack a Massachusetts town. Joining them in their evil plot are witches, spirits, bullies and (gasp!) grown-ups. Their only obstacle is a boy who can converse with ghosts. The dead walk Aug. 17.

Directors: Chris Butler (“Coraline”) and Sam Fell (“The Tale of Despereaux”)

Additional cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Evilometer rating: 5


Jean Vilain

“The Expendables 2”

Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) joins the likes of Dr. Evil, Dr. Doom and Dr. No as guys who really never had a chance, simply by virtue of their names. The knife-wielding Vilain is so nefarious, it’s going to take five decades’ worth of action movie heroes and an unlimited number of bullets to stop him. The pummeling and subsequent ironic catchphrases explode into theatres Aug. 17.

Director: Simon West (“Con Air”)

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Yu Nan

Evilometer rating: 4

MORE MOVIES


MAY 11

•  “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”: Those classy Brits put some sophistication into summer with a tale of U.K. retirees in India. With Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson.

MAY 18

• “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”: Everyone’s in a family way with an ensemble tale about pending parenthood that features Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks and Dennis Quaid.

MAY 25

•  “Chernobyl Diaries”: Six rookie tourists mistakenly visit the abandoned site of the nuclear disaster and find unexpected horrors.

JUNE 8

•  “Peace, Love & Misunderstanding”: Jane Fonda plays a hippie grandma living on a farm. Not exactly “Barbarella.”

JUNE 15

•  “Rock of Ages”: Journey and REO Speedwagon ride again in a musical romance featuring old rock tunes and a cast that includes Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julianne Hough.

•  “That’s My Boy”: Adam Sandler tries to grow up as a bad dad hoping to make things right with his estranged grown son (Andy Samberg).

JUNE 29

•  “Magic Mike”: Channing Tatum takes it off again in a story inspired by his early work as a male stripper. Steven Soderbergh directs.

•  “Madea’s Witness Protection”: Filmmaker Tyler Perry reprises his role as saucy grandma Madea, who takes in the family of a CFO (Eugene Levy) in witness protection.

• “People Like Us”: “Star Trek’s” Chris Pine comes down to Earth as a salesman tidying up his late father’s estate in a comic drama co-starring Elizabeth Banks and Michelle Pfeiffer.

• “Moonrise Kingdom”: The latest from quirky director Wes Anderson.

JULY 5

• “Katy Perry: Part of Me”: The pop superstar gets the 3-D treatment in a music documentary featuring performances and behind-the-scenes access.

JULY 13

• “Ted”: A teddy bear come to life is every kid’s dream — until the thing sticks around into the kid’s adult years. Mark Wahlberg stars in the comedy from Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”).

JULY 27

• “Neighborhood Watch”: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill learn their town is overflowing with space invaders disguised as average suburban dwellers.

• “Step Up: Revolution”: The next round in the dance franchise has a crew of Miami hoofers fighting a neighborhood developer.

AUG. 3

• “The Bourne Legacy”: The spirit of lethal operative Jason Bourne lives on, minus Matt Damon, with Jeremy Renner at the center of fallout from the first three action hits.

•  “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days”: The hapless hero (Zachary Gordon) of the best-selling books stumbles through trouble over summer vacation.

AUG. 10

•  “The Campaign”: Dirty politics in this age of bipartisanship? Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis sling mud as congressional opponents in Jay Roach’s comedy. KC’s Jason Sudeikis co-stars.

•  “Hope Springs”: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are a long-married couple trying to renew the spark with a counselor (Steve Carell) at a marital retreat.

•  “Sparkle”: Whitney Houston’s final movie role features the singer as mom to a girl group (including “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks) struggling with the pressures of fame.

• “ Ruby Sparks”: A character created by a novelist (Paul Dano) comes to life as a real woman (Zoe Kazan) in the latest from the directors of “Little Miss Sunshine.”

AUG. 15

•  “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”: A couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) eager to start a family gets a dose of the unexpected when a mysterious boy turns up at their door.

AUG. 24

•  “The Apparition” Ashley Greene stars in a spooky tale of a couple haunted by a presence conjured up in a college experiment.

•  “Premium Rush”: A Manhattan bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is steered into a deadly chase when bad guys come looking for the delivery he’s carrying.

NO KC DATE YET

•  “To Rome With Love”: Woody Allen woos Italy and appears onscreen for the first time in years with an ensemble romance co-starring Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni and Ellen Page.

Release dates are subject to change.

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