Finding The Summer Movies That Are (Well) Off The Beaten Path Film critic Bob Mondello has a few suggestions if you're looking for summer films that don't primarily feature explosions, bazaars, or gross jokes.
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Finding The Summer Movies That Are (Well) Off The Beaten Path

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Finding The Summer Movies That Are (Well) Off The Beaten Path

Finding The Summer Movies That Are (Well) Off The Beaten Path

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Well, it's not officially summer yet, but don't tell Hollywood. Already, the multiplex is bursting with sequels from "Iron Man" and "Shrek" to "Sex and the City." And the next three months will be filled with a wide range of material, from action films and comedies to action comedies. Luckily for us, critic Bob Mondello has tried to root out the most promising titles for a selective summer preview.

BOB MONDELLO: So what's your pleasure? You want your super sleuth on the run movies straight up or comic? Straight up will get you Angelina Jolie's CIA interrogator in "Salt."

(Soundbite of movie, "Salt")

Mr. DAVID AGRANOV (Actor): (as Vassily Orlov) Today, a Russian agent will travel to New York City to kill the president. The name of the agent is Evelyn Salt.

Ms. ANGELINA JOLIE (Actor): (as Evelyn Salt) My name is Evelyn Salt.

Mr. AGRANOV: (as Vassily Orlov) Then you are a Russian spy.

MONDELLO: If you prefer your super spies comic, try Tom Cruise in "Knight and Day."

(Soundbite of movie, "Knight and Day")

Mr. TOM CRUISE (Actor): (as Miller) Everybody get down. No one follows us or I kill myself and then her.

MONDELLO: If neither straight up nor comic suits your spy movie tastes, how about a science fiction thriller about corporate espionage?

(Soundbite of movie, "Inception")

Mr. LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (as Cobb) What's the most resilient parasite? An idea.

MONDELLO: Leonardo DiCaprio plays a guy who can look inside people's dreams in "Inception."

(Soundbite of movie, "Inception")

Mr. DICAPRIO: (as Cobb) A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules, which is why I have to steal it.

MONDELLO: "Inception" is the brain child of Christopher Nolan, who brought us "Memento" and "The Dark Knight." Other choices for action, the retired assassin movie, "Killers," the classy heist movie, "Takers," and the all-star mercenary movie, "Expendables." Those are all aimed mostly at male audiences.

For gals, the action comes with fangs in the latest installment of the "Twilight" series. It's called "Eclipse."

(Soundbite of movie, "Eclipse")

Mr. ROBERT PATTINSON (Actor): (as Edward Cullen) We've been tracking the situation in Seattle for a while; unexplained disappearances, killings.

Mr. PETER FACINELLI (Actor): (as Dr. Carlisle Cullen) Someone's creating an army.

Ms. KRISTEN STEWART (Actor): (as Bella Swan) An army of vampires?

Ms. ASHLEY GREENE (Actor): (as Alice Cullen) They're coming here.

MONDELLO: Sound a little too fantastical? Well, a few films this summer are keeping it real. A documentary about American soldiers in an isolated outpost in Afghanistan, for instance. The soldiers named the outpost Restrepo after a man who died there. The film "Restrepo" shows them taking fire every day for a month.

(Soundbite of documentary, "Restrepo")

Unidentified Man #1: My family, I never really told them much until about halfway into the deployment.

(Soundbite of gunshots)

Unidentified Man #1: I didn't tell them when Miller(ph) died. I didn't tell them when (unintelligible) lost his arm. And then when Restrepo got killed, it was a few days before my mom's birthday, so I had to suck it up. Hey, Mom, happy birthday. You know, yeah, I'm doing really good out here. Everything's fine.

(Soundbite of gunshots)

MONDELLO: Ordinarily, if you're looking for something reality-based, summer isn't the right time. But this year, hot weather documentaries are everywhere.

Besides "Restrepo," there's "Cropsey," about mysterious murders on Staten Island, Oliver Stone's "South of the Border" about Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro and other Latin American leaders, "Stonewall Uprising" about the birth of the gay rights movement, and "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," in which the 77-year-old comedienne takes a film crew on a tour of her life and her filing system.

(Soundbite of movie, "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work")

Ms. JOAN RIVERS (Comedian): Everywhere you look, there are jokes, jokes to be filed, jokes to be written, jokes that I thought of something. Why should a woman cook? So her husband can say, my wife makes a delicious cake to some hooker?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RIVERS: And you wonder why I'm still working at this age.

MONDELLO: Also looking for laughs are a slew of summer comedies, including the gracelessly titled "Dinner for (bleep)" about a party where everyone brings a guest dork. Paul Rudd's dork is Steve Carell. "Superbad's" Jonah Hill is in two comedies: "Cyrus," in which he tries to sidetrack his mom's new boyfriend, and "Get Him to the Greek," in which he gets sidetracked escorting a rock star to an important concert.

And there's a comedy called "The Kids Are All Right" about a family where calling dad to say hi is complicated.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Kids are All Right")

Mr. JOSH HUTCHERSON: (as Laser) Have you thought any more about making that call?

Ms. MIA WASIKOWSKA: (as Joni) That could really hurt mom's feelings.

Mr. HUTCHERSON: How can you not even be curious about it?

Ms. WASIKOWSKA: Each of my moms had a kid with your sperm.

Mr. MARK RUFFALO: (as Paul) Like in both of them?

Ms. WASIKOWSKA: Uh-huh. Like in gay.

Mr. RUFFALO: I love lesbians.

MONDELLO: Proof that summer romance comes in a variety of styles.

Also on the menu, a comic South African romance called "White Wedding," a long distance romance called "Going the Distance," starring Drew Barrymore and her real-life boyfriend, Justin Long. Also "Eat, Pray, Love," in which Julia Roberts falls in love with travel, and a tragic romance called "I Am Love," in which Tilda Swinton gets to show off her romance language skills by speaking Italian with a Russian accent.

(Soundbite of movie, "I Am Love")

Ms. TILDA SWINTON (Actor): (as Emma Recchi) (Italian spoken)

MONDELLO: Other foreign films will tend to deal with crime this summer, including a two-part French gangster drama called "Mesrine," an Australian drama called "Animal Kingdom" about a teenager trying to escape his gangster family, and a follow-up to the Swedish thriller "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" -this one called "The Girl Who Played With Fire."

None of this sounds quite right for kids, of course, but there's plenty that does, including "Toy Story 3-D," in which Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the gang are bereft when Andy heads for college.

(Soundbite of movie, "Toy Story 3")

Mr. TOM HANKS (Actor): (as Woody) Now, come on, guys. We all knew this day was coming.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (as Character) We're getting thrown away?

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) No. No one's getting thrown away.

Mr. BLAKE CLARK (Actor): (as Slinky Dog) We ain't ever getting played with.

Mr. TIM ALLEN (Actor): (as Buzz Lightyear) Hold on. This is no time to be hysterical.

Mr. DON RICKLES (Actor): (as Mr. Potato Head) It's the perfect time to be hysterical.

Mr. WALLACE SHAWN (Actor): (as Rex the Green Dinosaur) Should we be hysterical?

Mr. CLARK: (as Slinky Dog) No.

Mr. RICKLES: (as Mr. Potato Head) Yes.

Mr. ALLEN: (Buzz Lightyear) Maybe, but not right now.

Mr. JOHN RATZENBERGER (Actor): (as Hamm the Piggy Bank) Come on. Let's see how much we're going for on eBay.

MONDELLO: There's also a new wrinkle on another familiar story about a kid who's picked on at school until he learns karate. The new karate kid is Will Smith's kid, Jaden, starring for the first time without his dad, and his karate teacher, Jackie Chan.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Karate Kid")

Mr. JADEN SMITH (Actor): (as Dre Parker) I thought you were just some maintenance man.

Mr. JACKIE CHAN (Actor): (as Mr. Han) The only way to stop them is to face them. I will teach you real kung-fu.

Mr. SMITH: (as Dre Parker) I get it: you're Yoda and I'm like a Jedi.

Mr. CHAN: (as Mr. Han) Your focus needs more focus.

MONDELLO: Hollywood's focus on kids also includes "Marmaduke" based on the comic about a rambunctious Great Dane, "The Last Airbender," a live action version of Nickelodeon's animated TV series, and "Despicable Me," an original animated film about a villain who enlists a large number of genetically altered corn pops to help him with his nefarious plans.

Happily, for civilization, there are three little orphan girls who want the villain to be their father.

(Soundbite of movie, "Despicable Me")

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (as Gru) You will not cry or sneeze or burp or fart. No annoying sounds.

Ms. ELSIE FISHER (Actor): (as Agnes) Does this count as annoying?

(Soundbite of popping)

Mr. CARELL: We are going to pull off the true crime of the century. We are going to steal the moon.

MONDELLO: Always good to have a goal. For moviegoers, a worthy one might simply be to get through the summer with wits intact.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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