So many sequels, so many superheroes, so much slop. Traversing the summer movie slate is no easy feat. So GQ has created this handy guide, collecting the Obvious— your standard can't-find-a-seat-opening night blockbuster—and the Underdog alternative—whether a quiet, thoughtful indie, or a flesh-ripping genre flick. Either way, your weekends are all planned. Go forth and eat Sour Patch Kids
BY SEAN FENNESSEY
The Obvious: X-Men: First Class
This '60s-set prequel is basically "Mad X-Men": Check out James McAvoy's follicular wonder as a pre-baldie Professor X. Then take a gander at Michael Fassbender's steely Holocaust survivor, Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto. And then there's Kevin Bacon rocking an ascot and double-breasted suit as Sebastian Shaw. Hell, they even got Betty Draper to reprise her ice queen shtick as villainess Emma Frost. This will tide you over until '12 when Matthew Weiner gets it together.
The Underdog: Submarine
This tiny U.K. indie about a 15-year-old boy attempting to shed his virginity has been compared to Wes Anderson's early work. That will either be a boon or a brake for you: Go with it. The cast is sharp and the soundtrack, from Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, is one of the best you'll hear all year.
The Verdict: X-Men: First Class
The Obvious: Super 8
J.J. Abrams does childlike wonder, damnit. And if you can't get on board with that, or this winsome '70s-set homage to Spielbergian extraterrestrial classics Close Encounters of Third Kind and E.T., then you may be dead inside.
The Underdog: The Trip
From Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, and director Michael Winterbottom, the deeply disturbed and deeply brilliant minds of the men behind Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, comes another meta-narrative. This time Coogan is a restaurant critic for the Observer who is joined by Brydon on a working road trip. There will be wordplay, there will be awkwardness, there will be laughs.
The Verdict: Super 8
The Obvious: Green Lantern
More comic books. Always more comic books. Ryan Reynolds is Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot (is there any other kind?), who stumbles upon a dying alien and inherits a ring that gives him the power to create anything his mind can conjure. All of those things are green. Or something like that. Expect Reynolds' signature quippery, Blake Lively's quivering fellow pilot to somehow be romanced, and Peter Sarsgaard to sport a giant, alien-infected cranium. Fun for the whole family.
The Underdog: Buck
So The Horse Whisperer was not the manliest of films. This true-life doc, about Buck Brannaman, an almost mythically talented horse trainer, may change that. Brannaman, a victim of abuse who has dedicated his life to connecting with these mercurial animals, embodies an unlikely combination of masculinity and sensitivity. Come for the wild horses, stay for the emotional gravity.
The Verdict: Buck
The Obvious: Bad Teacher
We can see it now. Charles Bronson-style sneer, shotgun in hand, aviators in full effect: Cameron Diaz is The Bad Teacher. If only this raunch comedy were a revenge thriller set in a rundown high school. Instead Diaz is a trashy, foulmouthed greedy high school teacher who tries to scam her way out of work and into the pants of a new substitute played (scandal, ex-boyfriend) Justin Timberlake. Not bad, but still jonesing for Bronson.
The Underdog: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Remember when Conan O'Brien was champion of the marginalized? A real blue-collar $45 millionaire without a day job on a basic cable network? Those halcyon days of 2010—particularly O'Brien's well-received live road show—have been chronicled in this rambunctious documentary. Expect zany ginger jokes and beard growth.
The Verdict: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
The Obvious: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Michael Bay has come back for your soul. After the self-admitted disappointment of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen—you remember, the one where the evil robot ate a pyramid?—Bay is back, sans Megan Fox (who has been replaced as eye candy by Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), and ready to remind you that he is the granddaddy of summer tentpole movies.
The Underdog: Terri
Describing this movie is not going to do it justice. We'll try anyway: Terri is an overweight, lethargic, pajamas-clad teenager who develops a friendship with his principal. See, we told you. Not an easy sell. And yet, that principal is played by John C. Reilly. Any better? Oh whatever, this trailer looks great.
The Verdict: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The Obvious: Horrible Bosses
You all know them. You've all worked for them. You've all flipped the bird at them whilst their back was turned, only to catch you in the act and then you've had to pretend you were scratching your nose and...OK, just us. But still! This anthology-style story of three pals (Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman) and the awful people they report to at work (Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, respectively) has comedy gem written all over it.
The Underdog: Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
Queens representatives and all-around outstanding rap crew A Tribe Called Quest had a phoenix-like ascent in the oh-so-innocent late '80s/early '90s hip-hop landscape. But the group famously flamed out—this semi-controversial documentary, from super-fan/actor Michael Rappaport takes a look at the ups and downs, highs and Low End Theory of these American originals.
The Verdict: Another can't miss weekend.
The Obvious: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
This is the one where everything ends. There's gonna be wizardy. You may have heard of it.
The Underdog: Tabloid
When he's fascinated by his subject, Errol Morris is the most effective documentary filmmaker on the planet. Little is known about his new film other than the fact that it centers on Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming, a convicted rapist, and a supporter of cloning. So, you know, standard summer movie fare.
The Verdict: Tabloid
The Obvious: Captain America: The First Avenger
Chris Evans as...a superhero! Good that they're still making those! This one has been long-awaited as Ol' Cap is one of the most revered creations in the Marvel canon. Evans plays the hero in this origin story set during WWII. He will battle a red skulled Nazi named Red Skull who is too extreme, even for the Nazis. You can imagine what Captain America will have to do to a guy like that.
The Underdog: Another Earth
This odd science fiction film was a smash at Sundance earlier this year. We won't spoil, but, as the title infers, imagine a second version of the world we're living in, and what visiting it can do to your own future. Festival darling Brit Marling stars. You will see much more of her in the future—maybe get in on the ground floor.
The Verdict: Captain America: The First Avenger
The Obvious: Cowboys & Aliens
This looks like a joke—we have witnessed the laughter referred to in this story during the trailer. But it is not. Starring alpha-male action stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, and directed by Jon Favreau, this comic book adaptation is actually a lock-stock American Western that takes itself deathly serious. Particularly when aliens invade the West. There are no winks here. Just the High Noon-meets-Independence Day mash-up you've been begging for.
The Underdog: The Devil's Double
Dominic Cooper stars in this stylish and intriguing thriller as both Uday Hussein (yep, Saddam's evil son) and Latif Ahia, a man who so eerily resembled Uday that he's forced to be his full-time body double. Cooper is reportedly brilliant in this dual performance, though the Husseins are so 2007. Bin Laden cinema is the next wave.
The Verdict: Cowboys & Aliens, but this could go either way.
The Obvious: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
James Franco returns to big budget action here, though not as the ape you may be picturing. Franco plays a scientist in this reboot/prequel to the historic franchise. On the plus side: The apes look way better than in Tim Burton's much-maligned 2001 version. On the other hand: Was anyone howling for another Planet of the Apes movie?
The Underdog: Dirty Girl
This is a coming of age story about a teenage girl set in the 1980s. Normally not a GQ look. But in this case, the titular Dirty Girl is played by fast-rising British actress Juno Temple. The goofily kinetic Temple, who happens to be the daughter of renowned rock documentarian Julien Temple, was an electric (and often disrobing) presence in Gregg Araki's Kaboom and she's been tapped by Chris Nolan for 2012's The Dark Knight Rises. Catch her before she's orbited into the star machine.
The Verdict: Dirty Girl, in an upset.
The Obvious: The Help
Also, potentially an avoid-at-all-costs is this adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's memoir about being raised by nannies and caretakers in the '60s South. But then there's Emma Stone. You remember Ms. Stone, right?
The Underdog: 30 Minutes or Less
Another sneakily classic comedy in the making. Jesse Eisenberg re-teams with his Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer for this '80s-ish high-concept flick about a pizza delivery dude who is forced to rob a bank by a pair of gorilla-masked criminals (played with glee by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). Best bud Aziz Ansari is roped into the heist and shenanigans occur.
The Verdict: 30 Minutes or Less in a laugher.
The Obvious: Conan The Barbarian
Big man swing sword. Big man not Ahnuld.
The Underdog: The Missing Piece: The Truth About Vincenzo Peruggia and the Unthinkable Theft of the Mona Lisa
Call it Ocean's One. This insane true tale chronicles the story of the man who stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, holding it secretly, until ultimately returning it two years later. Filmmaker Joseph M Medeiros spent more than 30 years trying to find the truth about this fantastic story, becoming consumed in the process. You didn't know about this, don't lie.
The Verdict: The Missing Piece: The Truth About Vincenzo Peruggia and the Unthinkable Theft of the Mona Lisa
The Obvious: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Guillermo del Toro producing a monster movie is a no-brainer. And though we wish this film were his recently scotched adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, we'll settle for this good old-fashioned haunted house flick. Expect high-grade monster creations and a cheap scare or three.
The Underdog: A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy
Do we need to spell this one out any more? OK, a group of longtime friends in their thirties attempt to throw a massive end-of-summer orgy. Sounds simple enough. Unsurprisingly, the guy friends look like Jason Sudeikis, Martin Starr and Tyler Labine, while the women look like Lake Bell, Lucy Punch and Leslie Bibb. You know, just like your old high school clique.
The Verdict: This sort of depends on what sort of date you're on, really.
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