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Summer at the movies: Preview of July, August releases

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A legendary cowboy hero, 25-story-tall robots and a steely clawed mutant are among the characters we'll start seeing as the second half of the summer movie season gets underway Wednesday.

Opening in time for the extended Fourth of July weekend is "The Lone Ranger," an origins story of the iconic masked lawman which reteams "Pirates of the Caribbean" collaborators Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Playing the Lone Ranger is Armie Hammer, who was thrilled to team with Depp (who plays Tonto) for the first time.

"He makes it the easiest thing in the entire world," Hammer told me. "I was pleasantly surprised by how normal he was. He was so approachable and so much more easygoing than he would have to be, need to be or could be."

Interview: 'The Lone Ranger' star Armie Hammer

Also opening Wednesday is "Despicable Me 2," the long-anticipated sequel to the surprise 2010 blockbuster starring the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Benjamin Bratt; while the coming-of-age dramedy "The Way, Way Back" -- also starring Carell -- opens in limited release July 5 before expanding to more theaters.

Opening July 12 is "Pacific Rim," set in a not-so-distant future in which pilots operate monolithic robots to defeat deadly creatures emerging from the Pacific Ocean.

Charlie Hunnam turns in his bike from the FX series "Sons of Anarchy" to take the controls inside the head of one of the robots -- which director Guillermo del Toro had built to scale.

"I thought it was really cool until I had spent two or three days in it, when I said, 'Can we not just do this in CGI, people?'" Hunnam told me, laughing. "But no. It was an amazing invention that Guillermo came up with, and it looks fantastic on screen."

See the trailer for "Pacific Rim" below.

Taking on "Pacific Rim" July 12 are Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James and David Spade, who reprise their "Grown Ups" roles from 2010 for "Grown Ups 2."

In theaters July 19 is "The Conjuring," based on a true haunting tale experienced by famed "Amityville Horror" demonologist Ed Warren and his wife, psychic Lorraine Warren -- played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.

"The Warrens started doing this in the '60s -- a long, long time ago in terms of TV and technology -- where there were no shows about it and so little was known about it," Wilson told me. "In my opinion, I feel like they came at it from a very honest place of wanting to help people. They were devout Catholics who really felt this underbelly of evil and that if they could help people, then that was their service."

Also opening July 19 is "RED 2," which once again assembles retired and extremely dangerous undercover agents Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich; "Turbo," a computer-animated snail tale starring the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson and Maya Rudolph; and "R.I.P.D.," a supernatural cop thriller starring Reynolds and Jeff Bridges.

July 26 marks the return of Hugh Jackman in "The Wolverine," in which the famed "X-Men" movie mutant travels to Japan to encounter an enemy from the past; and the comedy "The To Do List," which stars Aubrey Plaza ("Parks & Recreation") as a high school graduate who makes a list of sex-related goals to reach before she starts college.

See the trailer for "The Wolverine" below.

The month at the movies wraps up July 31 with the sequel "The Smurfs 2," a live-action and computer animation hybrid that stars Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays in the human roles and the likes of Katy Perry and Christina Ricci voicing the Smurfs.

Following up his spectacular turn in "Flight," Denzel Washington is back in action Aug. 2 in "2 Guns," which stars Washington and Mark Wahlberg as a pair of undercover agents targeted by the mob.

Aug. 9 brings the release of "Elysium," the long-awaited follow-up film from "District 9" co-writer and director Neill Blomkamp. Starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, the film is set in 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made spaceship while the rest of the population lives on a decimated Earth.

Also out Aug. 9 is "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," the sequel to the 2010 hit "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," starring Logan Lerman once again in the title role; "Planes," a computer-animated Disney tale about a crop-dusting plane starring the voices of Dane Cook, Val Kilmer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Teri Hatcher; and "We're the Millers," a comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis as the heads of a fake family concocted to help pull off a drug deal.

In theaters Aug. 16 is "Kick Ass 2," the sequel to the smash 2010 superhero comedy starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz and Jim Carrey, who recently distanced himself from the film over its violent nature.

Also out Aug. 16 is "Paranoia," a dramatic thriller starring Harrison Ford, Chris Hemsworth, Amber Heard and Gary Oldman; "The Butler," a tale of a White House butler who served eight presidents featuring an all-star cast including Robin Williams, Jane Fonda, Forrest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Alan Rickman and Vanessa Redgrave; and "Jobs," a Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher in the title role.

The film releases on Aug. 23 include the action sci-fi comedy "The World's End," which reteams "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; and "Closed Circuit," a crime mystery starring Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana is set for Aug. 28.

British boy band One Direction wraps up the summer movie season Aug. 30 with the road documentary "One Direction: This is Us"; and also out Aug. 30 is "Getaway," an action thriller about a man forced to follow his plan to rescue his kidnapped wife, starring Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez and Jon Voight.

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he also reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11.” As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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