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The Flicks Teens Will Pick (Part 2)
2012's Summer Movies
An article from Jonathan McKee and David R. Smith at

Summer movies have already burst out of the gates at a record-breaking pace last weekend when Avengers pulled in over 200 million opening weekend. We were there, blogging about the premier, and providing you with our official review including discussion questions you can use!

The summer movie lineup is always way too big to compress into one article. So last issue of our Youth Culture Window article, we covered the first half of this summer’s biggest blockbusters, and in this portion of the 2-part article, we’ll preview the second half of the summer’s films that are sure to appeal to teens. Even though we’ve already checked superheroes, vampires, and lots and lots of aliens off the list in the first half of this article, we’ve still got much to cover. Here are the remaining blockbusters for 2012 in order of release date.

June 22Brave (Currently Unrated)
If you watch the Disney Channel as much as we do, you’ve definitely heard of this film. Millions saw the preview before Avengers last weekend, it’s beginning to get loads of airtime all over the place…mostly because this movie will be one of the most family-friendly flicks of the summer.

In the movie’s official trailer, we see the determined efforts of Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald from Deathly Hallows 2) as she throws off the ancient traditions of her land…which throws the kingdom of her father (Billy Connolly) into chaos. Armed with one simple wish and a bow, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to save her people from a mysterious and beastly curse.

That “other” movie about a girl with a bow already had rampant success at the box office this year; if those dollars are any indicator of this movie’s impact, Brave will score a bull’s-eye hit with young audiences.June 29G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Currently Unrated)
Neither Jonathan nor I have ever been a fan of G. I. Joe, even as kids. And this movie’s first film did nothing to change our minds. But when a buddy showed me (David) this official trailer a couple months back, it brought a smile to my face.

I mean, c’mon! Adding Bruce Willis and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to an already action-packed cast? Killer! And that dubstep version of The White Stripe’s Seven Nation Army is just plain sick!

It looks like the brains behind G. I. Joe have finally got their act together on what it takes to make a good movie: big names, a decent storyline, and CGI that actually looks realistic. Retaliation brings back most of the cast from the first film – even a couple that you thought were dead, and in this sequel, the Joes are up against their darkest threat: the complete eradication of the G.I. Joe program which allows Cobra to overthrow the US government.

Don’t plan anything at your youth ministries for this weekend. All of your Gen X volunteers will probably be busy.

July 3 The Amazing Spider Man (Currently Unrated)
This film is billing itself as “the untold story” behind Spiderman’s alter ego, Peter Parker…which kinda sounds like the angle filmmakers took with Gotham City’s hero in Batman Begins a few years back.

When the preview for this film rolled before Avengers, the theatre I (Jonathan) was sitting in shouted in excitement. Comic nerds and film buffs are looking forward to this version of the tale. This film is expected to more accurately parallel the comics…and that’s all the nerds needed to hear. But I must say, the effects look pretty amazing as well. The first-person “parkour-like” vantage point of Spidey’s moves in the official trailer make scaling the walls of New York City look pretty fun!

This longer official trailer provides a much better synopsis of the story line, and also reveals that The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield will play Parker/Spiderman while The Help’s Emma Stone will play Gwen Stacy. Dennis Leary, Martin Sheen, and Sally Field round out the cast, along with the inevitable cameo by Spiderman creator, Stan Lee, of course. Given all these factors, this movie will be huge.

But in spite of its popularity, in large part, it will still be reduced to the opening act for the most-anticipated film of 2012’s summer….

July 20The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13)
Yes, this preview also aired before Avengers, again, bringing huge cheers from the crowd. This movie has more stars than the sky! Christian Bale (Batman), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), and Michael Cain (Alfred) are back with director Christopher Nolan (at least) once more for the “epic conclusion” to this history-making trilogy. Oh yeah, Anne Hathaway (Catwoman), Liam Neeson (Al Ghul), and Tom Hardy (Bane) are going to crash the party, too.

The movie’s new official trailer shows exactly why theaters will be packed the weekend this releases. Heck, the very intense, six minute “prologue” that was shown to those attending special screenings of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was enough to get us jacked about this movie.

In short, the film will pit Batman against one of his most dangerous enemies ever, the sinister Bane, with the lives of millions hanging in the balance. And the presence of Al Ghul and Catwoman will provide just the right amount of “free radicals” to ensure viewers leave the theater tired…from sitting on the edge of their seats for 2.5 hours.

The only disappointment that this film brings, in my (Jonathan) humble opinion, is Anne Hathaway. Personally… I really don’t like what’s she’s been bringing to the screen lately. She almost seems like a post-Disney channel star (Britney, Christina) who’s trying so hard to prove that she’s just not that innocent anymore. Let’s pray that she can keep her clothes on for this film.

Aside from Hathaway… I expect great things.

There’s been talk about the absent marketing ploys for this film, but when your very last film in the franchise made so much history, do you really have to play by the same rules?

The size and scope of this film’s impact is why the NFL takes summers off.

July 27 The Watch (Currently Unrated)
This movie is the “all comedy, all the time” component for the summer. It’s got some of the funniest names in showbiz (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill) getting mixed up in the one thing that’s on the minds and hearts of every American: safer neighborhoods.

I gotta be honest: this movie’s teaser trailer had me rolling. “Don’t look at him. Listen to my words. And hear his face.” Just typing that is funny!

Unfortunately, the eerily similar, real life tragedy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin has caused 20th Century Fox, the company behind the film, to rethink the way they’re promoting this film. (The current trailer shows the neighborhood watchmen harassing a young man for attacking them with eggs. In the racially-charged upheaval currently attracting our country’s attention, a young African-American man was fatally shot by a neighborhood patrolman.) I’m sure that Fox will be able to devise some strategy that will allow them to swiftly side-step this ironic and sad problem.

This film offers movie-goers a major shift in movie genre, and some big name comedians, as well. As a result, plenty of kids will be keeping a close eye on The Watch.

August 3The Bourne Legacy (Currently Unrated)
From the start, this film warns viewers, “There was never just one.” It’s a reference to the mysterious and deadly persona of Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon) from the film’s earlier trilogy. But in this reboot, Jeremy Renner (who has already had a big summer due to his part in The Avengers) plays estranged assassin Aaron Cross whose life has been deeply impacted by Bourne’s decisions in the past.

Edward Norton (Byter) and Rachel Weisz (Marta) are along for the ride in this suspense-saturated sequel. The movie’s official trailer gives viewers a glimpse of the action and stunts that have become a staple of the first three films, but it doesn’t give much insight into the storyline.

No doubt, diehard Bourne fans will be watching closely to see story connections between this film and those of the past. But the use of Jeremy Renner in the lead role is genius; the guy has had quite a run over the past couple years: The Hurt Locker, The Town, MI:4, and The Avengers have shown he’s an explosive force on the movie screen. Plus, this twist just gives writers the (possible) opportunity to wed Renner with Damon in later films. Regardless, nobody will be disappointed by what they see in this one.

But speaking of disappointment….

Avoiding the Summertime Blues at the Box Office
Nobody likes to make a poor decision with a movie, and not just because they now cost an arm and a leg! No, as parents and youth workers, there is a much higher price to pay if we choose poorly when it comes to our movie selections.

Fortunately, this summer’s lineup is pretty clean, in fact, cleaner than in years past. Now that doesn’t mean everything is as pure as the driven snow – including those on this list! (By the way, here are a few “honorable mentions” releasing this summer that I didn’t include in this list but will still appeal to lots of teenagers you know: Prometheus, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, Total Recall, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Expendables 2, and Paranorman.)

To avoid disappointment – and mental scarring – do your homework before heading out to the theater with your kids. Fortunately, you’ve got some powerful resources at your disposal…for free!

  1. The Source for Youth Ministry’s MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Qs page. I love this resource! Our resident movie gurus will take the time to preview every single one of these films highlighted in this 2-part article on opening weekend and then offer their thoughts on the film’s entertainment value, appropriateness for teens, and even some ways to use the movie to springboard into discussions about biblical values. What else could you ask for?

  2. The Source for Youth Ministry’s MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS page. I really love this portion of our site, too! Here, we give you ready-to-use small group curriculum so you can use powerful scenes from movies to discuss powerful truth from God’s Word. The best part is, it’s searchable by movie title and topic. We’ll definitely be using some of these summer blockbusters in upcoming additions to this page, so check back often.

  3. Your church’s youth leader. OK, we don’t actually control this last one at The Source for Youth Ministry…but what we do know is that many, many youth workers watch movies to stay on top of what’s happening in youth culture. For instance, I personally received lots of phone calls, Facebook messages, and texts from parents in my church about the appropriateness and content of The Hunger Games just a few weeks ago. Trust me, as a youth worker, it was a blessing to hear from so many parents who were inquiring about this movie on behalf of their kids. I considered myself honored to be able to help them; more than likely, so will the youth worker(s) at your church. Use them…and then thank them.

Hopefully, a solid combination of these three tools will help you discern how to spend your summer’s weekends. In spite of our resources, the best tool for making choices is still you. Yep, you read that correctly. Do your own research about movies you’re thinking of watching, but then, go WITH your kids to those movies. Afterward, spend a little time talking about what you watched together. Don’t just label movies “good” or “bad.” Teach your kids to think “Christianly” about what they see (I just blogged about what this conversation looks like with current music). Those conversations will go a long, long ways toward helping young people grow in discernment.

Because, now more than ever, it’s crucial that we help teenagers make godly decisions about their entertainment choices.

Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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