When it comes to summer movies, I'm basically a counterprogramming queen. I'm the one who called out "The Help" as a hit when it was still in production, and the noise assault of the "Transformers" movies makes me bad crazy.
While I'm enough of a fan-girl that I can't ignore "Star Trek Into Darkness," you don't need me to guide you through every obvious Hollywood movie that inspires a McDonald's collectible cup. Here are my must-sees:
1. "Star Trek Into Darkness" (May 17): J.J. Abrams's "Star Trek" earned four stars out of four for me. It was perfection in a prequel reboot -- faithful to the fans, yet a satisfying story in and of itself. How can Abrams beat that? By bringing on my Brit-crush Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain, and not messing with the balance of sharp writing, keen casting, and fanboy fidelity that made his last "Trek" soar.
2. "I'm So Excited" (June 28): Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar ("Talk to Her") shakes loose in an antic comedy about a doomed airplane, destination Mexico City. The pilot, crew, and passengers accept the inevitable and have one last fling at life. With long-time collaborators Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz in the mix, it sounds like a flamboyantly gay "Airplane." And, yes, I'm so excited (sung to the Pointer Sisters tune) to see this one.
3. "Blackfish" (July 26): The terrifying "Jaws" of the summer of 2013 will make you think twice before returning to the pools of Sea World and cheering Shamu. Gabriela Cowperthwaite's eye-opening nonfiction feature is about the theme park's serial killer whale named Tilikum that slaughtered three humans, including experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40. The edge-of-your-seat documentary has it all: an oversize villain, chilling attack footage, corporate malfeasance, and girls in bikinis.
4. "You're Next" (Aug. 23): You think you know scary, and you can always tell the twist. Not this time! Wait until you see Adam Wingard's sophisticated low-budget horror movie about a home invasion by masked men during a family wedding anniversary celebration. Slated for that "Sixth Sense," end-of-summer break-out spot, this is the movie you will be screaming about come Labor Day.
5. "The World's End" (Aug. 23): Give me some Simon Pegg-Nick Frost love. Toss in director and co-writer Edgar Wright ("Hot Fuzz," "Shaun of the Dead"), and I'm expecting comedy bliss. I can't wait to see Pegg (who doubles as Scotty in "Star Trek Into Darkness") and Frost do the apocalypse trope in a movie about pals re-creating an epic pub crawl from their past who suddenly become the world's only hope for a future. I'm so there!
Watch the theatrical trailer for 'Star Trek Into Darkness':