By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
As if the big summer movie season doesn’t kick off early enough, Fast Five (above) had the year’s biggest opening — and the splashiest April debut in movie history — to get things started a week earlier than expected.
Thor‘s thunderous opening and Bridesmaids’ brisk stroll down the aisle make it official: regardless of what the calendar or the school board or the thermometer says, it’s summertime at movie theatres across the land.
So between now and late August, what will moviegoers be looking forward to, flocking to, then fleeing from or returning to, on theatre screens (many of them offering 3-D visuals and a few even offering three-dimensional characters)?
As the year’s early box office slump disappears in the rear-view mirror, here are the Summer of 2011’s shiniest and most promising attractions, in the order of their release, each a presumed masterpiece until we actually see it, with the lineup exhibiting more than a touch of sequelitis.
Johnny Depp brings his popular Jack Sparrow character back for a fourth time, in search of the fabled fountain of youth and joined this time by Penelope Cruz, in the tongue-in-cheek, swashbuckling sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
The boisterous boys are back — that’s Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifinakis, and Justin Bartha — in the inevitable followup to the hugely successful 2009 blockbuster, this time set in Bangkok, in the comedy sequel, The Hangover 2.
The sequel parade continues as the second installment in the fast, fierce, and funny animated franchise brings back the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, and David Cross, to say nothing of all those energetic martial-arts moves, in Kung Fu Panda 2.
Now, something different: a prequel! Will wonders never cease.
This Marvel Comics precursor to the three X-Men flicks, featuring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, and Jennifer Lawrence, traces the origin of the eternal war with the Brotherhood in the fantasy thriller, X-Men: First Class.
In his 42nd film, writer-director Woody Allen puts Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, and Adrien Brody through their paces in a story about an engaged couple in the modern-day City of Light in the romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris.
Writer-director JJ Abrams, of Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek fame, tells the story of a group of teens in Ohio using a Super 8 camera to shoot a modest zombie movie who witness something otherworldly traveling by train from Area 51 in the science fiction thriller, Super 8.
Sean Penn and Brad Pitt co-star in a tale of a young boy’s journey from innocent childhood to disillusioned adulthood in a science fiction drama set in Texas in the 1950s from acclaimed, secretive writer-director Terence Malick, The Tree of Life.
Ryan Reynolds goes the superhero route, starring as test pilot Hal Jordan, who is granted otherworldly powers that he uses to keep the peace in an action-adventure thriller based on the DC Comic, Green Lantern.
Jim Carrey stars as a house painter and wannabe Arctic explorer with a dozen penguins that he organizes into a touring stage act in a family comedy based on the popular children’s book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
The animated vehicles vehicle that drove us to theatres five years ago heads overseas for the first-ever World Grand Prix, bringing back the voice of Owen Wilson, with Michael Caine providing the age and wisdom that the late Paul Newman contributed to the original, in the vroom-vroom sequel ‘toon, Cars 2.
Cameron Diaz stars as a recently single and decidedly naughty junior high school educator who woos the rich, handsome substitute teacher played by Justin Timberlake, while fighting off the romantic advances of gym teacher Jason Segel, in the faculty comedy, Bad Teacher.
Tom Hanks returns to the feature-film director’s chair and reunites on-screen with his Charlie Wilson’s War co-star, Julia Roberts, in a comedy-drama that he co-wrote with Nia Vardalos about a middle-aged guy downsized out of a job who goes back to college and falls for his public speaking professor in Larry Crowne.
In the wake of sci-fi thrillers Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen comes a second sequel, again starring Shia LaBeouf. This time the Autobots race against the Decepticons to reach a Cybertronian spacecraft on the Moon. If that last sentence makes any sense to you, you’re already a fan. If not, consider yourself warned about Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Kevin James stars as the overweight title character in a romantic comedy about the animals at a zoo who break their code of silence and reveal their secret — that they have the gift of gab — in order to help their shy human caretaker, who has left the zoo to gain the attention of the woman of his dreams, in Zookeeper.
Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman team up in this comedy about workers who decide that their overbearing employers are keeping them from getting what they want out of life, so they come up with a foolproof plan to kill them, in the workplace comedy, Horrible Bosses.
So here we are, ten years and eight movies later, as the boy wizard and his friends are about to exit Hogwarts Academy in the fantasy adventure based on the second half of the seventh book by JK Rowling, the first half of which was covered on-screen in Part 1 in November. It’s all-out war with the dreaded Lord Voldemort, as Harry attempts to find and destroy his secret to immortality, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
The “bear of very little brain” from Hundred Acre Wood gets the feature-film treatment, inspired by the AA Milne books, in this hand-drawn animated tale for the little ones, about a wild quest to save Christopher Robin in the first full-length feature about the title character in Winnie the Pooh.
Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake co-star in a romantic comedy about two friends who are too busy to find mates, so they decide to have a physically intimate relationship with no romance: lovers without the love. Yep, same plot as No Strings Attached, with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. This time it’s called Friends with Benefits.
Chris Evans stars as the red, white, and blue Marvel Comics character first unleashed in 1941. Initially named Steve Rogers, he’s declared unfit for US Army service during World War II. So he joins an experimental program that turns him into a muscular Nazi-fighting super-soldier, in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford co-star for Iron Man director Jon Favreau in a comedic hybrid of the western and the science fiction thriller, based on a graphic novel. Aliens from really far away show up in a town called Absolution, attacking from the sky, pitting a posse against a spaceship as former enemies band together to battle this mysterious force, in Cowboys & Aliens.
Steve Carell stars as a father whose life and relationship with his kids unravels as he deals with a marital crisis: his wife, Julianne Moore, has cheated on him and asked for a divorce. So he’s back in the world of singles for the first time in decades and his friends help him get in touch with his dating mojo, in the comedy, Crazy, Stupid, Love.
A live action/CGI-animated family fantasy set in the Middle Ages brings the tiny blue title characters to the big screen and then has them magically transported to present-day Central Park in New York City, where they take shelter and try to return home, in The Smurfs.
Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, and Leslie Mann co-star in a romantic romp set in Atlanta in which married, overworked lawyer Bateman accidentally switches bodies with his single, essentially unemployed and irresponsible best friend Reynolds, in the fantasy-comedy, The Change-Up.
James Franco stars in a reinvention of the Planet of the Apes series of science fiction thrillers in this origin story set in San Francisco, where genetic-engineering experiments lead to the development of apes’ intelligence, and thus a battle for supremacy, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
The movie version of the best-selling 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett about civil rights and the complex relationship between white women and their black maids in Mississippi in the 1960s features Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Allison Janney in the racial drama, The Help.
Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg stars as a pizza delivery driver who is kidnapped by low-level criminals Danny McBride and Nick Swardson and forced to rob a bank in under a half-hour with a bomb vest attached to his chest in the adventure comedy, 30 Minutes or Less.
Way back in 1982, before he was The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as the title character in the original version of this sword-and-sorcery thriller. This new version stars Jason Momoa in the lead role as the thief/pirate/warrior seeking revenge for his father’s death in the action-adventure fantasy, Conan the Barbarian.
Paul Rudd plays the title character and Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer his three sisters who take turns taking him in after he’s dumped by his girlfriend — and whose lives then begin to unravel — in the grown-sibling comedy, Our Idiot Brother.
And found footage reveals that a 1973 lunar mission was canceled by NASA as part of a government coverup in the wake of the discovery of parasitic lifeforms on the Moon that attacked the crew in the science fiction horror thriller, Apollo 18.
Enjoy your summer viewing!