More Marvel madness, the final chapter of Harry Potter’s saga and close encounters by J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau – it’s time to beat the heat with this summer’s big screen offerings.
The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Wolf Pack is back! This follow up to the 2009 comedy that helped define the “Frat Pack” motif reunites director Todd Phillips (hopefully rebounding from his Due Date misstep) with Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha as they jet to Thailand just before Stu (Helms) get hitched. Stu may want a subdued pre-wedding brunch, but that’s not how the Wolf Pack rolls and, just like in Vegas, things get seriously out of hand.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Paramount)
Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan lend their voices to this continuation of the Panda series where newly minted Dragon Warrior Po (voiced by Jack Black) and his fellow kung fu masters the Furious Five (not to be confused with Fast Five or anything else with Vin Diesel) venture to China to battle a villain who seeks to destroy kung fu.
The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight)
Terrence Malick’s gloriously beautiful esoteric meditation on life, creation and stifling 1950s conformity drew boos and cheers during its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. Called everything from “brilliant” to “disjointed,” the film stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as father and son whose complicated relationship, shown in flashbacks, lead Penn to contemplate the origins of the universe and meaning of life.
Beginners (Focus Features)
This deeply personal tale from writer-director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) follows Oliver (Ewan McGregor) as he comes to grips with the knowledge that his 75-year-old father (Christopher Plummer) is both gay and dying of cancer.
Love, Wedding, Marriage (IFC)
Mandy Moore stars as a newlywed marriage counselor whose life is turned upside down after she meets her newest clients – her own parents – and discovers her new hubby (Twilight heartthrob Kellan Lutz) has a few relationship skeletons hiding in his closet. Also featuring “Gossip Girl”’s Jessica Szohr, the film is the directorial debut of actor Dermot Mulroney.
Submarine (The Weinstein Company)
Submarine is a movie about sex – wanting to have it and wanting to ensure other people don’t. Fifteen-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) needs two things: 1) to lose his virginity before his next birthday, and 2) to make sure his mother (Sally Hawkins) and her ex-lover (Paddy Considine) don’t rekindle the embers of their former flame. Interesting factoid: Ben Stiller executive produced this offbeat British comedy.
X-Men: First Class (Twentieth Century Fox)
After Wolverine’s rocky attempt at an X-Men origin story, producer-turned-director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass) goes even deeper into the origins, turning to the 1960s roots of the characters when Professor X was still Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto was known as Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). First Class follows the two young men, originally the best of friends, as they discover their powers and band together with fellow mutants to save the world from the greatest threat it has ever known.
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (Relativity)
Think of this as the girl’s answer to the Wimpy Kid series. The first of Megan McDonald’s hugely popular Judy Moody books gets the big-screen treatment in this tale of third-grader Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) who takes on a series of dares when her parents go out of town. Heather Graham co-stars.
Super 8 (Paramount)
On a mission to avoid spoilers before its release, all we need to know about Super 8 is that it’s directed by J.J. Abrams – a deity in our eyes responsible for some of our favorite entertainment of the last 15 years: “Lost,” Star Trek and “Felicity” –, stars Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler and is about aliens. Sold, American! Can we Fandango tickets for opening weekend yet?
The Art of Getting By (Fox Searchlight)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory breakout sensation Freddie Highmore stars as a friendless, fatalistic teenager who has made it all the way to his senior year of high school without ever doing any schoolwork. Things take a turn to rom-com town when he’s befriended by Sally (Emma Roberts), a popular girl who’s more complicated than her classmates might expect.
Green Lantern (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Ryan Reynolds straps into superhero spandex in this comic adaptation about a fighter pilot bestowed a mystical green ring that infuses him with otherworldly powers and makes him the first human to become part of an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe. Blake Lively serves as obligatory female eye candy.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Twentieth Century Fox)
After Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) inherits six penguins, his life changes forever: first with the transformation of his apartment into a winter wonderland and then as his professional life starts to implode.
Bad Teacher (Columbia)
Dumped by her sugar daddy, a foul-mouthed, hard partying schoolteacher (Cameron Diaz) decides her next conquest will be the school’s new teacher – played by none other than Diaz’s ex, Justin Timberlake – even if it means taking down a beloved colleague, the always hilarious Lucy Punch. Jason Segel also stars in this raunchy comedy from director Jake Kasdan, which earned a hard-R from the MPAA.
A Better Life (Summit)
An illegal immigrant working as a gardener in Los Angeles’ ritziest neighborhoods struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents. This real-life drama is a far cry from the fantasy realm set pieces, such as Twilight: New Moon and The Golden Compass, which have previously been director Chris Weitz’s bread and butter.
Cars 2 (Walt Disney)
One word: Pixar. That means the chance this animated offering won’t be awesome is slim to none. Directed by Pixar grand poobah John Lasseter and Brad Lewis, the film takes the beloved cars from the first go-’round on an international adventure as they compete against the world’s fastest cars in the Race of Champions, an event that goes from Japan to Germany, Italy, France and England. Sadly, don’t expect the return of Doc Hudson, voiced by dearly departed Paul Newman in the first film.
Trollhunter, a Nordic Cloverfield-meets-The Blair Witch Project, follows a group of Norwegian film students as they attempt to capture real-life trolls on tape (In other words, get ready for a lot of super shaky hand-held camera work.) after learning their existence has been covered up for years by a government conspiracy.
Larry Crowne (Universal)
Tom Hanks makes his directorial debut in this tale of a middle-aged man in crisis (Hanks) who reinvents himself by going back to college where he meets a teacher who has lost her passion for life (Julia Roberts). As much as we love Tom and believe in the magic of Julia, their previous teaming, Charlie Wilson’s War, was an exercise in patience. Adding insult to injury, the screenplay was written by Nia Vardalos BFF to Hank’s wife, Rita Wilson. We never understood the fervor around My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Vardalos’ most recent efforts, I Hate Valentine’s Day and My Life in Ruins, were so atrocious, she should be banned from typing for life. The deck may be stacked against him, but if anyone can pull out a winning Hail Mary, it’s Hanks, who, adorably, included his Bosom Buddy Peter Scolari in the cast.
Monte Carlo (Fox 2000)
Three friends (Selena Gomez with “Gossip Girl” co-stars Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy) vacationing in Paris are whisked away to Monte Carlo after one of the girls is mistaken for a British heiress. Previously scheduled for a February release, Fox seems to have saved this as summer blockbuster counter-programming against Transformers.
A coming-of-age comedy about the unlikely friendship between an overweight teen misfit, Terri (“Huge” star Jacob Wysocki), and his well-meaning vice principal (John C. Reilly).
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount)
Michael Bay, Shia LaBeouf and Optimus Prime reunite for another big ol’ boom boom payday. Not invited to the party? Megan Fox who has been replaced by Victoria’s Secret supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley following Fox’s foot-in-mouth tirade where she called Bay “a nazi.” Oops!
Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (Sony Classics)
Can I kick it? Yes, you can! Actor-turned-director Michael Rapaport debuted this documentary about the seminal rap group Tribe Called Quest at Sundance 2011. Following the group from their early years as friends with a dream to the inevitable rupture that came with fame to the foursome’s reunion for the 2008 Rock the Bells Tour, Tribe have shown waxing and waning support for the project despite the fact that it showcases them, rightfully, as visionary performers who changed the face of hip hop forever.
Horrible Bosses (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Three best friends, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day (Going the Distance) and Jason Sudeikis, decide to do the world a solid and murder their horrible bosses – played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston, who breaks away from her usual re-hashing of Rachel to play a hyper-horny, foul-mouthed dentist. Look for a brief cameo from everyone’s favorite pitchman, Isaiah Mustafa, aka: the Old Spice Guy.
Project Nim (Roadside Attractions)
An incredibly moving and engrossing documentary from James Marsh (Man on Wire, a fantastic, must-see movie) about the 1970s experiment with Nim, a chimpanzee who was raised and nurtured like a human child and taught to communicate with sign language.
Kevin James stars in this Dr. Doolittle-y romp about the animals at a zoo who decide to break their code of silence so they can help their lovable zookeeper (James) land the lady of his dreams. Wait a second! Didn’t James already make this movie with Will Smith?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Warner Bros. Pictures)
This is the end, my friends, the end. Ten years, eight movies and three actors who went through puberty in the public eye later (poor Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint), the Harry Potter series comes to an end as Harry and Voldemort have their final showdown.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Fox Searchlight)
Wayne Wang’s adaptation of Lisa See’s novel about the lifelong friendship between two girls who develop their own secret code as a way to contend with the rigid cultural norms imposed on women in 19th-century China.
Winnie the Pooh (Walt Disney)
Disney returns to their roots of hand-drawn animation and relatively unknown voice talent (hallelujah) as five classic stories from Hundred Acre Wood are woven together. Featuring songs by Zooey Deschanel.
Another Earth (Fox Searchlight)
By Mike Cahill, who directed, co-wrote, produced, filmed and edited it in true Robert Rodriguez fashion, Another Earth is about an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer who cross paths in a tragic accident the night a duplicate planet in our solar system is discovered.
Captain America: The First Avenger (Paramount)
Following the release of Thor earlier this year, the march toward an Avengers feature continues with Chris Evans as Captain America. Deemed unfit for military service during WWII, Steve Rogers (Evans, CGI-ed in a Benjamin Button way to appear smaller) volunteers for a top-secret research project that turns him into Captain America. His first mission is to defeat the Nazi propaganda effort headed by Johann Schmidt (Matrix baddie Hugo Weaving), aka the Red Skull. The trailer has inspired passionate reactions of both sides of the fence, and we can’t say we’re all that enthusiastic about the HGH-swollen look of Evans, but who can say no to a trip into the Marvel Universe?
Friends With Benefits (Screen Gems)
Remember when Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman starred in that awful movie No Strings Attached earlier this year? Well, this is that same film, but with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. However, because it’s directed by Will Gluck, who turned out last year’s excellent offering, Easy A, and thanks to the sizzling chemistry between his two stars (which some claim is the reason JT and Jessica Biel are no longer together), we actually have hope that this predictable rom-com about the perils of bang buddies could be really good.
Cowboys & Aliens (Universal)
Since Comic-Con last year, nerds everywhere have been Twitterpated for Jon Favreau’s sci-fi western, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde, about an Old West town where Apache Indians and western settlers lay aside their differences to battle aliens who crash-land in their city. With a screenplay by “Lost”’s Damon Lindelof and “Lost” alum-turned-“Hawaii Five-O” braintrust Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, how could it not be good?
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Warner Bros. Pictures)
After splitting from his wife, Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is taken in and shown the ways of wooing by Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling, tanned and toned as a golden Adonis, finally showing off some comedy chops). Also starring Marisa Tomei, Emma Stone and Julianne Moore, the recently released trailers have the perfect balance of laughter, silliness, heart and charm.
The Future (Roadside Attractions)
After a couple (Miranda July, who also wrote and directed, and Hamish Linklater) adopt a stray cat, their perspective on life changes radically. This second feature from performance artist-writer-singer-renaissance woman July, following Me and You and Everyone We Know, proves once again she’s an uncompromising and invigorating voice in independent film.
The Smurfs (Columbia)
Jumping from Saturday morning cartoon to the silver screen, the Smurfs start out on their home turf, a forest in Europe in the Middle Ages. But while running from an attack by their archenemy Gargamel (voiced by the brilliant Hank Azaria), some of the Smurfs stumble into a portal that transports them to present day Central Park. Lost in New York, they befriend several humans, including Neil Patrick Harris and “Glee” guidance counselor, Jayma Mays, to do battle with Gargamel. The blend of live-action and animation worries us a bit, but, hey, it worked for Enchanted.
Bellflower (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Woodrow (first-time director-star Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are preparing for the global apocalypse when their plans are temporarily derailed by Woodrow falling for Milly (Jessie Wiseman). But when that relationship sours, the two guys begin to live out a darker, more twisted violent fantasy. Pat Benatar was right; love really is a battlefield. Oscilloscope, owned by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, continues their track record of championing original, thought-provoking, unconventional fare.
The Change-Up (Universal)
In the grand tradition of ’80s body-swapping comedies, this one is about a family man (Jason Bateman) who switches bodies with his slacker best friend (Ryan Reynolds) so he can romance a co-worker (Olivia Wilde).
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Twentieth Century Fox)
The last time anyone touched the Planet of the Apes franchise, it turned into a debacle that Mark Wahlberg may never live down. Hopefully James Franco fares better this time around. He stars as a scientist researching a cure for Alzheimer’s by experimenting on a chimpanzee named Caesar (created through motion capture by Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings/Gollum fame) in present-day San Francisco. Little does he know, the development of animal intelligence sparks a war for supremacy between humans and apes.
30 Minutes or Less (Columbia)
Jesse Eisenberg reunites with his Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, in this film about two inexperienced criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) who kidnap a pizza delivery guy, Nick (Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest and tell him he has hours to rob a bank or he’ll explode. As the clock ticks down, Nick and his ex-best friend (Aziz Ansari) have to deal with the police, hired assassins and their own tumultuous relationship. While Eisenberg can do no wrong in our eyes, McBride has some ground to make up on the heels of Your Highness.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (FilmDistrict)
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, co-written by Matthew Robbins (who was responsible for two of our childhood favorites, *batteries not included and Close Encounters of the Third Kind), produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Troy Nixey, is a pedigreed remake of the 1973 made-for-TV horror film of the same name about a young girl (Bailee Madison) who moves in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) only to discover that her new home sweet home is crawling with tiny little monsters.
Final Destination 5 (Warner Bros. Pictures)
If you don’t know the formula by now, sigh, it goes a little something like this: A group of teenagers narrowly escape death so it comes looking for them, taking them out one at a time. The only reason to watch is to see what creative new ways (i.e.: roller coaster, mall escalator, tanning bed) fate claims the victim.
The Help (Walt Disney)
Set in 1962 Mississippi and based on the Oprah-approved best-selling novel, The Help follows aspiring writer Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) as she returns home after college and forges an unexpected friendship with her African-American maids Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer). If it’s more An Education and less The Secret Lives of Bees, The Help may be an early Oscar contender.
Fright Night (Walt Disney)
A remake of the 1985 horror classic, Fright Night is about a horror movie-obsessed teenager (Anton Yelchin, one of the most talented actors of his generation) who discovers his new neighbor (Colin Farrell, who’ll next star in the 2012 do-over of Total Recall) is a blood-sucking vampire (none of this sparkling-in-the-sunshine nonsense) responsible for a string of grizzly deaths.
Conan the Barbarian (Lionsgate)
“Baywatch: Hawaii” and “Game of Thrones” star and Lisa Bonet baby daddy Jason Momoa steps into the Governator’s shoes as the warrior Conan the Cimmerian who’s seeking to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village.
One Day (Focus Features)
Director Lone Scherfig follows up her impressive debut, An Education, with a romantic comedy adapted from the novel by David Nicholls. The film follows Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) who meet on the night of their college graduation: July 15, 1989. For the next two decades, every July 15th reveals how the two are faring in life and love.
Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (Dimension)
Umm, does anyone else remember that Spy Kids 3 had the subtitle “Game Over” and was meant to be the end of that trilogy? Robert Rodriguez reboots his successful family spy franchise for no discernible reason (except the payday) and sans any of the original spies, replacing them with Jessica Alba as a former spy called back into action to take down the Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven).
Apollo 18 (Dimension)
A found-footage-style movie about an abandoned NASA mission to the moon that reveals the existence of alien life, sorta like The Fourth Kind. The film’s release was pushed from April to the doldrums of August, which isn’t a great sign.
Our Idiot Brother (The Weinstein Company)
When their adorably bumbling brother (Paul Rudd) gets arrested for selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer (like the title says, he’s an idiot), his sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer) have their lives turned upside down as he couch surfs from one home to the next, leaving an unintentional wake of destruction behind him. Be prepared for a cameo by Steve Coogan’s penis in a brief full-frontal nude scene.
The Debt (Focus Features)
In 1965, three young Israeli Mossad agents were sent on a secret mission to capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Thirty years later, a man claiming to be that Nazi resurfaces in the Ukraine, forcing one of the former agents back undercover to seek out the truth. Starring Dame Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington, this film seriously sparked our interest when we discovered it was directed by Shakespeare in Love’s John Madden.
Produced and written by Luc Besson and directed by his protégé Olivier Megaton – who previously oversaw the weakest of the Transporter movies, Transporter 3 – they must have been super bummed when Hanna came out earlier this year since Colombiana seems to in the same wheelhouse. Zoe Saldana stars as girl trained by her uncle to be an elite assassin, who returns to her homeland of Colombia to exact revenge on the drug lord she saw execute her parents when she was 10 years old. Co-starring with Saldana is Michael Vartan, whom we loved back in the Never Been Kissed-“Alias” days but haven’t seen much of since.
Shark Night 3D (Relativity)
Seven college students fight to survive the weekend at a lake house on Louisiana’s Gulf when they fall prey to a string of … shark attacks? Yup! These sharks are fresh water, ya’ll, and all part of a greedy plan hatched by some wicked locals. Directed by David R. Ellis, the man who brought you Snakes on a Plane, the cast is a grab-bag of C-listers, from “American Idol”’s Katharine McPhee to WB cast-off Dustin Milligan.
Summer Movie Guide 2011
More Marvel madness, the final chapter of Harry Potter’s saga and close encounters by J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau – it’s time to beat the heat with this summer’s big screen offerings.