2011 Summer Movie Preview

2011 Summer Movie Preview

As temperatures climb so do expectations for the summer movie season. With only so many weekend opening slots available, studios keep pushing into May to get their movies out in front of the glut of pictures moving into theaters in June and July.

Sequels and super heroes are heavily featured, as well as the ubiquitous 3D, fast becoming the favored fare for summer. Here are some to look forward to:“Thor,” the Marvel super hero, makes his debut on May 6 with Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-throwing Viking warrior. A pre-Oscar Natalie Portman also appears in this Kenneth Branaugh-directed fan boy film. Peek-a-boo, Stan Lee, where are you?

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (3D) washes in on May 20 with a fourth outing for the Capt. Jack Sparrow franchise. Let’s hope Johnny Depp and crew don’t phone it in again as they did in the lame-o “At World’s End.” Penelope Cruz co-stars with Depp and Ian McShane as the dreaded Blackbeard and plenty of pirates and gypsies and zombies, oh my! Who knows if it’s any good, but I can tell you it will make scads of money — these always do, hence the sequels.

“Hangover” was the largest grossing R-rated comedy ever. Ever. Rumor has it the sequel was in the works before the first film was out of theaters. All the players including Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis will return for another raunchy buddy comedy in “Hangover 2” on May 27. Can they do it again? I don’t know, but I can tell you this involves an international destination, a monkey, they lose Doug again and Galifianakis shaves his head. Oh, yeah.

On June 3, the X-Men will dial up the way-back machine and take this latest installment, “X-Men: First Class” (3D) all the way to the very beginning when Prof. Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbinder) were still friends and colleagues working for the good of mutants and humans. So if you’re wondering how it all went wrong, this should tell us. January Jones appears, too. (Whose bright idea was that?)

The day will finally come June 15 when we say so long to Hogwarts in this last Harry Potter installment, “The Deathly Hallows, Part 2” (3D). When Part 1 debuted in November 2010, it was too late to add 3D, but fear not, it will be available for the highly anticipated face off between Harry and one whose name we dare not speak. Oh, let’s do it anyway — Lord Voldemort.

If the trailer is any indication, then “Green Lantern” (3D) could be one of the top-grossing films of the summer. Ryan Reynolds brings the DC Comics character to life on June 17 as the test pilot Hal Jordan chosen to join the legion of universe protectors. Blake Lively co-stars. From what I’ve seen so far, green looks great on Reynolds.

Clanking into theaters on June 24, “Transformers 3” (3D) with Shia LeBeouf starring and Michael Bay directing — again. Megan Fox is gone, but count on decibel-shattering, over-the-top, relentless stunts and special effects. It’s the Bay way.

Another Marvel super hero makes his debut on July 22 when “Captain America: the First Avenger” (3D) arrives. As scrawny Steve Rogers who becomes the super hero, Chris Evans was not the first choice of comic books fans, but he changed minds when he made an appearance at the recent Comic Con. The verdict is still out on this period piece set in World War II with Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell co-starring. Hugo Weaving takes the part of Red Skull, the bad guy.

Melding the sci-fi with western could be tricky, but this graphic novel adaptation has the most interesting premise of the summer. “Cowboys and Aliens” will be in theaters on July 29 sporting an impressive cast led by Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. Directed by Jon Favreau, the buzz is good for the genre-bending flick set in the 1800s.

Book lovers have two adaptations coming up: “Water for Elephants” opens shortly on April 22. “Twilight” hottie Robert Pattinson stars with Reese Witherspoon about a young man’s adventures in a traveling circus taken from the best seller. Also scheduled for Aug. 12 is “The Help” based on Kathryn Stockett’s hugely popular novel of southern life in the ’60s. The female-heavy cast includes Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney and is directed by Stockett’s friend Tate Taylor. This DreamWorks production will be his first feature.

And finally, Terrence Malick fans can mark their calendars for “The Tree of Life.” Not much is available about this production involving a father-son relationship that plays out into adulthood with existential questions about the very meaning of love and life. Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, who last worked with this revered actor’s director in his elegiac adaptation of “The Thin Red Line” (1998), star in what could be either a masterpiece or an incoherent flop. With Malick, it could actually be both.

Also scheduled for release in the next few months are a plethora of romantic comedies and family movies I didn’t have space to get to here. Mercifully, some will actually be in good ol’ 2D. Catch ‘em before they’re gone.