Summer Movies 2011: Heroes, Sequels, and a Farewell to Harry, Part 1
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Usually, by this time each year, critics and movie lovers alike are counting down the minutes to the first weekend in May—the official start of Summer Blockbuster Season. Typically, after four months of bland dramas, uninspiring action, and lame comedies, we’re dying for some big-budget action and effects.

This year, though, that isn’t quite the case. Sure, we’ve seen a whole lot of mediocre movies so far this year, but we haven’t seen a whole lot of movies that were truly horrible. Not only that, but (surprise, surprise!) we’ve actually seen some good movies—smart thrillers like Source Code and Hanna, fun comedies like Paul and Arthur, and plenty of others. So, really, this year’s Summer Blockbuster Season isn’t as much of a big deal…or is it?

  
 
With movies like Source Code hitting theaters in April, you’ve got to wonder what kind of over-the-top, action-packed insanity is in store for May, June, July, and August. Fortunately, I’ve got your sneak peak at the summer’s biggest releases right here—from the first superhero movie to the last comedy of August, with plenty of thrills, chills, and teenage wizards in between. So let’s take a look at what’s heading to your favorite theater this summer.


MAY 6:

Every year, the summer kicks off with a single big-budget action movie. This year, that big-budget action movie is Thor, starring relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth (Liam’s big brother) as the hammer-wielding warrior. The story—about a supernatural hero who’s sent to Earth to prove himself worthy of his powers—is a strange mix of superhero and Norse mythology. But I look forward to seeing how director Kenneth Branagh pulls it off.

Meanwhile, for the girls, there are a couple of wedding comedies. Something Borrowed stars Ginnifer Goodwin as an everygirl whose lifelong crush is about to marry her best friend, played by Kate Hudson. And, in Jumping the Broom, Paula Patton stars as a bride whose Martha’s Vineyard wedding brings together two very different families.

Also opening in limited release this week: Mel Gibson stars in the quirky dramedy, The Beaver, Will Ferrell hosts a yard sale in Everything Must Go, Kat Dennings moves to a small town in Daydream Nation, Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox team up for the reportedly horrendous Passion Play, a journalist investigates a saint in There Be Dragons, and Rutger Hauer stars in the grindhouse-worthy Hobo With a Shotgun.

Kristin’s Pick: Far be it from me to pick against the first big blockbuster of the summer. Personally, I’m just intrigued to see Shakespearean director Branagh helming a big-budget action movie.


MAY 13:

Paul Bettany goes from playing the Archangel Michael in director Scott Charles Stewart’s Legion to playing a rogue priest (who’s hunting vampires) in Stewart’s follow-up, Priest.

Meanwhile, the girls get more wedding comedy in Bridesmaids, a raunchy, Judd Apatow-produced comedy about a single bakery owner (Kristen Wiig) who’s asked to be the maid of honor in her best friend’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding.

In limited release this week: Twilight’s Ashley Greene stars in the ‘80s drama Skateland and Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the dark drama Hesher, about a greasy loner living in who befriends a young boy.

Kristin’s Pick: Since I’m a diehard Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan, I’ve been dying to see Hesher since I first heard about it. The buzz is mixed, but I’m looking forward to it anyway.


MAY 20:

No one wants to go against Captain Jack Sparrow—so, this week, director Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the only wide release. Johnny Depp returns as everybody’s favorite crazy pirate in the fourth film in the franchise—this time, on a quest to find the fountain of youth.

In limited release this week: Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play an engaged duo in Woody Allen’s latest romcom, Midnight in Paris.

Kristin’s Pick: Though I’m looking forward to seeing both, I can’t go against Captain Jack, either—so the latest Pirates adventure gets my cautiously optimistic pick.


MAY 26:

The holiday weekend features two big sequels. In The Hangover Part II, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Bradley Cooper once again find themselves in all kinds of outrageous situations—this time, in Thailand. With all of the rumors, the casting craziness, and (of course) the outrageous expectations, it’ll be interesting to see if this one can live up to even a fraction of the hype.

Meanwhile, for the kids, there’s Kung Fu Panda 2, which finds Jack Black’s Po and his kung fu-fighting friends taking on a villain in China.

In limited release this week: Sean Penn and Brad Pitt star in director Terrence Malick’s long-awaited drama, The Tree of Life.

Kristin’s Pick: I can’t say that I’m as excited about The Hangover sequel as much as the rest of the world seems to be—so I’ll stick with Kung Fu Panda 2 instead.


JUNE 3:

It seems that everyone’s investigating their origins these days. In Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender star as a younger Professor Xavier and Magneto, joining together to save the planet.

In limited release this week: In Beginners, Christopher Plummer plays a terminally ill gay man who finally opens up to his son, played by Ewan McGregor. And Sally Hawkins and Craig Roberts star in the kooky coming-of-age comedy, Submarine.

Kristin’s Pick: As much as I love Plummer and McGregor, I’ll put my faith in Matthew Vaughn and keep my fingers crossed for a cool X-Men prequel.


JUNE 10:

Director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg team up for Super 8, a mysterious little movie about a group of aspiring young filmmakers in 1970s Ohio, who witness a train wreck while shooting a super 8 movie.

Also this week, Heather Graham and Jaleel White (yep—the one who played Steve Urkel) join in the kids’ comedy Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.

Kristin’s Pick: Though I’m definitely intrigued to see Steve Urkel as a teacher, this week’s pick is a no-brainer. Spielberg and Abrams? Count me in!


JUNE 17:

As if Thor and X-Men and a Spielberg/Abrams collaboration weren’t enough to make any fanboy’s summer, there’s also Green Lantern, the eagerly-anticipated, seriously-hyped thriller starring Ryan Reynolds as test pilot turned superhero Hal Jordan.

Also this week, Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, The Spiderwick Chronicles) directs Jim Carrey in the big-screen adaptation of the lovable kids’ classic, Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

In limited release: Little Freddie Highmore is all grown up—and starring opposite Emma Roberts in the teen drama The Art of Getting By.

Kristin’s Pick: As much as I loved Mr. Popper’s Penguins as a kid, I’ve got to go with Ryan Reynolds this week. Green Lantern is the movie to beat.


JUNE 24:

This week, the Pixar Animated Movie Machine returns with Cars 2. This time, Lightning participates in the Race of Champions—a race that takes him, Mater, and the rest of his crew around the world.

Or, for something a little less family-friendly, there’s Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz as a naughty teacher who tries to hook up with a co-worker (played by Diaz’s ex, Justin Timberlake). And, in director Chris Weitz’s A Better Life, an immigrant father tries to keep his son from the gangs in L.A.

Kristin’s Pick: Do you even have to ask? No matter how concerned people may be about Cars 2, I’m sure those geniuses at Pixar will pull it off.


Well, now that we’ve made it through the first two months of the Summer Blockbuster Season, you’ve probably had your fill of superheroes, pirates, big-name directors for a while. So let’s take a short break, shall we? Freshen up your Margarita, grill yourself up a burger, then check out my preview of the movies of July and August.

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