The 2011 summer film preview
“Summer begins!” declares the marketing for Fast Five — and who are we to argue with Vin Diesel?
Although the Fast and Furious sequel opens Friday — April 29, in case you didn’t have a calendar — that’s not stopping Hollywood from waving the flag on the summer movie-going season.
Still, if studios can’t quite decide when summer begins — it used to be the U.S. Memorial Day weekend — they know what’s at stake.
So far 2011’s box office is lagging behind the year prior, and the industry is counting on its summertime line-up of sequels and superheroes to provide a much-needed boost to its bottom line.
From adorable animals and cheating spouses to blood-sucking neighbours and soul-sucking employers, here’s what else moviegoers can expect for the next four months. As always, release dates are tentative.
Who: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo
When: May 6
What: Arrogant Thor (Hemsworth) is exiled from the kingdom of Asgard to Earth, where he has to defend both worlds from his sinister sibling, Loki (Hiddleston).
Why: Marvel (and new owner Disney) can’t rely on Robert Downey Jr. forever.
How will it fare: Depends on whether or not Marvel can convince audiences its god of thunder is as cool as Iron Man.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Who: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane and Geoffrey Rush
When: May 20
What: Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley have walked the plank, meaning Depp’s Capt. Jack Sparrow has new fiends and foes to contend with. Among them: Cruz as a con artist from his past; McShane as the nefarious Blackbeard; and Rush, back as Captain Barbossa.
Why: The last Pirates film grossed $960 million worldwide. Whatever they’re paying Depp, it’s still a bargain.
How will it fare: Despite a new director (Chicago’s Rob Marshall), it’s still a pirate’s life — and Disney already has plans for more Sparrow-centric sequels. Plus, it’s in 3D, meaning higher ticket prices.
The Hangover Part II
Who: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Tyson, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong
When: May 26
What: The Wolf Pack — Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms), Alan (Galifianakis) and Doug (Bartha) — travel to Thailand for Stu’s nuptials where a pre-wedding brunch goes off the rails. In the aftermath, they try to piece things together and locate Stu’s missing future brother-in-law.
Why: The original is one of the highest grossing comedies in history.
How will it fare: A massive opening is guaranteed, but can it match the surprise of its predecessor? And there are signs of trouble. First Mel Gibson was cast in a cameo as a tattoo artist, then he was replaced by Liam Neeson, and now he’s been cut too. Is there time to reshoot it (again) with Charlie Sheen?
Kung Fu Panda 2
Who: Jack Black, Gary Oldman, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen
When: May 27
What: Po the Panda (Black) has mastered kung fu. But now he has to protect it from a new arch-villain (Oldman).
Why: The original grossed $630 million worldwide and redeemed Black (sort of).
How will it fare: Better than Gulliver’s Travels.
X-Men First Class
Who: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon and January Jones
When: June 3
What: Future frenemies Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender) battle a mutual foe (Bacon) during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Why: Because a prequel might be able to restore the X-franchise after the lacklustre X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
How will it fare: The only proven commodity among this summer’s superhero adventures. The trailer scored huge online, showing there’s still plenty of interest in Marvel’s mutants.
Who: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler
When: June 11
What: E.T. meets Cloverfield. In the 1970s, a train derailment in small-town U.S.A. unleashes mysterious cargo from Area 51. Writer-director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) intends this as a homage to Steven Spielberg’s classic films from that era. Spielberg, not coincidentally, is a producer. The title refers to the “Super 8” camera the kids in the story are shooting a home-made movie with.
Why: Because Abrams and Spielberg can do whatever they want.
How will it fare: As Inception proved, audiences actually appreciate originality.
Who: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Saarsgard, Mark Strong
When: June 22
What: Star Wars meets Superman. Air Force test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) becomes an intergalactic superhero, armed with an energy ring.
Why: Because Warner Bros., which owns DC Comics, wants to capitalize on its characters as well as Marvel has.
How will it fare: A giant green question mark. Director Martin Campbell has launched two James Bonds (Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale) but he’s never helmed a CG-heavy production like this before. The first trailer underwhelmed, but more recent footage marked a significant uptick.
Who: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine
When: June 24
What: While participating in the world grand prix, Lightning McQueen (Wilson) and tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) are recruited to be spies.
Why: 2006’s Cars made $460 million worldwide.
How will it fare: As a brand, Pixar is unbeatable and the sequel, with its emphasis on action and humour, should perform just as well as the original. Still, did anyone want a Cars sequel?
Transformers: The Dark of the Moon
Who: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Patrick Dempsey, Tyrese Gibson, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand
When: July 1
What: Giant freaking robots, that’s what.
Why: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen earned more than $800 million worldwide.
How will it fare: LaBeouf and director Michael Bay have admitted the last sequel was crap. Imagine how much loot they’ll rake in if this one is just OK.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part II
Who: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman
When: July 15
What: The teen wizard battles Lord Voldemort in the second half of the two-part adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s climatic book.
Why: Potter is the highest grossing film franchise ever.
How will it fare: A lot better than the studio executives who have to figure out what they’re going to do without future Potter movies to pay the bills.
Winnie the Pooh
Who: Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, John Cleese, Bud Luckey
When: July 15
What: A traditionally animated tale based on the enduring honey-loving bruin.
Why: Because the world needs a Disney movie that doesn’t feature the voice of Larry the Cable Guy.
How will it fare: Winnie the Pooh is beloved, but, as Eeyore would point out, times are tough for 2D cartoons.
Cowboys & Aliens
Who: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell
When: July 29
What: Probably safe to assume there’ll be both cowboys and aliens.
Why: Because no one had thought to combine westerns and extraterrestrial invasion movies before.
How will it fare: Hopefully better than Wild, Wild West. The casting of Craig and Ford is irresistible. And director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Zathura) knows how to marry story with special effects.
Crazy Stupid Love
Who: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone
When: July 29
What: Newly divorced Steve Carell is taken under the wing of perpetual player Ryan Gosling. But their best-laid plans are soon in ruins. Carell, for one, still loves his wife, Julianne Moore. And Gosling meets his match in Emma Stone, who refuses to fall for his eight-pack.
Why: Because sometimes adults go to movies.
How will it fare: Could just be the hit Carell needs, post-The Office. Ditto Gosling, who hasn’t strayed from the indie world for awhile. The trailer looks heartfelt and hilarious without being either syrupy or stupid.
Who: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Katy Perry, George Lopez
When: July 29
What: The Smurfs are transported to New York City, where they befriend a human played by Harris.
Why: Because if Alvin and the Chipmunks can gross more than $700 million worldwide, there must be room for blue creatures who are three apples high, right?
How will it fare: Smurfed if I know. As Yogi Bear demonstrated, just because Alvin has done spectacularly well doesn’t mean every live-action/CG-animated movie based on an old television cartoon is a sure thing.
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Who: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton and Andy Serkis
When: Aug. 5
What: Ever wonder how primates took over the world? Experiments to increase brain capacity, led by Franco’s misguided scientist.
Why: Because The Planet of the Apes, despite that dismal Tim Burton outing in 2001, remains one of the most venerable brand-names in Hollywood history. And Peter Jackson’s WETA — the special effects house behind Lord of the Rings and Avatar — doesn’t need those damn dirty rubber masks.
How will it fare: Footage of the CGI Caesar (performed by Serkis), the ape who leads a revolt against humanity, is stunning. District 9 proved there’s an audience for smart, socially provocative science-fiction.
ALSO COMING OUT
Dwayne Johnson joins the franchise as a federal agent hunting Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Kind of like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive if Tommy Lee Jones used to be a wrestler. (April 29)
Teenagers at a crossroad during a climatic high school dance. (April 29)
Adapted from the chick-lit novel, Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin are best friends caught between the same guy. (May 6)
Mel Gibson is a man so troubled he has to communicate through a beaver hand puppet. As we all know, nobody does unhinged psycho as convincingly as Gibson, so it’s no surprise his full-bore meltdown performance is said to be exceptional. (May 6, limited)
The Bang Bang Club
Combat photographers chronicle the last days of Apartheid. Ryan Phillippe, Malin Akerman and Taylor Kitsch star. (May 6, limited)
Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne fight for the right to plan their friend’s wedding party. (May 13)
A married couple confronts temptation. With Sam Worthington and Keira Knightley. (May 20, limited)
The First Grader
Based on a true story. An 84-year-old Kenyan villager attends school for the first time. (May 20 limited)
Canadian filmmaker Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky) directs Emily Hampshire, Jay Baruchel and Scott Speedman in this dark comic thriller about a series of homicides in Montreal. (June 3)
Tree of Life
Brad Pitt and Sean Penn headline the latest lyrical drama from revered director Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line). (June 10, limited)
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Definitely not a bummer: How much cash the Diary of a Wimpy Kid films have raked in. The folks behind third-grader Judy Moody’s first outing are undoubtedly hoping for a similar kids-driven windfall. (June 10)
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
In this family comedy, Jim Carrey stars as Thomas Popper, a flinty business mogul whose life is upended by the arrival of six unruly — but lovable — penguins. (June 17)
Ewan McGregor discovers his father (Christopher Plummer) 1) has cancer and is 2) gay. (June 17)
Cameron Diaz’s profanity-prone teacher decides she needs breast implants to woo the school’s new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake). When she learns the teacher with the highest class average gets a bonus, she finds herself competing with a perky nemesis. (June 24)
Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts are teenage kindred spirits. (June)
Tom Hanks, who also directed, stars as the title character, a middle-aged man who goes back to school after losing his job. Julia Roberts is the community college teacher he falls for. (July 1)
A girl vacationing in Europe is mistaken for a princess. Selena Gomez and Leighton Meester star. (July 1)
Office Space meets Strangers on a Train. Friends conspire to murder their bosses. The ensemble includes Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Colin Farrell. (July 8)
Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway are friends whose relationship is charted over the course of two decades in the adaptation of the bestseller. (July 8)
The animal population of a zoo decide to help their kindly zookeeper (Kevin James) win over the woman of his dreams (Rosario Dawson). Because there’s nothing a caged animal identifies with more than a lost cause. (July 8)
Friends with Benefits
What would No Strings Attached have been like with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis? We’re all about to find out. (July 22)
Captain America: The First Avenger
During the Second World War, weakling Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is transformed into a star-spangled do-gooder, then pitted against his Nazi counterpart, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Can a hero even more square than Superman overcome comic-book movie fatigue? (July 22)
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Girls in 19th century China forge a friendship while in present-day Shanghai their descendents have struggles of their own. (July)
Sundance entry about an astrophysics student whose obsession with a newly discovered planet leads to tragedy. (July)
The Change Up
It’s not a remake of a 1980s comedy; it just feels that way. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman swap bodies. From the director of Wedding Crashers. (Aug. 5)
The Devil’s Double
Based on the actual account of the ordinary man (Dominic Cooper) who was forced to be the double of Saddam Hussein’s son. (Aug. 5, limited)
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
When a young girl (Bailee Madison) moves into a new home with her father (Guy Pearce) and new girlfriend (Katie Holmes), she learns they are not alone. Guillermo del Toro produces. (Aug. 12)
30 Minutes or Less
A pizza delivery driver is forced to rob a bank in 30 minutes. Or else. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) reunites with the director of Zombieland. (Aug. 12)
Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer star as three women in 1960s Mississippi who become unlikely friends. Based on the bestseller. (Aug. 12)
Conan the Barbarian
By Crom! Hoping to avoid hearing the lamentations of fans and critics is Jason Momoa (Stargate: Atlantis), replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Cimmerian warrior in this remake of the 1982 cult classic. (Aug. 19)
Before there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was 1985’s Fright Night. In this redo, Anton Yelchin is a high school senior who learns his seemingly cool next-door neighbour (Colin Farrell) is a vampire. He enlists a Vegas magician (David Tennant) to help him stake the undead smooth-talker. (Aug. 19)
Spy Kids 4
All the Time in the World:
Jessica Alba and Jeremy Piven join the series for this instalment, again directed by Robert Rodriguez. (Aug. 19)
Final Destination 5 3D
Do you really need a plot synopsis? (Aug. 26)
Our Idiot Brother
Free spirit Paul Rudd crashes the lives of his three sisters — Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Elizabeth Banks — in this indie comedy. (Aug. 26)
The Departed meets The Bodyguard. Ex-con Colin Farrell is recruited to protect reclusive actress Keira Knightley. (August)
Rachel Weisz stars as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia faced with widespread corruption in the rebuilding of the country. Inspired by actual events. (August)
The 2011 summer film preview