The good, the bad, the counterprogrammed,
the family fare and more
By Richard Davis
TFW Staff Writer
Sure, Hollywood has already peppered us with a few fun kernels — “Thor,” “Priest,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” — but this weekend the summertime popcorn battle begins in earnest as movies battle for your eyeballs in a salty, butter-drenched sea of big budget blockbusters, family fare and counterprogramming (also known as “chick flicks”) while bits of indie/low budget flicks hope they won’t go entirely unnoticed.
Here’s a smattering of what we have to look forward to — or in some cases dread — and a few predictions to go along with them:
“The Hangover Part II”
The boys are back indeed, though not in the town that made them famous — Las Vegas — as they head to Thailand for the wedding. Can the top R-rated comedy ever repeat the magic of the first one and then go on to close out the party-hard trilogy — yep, trilogy — with a successful final chapter? In Zach Galifianakis, we trust.
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
OK, another sequel, sure, but the first Dreamworks Animation adventure of title character, Po (Jack Black), was much beloved, and I know some adults who are looking forward to another go-round as much as the kids. This is the first big all-ages show of the season, and with school letting out or about to let out, this could net huge bank for Dreamworks (and hopefully huge entertainment for audiences).
“The Tree of Life”
This limited release from Fox Searchlight doesn’t feature aliens, dinosaurs, robots, comedic drug abuse, cartoon characters or a woman who finds a love that was right under her nose the whole time. Nope, this is a serious tale starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn about a character’s complex relationship with his father from childhood into adulthood.
“Tree of Life” won the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, but there’s a good chance it won’t screen in Northwest Arkansas. Director Terrence Malick (“Thin Red Line,” “New World”) tends to make visually stunning movies that sharply divide viewers into love-hate camps.
“X-Men: First Class”
Marvel’s mutant superheroes go back to the beginning — and hopefully back to not sucking — with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender squaring off as Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively.
Prediction: Good, if not great. If not, for the love of Jean Grey, please, just stop. Stop it.
J.J. Abrams doing a monster movie set in the late 1970s centered around kids shooting a super 8 movie who stumble onto a train crash? Color me giddy. Haters and doubters can go line up for “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.”
DC Comics hopes to bring another hero front and center to join Superman and Batman as big screen characters. Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, a test pilot who takes up the green, will-powered ring to become the only human in a group of universal supercops.
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
Giant robots. Michael Bay. Big explosions. Convoluted, senseless plot. Bland characters with no depth. Really, really blurry close-ups.
Prediction: Sigh, I’m such a sucker. I’ll still go see it and feel dirty afterwards.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
It’s been a long time coming, and I can’t wait for the end of it — not because I’m a Potter-hater but because I’ve enjoyed the ride so much, seeing the movies, the books and the characters grow up.
There is a rumor though that the last 10 minutes will actually be split into further movies with release dates to be determined. I kid!
“Captain America: The First Avenger”
Marvel Comics continues to build the coming storm for the future “Avengers” movie with this installment of star-spangled hero Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in a script co-written by Joss Whedon. And how can anyone not be excited by Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull?
Prediction: My fan boy sense is tingling.
“Cowboys & Aliens”
James Bond and Indiana Jones — OK, actually, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford — put aside their differences to battle aliens in the Old West? Do you need any other reason to be excited about this? How about Jon Favreau of “Iron Man” fame as the director? If you like big, fun action movies, here’s one that should deliver with gusto.
Prediction: Biggest movie of the year.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg are thankfully nowhere in sight this time but James Franco, Brian Cox and Andy Serkis are as we watch chimpanzee Caesar go from typical to highly intelligent.
Prediction: Really hard to read this one — could be good or really, really bad. Either way, I’m excited to give it a shot.
“Final Destination 5”
Five of these movies. Really? Will the addition of 3D compel me to watch this going-on-forever series or will I continue to not give a rat’s spleen since being mildly entertained by the first one?
Prediction: I’m a sucker soon parted from his money. Sigh.
A “Bad Santa”-type raunchy comedy set in high school or just bad? Hard to tell with this one. The writers, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, have “The Office” on their credits, but they also have “Year One.” Hope for the best, but I’ll expect the worst.
Prediction: Meh, until proven otherwise.
A zookeeper played by Kevin James gets help from animals who can talk. Also, he probably runs into object a lot and makes pratfalls. This will likely make a gazillion dollars. Meanwhile, I’ll be punching myself in the head with a marmoset.
“30 Minutes or Less”
A comedy with a bit of a dark premise — Jessie Eisenberg is a pizza delivery driver who gets strapped with explosives to force him to rob a bank. Seriously.
Oddly, some people actually tried this for real a few years back — though it turned out later the pizza driver was likely in on the plan. It also turned out very, very badly.
Three young women on an unexpected trip after one of the girls is erroneously IDed as a British heiress. Sisterhood of the Traveling Tiara?
“Friends with Benefits”
Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake in a comedy/romance from the director of “Easy A.” Should I already feel guilty for putting this in the … ahem, chick-flick category? Probably and I certainly hope so. This is one that looks like it could be fun for all genders.
Pixar and Disney take another spin with Lightning McQueen and friends in this sequel. Big fan of Pixar flicks — wept like a baby for “Up” — but somehow never managed to see the first one here. Is it a lack of interest in animated talking cars? Is it a distrust of anything even lightly associated with Larry “The Cable Guy”? Dunno, but somehow can’t get excited for this one. Still, should be fun for the whole family and do gangbusters at the box office.
Yeah. Smurfs. In CGI. Don’t care and fully expect even kids to hate it.
June 3 (limited)
Oliver wants to lose his virginity while also canning any chance of a relationship between his mother and one of her ex-lovers. The limited release is from Richard Ayoade, director of “The Mighty Boosh” and a cast member of British TV comedy “The IT Crowd.” Color me intrigued.
June 10 (limited)
OK, it’s a monster movie about actual trolls, but it’s a Norwegian film. Since it’s a foreign flick doesn’t that give it some indie street cred? Honestly, I don’t care — I just want to see it and hope “limited” turns into wide release.
July 22 (limited)
A fantastical premise, sure — the discovery of a duplicate of our blue ball of joy — but done with a cerebral bent as Brit Marling’s character wonders how life has turned out for the other “her” across the void of space.
“The Devil’s Double”
July 29 (limited)
A man becomes a body double for Uday Hussein — you know, son of Saddam.
Wow. Now there’s a premise with some balls to it. No idea how the actual movie will play, but the movie is worth checking out for the idea alone.