At movie theaters, summer always starts early and with the promise of outsized action, outlandish laughs and maybe even a serious drama or two.
But the blockbuster potential seems supersized for 2011, which may well go down as one of the biggest summers in cinematic
“The Boy Who Lived” will face off for the last time against the forces of evil in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”; Captain Jack Sparrow will sail and stumble again in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”; the wildly popular animated adventures “Cars” and “Kung Fu Panda” both will set out on the sequel path; and superheroes with a variety of powers and potential will vie for the chance to win moviegoers' hearts and cash on the way to defeating evil.
If that weren't enough action for any one season, Michael Bay's third big-screen, big-robots adventure “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” will bring more bangs than a hundred fireworks displays to the Fourth of July holiday. But the three-quel also comes with promises from Bay and the cast to bring more humanity to the franchise than did 2009's “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which did boffo box office despite a story critics felt was less than meets the eye.
Bay “was very mindful in this third one to make sure that it was really clear and concise and more human,” star Josh Duhamel said in a recent phone
Duhamel returns for the third time as Lt. Col. William Lennox in “Dark of the Moon.”
As we lay out the action-packed options for this cinematic summer, remember that studios love to shift release dates, so double-check local listings before heading to the theater.
Marvel Studios throws down the hammer with “Thor,” director Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the well-loved comic inspired by Norse mythology. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the oft-arrogant son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is cast from Asgard to Earth to learn humility. Natalie Portman co-stars as love interest Jane Foster; Tom Hiddleston is the god of mischief, Loki, Thor's half-brother.
Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, John Krasinski and Colin Egglesfield provide the traditional start-of-summer blockbuster-counterprogramming in the romantic comedy “Something Borrowed.”
In “Jumping the Broom,” an engaged couple (Paula Patton and Laz Alonso) bring their divergent families to Martha's Vineyard for their wedding, promising plenty of culture-clash drama.
The zombie apocalypse reaches Berlin in the low-budget German horror film “Rammbock.”
Actor Ryan Merriman, a Choctaw native, stars as Jon Abbate, a Wake Forest University football player who led his team to its most successful season in school history after the death of his teenage brother in the fact-based inspirational sports drama “The 5th Quarter.” Merriman will attend select screenings and sign autographs May 13-15 at AMC Quail Springs 24, 2501 W Memorial Blvd.
Producer Judd Apatow mines matrimonial pomp and circumstance for laughs with “Bridesmaids,” starring “Saturday Night Live” standouts Maya Rudolph as a bride-to-be and Kristen Wiig as her cash-strapped and lovelorn maid of honor leading a ragtag group of attendants (Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper) through all manner of wedding-related wackiness.
With vampires still white-hot (you know, for coldhearted bloodsuckers), Paul Bettany plays a cleric who defies church law to track down the undead baddies who kidnapped his niece in “Priest.”
Set in a Dutch village occupied by the Nazis near the end of World War II, “Winter in Wartime” follows a rebellious teenager (Martijn Lakemeier) who gets involved with the Resistance when he aids a British pilot (Jamie Campbell Bower) who has crashed in the nearby woods.
Johnny Depp's flamboyant Captain Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush's formidable Barbossa sail into a fourth high-seas adventure in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” but this time, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) aren't swashing buckles alongside them. Rather, Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane try out the pirate's life with an expedition to find the fabled Fountain of Youth.
Set in a small Texas town in the early 1980s, the coming-of-age tale “Skate
No lessons were learned in the making of this movie: Todd Phillips' “The Hangover Part II” centers on Stu (Ed Helms) getting married in Thailand, which seems like a perfect place for things to go completely awry for Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Justin Bartha. Nick Cassavetes becomes the most unlikely third choice in recent cameo history in the bit part of an expatriate tattoo artist that was originally meant for Mel Gibson and then for Liam Neeson.
Prepare for paws of fury when “Kung Fu Panda 2” kicks down the doors of the cineplex. Joining Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Angelina Jolie and others from the 2008 original are Gary Oldman as the dastardly and particularly pale peacock Lord Shen, Victor Garber as Master Thundering Rhino and Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Croc.
Embattled actor Mel Gibson returns to the big screen opposite Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster in the drama “The Beaver,” playing a troubled husband and executive who makes a beaver hand-puppet his sole means of communication. Foster also directs this oddball
Flamboyant documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) takes on branding, advertising and product placement with his latest project, “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”
For “X-Men: First Class,” director Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass”) takes the long-running comic saga back in time to the early days of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and schools the first class of X-Men.
This year's best foreign film Oscar winner, the Danish drama “In a Better World” focuses on two troubled boys who form a fast friendship and together plot a dangerous act of revenge that has potentially tragic consequences.
Writer/director J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”) teams with producer Steven Spielberg (“E.T.,” et al) for the thriller “Super 8,” about a group of friends in 1979 who witness a mysterious train crash and then begin to notice strange occurrences around their town.
Megan McDonald's popular children's book series makes its movie debut in “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer,” with the titular third-grader (Jordana Beatty) devising a series of zany dares to enliven her summer and getting her cool Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) and younger brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) in on the fun.
Ryan Reynolds already has joined forces with Marvel Comics, playing Deadpool in 2009's “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” But he now becomes DC Comics' emerald gladiator in “Green Lantern,” playing pilot Hal Jordan, who is given a green ring of great power by a dying alien.
Jim Carrey, Angela Lansbury and Carla Gugino star in the big-screen adaptation of the beloved 1939 Newberry Honor Book “Mr. Popper's Penguins,” about a family man who suddenly finds himself caring for a flock of flightless waterfowl.
After posting the top-grossing and best-reviewed film of 2010 with “Toy Story 3,” who could blame the animation masterminds at Disney/Pixar for taking another trip down sequel lane with “Cars 2.” The follow-up to their 2006 hit will send racer Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and his tow truck buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) on an international adventure pitting them against the world's fastest cars.
In the comedy “Bad Teacher,” Cameron Diaz plays a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking junior high (but often-high) instructor who sets out to romance a rich substitute (Justin Timberlake) while fending off the advances of the school's sardonic gym teacher (Jason Segel). But her mission to land a new sugar daddy puts her at odds with a popular colleague (Lucy Punch).
Director Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”) leaves behind the book-based fantasy worlds he explored with his most recent projects, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” and “The Golden Compass,” and returns to real-world drama with the immigrant tale “A Better Life.”
Director of bombast Michael Bay has swapped Megan Fox for new model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Let's hope the script also has been given the promised overhaul for Shia La
Sure, we've heard amiable Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks voicing Sheriff Woody in “Toy Story 3” and narrating his celebrated miniseries “The Pacific.” But we finally get to see him back on the big screen, opposite Julia Roberts no less, in the timely drama “Larry Crowne,” about a middle-aged man who loses his job and then reinvents himself by going back to college.
In “Monte Carlo,” three pretty young things (Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy) vacationing in Paris are whisked away to the titular resort town after one of them is mistaken for a British heiress.
On the questionable advice of a untrustworthy ex-con (Jamie Foxx), three pals (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day) plot to get rid of their hateful employers (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston) in “Horrible
Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Cher, Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler and Sylvester Stallone star in the comedy “Zoo
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) race to find the remaining Horcruxes vital to defeating the vicious Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Their mission leads them back for an epic battle at their alma mater, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” the eighth and final film based on J.K. Rowling's beloved book series.
Disney returns to the Hundred Acre Wood for “Winnie the Pooh,” using hand-drawn animation to adapt five of A.A. Milnes' tales, centering the film around the “silly ol' bear's” efforts to save Christopher Robin from an imagined evildoer.
Chris Evans, who lit up the “Fantastic Four” films as the Human Torch, dons the red, white and blue to play “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Based on the comic-book character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a patriotic young man in the early 1940s who is rated 4F and thus ineligible to serve. Aiming to aid his country, he volunteers for a top-secret experiment that turns him into the peak human being. As Captain America, Rogers fights the Nazis and defends the American dream.
The premise of “Friends With Benefits” has become outrageously popular, but there's still promise since this romantic comedy is directed by Will Gluck (“Easy A”) and stars Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as busy professionals who have no time for relationships but need a little ... togetherness.
Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig initially square off but then team to lead a posse trying to save the Wild West from space invaders in “Cowboys & Aliens.” “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau helms the movie version of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's Platinum Studios comic book, which also stars Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell and Paul Dano.
Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Emma Stone and Kevin Bacon star in the comedic drama “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” about a strait-laced guy (Carell) whose seemingly perfect life collapses when his cheating wife (Moore) wants a divorce.
No, it isn't 1981, and yet, yes, there are little blue creatures running amok: Director Raja Gosnell (“Scooby-Doo,” “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”) gives the long-running cartoon series “The Smurfs” a live-action/computer-animated movie treatment with Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria and Jayma Mays in the live-action roles and Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Alan Cumming and more providing voices for the cobalt-colored critters.
In “Dirty Girl,” Danielle is labeled the “dirty girl of Norman High” in 1987 Oklahoma, and when she gets banished to special ed, she meets a shy, friendless, closeted gay boy. California, here they come, with the mismatched misfits played by Juno Temple and Jeremy Dozier setting off on a road trip. (Although the story is partially set in Norman, according to IMDB, it was all filmed in California.)
Another familiar sci-fi franchise gets a reboot with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” starring James Franco as a scientist whose experiments on a chimpanzee are meant to bring about a cure for Alzheimer's disease but instead lead to a war for supremacy between humans and apes. Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox and Tom Felton co-star in the origin tale.
In “The Change-Up,” a family man (Jason Bateman) swaps bodies with his slacker best buddy (Ryan Reynolds) in an attempt to woo an attractive co-worker (Olivia Wilde).
Fresh from “The Social Network,” Jesse Eisenberg reteams with his “Zombieland” director, Ruben Fleischer, for “30 Minutes or Less,” a comedy about a pizza delivery man who is kidnapped by two obnoxious criminals (Nick Swardson and Danny McBride) and forced to pull a bank heist with his best buddy (Aziz Ansari).
Set in 1962, “The Help” tells the story of an aspiring writer (Emma Stone) who returns home after college and strikes up unexpected friendships with two black maids (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer). The period drama is based on Kathryn Stockett's best-seller and co-stars Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Allison Janney and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell and Arlen Escarpeta play the latest group of teens trying to dodge Death in the sequel “Final Destination 5.”
Writer-director Robert Rodriguez expands his family-friendly adventure franchise with “Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World,” starring Jessica Alba as a full-time mom and retired operative who must return to the spy game to defeat a wicked villain known as the Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven).
Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse sink their collective teeth into a remake of 1985's vampire horror-comedy “Fright Night.”
Robert E. Howard's muscle-bound hero gets another big-screen incarnation in “Conan the Barbarian,” with Jason Momoa (TV's “Game of Thrones” and “Stargate: Atlantis”) playing the titular warrior as he traverses the continent of Hyboria on a mission to avenge the murder of his father and the slaughter of his village.
In “Our Idiot Brother,” Paul Rudd plays an idealist who gets out of jail after a pot bust and finds himself homeless and unemployed. He takes turns crashing at the homes of his three sisters (Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer), wreaking havoc in their lives.
A young girl (Bailee Madison) who goes to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) discovers creepy creatures in her new home that want to claim her as one of their own in “Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.”
Produced by Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”), the found-footage horror-thriller “Apollo 18” orbits around a ‘70s moon mission gone wrong and covered up by NASA.
Director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” “Proof”) adapts the Israeli espionage thriller “Ha-Hov” as “The Debt,” with the suspense playing out across two different time periods with two different high-profile casts: Oscar winner Helen Mirren, Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds play retired Mossad secret agents in 1997, while Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain and Marton Csokas play the operatives in action on a risky 1966 mission.
In “Colombiana,” Zoe Saldana stars as a highly trained assassin seeking revenge on the Colombian drug lord who executed her parents when she was a child.
Director David R. Ellis (“Snakes on a Plane”) wants to make moviegoers afraid to go into the water all over again with “Shark Night 3-D,” about vacationers on the Louisiana Gulf who are terrorized by freshwater shark attacks.
Also for summer
These movies also are planned for summer release but don't have firm OKC opening dates:
Writer-director Terrence Malick (“The Thin Red Line”) roots his new drama “The Tree of Life” in the 1950s and traces one man's (Sean Penn) journey from childhood innocence to disillusioned adulthood as he tries to reconcile his complex relationship with his father (Brad Pitt).
“One Day,” based on the best-selling novel by David Nicholls, tracks the lifelong friendship of Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) on the same day — July 15 — over 20 years.
Ewan McGregor plays a grieving man who meets an unpredictable woman (Melanie Laurent) as he is trying to come to grips with his the death of his father (Christopher Plummer) in “Beginners”
Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen and Kathy Bates star in Woody Allen's new rom-com, “Midnight in Paris.”
The music documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” chronicles the inner workings and lasting influence of the trailblazing hip-hop act.
A South African youth (Khomotso Manyaka) faces down a deeply ingrained, unspoken cultural taboo in “Life, Above All.”
In “The Guard,” an unorthodox Irish cop (Brendan Gleeson) teams with a by-the-book FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to take on an international drug-smuggling ring.