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).