Friday, July 01, 2011

Summer movies 2011

cover story

The summer brings with it the usual raft of ‘must see’ movies, at least according to the movie promoters. Every year offers more proof that Hollywood loves to repeat itself for some reason, and this summer is no exception; the big screen will once again be invaded by franchise films, with a number of sequels, reboots, and adaptations coming to the cinemas. Some of them will be impressive, some mildly entertaining, while others will probably be an affront to the concept of filmmaking. At any rate, here is what Hollywood has in store for your viewing (dis)pleasure this summer:

There’s an onslaught of sequels and prequels in the action genre, as a lot of big names make their way back to the screen. The season has already kicked off with force with the return of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May), and a prequel to the X-Men series in the form of X-Men: First Class (June), as well as the release of the comic book superhero movie Thor (May). The other big releases of the summer include Green Lantern (June), the comic book adaptation which stars Ryan Reynolds in the lead; the third Transformers’ film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon (June); Captain America: The First Avenger (July) in which Chris Evans brings the superhero to life; and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (August), a reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, starring James Franco.

More action comes in the form of sci-fi western Cowboys & Aliens (July) starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford that sees a group of cowboys try to defeat the aliens that attack their town; and the drama thriller The Debt (August), a remake of a 2007 Israeli film about three former secret agents who undertook an important mission in the ‘60s. Elsewhere, the Spy Kids return in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (August); a warrior avenges the slaughter of his village in Conan the Barbarian (August); Dominic Cooper’s character is forced to become Udey Hussein’s body double in The Devil’s Double (August); a female assassin hunts down her parents’ killer in Colombiana (August); and Harry Potter bids farewell to cinema a decade after first rocketing into the general public’s awareness, as the fantasy series draws to an end with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (July); expect to see teary-eyed Potterheads at a cinema near you very soon.

If you fancy a midsummer nightmare, then there are a few films that you might want to watch: a fugitive picks the wrong house for refuge in The Perfect Host (July); a street gang fights off an alien invasion in Attack the Block (July); survivors of a bridge collapse try to cheat death in Final Destination 5 (August); a young girl is pursued by evil creatures in the remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (August); and a teenager suspects that his neighbour is a vampire in the remake of Fright Night (August).
Then there’s the upcoming comedy Zookeeper, but that’ll be a horror for completely different reasons.

We get to revisit familiar friends in the world of animation this summer:
- Kung Fu Panda 2 (May): Jack Black once again lends his voice to Po, the panda that won the hearts of viewers (and helped DreamWorks Animation make over $631 million) in his first outing in 2008. In the sequel, the Dragon Warrior is on a mission to protect the Valley of Peace alongside the Furious Five, and it turns out that both the critics and the box office still love him!
- Cars 2 (June): Cars might not have been Pixar’s most critically acclaimed work, but a $461 million gross and lucrative merchandising ensured the return of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), and co. for a sequel, as the cars head to the World Grand Prix and get embroiled in a spy mission.
- Winnie the Pooh (July): Based on stories from the books written by A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin’s toys set off on another adventure led by Winnie the Pooh, as the silly old bear and his friends try to save Christopher Robin from an imaginary creature.
- The Smurfs (July): Featuring the voices of celebrities such as comedian Jonathan Winters and singer Katy Perry and live action roles played by actors including Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays, the live-action/CGI film sees the little blue inhabitants of Middle Earth being chased out of their village by Gargamel (Hank Azaria), and then making their way to present day New York.

The comedy genre has a lot in store for the summer, and successful comedies like The Hangover: Part II (May) and Bridesmaids (May) have already set the ball rolling. The most prominent film in the coming weeks is Horrible Bosses (July) which is led by a very promising cast (Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, and Jason Sudeikis) and sees three friends team up to murder their awful bosses with disastrous results.
Then there is the usual barrage of romantic comedies (because critics need something to bash!): Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts team up for Larry Crowne (July); Leighton Meester, Selena Gomez and Katie Cassidy pose as wealthy socialites in Monte Carlo (July), Justin Timberlake woos Mila Kunis in Friends with Benefits (July), and gets wooed by Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher (June); and Steve Carell is left to navigate the single scene in Crazy, Stupid, Love. (July), which also stars Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei.
Others attempts at humour include the Kevin James led Zookeeper (July); Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman swap bodies in The Change-Up (August); Jesse Eisenberg is forced to rob a bank in 30 Minutes or Less (August); and Paul Rudd disrupts the lives of his three sisters in Our Idiot Brother (August).

While these movies will almost certainly avoid making history as far as revenues are concerned, here are some flicks you might still be interested in if you crave drama:
- Another Earth (July): This science fiction film is set around the discovery of a duplicate planet and two people whose lives cross paths after a tragic accident, and received a standing ovation at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
- The Whistleblower (August): Inspired by actual events, the film tells the story of a policewoman (Rachel Weisz) who helps uncover a human-trafficking scandal in postwar Bosnia that involved U.S. military contractors and the United Nations.
- One Day (August): The romantic drama follows the lives of two friends, portrayed by Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, over two decades, revisiting them on the same date – July 15th – each year.
- The Help (August): Based on Kathryn Stockett’s very successful 2009 novel The Help, the movie tells of the unlikely friendship of three women and stars Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer.
Summer movie scorecard (so far)

X-Men: First Class
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon
A prequel to the X-Men film series, First Class tells the back story to the franchise and does so in a more impressive way than one would have expected. Powered by a very competent cast and mostly good acting, the film is visually impressive, and viewers are likely to enjoy the spin it puts on the X-Men saga.
Grade: A

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgård.
The god of thunder finds himself on Earth in Thor, a middling summer popcorn flick. The story isn’t exactly the most imaginative, but the acting is mostly agreeable, and overall the film is largely inoffensive. Will you miss much if you don’t watch it? Not really. But if you need some easy viewing to while away a lazy summer evening, then Thor will serve the purpose adequately.
Grade: B

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Ian McShane, and Geoffrey Rush
The fourth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, On Stranger Tides follows the pirates’ quest to find the fountain of youth, and yields a movie that is quite the opposite of the first one – it’s tired, lazy, and even manages to turn Jack Sparrow into a parody of himself. Yet it’s nearing the billion dollar mark in revenues, even though it’s hard to recall the last time a film insisted on its own pointlessness with quite as much ferocity.
Grade: C

The Hangover Part II
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, and Ken Jeong
The sequel to the most successful R-rated comedy of all time, and a case of milking the cash cow by giving us what we’ve already had and convincing us we still love it, The Hangover Part II is basically the same shtick, only it’s taking place in a different country. This time it’s Stu (Ed Helms) who’s getting married, and it’s Bangkok where the friends wake up in a hotel room with no recollection of what happened the night before or where the bride’s brother is; predictable antics ensue. If you want to find out just how lazy Hollywood can get, look no further. But hey, it’s still more entertaining than, say, your average Adam Sandler comedy; then again, most things are.
Grade: C or B or… oh what does it matter, you know you want to watch it anyway.


Each year, a couple of movies catch the world’s fancy and score high at the box office. Here are some of the successes of the last few years (along with their worldwide gross revenues):
  • Toy Story 3 (2010): $1,063,171,911
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009): $933,959,197
  • The Dark Knight (2008): $1,001,921,825
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007): $960,996,492
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006): $1,066,179,725
- By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 1st July, 2011

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