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Summer Movie Preview 2011 Part 1

In case any of you, like some of us on the Player Affinity Movies staff, are still bummed about how disappointing last summer was, we finally grant you relief: Summer 2011 — absolute blockbuster mayhem. There are plenty of sequels, actions films, superhero films, comedies and more that almost every weekend will warrant a trip to the theaters.

That said, it was a bear (to use a G-rated term) trying to come up with how to preview the summer movie season. For those of you who listen to our offical Podcast, The Plot Hole (which you can check out over on the Podcasts page), you already know this, but we compiled our Top 15 most-anticipated films of the summer. All eight of us ranked our 15 movies of the summer and the list broke down as follows. 

In addition to the Top 15, each of us has one or two Critic's Picks that made our individual lists but not the big one. But without further ado, here are No. 15-8 and the first batch of Critic's Picks. 

15. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1) 

A travesty to have such a fine franchise entry at the bottom of the list! “Revenge of the Fallen” was a masterful bit of filmmaking, but haters will hate until the day they die. Okay, so the sequel to Michael Bay’s 2007 robots-in-disguise-just-stepped-on-your-lawn television/toy adaptation was not quite what fans were expecting. It featured questionable characterizations included two ignorant robots and way too much human interaction for a movie about warring scrap metal.

Well, it seems that Michael Bay took a note from his fans and has made the supposed last of the trilogy to more acceptable taste. In this story, the Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon and must race the Decepticons to reach it and learn its secrets. Basically, it is what we all pay to see: good robots fighting bad robots (in slow motion and with many random objects exploding in the background). I could do without the Victoria Secret model Hungtinton-Whiteley, who seems to only wander about with her mouth open and a vacant stare, but I — and millions with me — will suffer her uselessness to see Shockwave and Optimus Prime looking all kinds of bad mutha-shut-yo-mouth! ~Dinah


Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Ehren Kruger
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey

Dinah’s Critic’s Pick: The Beaver (Limited, May 6)

I’m interested in The Beaver, but a movie like this if better meant for the fall. It is that small-time art house stuff that the Academy Awards are made of. I’m baffled that Jodie Foster’s debut as director is plunked down in summer blockbuster season. Now doesn’t this sound like a turnoff: A troubled husband and executive adopts a beaver hand puppet as his sole means of communicating. This may seem funny on paper until you watch the trailer and realize it is as depressing as a funeral on a spring morning.

Although The Beaver does not employ any gutsy camerawork or a gorgeous landscape, I’ll be first in line just to see Mel Gibson acting all crazy. I suppose life imitates art, or vice versa. Gibson’s issues with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, and the assault allegations she charged him with put this gem on the shelf. All has been quiet for a while now so The Beaver is finally coming out to theaters. Last summer’s film with troubled stars,Takers, wasn’t hurt by the drama caused by T.I. and Chris Brown, so maybe Gibson will make a comeback. 


The Beaver
Directed by Jodie Foster
Written by Kyle Killen
Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster

14. Bad Teacher (June 24) 

By the accounts of some, crude R-rated comedies have overstayed their welcome, but such omnipresence doesn’t look to go away anytime soon. Bad Teacher is just one such film hitting cinemas this summer, but there’s a particular ingredient here that other R-rated comedies are missing: Cameron Diaz.

It’s been almost ten years since her last R-rated comedy (2002’s The Sweetest Thing with Christina Applegate and Selma Blair) and she appears in excellent form here as a teacher who couldn’t care any less about teaching or her students. However, when she meets an eligible bachelor (former real-life beau Justin Timberlake), she seeks the opportunity for a bonus based on teacher performance for purposes of chest enhancement.

Anticipation for the film seems to be fairly mixed. Although Diaz was once a familiar face in the realm of male-embraced comedies, she’s most recently lent her talents to dramas like My Sister’s Keeper and experimental art-house fare such as The Box. We might not get another “hair gel” moment, but there’s just something about Mary—er—Cameron Diaz that just clicks with these kinds of comedies. Hopefully Diaz will charm audiences once again when the film hits on June 24. ~Julian


Bad Teacher
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel



Julian’s Critic’s Pick: Bridesmaids (May 13)

Kristen Wiig teams up with “SNL” alum Maya Rudolph for Bridesmaids, where she’ll play a maid of honor dealing with a heavy load of duties from the bride (Rudolph), one of which is a trip to Las Vegas with the bride-to-be and the bridesmaids. Other bridesmaids are played by Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy and others.

Sounds familiar? The Judd Apatow-produced film looks an awful lot like 2009’s The Hangover, and since we’ve already gotThe Hangover Part II (which looks just like the original film minus the foreign setting) hitting theaters, it’s no surprise that some are skeptical about Bridesmaids. However, it should be interesting to see a similar story told from the female perspective. What’s more, the talent involved will hopefully charm and wow us enough to make us forget about the obvious male counterpart.


Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy

13. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug. 5)

James Franco stars in this origin story set in modern day San Francisco as Will Rodman, a scientist attempting to cure Alzheimer's (just go with it) by running extreme tests on apes. As the tests continue, the apes begin to develop greater intelligence, eventually breaking free and revolting against humans. These apes are led by the original test subject, Caesar (Andy Serkis).

Wordy title not withstanding, the early buzz for this one is surprisingly strong, at least from a public reaction. With special effects being put out by Weta Digital — the same studio responsible for "The Lord of the Rings" effects — you know it'll look good and with Serkis doing what he does best (motion capture), you know Caesar will be interesting to watch during his rise to power in the revolt.

The trailer almost gives the film an appropriate apocalyptic feel (duh), as humans seem to be getting picked off in an almost sinister way. Think zombies, but a hell of a lot smarter. Its August release date (where some summer films go to die) and several  delays are reason to be cautious, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes could have the makings of a new start for the classic "Apes" series. ~Max


Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Written by Rick Jaffa, Jamie Moss, Amanda Silver
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow

Max’s Critic’s Pick: Priest (May 13)

Priest is set in an alternate world where humans and vampires have waged war for centuries. The story revolves around Priest, a veteran from the last Vampire War (Paul Bettany), who now lives in obscurity among the human inhabitants of a Church-controlled city. When his niece is abducted by vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them.

Already, the film has a "so bad it's good" quality from its trailers that already give too much away. Still, what's on display isn't all that unappealing. Lot's of action, a decent sense of style and scale combined with a fairly diverse roster of characters,Priest looks to try and be Underworld but in the Old West and (hopefully) with superior action sequences. What effects have been seen look a little lazy, but one cannot help thinking that if you walk into the theater with low expectations, you might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome of Priest: senseless, stylized good times.


Directed by Scott Charles Stewart
Written by Cory Goodman (screenplay) Min-Woo Hyung (graphic novels)
Starring: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Maggie Q, Christopher Plummer



12. 30 Minutes or Less (Aug. 12)

Zombieland was one of the best and most unexpected surprises of 2009. It so deftly blended action, horror and comedy and showed the world that Jesse Eisenberg was more than just a Michael Cera wannabe. So it’s with great enthusiasm and high expectations that we get ready for director Ruben Fleischer’s follow-up, 30 Minutes or Less.

The film follows a young pizza deliveryman, Nick (Eisenberg), who is kidnapped by some two-bit criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). These men strap a bomb to Nick and tell him he has nine hours to rob a bank before he is blown to bits. So Nick and his closest friend (Aziz Ansari) turn into overnight criminals and do whatever they can to make sure they rob the bank and survive.

The trailer appears to be deliberately mysterious. Not much of the plot is revealed, and the humor doesn’t seem as wild as you might expect. But it’s still full of laughs, so if Fleischer is saving some of his biggest and best moments for the film, there’s definitely a lot to look forward to. ~John



30 Minutes or Less

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Written by Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan (story)

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Aziz Ansari

John’s Critic’s Pick: Horrible Bosses (July 8)

I wish I could bag on this one — a high-concept summer comedy with a stupid title that stars Jennifer Aniston — but I can’t. It sounds way too funny, and the rest of the cast is absolutely loaded. C’mon, if you can’t get excited about a movie with Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx (who has the greatest character name in history: Motherf---er Jones) then you have no soul.

And the premise sounds absolutely perfect for a black comedy. Three men (Bateman, Sudeikis, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Day) are fed up with their horrible bosses. So what do they decide to do about it? Kill them, of course.

The film could definitely flop, but it’s also oozing potential. There still isn’t a trailer, which makes me a little nervous, but the premise alone is strong enough to have sold me. Add to that such a strong cast, and Horrible Bosses is one of my most anticipated films of the summer.

Horrible Bosses

Directed by Seth Gordon

Written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein 

Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell

11. Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 26)

Up until How to Train Your Dragon narrowly scooped the title away just last year, Kung Fu Panda was DreamWorks Animation biggest non-“Shrek” hit with Jack Black flexing his flab at the box office and as the titular Po. The studio had big plans for their many franchises and “Panda” was no different so a follow-up to this martial arts-themed adventure was all but guaranteed.

This sequel seems to promise all the beautiful animation, well-choreographed action sequences and charming voicework that made the original the success it was. In addition to Black, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Lucy Lui and Dustin Hoffman again lend their voices as the newly crowned dragon warrior, the Furious Five and their master Shifu respectively. A new addition comes in the form of the great Gary Oldman as the new villain, Lord Shen, who is systematically knocking off the great masters of Kung Fu.

Art director of the first, Jennifer Yuh, takes over the director’s chair for this sequel and considering the importance of style and cinematography in these films, the choice is not distressing (she also served as head of story on the original). Having recently re-watched the original for about the fourth time, its charm and heart remains even if there is a tad too much slapstick and overly frequent “hi-yas.” If “Panda 2” can reach or exceed the heights reached by the original there should be no need for worry. Count me as excited in any respect. ~Simon


Kung Fu Panda 2
Directed by Jennifer Yuh
Written by Jonathon Aibel and Glenn Berger
Starring Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Dustin Hoffman

Simon’s Critic’s Pick: Hobo with a Shotgun (May 6, Limited)

Gotta love it when a movie is summed up in its title. After winning a contest created by Grindhouse directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, which allowed his fake trailer to appear in that double-feature, Canadian Jason Eisner has now birthed his own exploitation schlock-fest with a full-length adaptation. The fake trailers within Grindhouse were arguable the best parts of that overlooked gem some of which include “Thanksgiving” from Eli Roth, “Werewolf Woman of the S.S.” courtesy of Rob Zombie and “Don’t” from unlikely choice Edgar Wright of “Scott Pilgrim” fame. All of these directors have expressed interest in expanding their work (Rodriguez already did with Machete) and I couldn’t be happier if they all did so.

Blade Runner’s Rutger Hauer is the titular pump-action wielding vagrant (how could this not be good?) and early reviews have praised its blend of excessive gore with gleeful parody so this micro-budget offering could easily find an audience (though a sick one at that). Yet another Sundance release, “Hobo” had special Canadian screenings before it goes to wider North America (though in limited release) on May 6.

This trailer is simply awesome, and the opening monologue of the clip gives me twisted chills every time. Although this sub-gene is still far from being able to reach any kind of mainstream success, it seems to be a popular offering among the right circles, and considering the low budget, expect them to continue and expect such fans to eat up Hobo with a Shotgun.


Hobo with a Shotgun
Directed by Jason Eisner
Witten by John Davies and Jason Eisner
Starring Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, Jeremy Akerman


10. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20) 

Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive Fountain of Youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too. Heck yes to another in this rollercoaster inspired franchise; I hope they never end. Okay, so the last installment was a terrible over-bloated mess of double, triple, and quadruple cross. It was having way too much fun with itself and not an iota with the audience. So don’t call it a comeback; this is just the series getting back to its fine and fun roots.

I’d say that “Pirates” should have ranked higher than number ten. Despite the flaws of the last picture the main issues, Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly, are out. And with the addition of Ian McShane what has a viewer to raise an eyebrow at? Rob Marshall, who is better known for bedazzling musicals (Chicago), may reignite the backdrop of the feature with more gusto than Gore Verbinski. Jack Sparrow himself is growing a bit stale, but with a marketable group of supporting characters this adventure ought to be a hit. It is an action adventure about pirates, mermaids and the Fountain of Youth after all. Sit back, smile and enjoy it. ~ Dinah


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Directed by Rob Marshall
Written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane 


Steven’s Critic’s Pick: Cars 2 (June 24)

It’s not that I’m really looking forward to Cars 2, but Pixar’s track record cannot be ignored, even if like most people, you would say Cars is your least favorite entry from the award-winning studio. Once you move past the fact that this film was likely given the green light because of the billions in merchandise revenue the original film generated, it becomes easy to embrace this film as what will likely be a clever and lovable sequel from the only studio that hasn’t failed with a sequel as seen in the two Toy Story follow-ups.

Cars 2 takes Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his pal Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) on the international racing circuit. We don’t know much detail, but the plot involves some espionage elements as evidenced by Michael Caine’s character, Finn McMissle and some dialogue in the trailer suggesting Lightining and Mater are believe to be spies. The list of characters beats the length of even the most diligent and privileged child’s Christmas list including Brent Mustangburger for those sports fans out there.

Expect a story with exotic locales, top-notch action, lovable characters and that trademark Pixar warmth, even if the complete package doesn’t exactly move you like the last three summer features from the studio did. I suppose Pixar has earned its chance to reach for the cash cow.

Cars 2
Directed by John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Written by John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, Dan Fogelman, Ben Queen
Starring: (voices) Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Caine


9. Green Lantern (June 17) 

Fittingly, it seems Warner Bros. has placed a lot of power on Ryan Reynolds. The bankable star might be an odd choice for a pure action film, but he certainly could have enough to make a “Green Lantern” film work. Reynolds stars as cokcy pilot Hal Jordan, who discovers the body of a dying alien who hands him a ring possessing great power. With it, he becomes a Green Lantern, one of many defenders of the universe. He must learn to harness his power quickly as he could be the key to defeating a menacing threat to all life forms everywhere.

With aliens and all kinds of non-lifelike entities and concepts, this is a tough film to sell. Martin Campbell, director of two of the most beloved modern Bond films in Casino Royale and Goldeneye, certainly has the chops, but the film will lean heavily on CGI sets, characters and other special effects that will likely not be finished until the last minute.

If Campbell and Warner Bros. have drawn up an intergalactic world that can even come close to captivating us like Avatar did, then Green Lantern easily has the most potential to show us something we’ve never seen before. As such, a lot rests with Reynolds to give the film its humanity and bring the film down to a level that non-comic nerds can identify with. He’s not exactly what Robert Downey Jr. is to Iron Man, but that’s what he needs to be for DC Comics to have its first successful non-Batman/Superman franchise-to-be. Enjoy the double-length Wonder Con trailer below. ~ Steven


Green Lantern
Directed by Martin Campbell
Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong

John’s Critic’s Pick: Midnight in Paris (May 20)

As far as I’m concerned, Woody Allen always deserves the benefit of the doubt. Even with his recent decline in quality, our yearly Allen film gets a special star on my movie-going calendar. His last film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, was bad—really bad. But this is the guy that made Annie Hall, Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Match Point, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I’ll always look forward to his films.

His latest is Midnight in Paris, and it looks a little out there. Owen Wilson (who seems like a perfect fit for a Woody Allen picture) plays Gil, who’s married to Inez (Rachel McAdams). The two travel to Paris and connect with Paul (Michael Sheen). Inez is very impressed by him; Gil thinks he’s a phony. So he starts going off alone and exploring the city at night. What he finds enchants him, but it also makes his loved ones concerned about him.

What happens to Gil every evening is a mystery, even to us, but the promise of him spending time with Marion Cotillard is enough for me to get excited. But I’m most optimistic about this one because, like Barcelona, it feels like a wonderful love letter to a beautiful European city. Everything in the trailer looks gorgeous, and I truly hoped that inspired Allen to make another great film. It has been a while, but I know he has a few more in him.  

Midnight in Paris
Written and Directed by Woody Allen

Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard



8. Thor (May 6)

Like 2008, 2011 is a summer of superhero films, and we are starting with a powerful one: the god of thunder. Thor is Marvel Comics’ take on Norse mythology and is one of the characters who is going to be in the highly anticipated The Avengersmovie. Thor is one of Marvel’s lesser-known comic series, but so was Iron Man and we all know how that turned out.

Thor already has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has made a healthy gross in Europe where it opened last week. Kenneth Branagh (HamletMary Shelley’s Frankenstein), took on the project, combining his love for Shakespearean drama and epic visuals. Comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski and I Am Legend writer Mark Protosevich created the story for writing partners Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz (X-Men: First Class) and Dan Payne (The Simpsons) to turn it into a screenplay.

Australian newcomer Chris Hemsworth plays Thor and he leads a truly great cast: Natalie Portman, stage actor Tom Hiddleston (Wallender), Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgård. Many respected actors such as Idris Elba (The Wire) and Ray Stevenson (Rome) took on small roles for the film. ~ Kieran

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Dan Payne (screenplay), J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich (story)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins 

Click here for Part 2! 


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