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Summer movie preview: Hits, misses and blockbusters

POSTED: May 25, 2011 11:49 p.m.

Let's be honest. The usual summer genres look pretty lame for 2011.

I'll gladly admit I'm wrong, but few of the movies made to give us our action, comedy, and romance fix show much promise.

"Thor" and "Pirates 4" have already underwhelmed. The trailers for "Cowboys & Aliens," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," and "Green Lantern" all look laughably bad.

The "Transformers" franchise is back — enough said. "Cars 2" is a sequel to Pixar's worst feature. "The Hangover Part II" is DOA, thanks to endless production problems and a script that rehashes the original scene by scene.

"The Change Up" revives the rotting corpse that is the body switch comedy. And "Friends With Benefits" and "Something Borrowed" both trap talented casts in horribly overdone romantic comedy clichés.

Summer 2011 needs heroes! Luckily, several movies look poised to rescue the season, and not all of them are blockbusters. Let's break down this summer's best bets among both the megapics and the little pics.

 Lights, camera, action!

X-Men: First Class

Date: June 3

The movie: Charles Xavier (aka, Professor X) and Erik Lensherr (aka Magneto) are two young men discovering their powers. Banding together with fellow mutants to stop a threat to the world, a rift grows between the two forces, leading to the founding of Professor X's X-MEN and Magneto's Brotherhood, and the beginning of their eternal war.

Why we care: This franchise has stumbled but returns to its roots with a prequel by hot director Matthew Vaughn and a great cast led by James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne and Jennifer Lawrence.

Super 8

Date: June 10

The movie: In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.

Why we care: A summer movie that isn't based on a comic book? Yes! J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Star Trek") directs, but producer Steven Spielberg's fingerprints are all over it. Expect a more intense and darker close encounter.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Date: July 15

The movie: For seven movies, we've been building up to a final showdown between Harry and Voldemort and a battle royale in Hogwarts. At last it happens.

Why we care: One of the most successful franchises in movie history comes to an end. It's a genuine event.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Date: July 22

The movie: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the super soldier known as Captain America. As Captain America, Rogers joins forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving.)

Why we care: I have doubts about this one, but it will at least be interesting to see how Marvel continues to roll out its Avengers mega-franchise.

 Family outings

Kung Fu Panda 2

Date: Today

The movie: Po (Jack Black) is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five. But Po's new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. Po must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.

Why we care: Not as funny as the first but it's enjoyable, and we don't have many animated choices this summer.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

Date: June 10

The movie: When Judy's (Jordana Beatty) parents take an unexpected trip to California, she and her way-cool Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) devise a series of dares in order to have the most thrilling summer of her life.

Why we care: The trailer looks fun, and Graham might be the ideal choice for the dippy, cool aunt.

 Does anybody remember laughter?

30 Minutes or Less

Date: Aug. 12

The movie: Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a small-town pizza delivery guy whose mundane life collides with the big plans of two wanna-be criminal masterminds (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). The volatile duo kidnaps Nick and forces him to rob a bank. With mere hours to pull off the impossible task, Nick enlists the help of his ex-best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). As the clock ticks, the two must deal with the police, hired assassins, flamethrowers and their own tumultuous relationship.

Why we care: After "Zombieland," I'm excited about anything directed by Ruben Fleischer. He seems like a perfect fit for an action comedy reminiscent of "Pineapple Express."

 One is the loneliest number

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Date: July 29

The movie: A married guy (Steve Carell) tries to balance a marital crisis, attending couples therapy and maintaining his relationship with his kids. He receives some coaching from a playboy (Ryan Gosling) struggling with his own life crisis.

Why we care: Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon and a handful of great character actors lend support. The trailer makes this the only romantic comedy worth recommending.

 Summer is the season of ... drama?

One Day

Date: July 8

The movie: After one day together in 1988, Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) begin a friendship that will last a lifetime. Over the next 20 years, key moments of their relationship are revealed on the same day — July 15 — of each year. Dex and Em face friendship and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

Why we care: Lone Scherfig's follow-up to her Oscar-nominated breakout film, "An Education." We're watching.

The Help

Date: Aug. 12

The movie: Aspiring writer Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) returns to her Jackson, Miss., home after college in 1962. She forms unexpected friendships with African-American maids Aibeleen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) that result in a book that gives a previously unheard voice to a community's suffering.

Why we care: This is a Disney drama, which causes a little trepidation. But I trust Stone and Davis, who are supported by the always great Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney.



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