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The superheroes are back. So is the Wolfpack. And let’s not forget Harry’s last chance to wave that wand. It’s another big summer, so get ready for the great indoors with your 40-foot friends and their other-worldly adventures.
Repeating 2008, the summer of superheroes is back. “Thor” (May 6) starts us off with the tale of Asgaard’s God of Thunder who’s banished to earth. With a rock star cast — Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster and newcomer Christ Hemsworth as Thor — get ready for Shakespearian director, Kenneth Branagh, to spearhead one of Marvel Studio’s biggest budget films.
More than two months later, another Marvel Comics character takes the stage, “Captain America: The First Avenger”. In a unique move, both Thor and Cap are actually connected and set to appear together next year in “The Avengers”, alongside Iron Man and the Hulk. Let’s hope their solo debuts match the excitement of a high profile multi-superhero flick.
The “X-Men” retake the big screen with the franchise’s second origin film, “First Class” (June 3), about Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lehnsherr’s (Michael Fassbender) school for gifted mutants during a time of civil rights protests and cold war. With a lesser-known cast and a stellar rising director, Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass” and “Stardust”), let’s see if the fifth film will save them from their 50 percent success rate.
Finally, we’ve got “Green Lantern”, the tale about an intergalactic police officer from the Green Lantern Corps. Can Ryan Reynolds put aside his overly enthusiastic love of commedia dell’arte acting? Probably not. The effects look simultaneously wonderful and awful, so if you really want to see what a “Green Lantern” film should look like, just check out a fan trailer that surfaced online several months before this film was even green lit.
Sequels. Sequels. Sequels. “Fast Five” (April 29), “The Hangover Part II” (May 26), “Kung Fu Panda 2” (May 26), “The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (May 20), “Cars 2” (June 24), “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (July 1) and “Spy Kids 4” (Aug. 19), plus the ones I already mentioned. But wait, did I leave anything out? Absolutely, because only one sequel deserves to stand apart: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II”. The end is nigh and you bet your invisible cloak I’ll be there at midnight to say farewell to one of the best cinematic fantasy sagas this side of “Lord of the Rings”.
Now, let’s backtrack. I’ve never been more apathetic than in my feelings towards “Pirates”, since the films went south after the first installment. “Fast Five” has more potential to be enjoyable, with the entire cast of the franchise (including “Tokyo Drift”) together. Hopefully the Wolfpack’s second hangover won’t be a repeat of their Vegas adventure. Even Pixar is about to prove its fallibility with “Cars 2”. Rather than replicating the first film’s formula, apparently Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) become international spies! I adore Pixar films, but this one looks to be the company’s first disappointment (you know…besides the first “Cars” film).
Oh, “Kung Fu Panda 2”. Sure the first one copped out, saying that everyone has a special gift without any need to, perhaps, lose some weight. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Jack Black as our favorite Panda lacking in enjoyment.
I forgot to mention “Transformers”…I’m good.
The real question of the summer is “Cowboys & Aliens”. Can the director of “Iron Man”, Jon Favreau, successfully turn a comic that appears to do little more than its title offers into a summer heavy weight? Welp, Harrison Ford’s on board, Daniel Craig is fantastic and Olivia Wilde remains a face to watch out for. Here’s hopin’. Sure, Favreau blew it with “Iron Man 2”, but the first was still fantastic.
Along the way to summer blockbuster fame, we’re bound to have some smaller scale films make a few waves. Terrence Malick returns with a fascinating film, “The Tree of Life”, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, where a son tries to understand a jaded relationship with his father in a somehow fantasy and/or sci-fi story. Confused? Me too.
While this one won’t be as small scale, J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8” (June 10) looks to take the monster formula of his produced “Cloverfield” and apply it to a small town near Area 51 where a train crashes. Don’t worry, the cameras should be more stationary.
Need something for the funny bone? “Bad Education” (June 24) might be able to tickle it with the help of Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother”) and Cameron Diaz. The indie film, “Troll Hunters” (June 10), also might have some humor up its sleeve, as a group of (you guessed it) troll hunters document their escapades. There are also plenty of flicks that are sure to disappoint, like “Winnie the Pooh” (July 15) and “The Smurfs” (July 29), set in New York rather than the forest. It’s difficult to say what’ll win the summer. With our luck, it just might be the latecomers like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (Aug. 5) or “Conan the Barbarian” (Aug. 9). Probably not. My money’s on Cap, Thor and Harry.
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