Summer Movie Preview 2011

Sit back, relax, and let Uncle James tell you about the stuff Hollywood has in store for you!

Now that we all have video cameras implanted in our foreheads, and editing software is available for free on the Internet, it seems like anybody can make a crappy movie. So I'm not sure why Hollywood studio bosses insist on doing it for us, but I guess they have to find some way earn to their whores and nose jobs. Thus, they invented summer, a time when movies imitate starlets' breasts by getting bigger and louder.

This summer's movie season could have started with Fast Five, which is either the fifth installment of a franchise about fast things, or the fast version of a film about prime numbers. Or maybe it started with the first big-budget superhero movie that challenges Christian orthodoxy by portraying a pagan god beating up a magical robot, in which case Obama's trouncing of Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner was the first film of summer. But since those, and films like Thor and Priest and Bridesmaids and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Sequel Tides have already been released, we'll have to focus on the detritus ahead.


The month of May closes out with The Hangover Part II, which is not a movie about the second time we've had to clean up the economic mess from a Bush presidency, but rather a sequel to the Todd Phillips mega-hit from 2009. This time, the boys find themselves in Bangkok, where Zach Galifianakis does an act that is somehow funnier on the Internet than it is in movies. I suppose these films are amusing enough, but if you want to see something amazing, rent Todd Phillips' first film, Hated, about semi-human rock star GG Allin. I was once kicked off of a radio program just for describing this film. Allin makes the cast of Jackass look like foppish popinjays daintily wiping their mouths after each tiny sip of Earl Grey.

There's also Kung Fu Panda 2, which combines three things I hate: Jack Black, talking animals and Jack Black. Jack Black is so unfunny that he counts as two things.

For the artier amongst us, Terrence Malick's Tree of Life will be in limited release. It's a surrealist story about a boy in the 1950s who loses his innocence and must re-find it. Since he grows up to be Sean Penn, I'm guessing that it doesn't work out. Also starring Brad Pitt, Fiona Shaw, Truth, Beauty and Meaning.


June is all about freaky mutant alien things. It starts with X-Men: First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn, who watered down Kick-Ass for the masses. I realize it's a year late to complain about Kick-Ass, but in the comic book from which the film is adapted, when the hot girl finds out that the dorky guy has only been pretending to be gay so that he can see her naked, she doesn't start kissing him; she punches him in the stomach and never talks to him again. Which makes way more sense and is about a million times less stupid and sexist.

X-Men: First Class has source material that's more up Vaughn's alley, since it's basically about putting teenagers in skin-tight costumes and having them fight a hot blonde whose superhero outfit is literally a corset and panties. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it's kind of like a special-effects-laden version of a Michele Bachmann speech, in that it's about a vast conspiracy involving the president, communism and super-powered mutants.

If you want something more middle-brow-aspiring-to-high-brow, there's Beginners, about a man (Ewan McGregor) who finds out his dad (Christopher Plummer) has cancer and is gay. I'm not sure why this is getting a wide release in the middle of summer; maybe they figure that teenage boys will grow tired of superhero movies and suddenly want to see a film about a man struggling to come to grips with mortality and sexuality. Actually, now that I think about it, that's what teenage boys do all the time anyway.

The next week brings us Super 8, set in 1979, the last year ever for truly awesome hair. It's about some kids who are filming a homemade monster movie when a train full of evil explodes. Soon, dogs start vanishing; the Army takes over the town; and everyone realizes that the Village People are gay. It's a J.J. Abrams film, so expect unexplained weirdness, conspiracies and, I don't know, smoke monsters? I'm the only person on Earth who's never seen Lost, so I have no idea why J.J. Abrams creates so many geek boners. Is he covered in pictures of skinny Japanese women?

And then there's Green Lantern, which has aliens and superheroes and magical jewelry. It looks like a fairly faithful adaptation of the comic-book series. Ryan Reynolds plays the lead, but he'll spend most of the movie drenched in CGI, which I hope makes up for the fact that he's no longer drenched in Scarlett Johansson.

Finally, June heads out with Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher. Diaz plays a morally decadent high school teacher who doesn't care about the kids and only took the job for the money and the benefits package. In short, this is the first mainstream comedy produced by the Koch brothers.

In competition with Bad Teacher is Cars 2. The first Cars came out five years ago, but I guess they had to wait for the auto-industry bailout to afford to make the second one. This is another one of those Pixar films which we critics all have to love, because if we don't, Steve Jobs will take away our gadgets. And we can't escape him, because he has tracking software installed in our iPhones. Thus, I'm sure this movie about talking cars will be awesome. Especially since it's in headache-inducing 3-D and features the voice of Larry the Cable Guy.


July kicks off with Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, which probably has the best trailer ever for a film I have no interest in seeing. In this one, the Autobots and the Decepticons race to the moon, just like the Americans and the Russians did in the 14th century. There's a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden there which can, I don't know, transform from a toaster into a bigger toaster. Whoever finds it first is sure to win the war, or get top billing in the next sequel. Leonard Nimoy is featured in the role he's always dreamed of playing: an emotionless space alien.

Monte Carlo opens the same weekend. It stars Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy as three girls who are given a free trip to Monte Carlo when one of them lies about being a wealthy British heiress. I love anything that's premised on a falsehood that leads to international travel, which is why I'm a big Colin Powell supporter.

The next week features a Jennifer Aniston comedy, Horrible Bosses. Three friends decide to kill their bosses, which is kind of like 9 to 5, but more murdery. There's also Zookeeper, this year's most important Kevin James film. James extends his dramatic reach to play a fat zookeeper, which is like a fat mall cop, but at a zoo. When he decides to quit his job so he can get the girl of his dreams (Rosario Dawson), the zoo animals reveal that they can speak, and they try to teach him how to meet women. So it's like Hitch, but the Will Smith part is played by a talking aardvark.

On July 15, an international day of mourning will be announced as the last Harry Potter movie hits the theaters. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, picks up where Part 1 left off. But since Dobby is dead, I can't imagine why anyone would go see this. They should have just called the whole series Dobby's Awesome Adventures and then ended it with Dobby's heroic death. Because weren't we all just watching these movies to see what happens to Dobby? He's a frikkin elf, ferchrissakes!

There's also a new Winnie the Pooh movie, in which Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit and Piglet mistakenly believe that Christopher Robin has been kidnapped. So they get all Liam Neeson in Taken and go through the forest torturing and killing their way to the kidnapper. I assume. I mean, it's 2011, and for the last 10 years, every movie has been an effort to out-badass the competition. The only reason they remake movies these days is to take all of our childhood memories and re-imagine them through the eyes of a sociopathic 12-year-old boy. If they did a remake of Mary Poppins, it would be set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and her umbrella would shoot cop-killer bullets.

July 22 brings us Captain America: The First Avenger, but wasn't Jesus the first avenger, since he avenged all our sins? Passion of the Christ is actually a good example of the sociopathic 12-year-old school of remakes. It's like Mel Gibson watched some old religious films and thought, "Who would Jesus hire to do dismemberment and gore effects?" I know this doesn't have anything to do with Captain America, but if you don't already know the plot of that film, you and your al-Qaida buddies might as well just burn the Constitution.

Also opening that weekend is Friends With Benefits, which is part of the Hollywood tradition of taking catch phrases and making romantic comedies out of them two years after they lose currency. It's like You've Got Mail or He's Just Not That Into You or I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With That Woman. This one stars Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as the titular friends, and Emma Stone, Rashida Jones, Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman and Andy Samberg as people who stand in the background looking slightly less pretty than the leads.

July ends with Cowboys and Aliens, which is set in Arizona, but is not about Jan Brewer fighting a desert-dwelling decapitator. Instead, it's about an Old West town that's under attack by a Mexican-American studies program ... from outer space! Harrison Ford plays the paranoid Col. Dolarhyde, while Daniel Craig is the mysterious stranger, and Olivia Wilde is really pretty.

Or you can drop the kids off to see The Smurfs, wherein everyone's favorite tiny blue homosexuals (and one cute fag hag) are chased out of their village and into the three-dimensional world of real-life New York. I guess the producers saw Avatar and figured anything with blue CGI people would be a big hit. Katy Perry will voice the part of Smurfette, which is weird, because even though thousands of people pay to watch Katy Perry sing, no one does so because of her voice.


August kicks off with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Pierre Boulle's novel, Planet of the Apes, which was the basis for all the Apes movies, is actually an intelligent piece of social criticism and a page-turning science-fiction thriller, but Rise is not really based on Boulle's book. Instead, it's loosely adapted from the 1972 film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. James Franco and Freida Pinto play humans, and Andy Serkis, who was Gollum in Lord of the Rings, plays an ape. I imagine Andy was all, "Can't I play a human for once?" and the director was all, "Get away from the pretty people, and put your ape mask on," and then Andy cried, but you couldn't see it, because his head was covered in ape fur.

Ryan Reynolds, who's pretty enough to show his face in movies but no longer pretty enough to shove his face into Scarlett Johansson, stars in The Change Up. He plays a married man who switches bodies with a single friend so he can have sex with someone who isn't his wife. It's kind of like the Newt Gingrich story, only with less cancer.

Aug. 12 hits with Final Destination 5. That title makes no sense; if it's the final destination, how can there be another one? And a fifth one? Does Hollywood assume that we have no basic language skills? This time, there's a new group of death-cheaters who have to pay back their debt in the form of gruesome dismemberments. It stars a cadre of unknown cute teens and their visceral cavities.

Jesse Eisenberg stammers his way through 30 Minutes or Less. It's a "comedy" about a guy who is kidnapped, has a bomb strapped to his chest, and then is forced to rob a bank, or he'll explode. I don't see how that's funny, but I guess Hollywood thought this would be perfect for the untapped market of terrorists, people who worked at Abu Ghraib, and Roger Ailes.

The next week, Arnold Schwarzenegger's troubles deepen as Conan the Barbarian opens, starring someone who is not the failed governor of a financially troubled state. In fact, it stars Jason Momoa, who, unlike Schwarzenegger, actually looks like Conan. As originally envisioned, Conan was not a pale-skinned Austrian with a speech impediment, but a dark-skinned man who, unlike Schwarzenegger, was very opposed to sexually assaulting women. The trailers for this one look great, and Momoa has a fluidity of movement that makes Schwarzenegger look like a Disney animatronic robot. Actually, Stephen Hawking has a fluidity of movement that makes Schwarzenegger look like a Disney animatronic robot.

Fright Night is a remake of an amusing mid-'80s vampire film. A teenage boy realizes his new neighbor is a blood-sucker, so he enlists the host of a TV horror series to help him put a stake in the bad guy's heart. Colin Farrell stars as the vampire, and David Tennant replaces Roddy McDowall as the TV host. Actually, that's two remakes this summer from old Roddy McDowall films, as McDowall played the lead ape in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. If I worked for The New York Times, I'd write a 2,000-word trend piece about this.

The last week of August features a Guillermo del Toro-scripted low-budget horror film, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, starring Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes. It's your basic teen-girl-discovers-horror-in-her-divorced-dad's-new-home story. Seeing as her divorced dad's love interest is Katie Holmes, I'm guessing the horror is a closet full of half-naked men who smell like Tom Cruise's butt.

Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks star in Our Idiot Brother, a comedy about a middle-age stoner (Rudd) who goes to live with his three sisters after he's released from jail. The trailer actually looks pretty entertaining, and Rudd usually turns in a good performance, plus this has a much more adult feel than the misogynist Judd Apatow dreck he's been appearing in lately. Still, it looks like he's again playing the fun and zany male who needs to be tamed by the responsible and unfunny females, so I wouldn't exactly alert Gloria Steinem that it's safe to go back to the movies.

The last film of the summer is Apollo 18, which is sort of a Blair Witch Project on the moon. Shot documentary-style, it records the ill-fated final lunar mission, when space aliens destroyed our lander and possessed our astronauts. Most of you kids are too young to remember that, but just ask your parents, and they'll tell you: That's why we're not allowed to go into space anymore.

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