Friday, May 13, 2011

Jonathan Goes To the Movies: The Summer Movie Preview, Part I

Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, commented that the summer movie season of 2011 would be a bloodbath. No joke: Marvel has two new superheroes receiving the Hollywood treatment before they unveil the mother-of-all superhero movies in next year's The Avengers, Captain Jack Sparrow returns to the high seas, Judd Apatow seeks for a new comedy hit with an all-female cast, J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg join forces for a tightly wrapped monster flick, and the end has come for The Boy Who Lived. Here's the good, the bad, and the ones that can go either way in summer 2011.

Must see on opening weekend:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II (July 15): After 11 years, 8 movies, 4 directors and composers, 2 screenwriters, and the near-endless UK talent that graced the movies, it finally comes down to this: one last battle between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and the sinister Lord Voldemort (Ralph Finnes) comes to the shores of Hogwarts School of Wichcraft and Wizardry, and no one within the walls is safe. For the filmmakers and actors who worked on this, its the end of a long journey which has amassed over 5+ billion worldwide, the highest-grossing film series ever made. For the fans (myself included), its the end of an era which started back in the late 90's when J.K. Rowling released her game-changing novels and in 2000 when she gave Warner Bros the greenlight to make the movies. For AMPAS, its the last chance for the voting body to recognize the accomplishments of the series. Will they this time? Regardless, expect Part II - converted to 3D - to become something we haven't seen in a long time (Ok, since 2009 when James Cameron released Avatar): a worldwide event.

The Tree of Life (May 27): Potter-legions will be out in force for DH II, but indie film-goers and the critics will be going gaga for writer/director Terrence Malick's long-awaited epic American drama about a man (Sean Penn) going through an existential crisis as he tries to coming to grips with his iron-willed father (Brad Pitt) and his place in this world. If you've seen the trailer, then it maybe safe to say that the imagery is lovely, but what does this have to do with the story? I have no idea, and Malick isn't squealing either, which makes this awaited release all the more exciting and high atop my list. In a season that offers big, loud dumb action and unnecessary conversions to 3D, it's refreshing to see a world-class filmmaker like Malick excite and engage his audience through storytelling, compelling acting, and striking visual imagery.

Super 8 (June 10): Much like Malick's Tree of Life, J.J. Abrams' latest, like all of his films, are being kept under wraps. What we do know is that Super 8 is a throwback to Spielberg's (who is producing the film) earlier works about children coming of age and monsters running amok in small towns (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. - The Extraterrestrial, The Goonies). And, like the former, it makes me even more excited to see what J.J. has in store.

The Hangover Part II (May 27): In 2009, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zack Galafinkis) took down Vegas looking for the groom-to-be. This time, Bangkok is next after the boys lose Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law after a drunken, wild night on the town. Gee, what a surprise you're thinking, but you know the old saying: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'm confident the dynamic between Cooper, Helms, and Galafinkis isn't broken, so I can't wait to see what kind of madness these boys will be in.

Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22):Confesssion: I thought both Thor and Captain America would be huge letdowns. That was before I watched Thor and was surprised with its fantastic visuals and Shakespearean-type conflict between father, son, and cunning brother. Marvel Studios reminded me that story and character development are at the heart of the comic book movies they've helped bring to life. Re-watching October Sky, Joe Johnston's period piece drama about the Rockey Boys of Coalwood, West Virginia, and how he made an old school melodrama without overdoing it, made me realize he's perfect for telling the story of Marvel's first Avenger. Plus, this is where Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor come full circle, if you've been following the backstories hidden within the last 4 movies.

Cowboys and Aliens (July 29): The best of all worlds: James Bond and Indiana Jones together in the old West, battling aliens. Jon Favreau (Iron Man) is directing, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are producing, and Steven Spielberg is executive producer. Oh, and the geek/sci-fi princess, Olivia Wilde is the beautiful girl who's in love with the mysterious drifter who hold the key to stopping a massive alien takeover. Its crazy, absurd, and totally stupid. That's the point. Its a movie that won't take itself seriously, because it knows what it is.

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