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Summer Movie Madness

Stay inside where it's cool and catch all the big movies before your friends do

Posted: June 3, 2011 6:00 a.m.
Updated: June 3, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Get ready for the big flicks.

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Though "summer" won't officially begin until June 21, the summer movie season has been underway for a few weeks now. You may have already gone to see the latest installation of "Pirates" or "Hangover" or "Kung Fu Panda," and more summer movies open today. AP Movie Writer David Germain has compiled an informative list of his most-anticipated summer movies to come, including action, comedy and those he considers "grown up" films. In light of our limitations on space, we provide you with an abbreviated version of his text here.

Action films
Wizard Harry Potter comes to the end of his saga - and swarms of new superheroes come out swinging. Add in a third round of giant robots from space, the dawn of a planet of intelligent apes and an alien invasion in the Old West, and Hollywood has one of its most action-packed summers ever in store.

Continuing franchises include the battling ‘bots sequel "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"; and the prequels "X-Men: First Class" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

New comic-book adaptations join Hollywood's superhero fixation with "Green Lantern" and "Captain America: The First Avenger." Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig team up to take on extra-terrestrial raiders in the sci-fi and Western hybrid "Cowboys & Aliens." "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams directs his own E.T.-style adventure with "Super 8," a tale of teen filmmakers whose monster movie turns real after a train wreck unleashes an alien force.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint head back to Hogwarts one last time for the final showdown between good and evil wizards with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (July 15).

The adaptation of J.K. Rowling's finale to her fantasy series was split into two films, the first leaving off with last fall's cliffhanger involving the death match between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).
"Deathly Hallows: Part 2" joins other action franchises that are going the 3-D route for the first time, among them the "Transformers" sequels.

"Dark of the Moon" (June 29) reunites "Transformers" star Shia LaBeouf and director Michael Bay as an event out of Earth's past touches off a new round in the struggle between two warring robot races.

Megan Fox, who co-starred in the franchise's first two movies, is gone this time, but other returning cast members include John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson.

Superheroes are everywhere this summer, with "Captain America" making his solo debut (July 22) before joining the all-star lineup of summer 2012's "The Avengers." That ensemble tale will feature Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson from the "Iron Man" franchise along with Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk.

"Captain America" stars Chris Evans, padding his superhero resume after co-starring as the Human Torch in the "Fantastic Four" flicks.

Evans' Steve Rogers is a 98-pound weakling who volunteers for a military program that bulks him up into super-soldier Captain America, leading a team of heroes battling arch-villain Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).

Ryan Reynolds stars as an ordinary guy who gains superpowers from a ring bestowed by a dying alien. As the first human to join the Green Lantern Corps (June 17) - essentially, interstellar cops on the beat - his character becomes the key to stopping an evil force. But he encounters a little alien bigotry along the way.

"X-Men: First Class" (June 3) features James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the future Professor X and Magneto - superpowered mutants who start as allies but end up deadly enemies in their quest to find a place for their freak-of-nature kinsmen.

Another prequel, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Aug. 5) has James Franco and Freida Pinto leading the human cast as research into simian intelligence puts the world under new management.

Interspecies conflict comes to the Old West, too, in "Cowboys & Aliens" (July 29) as a mysterious gunslinger (Craig) and a cattle baron (Ford) put together a posse of townsfolk, outlaws and Apache Indians to go after bad guys from space in 1873.

"Cowboys & Aliens" director Jon Favreau, who made "Iron Man" and its sequel, said the hit Western "True Grit" and the Wild West animated comedy "Rango" were nice lead-ins after a long dry spell for the genre.

"The Western, that may have been the aspect of the film that made the studio the most cautious when it was first green-lighted. Now, it's turned into the aspect that makes it more original and stand out from the crowd," Favreau said. "The fun comes from the mash-up of genres."

Director Abrams created his own mash-up with "Super 8" (June 10), combining two projects he had been developing: A story inspired by his boyhood filmmaking endeavors and a sci-fi adventure about a train that derails while carrying an alien presence from Area 51.

Other action highlights:
- "Fright Night" (Aug. 19): The remake of the 1980s horror comedy stars Colin Farrell as a newcomer targeting the kid next door (Anton Yelchin), who has discovered his neighbor's a vampire.

- "30 Minutes or Less" (Aug. 12): Jesse Eisenberg stars in an action comedy about a pizza delivery guy abducted by crooks and forced to rob a bank.

- "Conan the Barbarian" (Aug. 19): The new take on the ancient warrior has Conan (Jason Momoa) on a personal vendetta that turns into a heroic mission against supernatural evil.

Comedy films
Michael Caine joins returning voice stars Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy for the racing adventure "Cars 2."
The laugh list features Kevin James' talking-animal romp "Zookeeper"; Jim Carrey's family story "Mr. Popper's Penguins"; the return of beloved animated creatures with "Winnie the Pooh" and "The Smurfs"; Steve Carell's marital-crisis romance "Crazy, Stupid, Love"; and a couple of titles that say it all: Cameron Diaz's "Bad Teacher" and "Horrible Bosses," with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston.

Dealing with exotic ways also is at the heart of "Cars 2" (June 24), in which Wilson's Lightning McQueen heads out on an international racing circuit, where rickety tow-truck buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is mistaken for an undercover agent and pressed into service by a slick British spymaster (Caine).

Cameron Diaz's character in "Bad Teacher" (June 24) was never meant for the classroom. She's rude, raunchy and boozy, with a lesson plan mainly aimed at hooking a rich substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) while fending off advances from a nice-guy gym instructor (Jason Segel).

Diaz gets to cut loose with profanity playing a woman whose life she describes as "one big F-bomb."

Bateman and his co-stars are similarly unrestrained in "Horrible Bosses" and a second comedy he has this summer, "The Change-Up," with Ryan Reynolds.

"Horrible Bosses" (July 8) features Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as underlings who take bad advice from an ex-con (Jamie Foxx) about how to do away with their awful overseers (Aniston, Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell).
"The Change-Up" (Aug. 5) stars Reynolds and Bateman as old friends with drastically different lives - one's a stressed out lawyer and family man, the other's a laid-back slacker - who wake up after a drunken night to discover they've switched bodies.

Other comedy highlights:
- "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (July 29): Steve Carell goes awkwardly back on the dating market after his wife (Julianne Moore) gives him the boot, and a smooth operator (Ryan Gosling) takes him on as "wing man."

- "Zookeeper" (July 8): A lonely animal tender (Kevin James) gets lessons on courting women from his charges - a menagerie of talking critters.

- "Friends With Benefits" (July 22): Two pals (Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis) complicate their lives when they decide they can have sex together without messing up their friendship.

- "Monte Carlo" (July 1): Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy are friends who land in a fairy-tale European vacation after one of them is mistaken for an heiress.

- "Mr. Popper's Penguins" (Aug. 12): A real-estate kingpin (Jim Carrey) is forced to become caretaker for six penguins he inherits.

- "Winnie the Pooh" (July 15): The honey-loving bear returns with pals Tigger, Piglet, Roo and Eeyore, who gets some help finding a new tail after losing his own.

- "The Smurfs" (July 29): The little blue guys find themselves exiled to Manhattan's Central Park, scrambling to find their way home after an evil wizard banishes them.

Grownup films
Movie screens this summer are not entirely booked with superheroes, kiddie fare and goofy buddy flicks. Plenty of mature dramas and comedies about dealing with - or escaping from - the problems of real life arrive alongside the season's big studio offerings.

If there's a grown-up blockbuster in the making for summer, it's the adaptation of the literary sensation "The Help" (Aug. 12), which has a built-in audience of millions of readers - women who can turn out in huge numbers when the right female-driven film shows up.

"If you make something new and original and depth-y and true and relatable, women are going to come," said "The Help" star Emma Stone, who plays an aspiring white writer stirring up her Mississippi hometown during the civil-rights movement in 1963 by chronicling the lives of black maids.

"It's also great that the face of this movie represents America, because when we talk about women, oftentimes we don't talk about women of color," said Viola Davis, who co-stars as one of the maids. "We're not included in that mixture, and in this story, we are included."

Other grown-up highlights:
"Larry Crowne" (July 1): Tom Hanks falls on hard times as a downsized box-company worker who goes back to college and joins an assemblage of campus oddballs while developing a crush on his public-speaking teacher (Julia Roberts).

"One Day" (July 8): A single day on the calendar becomes a momentous one for Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in an adaptation of the novel about a relationship that plays out over a 20-year succession of July 15ths.

"The Debt" (Aug. 31): Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain star in a tale spanning 30 years as a retired Mossad agent goes back on the clock to take care of loose ends from an old mission to hunt down a Nazi war criminal.
"Our Idiot Brother" (Aug. 26): An ex-con (Paul Rudd) with a rosy outlook gets out of jail and becomes an unwanted houseguest with each of his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer) as they all struggle through crises.

"Higher Ground" (Aug. 12): Vera Farmiga directs and stars in a drama about the life-long struggle with faith and relationships for a born-again Christian woman harboring doubts about her path.

"A Better Life" (June 24): Chris Weitz ("American Pie," "About a Boy") directs an intimate Hispanic family story about an illegal migrant gardener (Demian Bichir) struggling to build a better future for his teenage son (Jose Julian).

"The Devil's Double" (July 29): Dominic Cooper does double-duty in the true-life story of an Iraqi army lieutenant drafted to be the body double for Saddam Hussein's depraved son in the late 1980s.

"Beginners" (June 3): Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer star in a tale of family upheaval centered on a man whose 75-year-old father comes out of the closet and embraces a new gay life after 44 years of marriage.

"The Whistleblower" (Aug. 5): A Nebraska cop (Rachel Weisz) signs on as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia, where she uncovers corruption and scandal amid efforts to rebuild the country. With Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci and David Strathairn.

"Submarine" (June 3): This coming-of-age story focuses on a teen aiming to preserve his parents' marriage and rev up their romance while trying to get his own sex life going. With Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor and Paddy Considine.

 

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