Hey everyone, in case ska_baron didn't spread the word, I'm back!
And what better way to celebrate my return...again...than my first official movie-related piece since my hiatus?
Yep...it's Ken B.'s Big-Time Movie Preview, Summer 2011 Edition. Join us, won't you?
(Editor's Note: I realize that March isn't a part of summer--however, the studios keep trying to make it be so.)
Studio: Warner Bros.
Releases: March 25th, 2011
Director: Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300)
Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens
The Hook: Girls with swords and machine guns take on mechs, samurais and serpents in a fantasy world where everything may not be what it seems--Alice in Wonderland meets Heroscape.
My Take: I like Zack Synder. He's got incredible visual style. This one's definitely filled with gorgeous imagery and enough nerd iconography to induce seven geekgasms in the span of five minutes.
I'm not too sure on the whole "this world is just in this girl's head" spin, and Snyder can definitely fall prey to style over substance. Still, I'll check it out, as there isn't much competition in the time frame.
Everyone knows that May is the "real" launch of the summer movie season. It used to be Memorial Day that got things going, but now it's the first weekend in May where the heavy-hitters start rolling out.
Releases: May 6th, 2011
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Jamie Alexander
The Hook: Marvel's resident Norse God of Thunder joins the pantheon in the first of this year's two films set in Marvel's linked movie universe, all building to the big Avengers movie in 2012.
My Take: I gotta admit, at first when I heard about this I was really hesitant. There didn't really seem to be a good way to fit Thor into this universe they'd built, as it had been so focused on science, and this would be the first attempt to bring the "magic" aspect into this universe. Plus, in a lot of the media Thor is portrayed as a boorish, oblivious brute--strong, mighty, but a character that would be hard stay interested in for two hours.
After seeing the trailers though, I am finally sold on it. The names attached to this are strong, with Hopkins and Portman playing prominent roles and directed by Kenneth Branagh. The action looks solid and it looks to be hitting all the right notes.
Studio: Screen Gems
Releases: May 13th, 2011
Directed By: Scott Stewart
Starring: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q
The Hook: Based on the cult-classic comic series, Priests with superhuman abilities fight vampires and save the world.
My Take: Whenever a movie is delayed repeatedly, that's always a bad sign. When it's post-converted into 3d just for the sake of having it be in 3d, that's another bad sign.
I like the theme of the movie and am holding out hope. The trailer shows flashes of promise, but also has some groan-inducing cliches and some rather dodgy CGI. It's directed by the same guy who did last year's Legion, so...uh...there's that allegedly going for it as well.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Studio: Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Walt Disney Pictures
Releases: May 20, 2011
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane
The Hook: Captain Jack Sparrow's back for more adventure, this time in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth.
My Take: I sort of enjoyed all three Pirates movies, but in that sort of way one kinda likes the group Godsmack--yeah, it's on, it's competent, but it's hard to see how anyone would go apeshit over it.
Still, apeshit is what people went over the first three movies in the franchise, so even with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley bowing out, the series must go on.
Are people burned out on Depp's Keith Richards-inspired Sparrow schtick? Guess we'll see. I always found the extra characters had added to the bloat of the story (please explain to me why World's End needed to be seemingly eleventy billion hours long?) so maybe they'll cull the fat and get back to what works--Depp hamming it up and light, fun adventure.
It's definitely a cash-in, the jury's just out on whether it will be enjoyable or not, on a scale of 1 to 4 Godsmack albums.
The Hangover: Part II
Studio: Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.
Releases: May 26th
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Jeffrey Tambor, Paul Giamatti
The Hook: The gang from the first Hangover movie end up in Bangkok. Hilarity ensues.
My Take: The first Hangover was a truly surprise hit, and one that I laughed my ass off over. Seriously, if you made it through the credits montage without ending up in tears, you have no soul.
But the first story was this great blend of stuff that ended up being a mystery of how their entire night had transpired--and what had happened to their friend. I can't tell from the trailers I've seen if there is going to be that same mystery, but the movie title (and premise) seems to demand it--which means retreading a lot of the same comedic ground.
Yeah, this one smells like a cash-in too.
Even so, I laughed so hard at the first one I'm (probably foolishly) going to give them the benefit of the doubt. The cast had great charisma together, and with the success of the first one they'll be able to ramp it up even further.
X-Men: First Class
Studio: 20th Century Fox/Marvel Entertainment
Releases: June 3rd, 2011
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, January Jones
The Hook: See how Xavier's band of merry mutants began in this prequel to the popular movie trilogy.
My Take: Yeah, so with X3 being crammed with just waaaaay too much stuff, and Wolverine: Origins being borderline turdly, the X-franchise isn't exactly in the greatest of places right now.
They painted themselves in the corner with X3, killing off several popular characters, so it seems they're having to regress for now until they finally just reboot the damned thing--in fact, with Spidey's imminent reboot after less than a decade, I'm truly surprised that they haven't done that already.
I'm not sold on either actor playing Magneto or Xavier. But the effects look good, I dig the Kennedy-era Cold War setting, and with Bryan Singer returning to do the story, that does give me hope. (It also reminds me how far the series has fallen since the insanely fantastic X2, one of my absolute favorite comic book movies of all time.)
Yeah, I've been burned twice in a row now, so this is pretty much their last chance with this whole incarnation.
Studio: Bad Robot Productions/Paramount Pictures
Releases: June 10th, 2011
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Amanda Michalka
The Hook: A series of mysterious movie trailers have given way to a story about a group of young kids who, in 1979, take their Super 8 camera out to make a movie--only to see a truck and train collide...and something inhuman crawl from the wreckage.
My Take: I've definitely drank the Abrams Kool-aid at this point. I loved the Star Trek reboot, and I remember the build-up for Cloverfield that he pulled off so well (in fact too well, as the build-up was better than the actual movie.)
TV's Lost had so much viral stuff going on with web games, mysterious phone lines, fake commercials...that sort of stuff when it was fresh and new made the whole build-up all the more exciting.
The latest trailer I've seen though is giving me a weird E.T. vibe for some reason. A lot of the storyline is still under wraps, so I'm hoping for something more than Iron Giant: Part II or something similar. For now, though, in Abrams we trust.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Studio: Paramount Pictures/Dreamworks
Releases: July 1st, 2011
Directed By: (Damn You) Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Witely, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Tuturro, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich
The Hook: This third and final (yeah, right) movie in the series sees the continued war between the Autobots and Decepticons reach a final conclusion as both sides race to retrieve a Cybertronian spacecraft from the moon.
My Take: There was a point in the second movie where I'd realized I'd turned my brain completely off and was enjoying it--it was somewhere around the battle between Prime and the other Decepticons in the forest. Yeah, it was trading off pure nostalgia, but I enjoyed seeing Optimus kick some serious ass. Then the movie meandered on for another hour and a half and featured metal robot testicles, jive talking racial stereotypes, and a Shia "LeBeef" fever dream Deus Ex Machina. Whatever, movie.
Will I go see this? I'd be lying my ass off if I said I wasn't. Hey, I'm a sucker, a glutton for punishment. And spectacle.
I do find it funny they've cast aside Sam's relationship that they spent two movies building, just because Megan Fox was a total diva who went off her rocker and compared Michael Bay to Hitler. With Fox being in the megabomb Jonah Hex, this might signal the end for her--unless she decides to star in Boner Hexxx or something similar.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Studio: Heyday Films/Warner Bros.
Releases: July 15th, 2011
Directed By: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter
The Hook: It's all been building to this, folks. The final battle between Harry Potter and his friends against Lord Voldemort and his Death Eater allies. Expect epic epicness.
My Take: Man...how weird will it be to have no more Harry Potter movies? A staple for a decade, we've watched these kids grow up right before our eyes.
The decision to split the final movie in two was definitely a money-making move, as the first part of Deathly Hallows just sort of...ended. However, according to those in the know, all the best stuff happens in the second half, so no more "Harry Potter and the Long Camping Trip."
For whatever reason, Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favorite, but I'm really hoping the whole series goes out with a bang. What will be interesting to see is how studios fill the vaccum, as the million attempts to launch "the Next Harry Potter" failed (see Golden Compass, Spiderwick Chronicles, Eragon, and numerous others.) Twilight caught on big, but it had fewer books to go through and even with their splitting that final novel in half, that franchise will be finished next year. So beyond Marvel's attempts to sustain a franchise, we've got James Bond in limbo, The Hobbit on its way (also a two-parter, but that should effectively wrap up The Lord of the Rings...where else would they go?)
Anyway, I'm rambling. I've seen all the Potter films and enjoyed them, so I'll definitely be there for the conclusion.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Studio: Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures
Releases: July 22nd, 2011
Directed By: Joe Johnson
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones
The Hook: The iconic red, white, and blue hero finally gets a REAL live-action movie (pay no attention to that 1990 monstrosity.) Again, all leading up to the Avengers movie that will either shake comic movie fandom to its core, or leave the whole concept quivering in a pile of "meh."
My Take: Alright, I've gotta get this out of my system first: How freaking lazy is it to cast a guy who already played a Marvel Hero as Captain America? Sure, Chris Evans' Human Torch along with Michael Chiklis' Thing were two of the few redeeming elements of the Fantastic Four movies, but as Johnny Storm would say, "C'MON!"
I mean, I liked Evans as the douchey action-star/ex-boyfriend in Scott Pilgrim versus the World, but I am not really convinced he can carry a movie as a non-douchey lead.
I'll tell you though, hearing that Hugo Weaving was cast as The Red Skull was that same level of genius casting as when you first heard that Patrick Stewart was playing Charles Xavier. It just fits. Weaving is always great to watch, so it might just be his film to carry.
Setting the movie in the past is risky, but Cap's origins have to be told. Even so, I'm getting the same vibe from this one as I did from Norton's Incredible Hulk--it was a good movie that was smothered, obliterated, and nearly forgotten because of Iron Man 2. Of this pair, so far it looks like Thor is going to turn out the better of the two.
Cowboys and Aliens
Studio: Relativity Media/Universal Studios
Releases: July 29th, 2011
Directed By: Jon "Happy" Favreau
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown
The Hook: Han Solo and James Bond fight off an alien invasion in the old west in this movie based on the graphic novel of the same name.
My Take: To me, this looks like the type of movie that Boner Hexxx....uh....Jonah Hex should have been--wild west, lots of action, some supernatural/otherworldly stuff going down, and technology decades upon decades too advanced.
Harrison Ford really hasn't had a blockbuster in awhile beyond Crystal Skull, but hey, he's still Harrison f'n Ford. Daniel Craig really came into his own as the grittier take on James Bond, so his action stock has really risen since then.
I'm actually pretty excited by this. With Jon Favreau at the helm, a great cast, and some kick-ass trailers, this one is shaping up to be one I'm looking forward to quite a bit.
That carries us through until July....and embarassingly enough I can't find a movie listed in August that is on my radar.
Fill free in the discussion below to talk these over, or fill in the blanks on stuff I have undoubtedly missed.
Ken is a member of the Fortress: Ameritrash staff. Click here for more board game articles by Ken.