2011 Summer Movie Preview

It feels like it could be a week summer, but there’s still plenty to get excited about. Here’s a list of my top 10 most-anticipated blockbusters, followed by the 10 most intriguing independent pictures.

10.) X-Men: First Class
Pros: Director Matthew Vaughn, interesting period elements
Cons: X-Men fatigue

9.) Kung Fu Panda 2
Pros: Solid first film, many different directions to go
Cons: Dreamworks spotty track record with sequels, Jack Black voice work

8.) Cars 2
Pros: Pixar
Cons: Pointless sequel to their worst film

7.) Horrible Bosses
Pros: Hilarious premise, all-star cast
Cons: No trailer yet, Jennifer Aniston is in it

6.) Captain America
Pros: Period superhero movie, Chris Evans’ charisma
Cons: Director Joe Johnston, superhero fatigue by end of July?

5.) Bad Teacher
Pros: Hilarious premise, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake ooze comedic potential
Cons: Writing might not be there

4.) 30 Minutes or Less
Pros: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, director Ruben Fleischer, hilarious trailer, wild premise
Cons: Held back in trailer, August release date a bad sign?

3.) Cowboys and Aliens
Pros: Clever premise, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, Director Jon Favreau
Cons: Too serious?

2.) Super 8
Pros: Brilliant marketing and trailers, Director J.J. Abrams, period setting, aura of mystery, original material
Cons: Child actors, still not sure just what it’s about

1.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Pros: Unblemished track record, Director David Yates and actors hitting stride, action-packed plot, tone of finality
Cons: None! it’s Harry Potter!

And the indies:

10.) Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times
This one beats out the likes of Life Above All, Submarine, and Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop because of the inner journalism dork in me. I actually don’t even know what this is specifically about (though the title isn’t really that mystifying), but there’s just no way I can miss something like this.

9.) The Whistleblower
Rachel Weisz might just be a Best Actress contender for her role in Larysa Kondracki’s film about a peacekeeper in Bosnia who uncovers a U.N. sex scandal. The film itself could go either way, but I’m a big fan of Weisz’ work, and look forward to her returning to the highs of The Constant Gardener and The Fountain.

8.) The Trip
Most of the reviews are promising a ton of laughs, which already makes it more anticipated for me than The Hangover Part II. But the promise of a Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story reunion between director Michael Winterbottom and stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is what makes me really excited about this one.

7.) Project Nim
James Marsh’s last film, Man on Wire, is one of the best-reviewed films in history. I thought it was solid, but a little unspectacular. This film, however, oozes with promise. It follows a chimp who’s raised like a human child in 1970s New York, which I’m sure will make it both entertaining and emotionally involving.

6.) Midnight in Paris
As far as I’m concerned, Woody Allen always deserves the benefit of the doubt. His latest is Midnight in Paris, and it looks a little out there. Owen Wilson seems like a perfect fit for a Woody Allen picture, and his supporting cast is fantastic—Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams. The trailer is kind of confounding, but I’m optimistic about this one because it, like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, feels like a wonderful love letter to a beautiful European city. Everything in the trailer looks gorgeous, and I truly hoped that inspired Allen to make another great film. It has been a while, but I know he has a few more in him.

5.) Another Earth
It’s got the most-unique sounding plot of any film this summer, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll just take it from IMDb: “On the night of the discovery of a duplicate planet in the solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.” I’m hearing low-budget sci-fi/powerful human drama. If so, I’m all in. Sounds a little like Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, actually.

4.) Tabloid
The most promising (in my opinion) of this year’s crop of documentaries, Errol Morris’ latest tells the story of a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with kidnapping a young Mormon missionary. It sounds like the film is going to be made with some real flair and style, which is always welcome. Can’t wait.

3.) Beginners
Great word out of Toronto last year on Mike Figgis’ latest about a man (Ewan McGregor) who reconnects with his recently-out-of-the-closet father (Christopher Plummer), who’s also been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sounds like Christopher Plummer might finally get his Oscar, right?

2.) The Beaver
Morbid curiosity about the state of Mel Gibson’s career would be enough to get me out to see this one. That being said, I’m actually really excited for this. The script is supposed to be exceptional, and the premise—a depressed man decides to communicate through a beaver puppet—sounds really intriguing. Early word is mostly positive. Plus, Jodie Foster—Hollywood’s most particular actress—directed and stars in it. That’s gotta be a good sign.

1.) The Tree of Life
Everyone’s number one, I guess. I’m actually not even the biggest Terrence Malick fan, but the anticipation over this film is palpable. It’s been delayed for almost two years, and through all that time, the film’s plot is still a mystery. We’ll get first word on this at Cannes mid-month, with May 27 being the official release date of this bound-to-be-talked-about work of art.

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