Summer movie season! You know it, you love it, you gently make fun of it. More often than not, summer offers a better variety of movies than it's given credit for. Looking forward at this particular summer ... well, there are some diamonds, but also a good bit of rough.
NOTE: I'm kind of super late getting started on this, so at least for this first batch of movies, there's not a ton of "pre" in this preview. Like, OMG HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THIS THOR GUY?? I'll try to get the other parts of this feature up earlier.
Movie: Thor (Kenneth Branagh)
High-Concept Synopsis: The God of Hammers ... or Thunder ... or Lightning -- whatever, Thor! The guy with the hair and the beard! He's cast out of Valhalla (or whatever) and sent to Earth, where he encounters Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings and THEN must save Earth from either his brethren from Outer Norse Space (or whatever) or else monsters or maybe both? And also learn about this human emotion we call love. (Probably.)
Who Will Be Seeing It: Marvel comics loyalists and/or Norse mythology freaks. People who have been made aware that Chris Hemsworth, as Thor, has made himself to look like this. People who appreciate the Shakespearian flair Branagh will no doubt bring to such a classic tale of musclebound superheroes and the geologists (or whatever) who love them.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Folks who might need a break from all the Marvel stuff for a while. Norse mythology freaks who -- oh, right -- would probably have a heart attack and die from what this movie is probably going to do to Norse mythology. People who begrudge Natalie Portman happiness and financial success.
Why I'd See It: Look, good or bad, it's a big dumb superhero movie with attractive lead performers. I'll either have a surprisingly decent time at the movies with this or I'll be able to make fun of it with the rest of you wisenheimers. Win/win. May 6
Movie: Something Borrowed (Luke Greenfield)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ginnifer Goodwin is -- appropriately -- the good one who strives and pines and takes a back seat to BFF Kate Hudson, who is shallow and awful and getting married to prettyprettypretty Colin Egglesfield. But what happens when Ginnifer falls for Colin?? Uh...probably a lot of fighting in wedding dresses.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Whoever saw this EXACT SAME MOVIE play out as Bride Wars. Big Love fans hoping to give Goodwin's burgeoning rom-com career a boost. The Gays, who may be fooled into thinking that John Krasinski's bitchy, well-dressed, advice-giving character is playing Ginnifer's gay best friend and not the quietly-pining-for-her character he apparently is.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who stopped seeing terrible-looking Kate Hudson movies, like, three terrible-looking Kate Hudson movies ago. Ginnifer Goodwin fans who obviously need to employ some tough love. People who object to the chiseled but mildly charismatic Egglesfield getting a better role than both Krasinski and the consistently underrated Steve Howey.
Why I'd See It: If you'd have told me after Almost Famous that Kate Hudson's niche in 2011 would be playing wildly unlikeable brides-to-be, I'd have slapped you and then run away. Between this and Ginnifer Goodwin's terrible and obvious wigs and Krasinski being fraudulently gay-positioned, I'm decidedly against this movie. And will absolutely see it if someone asks me to. May 6
Movie: The Beaver (Jodie Foster)
High-Concept Synopsis:Mel Gibson plays your standard Beaten-Down Middle-Class White Male that the movies cannot stop empathizing with, only this one has a lil' break with reality and ends up coping by speaking through a beaver puppet that he wears on his hand. Jodie Foster not only directs but plays his wife, while Anton Yelchin is his son, and way back before she was Oscar-nominated, Jennifer Lawrence played Yelchin's love interest.
Who Will Be Seeing It:Anyone who can actually swallow Mel Gibson as a sympathetic family man and someone you'd naturally root for. People who were so enamored with this script -- heralded long before it was ever filmed -- that they can't let go, even with Gibson in the lead. Aspirants to the position of Gibson's next cock-tease c*nt of a wife.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Jews. Whores. People who like Jodie Foster but cannot enable her any longer with this Mel Gibson stuff.
Why I'd See It:The tragedy is that I'd be all over this movie, self-consciously goofy concept and all, were it not for the loathsome, hateful man in the lead. "But Joe, you really believe Mel Gibson is the only gross, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic bastard in Hollywood?" Probably not, but everybody else is doing a goddamn better job of making sure I don't find out about it so I can live in blissful plausible deniability. Mel fucked that up for himself. May 6
Movie: Bridesmaids (Paul Feig)
High-Concept Synopsis: Kristen Wiig is the maid of honor for best friend Maya Rudolph, but she clashes with Rose Byrne for control of the bridal party. With Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendon-Covey in town, the whole enterprise goes down a Hangover-like rabbit hole.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who wish The Hangover were made with likeable characters and smart writing. People waiting for Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph to get the big movie breakthroughs they deserve. Anybody who's enjoyed Paul Feig's directing on pretty much every awesome show on TV.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who fall outside of the (debatably slim) section of the Venn diagram like appreciates rude humor and wedding humor. Folks suffering Wiig Burnout from the last few years on SNL. Folks who remember Feig's last big-screen venture, 2006's Unaccompanied Minors, starring Wilmer Valderrama and Lewis Black!
Why I'd See It: Screw that Unaccompanied Minors crap, THIS is the movie that could do for Feig what The 40-Year Old Virgin did for his Freaks and Geeks partner Judd Apatow. I have so much trust in Wiig, Rudolph, and the rest of the cast, my only question is how soon I can see it. May 13
Movie: Priest (Scott Charles Stewart)
High-Concept Synopsis: Paul Bettany once again finds himself fighting off the apocalypse from some kind of vaguely-religious starting point. This time, it's a post-Armageddon world where the vampires have taken over, and he's part of an order of "priests" (aka, vampire hunters). Christopher Plummer, Karl Urban, Maggie Q, and Cam Gigandet co-star. Brought to you by the director of Legion.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who inexplicably loved Legion as an awesome bad movie (it wasn't). People who always secretly suspected that the Catholic church was the organization best equipped to battle the vampire menace. People who have seen Cam Gigandet looking like this.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who saw Legion for the deadly boring, inept piece of crap it was. People who OH MY GOD SERIOUSLY MORE VAMPIRES? People who have seen Cam Gigandet looking like this.
Why I'd See It: Look, Legion was awful, but call me a sucker because I'm in on this one. There's more action in the trailer than there was in the entirety of Legion, so there's that. May 13
Movie: Everything Must Go (Dan Rush)
High-Concept Synopsis:Will Ferrell plays your standard Beaten-Down Middle-Class White Male that the movies cannot stop empathizing with. He loses his job and, on the same day, comes home to find his wife has locked him out and thrown all his stuff out on the lawn. Movie legalese says that he can live on his lawn for up to three days provided it's in the guise of a yard sale. So he's cleaning up his yard AND HIS LIFE. And in lieu of a beaver hand-puppet dispensing wisdom, there's a fat black kid. Rebecca Hall and Laura Dern co-star (neither as the fat black kid).
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who want to find out once and for all if a relatively young, relatively healthy, entirely white dude can ever find a way to get on his feet again. People drawn in by the stamp of approval that the "based on a short story by Raymond Carver" provides. People who invested heavily in Will Ferrell: Dramatic Actor and are really hoping to be able to cash in.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences who are maybe not sold on Dramatic Ferrell yet. Hoarders who are terrified at the thought of anyone giving away any of their crap. People who think Rebecca Hall (and Laura Dern, really) can do better.
Why I'd See It:I'm actually pretty okay with Ferrell in drama (or at least dramady) mode. But man, this story feels like one of those Message with an M movies that is intent on hammering home some ideas about possessions and self-worth and Finding Yourself After You've Hit Rock Bottom. May 13
Movie: Hesher (Spencer Susser)
High-Concept Synopsis: A creepy, filthy, clothes-averse weirdo (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) latches onto a family that's going through some stuff and ends up as a weird mentor to the family's young son. Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: JGL loyalists eager to see his take on a bedraggled loner. Fans of co-writer David Michod, who wrote and directed the stellar Animal Kingdom last year. People who appreciate genre-muddled indies that don't bother to be all that happy about anything.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anybody who's ever met a decidedly anti-social, dirty-haired drifter type in their lives. People who might not trust director Susser's rock cred after learning he's directed music videos for The Offspring. People who are going to get their fill of anti-social yet maddeningly attractive main characters in two weeks with the Hangover sequel.
Why I'd See It: I can't even remember the last time I saw a Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie and he didn't deliver (okay, G.I. Joe is a bit of a stretch, but he wasn't the problem there). This one looks like a bit more of a leap of faith, but I kind of love that I don't know exactly what this movie's going to be from the trailer. Plus, this is probably the one good Natalie Portman movie this year. May 13
Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Rob Marshall)
High-Concept Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back for another three movies, the better to loot and pillage American audiences. Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Judi Dench, and -- once again -- Geoffrey Rush are along for the ride.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who have been missing the high-seas madcap antics of Captain Jack. People who have always hoped that the Pirates franchise could be imbued with the kind of dreamlife musical sensibilities of Chicago and Nine. People who believe, not unjustifiably, that Cruz and McShane are upgrades from Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anybody who actually sat through the entirety of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. People who like Ian McShane fine but would rather watch Orlando Bloom when it comes to the swashbuckling. People longing for the day when Johnny Depp makes a movie where he's not hidden behind gross makeup or hair choices.
Why I'd See It: Ugh, you know, as much as I loved the first one -- and even found some things to like about the second one -- I feel like I was well and truly finished with the series after that dreadful third film. Will I end up drawn in by Cruz, Dench, and McShane? ...I do like all three of them, but I'm not sure if Rob Marshall's take on the material is going to get me to come running. May 20
Movie: Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
High-Concept Synopsis: It's the new Woody Allen movie, but where's the senior citizen carrying on an affair with a benevolent prostitute? Ah well, at least there's Owen Wilson as the Woody stand-in (not doing a Branagh-style copycat job, thank God), and a plot revolving around affluence, intellectuals, and infidelity. Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, and Alison Pill co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: As ever, the people who still have faith in Woody Allen. The people who WANT to have faith in Woody Allen and who have noted that the few times he's shown a spark in recent years, it's been with foreign-set films about young people. People who are far enough down the celebrity gossip rabbit hole that they give a shit that Carla Bruni is in this movie.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Whatever unfortunate sould saw Whatever Works. Whatever unfortunate souls saw the one with Anthony Hopkins. Francophiles who nevertheless are fairly neurotic about the French looking down on them.
Why I'd See It: I never quite seem to learn my lesson with Woody Allen. Sometimes I'm beaten down for that tendency (Whatever Works), but sometimes I'm hugely rewarded (Vicky Christina Barcelona), and it's the latter that'll probably get my ass into a seat for this movie, barring some truly toxic reviews. May 20
Movie: The Hangover Part II (Todd Phillips)
High-Concept Synopsis: The same old assholes, this time in Thailand.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who liked the first one, I guess. Whoever you people are. People who are all, "Oh, you know what's funny? Mike Tyson is what's funny!" Or "I can't get enough of naked Ken Jeong-based humor!" Or "Oscar Wilde is a HACK compared to the guy who wrote that 'Dr. Faggot' joke!"
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who found the first one to be off-puttingly self-satisfied, obnoxious bro-humor that figured it could get away with uniformly unlikeable characters by pandering to guys' basest "Vegas, baby" instincts. Also, the tattoo artist who's suing the movie for copying his face-tattoo design.
Why I'd See It: Seeing as I've not been invited to any fraternity reunions or lost any movie-based bets, I can safely say The Hangover II and I will safely pass each other like ships in the night. May 27
Movie: Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh)
High-Concept Synopsis: That darn panda is at it again. With all the kung fu.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who enjoyed the generally well-received first movie. People who will enjoy saying that they enjoyed the Jack Black-voiced panda movie more than this summer's Pixar offering (sorry, Cars 2). People who feel like Seth Rogen is at his best when voicing animated characters (see Paul or Monsters Vs. Aliens).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Animation snobs. Jack Black snobs. People who don't want to risk the esoteric mysteries of Kung Fu Panda to be too spelled out by a sequel.
Why I'd See It: You know, I make fun, but I hear the original movie is great fun, and I famously made a very wrong choice of You Don't Mess with the Zohan over Kung Fu Panda on a no-air-conditioning emergency trip to the movies. If its this one versus Hangover 2, I won't be making that mistake twice. May 27
Movie: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
High-Concept Synopsis: The long, slow process of life unfolds before our eyes, in gorgeous cinematography and in what will likely feel like real-time.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Malick fanboys everywhere, just champing at the bit to tell you how transcendent it all is. Fans of the super A-listy cast (your Sean Penns, your Brad Pitts). People who enjoy a good long sit.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who find Malick to be ... what's the word? Tedious? Opressively ponderous? Too in love with stillness for their particular tastes? All of that.
Why I'd See It: You guys, I can't. The Thin Red Line killed something inside me, and it's not coming back. On the bright side, I can look at all of Emmanuel Lubezki's undoubtedly gorgeous cinematography with this handy poster. May 27