11Summer of Sequels

With a record-breaking 27 sequels set to be released in 2011, including the fifth (really?) installment of Final Destination and the latest Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots, the real question is whether the movie industry is seriously lacking in new material or if it just can’t part with some of the most popular film characters of the last decade. With the typical summer blockbusters like Green Lantern andCaptain America slated to open in the upcoming months, it’s hard to tell if movie franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean can survive a fourth installment without two of their main leads (neither Kiera Knightley nor Orlando Bloom will be back). One thing that is certain is that the final film in the Harry Potter series will break movie records when it heads into theaters beginning July 15.

The culminating film of the fantasy epic, Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows: Part II, chronicles the final battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. The whole crew is back, returning to Hogwarts to find and destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes. In the same spirit as the penultimate film, the mood is dark and somber, and there will be plenty of surprises in store for those who haven’t read the books. And for those of you who have, it marks the end of an era, as audiences finally find out if good or evil wins out in the end.

The Gryffindor clan is not the only group of friends ready for action this summer. Set in Bangkok and with all of the original wolfpack back, The Hangover Part II is expected to give its predecessor a run for its money. When the foursome travels to Thailand for Stu’s wedding, Stu (Ed Helms) is determined to make sure his bachelor party doesn’t turn into the Vegas debacle of the previous year, and plans a calm pre-wedding brunch. But what happens in Bangkok stays in Bangkok, and the wedding party is not prepared for what happens in the much anticipated sequel, opening in theaters on May 26. While critics have questioned the ability to make movie-goers laugh just as much as they did in the first film, the cast says it’s more clever, more outrageous, and more hysterical than ever before. And with Hoya Bradley Cooper in the cast, I’m inclined to see it for myself.

Summer Comedies

On the heels of his performance in The Social Network and with two movies out this summer, Justin Timberlake is taking the acting world by storm. Cameron Diaz stars alongside Timberlake in Bad Teacher (June 24) as a disgruntled, annoyed school teacher looking for a rich man to marry so that she can quit her day job. Enter Timberlake as a good-natured (and rich) substitute teacher and all bets are off in this dark comedy from the director of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Timberlake also teams up with Mila Kunis in Friends with Benefits (July 22), the movie that may or may not have caused the breakup between JT and longtime love Jessica Biel. Timberlake and Kunis play longtime friends who, after both being dumped by their significant others, attempt to have an emotionally distant, friends-with-benefits relationship. Following in the shadows of 2011’s No Strings Attached, it’s the chemistry (and sheer hotness) of Timberlake and Kunis that audiences will enter the theater for. But with a strong cast of up-and-comers, Friends with Benefits is expected to make waves at the box office as well as in the hearts of audiences, and I’m excited to see Timberlake in a softer role than his usual stand-up stints on “SNL.”

The comedy I’m most excited for this summer, though, comes from one of the most talented comedians in the industry, Steve Carrell, and the usually brooding, romantic Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love (July 29). Gosling takes a step back from his usual romantic dramas and instead acts as a womanizing ladies’ man who tries to help a depressed Carrell come out of his pending divorce stronger than before. Not only does Gosling seem to own this very different role, but Carrell is the usual sensitive funnyman that we’ve all come to know and love. The star-studded cast, including Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei and Emma Stone, fits perfectly into the tone of the movie which, in the end, mixes just the right amount of humor with a lot of love and laughter.

Summer Romances

Woody Allen returns with another screwball romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris. Teaming up again are Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, as a happily engaged couple who, upon arriving in Paris for business, discover what their life could be like if they weren’t together. The cast also includes Kathy Bates, Adrian Brody and Michael Sheen, and the movie opens May 20.

And both of the Roberts girls are back this summer. Emma Roberts stars in The Art of Getting By with the young Freddie Highmore, best known for his role in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as two very different teens that build a bond over their parental struggles. Her Aunt, Julia Roberts stars alongside Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne, which will be out on July 1. While the two stars alone seem to make this movie a potential summer blockbuster, the plot of a down-and-out teacher and uneducated warehouse worker who decides to attend community college looks promising.

But it’s One Day (July 8) that gets my vote for the potential best romantic drama of the summer. Anne Hathaway, whose recent roles have catapulted her into critical acclaim and away from Disney princessdom, has found her niche as a leading lady. She and Jim Sturgess are shown on the same day every year for a period of several years. The chosen day is the anniversary of the night that they met and this technique allows viewers to observe the evolution of their friendship and the changing of times and  people. The duo has strong chemistry, and as Lone Scherfig’s follow-up film to the Oscar-nominated An Education, I’m expecting great things.

Star Studded Cast in Oscar Hopeful

Without even seeing it, movie critic Peter Knegt predicted that The Tree of Life (May 27) will win the year’s Best Picture Academy Award. In this independent film by director Terrence Malick, Brad Pitt stars as a forceful, bullying father, whose son, played as an adult by Sean Penn, later attempts to reconcile his tumultuous relationship with his father by examining the meaning of life and questioning his faith. Yet critics describe it as “metaphysical,” and many have had trouble clearly defining what type of film it really is, as scenes displaying a younger son engaged in fights with his father or being coddled by his protective mother mesh with images of asteroids hitting the earth and other iconic imagery. One of the most secretive pieces of recent years, the film has run into more red tape and delayed releases than most films do, but regardless of speculation, the expectations alone are sure to make this independent film one of the most talked-about this year.

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