by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN Contributing Writer
The summer movie season - Hollywood's favorite time of year - is back, and it's packed with more sequels, spin-offs, and reboots then any year in recent memory. In May and June alone, there's a part five, a part four, and three part twos. We've also got the first of two Marvel Comics superhero debuts, both of which follow on the heels of last year's Iron Man 2 and also serve as preludes to next year's The Avengers.
Thankfully, there is some originality to be found. Saturday Night Live veteran Kristin Wiig makes her screenwriting debut with Bridesmaids while Jodie Foster attempts to resurrect Mel Gibson's acting career with The Beaver. The most talked-about title might just be one of the least well-known: writer/director J.J. Abrams will pay homage to the early works of Steven Spielberg with his sci-fi 1970s adventure Super 8. There's also another superhero making his way to theaters as Warner Bros. sets DC Comics star Green Lantern up as a potential tentpole title they can sequelize for many summers to come.
There's more, including the return of the Seattle International Film Festival and Three Dollar Bill Cinema's annual Translations Film Festival. Plenty of foreign imports and independent titles are sure to get the more adventurous moviegoer excited, and it's a given some Hollywood also-ran will wow us all and make a mark at the box office.
Here's what's expected to hit Seattle area screens in May and June. As always, release dates are subject to change, so please keep that in mind when planning your summertime schedule.
The Beaver - Director and star Jodie Foster's valiant attempt to revive the career of Mel Gibson. His performance as a clinically depressed business executive who learns to communicate by using a hand puppet is one of his all-time best, and while the movie isn't perfect, it's still a moderately profound treatise on family, fatherhood, and aging I thoroughly enjoyed.
Jumping the Broom - A comedy about two African American families - one from the downtown streets, the other from the uptown suburbs - coming together in Martha's Vineyard for a wedding.
Meek's Cutoff - Director Kelly Reichardt's (Wendy and Lucy) latest effort is a sparse, brutal, and emotionally barren Western starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, and Will Patton where nothing much happens and yet everything is achieved. A startlingly beautiful film (although not without its problems), this is an elegantly restrained effort finicky audiences should be on the lookout for.
Queen to Play - Kevin Kline (in a French-speaking role) and Sandrine Bonnaire star in an idyllic feel-good comedy set in sunny Corsica.
The Robber - Based on the life of Johann Rettenberger, this wonderful thriller chronicles how a renowned marathon runner moonlighted as one of Germany's most notorious bank robbers.
Something Borrowed - Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, and John Krasinski star in a matrimonial-themed romantic comedy that has an awful lot in common with My Best Friend's Wedding.
Thor - Director Kenneth Branagh brings his Shakespearean flare to the world of Marvel Comics, helping bring God of Thunder and Asgard outcast Thor to life.
May 12 - May 15
The 6th Annual Translations Film Festival - Three Dollar Bill Cinema's popular weekend Transgender film fest returns with a series of panels, shorts, documentaries, narrative features, and retrospective works spotlighting the Trans community. It all kicks off with the Chaz Bono documentary Becoming Chaz at Pacific Place. For more information and tickets, go to www.threedollarbillcinema.org.
Bridesmaids - An exceedingly foul and funny adult R-rated comedy about matrimonial carnage co-written and starring Saturday Night Live dynamo Kristin Wiig that has all the earmarks of being one of the summer's biggest successes.
Everything Must Go - A change of pace effort for star Will Ferrell, the comedian portraying a relapsed alcoholic who loses his wife and his job and decides to sell everything he has in a yard sale in an attempt to start over from scratch.
Forks Over Knives - Documentary that examines the claim that most, maybe even all, degenerative diseases can be controlled if we all just made the conscious effort to stop eating meat and processed food.
Hesher - Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, and the great Piper Laurie in an independent drama about a depressed pyromaniac who lives in a van only to see his life change when he runs into a young boy with even bigger problems than his own.
Le Quattro Volte - Italian import about an elderly shepherd living out his final days amidst the peace and quiet of the medieval, mostly abandoned village in which he has lived all his life. This meditative little picture has been a favorite of international critics and an award-winner at festivals all over the world.
Priest - Director Scott Stewart and star Paul Bettany follow up their 2010 suspense-thriller dud Legion with a new tale, this one presented in 3D and concerning a fanatical religious order, a post-apocalyptic wasteland ravaged by vampires, and a lone theological warrior who believes he can wipe the world clean of this undead menace. I'm already yawning.
The Princess of Montpensier - The latest from acclaimed director Bertrand Tavernier (Coup de Torchon, Captain Conan) and starring the luminous Mélanie Thierry, this 16th-century political romance was the love-it/hate-it attraction at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.
May 19-June 12
The 37th Annual Seattle International Film Festival - The largest film festival in North America returns, opening with The First Grader, a British import from director Justin Chadwick, and ends 24 days later with a picture still to be announced. The SGN will be covering all the wonderfulness start to finish. Keep checking the front page for details.
13 Assassins - A Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) actioner about a group of warriors who join forces to kill an evil feudal lord.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Johnny Depp is back as Jack Sparrow, and whether or not you think that's a good thing probably depends on if you didn't feel like the two previous Pirates of the Caribbean flicks strangled all affinity for the series right out of you (I did). Geoffrey Rush also returns, while Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane join the proceedings as a pair of fellow swashbucklers searching for the fabled Fountain of Youth.
The Hangover Part II - The year's most pointless sequel promises to deliver more of the same as the 2009 Las Vegas-set original, only this time the action has been moved to Thailand and reshoots have apparently plagued the production from the get-go. Stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms all return, as does director Todd Phillips.
Kung Fu Panda 2 - In Memorial Day weekend's second major sequel, everyone's favorite kung fu fighting panda bear Po (voiced by Jack Black) returns to face a new menace who harbors a terrible secret and brandishes an ancient and powerful weapon.
Hobo with a Shotgun - A homeless Rutger Hauer blows away evildoers in this gleefully over-the-top and bloody grindhouse thriller.
The First Grader - SIFF's opening-night feature goes into its general theatrical run. Director Justin Chadwick tells the true story of Kenyan villager and ex-Mau Mau freedom fighter Charles Obinchu and his fight to attend school and obtain an education even though he's 84 years old.
Incendies - One of the nominees for last year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Incendies is a searing import revolving around two twins honoring their mother's dying wish and heading to the Middle East to research their roots.
Skateland - An audience favorite at the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival, this retro John Hughes-style 1980s coming-of-age dramatic comedy is a light and bouncy winner starring Ashley Greene, Shiloh Fernandez, and James LeGros. Definitely worth a look.
True Legend - A big-budget Hong Kong import directed by the great fight choreographer Woo-ping Yuen (The Matrix), featuring the awesome Michelle Yeoh in a key supporting role.
Mia and Magoo - An Animated French import about a young girl's journey across perilous mountains and treacherous jungles in search of her missing father.
Midnight in Paris - Fresh off its Cannes Film Festival premier, writer and director Woody Allen's latest is set in the City of Lights and stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody, and Kathy Bates.
X-Men: First Class - The fifth film in the X-Men series, this one goes back to the beginning to chronicle how Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (a.k.a. Magneto) became the hero and the villain they are today. The second film of the summer's crowded superhero field to see a release, it is also somewhat surprisingly the one with the most positive buzz, as people are apparently curious to see what director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) can do with the material.
Beginners - Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Mélanie Laurent star in a tale about a 30-something roustabout who must deal with two startling announcements: that his elderly father has terminal cancer and - maybe even more astonishing - that he also has a young male lover.
Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer - Based on the award-winning literary series by Megan McDonald, third-grader Judy Moody (newcomer Jordana Beatty) goes to extremes to make sure she has the best summer ever.
Super 8 - The summer's must buzzed-about title, this highly secretive thriller comes from the mind of Star Trek and Lost impresario J.J. Abrams and is a homage to the early works of Steven Spielberg (who just so happens to produce).
The Troll Hunter - A Norwegian import about a group of college students who think they are investigating a series of mysterious bear killings, only to discover the creature responsible for all of the bloody carnage is a giant troll - and now it's hunting them! OK, I admit that this is one title I just can't wait to see.
The Art of Getting By - Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts star in a Sundance Film Festival favorite about a teenager who suddenly realizes he's made it to his senior year in high school without doing a single ounce of work.
Green Lantern - Am I the only one who thinks the trailers for this DC Comics adventure look incredibly awful? I can't be, right? Of all the superhero flicks hitting theaters this summer, this is the one I am dreading the most.
Mr. Popper's Penguins - Jim Carrey. Six dancing penguins. I'm not sure anything more needs to be said. Well, Angela Lansbury costars - that's something, I guess.
A Better Life - A melodrama set in Los Angeles about a down-on-his-luck landscaper who will do just about anything to keep his son away from gangs, drugs, guns, and the immigration agents who would separate them.
A Little Help - Great googly moogly! This dramatic comedy is bad. Screened at last year's SIFF, I'm kind of in shock that this unbelievably awful effort (starring the otherwise enchanting Jenna Fischer of The Office fame) is even getting a release. Stay away at all costs.
Bad Teacher - Cameron Diaz stars as a foul-mouthed, sexually provocative middle school teacher who attempts to woo the school's most eligible bachelor (Justin Timberlake). Director Jake Kasdan made both Zero Effect and Orange County, which were awesome, but the trailer for this one is highly suspect to say the least.
Cars 2 - The 2006 movie Cars is the only Pixar film in recent memory to lose the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and one of the few almost no one over the age of 12 was asking for a sequel of - but we're getting one anyway. Granted, we are talking Pixar, so my reticence to embrace this sequel is probably going to come back and bite me in the butt and this will end up being one of 2011's best.
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop - A behind-the-scenes doc following comedian, writer, and talk-show host O'Brien as he deals with all the hullabaloo and hubbub over Jay Leno retaking the reins at The Tonight Show.
Cracks - A British boarding school drama with Eva Green, Juno Temple, and Imogen Poots that got decent reviews when released in the U.K. back in 2009 but hasn't faired near as well with U.S. critics as it has made the festival rounds over the past year.
Grab next week's SGN for part two of the 2011 Summer Movie Preview!
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