Non-bummer Summer picks

A discriminating preview of the summer of 2011

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Cameron Diaz, Jason Segal and Justin Timberlake star in ‘Bad Teacher.’

Hollywood has been trying to convince audiences the summer movie season starts in late April/early May for years now, and the 2011 line-up definitely supports this not-so-clever box office stratagem. And that’s all it is – a power play to lure ticket buyers into theaters early and often. But there needs to be enough bait on the hook and in the pail to keep us coming back. With Fast Five, Thor, Bridesmaids and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides already gobbled off the line, what else can the studios offer that might reel us in over the next three months?

Marvel’s Mighty Mutants get a prequel after Brett Ratner’s less-than-rousing end of the trilogy and the minor scratch left on the box office by the Wolverine solo outing. What better way to fill in the gaps than to explore the early relationship between high-powered frenemies Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) with Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) at the helm?

SUPER 8 (June 10)
The tagline reads, “It arrives,” but what is it, exactly?” Writer-director JJ Abrams (Star Trek) and executive producer Steven Speilberg seem to be mining a mix of Cloverfield (found footage from a group of crafty kids) and ET (said kids caught up in a daring alien adventure), although since there appears to be no cute and cuddly aliens, maybe it’s more in line with Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, but whatever. It looks like its going to be a huge hit.

Every summer needs a raw and raunchy comedy, to which everyone shrugs, “Been there, done that,” thanks to the Memorial Day weekend arrival of The Hangover, Part II, but that’s just a retread of the original. Bad Teacher, with Cameron Diaz as a dangerously foul-mouthed junior high school teacher, has the making of a tasty (and truly tasteless) companion to Billy Bob Thornton’s classic Bad Santa. Now that’s old school debauchery.

Recluse filmmaking genius Terrence Malick (Badlands, The New World) makes an unlikely summer appearance. His Tree of Life has CGI dinosaur roots along with performances from Brad Pitt and Sean Penn – but have no fear, Malick hasn’t sold out. This counter-programming move proves that maybe the industry is buying into the notion that thinking adults don’t actually hibernate during the summer.

The end is at hand! J.K. Rowling’s celebrated boy wizard cycle reaches its dramatic conclusion and not a moment too soon. Part 1, at least for this critic (who must admit to never having cracked the spine of a single book in the series) was the first truly stirring outing and I’m looking forward to a rousing finish.

Thor whipped up a late spring/early summer storm at the box office and now Captain America (Chris Evans) shines the last beacon of light before The Avengers assault theaters next summer. Expect all manner of cameos (Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury) and teasers from Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk to litter the frame of this super soldier’s origin story.

A modern-day exploration into genetic experimentation leads to the intellectual rise of apes as the dominant species on the planet after a war of supremacy against mankind with James Franco as the I Am Legend-styled everyman who pulls the trigger and then witnesses the fall. Rupert Wyatt takes the reins from series rebooter Tim Burton.

THE HELP (August 12)
Another shrewd bit of counter-programming from Hollywood as Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller makes a speedy transition from page-to-screen in order to capitalize on its socially relevant themes and possibly set The Help up as a summer Oscar sleeper if the ever-reliable Viola Davis’s performance wakes up blockbuster-weary audiences.

APOLLO 18 (August 26)
Science fiction and comic books tend to dominate the summer, but this hidden gem from little known director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, about an undisclosed space mission that was “canceled” by NASA, seems intent on introducing a few chills and thrills into the season, maybe even enough to cool things down at just the right moment.

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at

T.T. Stern-Enzi
Reach DCP Film Critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at and visit his blog for additional film reviews at You can also follow him on Twitter at @ttsternenzi.

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