Features

Summer motion

Pirates, wizards and superheroes are all on their way to a big screen near you

Pirate Jack Sparrow embarks on a new quest. Wizard Harry Potter comes to the end of his saga. And swarms of new superheroes come out swinging.

Add in a third round of giant robots from space, the dawn of a planet of intelligent apes and an alien invasion in the Old West, and Hollywood has one of its most action-packed summers ever in store.

Continuing franchises include Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (May 20), with Captain Jack Sparrow searching for the fountain of youth; the battling ’bots sequel “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (July 1); and the prequels “X-Men: First Class” (June 3) and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (Aug. 5).

New comic-book adaptations join Hollywood’s superhero fixation with “Thor” (next Friday), “Green Lantern” (June 17) and “Captain America: The First Avenger” (July 22).

Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig team up to take on extra-terrestrial raiders circa 1873 in the sci-fi/Western hybrid “Cowboys & Aliens” (July 29).

“Lost” creator J.J. Abrams directs his own E.T.-style adventure with “Super 8” (June 10), a tale of teen filmmakers whose monster movie turns real after a train wreck unleashes an alien force.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint head back to Hogwarts one last time for the final showdown between good and evil wizards with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” (July 15).

The adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s finale to her fantasy series was split into two films, the first leaving off with last fall’s cliffhanger involving the death match between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

“Deathly Hallows: Part 2” joins other action franchises that are going the 3-D route for the first time, among them the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Transformers” sequels.

There’s also no shortage of big-name sequels on the comedy side of the schedule.

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis reunite for another clueless morning after in “The Hangover Part II” (May 26).

This time, Stu (Helms) is getting married in Thailand, where he and his buddies (Cooper, Galifianakis and Justin Bartha) aim for a quiet pre-wedding brunch to avoid repeating the mistakes they made in Las Vegas – with no success.

Two animated tales also are in follow-up mode. Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman again lead the voice cast for the martial-arts comedy “Kung Fu Panda 2” (May 26), while Michael Caine joins returning voice stars Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy for the racing adventure “Cars 2” (June 24), in which Wilson’s Lightning McQueen heads out on an international racing circuit.

The laugh list further features Kevin James’ talking-animal romp “Zookeeper” (July 8); “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (June 17), with Jim Carrey as a real-estate kingpin who inherits six of the critters; the return of beloved animated creatures with “Winnie the Pooh” (July 15) and “The Smurfs” (July 29); Steve Carell’s marital-crisis romance “Crazy, Stupid, Love” (July 29); and a couple of titles that say it all: Cameron Diaz’s rude, raunchy “Bad Teacher” (June 24), co-starring Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, and “Horrible Bosses” (July 8) with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston.

“The Change-Up” (Aug. 5) stars Bateman and Ryan Reynolds as old friends – one a stressed-out lawyer, the other a laid-back slacker – who wake up after a drunken night to discover they’ve switched bodies.

There’s also a rush of wedding and engagement romances: Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin’s “Something Borrowed” (next Friday), in which Goodwin spends a night with best friend Hudson’s fiance; “Saturday Night Live” player Kristen Wiig’s “Bridesmaids” (May 13); and the ensemble tale “Jumping the Broom” (next Friday), with Angela Bassett, Paula Patton and Mike Epps, about two families from wildly different worlds converging on Martha’s Vineyard for a wedding weekend.

If there’s a grown-up blockbuster in the making for summer, it’s the adaptation of the literary sensation “The Help” (Aug. 12), which has a built-in audience of millions of women readers who can turn out in huge numbers when the right film shows up.

Emma Stone plays an aspiring white writer stirring up her Mississippi home town during the civil-rights movement in 1963 by chronicling the lives of black maids.

The summer lineup for the mature set also features Tom Hanks directing and co-starring with Julia Roberts in “Larry Crowne” (July 1), about a downsized worker who goes back to college; Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in “One Day” (July 8), adapted from the best-selling novel about a couple whose relationship plays out over a 20-year succession of July 15ths; Woody Allen’s French romance “Midnight in Paris” (May 13), with Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams; Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in filmmaker Terrence Malick’s father-son drama “The Tree of Life” (May 27, limited release); Helen Mirren in the Israeli-Nazi revenge thriller “The Debt” (Aug. 31); and Mel Gibson’s reclamation project “The Beaver” (May 20), directed by co-star Jodie Foster, about a suicidally depressed man who communicates through a beaver hand puppet.

Will audiences be willing to look beyond the turmoil of Gibson’s personal life and give the film a chance?

“I don’t know,” Foster says. “Can you see a movie and say, ‘Wow, this is a performance that seems right,’ and put what else you know aside?”



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