CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Film Feature: The 10 Most Anticipated Films of Summer 2011
CHICAGO – It’s the most wonderful time of the year as moviegoers shake off the doldrums of winter weather, awards season snoozers, and a truly horrendous first trimester of 2011 and finally get to see something blow up for their hard-earned dollars. There’s something about the warm months of the year that allows for critical faculties to fall away as we relax and simply embrace cinematic chaos. What will we get out of Summer 2011? What are the movies that look the most promising? Let us guide the way.
The Tree of Life
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight
Want the bad news first? This could be a brutal summer. Going over the schedule from May through August allows for very few potential highlights. It’s a season crowded with sequels to movies that weren’t really that good in the first place or that were good enough that we don’t really need to repeat it. Was anyone really concerned about where Jack Sparrow would go next (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”)? I know most of you liked “Kung Fu Panda,” “Cars,” and “The Hangover,” but even fans can’t be too excited for sequels that are likely to just spin the same wheels. And “Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon” is likely to be better than the last movie in the franchise, but so are 99% of the films released this year.
Now that the bitching is out of the way, let’s stay positive. Here are the ten movies that you should mark on your calendar with your favorite color highlighter plus ten runner-ups in case the others are sold out. Don’t miss ‘em.
(Note: We’re not including anything we’ve seen already so “The Beaver” and “Bridesmaids” are absent when they would have both been runner-ups otherwise.)
Runner-Ups: 30 Minutes or Less, Another Earth, Brighton Rock, Captain America, Cars 2, Cowboys and Aliens, Friends With Benefits, Larry Crowne, Our Idiot Brother, and X-Men: First Class
10. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
Release Date: August 5
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, John Lithgow, and Tyler Labine
Written by: Rick Jaffa, Jamie Moss, & Amanda Silver
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Why It Should Rule: Because it looks really interesting with a strong cast and clever concept. Instead of offering a traditional sequel or reboot, the producers of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” have gone back to the monkey drawing board, telling the story of how we got to the day when Helena Bonham Carter looked like Amy Poehler’s impression of Michael Jackson. The great James Franco continues to impress with his unique career decisions (don’t hold the Oscars and “Your Highness” against one of the most talented actors of his generation) and the rest of that cast up there is not your typical one for a summer blockbuster. This could be that rare intellectual summer hit…
Why It Might Suck: …Or it could be a whole lot of dumb. CGI apes — Hasn’t Andy Serkis done this already? And “King Kong” wasn’t exactly well-received. Orangutans who know sign language trying to pull their own version of “The Great Escape” could be a whole pile of cheesy science fiction that skews closer to SyFy Original Movie-quality than theatrical-caliber science fiction. When we read director Rupert Wyatt tell EW.com that it’s “an A-Team of apes,” it didn’t exactly instill creative confidence.
9. “Horrible Bosses”
Release Date: July 8
Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Julie Bowen, and Donald Sutherland
Written by: Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Why It Should Rule: The cast features many of the funniest people on TV of the last several years including the best “SNL” member not named Bill Hader, the great Charlie Day of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and the perfect comic timing of Jason Bateman (we won’t hold some of his recent bad decisions on the big screen against him). And then look at that supporting cast! Getting A-listers to play the title characters — the whip-snappers whom the central characters don’t just resent but actually try to kill – was a fantastic idea, even though, at this point, Spacey could play a horrible boss in his sleep. It sounds like a very dark version of “Office Space” and that sounds great…
Why It Might Suck: …Unless they fumble the execution. Black comedy takes amazing comic timing to walk that fine line between being honestly edgy and overly aware of how clever you think you are (never mind not being just straight-up offensive). And as much as we loved Seth Gordon’s “The King of Kong,” his follow-up (“Four Christmases”) didn’t exactly display the comic wit needed to make a piece like this work.
Photo credit: Sony
8. “Bad Teacher”
Release Date: June 24
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, and Phyllis Smith
Written by: Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Why It Should Rule: With the exception of “Orange County,” Jake Kasdan has proven himself as a comic director with strong work on “Zero Effect” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” He’s a funny dude. And the red-band preview for “Bad Teacher” is a riot, hinting at a dark side that Cameron Diaz hasn’t been allowed to show since “There’s Something About Mary.” She could be merged perfectly with a well-used supporting cast of incredibly talented comedians like Lucy Punch, Jason Segel, and Justin Timberlake. Yes, JT. If you haven’t seen him hosting “SNL,” get thee to Hulu. The dude is also very funny. We know. We hate him a little bit too.
Why It Might Suck: Comedy previews can be very misleading and sometimes even the most talented group of stars can disappoint. Remember “Dinner For Schmucks”? Yeah, we tried to forget it too. Sorry for bringing it up.
Photo credit: Paramount
Release Date: May 6
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Denning, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba, and Colm Feore
Written by: Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Why It Should Rule: Easily the most interesting of the summer superhero movies (now that we’ve seen previews and early reviews…”X-Men: First Class” originally sounded better on paper), “Thor” should be a license to print money and add another legend to the Marvel movie roster. God of Movies, please make this as fun as it could be. At first, we thought Kenneth Branagh was probably just taking a paycheck, but then we thought about it a little more — who better to bring a tale founded on powerful mythology than a man who is well-versed in larger-than-life theatrics like Branagh? Are Shakespearean tragedies and God-based mythology that far apart? And if he mixes that Shakespearian nobility with the extreme nature of something like his “Frankenstein,” this could totally rock…
Why It Might Suck: …But Marvel has screwed us before. Hard. It’s been three years since “Iron Man,” and “The Incredible Hulk,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and “Iron Man 2” have all ranged from disappointing to horrendous. Honestly, Marvel needs another hit franchise now. Please let this be it. Don’t make us wait for “Captain America.”