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News / Clark County News

Mature dramas share screen with slate of summer blockbusters

The Columbian
Published: April 15, 2011, 12:00am
8 Photos
&quot;Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2.&quot;
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2." Photo Gallery

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

As the posters proclaim: the wolf pack is back, with Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis reuniting for another clueless morning after in “The Hangover Part II.”

But movie screens this summer are not entirely booked with superheroes, kiddie fare and goofy buddy flicks. Plenty of mature dramas and comedies about dealing with — or escaping from — the problems of real life arrive alongside the season’s big studio offerings.

Continuing franchises include Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”; the battling ’bots sequel “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”; and the prequels “X-Men: First Class” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

New comic-book adaptations — “Thor,” “Green Lantern” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” — continue Hollywood’s superhero fixation. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig team up to take on extra-terrestrial raiders in the sci-fi and Western hybrid “Cowboys & Aliens.” “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams directs his own E.T.-style adventure with “Super 8,” 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 in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

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.

“Dark of the Moon” reunites “Transformers” star Shia LaBeouf and director Michael Bay as an event out of Earth’s past touches off a new round in the struggle between two warring robot races.

After wrapping up the original story line in a trilogy, “Pirates of the Caribbean” returns in a stand-alone story that sends Depp’s Jack Sparrow on a hunt for the fountain of youth.

“On Stranger Tides” co-stars Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane, with Geoffrey Rush back as Jack’s old nemesis Barbossa.

Director Rob Marshall jumped right in on the sword fights and other action in “On Stranger Tides,” saying the song-and-dance moves he crafted in such musicals as “Chicago” and “Nine” were good training ground.

“I think a lot of people were surprised I was doing action,” Marshall said. “But it’s choreography. It’s absolutely choreography. ”

Superheroes are everywhere this summer, with the stars of “Thor” and “Captain America” making solo debuts before joining the all-star lineup of summer 2012’s “The Avengers.”

“Captain America” stars Chris Evans, padding his superhero résumé after co-starring as the Human Torch in the “Fantastic Four” flicks.

“Thor” casts the Norse god of thunder into exile among puny humans on Earth, where he hooks up with a team of scientists (Natalie Portman among them) and joins the fight against a bad guy from his own realm.

In his fall, Thor has lost much of his power, including the ability to wield his mighty hammer.

While Thor is sent down to the minors, the hero of “Green Lantern” is called up from Earth to join a league of galactic peacekeepers.

Ryan Reynolds stars as an ordinary guy who gains superpowers from a ring bestowed by a dying alien. As the first human to join the Green Lantern Corps — essentially, interstellar cops on the beat — his character becomes the key to stopping an evil force. But he encounters a little alien bigotry along the way.

“X-Men: First Class” features James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the future Professor X and Magneto — superpowered mutants who start as allies but end up deadly enemies in their quest to find a place for their freak-of-nature kinsmen.

Another prequel, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” has James Franco and Freida Pinto leading the human cast as research into simian intelligence puts the world under new management.

Interspecies conflict comes to the Old West, too, in “Cowboys & Aliens” as a mysterious gunslinger (Craig) and a cattle baron (Ford) put together a posse of townsfolk, outlaws and Apache Indians to go after bad guys from space in 1873.

Director Abrams created his own mash-up with “Super 8,” combining two projects he had been developing: A story inspired by his boyhood filmmaking endeavors and a sci-fi adventure about a train that derails while carrying an alien presence from Area 51.


In real life, hangovers make us promise to be good and never do it again, until the next time. In Hollywood, fans have been anxious to do it again ever since they walked out of the surprise comedy blockbuster “The Hangover” two years ago.

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,” while Michael Caine joins returning voice stars Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy for the racing adventure “Cars 2.”

The laugh list features Kevin James’ talking-animal romp “Zookeeper”; Jim Carrey’s family story “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”; the return of beloved animated creatures with “Winnie the Pooh” and “The Smurfs”; Steve Carell’s marital-crisis romance “Crazy, Stupid, Love”; and a couple of titles that say it all — Cameron Diaz’s “Bad Teacher” and “Horrible Bosses,” with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston.

There’s also a rush of wedding and engagement romances: Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin’s “Something Borrowed”; Kristen Wiig’s “Bridesmaids”; and the ensemble tale “Jumping the Broom,” with Angela Bassett, Paula Patton and Mike Epps.

But the nuptial bash of the season is the next chapter of “The Hangover.” 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.

Instead, they manage to pack another lost weekend into a single night, one guy awakening with a new hairdo, another with a tattoo, and all of them with hurting heads and mysteries from the night before to solve on the streets of Bangkok.

Dealing with exotic ways also is at the heart of “Cars 2,” in which Wilson’s Lightning McQueen heads out on an international racing circuit, where rickety tow-truck buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) is mistaken for an undercover agent and pressed into service by a slick British spymaster (Caine).

In “Kung Fu Panda 2,” Black’s tubby hero Po has settled in as head of a martial-arts team that includes a menagerie of experts voiced by Jolie, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu.

While Po was destined to lead, Diaz’s character in “Bad Teacher” was never meant for the classroom. She’s rude, raunchy and boozy, with a lesson plan mainly aimed at hooking a rich substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) while fending off advances from a nice-guy gym instructor (Jason Segel).

Bateman and his co-stars are similarly unrestrained in “Horrible Bosses” and a second comedy he has this summer, “The Change-Up,” with Ryan Reynolds.

“Horrible Bosses” features Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as underlings who take bad advice from an ex-con (Jamie Foxx) about how to do away with their awful overseers (Aniston, Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell).

“The Change-Up” stars Reynolds and Bateman as old friends with drastically different lives — one’s a stressed-out lawyer and family man, the other’s a laid-back slacker — who wake up after a drunken night to discover they’ve switched bodies.

Other comedy highlights:

• “Bridesmaids”: Even as her own life is falling apart, a maid of honor (Kristen Wiig) aims to lead a pack of bridesmaids on a grand wedding ride for her best friend (Maya Rudolph).

• “Something Borrowed”: Romance and friendship collide after a woman (Ginnifer Goodwin) spends the night with the fiancé of her best pal (Kate Hudson).

• “Crazy, Stupid, Love”: Steve Carell goes awkwardly back on the dating market after his wife (Julianne Moore) gives him the boot, and a smooth operator (Ryan Gosling) takes him on as “wing man.”

• “Zookeeper”: A lonely animal tender (Kevin James) gets lessons on courting women from his charges — a menagerie of talking critters.

• “Jumping the Broom”: Two families from wildly different worlds converge for a wedding weekend on Martha’s Vineyard.

• “Monte Carlo”: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy are friends who land on a fairy-tale European vacation after one of them is mistaken for an heiress.

• “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”: A real-estate kingpin (Jim Carrey) is forced to become caretaker for six penguins he inherits.

• “Winnie the Pooh”: The honey-loving bear returns with pals Tigger, Piglet, Roo and Eeyore, who gets some help finding a new tail after losing his own.

• “The Smurfs”: The little blue guys find themselves exiled to Manhattan’s Central Park, scrambling to find their way home after an evil wizard banishes them.

Drama and romance

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

“If you make something new and original and depth-y and true and relatable, women are going to come,” said “The Help” star Emma Stone, who plays an aspiring white writer stirring up her Mississippi hometown during the civil-rights movement in 1963 by chronicling the lives of black maids.

“It’s also great that the face of this movie represents America, because when we talk about women, often times we don’t talk about women of color,” said Viola Davis, who co-stars as one of the maids. “We’re not included in that mixture, and in this story, we are included.”

The summer lineup for the mature set also features Tom Hanks directing and co-starring with Julia Roberts in the campus tale “Larry Crowne”; Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in “One Day,” adapted from the best-selling novel; Woody Allen’s French romance “Midnight in Paris”; Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in filmmaker Terrence Malick’s family drama “The Tree of Life”; Helen Mirren in the Israeli-Nazi revenge thriller “The Debt”; and Mel Gibson’s reclamation project “The Beaver,” directed by co-star Jodie Foster.

Other grown-up highlights:

• “The Tree of Life”: Here’s your chance to see how Sean Penn would have turned out if Brad Pitt were his father. Writer-director Terrence Malick chronicles a difficult father-son relationship from the boy’s youth in the 1950s through disillusioned adulthood.

• “Larry Crowne”: Tom Hanks falls on hard times as a downsized box-company worker who goes back to college and joins an assemblage of campus oddballs while developing a crush on his public-speaking teacher (Julia Roberts).

• “One Day”: A single day on the calendar becomes a momentous one for Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in an adaptation of the novel about a relationship that plays out over a 20-year succession of July 15ths.

• “Midnight in Paris”: Woody Allen spins a romance in the city of light centered on a couple (Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams) and the temptations they encounter there. With Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard and Michael Sheen.

• “The Debt”: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain star in a tale spanning 30 years as a retired Mossad agent goes back on the clock to take care of loose ends from an old mission to hunt down a Nazi war criminal.

• “Our Idiot Brother”: An ex-con (Paul Rudd) with a rosy outlook gets out of jail and becomes an unwanted houseguest with each of his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer) as they all struggle through crises.

• “Higher Ground”: Vera Farmiga directs and stars in a drama about the life-long struggle with faith and relationships for a born-again Christian woman harboring doubts about her path.

• “A Better Life”: Chris Weitz (“American Pie,” “About a Boy”) directs an intimate Hispanic family story about an illegal migrant gardener (Demian Bichir) struggling to build a better future for his teenage son (Jose Julian).

Stay informed on what is happening in Clark County, WA and beyond for only

• “The Devil’s Double”: Dominic Cooper does double duty in the true-life story of an Iraqi army lieutenant drafted to be the body double for Saddam Hussein’s depraved son in the late 1980s.

• “Beginners”: Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer star in a tale of family upheaval centered on a man whose 75-year-old father comes out of the closet and embraces a new gay life after 44 years of marriage.