2011 Summer Movie Guide: May and June

MovieWeb offers a look at this season's scorching hot releases, the smaller can't-miss Indies, and what was happening in cinema twenty years ago.

A banished Norse god! Apocalyptic vampires! A vigilant yeg! A cute scene-stealing Capuchin monkey! Mutant teenagers! A bunch of drunk and horny bridesmaids! Big Foot! A Green Ring! Pirates, Zombies, and Mermaids! Karate kicking zoo animals! A couple of forest dwelling trolls! And one smokin' hot teacher! That's what awaits us at the Cineplex over the course of May and June, and it promises to be a scorcher!

It doesn't really matter how fast and furious things get on the big screen, the summer movie season doesn't officially kick off until May 6th. And this year Thor opens things with a lighting bolt blast of Marvel excitement. It doesn't come to an end until August 31st, when Sam Worthington sends us all back to school with The Debt. Between then and now, we will see some of the biggest movies of the year hit hard. Some will win, some will lose, and some will go on to break box office records.

2011 promises to bring the magic, the excitement, and the laughs along with a few tears and maybe even a new break out star or two. Here's what you can expect to see in the next two sweaty months, along with a look back at the films that debuted 20 years ago in case you want to relive the summer of 1991 via that new Blu-ray player and HD TV in the comfort of your own living room, as opposed to braving the heat outside.

May 6th: Thor, The Beaver, Something Borrowed, Jumping the Broom

Thor
Thor
The Weekend's Big Winner:

Thor. Chris Hemsworth stars as a powerful but arrogant Norse Thunder God who is banished from his home on Asgard and forced to walk amongst the humans of earth as punishment. Teaming up with the beautiful, yet frigid Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor must learn what it means to be a true superhero when the villainous Loki invades a 7-Eleven in the New Mexico desert threatening to destroy the planet. Adventure, excitement, and the magic of Gods abound in this precursor to July's Captain America: The First Avenger and next summer's The Avengers.

The Weekend's Best Bet:

Hobo with a Shotgun. Rutger Hauer stars as a vigilant yeg with a dream to mow lawns in director Jason Eisener's gleeful ode to the world of 80s Troma splatstick. A gory, gleeful account of how one man cleaned up a small town full of baby killers, rapists, and drug pushers, you won't see a wilder, wetter, more cheer-worthy entry in the summer movie cannon this year. Stacked with instantly quotable dialogue and scenes so shocking, you will run back outside and get in line to see it twice, Hobo with a Shotgun has the potential to be the biggest cult sensation of 2011.

The Rest of the Best:

Going up against the Norse God and the dirty, booze-dunked hobo can't be an easy task, but Mel Gibson is going to try! His long-delayed Jodie Foster-directed dramatic comedy The Beaver, about a man learning to cope with life through the use of a hand-puppet, is also making its debut during this first weekend in summer cinema. We also get Jessica Alba starring in An Invisible Sign, a drama about a poorly dressed, but adorable woman who has finds her salvation in mathematics (kind of, but not really, like the life story of The Wonder Years's Danica McKellar). Lovers of Romance won't want to miss the emotional tug-of-war between two longtime friends (Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson) who have fallen for the same man in Something Borrowed, an adaptation of the popular Emily Giffin novel. Two completely different families get together for one dysfunctional wedding in Sony's Jumping the Broom. And finally, Megan Fox gets a direct-to-DVD reprieve as her long shelved fantasy drama Passion Play makes it to select theater screens across the country.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:

Michael Keaton decided to follow up his more serious role in Batman with the crime thriller One Good Cop. Robin Givens left Head of the Class to star in the crime comedy A Rage in Harlem. But it was Sylvester Stallone's goofy mob farce Oscar that took the weekend's top spot for the second week in a row.


May 13th: Bridesmaids, Priest

Bridesmaids
Bridesmaids
The Weekend's Big Winner:

Bridesmaids. Kristen Wiig gets her first lead role in this new comedy from the Freaks and Geeks dream team of director Paul Feig and producer Judd Apatow. Wiig stars as an aimless thirty-something lost in love and buried in debt. She finds a glimmer of hope when her best friend (Maya Rudolph) asks her to be her Maid of Honor, which doesn't sit well with the other Bridesmaids in the wedding party. It's a bold and refreshing comedy that aims both high and low, earning praise as one of the few classics to be released this summer.

The Weekend's Best Bet:

Priest. Vampire hunter and religious wanderer Paul Bettany takes the beautiful Cam Gigandet under his wing in an apocalyptic wasteland ruled by bloodsuckers. When Priest's niece is abducted, he must go on a quest to find and save the young girl. Scott Stewart directs this high-energy action fest, offering a fun, thrilling ride that can't quite be matched by a couple of hapless babes babbling on about a midlife crisis. It's counter-programming at its best.

The Rest of the Best:

Antonio Banderas flirts with the very weird world of director Tony Krantz's The Big Bang, which finds a private dick searching for a stripper in the most unluckiest of places. Will Ferrell flirts with his dramatic side in Everything Must Go, which offers a look at one of the sexiest Coleman coolers ever made. And Naomie Harris is an African teacher who must school an aging wretch discarded by his countrymen in The First Grader. But, if you're looking for the coolest Indie movie of the weekend, look no further than Hesher, which stars everyone's favorite man-boy Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a rocker living in a strange family's garage.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:

The sequel F/X2, which starred Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy as a cop and a toy maker who team up to catch a killer, won the weekend. Switch, which featured a chauvinist cop Perry King killed in the line of duty and later reincarnated as Ellen Barkin, who teams up with her old partner Jimmy Smits to catch a killer, came in a close second. Madonna: Truth or Dare was also released this weekend, but failed to register much attention at the box office.


May 20th: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Midnight in Paris

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The Weekend's Big Winner:

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. It also looks like the weekend's best bet, as the return of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his franchise juggernaut have scared away all potential competitors. For his fourth big screen adventure, Jack teams up with Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) in a race to beat Blackbeard (Ian McShane) to the Fountain of Youth. Along the way, our merry Rum-swiggers will have run-ins with zombies, mermaids, and the beautiful but deadly daughter of Blackbeard, Angelica (Penélope Cruz). Non-stop action and comedy against the beautiful backdrop of the Caribbean ocean make Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides the big screen vacation to take this May.

The Rest of the Best:

May 20th is a lean weekend for releases outside the Mouse House banner. Woody Allen will quietly debut his comedy Midnight in Paris, which stars Owen Wilson as a bored man who comes alive at night in the city of romance away from his wife, unnoticeably into the ether. Tom Arnold will ogle Tia Carrere and Cameron Richardson in the R rated beach romp Hard Breakers. A gaggle of country western singers, including Kris Kristofferson and Dwight Yoakam, team up with Hilary Duff and Reece Thompson for the Nashville-set coming-of-age drama Bloodworth. And Cost of a Soul, which follows two wounded war veterans forced to return to the very slum they joined the Army to escape, rounds out the weekend.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:

The now classic Bill Murray comedy What About Bob?, which saw the actor going toe-to-toe with a very neurotic and funny Richard Dreyfuss, won the weekend. This date also bore into existence the action thriller Stone Cold, which featured NFL superstar Brian Bosworth breaking into the world of acting as a cop with a flair for infiltrating dangerous biker gangs. And who can forget Mannequin: On the Move, a sequel to the 1987 hit comedy Mannequin? It landed on the charts at number 8, but found a deserving home on the VHS circuit just a few short months later.


May 27th: The Hangover Part II, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Tree of Life

The Hangover Part II
The Hangover Part II
The Weekend's Big Winner:

Kung Fu Panda 2. Memorial Day Weekend traditionally ushers in the summer movie going season, and this year's offerings are a little bit surprising. When you have an R rated release going up against an animated film, you always have to bet on CGI! Add in the fact that kids are out of school, and that comedy sequels never do as well as their predecessors, and it's a no brainer that DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda 2 rules this Holiday. Jack Black returns to voice Po, the eternally hungry, Fist of Justice wielding Panda Bear. This time out, Po and the Furious Five must round up a group of villainous hyenas that threaten to devour the Valley of Peace's porcine residents. It promises to provide inside jokes for the adults, cute animals for the kids, and enough action to please everyone else.

The Weekend's Best Bet:

The Hangover Part II. The Wolf Pack is back, and this time they're tearing up Bangkok in search of Stu's (Ed Helms) soon-to-be brother-in-law on the eve of his second marriage. How is it possible for the same thing to happen to the same people twice? Well, that formula has always worked for John McClain. And it seems to be working for The Wolf Pack. Despite it being a slightly altered Xerox of the first The Hangover, this new sequel still offers plenty of laughs and an even twistier mystery. It may not be the instant classic that its predecessor was, but The Hangover Part II is still summer excitement at its best.

The Rest of the Best:

Memorial Day Weekend 2011 is slim pickings, which is unusual for the big holiday. The only other movie seeing a release is acclaimed director Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. Fanboys have been geeking out about the dinosaurs, and highbrow art house weepers have been clamoring for Terrence's latest masterpiece for years. But what is this film, really? It traces one family's life throughout the ages, and it stars the powerhouse duo of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Other than that, we don't have much to go on. It does, though, serve as the perfect antidote to an R rated raunchy comedy and a kid-friendly cartoon about high-kicking animals.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:

1991's Memorial Day Weekend offerings were actually better than what we're seeing here today. Bruce Willis opened his critically derided flop Hudson Hawk, which lost out at the box office to Ron Howard's firefighter drama Backdraft. Willis was just coming off the bomb The Bonfire of the Vanities, which had been release a few months prior. This powerful combination of lofty career choices landed the star a timeout from the spotlight for a while. This particular Memorial Day Weekend also marked the debut of Ridley Scott's now-classic ode to feminism Thelma & Louise, along with Only the Lonely, which found John Candy playing a shy cop who falls in love with a funeral home director, only to find that his mother hates her, and Drop Dead Fred, which saw a grown woman (Phoebe Cates) having to contend with the reemergence of her childhood imaginary friend (FYI - the Russell Brand remake coming soon).


June 3rd: X-Men: First Class, Beginners

X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class
The Weekend's Big Winner:

X-Men: First Class. What would summer be without a handful of Mutants to tide us over until the next big superhero epic hits theater screens? Matthew Vaughn directs this prequel to the X-Men franchise, which finds Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) teaming up to take on the Cold War crisis. Set in the 1960s, X-Men: First Class offers a first-time look at some Mutants audiences may not yet be familiar with, like Azazel (Jason Flemyng), Havok (Lucas Till), and Emma Frost (January Jones). While the film packs a lot of action and heat, it may also have the best-scripted story of any superhero blockbuster seen this summer, offering just enough emotional drama to keep even the most ardent film snob interested.

The Weekend's Best Bet:

Submarine. Huh? What? Yeah, we know you haven't really heard about it yet. But this coming-of-age dramedy has been garnering praise left and right for being one of the most original movies of the summer. Reminiscent of John Hughes' best work, Richard Ayoade (director of British favorites The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd) is behind this tale of a fifteen-year-old boy who sets out to simultaneously save his parents marriage while trying to lose his virginity. Sure, its familiar summer stomping grounds, but its never been done in quite this way before.

The Rest of the Best:

By this point, there are already quite a few huge summer spectaculars crowding the Cineplex, vying for our all-important dollar. We are now seeing fewer and fewer releases per week, even on the art house circuit. We do get Ewan McGregor in the romantic comedy Beginners, and Beautiful Boy offers a look at school shooting. But the most exciting thing happening this weekend in independent cinema is Love, Wedding, Marriage. Dirty Steve's (aka Dermot Mulroney's) directorial debut centers on a marriage councilor (Mandy Moore) whose own relationship gets turned upside down.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:

The only new movie opening this weekend was the comedy Soapdish, which is currently in the process of being remade. While this often hilarious look at the backstage antics of a popular daytime television drama starred such luminaries as Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robert Downey Jr., that didn't stop Backdraft from taking the number one spot for a second weekend in a row.


June 10th: Super 8, The Troll Hunter

Super 8
Super 8
The Weekend's Big Winner:

Super 8. J.J. Abrams mysterious ode to all-things Steven Spielberg has become a little less mysterious in recent weeks, as more photos and a full-length trailer were release. Yet, we still aren't quite sure what kind of creature lies at the heart of this thrilling tale. Part The Goonies, part E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and all Close Encounters of the Third Kind, this adventure finds a group of kids living in the late 70s who stumble upon God-knows-what while shooting a home movie. The intrigue of wanting to know more, and J.J. Abrams's growing reputation as a geek God amongst fanboys, make this one of the must-see movies of the summer.

The Weekend's Best Bet:

The Troll Hunter. Though shot for a lesser budget than Super 8, André Øvredal has crafted a crowd-pleasing romp about a group of adventures who set out to prove the existence of Trolls in the wilds of Norway. It might just beat J.J. Abrams' sci-fi thriller in terms of its fun factor. Having gained plenty of critical praise, this swift seat-clutcher is sure to please any monster-loving movie fan, and it will be the perfect compensation if Super 8 happens to be sold out.

The Rest of the Best:

Don't dismiss Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer as just a kids film; it's a highly entertaining ode to summer vacation that adults will enjoy as well. Plus, in keeping with the theme of this particular weekend at the movies, a search for the elusive Big Foot rests at the heart of Judy Moody's storyline. Its almost as much fun as The Troll Hunter. For that one serious minded adult out there turning his/her nose up at this triple batch of monstery goodness, The Trip offers a mostly improvised comedy about a restaurant critic (Steve Coogan) and his buddy (Rob Brydon) going on a food tasting road trip across Europe. It's a little bit highbrow, for sure. Yet at the same time, its also quite funny.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:

Billy Crystal's now classic comedy City Slickers debuted at number one, while Spike Lee found modest success with his follow-up to the iconic Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, which looked at the sometimes volatile relationship between an Africa-American man and a white Italian lady. And though it didn't make much noise at the box office, the Christina Applegate comedy Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead has gone onto become a classic in its own right.


June 17th: Green Lantern, Mr. Popper's Penguins

Green Lantern
Green Lantern
The Weekend's Big Winner:

Green Lantern. Director Martin Campbell's DC Comics adaptation will either be the biggest film of the summer or the biggest bomb. While the massive 3D visual effects are still not in place for this mega-behemoth, its hard to tell which way audiences will go on this one. One things for certain...It will have a massive first weekend opening as fanboys and families alike flock to this sci-fi spectacular. Ryan Reynolds leads a strong supporting cast, and if they finish it on time, Warner Bros. may just unleash the most interesting looking movie of the summer, whether its action and storyline pay off or not. Green Lantern, like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides before it, also serves as the weekend's best bet. Seriously. Is anyone clamoring to watch Jim Carrey futz around with penguins?

The Rest of the Best:

Like I said, is anyone clamoring to watch Mr. Popper's Penguins? Even though you should always bet first on the family film, Green Lantern is quite kid-friendly. And Jim Carrey's latest comedy feels more like a December release. Its hot weather June debut is inexplicable. It just feels like wintertime. Don't get me wrong, it seems charming enough, but Hal Jordan has nothing to worry about. For those looking to break away from the summer bombast, Magnolia Pictures is offering one of the best documentaries of the year with Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times. And if you didn't get enough of Emma Roberts in Scream 4, there's always the coming-of-age tale The Art of Getting By.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:

Way back in 1991, no one could touch Kevin Costner, or Christian Slater for that matter. Or Morgan Freeman. Their combined talents helped open Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves at the top of the box office charts, and no other movie had the guts to go up against it.


June 24th: Cars 2, Bad Teacher, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

Cars 2
Cars 2
The Weekend's Big Winner:

Cars 2. The combined forces of Disney and Pixar make for a summer powerhouse that is impossible to beat. This year, they bring a sequel to their 2006 hit Cars. This time out, Lightening McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) help out an international spy (Michael Caine) while simultaneously competing in the World Grand Prix, a race that spans the reaches of the globe. Packed full of action set pieces that rival any live action summer extravaganza, and plenty of humor to keep kids and adults entertained at equal lengths, Cars 2 is one of those rare sequels that is better than the original, and it will mark one of the few true must-see family summer outings, It's a movie that absolutely everyone can enjoy.

The Weekend's Best Bet:

Bad Teacher. After a long stretch of lofty projects, Cameron Diaz is back where we love her the most. In a raucous no-hold-barred comedy that offers her that rare chance to truly shine. Starring opposite ex-lover Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, and Eric Stonestreet, Diaz is Elizabeth, a drunk and high, foul-mouthed high school teacher looking for a sugar daddy. Within these walls of education, Elizabeth must fight of a lecherous gym teacher while trying to make a move on a rich and handsome substitute. Will she get her man? We hope so, as it will be too hot outside to cry if she loses her way. Bad Teacher has a lock on being the funnest movie released in June (we hope, Green Lantern).

The Rest of the Best:

The documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop offers a look at the late night talk show host's live tour throughout the country the summer after losing The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. And SeaWorld jumps into the Wildlife documentary field with their summer offering Turtle: The Incredible Journey.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and City Slickers both proved to have strong staying power, as even Julia Roberts and her weepy terminal drama Dying Young couldn't fight them off. Genre flick The Rocketeer also faltered, proving that superheroes just couldn't catch a break twenty years ago.


CLICK HERE FOR THIS SUMMER'S JULY AND AUGUST RELEASES


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Comments (26)

  1. JonSpidey07

    @timmy
    the first best summer was 2007; more sequels and blockbusters that I could handle
    and my very 1st experience reserving tickets seeing Spider-Man 3 opening weekend!

    4 years agoby @jonspidey07Flag

  2. Nautical

    Wow.alotofgoodmovies comingout.

    4 years agoby @nautical05Flag

  3. moviegeek

    Really great format and nicely arranged guide. Nothing I didn't already know though :P

    4 years agoby @moviegeekFlag

  4. Cheetoboy

    There's no reason why Cars2 should suck, Pixar did a great job with the Toy Story sequels, plus this one looks like it will have plenty of action.

    4 years agoby @cheetoboyFlag

  5. Cheetoboy

    My top anticipated Xmen:first class, Super8, Hangover2, and this is going out of the first 2 months Transformers3, Captain America: The First Avenger, Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian, Final Destination5, and I'm not going to lie I like animated family movies too, so I do want to see Cars2 and Kung Fu Panda2. But I'm also curious to see Cowboys & Aliens, and I wonder how Spykids4 will turn out.

    4 years agoby @cheetoboyFlag

  6. CUPID

    @daveactor7 Xmen first class can't be challenged LMMFAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    4 years agoby @cupidFlag

  7. thedude-abides

    Overall a pretty good summer for movies, and that's not even counting July and August.

    4 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag

  8. Dan

    Most everything looks great. F*ck Cars 2.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag

  9. Daveactor7

    @smthrsn2 what makes u say that?

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  10. ZanyZap

    Minus June 24, I will be at the theater every week. *looks in wallet* F*ck...

    4 years agoby @zanyzapFlag

  11. Worth5Bucks

    @daveactor7 xmen first class can easily be challenged. I agree on super 8 though

    4 years agoby @mattbierwagenFlag

  12. T.Clark

    Too many f*cking movies this summer...

    4 years agoby @insertusernamehereFlag

  13. Daveactor7

    "Xmen first class" and "Super 8" no other film this year can challenge those

    4 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  14. Timmy

    @jonspidey07 Whats the first best summer?

    4 years agoby @timmyFlag

  15. K.Guy

    From POTC4 and through (skipping Cars 2) will be my summer films

    4 years agoby @kguyFlag

  16. Jcberry526

    wish Super 8 was coming to my country at the same time as the US, like 2 month wait WTF looks like i may have to download =(( and i hate doing that to films that are a MUST SEE

    4 years agoby @jcberry526Flag

  17. J.P.

    @diaigma I expect Cars 2 to be Pixars worst film to this point.

    4 years agoby @jptheredskullFlag

  18. Diaigma

    Awesomeness, minus Cars 2 :P

    4 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  19. JonSpidey07

    3rd best summer ever
    perfect line-ups

    4 years agoby @jonspidey07Flag

  20. GreendotEmo

    Great stuff, that's my summer sorted (:

    4 years agoby @GreendotEmoFlag

  21. Brian

    @timmy Yeah!!!

    4 years agoby @brianFlag

  22. Timmy

    Super 8! that's about it

    4 years agoby @timmyFlag

  23. DoubleR0522

    Awesome line up. this is going to be a great summer 4 movies

    4 years agoby @doubler0522Flag

  24. skywise

    One hell of an article Orange...to go along with a great line up.

    4 years agoby @skywiseFlag

  25. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    Nice line up

    4 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  26. CUPID

    Green Lantern i cant wait.

    4 years agoby @cupidFlag