2011 Summer Movie Guide: July and August

MovieWeb continues to look at this season's biggest releases, the surefire smaller films, and what happened in summer cinema twenty years ago.
A Cimmerian warrior! Giant robots hell bent on destroying Chicago! A midlife crisis! Three horrible bosses! A wimp on steroids for his country! James Bond and Indiana Jones fighting Aliens in the Old West! Winnie the Pooh! And a bloody wizard mêlée that will bring one of cinema's greatest sagas to a close forever! That's what July and August have to offer during the second half of our summer movie season.

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 opened 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.

July 1st: Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Larry Crowne, Monte Carlo, Terri



Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The Weekend's Big Winner:
Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The Autobots Bumblebee, Ratchet, Ironhide and Sideswipe led by Optimus Prime, are back in action, taking on the evil Decepticons, who are determined to avenge their defeat in 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. In this new movie, the Autobots and Decepticons become involved in a perilous space race between the U.S. and Russia, and once again human Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has to come to the aid of his robot friends. There's new characters too, including a new villain in the form of Shockwave, a longtime Transformers character who rules Cybertron while the Autobots and Decepticons battle it out on Earth.

The Weekend's Best Bet:
Larry Crowne. When appealing everyman Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is inexplicably fired from his job as a big box store clerk, he realizes it's time for some meaningful change in his life. Deeply in debt and without direction, he returns to college where he befriends a group of scooter-riding students and eventually develops a real affection for his beautiful speech class instructor, Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts).

The Rest of the Best:
Three best friends head off for a no-frills holiday in Paris, where one of them is mistaken for royalty in the romantic comedy Monte Carlo. John C. Reilly plays Uncle to an orphaned nerd in Terri. And a dinner party goes afoul in the thriller The Perfect Host.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear continued its successful franchise run, dominating an uncrowded weekend leading into the big holiday. Audiences really didn't have much of a choice in making this comedy number one at the box office, and we would never see this sort of release pattern here in 2011, where the first week of July is prime blockbuster fodder.



July 8th: Zookeeper, Horrible Bosses, The Ledge, Project Nim



Zookeeper
Zookeeper
The Weekend's Big Winner:
Zookeeper. In Zookeeper, the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo love their kindhearted caretaker, Griffin Keyes (Kevin James). Finding himself more comfortable with a lion than a lady, Griffin decides the only way to get a girl in his life is to leave the zoo and find a more glamorous job. The animals, in a panic, decide to break their time-honored code of silence and reveal their biggest secret: they can talk! To keep Griffin from leaving, they decide to teach him the rules of courtship - animal style.

The Weekend's Best Bet:
Horrible Bosses. For Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day), the only thing that would make the daily grind more tolerable would be to grind their intolerable bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston) into dust. Quitting is not an option, so, with the benefit of a few-too-many drinks and some dubious advice from a hustling ex-con (Jamie Foxx), the three friends devise a convoluted and seemingly foolproof plan to rid themselves of their respective employers...permanently. There's only one problem: even the best-laid plans are only as foolproof as the brains behind them.

The Rest of the Best:
Patrick Wilson stars as a suicidal professor who strikes up a relationship with the officer (Terrence Howard) who tries to talk him down in The Ledge. The hilarious and heartfelt documentary Project Nim looks at a family in the 1970s who decided to domesticate a chimpanzee and teach it sign language. And Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest is a provocative look at the legendary hip-hop crew.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day arrived as the biggest movie of the summer, and would dominate the top spot on the box office charts for four straight weekends in a row. Problem Child 2 was also released, but failed to make any sort of connection until it hit VHS later in the year.



July 15th: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - Part 2, Winnie the Pooh



Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
The Weekend's Big Winner:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. The final adventure in the Harry Potter film series. The much-anticipated motion picture event is the second of two full-length parts. In the epic finale, the battle between the good and evil forces of the Wizarding world escalates into an all-out war. The stakes have never been higher and no one is safe. But it is Harry Potter who may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice as he draws closer to the climactic showdown with Lord Voldemort. It all ends here! Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is also the weekend's best bet.

The Rest of the Best:
While family films dominate the box office in 2011, the return of Winnie the Pooh in his first full-length feature film in over three decades won't be able to compete with the final Hogwarts adventure. There are also a handful of small independent dramas hitting this weekend as well, giving the art house snob who sneers at Harry Potter something to do. Jennifer Connelly, Pierce Brosnan , and Greg Kinnear headline the church thriller Salvation Boulevard. Life, Above All is a South African drama about a young girl fighting against fear and shame in her community. Lucky features Colin Hanks as a serial killer who wins the lottery. Tabloid is a documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary. And finally, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan revolves around the lifelong friendship of Lily and Snow Flower, and their imprisonment by rigid cultural codes of conduct for women in 19th Century China.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day continued to stomp on all of the competition. Surprisingly, it was a re-release of the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians that came in number two over the debuts of Boyz N the Hood and Point Break, both now considered classics in their genres.



July 22nd: Captain America: The First Avenger, Friends with Benefits, Another Earth



Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Weekend's Big Winner:
Captain America: The First Avenger. Born during the Great Depression, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) grew up a frail youth in a poor family. Horrified by the newsreel footage of the Nazis in Europe, Rogers was inspired to enlist in the army. However, because of his frailty and sickness, he was rejected. Overhearing the boy's earnest plea, General Chester Phillips offered Rogers the opportunity to take part in a special experiment...Operation: Rebirth. After weeks of tests, Rogers was at last administered the 'Super-Soldier Serum' and bombarded by 'vita-rays.' Steve Rogers emerged from the treatment with a body as perfect as a body can be and still be human. Rogers was then put through an intensive physical and tactical training program. Three months later, he was given his first assignment as Captain America. Armed with his indestructible shield and battle savvy, Captain America has continued his war against evil both as a sentinel of liberty and leader of The Avengers.

The Weekend's Best Bet:
Another Earth. Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling), a bright young woman accepted into MIT's astrophysics program, aspires to explore the cosmos. A brilliant composer, John Burroughs (William Mapother), has just reached the pinnacle of his profession and is about to have a second child. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, tragedy strikes and the lives of these strangers become irrevocably intertwined.

The Rest of the Best:
Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis attempt to have a sexual relationship without any of the drama that usually goes with it in Friends with Benefits. The Myth of the American Sleepover is a small coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of summer. And Sarah's Key follows an American journalist (Kristin Scott Thomas) assigned to write about the notorious Vel d'Hiv round up, which in turn exposes some of her own Family secrets.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
Keanu Reeves tried for a second weekend in a row to take down Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But his Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey sequel didn't quite do it, landing at number 2. John Hughes's popularity had dropped off considerable, with his latest comedy Dutch failing to find a willing audience.



July 29th: Cowboys & Aliens, The Smurfs, Crazy Stupid Love, Life in a Day



Cowboys and Aliens
Cowboys and Aliens
The Weekend's Big Winner:
Cowboys and Aliens. 1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don't welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde. It's a town that lives in fear. But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation. United against a common enemy, they will prepare for an epic showdown for survival.

The Weekend's Best Bet:
The Smurfs.The Smurfs make their first 3D trip to the big screen in Columbia Pictures'/Sony Pictures Animation's hybrid live-action and animated family comedy, The Smurfs. When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the Smurfs out of their village, they're forced through a portal, out of their world and into ours, landing in the middle of New York's Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.

The Rest of the Best:
Ryan Gosling shows Steve Carell the ropes in dealing with today's dating scene in Crazy Stupid Love. Director Kevin Macdonald and producer Ridley Scott offer a look at one day in the life of planet Earth in the new Youtube documentary Life in a Day. The Devil's Double looks at the life of Saddam Hussein's son's body-double. And The Future finds two twenty-somethings disconnecting from their lives to find their own personal freedom.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day stood firm at the top of the charts, though the Young Guns spin-off Mobsters, which featured Christian Slater, Richard Grieco, and Patrick Dempsey as fresh faced kingpins, tried hard to knock it down. Three huge stink bombs were also released into theaters this weekend with Kathleen Turner starring in V.I. Warshawski, Mel Brooks playing a hobo in Life Stinks, and Another You, which reteamed Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder for the last time on screen.



August 5th: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Change-Up, Bellflower



Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Weekend's Big Winner:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes. A completely new take on one of the Studio's most beloved and successful franchises. Oscar-winning visual effects house WETA Digital -- employing the groundbreaking technologies developed for Avatar -- will render, for the first time ever in the film series, photo-realistic apes rather than costumed actors. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an origin story in the truest sense of the term. Set in present day San Francisco, the film is a reality-based cautionary tale, a science fiction/science fact blend, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.

The Weekend's Best Bet:
Bellflower. The story follows two friends as they venture out into the world to begin their adult lives. All their free time is spent building flame-throwers and weapons of mass destruction in hopes that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang "Mother Medusa". While waiting for the world to end, their call to excitement comes unexpectedly when one of them meets a charismatic young woman and falls hard in love. Quickly integrated into a new group of friends, they set off on a journey of betrayal, love, hate, infidelity and extreme violence more devastating and fiery than any of their apocalyptic fantasies.

The Rest of the Best:
Hard partying Ryan Reynolds swaps bodies with family man Jason Bateman in The Change-Up. The town tramp and her gay BFF head out on the road to find an absentee father in Dirty Girl. Magic Trip is a documentary that follows Ken Kesey's LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip to the New York World's Fair. The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll is also a road trip drama that follows two struggling musicians. And The Whistleblower chronicles the trials of a female cop from Nebraska who serves as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and exposes a United Nations cover-up of a sex trafficking scandal.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
Amazing but true, Charlie Sheen came in with the goofy spoof comedy Hot Shots! and decimated Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It would then go onto reign supreme through August, holding onto its number one spot for four straight weeks. The Michael J. Fox comedy Doc Hollywood was also released, along with Body Parts and the horrible sequel Return to the Blue Lagoon.



August 12th: 30 Minutes or Less, The Help, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Glee Live! 3D!



The Help
The Help
The Weekend's Big Winner:
The Help. Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, a southern society girl returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives -- and a small Mississippi town -- upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen, Skeeter's best friend's housekeeper, is the first to open up -- to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter's life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories -- and as it turns out, they have a lot to say.

The Weekend's Best Bet:
30 Minutes or Less. In the action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a small town pizza delivery guy whose mundane life collides with the big plans of two wanna-be criminal masterminds (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). The volatile duo kidnaps Nick and forces him to rob a bank. With mere hours to pull off the impossible task, Nick enlists the help of his ex-best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). As the clock ticks, the two must deal with the police, hired assassins, flamethrowers, and their own tumultuous relationship.

The Rest of the Best:
Glee Live! 3D! will bring the whole cast together for one of their live performances on stage, and it could be the surprise hit of August. Guillermo del Toro produces the creepy haunted house thriller Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, about tiny little creatures who like to snack on tooth enamel. Vera Farmiga makes her directorial debut with Higher Ground. And Seven Days in Utopia follows the misadventures of a pro golfer who suffers a very public humiliation.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
Charlie Sheen stayed at number one, while Jean-Claude Van Damme played twins in the action romp Double Impact. The dog comedy Bingo was also released.



August 19th: Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, One Day



Conan the Barbarian
Conan the Barbarian
The Weekend's Big Winner:
Conan the Barbarian. "I live. I love. I slay. I am content." - Conan the Barbarian...The most legendary Barbarian of all time is back. Conan's exploits in the Hyborian Age now come alive like never before in a colossal 3D action-adventure film. A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil. In 3D at select locations.

The Weekend's Best Bet:
Fright Night. Senior Charlie Brewster finally has it all going on: he's running with the popular crowd and dating the most coveted girl in his high school. In fact, he's so cool he's even dissing his best friend. But trouble arrives when Jerry moves in next door. He seems like a great guy at first, but there's something not quite right -- but everyone, including Charlie's mom, doesn't notice. After observing some very strange activity, Charlie comes to an unmistakable conclusion: Jerry is a vampire preying on the neighborhood. Unable to convince anyone, Charlie has to find a way to get rid of the monster himself.

The Rest of the Best:
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World reunites the cast and crew of this popular Robert Rodriguez franchise while offering some new fresh faces to the scene. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in the 80s set romantic drama One Day. And Brighton Rock stars Carey Mulligan, Helen Mirren, and John Hurt in the tale of a hitman on the run.

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
The only film to pose a threat to Charlie Sheen was Mystery Date, a goofy romantic comedy adventure starring Ethan Hawke. It lost the weekend to Hot Shots!. And people always wonder why there was a Hot Shots! Part Deux.



August 26th: Final Destination 5, Our Idiot Brother, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy



Final Destination 5
Final Destination 5
The Weekend's Big Winner:
Final Destination 5. Death makes a killing in this next installment of the horror series, which once again proves that no matter where you run, no matter where you hide...you can't cheat death! Or David Koechner...

The Weekend's Best Bet:
Our Idiot Brother. Ned Rochlin (Paul Rudd) looks for the good in every situation and in everyone, which often puts him at odds with the world around him -- especially his family. Upon being released from jail for a stupid mistake, Ned is kicked off of the organic farm he lives and works on by his ex-girlfriend Janet who also insists on keeping his beloved dog, Willie Nelson. Having nowhere else to go, he turns to his family, three ambitious sisters and an overbearing mother. Ned crashes at each of their homes, in succession, and brings honesty, happiness and a sunny disposition into their lives. In other words, he wreaks havoc.

The Rest of the Best:
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. The story centers on a 30-year-old (Jason Sudeikis) who is forced to grow up when his father decides to sell the family vacation home in the Hamptons, bringing an end to his tradition of throwing elaborate summer theme parties. Wanting to go out with a bang, he enlists his friends to throw one final party...An orgy!

Twenty Years Ago This Weekend:
Dead Again debuted way down at number five on the charts, but it fared better than the cult oddity Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. This weekend also saw he debut of The Coen Brothers' neo-classic Barton Fink.



August 31st: The Debt



The Debt
The Debt
The Weekend's Big Winner:
The Debt. Debuting on a Wednesday, this is technically the last summer movie, though two early fall debuts are inline with what we've seen in recent months, with Colombiana and Shark Night 3D opening on Friday (you'll be back in school, so they don't count!). The Debt, an espionage thriller, begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel and Stefan about their former colleague David. All three have been venerated for decades by their country because of the mission that they undertook back in 1966, when the trio tracked down Nazi war criminal Vogel in East Berlin. At great risk, and at considerable personal cost, the team's mission was accomplished - or was it? The suspense builds in and across two different time periods, with startling action and surprising revelations.


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Comments (11)

  1. Dylan Mccann

    not another final destination...

    3 years agoby @dylan-mccannFlag

  2. CUPID

    Its gonna be an awesome summer for movies.

    3 years agoby @cupidFlag

  3. Daveactor7

    Conan looks incredibly cheesy. August ima just watch "Apes" and for July....everything :P lmao

    3 years agoby @daveactor7Flag

  4. Cheetoboy

    Well glad to know that Transforners3 is coming out a few days early, but I am highly anticipating Captain America(which I think will out do Thor), and also Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian, Final Destination5, Cowboys & Aliens, and maybe Spykids4.

    3 years agoby @cheetoboyFlag

  5. moviegeek

    This look like a very packed summer, which is good. Time will tell if quality-wise things are any good.

    3 years agoby @moviegeekFlag

  6. jess-51

    i down to see Fright Night look ok but i want to see 30 Minutes or Less

    3 years agoby @jess-51Flag

  7. Diaigma

    @dan1, @bawnian-dexeus - call me a nutter, but I want to see The Help, too :P

    3 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  8. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    @dan1@diaigma Conan and Apes will rule August :D

    3 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  9. Dan

    @diaigma Conan, The Debt, and Planet of Apes for me in August :)

    3 years agoby @dan1Flag

  10. Diaigma

    @nautical05 - yep. For once, I actually want to see some August movies :p

    A little disappointed about what I've heard about Pooh. The runtime is only an hour, preceded by two shorts to up the length : /

    3 years agoby @diaigmaFlag

  11. Nautical

    AAAHHH so many good movies its redonkulous

    3 years agoby @nautical05Flag