'Tis the season for big, loud, making-zillions-opening-weekend-then-dropping-off-into-oblivion fare. Summer 2010 was one of the shittiest in years (Iron Man 2, we hardly knew ye). Summer 2011 has the usual array of superhero sequels and remakes, but there are a few seemingly bright spots on the blockbuster schedule. And if giant robots aren't your thing, there's plenty more in store beyond the multiplex. All release dates are subject to change.
Superheroes! As always, there are plenty of superdudes (and ancillary dudettes) to choose from. Thor is already out, but anticipation is high for X-Men: First Class (June 3) — a prequel potentially poised to breathe new life into the series after 2006's meh X-Men: The Last Stand; and The Green Lantern (June 17), which stars Ryan Reynolds and will probably confuse people who thought it came out in January (that was The Green Hornet). There's also Transformers: Megan Fox Has Been Replaced — er, Dark of the Moon (July 1), and endgame Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (July 15). (Harry's a superhero by now, even with the glasses.) Though the wizard king will prob make the most dough, look for Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22) to bring the most noise. Red Skull in the house!
Manmeat! Ah, but the boy's club doesn't end there! The Hangover Part II (May 26) reunites the stars of the 2009 comedy hit for a sure-to-be-memorable trip to Thailand (the cast list includes a "drug-dealing monkey"). J.J. Abrams' Super 8 (June 10) looks like a more menacing version of producer Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20) tests my theory that every movie should, in some way, feature Blackbeard as a character. But the most intriguing title in this pile is obviously Cowboys & Aliens (July 29): Han Solo and James Bond gunslinging amid interplanetary rabble-rousers in the Wild West? Could this be something resembling an original idea? Hooray for Hollywood?
Indie intrigue! So you'd rather eat a wadded-up copy of Us Weekly than go to the Metreon. Fear not — summer 2011 also means the release of dozens of movies with budgets smaller than what it cost to make one pant leg of the Green Lantern suit. Just a few: from fake trailer to real cinema is the cult-hit-in-the-making Hobo With a Shotgun (May 27); master filmmaker Terrence Malick releases his latest, the Brad Pitt-starring The Tree of Life (June 3); and quirky Norwegian import The Troll Hunter (June 17) and documentarian Errol Morris' Tabloid (July 15) open after local debuts at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Keepin' it repertory! Rep houses are also ideal summer hangouts for movie fans who don't need everything that passes through their retinas to be in RealD. The Castro kicks off the season with an Elizabeth Taylor series (May 27-June 1). Berkeley's Pacific Film Archives offers up tributes to director Arthur Penn (June 10-29) and local heroes George and Mike Kuchar (June 10-25), plus an extensive "Japanese Divas" program (June 17-Aug. 20). Closure rumors be damned (let's hope!) — the Red Vic has an online calendar posted through early July, featuring everything from Wim Wenders to Woody Allen to the Muppets. The Roxie's summer slate includes Rainer Werner Fassbinder's newly restored 1973 World on a Wire (July 29), also a recent SFIFF selection.
Summer fests! Speaking of festivals — if you want 'em, the Bay Area's got 'em. The big two are Frameline (June 16-26), now in its 35th year of showcasing LGBT films, and the 31st San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (July 21-Aug. 8), but stay tuned to the Guardian for updates on mini-fests, super-specialized niche fests, outdoor film series, and more. Example: the Four Star is currently traveling through 36 chambers of Asian Movie Madness, encompassing everything from Jet Li's fists to magic swords, monsters, and erotica (series runs every Thursday through July 28). Happy movie-going, and yes, that is me carrying a boat-sized bucket of popcorn into Shark Night 3D (Sept. 2).