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Summer Movie Lineup - Part II
The Films Hoping to Draw Teenagers This July & August
An article from David R. Smith at

Mutants. Pirates. Talking cars. And we’ve only reached the half-way point of the 2011 summer lineup at the movie theater! Look out; Tinsel Town is hoping for – and working diligently toward – a big end to this summer’s box office take.

Act 5, Scene 5
2011’s summer lineup was so big I couldn’t squeeze all of it into one article. If you didn’t see last week’s article, you might want to check it out; it covered all the hits playing on the big screen during May and June.

But July and August aren’t slouches.

In fact, during the last half of this summer, some of the biggest franchise sequels are set to be released. We’ll discuss them in a moment, providing plot synopsis, rating (where available), and a few predictions about teen viewership. Afterwards, we’ll provide a few tips on helping teens make godly decisions at the box office.

But for now, let’s get on to the movies. Here they are, beginning with a definite blockbuster:

July 1 – Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (Presently Unrated)
The earth-saving crew is back in the third – and final – installment of the Transformers series. Well…most of the crew is back. Sam Witwicky will still be played by Shia LaBeouf, Maj. William Lennox by Josh Duhamel, Chief Robert Epps by Tyrese Gibson, and Seymour Simmons by John Turturro, but Megan Fox’s character Mikaela was eradicated from the script during her very public disputes with director Michael Bay. Sam’s love interest in this film will be Carly, played by Britain’s Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

The plot revelations for this trilogy-ender are relatively sparse. It’ll recount the space race between the US and the USSR due to the Autobots’ discovery of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the moon. As Sam takes his first steps into adulthood, the Autobots fight against the Decepticons (led by Shockwave), trying to bring final victory and safety to Earth.

I’ve been thoroughly under-impressed with the Transformer series thus far – hey, I’m an 80’s kid and the cartoons were better. Jonathan and Todd differed in their opinion of the first film in our Special Movie Review Podcast back in 2007, Jonathan specifically harping on the over-sexualized Megan Fox scenes. Both of them agreed with me, disliking the second film. So I’m not afraid to admit that the (first) official trailer for Dark of the Moon looks a little lame to me. The newly released trailer adds a little more depth to the plotline.

In spite of our thoughts about the Transformer movies thus far, I have zero doubt this will be HUGE at the box office. In other words, don’t plan your youth ministry’s monthly service project on this weekend.

July 15 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Presently Unrated)
Talk about your sequels; this movie makes the eighth in the franchise!

The three most-followed protagonists in showbiz return for the final battle against evil: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are doing all they can to make sure “It Ends Here,” the tag line of the movie. It looks like the eighth and final installment in the world’s most successful story/movie will go out with a bang…and a sizeable plot surprise?

The movie’s official trailer gives an idea what to expect, with posters and ads claiming, “It all ends 7/15.” The end begins as Harry, Ron, and Hermione go back to Hogwarts to find and destroy Voldemort's final horcruxes, but when Voldemort finds out about their mission, the biggest battle begins and life as they know it will never be the same again.

Now that Harry Potter has reached its final film, what will nerds around the world do with themselves? Sorry for calling the fans of this huge franchise nerds. Maybe that was mean, what I can say is these fans are passionate…and if you have any doubts about that, just stop by your local movie theater on around midnight on the 15th.

July 29 – Cowboys and Aliens (Presently Unrated)
What if we mixed a classic Western film – stay with me here – with a sci-fi alien flick?

But…what would you call it…

I didn’t really know what to say about this film. In fact, I debated on whether or not I should even include it in the article. But Jonathan and Todd both have high expectations for this film. In the end, the all-star cast (that have drawn out millions for their other films) compelled me to include it. The movie’s official trailer looks a little cool…a little weird…and a lot dusty. But whadaya expect? It’s the Wild West…meets Area 51!

In 1873 in Arizona, a mysterious man named Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens with no memory of his past and a strange shackle around his wrist. Entering the town of Absolution, he discovers that he’s a notorious criminal wanted by Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), a man who rules the town with an iron fist. But the town quickly realizes an even greater threat is on their hands when eerie forces attack from the sky. Lonergan’s wrist shackle holds the key to the town’s survival, but he must ally himself to Dolarhyde and other former enemies to stand against the foreign and powerful foe.

Of all the movies being released in the summer of 2011, this one runs away from the pack as the “most intriguing.” It’s hard to predict, but I’m sure a number of teenagers will go to see it just because it’s “different.”

July 22 – Captain America: The First Avenger
In addition to launching Thor’s career as a movie star, Marvel is also hoping to introduce Captain America to young viewers this summer. Captain America will be breaking into theaters during the most appropriate month of our nation’s calendar: July, the month we celebrate our independence.

Chris Evans plays Steven Rogers, a frail young man who wants nothing more than to enlist in the United States Army so he can fight the Nazis during World War II. Unfortunately for him, he’s rejected during the application process, so he volunteers for a secret military operation known as Project: Rebirth. He undergoes a scientific transformation that tremendously improves his physicality making him Captain America, and is partnered with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) so he can fight Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), Hitler’s personal head of advanced weaponry for the Nazi war machine. Will the super soldier have what it takes to stop the greatest enemy America has ever faced?

Marvel is hoping so! The movie’s official trailer reveals all the right ingredients: veteran cast members (Tommy Lee Jones), cute female protagonist (Hayley Atwell), lots of really bad bad guys, and the popular mix of humor and action. Chris Evans has already signed a six film deal with Marvel, so the comic company is desperately hoping Captain America can win over the nation he’s sworn to defend. We’ll see soon enough.

July 22 – Friends with Benefits (Presently Unrated…but I’m Gonna Go With “R”)
Justin Timberlake strikes again. Or maybe just strikes out.

In spite of this film already being done one time earlier this year (Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman’s No Strings Attached), I’m sure that millions of viewers will turn out for this “romantic comedy” about consequence-free sex. Frankly, it’s hard to tell the difference between the official (green band) trailer and the (supposedly) raunchier official (red band) trailer; both are incredibly risqué.

When a young female headhunter named Jamie (Mila Kunis) from New York convinces a potential recruit named Dylan (Justin Timberlake) to leave his job in San Francisco for a position in the big apple, little could either of them know what would develop. Both are attracted to the other, but both realize they're everything they've been avoiding in a relationship. The only solution is to decide to become friends...with benefits. Have all the sex you want…without the attachment, emotion, and responsibility. They think it's the perfect arrangement--until they discover there's no such thing as no strings attached.

This movie is just another in the long line of those from Hollywood that give a very worldly – and wrong – view of romance, dating, sex, and relationships. We won’t review this film for our MOVIE REVIEWS AND QUICK Q’s page; we can already see that it’s garbage.

August 5 – Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Presently Unrated)
Eat your heart out, Charlton Heston!

I gotta be honest: the movie’s official trailer looks pretty darn cool for several reasons. First, it stars James Franco who’s enjoying quite a run, as of late. Second, the storyline of this prequel seems to gel well with the famous films of the 60’s. And lastly, the CGI is done by Weta Digital, the effects group behind Avatar; the facial expressions on the apes look amazing!

(Please don’t read into my assessment any endorsement for evolution. I’ve read Genesis; the movie just looks like a cool storyline.)

And that storyline is as follows: Will Rodman (Franco) is a scientist hot on the trail of a cure for Alzheimer’s. His work, while revolutionary, requires experimentation on test subject apes. One of the apes, Caesar, mutates quickly, and Rodman removes him from the cruelty of the lab technicians. From there, it only gets worse. With his incredible intelligence – a side effect of the drugs given him – Caesar leads a revolt of all the other apes. Now, the animals that the humans had hoped to learn from are bent on subjugating and destroying them.

Too bad these overgrown monkeys can’t be taken back to the pet store.

I’d say this movie will generate some interest with younger crowds, as well. It’s got good genes in its DNA; the original films were big hits. I’m not saying teenagers will “go ape” over this film, but it’ll be a contender for the #1 spot that weekend.

August 19 – Conan the Barbarian (R)
A new Conan movie. Well, what did you expect when Arnold Schwarzenegger lost his day job in Sacramento?

What’s that? He’s not in this movie?

That’s right; Marvel Comics, the engine behind this iconic hero played by a pre-political Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980’s, is releasing another Conan film…with a new face…almost three decades after the last movie was released. Will the gamble pay off?

The movie’s official trailer isn’t helping their odds; it’s more than a little bland considering what they could’ve done with it.

This fantasy action-adventure has been called a “revenge film” by Jason Momoa, the man-giant who plays the famous barbarian. In short, Conan the Cimmerian (Jason Momoa) treks across the strange continent of Hyboria on a mission to avenge the murder of his father and the senseless slaying of others from his village. Along the way, he’ll encounter Tamara (played by Rachel Nichols) and Khalar Zym (played by Stephen Lang). There will be plenty of action, sword play, and muscles…with a little bit of love thrown in for good measure.

Plenty of Gen X-ers will see this film, for sure. But I’m predicting a young generation of movie watchers will also be quite interested in this action hero from the 80’s (in spite of its R rating). Hey, they have been for other 80’s films like the Transformers series. It may not go as big as other films this summer but I think the “intrigue-of-yesteryear” factor will help drive sales for this flick.

Summertime Selections
I’ve got to end this article…or turn this sucker into a trilogy.

But let me be clear: there are other films that will be released during the summer that were not discussed in these two articles. In fact, even after school starts, Hollywood is going to be cranking out some huge box office numbers with a few films set to be released in the fall.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, or MI: 4, Breaking Dawn 2, from the Twilight Saga, and The Three Musketeers are just a few of the upcoming flicks Hollywood is hoping will round out their sensational 2011.

In short, Hollywood has lots to offer this summer and beyond. How do we help our kids make wholesome, godly decisions in light of some of the irreverent, unhealthy choices out there?

First, be in conjunction with some “experts.” No, they’re not Ebert and Roeper, but they seem to know their stuff. Jonathan and Todd will continue to offer updates to our MOVIE REVIEWS AND QUICK Q’s portion of our website throughout the summer. Almost weekly, and certainly on big release dates, you can look for their thoughts, reviews, and recommendations on these films mentioned here, and more. Now, you don’t have to guess; you can just tap into their many years of experience as parents and youth workers! These guys will be providing you with awesome information all summer long. If you don’t take advantage of their help, you may be watching movies “in the dark” in more ways than one.

Second, be willing to have conversations with your teens about these movies. Remember to be compassionate, loving, relational, spiritual, un-condemning, and relevant in these talks. Almost weekly, culture will be pumping something new into the theaters in your neighborhood. We’ve already stated that some of these films are simply a “no go” for teenagers trying to live a godly life. Our teens need our help…even if they don’t want it. Start now by instilling in them some solid decision-making skills (about faith, family, behavior, messages, and other elements found in these films). Then, ask them to lay that template over each of these films. If it doesn’t fit the agreed-upon standards, the movie is probably not for them. Be warned; these conversations require courage, but they’re worth it.

Finally, look for every teaching opportunity you can inside the films you watch. Our teams at will be cranking out as many MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS as possible to aid you in this task. Not all movies are bad; not all movies are good. Usually, there’s a nuggets worth of truth buried in these films that’s begging to be discussed. We’ll help you with that as well.

Movies are supposed to be entertainment. But they’ve grown in their influence; movies are now dispensers of powerful messages, too, some good and some not so good. Fortunately, you have some powerful tools of your own with which to make well-rounded decisions.

If we parlay our resources correctly, we can ensure that movie-watching stays healthier than the treats at the snack bar inside the theater.

David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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