Youth Culture Window
2011 is the year for movie sequels; the summer lineup is no exception. This season, teen viewers will get another dose of pirates, pandas, and Potter. The good news is, most of the movies are clean.
But when they aren’t, they REALLY aren’t.
Coming (Again) to a Theater Near You…and Your Teenagers
Each year, I write a Youth Culture Window article that focuses on the upcoming movies that are expected to be summer blockbusters and/or hits with teen audiences (or both). Last year’s article necessitated being released in two parts; the same is true of this year’s list. So, if you don’t know the difference between the Green Hornet and Green Lantern, relax; the biggest movies of the summer will be covered right here.
Pardon me, but I need to point out something that should be obvious to you as you peruse this list of films: there are a lot of sequels. I mean, a whole bunch of them! In fact, 2011 actually has a record-setting 27 sequels set to be released, many of which are slated for summer viewing.
Don’t believe it? Just take a look at a couple of movies released on the eve of summer. April’s box office included the release of Fast Five, the fifth installment in that series, and a film that provided a pretty accurate porthole into pop-culture, Scream 4, a follow-up released a full decade after the last film in that franchise.
If you still doubt, let’s go ahead and get to the first half of the list, May to June. For each film highlighted, I’ll include a short description of the plot, a link to the official trailer, and the movie’s rating (if currently available). So silence your cell phones and grab your 3D glasses. This summer’s movies are gonna be big!
Here they are, in order of release date.
May 6 –Thor (PG-13)
Marvel is leading off the summer of 2011 like it has the last few summers (think Iron Man, Wolverine: Origins, and Iron Man 2).
Thor tells the story of the young and arrogant God of Thunder (Chris Helmsworth) who’s banished from the realm of Asgard to Earth by his father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor’s pride jeopardized the long-sought and fragile peace between the Asgardians and Frost Giants, and his father wants him to learn a lesson while living among humans. On Earth, Thor meets a scientist named Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and begins to learn about humility…and love. Unfortunately for Earth’s citizens, however, Thor’s family troubles follow him, and now, Thor must discover what it takes to be a true hero if he is to save himself and defend Earth.
The movie’s official trailer gives a good indication as to the amount of action and CGI that can be expected. Whether a Thor comic fan or not, this film will probably prove to be a solid launch for an action-packed summer at the movies.
May 20 – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Presently Unrated)
Disney is extending their famed trilogy with a fourth installment, which is loosely based on Tim Powers’ book On Stranger Tides. In this reboot, most of the cast got the boot, with only Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Kevin McNally returning to the troubled seas. However, the cast has added some talent with Penélope Cruz (playing Angelica) and Ian McShane (playing Blackbeard).
In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (or POTC 4), Captain Jack Sparrow is forced aboard the infamous Queen Anne’s Revenge – the ship of the bloodthirsty Captain Blackbeard – by the mysterious Angelica, an intriguing woman from Jack’s past. Throughout their adventure to find the Fountain of Youth, Jack will have to navigate cutthroats, zombies, and deceptively treacherous mermaids if he hopes to gain immortality. Also, look for Captain Barbossa to play another major role in this film.
The movie’s webpage not only contains the official trailer, but a host of other features, as well. (It’s Disney; what’d you expect?) The movie trailer reveals the POTC’s usual offerings: awesome music, epic fight scenes against insurmountable bad guys, and loads of humor intertwined between the action.
This movie should be pretty popular with teenagers. In other words, don’t plan anything for your youth ministry this weekend!
May 26 – Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom (PG)
Dreamworks is finally following up their 2008 hit with a long-anticipated sequel. All the big names are back, voicing their same characters: Po (Jack Black), the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, and Lucy Liu), and of course, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).
The plot sounds pretty cool: as the “pandamonium” resumes, Po is now a kung fu master, valiantly defending the Valley of Peace. But word reaches Master Shifu that a new evil is approaching their world in the form of Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman). He wields a new weapon so powerful that it threatens to destroy the heroes and kung fu itself. Po sets out with the Furious Five to meet the evil peacock face-to-face…but like the first film, he must face his inner demons in order to triumph.
I’m looking forward to this movie for two reasons: first, it will be funny. The movie’s official trailer is hilarious, but so is the movie’s teaser trailer, as well. Second, it will be clean.
I can’t say that about the next movie being released the same night.
May 26 – The Hangover Part II (R)
In 2008, the sleeper hit The Hangover stormed through theaters, taking in $200 million at the box office in the U.S. before enjoying big sales on DVD and BluRay. Why wouldn’t Legendary Pictures (of Warner Bros.) make a sequel?
When Stu (Ed Helms) decides to get married to a girl from Thailand, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to Bangkok for the big day. Stu, remembering the travesty of Doug’s wedding, opts for a low-key bachelor brunch instead of a wild night on the town. Unfortunately for all of them, things once again go drunkenly awry, and they all wake up hung over, lost, confused, and missing a member of their party. Stu even has a facial tat.
Maybe it shouldn’t.
Either way, the whole crew is back in this sequel – including Leslie Chow (played by Ken Jeong) – but the only thing that seems to differentiate this movie from the first is the setting: Bangkok, not Vegas. Nothing seems original in the flick’s official movie trailer; expect much of the same comedic low hanging fruit – the recollections of grown men who can’t control themselves, their alcohol intake, their language, or their libido.
Entertaining to teens? Sadly, yes again.
June 3 – X-Men: First Class (Presently Unrated)
Marvel isn’t putting all their eggs in the Thor “basket”; they’re also releasing the fifth installment of their X-Men franchise of films. First Class is set during the 60’s – while JFK is still president – and even includes historic events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Civil Rights Movement. Iconic images of the SR-71 Blackbird and early nuclear submarines are sprinkled throughout the movie’s official trailer. Pretty cool!
First Class is a sequel and a prequel to the earlier films; it invests the brunt of its plot into showing the development of Charles Xavier into Professor X (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr into Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Perhaps unknown to younger crowds, Xavier and Lensherr were originally friends who worked together for the benefit of mutants on Earth. Unfortunately, a rift tore them apart, and the unending battle between the X-Men and the Brotherhood began.
To be honest, I’m not a huge X-Men fan, but the movie trailer is incredibly enticing with its back story and action sequences. I’m gonna go ahead and call this flick as one of the biggest of the season, providing a boost for Hollywood midway through the summer.
June 10 – Super 8 (Presently Unrated)
What do you get when you bring Executive Producer Steven Spielberg and Director JJ Abrams together? A super movie, that’s what. Well…Super 8.
In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local deputy tries to uncover the truth – something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.
From the trailer, this film looks like fun for the whole family…but I’ll be checking back in on this one before I bring my family.
June 17 – Green Lantern (Presently Unrated)
DC Comics isn’t going to let Marvel have all the fun – or money – this summer. In mid June, with the help of Warner Bros Studios, they’re rolling out the Green Lantern. (Ummm…since Green Lantern doesn’t exactly have Superman or Batman status, I should probably tell you, there’s a difference between Green Lantern and the Green Hornet.)
Green Lantern stars Ryan Reynolds in the lead spot of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. Jordan is an arrogant test pilot who’s chosen by a member of the Green Lantern Corps to possess a magical ring that grants its owner incredible powers. When Jordan dons the ring, he becomes the Green Lantern. But trouble soon finds the fledgling hero: super villains Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) and Sinestro (Mark Strong) try to destroy the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps. Jordan’s biggest help comes from Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), his childhood sweetheart and fellow test pilot. Together they are tasked with keeping the peace inside a very troubled universe.
The movie’s official trailer doesn’t do a very good job describing the Green Lantern Corps or their mortal enemies, Hammond and Sinestro. That’s doubly unfortunate given most people’s unfamiliarity with this comic book character. But the cast’s combined stardom will certainly offset this some. We’ll see if the light of Green Lantern will draw a big enough crowd to warrant its own sequel in the coming years.
June 24 – Cars 2 (Presently Unrated)
Pixar is headed back to the track – and the box office – with their follow up to the highly successful 2006 original, Cars.
In Cars 2, racecar Lighting McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his hillbilly tow truck buddy Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) leave Radiator Springs and head overseas to compete in the inaugural World Grand Prix – “three races on two continents” – to crown the world’s fastest car. The dynamic duo hit plenty of speed bumps along the way when Mater finds himself at the center of international espionage. Mater will have to clearly define what friendship means as he’s torn between helping McQueen and completing his spy assignment. (Personally, I think this movie will generate some great MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS.)
The (first) official movie trailer caused a lot of confusion about the movie’s actual plot, so Pixar quickly released a second movie trailer that painted a clearer picture. Regardless of the quality of the trailers, the movie should prove to be good, clean, family fun.
Again, the other movie being released that same night won’t be…. And that is…
June 24 – Bad Teacher (R)
This movie isn’t a sequel, and to be honest, I hope it won’t spawn one.
Ummm…this one is painful to describe: Middle school teacher Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) is a foul-mouthed, ruthless, and completely inappropriate role model for the students she leads. She drinks excessively – in front of her students – and gets high – in front of her students – and when she’s dumped by her fiancé, things only get worse. Her recovery plan is simple: marry a rich, sexy guy who will take care of her forever. Enter substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). Unfortunately for Elizabeth, a love triangle develops between her, Scott, and another teacher, Amy (Lucy Punch). With Elizabeth trying to win a man and a bonus away from the clutches of Amy, everyone’s bound to get an education…even if they don’t want it.
This movie will stand out for a couple reasons. First, this film offers Timberlake and Diaz their initial appearances in summer flicks. Those two can draw a crowd. Second, the film will be incredibly crude. The official movie trailer is only slightly more humane than the red band trailer (which definitely requires age verification).
Bad Teacher is a bad movie. My suggestion? Skip class.
We’ve reached the half-way point. Next week, we’ll wrap up the remaining blockbusters slated to be released this summer. More importantly, we’ll provide parents and youth workers with some practical tips that will help them confidently lead teenagers through movie-viewing decisions. Finally, we’ll share even more free resources www.TheSource4YM.com has up its sleeve in regards to coming attractions.
Don’t miss it!
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, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.