Movie Maniac

Summer movie preview: Familiar waters

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Actually, this summer's whole movie season will seem awfully familiar, so get used to it. There are more comic book adaptations, remakes and sequels on the horizon. But, as usual, they're Hollywood's most promising (bankable) offerings.

Here's what's in store. Release dates are subject to change.


"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" — Johnny Depp returns as heavily eyelinered Capt. Jack Sparrow in Disney's gazillion-doubloon-selling franchise. This time, he goes in search of the fountain of youth with the help of a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz). Yeah, she needs the fountain of youth like I need another pirate movie.

May 27

"The Hangover Part II" — The four original guys are back (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha) and they're hung over — again. I see a pattern forming whenever these guys are together. So does Hollywood, in dollars.

"Kung Fu Panda 2" — We pick up with portly panda Po (voice of Jack Black), who has become the martial arts expert known as the Dragon Warrior, as he fights something other than his appetite — again.

"The Tree of Life" — Reclusive director Terrence Malick ("Days of Heaven," "The New World") returns with this look at a Midwestern family in the 1950s, following the eldest son as he questions the meaning of life.

June 3

"X-Men: First Class" — Director Matthew Vaughn ("Kick-Ass") takes on the X-Men franchise with this origin story of how Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) came to be arch-enemies, splitting their mutant followers. Not literally, mind you.

"One for the Money" — Katherine Heigl churns out — I mean, stars in — yet another romantic comedy as an unemployed and newly divorced 30-year-old who lands a job at her cousin's bail-bond business, because that's a hilarious set-up! Her first assignment puts her on the trail of someone who turns out to be her ex! Oh, gosh, my side aches!

June 10

"Super 8" — Super-secretive writer/director J.J. Abrams ("Lost") started generating buzz about this movie last year with some intriguing online teasers, but no one knew what the movie was about (many thought it could be a prequel to "Cloverfield"). Now it looks to be some sort of monster movie involving a train crash that takes place in 1979. Maybe the monsters are to thank for the demise of disco.

June 17

"Green Lantern" — Wise-cracking Ryan Reynolds ("The Proposal") is cast in this big-screen version of the comic book as a test pilot who is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers. Like how to fit in that insanely tight suit.

"Bad Teacher" — Cameron Diaz is a foul-mouthed party girl looking forward to a life of privilege with her wealthy fiancee. No, this isn't a documentary. Instead, it's a comedy where her character falls for a substitute teacher (real-life ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake) and she pretends to be a teacher to win him over.

"Mr. Popper's Penguins" — Jim Carrey stars in this comedy as a businessman who inherits six penguins. So he does what any good penguin owner would do — trains them to do tricks and takes them on tour. I hope there's a penguin performer's union.

June 24

"Cars 2" — The much-anticipated sequel finds racing hot shot Lightning McQueen (returning voice of Owen Wilson) and his tow-truck pal Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) heading overseas.

July 1

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" — Since Michael Bay knows a good cash horse when he sees one — I mean, since he's so artistically committed to the "Transformers" series — he brings us the third installment in the franchise based on the shape-shifting toys. Shia LaBeouf returns, as well.

"Larry Crowne" — Tom Hanks returns to comedy in this coming-of-middle-age tale about a man who gets fired from his job, goes back to college and falls for his speech class teacher (Julia Roberts).

July 8

"Zookeeper" — Funny guy Kevin James ("The Dilemma") plays a zookeeper who discovers his beloved animals can talk (and they sound an awful lot like movie stars Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone and Cher). They join forces to help him win the girl of his dreams.

"Horrible Bosses" — Three working-class friends (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) conspire to murder their intolerable bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston). Maybe that team training will pay off, after all.

July 15

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2" — The end of the end, as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) return to destroy the evil Lord Voldemort, and remind us that they're now available for other acting jobs.

"Winnie the Pooh"— The first big-screen Pooh adventure from Disney in more than 35 years brings the whole crew back in a new adventure. Pass the honey.

July 22

"Captain America: The First Avenger" — Chris Evans ("The Losers") stars in this adaptation of the comic book as Steve Rogers, who after being a sickly young man deemed unfit for military service, volunteers for a top-secret mission and is injected with a serum that turns him into a superhero. I can't even get good allergy medicine.

"Friends With Benefits" — Romantic comedy with Justin Timberlake ("The Social Network") and Mila Kunis ("Black Swan") as friends who add sex to their relationship. Then things get complicated. Shocker!

July 29

"Cowboys and Aliens" — Another comic book adaptation, this time mixing in the Western genre and set in 1800s Arizona, where cowboys join forces with enemy Apache warriors to fend off an alien invasion. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford star.

"Crazy Stupid Love" — Steve Carell stars as a recently divorced man who finds himself back in the dating game with sad results. But then he's taken in as wingman to a 30-something womanizer (Ryan Gosling), and his luck changes.

Aug. 3

"The Smurfs" — This live action/animated family comedy finds the blue-hued Smurfs forced out of their village into modern-day New York City, where they probably fit in just fine.

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" — James Franco stars in this new take on the franchise set in present-day San Francisco, where mankind's experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of war. And future sequels.

"The Change-Up" — Jason Bateman stars in this comedy as a married man who switches bodies with his best friend (Ryan Reynolds) in order to woo his co-worker. He discovers that true beauty is inside us all, blah, blah, blah. I'd rather look like Reynolds, too.

Aug. 12

"The Help" — Drama set in a 1960s southern town, as its unspoken code of rules and behavior is shattered by three courageous women who form an unlikely friendship. Emma Stone ("Easy A") stars.

"30 Minutes or Less" — Action comedy about two fledgling criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) who kidnap a pizza delivery driver (Jesse Eisenberg of "The Social Network") and force him to rob a bank within 30 minutes. I think they misunderstood the pizza delivery commercials.

Aug. 19

"Conan the Barbarian" — This new version is said to be more faithful to the source material — Robert E. Howard's mythical character introduced in 1930s magazine serials — than to the campy Arnold Schwarzenegger films. It follows the fierce warrior Conan and his quest to avenge the murder of his father.

"Spy Kids: All the Time in the World" — Robert Rodriguez gets sequel-happy, too, with this fourth installment in his franchise. Hey, it was either this or "Machete 2: Still Sharp as a Knife."

"Fright Night" — The '80s horror hit gets remade with Anton Yelchin ("Star Trek") as high school senior Charlie Brewster, who discovers that his new neighbor (Colin Farrell) is a vampire responsible for a string of recent deaths.

Aug. 26

"Final Destination 5" — As the film's slogan goes, "No matter where you run, no matter where you hide... you can't escape another sequel." OK, I added that last part.

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" — Don't tell me it's another horror film. And another remake. And another summer gone.