Summer Movie Preview: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Filed under: Media, Movies, New In Pop Culture

Summer Movie Preview

Kung Fu Panda 2. Credit: Disney

With so many sequels, comic book-hero adventures and big-budget action and animated flicks hitting multiplexes near you this summer, we've provided a month-by-month cheat sheet to help you with your movie-going choices.

May

"Thor"

Release Date: May 6
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
What's the Buzz: Even in the pantheon of superheroes, Thor is unique because he's an actual god. Starring Chris Hemsworth and Academy Award winner Natalie Portman, this is one action adventure that's sure to appeal equally to boys and girls, not to mention grown-ups curious about director Kenneth Branagh delving into the genre.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

Release Date: May 20
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
What's the Buzz: Yo, ho -- Johnny Depp returns for the fourth time as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's popular pirate franchise. Gone are Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, but Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane are on board for this high-seas adventure that looks equal parts rummy comedy and special-effects-heavy action.

"Kung Fu Panda 2"
Release Date: May 26
Target Age: Young Kids
What's the Buzz: Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Po (voiced by Jack Black) is back for some more kung fu fighting. The Furious Five are all reprising their roles, as well, and now there's a group of fellow martial arts masters who team up with Po and pals to defeat a common enemy. Even kids who aren't familiar with the original will want to kick and chop their way to this adventure.

June

"X-Men: First Class"
Release Date: June 3
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
What's the Buzz: If seeing Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) back when they were friends isn't compelling enough, this Cold War-set origin story also features a who's who of Hollywood's rising stars as young mutants, including Nicholas Hoult, Lucas Till and Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (who's set to play Katniss in the upcoming "Hunger Games" adaptation).

"Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer"
Release Date: June 10
Target Age: Young Kids
What's the Buzz: Like Ramona Quimby, Judy Moody is a favorite literary heroine of young readers everywhere. Judy, her brother Stink and their carefree Aunt Opal are going to have a thrills-filled summer on the big screen, and we can assure you that the kindergarten-to-third-grade set will be ready to go on a virtual adventure with them.

"Super 8"
Release Date: June 10
Target Age: Teens
What's the Buzz: A collaboration between writer-director J.J. Abrams ("Star Trek," "Lost") and producer Steven Spielberg, this sci-fi thriller/coming-of-age story set in 1979 Ohio is one of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer. Starring a young cast led by Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney -- who play wannabe filmmakers using the titular Super 8 camera -- this could be the movie of the season.

"Green Lantern"

Release Date: June 17
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
What's the Buzz: Unlike Thor, the Green Lantern wasn't born with super powers -- he acquires them like Spider-Man or The Hulk. The ever-popular Ryan Reynolds stars as DC Comics hero Hal Jordan, a test pilot who's given a ring of nearly unlimited power that lets him create whatever he imagines. Expect tweens and up -- especially comics fans -- to want to check it out.

"Mr. Popper's Penguins"

Release Date: June 17
Target Age: Young Kids
What's the Buzz: Comedian Jim Carrey stars as the titular Mr. Popper, a businessman who inherits six penguins that quickly turn his apartment -- and his life -- into their personal wintry playland. If anyone can pull off an adaptation of the classic children's book by Richard and Florence Atwater, it's Carrey. And unlike most animal comedies, these penguins don't speak!

"Cars 2"
Release Date: June 24
Target Age: Young Kids
What's the Buzz: Lightning, Mater and the rest of everyone's favorite Radiator Springs vehicles return for this Pixar sequel that takes the four-wheeled friends to international locales to compete against the world's fastest race cars. Despite the five-year gap between the original and the sequel, families will be driving in the fast lane to see another Pixar release.

July

"Monte Carlo"
Release Date: July 1
Target Age: Tweens
What's the Buzz: Mistaken-identity comedies have been popular for centuries, so it's no surprise Hollywood is still making films about characters who pretend to be someone else. Disney star Selena Gomez plays a teen whose dream trip to Paris takes a luxurious turn when she's mistaken for her look-alike, a British heiress with a penchant for five-star jet-setting.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
Release Date: July 1
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
What's the Buzz: Even director Michael Bay has admitted "Transformers 2" was sub-par, and he's promised Autobot fans that this "threequel" is more like the original than the critically panned sequel. Megan Fox is no longer Shia LaBeouf's object of affection, but he's got another starlet, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, on hand to help defeat the Decepticons.

"Zookeeper"
Release Date: July 8
Target Age: Young Kids
What's the Buzz: Talking animal movies always draw kids in, and this family comedy about an unsuspecting zookeeper (Kevin James) who discovers his wild charges can speak looks like the kind of silly, slapstick-filled adventure that even younger elementary-schoolers can appreciate.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"

Release Date: July 15
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
What's the Buzz: Unless you've literally lived off the grid for the past, say, 14 years, chances are you and your brood have seen or read at least one of the Harry Potter series, so you know this final film will be epic -- and full of action and intense moments. Harry, Ron and Hermione have one last shot to defeat You Know Who, and if you want to witness it on screen, you'll probably need to buy tickets ASAP.

"Winnie the Pooh"

Release Date: July 15
Target Age: Young Kids
What's the Buzz: Honey-loving Winnie and his Hundred Acre Wood friends Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet and the gang return to the big screen for an old-fashioned adventure that should be a perfect pick for families. With a G rating and a built-in fan-base of any kid familiar with the classic A.A. Milne stories, even the youngest viewers will want to see what Pooh and pals are up to.

"Captain America: The First Avenger
"
Release Date: July 22
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
What's the Buzz: One of America's most beloved superheroes gets a reboot for a new generation of fans, so this big-budget adaptation should have pretty universal appeal. Although some kids may not be as keen to see a "period" adventure set in the '40s, they may be more enticed since Captain America (and Thor) will be in 2012's "The Avengers."

"Cowboys & Aliens"

Release Date: July 29
Target Age: Tweens and Teens
What's the Buzz: What could be more appealing than this Wild West-meets-sci-fi adventure, starring James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)? This is already one of the most buzzed about releases of the year, and it's just the sort of action-driven popcorn flick that fathers and sons will enjoy.

"The Smurfs"

Release Date: July 29
Target Age: Young Kids
What's the Buzz: For parents of a certain age, The Smurfs were little blue friends who accompanied the Saturday mornings of childhood. The children of those parents are now the target audience for this computer-generated 3-D adventure starring Hank Azaria as Gargamel, comedian Jonathan Winters as the voice of Papa Smurf and pop star Katy Perry as Smurfette.

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

Release Date: Aug. 5
Target Age: Teens
What's the Buzz: This violent-looking prequel to the "Planet of the Apes" series isn't going to be uplifting -- we know the apes will get the upper hand even before the first test subject is given that fateful intelligence-boosting pill -- but that won't stop droves of teens from wanting to see James Franco and Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy) try to fend them off.

August

"The Help"
Release Date: Aug. 12
Target Age: Teens
What's the Buzz: Based on Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel about the complicated personal and social interactions between white Southern women and their African-American nannies and maids, this 1960s-set dramedy starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis is likely to appeal most to teen girls and their mothers, especially if they've read the book.

"Conan the Barbarian"
Release Date: Aug. 19
Target Age: Teens
What's the Buzz: The original, R-rated "Conan" launched Arnold Schwarzenegger's career, and this PG-13 adaptation could do the same for Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa. But the trailer's violence and scantily clad women make it more of an older-teen pick.

"Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World"

Release Date: Aug. 19
Target Age: Tweens
What's the Buzz: Director Robert Rodriguez is resurrecting his super-sleuth franchise with Jessica Alba as an undercover spy whose twin tween stepchildren are the new Spy Kids. But fans of the original shouldn't despair: The twins receive gadgets and guidance from older super sleuths Carmen and Juni Cortez and their parents.

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