May 2011 movies, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, The Hangover Part II

2011 Summer Movie Preview: May

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The Beaver (May 6)

Even under the best of circumstances, a movie about a man losing his mind and hiding from the world behind a beaver hand puppet would be a tough sell -- but when your star is a guy whose most recent headlines have come courtesy of a series of horrific, surreptitiously taped phone calls to an ex-girlfriend, well...it's sort of amazing that The Beaver wasn't dumped in January or sent straight to video. Of course, that doesn't mean it's any good, but early reviews have been encouraging, and when was the last time you watched a trailer like this?

Hobo with a Shotgun (May 6)

Here's everything you need to know about "Hobo with a Shotgun": It stars Rutger Hauer as a hobo who has a shotgun. Sometimes the simplest concepts are the ones that work the best, are they not?

Thor (May 6)

If you only see one movie this year about a hammer-wielding Norse god whose disapproving father sent him to Earth as punishment for his rotten attitude, make it Kenneth Branagh's Thor. A daffy blend of outsized popcorn thrills and arthouse-friendly casting (Natalie Portman! Idris Elba! Anthony Hopkins!), Thor is Marvel's all-in bet that they can spin cinematic gold out of their least camera-friendly characters. And based on the trailers -- not to mention the wildly positive early reviews -- they're right.

Bridesmaids (May 13)

Here, film fans, is what The Hangover hath wrought: yet another raunchy comedy about the ribald pre-wedding antics of a group of friends. Only this time -- omigod! -- the friends are women. It sounds like the coke-fueled pitch of a desperate third-string screenwriter, but Bridesmaids boasts a terrific cast (including Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and The Office's Ellie Kemper) as well as Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks) behind the lens -- and, of course, Judd Apatow produced.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20)

Avast, ye scurvy filmgoers: Disney is back for another round of big-budget adventure on the high seas with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). This time around, the heavily mascaraed swashbuckler is racing against Blackbeard (Ian McShane) in the search for the Fountain of Youth, and contending with a mysterious lass (Penelope Cruz) along the way. You know what to expect from the franchise at this point -- and judging from the box office returns, you can't get enough of it.

The Hangover Part II (May 26)

The original Hangover's storyline didn't exactly cry out for a sequel, but when you're the top-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, Part II is pretty much a foregone conclusion. If a sequel had to happen, let's be glad that director Todd Phillips reunited the original's reluctantly hell-raising trio (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) -- and managed to dream up a way to not only send them to Bangkok, but reunite them with the effeminate gangster (Ken Jeong) who made their lives miserable in the first installment. Also: monkeys are funny!

Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 26)

The original Kung Fu Panda raked in more than $630 million for DreamWorks, so you knew it was only a matter of time before the studio wrangled Jack Black back into the vocal booth for another round of anthropomorphic animated martial arts action. (Try saying that ten times fast.) Kung Fu Panda 2 reunites the original cast (including Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, and Seth Rogen) to pit them against an evil albino peacock with Gary Oldman's voice. Pre-order your tickets yet?

Tree of Life (May 27)

For film buffs, any new Terrence Malick movie is an event, and Tree of Life is one we've been waiting for since it was announced way back in 2005. The details of the plot have been carefully guarded, but here's what we know: It stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in a surreal, sprawling tale that goes from prehistoric times to Texas in the 1950s, and promises to deliver Malick at his most ambitious and creatively driven. Not for the Transformers crowd, in other words, but if you want to be challenged at the cineplex this summer, curl up under this Tree.

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