Early Summer Movie Guide: What to See, When to See It

So begins the summer movie season, when we willingly pay to see movies we know will be bad. But between the raunchy comedies (A Good Old Fashioned Orgy) and silly sequels (Spy Kids 4, Final Destination 5) — some of which we'll love! — are some intriguing flicks well worth watching, and not just to escape the heat. Below, the good, the bad, and the we-will-reserve-judgment-for-now rundown. Happy summer, movie fans. (As always, all dates are subject to change.)

MAY 26

The Hangover 2. Best buds Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who barely survived the drunken mayhem of their last vacation, head to Bangkok for Stu's wedding. Todd Phillips returns as director, but the tiger in the bathroom has been replaced by a chain-smoking monkey.

Kung Fu Panda 2. In this sequel to the 2008 animated hit, Jack Black once again provides the voice of Po, the Bruce Lee — channeling panda, whose reign as the benign Dragon Warrior is threatened by all manner of villains, including an evil peacock voiced by Gary Oldman.

JUNE 3

Beautiful Boy. Michael Sheen and Maria Bello star as a couple whose troubled marriage is upended completely by news that their son (Kyle Gallner) has killed himself after going on a shooting rampage at his college. Shawn Ku directs from a script he wrote with Michael Armbruster.

Blank City. In Céline Danhier's documentary, artists such as Steve Buscemi, Jim Jarmusch, John Lurie, and Debbie Harry look back on the "No-Wave Cinema" movement of the early 1980s, when New York's Lower East Side was home to an indie film resurgence.

Love Wedding Marriage. A newly married marriage counselor (Mandy Moore) gets so wrapped up in keeping her parents (James Brolin and Jane Seymour) from divorcing that she begins neglecting her own spouse (Kellan Lutz). Directed by actor Dermot Mulroney.

Submarine. Oliver (Craig Roberts), a 15-year-old British schoolboy, has two goals for his summer vacation: sleeping with his romance-hating gal pal (Yasmin Paige), and saving the marriage of his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor). Directed by Richard Ayoade.

The Tree of Life. Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and newcomer Jessica Chastain star in this latest film from Terrence Malick (Badlands, The New World), who has succeeded Stanley Kubrick as the filmmaker most likely to make film critics swoon before the opening credits even roll.

X-Men: First Class. In this prequel, director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) tracks the formative years, circa 1963, of the mutant heroes. James McAvoy portrays the young Charles Xavier, the role previously played by Patrick Stewart. Michael Fassbender, January Jones, and Kevin Bacon co-star.

JUNE 10

Beginners. Drawing on experiences with own father, now deceased, writer-director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) has cast Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor as a father and son who must recalibrate their relationship after the father, age 75, comes out as gay. Mélanie Laurent co-stars.

Bride Flight. Beginning with a 1953 European air race, this drama from director Ben Sombogaart (the Oscar-nominated Twin Sisters) tracks the intertwining lives and decidedly complex loves of three young Dutch women who meet during the race and become lifelong friends.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. Third grader Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) and her little brother, Stink (Parris Mosteller), are spending the summer with their Aunt Opal (Heather Graham), who thinks Judy's plan for a summer filled with wild dares — ride an elephant, capture Bigfoot — sounds swell. Based on the popular children's book series by Megan McDonald. Directed by John Schultz.

Super 8. Ohio. 1979. Three teens, one of them a budding Steven Spielberg, are out late at night, making a Super 8 movie. Suddenly, a freight train crashes, and lo and behold, a space alien the feds have been hiding at Area 51 escapes. We're thinking he probably won't be as friendly as E.T. was, way back in the day. Coproduced by Spielberg, and written and directed by J.J. Abrams.

JUNE 17

The Art of Getting By. George (Freddie Highmore), a disaffected Manhattan teen on the verge of expulsion at a posh private school, finds a kindred spirit, and a possible love interest, when he befriends a beautiful classmate (Emma Roberts). Michael Angarano, Rita Wilson, and an un-credited Alicia Silverstone co-star in this debut feature from writer-director Gavin Wiesen.

Green Lantern. Ryan Reynolds goes sleekly green as the DC Comics superhero who keeps the universe safe from otherworldly villains with dastardly plans but less form-fitting outfits. Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale).

The Last Mountain. David battles Goliath as documentarian Bill Haney (The Price of Sugar) tracks an Appalachian community's fight to prevent a coal conglomerate from strip-mining their mountain home.

Mr. Popper's Penguins. Six penguins, to be exact, which unexpectedly enter the lonely life of New York real estate mogul Tom Popper (Jim Carrey), who immediately sends out for extra ice. Angela Lansbury co-stars. Directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls).

The Trip. In this re-edited version of a BBC series, comic actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon travel England's Lake District in search of fancy restaurants for Coogan to review in print. Mostly, though, the men riff and ramble and do killer impersonations of Al Pacino, Richard Burton, and Woody Allen. Directed by Michael Winterbottom.

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