The British are Coming…to Your Local Multiplex
When the Norse god Thor begins swinging his mighty hammer about in multiplexes this weekend, it marks the official start of the summer movie season.
Thor, a special effects extravaganza directed by Shakespeare specialist Kenneth Branagh, stars Brits Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba, although the titular comic book superhero is played by Aussie Chris Hemsworth.
It’s just one of dozens of films due this summer boasting at least partial British DNA.
Here’s a rundown of flicks opening this month and next — we’ll tackle July and August movies closer to their release dates — that either hail from England or feature British stars:
Fast-rising Anglo-American star Rebecca Hall (The Town) plays a pregnant neighbor who befriends a man (Will Ferrell) after his wife locks him out of their suburban home in Everything Must Go, an appealing indie comedy.
Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) plays a teacher in a Kenyan village who helps an 84-year-old man after he enrolls in her first grade class in The First Grader, an inspiring drama is based on a true story.
In danger of being typecast after his theological turns in The Da Vinci Code and Legion, Paul Bettany turns up in yet another scary movie with religious overtones — this time he’s a priest battling vampires — in a 3-D, supernatural thriller called Priest.
Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are nowhere to be seen in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but Ian McShane, Judi Dench and Keith Richards have all clambered aboard pirate king Johnny Depp’s latest, rum-filled adventure.
Michael Sheen gets to visit the City of Lights in Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s new comedy (which opens the Cannes Film Festival next week).
The hard-working Sheen teams with Maria Bello in Beautiful Boy, an indie drama about a couple whose already rocky marriage is further tested when their college age son turns a gun on his classmates.
It’s a hottie-off when James McAvoy and Irish-German star Michael Fassbender play, respectively, Professsor X and Magneto in X-Men: First Class, a prequel to the popular comic book series about talented mutants.
In Beginners, a comic drama, Ewan McGregor portrays a man still trying to come to terms with the memory of his late father (Christopher Plummer), who had enthusiastically embraced his long-closeted identity as a gay man near the end of his life.
Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine play a couple who revive a long-ago romance, to the displeasure of her adolescent son (Craig Roberts), in Submarine, a British coming-of-age comedy written and directed by Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd).
Rhys Ifans plays real-life Welshman (good casting!) Howard Marks, who was one of England’s leading drug dealers, in Mr. Nice, a British comedy. Ifans’ costars include David Thewlis and Omid Djalili, and director Ken Russell has a brief cameo.
Funny men Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have fun playing versions of themselves in The Trip, a comic road movie that aired last fall on the BBC in England as a 6-part TV mini-series.
Freddie Highmore, now 19 and a full head taller than he was in 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, shows up as an artistically gifted, disaffected Manhattan teenager in The Art of Getting By, a comic drama.
Mark Strong, whose smooth-talking bad guys shine in every movie in which he appears (including Robin Hood and Kick-Ass), will class up Green Lantern, yet another of this summer’s comic book based offerings.
And speaking of class, Angela Lansbury will be featured opposite wild man Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s Penguins, a movie adaptation of the classic children’s book.
You won’t be able to see, but you will be able to hear, a cavalcade of Brits when the animated sequel, Cars 2, debuts. Lending their voices this time around are Michael Caine, Jason Isaacs, Emily Mortimer and — be still my heart — Eddie Izzard.
Which of these movies will you be putting on your must-see list?