Summer movies: predicting the winners and losers

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A Norse god, a pirate and a Smurf go into a local theater.

In what’s become a summer tradition, movies released between now and the beginning of September are predominantly sequels or based on comic books or other popular characters.

It’s all an effort to create buzz and draw moviegoers to theaters. Because box office numbers are down this year, every movie studio is trying to hedge its bets.

Here’s a look at some of the movies coming this summer.

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MAY

“Kung Fu Panda 2” (May 26)

Cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan

The 411: Po’s dream job is disrupted by an enemy who wants to destroy kung fu.

Prediction: Will have a lot of box-office kick.

“The Hangover Part II” (May 26)

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong

The 411: Four friends travel to Thailand for a wedding. Despite advance planning, things go wrong.

Prediction: Moviegoers will be married to the idea the first week, then divorce the concept.

JUNE

“X-Men First Class” (June 3)

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon

The 411: A look at how the X-Men saga started.

Prediction: Prequels are tough, especially when they ignore the original mythology.

“Super 8” (June 10)

Cast: Gabriel Basso, Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Ron Eldard

The 411: A group of young filmmakers captures a strange supernatural event in their small town.

Prediction: The last time director J.J. Abrams was this secretive was the so-so “Cloverfield.”

“Green Lantern” (June 17)

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong

The 411: The latest comic book-based story features a hero with a super ring.

Prediction: Won’t have the reach of the “Batman” or “Superman” films.

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (June 17)

Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury

The 411: A driven businessman inherits six penguins.

Prediction: Carrey is at his best with light family drama.

“Cars 2” (June 24)

Cast: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine.

The 411: Racecar Lightning McQueen and Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car.

Prediction: The franchise has plenty of gas to speed to a victory.

JULY

“Monte Carlo” (July 1)

Cast: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Cory Monteith

The 411: Three graduates discover the true magic of friendship.

Prediction: Will find success with the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” set.

“Larry Crowne” (July 1)

Cast: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston

The 411: A man heads back to college after his job is eliminated.

Prediction: Hanks and Roberts make this the big love story of the summer.

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (July 1)

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Tyrese Gibson

The 411: The Autobots race the Decepticons to the moon to find a spacecraft.

Prediction: Let’s be honest: A big reason for the success of the first film was Megan Fox and she’s not in this film.

“Zookeeper” (July 8)

Cast: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson

The 411: Zoo animals break their code of silence to help their zookeeper get the attention of a woman.

Prediction: May be the surprise of the summer. James’ “Mall Cop” caught us off guard.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” (July 15)

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane

The 411: The battle between good and evil forces spins the Wizarding world into full-scale war.

Prediction: Will be the box-office champion of the summer and probably the year.

“Winnie the Pooh” (July 15)

Directors: Stephen Anderson, Don Hall

Cast: John Cleese, Jim Cummings

The 411: Owl sends the Hundred Acre Wood gang on a quest to save Christopher Robin.

Prediction: Will do better on DVD.

“Friends with Benefits” (July 22)

Cast: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman

The 411: A couple decides to see what happens if they leave emotion out of a relationship.

Prediction: This storyline has been done several times recently.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” (July 22)

Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci

The 411: Steve Rogers is an ordinary soldier who’s turned into a super soldier.

Prediction: “Cap” will be a champ.

“The Smurfs” (July 29)

Cast: Hank Azaria, Katy Perry, Jonathan Winters

The 411: Gargamel chases the Smurfs into the real world.

Prediction: Nostalgia will draw in moviegoers.

“Cowboys and Aliens” (July 29)

Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell

The 411: A desolate city in the New Mexico territory is attacked by marauders from the sky.

Prediction: Director John Favreau’s skill with action movies will make this a wild West winner.

AUGUST

“The Change-Up” (Aug. 5)

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde

The 411: Two best friends switch bodies and lives.

Prediction: It will depend on how well Reynolds and Bateman work together.

“The Help” (Aug. 12)

Cast: Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone

The 411: Three different women build an unlikely friendship in the 1960s.

Prediction: Will be powered by fans of the book.

“Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World” (Aug. 19)

Cast: Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Antonio Banderas, Danny Trejo, Joel McHale

The 411: A retired secret agent must deal with twin stepchildren.

Prediction: Should have stopped at No. 2.

“Fright Night” (Aug. 19)

Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

The 411: A high-school student believes his new neighbor is a vampire.

Prediction: Won’t scare up much business.

“Conan the Barbarian” (Aug. 19)

Cast: Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan

The 411: Conan goes on a quest to avenge the murder of his father.

Prediction: Will show the last box-office muscle of the summer.

“Final Destination 5” (Aug. 26)

Cast: Emma Bell, Nicholas D’Agosto, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta

The 411: Death tries to keep order in the next installment in the series.

Prediction: Should have stopped after No. 1.

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, left, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley appear in the fantasy adventure “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2.”

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