Summer blockbusters are expected to impress

By Vinny Abbatecola

The Hangover boys embark on their second wild journey, and it seems that socially awkward Alan (Zach Galifianakis) may have actually been invited this time around.

Going into the new year, box office analysts predicted that 2011 was going to be a juggernaut year for Hollywood. But before the film industry could deliver the big guns, audiences had to sort through the inevitable bottom-of-the-barrel movies that always get released between January and April. Although there were some exceptions, such as The Adjustment Bureau and Scream 4, there wasn’t much else to call home about.

This year, there will be a record amount of sequels and comic book adaptations coming to the big screen, each one competing for our wallets.  The appetite for originality among moviegoers still exists, and if these sequels serve up some quality in between their action-filled sequences, they could receive some good reviews.

Summer 2011 will bring a lot to the table. Thor and the Green Lantern will have their first go-round on the silver screen, America’s dearly loved wolf pack will experience its second hangover, Captain Jack Sparrow has his next adventure on the big blue and Harry Potter will work his magic in his heroic showdown against Lord Voldemort.

That is just a small sampling of what the theaters have to offer from May through August.  There is a plethora of other films to get ready for in the following preview.

Thor (May 6): Summer’s first big blockbuster will come in the form of this famous Norse god (Chris Hemsworth). When the titular character is sent from his home planet to Earth as a result of his egotism, he must unite with a beautiful astrophysicist (Natalie Portman) in order to take down his younger brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who seeks to destroy the world so he can become his father’s only heir. Also starring are Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo and Stellan Skarsgard.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20): Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) makes a seaworthy return in this fourth installment of Disney’s swashbuckling saga.  This new expedition has our favorite pirate and his crew searching for the fabled Fountain of Youth, while trying to fend off zombies and mermaids.  Also starring are Ian McShane, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush and Keith Richards.

The Hangover: Part 2 (May 26): The wolf pack survived Las Vegas and now they must do the same in Bangkok while vacationing there for their friend Stu’s (Ed Helms) wedding.  After waking up from a night of one-too-many, the friends realize that they have lost his fiancé’s brother.  Then, they must search the streets looking for him, where they face all sorts of uproarious troubles.  Also starring are Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifianakis and Justin Bartha.

The Tree of Life (May 27): Details of director Terrence Malick’s latest film have been kept a tight secret. What we do know is that the story involves a family with three boys in the 1950s midwest, the oldest of which suffers the loss of innocence.  Starring are Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn.

X-Men: First Class (June 3): This prequel to the popular X-Men series revolves around the first meeting of the young Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as they create the first team of mutants in the early 1960s.  Also starring are Kevin Bacon, January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence.

Super 8 (June 10): In 1979, while some teenagers are making a zombie movie on their home video camera, they are nearly killed by a train that’s delivering something mysterious to Nevada’s Area 51.  This creature of an unknown world is soon wreaking havoc on the friends’ unsuspecting town.  After director J.J. Abrams’s wildly successful Star Trek reboot two years ago, there’s much to be thrilled about in his next science-fiction excursion.  Starring Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Riley Griffiths.

Green Lantern (June 17): Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, a member of the Green Lantern Corps, who keep the peace throughout the universe.  Each member wears a ring that equips him with superpowers.  When their new adversary, Parallax, threatens the safety of all life, the fate of Earth and the rest of the universe rests on Hal Jordan, the first human ever selected to be a Green Lantern.  Also starring Blake Lively, Tim Robbins and Peter Sarsgaard.

Cars 2 (June 24): In Pixar’s 12th film, tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable the Guy) goes to support his best friend Lightening McQueen (Owen Wilson) at the World Grand Prix.  Mater then gets mistaken for an American spy and is taken on a mission with two British agents: a sports car named Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and a state-of-the-art coupe named Holley Swiftwell (Emily Mortimer).

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1): During this third film of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise, the Autobots receive knowledge of a spacecraft on the moon that holds secrets of their home planet, Cybertron.  The Autobots must race against the Decepticons to find out all the information they can, which might help them in the Transformers’ ultimate battle. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (July 15): The first part of this grand finale ended with Lord Voldemort obtaining the powerful Elder Wand.  The second part has Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) trying to find the remaining Horcruxes, which are objects that hold pieces of Voldemort’s soul and are the key to his survival.  The film will lead up to an explosive final battle at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  This is the movie that everyone has been waiting in tremendous anticipation for and it’s almost here.

Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22): It’s 1942, and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is determined to enlist in the U.S. Army to help fight the Nazis in World War II.  After being told he is physically unfit to be a soldier, he signs up for the secretive military venture, Project: Rebirth, which turns him into a super-human. He’s then given the title of Captain America.  With the help of his sidekick, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), he sets out to battle the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who is Hitler’s head of high-tech weaponry.  His plans involve gaining control of the world through a supernatural object called the Tesseract.  Also starring are Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper and Hayley Atwell.

Cowboys and Aliens (July 29): In 1873 Arizona, Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up to find a strange shackle around his wrist and his memory vanished.  As he stumbles into the pioneer town named Absolution, he bumps into Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), who is a past enemy that Jake can’t seem to remember, and Ella (Olivia Wilde), a town prospector.  When aliens start abducting Absolution’s citizens, the three characters must unite to save the day in the wild west.  Based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (August 5): When scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) tests a possible cure for Alzheimer’s on apes, his test subject Caesar begins to go through a swift increase of intelligence.  Caesar then encourages his other chimp inmates and the rest of the world’s apes to rebel against the humans.  Also starring are Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis, Tom Felton and Brian Cox.

There is a plethora of other motion picture adventures to choose from the marquee, but the above are just a few that viewers should keep an eye out for.  Some of them might be dazzling enough to warrant two viewings. So, in between visits to the beach or to the local pool, take a couple of hours to escape into a different world, whether it be a world of superheroes, wizards or pirates.  Immersing oneself into a movie on a hot summer day can be well worth the time, and will let the imagination soar.

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