Summer blockbuster season kicks off

The summer blockbuster season has finally kicked off, with today’s UAE release of the highly anticipated “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”.

Oddball Johnny Depp reprises his role as the swashbuckling pirate, Jack Sparrow, minus two sidekicks, Keira Knigtley and Orlando Bloom. However, replacing the duo in the fourth instalment in Walt Disney Pictures’ insanely profitable enterprise will be Spanish star Penelope Cruz, who will don the role of a feisty con artist from Sparrow’s past, who embarks on the epic adventure with said hero to find the Fountain of Youth.

The film franchise has already grossed a cool $1.038 billion globally, according to Boxofficemojo.com, with its most profitable instalment being the third, “Dead Man’s Chest”, which raked in $423.3 billion.

Early reviews of the Rob Marshall-directed film have been mixed, to say the least, but almost everyone agrees this is the best in the franchise yet, with its 3D version sure to cash in on the craze with higher returns from ticket receipts.

But “Pirates” does face stiff competition this season, with a blockbuster summer that promises sequels, superheroes and sci-fi adventures that will thrill audiences – almost all equipped with 3D versions to push the wow factor even further.

Here’s an Emirates 24|7 countdown of the top summer scorchers that will have UAE residents rushing to the cinemas in droves all season. Release dates for all films are subject to change.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

May 19

When Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz) he’s not sure if it’s love or just another ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past. Directed by Rob Marshall.

The Hangover Part II

May 26

Produced by Warner Bros Pictures, the highly anticipated comedy franchise sees the return of the Wolfpack.

Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu’s wedding.

After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch.

However, things don’t always go as planned. A source familiar with the production said the character of the tattoo artist (played by Liam Neeson) is “pivotal” to the plot, in which one of the stars gets a tattoo during a night of debauchery.

Directed by Todd Phillips, there have been several rumours that Zac Efron makes an appearance in the sequel, but the director has dismissed such claims.

He also confirmed that Heather Graham would not be in the movie, but boxing star Mike Tyson may return.

As Phillips said in an interview last year: “I’ve got to find something for him because he’s been texting me. I’ve got to figure it out. We’re going to find something for Mike.”

Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom

May 26

Prepare for the year of awesomeness, as the summer’s first animated release is Paramount Pictures’ hugely popular franchise, “Kung Fu Panda”.

The film continues the adventures of Po the Panda (Jack Black) and and his friends known as the Furious Five – Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey – played by Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan, respectively.

This time the story follows Po who, whilst in search of other pandas, happens across a group of bandits.

Gary Oldman will voice a character called Lord Shen, a peacock, who helps Po on his quest but is more than he seems.

Directed by Jennifer Yu Helson, the film will also see the return of the immensely talented, Dustin Hoffman, who will voice the red panda Master Shifu again.

X-Men: First Class

June 2

A bag to origins story from the Marvel Comics factory of thrilling tales, “X-Men: First Class” is a prequel to the saga, which centres on the teenage years of the first team of X-Men to come out of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning.

Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time.

Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known.
In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.

James McAvoy essays the role of young Xavier, while Michael Fassbender plays young Magneto.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film will also see the teeny-bopper versions of Mystique, Angel, Banshee and Beast.

Super 8

June 10

How can you have a summer without its does of sci-fi adventure films, aimed at kids?

Steven Spielberg does just that with this “ET-esque” film, directed by JJ Abrams and produced by Paramount Pictures.

In 1979, after the Air Force closes a section of Area 51, all materials are transported to a secure facility in Ohio. A train carrying some of the materials derails during an accident and something escapes from one of the cargo cars.

A group of kids making movies with their Super 8 cameras accidentally capture what escapes on film.

The film stars Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning’s baby sister.

What is Super 8, you ask? It was a popular film type introduced in the 1960s. In this movie, the kids are shooting a home movie on Super 8 film and they accidently record the creature that breaks out of the train from Area 51.

We wonder if this will have shades of “The Blair Witch Project”?

Green Lantern

June 17

Truth be told, the trailer did not hugely impress us, but it features the hot, hot Ryan Reynolds in the lead, so we excused producers Warner Bros Pictures and director Martin Campbell.

Two weeks after Marvel Comics releases “X-Men: First Class”, it is time for DC Comics to have its turn in the limelight with “Green Lantern”.

The story, well, we loved the official blurb of the film, so here goes: In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, a small but powerful force has existed for centuries. Protectors of peace and justice, they are called the Green Lantern Corps.

A brotherhood of warriors sworn to keep intergalactic order, each Green Lantern wears a ring that grants him superpowers. But when a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the Universe, their fate and the fate of Earth lie in the hands of their newest recruit, the first human ever selected: Hal Jordan (Reynolds).

Hal is a cocky test pilot, and with the help of colleague and childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), our hero quickly masters his new powers and finds the courage to defeat Parallax.

Drum rolls please. No prizes for guessing that Warner is already whipping writers into shape for a sequel. Let’s hope this one isn’t a dud as “Super-Man”.

Cars 2: World Grand Prix

June 23

Walt Disney Pictures’ next big summer release is the highly anticipated sequel to its animated hit, “Cars”.

Directed by Brad Lewis, Owen Wilson reprises his role as star race car Lighting McQueen, who, with the incomparable tow truck Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy), heads overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix.

Mater, meanwhile, gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.

Torn between assisting Lightning McQueen in the high-profile race and towing the line in a top-secret spy mission, Mater’s journey leads him on an explosive chase through the streets of Japan and Europe, trailed by his friends and watched by the whole world.

Available in 3D, the film also sees Bonnie Hunt return as Sally Carrera.

Bad Teacher

June 23

Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) is a foul-mouthed and inappropriate teacher who couldn’t care less about her students.

When she’s dumped by her fiancé, she sets her plan in motion to win over a rich, handsome substitute (Justin Timberlake) – competing for his affections with an overly energetic colleague, Amy (Lucy Punch).

When Elizabeth also finds herself fighting off the advances of a sarcastic, irreverent gym teacher (Jason Segel), the consequences of her wild and outrageous schemes give her students, her coworkers, and even herself an education like no other.

Directed by Jake Kasdan and distributed by Sony Pictures, the film will see the return of former couple, Timberlake and Diaz after “Shrek 3”. We wonder if sparks will fly.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

July 1

Michael Bay returns as director for the highly anticipated sequel, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”

Agreed that Megan Fox is out, but fans of the film series didn’t particularly care about her lack of acting or her simpering sequences.

Shot in 3D this time round, Shia LaBeouf does return as Sam Witwicky, who is taking his first tenuous steps into adulthood while remaining a reluctant human ally of the Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime.

The film centres around the space race between the USSR and the USA, suggesting there was a hidden Transformers role in it all that remains one of the planet’s most dangerous secrets. The villain of the third film will be Shockwave, the scariest of all Decepticon.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley will play Carly, Sam’s new love interest.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

July 14

Fans of the popular Harry Potter series by author JK Rowling have been waiting eagerly for the final part in the franchise that has already seen seven films break box office records globally.

Directed by David Yates, Daniel Radcliffe revives his role as wizard, Harry Potter, who, along with friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), embarks on the final adventure to bring an end to his nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

Those of you have had read the book, “Deathly Hallows”, already know the end, but the 3D spectacles are sure to keep you at the edge of your seats.

Captain America: The First Avenger

July 21

Marvel film factory comes up with the first in the ‘Avenger’ series, who have already been mentioned several times in the Robert Downey Jr hit series, “Iron Man”.

Albeit Captain America has been shot dead in the comic series a few years ago, the film sees it origin, directed by Joe Johnston.

Born during the Great Depression, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) grows up a frail youth in a poor family.

Horrified by the newsreel footage of the Nazis in Europe, Rogers was inspired to enlist in the army, but is rejected. Overhearing the boy’s plea, General Chester Phillips offered Rogers the opportunity to take part in a special experiment: Operation: Rebirth.

Administered Super-Solider Serum and bombarded by “vita-rays”, Rogers is transformed into Captain America.

Armed with his indestructible shield and battle savvy, he continues his war against evil, both as a sentinel of liberty and as leader of the Avengers. Hugo Weaving stars as arch nemesis, The Red Skull.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

August 5

Synopsis: Set in present day San Francisco, the film deals with the aftermath of man’s experiments with genetic engineering that lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a driven scientist who becomes a crucial figure in the war between humans and apes.

The film also sees Indian star, Frieda Pinto, who plays Caroline.

Directed by Rupert Wyatt and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film is not linked to the Mark Wahlberg film, “Planet of the Apes”, but rather a prequel to the original 1968 story.

Apollo 18

August 25

No summer blockbuster season is complete without a good horror movie to spook up the proceedings and Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s “Apollo 18” does just that.

Cashing in on the viral movie craze of “The Blair With Project” and “Paranormal Activity”, the movie makes a mock sci-fi documentary as to the conspiracy behind NASA’s stand to cancel all future moon missions in the ’70s.

The story depicts film footage purported to have been shot by the crew of Apollo 18, a mission that was officially cancelled by NASA, but according to urban legend, it actually did happen. Footage shows signs of alien life, and the events of the mission are built into a thriller storyline.

Sorry guys, but the film is actually based on the screenplay by Brian Miller, winner of the inaugural Astana International Action Film Festival screenplay competition.

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