Pirates usher in a summer full of box office booty


The summer blockbuster season officially kicks off this Memorial Weekend with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. Marvels geek-turned-hero, Spider-Man, and Mike Myerss green Ogre, Shrek, have helped pre-game us with some staggering box office numbers these past few weeks, but now that Captain Jack Sparrow is here the fun can really begin.

And, if early buzz is any indication, continue indefinitely. Gore Verbinski, the director of all three Pirates movies, has reportedly distanced himself from the possibility of any impending future installments, as, reportedly, have stars Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom.

Johnny Depp, on the other hand, has gone on the record time and time again saying that he loves his plundering alter ego and would gladly return for the right reasons. An idea that producer Jerry Bruckheimer seemingly supported with his recent comments to Australias Herald Sun newspaper:

This is the end [of the current trilogy], but whether one of the characters or a couple of the characters continue on, its a possibility … Certainly, in a moment at the end of the film there is a hope that something else might happen.

Regardless of what the future may hold for old Captain Jack Sparrow and Co., one thing is for sure: At Worlds End is kicking off one of the biggest summer blockbuster seasons in recent memory; one which will doubtlessly give studios some much needed box office treasure.

It was not too long ago that the word sequel was code for shameless grab at more money. Studios would recycle plots, actors, music and special effects all in the hopes of recapturing box office gold. But with the success of a few, carefully crafted franchises and the idea that sequels can lead to serialized, dramatic storytelling, the perception of the easy grab slowly began to change. And to prove it, Hollywood is throwing a number of new franchise and trilogy installments our way.

June features the most sequels this summer, and kicks things off early with Hostel: Part II and Oceans Thirteen, both of which open June 8. Writer/director Eli Roth promises more over-the-top shock and torture gore for his niche audience with Part II, which features a gender switch as, this time, three female college students fall prey to a torture brothel in Slovakia. Appealing to more mainstream audiences, Oceans re-teams director Steve Soderbergh with George Clooney for yet another high-profile Sin City shell game that would seem trite if the trailers did not make it look still cool.

More comic book mayhem arrives June 15 when Jessica Alba leads Marvels fantastic family in, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. This second Fantastic installment has the space explorers turned heroes confront one of comics most hallowed characters: the harbinger of planet-consuming doom, the Silver Surfer.

Stepping into Jim Carreys shoes in June 22 is Steve Carell with his Bruce Almighty follow-up, Evan Almighty. This spin-off sequel has Carells character transforming into a modern day Noah in charge of building a new Ark. Filmed in and out of the Washington, D.C. area, this animal-packed comedy is rumored to feature the masthead of the Alexandria Times.

But it is Bruce Willis and his 21st century reprisal of John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard that will make the biggest splash when it opens June 27. Willis himself has been quoted as saying the film is badass, and as good as if not better than the first. Here is hoping!

Following that, July becomes the month for Muggles when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix materializes into theaters on July 13 a wizard franchise that has yet to go wrong.

August rounds out the sequel madness with Matt Damon giving us a does of the ultra-real, ultra-cool The Bourne Ultimatum on August 3. A movie that will undoubtedly face stiff competition when, a week later on August 10, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker finally give us the sequel no one wanted, Rush Hour 3.

Blockbusters in waiting
Never one to lay all their eggs in one basket, Hollywood has also cooked up a fresh crop of new films for us this summer, some of which are guaranteed to burn up the box office and pave the way for even more sequel and franchise fun.
First up is the return on June 15 of an old favorite, Nancy Drew. Fronted by Emma Roberts, the niece of Julia, this relaunch of the much loved character is sure to please as it appeals to the hearts and minds of audiences of all ages.

Equally pleasing, for some, will be July 4 when Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay bring War of the Worlds robot-style to the screen with the much anticipated live-action version of Transformers here is hoping to more than meets the eye, eh?

Later, on July 13, John Cusack shepherds Stephen Kings latest horror to the screen with 1408, which is based on a short story about a hotel room that becomes deathly attached to its guests. Hairspray will keep things from getting too scary, though, when it pumps into theaters on July 20. I was fortunate enough to catch fifteen-minute presentation of this a few weeks back and while John Travolta brings a little too much Kirstie Alley into his drag performance, the musical itself is as infectiously energetic as, dare I say, Grease.

But dont have a cow, if musicals and horror are not your thing, Homer Simpson and his ageless family will make things right on July 27 when The Simpsons Movie finally opens.

Genre films get in on the action, too, when Stardust sprinkles into theaters on August 10. Based on NYT bestselling author Neil Gaimans fairy tale about a star falling to Earth and taking on a human form, Stardust features Claire Danes, Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. If you are seeking a darker, more sinister fairy tale, be sure to check out Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidmans The Invasion on August 17, a retelling of an old sci-fi classic sans the body snatching in the title. And if you want even darker, Rob Zombie will be delivering his remake of John Carpenters classic Halloween on August 31.

Laughs & love
You cannot have a summer without laughs, though, and Judd Apatow, the guy behind The 40 Year-Old-Virgin will prove this on June 1 with his new film, Knocked Up. Starring former Freaks and Geeks star Seth Rogen and the lovely Katherine Heigel, Knocked humorously asks what are you going to do when your one night stand turns into a lifetime of parenthood?

Counterpunching the invading robots on July 4 is License to Wed, in which The Offices John Krasinski stars with Mandy Moore and Robin Williams in a tale about a groom-to-be forced to undergo unconventional marriage preparation class. Speaking of marriage, Adam Sandler and Kevin James try domestic partnership out on July 20 with I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, a comedy about two heterosexual firefighters that pose as a gay couple in order to get special benefits. Way to advance a cause, guys!

Catherine Zeta-Joins, Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin round out the month on July 27 with No Reservations, a romantic-comedy about a high maintenance restaurant chef that is forced to adopt her niece while busy competing at work with the new hunky sous-chef.

The laughs return on August 17 with Superbad, a classic coming of age tale about two geeks who aspire for greatness in the weeks before high school graduation. Seth Rogan, who co-wrote the film, stars alongside Michael Cera of Arrested Development fame. Will Arnett, another Arrested alum, hits theaters on August 31 with SNL funnyman Will Forte in The Brothers Solomon; a touching story of two bungling brothers that opt for surrogate parent
hood when their ailing father makes a wish for a grandson come on, you can just taste the laughter.