Yidio Summer Blockbuster Guide: The Movies, Trailers, Release Dates and More

Though one could certainly argue that “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” kicked off the summer movie season, we’re kind of old school, and think you can’t really start the popcorn movie cavalcade properly until Memorial Day Weekend.

Which makes bearded weirdo Zach Galifianakis sort of the Grand Marshall of the summer popcorn movie parade, with “The Hangover: Part II” kicking off this weekend at screens across the country.

In the interest of feeding your insatiable desire for big budget, over-the-top action and comedy-laden Hollywood behemoths, we’ve assembled this list of summer blockbusters, complete with release dates and trailers.

We’re not saying these films will clean up at Cannes (though we’ll get to more films like that later), but they will keep you entertained and (at the very least) in a cool theater with an icy cold drink during the dog days of summer.

“The Hangover: Part II”
Release Date: May 26

Prospects: As a sequel to one of the more successful comedies in recent memory, “The Hangover: Part II” should be on easy street in terms of revenue. Some analysts are even predicting that the movie will cross $100 million domestically in its first weekend, which would make it the first movie of 2011 to do so.

However, the movie could suffer somewhat due to the fact that it’s the same ol’ plot of the first “Hangover” movie: our three heroes (played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) have once again blacked out and lost someone, but this time they’re in Thailand. The setting has changed, but the stakes might be a bit lower as audiences think “didn’t I just see this two years ago?” In fact, early reviews for “The Hangover: Part II” are mostly unfavorable for that very reason.

Will it be a re-hash of the first one? Probably. Will it still make a boatload of money? Bet on it.

Watch the Trailer for "Hangover: Part II": 

Kung Fu Panda 2
Release Date: May 26

Prospects: In a summer filled with sequels, the question is this: which ones will stand out on their own as something new and original, and which ones will be the same as the first?

“Kung Fu Panda 2” aims to recapture the magic of the first film, which earned Dreamworks over $200 million in box office sales back in 2008. Early reviews seem to indicate that it does just that, while also bringing in new elements to make it an improvement on the first, as opposed to just a copy.

The action in “Kung Fu Panda 2” looks to be even more outrageous and fun than that of the first film, which was actually pretty cool for a kid’s movie. Additionally, the script develops the main character (Po, voiced by Jack Black) more, instead of just plopping him in a new adventure. It’s promising to see major studios like Dreamworks putting some thought and effort into sequels…especially when they could get away with a carbon copy. Kids aren’t very picky.

What the Trailer for “Kung Fu Panda 2”:

X-Men: First Class
Release Date: June 3

Prospects: The X-Men franchise has some apologies to make to the moviegoing public. “X-Men: The Last Stand” was bad enough, but when “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” came along, it seemed pretty clear that these movies were just being rushed to theaters without much thought.

Hopefully, “X-Men: First Class” will recover and deliver the thrilling, thoughtful action movie/character drama that we know we can get out of the X-Men. The movie is a prequel, going back to the 1960’s to show us the origins of the X-Men and the friendship between Charles and Erik before they were Professor X and Magneto.

This one could go either way, but even if it isn’t great, it should still be better than “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Plus, “X-Men: First Class” has a strong cast including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and the buzz-worthy Jennifer Lawrence as a young Mystique.

Watch the Trailer for “X-Men: First Class”:

"Super 8"
Release Date: June 10th

Prospects: Expectations are running high with this one, but a lot of people seem to be substituting "nostalgic" for "good." It's important to remember that simply being reminded of a great time in your life is not enough for a movie to be considered great. But J.J. Abrams has delivered the goods twice before - even if I wasn't the biggest fan of "Star Trek," I know a lot of people are, and I maintain that his "Mission: Impossible III" is an action masterpiece.

The film just had its first press screening the other night, and the word from that has been overwhelmingly positive. Some have called attention to some of the lacking qualities in the screenplay,which isn't a surprise given the massive plot holes and contrivances required to make "Star Trek" work, and Abrams hasn't really proved himself to be much of a writer. It also doesn't feature any major stars, but hey, since when have stars mattered to a summer movie?

That said, he has a bold visual style and is one of the few filmmakers with any name recognition, so the box office should be kind to it. "X-Men: First Class" comes out the week before, and if it's good as everyone's saying (and they're saying it's excellent), that could take a chunk out of the "Super 8" audience. In a very, very crowded summer, "Super 8" looks like an easy one to take a hit. But in the end, nobody really knows how a film will do, much less a *gasp* original concept in a summer movie.

Watch the Trailer for "Super 8": 

Film: "Green Lantern"
Release Date: June 17th

Prospects: I have high hopes for this one. The trailer alone indicates a much bigger scope that comic book fans have been used to but which will be actually kind of new for superhero film audiences. As much as we say you can do anything with CGI, the budget does come into play at some point, which is why in spite of our jaded outlook, audiences still respond to big, bold imagery (see: "2012"). And "Green Lantern" is nothing if not big and bold. Some may balk at the lighter, jokier tone, mostly due to the presence of star Ryan Reynolds, in an age that increasingly demands "gritty" takes on famous characters, but if J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" was any indicator, moviegoers are willing to lighten up from time to time as well. On the whole, the film looks like a lot of fun.

This is a huge bet for Warner Brothers, and if it pays off, expect to see a lot more superhero films in the next five years. It would not surprise me at all if they were quietly developing some of their other second-tier superheroes behind the scenes, waiting to announce anything until after "Green Lantern" comes out. I don't really know what would be a good number for Warner Brothers at this point - the production budget has long been kept under wraps, but has always been rumored to be north of $200 million, with a 3D conversion added on. Throw on a huge amount of marketing and you're looking at an expensive movie.

Buzz has gotten more and more positive the more footage they've released, though, so if all that advertising pays off, they could be looking at a rarity in the summer landscape - a movie that starts modestly and performs well all summer. Reynolds remains a strong cinematic presence, and audiences have frequently turned out for his romantic comedies, which lays good groundwork when taking the lead in an action franchise.

Watch the Trailer for "The Green Lantern":

Film: "Cars 2"
Release Date: June 24

Prospects: Massive. Potentially bigger than "Toy Story 3." Only without all those pesky critics, you know, liking it.

The first "Cars" film is famously the one cinephiles point out as the only Pixar film that doesn't hold together. But it's even more famously the biggest merchandise machine for the animation studio. But the years Pixar takes to refine their screenplays didn't seem to make it to "Cars," nor, by all appearances, its sequel. The trailer doesn't give much in the way of plot - it seems like Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is in some sort of international Grand Prix, while Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) is on some sort of spy mission with new British car voiced by Michael Caine. But it might be better to focus on the bright lights.

Again, this is money in the bank for Pixar and Disney. Who knows what they spent doing it, but the merchandise alone will get it all back for them. It's also one of the few movies this summer aimed squarely at younger kids, who will no doubt want to go two, three, four, five times.

Watch the Trailer for "Cars 2":


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