Every year, from May until September, Hollywood rolls out high action and high budget films. These escapist movies are the industry's goldmine, often raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from domestic as well as international release.
The legendary Jack Sparrow, played by legendary actor Johnny Depp, returns in Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides, the fourth installment. This time our hero is searching for the fountain of youth.
It cost $400 million to make this swashbuckling adventure, and producers believe they will make their money back and more. So far the franchise has yielded almost $3 billion worldwide. That includes movie-related merchandise and Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean theme parks. For this installment, Disney added a 3D ticket premium ranging from $3 to $5.
These lavish productions follow a formula. You take a charismatic leading man, in this case Johnny Depp, an exciting cast of high brow actors like Goeffrey Rush, an alluring leading lady, like Penelope Cruz. Add to that grand cinematography and a phantasmagorical plot. Then throw in a bonus of 3D visuals and you've got movie success.
Another film that follows the recipe is Thor. Thor is an arrogant young god banished by his father Odin and forced to live among humans.
The film cost $150 million, but it's a box office hit. Since its release a few weeks ago, it has grossed about $250 million worldwide.
Anthony Hopkins plays Thor's anguished father and Oscar winner Natalie Portman plays Thor's love interest on Planet Earth. Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, but doesn't share those credentials although he's a convincing superhero.
So far, Thor has hammered the opposition at the box office, but it is not expected to outlast ole Jack Sparrow in the theaters.
X-Men: First Class is another superhero film expected to dominate the summer blockbusters. It's the prequel to the franchise and it cost about 200 million dollars to make. James McAvoy leads a star-studded cast as young Professor X. The film has impressive special effects and action-packed scenes where the famous mutants help defuse the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Cowboys and Aliens is the most outlandish of the summer fare. This action-packed production is based on a 2006 novel. The film is a western and sci-fi hybrid. Apparently, the 20th and 21st centuries do not have exclusive rights to UFO sightings.
This production was directed by Ironman filmmaker Jon Favreau and produced by Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard.
The actors are action genre heavyweights. Daniel Craig plays Jake Lonergan, a gunslinger in 19th century Arizona. He wakes up in the desert shackled and with amnesia. Suddenly, his town is attacked by aliens. He joins forces with Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, that's Harrison Ford, to destroy the UFOs.
Cowboys and Aliens will be released at the end of July and is expected to bolster Hollywood's summer cache.
Those who are not tempted to see these movies can wait till October when Oscar contenders start lining up.