2009 seems to be the summer of prequels, with Hollywood scaling back on the usual slate of effects-laden sequels for more than the usual number of prequels. Really, what’s the difference? Probably none. I guess prequels don’t have numbers after them.

This year though is like any summer, packed with wall to wall blockbusters full of spaceships, superheroes, and stuff that’s sure to piss of the Catholic Church. No they aren’t distributing condoms in theaters, but Tom Hanks did make another movie about the Vatican. With piracy on the rise and wages on the decline, some of you may be thinking about skipping the theater this year and staying home. Bad idea. Some movies just can’t be properly enjoyed anywhere outside of a movie theater, and never is that truer than smack dab in the middle of a hot, muggy summer. What are you most looking forward to? Will you transport into space aboard the Enterprise or ride around inside a truck which, at any minute, might suddenly transform into a giant freakin robot? It’s all up to you. Use this as your guide to the biggest, not to be missed movies blasting their way into theaters this summer. Click the titles below for more information on each film:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1)
Why you should care: Wolverine used to be a great character and Hugh Jackman used to be really good at playing him. Then X-Men 3 happened and Logan turned into a huge pussy. This is a prequel, which should mean we’ll get to see him pre-pussification and which might also mean it’ll be good. Or maybe the rumors will turn out to be true and this will be yet another superhero movie ruined by Fox. You’ll have to pay to see it legally if you want to find out. That pirated bootleg isn’t the final version of the movie.

Star Trek (May 8)
Why you should care: Even if you’re not already a Trekkie, you have to admit that the trailers are mind-blowing. Better still it’s directed by JJ Abrams, a guy with a pretty good track record when it comes to making things that are awesome. Early screenings happened last week and the early buzz is so universally positive it’s hard to imagine a world where we won’t all walk out loving this movie. Star Trek is back!

Angels & Demons (May 15)
Why you should care: Seeing this movie is a great way to piss off the Catholic Church, which should mean the audience will be full of ex-Catholic school girls. That’s the way that works isn’t it? Alright the first movie was kind of mediocre and this one doesn’t have Ian McKellan who was the best thing about Da Vinci Code, but maybe they’ve figured it out this time. Besides it’s a prequel which means it’s like that other movie never happened.

Terminator Salvation (May 21)
Why you should care: It’s the first big, May blockbuster which isn’t a prequel. That’s good I guess, isn’t it? Unfortunately it’s directed by McG and word is that the studio has, with this film, officially watered the Terminator franchise down to a PG-13. Still the cast is incredible, with Christian Bale playing a grown up, post-Judgement Day John Connor and it should be full of giant, killer robot thrills.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (May 22)
Why you should care: Ben Stiller’s back with his big museum full of CGI characters and miniature Owen Wilson. This time he’s in an even bigger museum, which I guess means they had to hire more animators. Like the last movie, this should be a good place to take the kids and relax in air conditioned comfort, without worrying about little Johnny seeing something too challenging. There’s nothing wrong with a dependable, live-action family movie. The first Night at the Museum did that better than most.

Up (May 29)
Why you should care: Pixar’s new character is a cranky old man, and he’s floated off to adventure by tying balloons to his house. By now, it’s hard to imagine Pixar making anything that’s not fresh, smart, and fun. Up is a pretty weird concept even for them, but it looks visually stunning and the trailers have been patently funny. Anything Pixar does should not be missed.

Drag Me to Hell (May 29)
Why you should care: Sam Raimi returns to the horror genre after an extended, Spider-Man absence and doesn’t disappoint. Drag Me to Hell is everything you’d expect from a Sam Raimi movie, and more. It’s the first legitimately great horror movie of any kind, in years and it’s not to be missed. Plus the bad guys are gypsies, who never seem to get their due. See Alison Lohman battle off a crazy gypsy curse, and go straight to Hell.

Land of the Lost (June 6)
Why you should care: It probably helps if you know what a Sleestack is, but even if you don’t the idea of Will Ferrell battling a strange, prehistoric world populated by rubber-suited monsters ought to be enough to get you interested. Hey, at least he’s not doing another sports comedy. Instead he falls down a space-time vortex, teams up with an ape-man named Chaka, and gets chased by a T-Rex.

MOON (June 12)
Why you should care: Sam Rockwell is stuck alone on the moon for 3 years, and starts to go a little crazy. It’s a little bit 2001, which means slow and trippy, but mostly it’s Rockwell delivering yet another one of his great, overlooked performances. Just wait until you find out what’s in the wrecked crawler.

The Taking of Pelham 123 (June 12)
Why you should care: John Travolta plays a bearded terrorist holding a subway train hostage while Denzel Washington plays the humble subway dispatcher who must stop him! The concept is, admittedly, a little silly but Travolta facing off against Washington makes this a must see.

Year One (June 19)
Why you should care: Jack Black and Michael Cera play cavemen on an epic journey through the ancient world. At least Michael Cera has quit it with the hipster dufus bit. It looks a little like something in the vein of Mel Brooks History of the World, and it’s directed by Harold Ramis which means there’s a very real chance it could be funny. And if it isn’t funny, at least it’ll be weird.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (June 26)
Why you should care: Giant freakin robots, that’s why. You either love cars that turn into alien robots or you don’t. But really you should. Michael Bay’s sequel to the original, 80s cartoon adapted blockbuster should be just as much fun as the first one. The original cast is back and so are some of the actors they let hang around with Optimus Prime.

The Hurt Locker (June 26)
Why you should care: By now everyone’s sick of movies about the Iraq War, but you’ve never seen anything like this. Director Katherine Bigelo’s film is gritty, shocking, and real. The most intense, realisitic look at the war yet is also an action movie of sorts, following an American bomb squad making it’s way through the desert and keeping things from blowing up.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (July 1)
Why you should care: Mostly I want to find out what the hell dinosaurs are doing in the middle of the ice age. Someone must have gotten their fossil records confused. This is the third in Fox Animation’s computer animated prehistoric animal comedy, and there should be no shortage of Looney Tunes-like gags at Scrat’s expense.

Public Enemies (July 1)
Why you should care: Johnny Depp puts on a cool hat to play notorious gangster John Dillinger, on the run from FBI top agent Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale. It’s also set during the Depression, so just think of it as a preview of things to come if the economy doesn’t shape up in a month or two. Now might be a good time to buy your very own Tommy Gun.

Bruno (July 10)
Why you should care: After this, Sacha Baron Cohen finally runs out of characters. In the followup to his hilarious movie Borat, Cohen plays a gay, Austrian fashionista wandering the world making people uncomfortable with his extreme, flamboyant homosexuality. Early reports are already lauding this as the funniest, most viciously offenseive thing since Borat, and if you’ve seen Borat then you know that’s saying something.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 17)
Why you should care: The Harry Potter franchise keeps right on rolling. In this adventure they fight Voldemort! Ok they always fight Voldemort but this time he’s got an even better plan. Though maybe not so much better since we all know they’re just going to stop it anyway. But there’s fire and more Dumbledore than ever. It’s Harry Potter. You know you’re going to see it.

500 Days of Summer (July 17)
Why you should care: Joseph Gordon-Levitt will show up the following month in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a movie which will almost certainly suck. Make sure you see this first, so you won’t forget that he’s the new Brando, the best young actor currently working in Hollywood. 500 Days of Summer is also a pretty amazing film. A movie about love, but not a love story, it’s a funny and complicated journey through male/female relationships. It’s also one of the best movies of the year.

Funny People (July 31)
Why you should care: It’s the third movie from comedy guru Judd Apatow and this time he’s gone Hollywood by bringing in a big name, instead of making his own. Adam Sandler stars in the story of a famous comedian who has a near death experience. Of the film Apatow says, “I'm trying to make a very serious movie that is twice as funny as my other movies. Wish me luck!”

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (August 7)
Why you should care: Maybe you really liked G.I. Joe as a kid? Even if you did, it’s hard to imagine a kids movie about guys dressed in black fatigues being nearly as funny as the summer’s other 80s to movie adaptation, Transformers. Still there’s a big fanbase for the Joes and there’s always the chance it could surprise us.

Julie & Julia (August 7)
Why you should care: Meyrl Streep plays legendary, funny-talking chef Julia Child as a spirit guide to Amy Adams, a woman who decides to cook her way through Child’s classic cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Early word is that Streep’s performance is nothing short of legendary and this may end up being Oscar-worthy. So what’s it doing in the waning weeks of the summer?

District 9 (August 14)
Why you should care: It’s the movie Neil Blomkamp made instead of Halo, and while it’s no replacement for a movie based on the mega-popular videogame franchise Blomkamp’s talent for eye-popping visual effects make this a must see. The plot has been kept tightly under wraps, but early indications are that this is some sort of riff on the Alien Nation genre, with aliens refugees living on Earth as second-class citizens.

Inglorious Basterds (August 21)
Why you should care: Quentin Tarantino’s new movie focuses on a unit of Jewish-American soldiers during World War II, who head to Germany and start scalping Nazis behind enemy lines. Mostly though, it takes place around a movie theater and tells the story of a Jewish refugee hiding out in occupied France and luring the German elite into a trap by showing propaganda films. It’s kind of like The Majestic, but with Nazis.

What's your most anticipated movie of summer 2009?

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