‘Transformers 2,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘G.I. Joe’ Lead Our Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer … 2009

'X-Men Origins: Wolverine,' 'Terminator 4' and Heath Ledger's final film also have us excited for next year.

“The Dark Knight” opened this past weekend to astonished and appreciative crowds everywhere. It’s the best movie of the summer, they cried! The best superhero movie of all time, they shouted! A sequel that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as “The Godfather: Part II,” they exalted!

But you wanna know what it really is? So 2008.

Sure, we’ve got the next “Mummy,” “Tropic Thunder” and “Pineapple Express” left to go, but with summer 2008 winding down we thought we’d take a look at our most anticipated movies … of summer 2009.

“The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”

One-thousand-year-old Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) has a problem: The head of a magical theater, the good doctor can transport even the most jaded and cynical audience member through a world of pure imagination. All fine and good, of course, unless the devil himself granted you those powers — and kidnaps your daughter to seal the deal. What’s a guy to do? Call on some pretty powerful friends, who include a dwarf (Verne Troyer ) and a mysterious outsider named Tony, to help track her through parallel dimensions.

Director Terry Gilliam had a problem too: With production well under way on his latest leap into pure imagination, Gilliam lost his Tony when Heath Ledger died suddenly from a drug overdose . What’s a director to do? Call on some pretty powerful friends, of course, including Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, who will each pay tribute to Ledger by playing his last-ever character in various parts of the movie. Now just what sort of Faustian bargain do we have to make to get Ledger back … and where can we sign up?

“Year One”

Not every story has to be original, you know. This one, actually, is ripped off from one of the first. Starring Jack Black, Michael Cera and Hank Azaria, “Year One” is a parody of biblical proportions — literally — as our protagonists navigate such landmines as Sodom and Gomorrah, and Cain and Abel, all in a search for the meaning of life. What is it? “It’s so hard to … ” Cera hesitated, before looking up with a coy smile when we asked him last year . “I wouldn’t do a good job [of describing] it, I guess.” We’ll be there to find out on June 5.

“G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra”

It’s one of the worst parts of getting older — no matter how excited you are about something, it’ll never match the feelings of anticipation and joy you got from the same thing at the age of 6. Right? Not for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who acted like a diabetic walking into the Wonka factory when his role as Cobra Commander came up. And why not? An origin story of sorts, “Joe” will follow a slew of old favorites, including Duke (Channing Tatum), Snake-Eyes (Ray Park) and the Baroness (Sienna Miller) as they try to save the world (or end it). Know this, Joseph: Your enthusiasm is infectious. (And knowing is half the battle.) “G.I. Joe” heads into battle August 7.

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”

The biggest problem in modern cinema with the portrayal of Middle Easterners? They’re never the good guys! Thank goodness, then, for Jake Gyllenhaal, who will step into the titular role of Prince Dastan, a sixth-century Persian prince who must rescue the Sands of Time from an evil nobleman (Ben Kingsley). Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Disney is hoping that this is the next “Pirates” — a fun romp with boffo effects. All fine and dandy but, good grief, we haven’t seen this much cultural revisionism from Disney since they gave us an Aladdin that looked like Tom Cruise. The video game-turned-movie hits theaters June 16.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”

Go back far enough in any story and pretty soon just about everything becomes lame. Want proof? Darth Vader was the most evil man in the universe — until George Lucas told us he just had mommy issues. So when it comes to one of the coolest guys in comic history, you can understand our trepidation. But what’s not to like about a Wolverine origin story? It’s got a whole boatload of mutants (seriously, we stopped counting when we got to 10). “Root-a-toot-toot!” Under the direction of Oscar winner Gavin Hood, “Wolverine” kicks off the summer-movie season May 1.

“Up”

Ah, to be old and retired, free from the rat race of human existence, from the responsibilities of work and family, given leisure time to perfect a craft, play a game of cards, eat an early dinner, and of course, engage in a worldwide quest filled with danger, excitement and peril (from your house, no less, which you’ve converted into a hot-air balloon and flown to South America). For some reason, those last few things aren’t listed on my grandmother’s AARP bulletin. No matter. Hot on the heels of the phenomenal artistic success of “WALL-E,” Pixar’s “Up” gets a release May 29.

“Brüno”

He deflated the conflict between Jews and Palestinians. He incited a riot in Arkansas. God bless him, he even managed to piss off Ben Affleck. All praise Sacha Baron Cohen, the quickest comedic wit around and the man behind the funniest movie of the decade, “Borat.” The dumb, the ignorant and the slow — look out! The joke’s on us again when “Brüno” opens May 15.

“Star Trek”

They’ve been to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and, if rumors are to be believed, they’ll soon journey to the city on the edge of forever. But ask any “Star Trek” fan where they’d most like to see the intrepid crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise boldly go next, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: into renewed relevance. At least 20 years since their last mainstream hit, “Trek” regulars Captain Kirk , Mr. Spock , Chekov , Scotty and Sulu get reimagined by J.J. Abrams. Beam us up May 8.

“Terminator Salvation”

They are fearless machines — merciless, dispassionate and ferociously deadly. They have access to time machines and weapons capable of unspeakable destruction. They are constructed of nearly invincible polymers, capable of surviving almost anything. They are the Terminators. And they can’t freaking kill one stupid woman and her bratty kid! Even though they’ve tried three times! How about a little “self” awareness, Skynet? You’re terrible at your job. In this reboot after half a decade away from the big screen, the T-1000 and his pals search for John Connor (Christian Bale) and his wife as the future war begins. On May 22, will the fourth time be the charm? Not likely. They’ll “be back” for at least two more sequels.

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”

Giant. Effing. Robots. Killing each other. Need we say more? All right, you twisted my arm. How about this? Giant. Effing. Robots. Killing each other. And Megan Fox. Yeah, you’re right. That’s much better. Director Michael Bay, Fox, Shia LaBeouf, Optimus Prime and the rest are back June 26.

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