"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (July 11)

This is a sequel to the first "Hellboy" and is based off an enormously well received series created by Dark Horse Comics. Hellboy is the greatest supernatural detective and blends many aspects of classical horror and magic with a uniquely dry sense of humor.

The first movie was moderately popular, and the DVD sales were positive enough that a sequel was given the green light. It will be directed again by Guillermo del Toro, and star Ron Perlman as Hellboy, Selma Blair as Liz, and Doug Jones as Abe Sapien.

"Hellboy" has always been a favorite of mine, and the casting choices for the first film were perfect, most specifically with the world weary wry Ron Perlman as the title character. We were introduced to the characters, the secret world in which they live, and the background of Hellboy and his role in the world. In the end, he got the girl (Selma Blair), but it had that feeling of 'just another day at the office,' which meant a sequel could easily be set up. There is a rich world of characters and plots to delve into from the comic book series, so if this movie does well, who is to say that it could not continue into a trilogy?

The trailer did not give away much, but the official outline is that the mystical world attacks humankind to rule the Earth, and Hellboy's team is the only group standing in their way. The mystical creatures, old gods and elves and things only dreamed about, are tired of being thrust out of the world and decide to take it back. It brings up a potentially interesting discussion on who exactly is in the right, and I am uncertain if the movie will touch on this point but the comic books often do. Since Mike Mignola, the writer of the comics, helped del Toro out, we can hope for the best!

"The Dark Knight" (July 18)

Christopher Nolan was masterful in his creation of the last film, and if the trailer is any indication, he will continue to happily surprise us.

This is a follow-up to the acclaimed "Batman Begins," with the return of several major actors and the addition of a few more. Nolan shocked and delighted Batman fans by presenting a year one-based movie about the trials and early struggles of Bruce Wayne when he first puts on the black cowl. Christian Bale plays the title character, and the tough, gritty, darker portrayal of this vigilante superhero gained a very strong approval from fans and non-fans alike, and it's no surprise a sequel was put into motion almost immediately.

This one, however, is sure to gain a more critical eye due to the addition of the Joker, the most famous Batman villain and one played in the past by the extremely talented Jack Nicholson. When pretty boy Heath Ledger was announced as the new Joker, the response was generally negative ... until the marketing campaign started giving us little glimpses of what they had planned. The website whysoserious.com has gone through many changes to inspire excitement for the movie, including a rotting pumpkin, the sight of Harvey Dent's (Aaron Eckhart) face marked, and at one time just an entire page of 'HAHAHA' written over and over. The trailer, and subsequent photos of Ledger, caused fans to react with delight, but it remains to be seen how the actual performance will go over. Katie Holmes is not returning, but Maggie Gyllenhaal agreed to take her place as Bruce's childhood sweetheart Rachel Dawes.

The plot is this: Batman and James Gordon join with Harvey Dent (the tragic character known as Two-Face in the comics) to try and defeat the insane bank robber known only as the Joker. The mob is also involved, a continuation of the last film, and Batman finds himself overwhelmed by his enemies and the completely unstable terror that is the Joker.