Three of the biggest hit-franchise entries of the summer of 2011 come to bargain theaters this week -- and as the cliche goes, there's something for the whole family. ---
One of the more pleasant surprises of the summer was X-Men: First Class, a lively re-invigoration of the mutant superhero storyline that goes back to the 1960s and the first young recruits instructed by Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and his then-friend, Eric "Magneto" Lensherr (Michael Fassbender, pictured). The period vibe -- even some the special effects have a funky throwback look -- and a terrific cast make for an enjoyable adventure.
For the younger viewers, Po returns in Kung Fu Panda 2, now as a master facing a new menace. Like its wildly entertaining 2008 predecessor, this animated tale has a wonderfully unique visual style, terrific action and the unique comic chops of Jack Black. If you're going to repeat a formula, this is a pretty good one to repeat.
And speaking of repeating formulas, here's The Hangover, Part II, which essentially transplants the exact plot of the surprise 2009 hit from Vegas to Bangkok. Fans of the original seemed to be just as delighted with this version, despite the fact that it once again misses much of the concept's rich potential, cruising on the raunchiest possible gags and the inspired lunacy of Zach Galifianakis.