Saturday, August 16, 2008

Top Ten Summer Movies - It's All Over But the Crying

So I saw Tropic Thunder today, bringing to a close the summer movie season for 2008.  On the whole, it was a'ight.  I'll finish filling in the remaining mini-reviews for the films I've seen and then at the end, I'll rank them in the order I felt they finished. Here's a refresher on what I was hoping for going into the summer.
1) The Dark Knight - 10/10.  Nothing more really needs be said.  By the time I finish typing this, it will have moved past Star Wars into second place on the all-time domestic box office chart, trailing only Titanic, which isn't in any danger of being overtaken, even by this juggernaut.  Dark Knight was built up with an almost unprecedented amount of hype, half of which was brought on by Heath Ledger's unfortunate demise.  But it managed to not only live up to that hype, but surpass it.  Adding to it's awesomeness, it was the only place (for a while) where you could see the equally amazing Watchmen trailer.

2) Iron Man - 9/10 This movie was lots of fun. Perfect sort of superhero movie. He's not as well-established as most other superheroes that have had movies made of them, so it was easier for them to play around with the history and not have it come across as false. For 99% of the world, this will be THE Iron Man. Sequels galore are already in the works.

3) Narnia: Prince Caspian - 6.5/10 This movie left me a bit whelmed. It was good, but nothing really memorable. However, that said, I wish the first film had had this look and tone to it. Narnia is more like a real place this go-round, whereas the first movie was more like a fairy land.

4) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - 4/10 I was RIGHT to dread this film. What a mess. What a miscalculation. It reeks of George Lucas's myopic vision. For a really good list of what's wrong with this film, check this out.

5) Speed Racer - 0/10 Well, that's not a totally fair rating, because I didn't see it. But the closer it got, the less interested I was in seeing it. However, while waiting for Indy IV to restart (glitch in framing of the film), I wandered over to Speed Racer to catch a couple of minutes of it, just to see. The five minutes I watched were excruciating. I don't know who this film was made for. What a wreck...

6) The Happening - n/a This also looked more and more like a disaster the closer it got, and reviews have been universally bad. As I was only kinda interested in seeing it, this made my decision easier. I'll catch it on cable one day... maybe.

7) The Incredible Hulk - 7.5/10 The closer this one came to release, the more optimistic the reviews became. While the Hulk's CGI never got any better over the course of the previews, the reports were that the story and presentation were right in line with the precedent that Iron Man set earlier in the summer. And those reports were right. This was a mostly fun film, firmly set in the Iron Man version of the Marvel universe. I look forward to the next Marvel Studios film.

8) Hellboy II: The Golden Army - 6.5/10  This one had a chance to be really special, but somehow, Guellermo Del Toro opted to pull back and create a film that was ultimately pretty lazy.  The visuals of this film were second to none this summer, I'll grant it that.  I'm looking forward to watching this on DVD and freeze-framing some of the screens that were jam-packed with eye-candy.  But the story left a lot to be desired.  It just seemd to be more interested in trying to be a fun film rather than a logical one.  It missed the chance to be something really amazing. 

9) Wall*E - I still haven't seen this one.  I might try to check it out before school starts back up.  While everything about it sounds magical, I just haven't been inspired enough yet to drive down to the theater. 

10) Tropic Thunder - 5/10   Sigh...  I was really expecting this to be a minor masterpiece.  But... it really ended up missing the mark for me.  All of the best stuff was in the trailer.  Actually, if the film had been based on the trailer, it would have been an amazing film.  One thing the trailer seemed to imply was that there'd be a lot more amusing conflict surrounding Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of a black man.  But it seemed to just gloss over that for the most part.  Downey indeed plays the role of the black man for 99% of the film, and never goes out of character, but most of his lines are just regular things someone would say.  Likewise, the rest of the film was just too mainstream and by-the-numbers when it could have been really savage and insightful about Hollywood.  By the end of the film, it was just hitting all the same typical movie beats that any film that is either an action film or a comedy film is required by law to hit.     Could have been a classic...

And that's it.  For a brief period, it seemed like The Clone Wars might creep up into contention, but the reviews have been brutal.  And the ones I most respect, like Alexandra Dupont on Aint-it-Cool-News, sadly sum up for me my worst fears for the Star Wars franchise.  I'll likely see this at some point, but it pains me to not be seeing a Star Wars film on opening night... by choice. 

So, here's my final ranking of the Summer of 2008.

1) Dark Knight
2) Iron Man
3) Watchmen trailer
4) Incredible Hulk
5) Prince Caspian
6) Hellboy II
7) Wall•E (still unseen)
8) Everyting else

This fall looks to be interesting.  I'll post my preview sometime in the next few weeks.

Until then...

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