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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Summer Movie Report Card

Fall is officially upon us, which means the nights are getting longer, the weather colder, and the movies crappier. So in this transition period between popcorn blockbusters and award contenders, let's look back at the summer that was at the cinema...

Iron Man: A fantastic kickoff to the summer movie season. Easily one of the best comic book movies yet. A superb cast. Usually, the first movie of a comic book series adaptation can be a bit boring because so much time is spent on an origin I already know backwards and forwards. In this case, Tony Stark himself was so much fun to watch that I didn't care how much time the filmmakers took to get him into the Iron Man armor and kicking ass. A+

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: I think I liked this a little more than the first one, but I'll need to watch it again to be sure. It was a little darker and more action-y without being too derivative of the Lord of the Rings. It was nice to see Susan get some extra attention before she gets banished from Narnia (and the subsequent films, presumably) for liking boys.

Still, I had to chuckle when Aslan admonished Lucy, saying things never happen the same way twice...and then he proceeds to save the day in the nick of time, just like in the first movie. Oh, Aslan, you crazy Jesus Lion, you...B+

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Let's just get this out of the way: no, this wasn't perfect, or even great, but it wasn't terrible either. It was fun to see Indy in action again, to hear the Raiders March and the crack of the whip in a theater. I liked the offhand remarks that filled in what happened between films, and I thought Mutt worked well (except when his CGI avatar was ridiculously playing Tarzan). I didn't even mind mixing the more sci-fi alien stuff into the Indy mythology in a Stargate-y kind of way, which worked given the setting of the film (atomic age, 1950s, Soviets), though I definitely could have done without the alien actually coming alive and moving at the end.

I did not like that after getting captured by the Soviets, Indy didn't really do anything to figure stuff out; he basically fought Commies and followed Oxley around. And as much fun as it was to see Marion again, and to tie up that relationship once and for all, by the end, between Indy, Marion, Mutt, Oxley and the irrelevant triple agent partner guy, it all seemed a little too crowded. Baroness Van Bitzenhofer said it best, as the credits rolled: "I didn't realize we were seeing National Treasure 3." B-

The Incredible Hulk: Less psychological and needlessly artsy than the previous film and more "Hulk smash!", this somehow felt like it fit in the same "universe" as the Iron Man film (and not just because of the cameo), something Marvel is most likely doing intentionally now that they control their motion picture destiny and seem intent on translating the shared universe feel of their comics to their films. Dr. Bitz felt the plot was a bit slight, and he's not wrong, but I didn't notice it until he mentioned it, so it didn't bother me. Perhaps I'm more conditioned to Hulk stories that don't consist of much more than "Hulk run, Hulk smash, Hulk run again." B

Wanted: Stylish and fun if a bit slight. It speaks to the beaten down office drone in all of us, a sort of violent, gun-filled Office Space in parts. The film casts the protagonist in a more positive light than the source material, I understand, and leaves behind some of the author's politics, which is fine; I enjoyed this enough as a better-than-average shoot 'em up action film.

Hancock: Seeing previews for this, I was of two minds: on the one hand, I was excited to see a comic book movie featuring an original character. On the other hand, words can't describe how sick I am of watching Will Smith "aw, hell no"-ing his way through summer blockbusters.

In the end, I was right to be wary, though I had it a bit backwards. Smith was fine but the movie ended up a muddled mess that seemed to end both too abruptley and not soon enough. Jason Bateman was the sole saving grace: give Michael Bluth more work! D+

Wall-E: Gorgeous, well made, thoughtful and touching. No doubt this will stand the test of time as one of Pixar's classic films. A-

Hellboy II: The Golden Army: A pleasant surprise, overshadowed by the other two excellent comic book movies of the summer. The first Hellboy movie was okay, not bad but not great (though I've enjoyed it mor upon subsequent viewings). This one was better, fully delving into the arcane and fantastical world that existed just below the surface in the original film. It had a very universe-building Star Wars feel to it, in that there was so much going on in the background that it felt like there was limitless stories waiting to be told with these characters in this setting. A

Mama Mia: Mrs. Teebore's desire to see this was much greater than mine, but I think I ended up enjoying it more than she did. While she spent the film comparing it to the musical and being dissapointed by some of the omissions and changes, I just kicked back and enjoyed Abba in Surround Sound* and the sight of James Bond singing power ballads.

What? I grew up listening to my mom's Abba Gold album. They're catchy tunes...

The Dark Knight: What can I say that hasn't already been said? A genre defining movie that not only raises the bar on all subsequent comic book movies, but also, in many ways, transcends the genre in a way few (no?) other comic book films have. I believe in Harvey Dent. A+

Step Brothers: Funny in the expected way but lacking the strong and memorable supporting cast that made similar Will Ferell outings (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) rise above the expected. B

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Good enough if you're the target audience (kids and Star Wars fans). I am, so I enjoyed it in that regard. It did the job it set out to do: get me excited for the TV series, where the animation will play out a lot better. I'd imagine it's a little dull and lackluster for non fans, though. B+

Tropic Thunder: Funny in an unexpected way, with lots of social commentary, satire, and cameos alongside the expected jokes about actors and Hollywood. Worth it for the trailers at the beginning alone. B+

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