Best Movies of Summer 2008
The Rundown On All the Flicks You Should’ve Seen
Now that the start of classes draws ever nearer, it sure does feel like summer’s out and school’s back in session. Ah, yes … nothing like the feel of a marble notebook and the sharp taste of Red Bull to make you long for the scent of the ocean, the taste of barbecued patties, and the cool air of a movie theater. Here, we’ll bring you right back to the fresh days of early June with reviews and recaps of this summer’s releases.
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow
I’ll give a spoiler alert out of courtesy’s sake, but if you haven’t already seen it, you’ve probably already heard about all of this anyway. Iron Man was a good summer movie for us nerds at MIT for two distinct reasons: Tony Stark (Downey) wears a Brass Rat and Samuel L. Jackson makes a cameo as S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury. Beyond that, Downey’s gruff humor carries the movie, which doesn’t boast excellence in the realm of visual effects. Even the romantic chemistry is off; the generally sparkling Paltrow is one-dimensional and boring as love interest Pepper Potts. Luckily, Iron Man does earn back some points because of the totally necessary inclusion of Black Sabbath on the soundtrack.
The Verdict: A good rainy day movie, but not worth waiting in line.
Sex and the City: The Movie
Directed by Michael Patrick King
Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon
Generally when I’m forty minutes late for a movie I’ll skip it altogether and see it some other time. For Sex and the City, I should have tried to miss the movie completely. More like throwing up for a movie than showing up for one, Sex and the City settled for easy, unimaginative fixes to the four heroines’ respective conflicts. Carrie Bradshaw and company’s big return to the screen was just as high in fashion as the film’s namesake series, but its former sexual frankness – once groundbreaking and humorous – was blasé and tried this time around. Let’s hope the rumors of a sequel don’t come true; if so, show up late or plug your ears.
The Verdict: Take your Jimmy Choo’s elsewhere.
Directed by Peter Segal
Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
A last-resort movie at best, the less-than-stellar remake of a pretty excellent television show features the absolutely bizarre lead combo of The Office’s Steve Carell and The Princess Diaries’ Anne Hathaway. If the thought of watching two completely sexually unappetizing people make out doesn’t turn you off from this movie, let Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, as an evil super agent, be the reason you walk out halfway.
The Verdict: Stay to see Bill Murray in a tree; leave before it turns into Mr. Magoo and James Bond’s love child.
Directed by Peter Berg
Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Over the course of Hancock, it’s implied that the titular alcoholic bum of a superhero routinely causes train wrecks. Funny coincidence, because this movie sort of ends like one, although it’s admittedly charming for the first eighty or so minutes. Will Smith has the comedy-action combo down pat, Jason Bateman can do no wrong, and Charlize Theron is both funny and sexy (no small feat nowadays).
The Verdict: Superhero flick rife with chuckles worth the price of a ticket.
The Dark Knight
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine
The yearlong buzz behind The Dark Knight, intensified after the death of lead villain Ledger, was airtight. The second appearance of Nolan’s Gotham sees Bruce Wayne (Bale) far developed from the superhero rookie depicted in Batman Begins. Our caped crusader still has the aid of loyal butler Alfred (Caine) and childhood pal Rachel (Maggie “Not Katie Holmes” Gyllenhaal), but this time he’s joined by updated bat-radar toys, a bike made out of the Tumbler, and two villains who put Sandman to shame. Eckhart makes a strong presence as pure vanilla D.A. Harvey Dent, the role that will pull the actor out of the ranks of crap like The Black Dahlia. And yes, Heath Ledger’s Nicholson-shattering Joker portrayal is chilling, electrifying, and completely deserving of a posthumous Oscar.
The Verdict: If you only see three movies this summer, let it be The Dark Knight three times.
Directed by Adam McKay
Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins
Though I’ve found some recent Ferrell comedies distressingly unfunny, Step Brothers proves the man’s still got it, and firmly establishes John C. Reilly in the top ranks of today’s comedy players. Near-forty stepbrothers Brennan and Dale are inappropriate oddballs occupying their parents’ guest rooms with no desire to ever leave the nest. When their ’rents tie the knot, the big boys war over attention but soon find they share tastes in television, food, and dinosaurs. The evolution of their relationship and the ensuing hilarity produce more than a few audible laughs.
The Verdict: Don’t miss this chance to see a set on a drum set.
The Mummy 3
Directed by Rob Cohen
Starring Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh
And speaking of The Rock, where the hell was he in this movie? I thought that dude had dibs on all Mummy sequels. But seriously, I couldn’t tell if this was a comedy, an action movie, or a romance. It seemed like the writers were going for a genre-hybrid, but this threequel comes across as a parody on all three levels. Then again, parodies can be pretty funny, too, especially when unintentional. For this reason, Rob Cohen’s created the summer’s best “so-bad-it’s-good” flick, occupied last year by Lindsay Lohan’s I Know Who Killed Me.
The Verdict: Rent it, host a Mummy-trilogy drinking marathon, and be drunk by the time this one comes on.
Directed by Peter Cattaneo
Starring Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, Emma Stone, Teddy Geiger
Steve Carell occasionally excepted, it’s troubling to see Office actors in movies, because the writing is always so much worse than what we’re used to seeing around Dunder-Mifflin. The Rocker could very well have been disastrous, but Wilson manages to infuse it with a few genuinely funny moments, all the while staying true to his acting style and not too imitative of character Dwight Schrute. A misguided romance between Wilson and Applegate, an annoying and homogeneous “alternative” teen girl, and some unnecessary family morals almost put this on Josie and the Pussycats level, but Teddy Geiger’s sugary pop is a surprisingly decent step up from the typical teen band movie’s soundtrack.
The Verdict: If you’ve ever wished Dwight Schrute played drums for Guns N’ Roses fronted by The Jonas Brothers, you’ll probably like this movie.
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Amber Heard
The smart stoner’s answer to the Harolds and Kumars of the world (no disrespect, White Castle), Pineapple Express is a fantastic comedy with clear action influences that just happens to feature a lot of marijuana. James Franco is hilarious and convincing as longhaired good-hearted small-time dealer Saul. Seth Rogen plays a perfect the straight man to a T as law-abiding but constantly stoned court processor Dale. A great buddy flick with an undeniable soundtrack, Pineapple Express works just as well for a date with your bro, a date with your ho, or a date with your bong.
The Verdict: Definitely see it, and definitely see it high.
Vicky Christina Barcelona
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz
When did Woody Allen become so much less funny and so much more pervy? Seems like he took a bunch of attractive people to Barcelona, vacationed, and then realized he had to write a movie to justify being there. Horrible dialogue and a beyond-irritating narrator mar this beautifully shot vacation movie, which is only remedially saved by Bardem and Cruz’s real-life chemistry and comic timing as a manic couple in the art world.
The Verdict: Skip it unless you’re a Woody Allen completist.