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9/19/08

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Way behind on my reviews, I want to offer up some quick thoughts on the big summer films I saw. Writing the 10,000th review of these films seems like a waste of time, I'd rather focus on something you may not have seen or even heard of yet. But it's my compulsion to write about every movie I watch, so I have to say something. Overall I thought this was the best summer movie season of the decade. I didn't see anything truly terrible, which was a surprise, and there were a couple of near masterpieces. I enjoyed to loved all the following films: Wall-E, Speed Racer, Kung Fu Panda, Iron Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall


The Dark Knight

Without a doubt the best film of the summer, which is obvious from the reviews and the box office. Writer/Director Christopher Nolan crafted an epic crime film, that just happens to be about Batman. I loved Heath Ledger's wonderfully calculated over-the-top performance as the Joker. I love how they crafted him to be unbelievably evil for no real reason, we don't get the whole back-story, he just is. Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent & Two Face, is almost equally as good, his switch from white knight to villain is really the heart of the film. If I had any complaint, is that they didn't focus enough on Batman, he seems secondary at times. And the whole cell phone bit, acting as a world-wide sonar, seemed too far fetched. But this is a nearly perfect film, even at two and a half hours, it flies by. I made the rare second trip to the theater to see it again. - Grade: A (Seen on 7/18/08 & 8/10/08)


Wanted

As much as I like to see Angelina Jolie kick ass, I mainly wanted to see this film because of director Timur Bekmambetov. His Russian film Nightwatch is one of the most visually inventive films I've ever seen. With a relatively low-budget, he created some of the most superb action sequences ever put to film. I couldn't wait to see what he did with a Hollywood budget, and the film didn't disappoint on the action side. I like that they immediately set-up that this is a world where the fantastic can happen. Within the first 5 minutes, there is a guy jumping out a skyscraper window, taking out snipers with his handgun as he flies between buildings. Setting up the rest of the film, so we can believe that people can bend bullets and flip cars willy-nilly like. I liked James McAvoy, even though his American accent kept slipping, as the everyday schlep, who learns he comes from a long line of super-assassins. It's definitely a turn-your-brain-off-and-enjoy-the-ride kind of film, and I had fun with it as that. - Grade: B (Seen on 7/5/08)


Hancock

Will Smith has always been hit or miss for me. Sometimes I think he's great, his smart-ass attitude really made the Men in Black films, but those same characteristics completely ruined I, Robot. In the past few years I think he's shown a bit more range, he showed good range in Pursuit of Happyness, and I thought he did a good job with I Am Legend, not ruining it with horribly out of place jokes.

Hancock
looked interesting to me, mainly because it was a superhero film, that didn't have a comic behind it, a totally fresh character. I also liked that he was reluctant about his powers, that he really only uses them for good when he has too. And I would imagine that somebody so powerful would feel alone in this world. In the end I liked that the explanation for his powers was so different than any other superhero story, no radioactive cockroach or nuclear testing gone wrong. The film moves along quickly and is fairly entertaining, but it wasn't good enough for me to want to see Hancock 2. - Grade: B- (Seen on 7/5/08)


Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Visually, Guillermo del Toro is one of the best directors around. He creates absolutely breathtaking scenes. And Hellboy II is full of them. I especially loved the scene were Hellboy and crew visit the Troll market. It's like the Star Wars cantina on acid. There are literally hundreds of fantastically out-there creatures to gawk at, most of them walking around in the background. I can't wait to get the DVD, just so I can pause it and get a better look. I also fell in love with the opening scene where Hellboy's adoptive father is telling him the story about the Golden Army. Guillermo uses what looks like Tim Burton stop-motion animation, but is probably computer generated, to show the story of how the magical world came to an end.

I liked the story of how this Elf Prince wants to bring back the magical world to what it once was, show the humans whose boss. It's interesting to see Hellboy struggle with his conscience about whether he should join the Elf, because most humans have shunned him and he clearly belongs to the magical side. With him ultimately deciding to fight for humanity. The film kind of grinds to a halt anytime there's a love scene, either between Hellboy and Liz or Abe Sabien and the Elf Princess. But Overall I dug Hellboy II, much more than the first film, it felt more well rounded, and is a rip-roaring adventure. - Grade: B (Seen on 7/10/08)


Tropical Thunder

Ben Stiller is a very underrated director. His films Zoolander and The Cable Guy, both rate as great comedies in my book. So I was very excited to see him at the helm of this action-comedy, with him, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. in front of the camera. A real comedy dream team. I enjoyed the film, but didn't think it was as funny as advertised. It was almost like Stiller was more concerned about the action scenes.

Although it may be one of those comedies you have to see a few times to truly appreciate. Thinking about it now, brings a lot of laughs to mind. Everybody was raving about Tom Cruise's appearance as the extremely angry, fat-balding studio boss, which I definitely give him props for. It's great to see him out of his usual role. But I think Danny McBride's role as the film crew's explosive expert got more laughs per line. Between this and the following film, the guy shows some serious comedic chops. And I can't forget about the brilliantly hilarious fake trailers at the beginning of the film, that perfectly set-up each of the main characters roles. I guess it was funnier than I originally remembered, and I'm looking forward to sitting down with some friends and watching it again. - Grade: B
(Seen on 8/23/08)

Pineapple Express

This wrapped up the summer of 2008 films, at least those that were worth seeing. Seth Rogen has built himself a nice career as the shlubby stoner type that appears in Judd Apatow films, and his role as Dale in Pineapple Express is probably the pinnacle of said type-casting. He's a lovable loser, a wastoid and an action star all in one. I've always thought that James Franco had a lot of potential as an actor, but he's been stuck in pretty-boy roles for a while. He's hilarious here as Saul, an obvious take-off on Brad Pitt in True Romance, the drug dealer who gets into deep trouble with Dale.

I really had a lot of fun following these two stoners around as numerous people get beat-up and killed around them. Again Danny McBride nearly steals the show, or at least every scene he's in. Towards the end the three make the most unlikely group of action heroes in the history of film, taking on a gang of drug dealers and the Yakuza at the same time. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this film is that it was directed by David Gordon Green, who's known for intimate and talky indie films. This was so far outside his style, but he brings a great kinetic energy to the whole thing. It'd probably be more enjoyable toking up some Pineapple Express first, but even sober, it's a fun ride. - Grade: B (Seen on 9/6/08)

1 Response to 2008 Summer Films:

  1. Looks to be the summer of B-rated movies.
    I pretty much agree with all of your ratings (except for Wanted, which I haven't seen yet). Hancock was MUCH better on a second viewing. My first viewing left a bad taste in my mouth. I watched TDK on IMAX which was beautiful. Beautiful.

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