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The Unapologetic Geek

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2008 Summer Movies

Earlier in the year, I made a list of the ten movies I was looking forward to this summer, movies that were being released between May 2 and July 25. These are those movies. (Box office numbers were taken directly from Box Office Mojo.)


IRON MAN
Release Date: May 2
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $98.6
To-date: $315.7
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IRON MAN
Release Date: May 2
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $98.6
To-date: $315.7
Screenshot

The summer of the superhero movie started out with a bang. I wasnít expecting much from Jon Favreauís flick about a hero I knew little about, but the previews looked fun and Robert Downey, Jr. looked awesome. The movie was much better than I expected, though, crammed full of intelligent action, great effects, and good chuckles. While the final act of the film was disappointing and most of the characters were wooden and one-dimensional, the reason Iron Man did so well was that it didnít aspire to be anything more than sheer comic book entertainment.
FINAL SCORE:



THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN
Release Date: May 16
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $55.0
To-date: $140.4
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THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN
Release Date: May 16
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $55.0
To-date: $140.4
Screenshot

Iíll be honest; the first Narnia movie didnít blow me out of the water when I first saw it. It was cool, and subsequent viewings have improved my opinion, but overall, it felt like a film trying too hard to capitalize on the popularity of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, without breaking its own cinematic ground. If that is a valid complaint against the first movie, though, it is a much bigger complaint for its sequel, as Prince Caspian is trying to slowly increase its darkness the way the Harry Potter movies have while simultaneously striving to be as intensely violent as The Lord of the Rings. The Narnia books are certainly both dark and violent, but for a film with talking mice and heavy Christian overtones, the addition of beheadings and face stabbings comes across as a bad judgment call, as it alienates a huge segment of the target audience. Despite this, however, I found myself enjoying the movie, recommending it to others, and disappointed that it didnít do so hot at the box office. Additionally, Iím pleased that Disney hasnít forsaken the franchise, as the third installment, The Voyage of the Dawn-Treader, is currently in the works.
FINAL SCORE:



INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
Release Date: May 22
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $100.1
To-date: $314.3
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INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
Release Date: May 22
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $100.1
To-date: $314.3
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My expectations were not high when I saw this movie, but I was still let down by the ridiculous plot and nonsensically stupid effects sequences of the fourth Indiana Jones flick. The characters were good and the dialogue was snappy, but from the very beginning, when you see gunpowder floating around the air to track down a dead alien body in Area 51, you know the story is going to suck. Donít get me wrong; I love the X-Files, but this is Indiana Jones! Anyway, I wonít dwell too much on this one, as you can read my full review.
FINAL SCORE:



THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Release Date: June 13
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $55.4
To-date: $133.3
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THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Release Date: June 13
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $55.4
To-date: $133.3
Screenshot

Iím convinced that the lack of buzz and the slightly disappointing box office numbers for The Incredible Hulk were all due to timing. It was released too soon after Ang Leeís disastrous Hulk, and only a little over a month after Iron Man. In my opinion, and Iím sure these are fighting words among geeks and fanboys the world over, I thought The Incredible Hulk was a slightly better movie than Iron Man and deserved more of the spotlight than it ultimately received. Itís as entertaining and exhilarating as Iron Man, but itís also more thoughtful (without being laborious about it) and more artistic (without being hard to watch). And as much as I like Robert Downey, Jr. and Jeff Bridges, they've got nothing on Edward Norton, William Hurt, and Tim Roth. The Incredible Hulk also harkened back to the original television show, a fond memory of my youth, and was careful to avoid the clichťís of Bruce Bannerís story. It was an impressive and heart-pounding accomplishment, and Iím sad that it didnít shine any brighter.
FINAL SCORE:



WALL-E
Release Date: June 27
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $63.1
To-date: $204.2
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WALL-E
Release Date: June 27
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $63.1
To-date: $204.2
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Pixarís ability to put out consistently high-quality films is staggering, and Wall-E hasnít broken their string. I didnít feel any real hype leading up to this movie, but as soon as I started watching it, I was excited. Itís visually stunning, narratively dense, and gutsy as can be. Still, while I definitely think of it as a five-star picture, Wall-E is not flawless. The message, if you really stop to think about it, is nonsensical, as the underlying problems are never solved. Additionally, anyone who has had to endure hours of children (or, in my case, a mother-in-law and wife) chanting ďWall-E, Eva, Wall-E, Eva!Ē knows that certain lines of dialogue are far too repetitive. Overall, though, these are incredibly minor complaints in what is yet another Pixar masterpiece and slam-dunk for Best Animated Film of 2008.
FINAL SCORE:



WANTED
Release Date: June 27
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $50.9
To-date: $131.3
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WANTED
Release Date: June 27
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $50.9
To-date: $131.3
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As long as youíre expecting a blatantly stylized and highly unrealistic action flick where people can shoot the wings off of flies with a handgun, Wanted will not disappoint you. Itís far from high cinema, but the movie, which is very loosely based on a graphic novel, rocks at a high tempo, is unashamed to be sensationally violent, and is a whole lot of fun. Granted, there are questionable plot points (like the ďloom of destinyĒ), and several things that donít make a lot of sense, but who cares? Angelina Jolieówho isnít afraid to show off her naked backsideócan curve bullets, Morgan Freeman is the leader of a secret organization of assassins, and thereís an over-the-top action sequence every twenty minutes!
FINAL SCORE:



HANCOCK
Release Date: July 2
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $62.6
To-date: $216.0
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HANCOCK
Release Date: July 2
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $62.6
To-date: $216.0
Screenshot

Hancock feels like two movies sutured together to make Frankensteinís Will Smith summer blockbuster monster. In the first movieóthe one the studios advertisedóSmith plays a belligerent, drunken, and homeless superhero who incurs the wrath of the city for all the collateral damage he causes while fighting crime. This movie, which also stars Jason Bateman as the public relations idealist who tries to fix Hancockís image, is excellent, funny, and charmingly original. Had this movie been stretched out to an hour and a half and been released as an action comedy, Iíd sing its praises. However, at about the half-way point of Hancock, thereís a fairly sudden plot twist that drastically changes everything about the film, including its tone. The second movieóthe one that followsóis a generic, humorless, and talkative exploration of origins and clichťs, and isnít even remotely interesting. While it does strive to answer questions about why Hancock is the way he is, this second film is confusing and full of weird plot holes. In short, itís a mess, and for a movie with such a long development time, one would think these gigantic wrinkles would have been ironed out before release.
FINAL SCORE:



HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
Release Date: July 11
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $34.5
To-date: $71.3
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HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
Release Date: July 11
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $34.5
To-date: $71.3
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Iím pretty lukewarm about the first Hellboy film; I donít hate it, but I donít love it either. Its sequel, on the other hand, is a much better movie in almost every way. I love its style, and Guillermo del Toro is fast proving how well he can switch from artsy auteur to popcorn entertainer. While the level of cheese and schlock is much higher than Iíd want, the rest of the movie is well-balanced between humor and action. The story is pretty basic, but the way in which it is told makes it feel complex and completely original. Also, the climactic battle, by itself, is worth the price of admission.
FINAL SCORE:



THE DARK KNIGHT
Release Date: July 18
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $158.4
To-date: $394.9
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THE DARK KNIGHT
Release Date: July 18
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $158.4
To-date: $394.9
Screenshot

Thereís nothing I can say about The Dark Knight that hasnít already been said. Itís The Godfather, Part II of comic book movies. Itís ridiculously awesome. Itís the best picture Iíve seen so far this year, and possibly the best superhero movie ever made. Itís a movie that taps into our collective unconscious and stirs it up. Sufficed to say, if you haven't seen it yet, then what the heck are you doing reading my blog?! I saw it for the first time in IMAX, and itís an experience I will likely remember for the rest of my life.
FINAL SCORE:



THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE
Release Date: July 25
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $10.0
To-date: $17.0
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THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE
Release Date: July 25
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $10.0
To-date: $17.0
Screenshot

With a release date a mere week after the juggernaut that is The Dark Knight, this movie is doomed to be a flop. Itís also troubled because itís a more pensive meditation on the cult showís themes than the first film, it focuses far more heavily on character than on shock value, and it doesnít have a single alien. Fans of the show looking for a paranormal fix will be disappointed, as will casual audiences going for something thrilling and crazy. The X-Files: I Want to Believe is an unexpectedly mature work, and it is destined to be wildly misunderstood by the vast majority of people who actually see it (at least Richard Roeper gets it right). This movie maintains an unblinking focus on the core messages that the show spent so many years dancing around. It has religious and skeptical overtones (along with a smattering of political ones), a plot that is light on the intensity and scares, and nothing as far out there as people surely expect from this franchise. Still, despite these very real problemsówhich are certain to render this movie an industry joke for years to comeóI absolutely adore it as a boldly poetic reinterpretation of a beloved idea.
FINAL SCORE:



All in all, this has been a great summer for movies, especially if youíre a geek like me or a comic book fanatic. While a few movies were missteps, the vast majority of the summer blockbusters were incredibly entertaining. No doubt The Dark Knight will dominate future discussions of this summer, but letís not forget the other fantastic films that defined the summer of 2008 as a damn good season.

-e. magill, 08/04/2008

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