6A - Tuesday, September 02, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.corh 4
As the biggest movie-going season of the year, the summer typically gets flooded with more films than the average
person can consume. This past summer was no exception. But now that the dust has settled, which movies were
standouts? We've picked through the $4 billion-plus box office season and keyed in on the highs and lows.
Summer films '08: The good and bad
By Blake Goble and Andrew LapinIDaily Arts Writers
BEST SURPRISE: "IRON MAN"
After surviving several summers full of Spider-
Men, X-Men and Supermen, the last thing film audi-
ences needed this year was another generic superhero
movie. Luckily, director Jon Favreau and actor Rob-
ert Downey, Jr. reinvigorated the genre. A film full
of well-paced action, slick dialogue and goofy humor,
"Iron Man" just happens to feature a man in a giant
metal super-suit. Paramount is almost certain to run
this fresh take on the genre into the ground with
countless sequels, so enjoy Tony Stark while the fun
Here is an example of how not to do a superhero
movie. The first half of "Hancock" is actually fairly
strong, with itsnovel concept and the infallible charm
of Will Smith. But then the horrible "twist" comes
and sends this film off the rails It leaves the audience
to wonder, among other things, why the entire climax
took place ina hospital hallway and what exactly the
logic behind Charlize Theron's character was. We
expect better from "Friday Night Lights" director
Peter Berg and Will Smith as well.
MOST UNFAIRLY CRITICIZED:
"INDIANA JONES AND THE KING-
DOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL"
It's been 19 years since the last film in the
series, so maybe everyone just forgot what an
"Indiana Jones" movie is supposed to look like.
How else can one explain the initial audience
backlash to this perfectly entertaining sequel?
Sure, the formula is less fresh now, but Indy can still
crack his whip, crawl through dark tunnels and fall
down waterfalls like it's 1981. Plus there are aliens,
and aliens are always cool.
LEAST WORTHY OF PRAISE: "AMERI-
CAN TEEN" (PARAMOUNT VANTAGE)
Hey kids, haven't you always wanted to seea movie
where real teenagers are free to express their indi-
viduality? Then, for God's sake, avoidthis Sundance
darling, which takes five unique, charismatic high
school students with big dreams from small-town
Indiana and waters them down for the audience as
the geek, the drama queen, the jock, the heartthrob
and the rebel. The film is clearly edited to play favor-
ites, meaning no one has a chance of breaking free
of their stereotypes. Some have called this the new
"Juno." It isn't.
BEST MOVIE OF THE SUMMER:
Childlike but not condescending. Moralisticrbut not
preachy. Cinematic but not artsy-fartsy. The only film
that accomplished all of these things this summer was
a cartoon about a trash-compacting robot. "WALL-E"
stripped the principles of a great story down to their
essentials, with a bare-bones plot and almost no dia-
logue, and still managed to be completely engrossing.
WORST MOVIE OF THE SUMMER:
"THE HAPPENING" (FOX)
Poorly scripted, shoddily edited and embarrassing-
ly acted - not much else to say here. M. Night Shya-
malan, please stop making movies. Mark Wahlberg,
you're forgiven - just don't pick up Shyamalan's calls
CLOSEST CASE OF REHAB
PREDICTION: "THE WACKNESS"
(SONY PICTURES CLASSICS)
"The Wackness" gave off mixed signals. From
Oscar-Winner Ben Kingsley's turn as a baked-out
shrink to the all-too-eager nostalgia for New York,
1994, this was an oddity. But the true amusement
came in seeing former Nickelodeon tween star Josh
Peck ("Drillbit Taylor") embody pot-slinging shit-
for-brains lead Luke Shapiro. Child actors turned
problem cases? Shia LeBeouf made it seem news-
BEST LITTLE MOVIE NO ONE SAW:
"MAN ON WIRE" (DISCOVERY)
It's at the Michigan Theater, and you've got a few
days left. Get up, get out and see this gem of a docu-
mentary about one man's trip from one of the twin
towers, to another. Mind you, the trip was on a wire,
from one rooftop to another. Sounds like a carnival
act? Well, it's much more than that. See how one
man, in 1974, pulled off a highly illegal, mostly
death-defying stunt that has since been referred
to as the "artistic crime of the century."
BIGGEST PILE OF FLAMING
BENJAMINS: "THE MUMMY:
TOMB OF THE DRAGON
We've said it before, and we're saying it again: If
you really wantto see what $145 million set ablaze
looks like, then look no further. Amidst the excess of
summer, and its cheap, yet expensive thrills - and
there were many ("Incredible Hulk," "Speed Racer"
"Sex and the City") - no other film dared to be as big
and dumb as this one. Think of all the tuition that
budget could have covered...
BEST SEQUEL: "HAMLET 2" (FOCUS)
It wasn't as good as the first. But what sequels are?
At least this one had acid, some male rear nudity, a
time machine and musical number called "Rock Me
Sexy Jesus." Seriously.
BEST MOVIE EVER?: "THE DARK
KNIGHT" (WARNER BROS.)
If enough people profess it to be so, will this dark
and broody Batman eventually be considered the
greatest two-and-a-half hours ever put to celluloid?
Will Heath Ledger's deeply disturbing last turn as
the Joker become the best screen performance of
this (and last) century? Will readers ever forgive the
Daily for "only" rewarding this movie four-and-a-
half stars? Perhaps the best way to make that call is
to - wait for it - flip a coin.
COURTESY OF PIXAR AND WARNER BROS.
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