Summer Movies 2008

I’m actually going to try my hand at real reviews with a format and everything this time. I have a scale for movies that I’ve used personally for years, and I’ve seen with variations with other reviewers. Here’s how it goes:

Full Price – Buy it on DVD or go see it in the theater at full price, highly recommended.

Matinee – Still worth seeing, but don’t forget the popcorn and drinks(and personal loan to pay for it all)

Rental – Worth $4 at the video store/your rental queue at Netflix.

Cable – Wait for it to play on TNT/TBS/etc.

Crap – Not worth your time.

Now that that’s out of the way, the movies:

Iron Man

The Good:

Damn near everything, really.

I liked this movie so much I saw it twice in the theater and it will be a first-day purchase when it comes out. Robert Downey Jr was made to play Tony Stark. He had the smarmy charm and charisma and played the part very well. I was also surprised by Gwynneth Paltrow’s performance as Pepper Potts. I didn’t recognize who she was until well into the movie, and I think it speaks to the look she carried through the film and the way she performed the role. She was quite sexy.

The Bad: (SPOILER WARNING!!)

Jeff Bridges as the ultimate bad guy really kinda underwhelmed. You could kinda see it coming, and really I can’t complain about his Evil Factor as it was pretty high on the old Ruthless Bad Guy Meter.

Kinda weak for the Bad column here, I know. Just goes to show how awesome it is.

The Ugly:

Jeff Bridges. Wow he let himself go.

The Verdict:

Are you kidding me? Full Price. Waiting anxiously for the sequel. Don’t forget to stay through the end credits.

Which leads directly to…

The Incredible Hulk

Full disclosure here: I LIKED the 2004 Hulk that Ang Lee did. I thought it was well-done stylistically, well-acted and the story was good. I will be comparing this movie to that one at points.

The Good:

The opening shot of the tenements in Brazil that went on for a good minute was absolutely breathtaking, as was most of the cinematography in the movie. In contrast to the 2004 movie, this one was mostly shot in daylight, and I think that helped out a lot on the visuals of Hulk. I know a lot of reviews have disagreed, and even my own family prefers the old Lou Ferrigno look, but this is 2008 and Hulk is supposed to be 8′ tall and huge. Let the CGI folks do their job and make him look like the beast he’s supposed to be. At least they had old Lou do the voice of Hulk, which was a nice surprise, and Stan Lee’s cameo was comedy gold.

The action sequences were pretty well done, though they do still have a perspective problem with Hulk and other objects sometimes. In the park, he’s as big as a tank. In Times Square, he seems to have shrunk a bit(but the police car Hulk Hands were pretty f’ing cool).

Most of the acting is in the “bad” column but part of the Bad was really Good.

Tim Roth played a really great evil bastard in this movie. His Emil Blonsky was way over the top evil and that made for a really uncomfortable experience, but in a good way.

The Bad:

Edward (don’t call me Ed) Norton was OK as Bruce Banner, but really not great. Banner is supposed to be a meek, mild-mannered guy. Not the wise-cracking self-confident guy played in this movie. I liked Eric Bana’s Banner better in the 2004 movie, but I guess I liked the artistic Hulk better than “Hulk Smash” Incredible.

Liv Tyler is Liv Tyler. That’s all I can say. I love her to death but I think she peaked with Arwen in LOTR and even that wasn’t that good.

The Ugly:

Abomination. Hate to meet him in a dark alley.

The Verdict:

Matinee. The movie is definitely worth seeing. Pretty good popcorn fare, and if you’re getting into the chained-together Marvel movies you’ll want to see the cameos near the end.

Kung-Fu Panda

I was not expecting much from this movie, and was really going to pass on it until I caught the HBO First Look/shameless movie promotional tool. After I saw that I knew I had to see the movie and ended up going with my younger nieces. I was very pleasantly surprised by this movie.

The Good:

OMG the artwork was absolutely gorgeous. I mean stunningly good. Possibly worth getting the Blu-Ray version to see it as high-quality as possible. I’m very happy that Pixar, Dreamworks and Disney are starting to have the technology available to make the computer-generated cartoons look like they are hand-drawn but still have a modern look.

The sound was also top-notch. Nothing too muddy, very crisp-sounding, and very good music to go with the animation.

The story was the standard unlikely hero taking on incredible odds yadda yadda but it was not bad at all.

Jack Black should really do more voice work. He was absolutely hilarious in the role of Po the Panda and I’m sure he will have fun in the numerous sequels sure to be generated by this franchise.

I was also shocked by Dustin Hoffman’s voice work as the Master Shifu. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard him do, and it was very good. Also good was Ian McShane as the evil Tai Lung. That guy’s voice is just scary awesome.

The Bad:

I can’t believe I’m saying this but Angelina Jolie’s performance just didn’t really connect with me. She just sounded bored. Maybe it was just me.

Also, and this is not Jackie Chan’s fault, but if they’re going to have one of the legends of action/kung-fu do a voice for a major supporting character, please give the guy more than 4 lines.

The Ugly:

Panda Ass. Fat Panda Ass. Shudder.

The Verdict:

Full Price, for sure. Be sure to stay through the credits to see some of the incredible background and concept art.

Hancock

Hancock should have been a really good movie. Instead it’s not really even a good superhero movie…..

The Good:

Will Smith actually came off as a badass…..for about the first 20 minutes.

The threat with the head up the ass….and then delivering on it.

Charlize Theron. Smoking hot.

Jason Bateman. Funny, sometimes.

The Bad:

The plot. If they would have stuck with Hancock is black superman with abandonment issues from the beginning, it would have probably worked. Instead we get a Greek tragedy, in the literal sense. Even though they didn’t really specify WHICH ancient gods created them, you can be pretty sure there was a Zeus and Hera behind the scenes somewhere. The two powerful former lovers can never be together or they lose their power and have to live on as mortals for the rest of their days…which would have been powerful if the scriptwriters hadn’t done such a bad job making it make any sense in the context of the story.

The Ugly:

Head up ass. That looked really silly, but really painful.

The Verdict:

Weak recommendation for Matinee if you get bored with Iron Man, Hulk, Hellboy, Dark Knight or any of the other superhero movies this summer. This is easily the weakest of the batch. Otherwise, Rental.

Wanted

6 weeks ago, Wesley Gibson was an ordinary guy in a shitty job with no confidence. He had an annoying boss with an ego problem, a best friend who was sleeping with his girlfriend behind his back and a severe addiction to anti-anxiety meds. Then he found the best support group he could: a group of assassins.

Wanted is based on a comic book by Mark Millar, and while it has the same story for oh, roughly the first 15 minutes/6 pages, it diverges wildly from the source material and it may be better off for it.

In the comic, The Fraternity is a large group of Supervillains who got tired of getting their asses kicked and banded together to kill off all the Superheroes in 1986(around the time of a certain Crisis on one or more Earths, we assume). In the movie, it’s just a secret society of assassins with some vaguely-defined superhuman powers. Of course, in both versions these people are cold-blooded killers. The body count is just smaller in the movie version.

The Good:

Angelina Jolie looked like she was having fun in this one and it showed. Same with James McAvoy. Morgan Freeman also showed his range as a well-spoken utter bastard.

The fight scenes were fun with some really interesting computer-aided gunplay. Not quite the Gunkata of Equilibrium but still fun stuff.

The Bad:

They could have tightened up the story a little, seemed to drag at points. Otherwise, nothing too bad.

The Ugly:

No full-frontal Angelina. But full backside is niiiiiiiiiice =)

The Verdict:

Full Price

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Final Verdict:

Matinee. It’s an Indiana Jones flick, what else would it be? Easily the weakest of the series, but it’s never been off-the-charts good anyway. Just turn your brain off and enjoy.

I’ll have more after I see Hellboy II, The Dark Knight and whatever else Hollywood can coax from my pockets this summer.

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