Hype. It sold the most movie tickets this summer. And we, as a whole, bought into it. I can't think of one film that didn't benefit from mass quantities of people screaming about its hooker-hand like ways in unison. From Iron Man, to Tropic Thunder, to The Dark Knight, these were some of this summer's best, and they wafted on a bit of water cooler air, gaining their cumulative grosses from strong word of mouth. Sometimes deservingly so. Sometimes, not so much. The X-Files: I Want to Believe? It came on more like hoof and mouth disease, spreading its contagious coxsackievirus amongst those loyal few that still wanted to believe. And they were few and far between, as box office receipts will honestly attest. Some summer films hit with a surprising fist of awesomeness, others quickly dried up and drifted away like a crippled bit of unwanted dandruff. Some yelled and screamed, some went quietly. Some exploded, and some imploded. But they all tried to take us with them.
Yes. Labor Day weekend has passed like a sudden bowel movement from the ass end of a constipated donkey, folks. Now you are back in school. Or getting scolded by an unforgiving boss. In celebration, we are going to look at the films that made us Whoop-Doo! and Boo! these last few steaming hot months of summer. Things kicked off pretty cleanly with the crisp comic book adaptation Iron Man. This past Friday, it all ended with a film no one wanted to see: Disaster Movie. Between May 2nd and August 29th, a total of 94 movies saw release (and then some, but I'm not counting the one-offs that only got played in some dinky theater in Des Moines, Iowa). How many did you see? I saw 48, which was a little over half the buffet. But this isn't just based on my experiences with the concession stand. I've gone directly to the heart of the Whoop-Doo Nation, and I know at least one person that saw the films I didn't. Am I sad that I missed a few? Sure. But there was quite a bit of gooey shit I'm glad I didn't step in, too. Don't believe me? Check it out...
Saddest Romance of the Summer? Whoop-doo!
The Whoop-Doo! Movie of the Summer? The Dark Knight. Of course, it had to be. It wasn't my favorite, to say the least. I, like most of America, was quite blown away when I first saw the film in IMAX. I thought it was a stupendous achievement in filmmaking...Until I saw it again. Here was an instance where I bought into my own hype, and I totally got caught up in the fact that I'd never seen an action sequence rendered in such huge pools of greasy exploding pieces before. It was as if I could step out of my seat and walk directly into the characters' mouths. When I was a kid, one of the cool things we'd do in the summertime was head up to Seattle to visit their Cinerama Theater, where they'd show films in 70mm. I remember seeing Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi and Aliens there, and it was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Seeing The Dark Knight in IMAX brought some of that excitement back into my summer film going experience. But it wasn't until I watched the film on TV that I realized I'd been duped by booming theatrics. I don't really want to take anything away from my own thrill of seeing this umpteenth installment of Batman for the first time, but removed from the awe and grandeur of it, I realize that there were some mighty huge plot holes in the fabric of this dark sequel. The first twenty minutes is quite a jumbled mess. No one can tell me why they had to fake Commissioner Gordon's death. And Heather Ledger's The Joker just doesn't stand up to repeat viewings. His shenanigans grow rather tiresome the more times you watch him roll that tongue around inside his mouth. Blasphemy? Spitting on a grave? Eh, its how I feel here on the cusp of September. Still, I don't hate the movie. And it was the best time you had, so why not give it the top prize? It certainly earned more than any other film out there. But we must remember: Huge profits don't necessarily mean a quality product. Heck, Prom Night hit that number one sweet spot in April, and I'd have to say it was probably the worst made film of the year (though not the most excruciating to watch). The Dark Knight? It was definitely an audience favorite. And deserves the biggest Whoop-Doo!
Nihilism's Ironic Attempt to sell Movie Tickets? Boo!
The Boo! Movie of the Summer? Hell Ride. I know what you're thinking. Disaster Movie should stake a claim in this spot, hands down. But have you really seen either one of them? Or are you just going on gut instinct? The trailers seem to tell two different stories. Hell Ride actually looked like something watchable. Something worthwhile. A bit of quality rendered in that gooey, old fashion Grindhouse aesthetic we love so much. It was produced by Quentin Tarantino. It stars the always welcome Dennis Hopper and the usually fun to watch Michael Madsen. A Western full of motorcycles and leather jacket wearing bad guys sipping on beer? A tough as nails Vinnie Jones recounting how he got his various "wing" tattoos? Larry Bishop, king of 60s chopper exploitation flicks at the helm? Every piece of this prized puzzled seemed to be shaping it into a cool breeze of August delight. Nestled neatly in the other hand, we have Disaster Movie. It's directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, two of the most incompetent whores working in the entertainment industry at this time. These guys are ten miles of shit ditch road; way worse than Uwe Boll could ever hope to be. And they are responsible for THE worst spoof movies in the history of the medium and genre. Their new trailer is atrocious to the point that it has you walking out of the theater before the real movie even starts. There's no denying that it's an eight inch thick, severed and diseased Amazonian River Dolphin penis. One you hope doesn't accidentally get slipped under your pillow or into your mouth while you sleep. Having not seen either film, you'd all agree that Disaster Movie was the worst thing since bloody cumshit pie. Sadly, it turns out that Hell Ride is the most incoherent, hard to watch stretch of celluloid laid to rest in this summer's bad movie graveyard. It's like watching a collection of deleted scenes from some really cool biker flick. Each moment fails to connect with the next one on at an astonishing level. The narrative has absolutely no spine, and during the junket, Bishop even told me that the script was made up of nothing but blank pages for long chunks and chapters. Huh? Yeah, you read that right. He wanted those making it with him to feel an absence of everything. True nihilism. It's a watchdog punk approach that leaves the filmgoer empty inside. Some scenes seemed cool on the outset. The images on screen are certainly photographed and beautifully rendered with an accomplished eye by Scott Kevan. But these scenes flow in and out of each other without a clear destination. And it all crumbles away under its own heaving weight. It was the only movie I truly felt like walking out of. Sadly, it was far too short for me to even get started on that trek. A true waist of money and time, Hell Ride is the dirtiest bastard. At least Disaster Movie, as bad as it is, has at least one redeeming moment to call its own. Unlike Hell Ride, it's watchable on some sort of bizarre level. It is certainly better than Epic Movie, which means that these guys are improving as directors. That has to account for something. Still, Disaster Movie gets a big Boo!. But Hell Ride earns the biggest Boo of them all. Heck, it even beat out Mike Myers The Love Guru. That has to be an accomplishment in and of itself.
Nuked the Fridge? Whoop-Doo!
The most disappointing movie of the summer? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I seem to be one of the few people that actually enjoyed this fourth installment of the famed archeologist's adventures. Maybe I knew what I was stepping into before those lights went down. I'd already heard it was chockfull of Lucas' own special brand of shenanigans. The slip on a banana peel-type humor that really did the Star Wars prequels in. I couldn't believe that certain critics got so worked up about it. They should have known. Though, I could definitely see their point. My favorite break down and dissertation of the film came from The Rocker's own Josh Gad, who seemed genuinely disgusted at Indy's ability to find a warehouse alien with wisps of pixie dust. Every time this topic of conversation came up in June, I was given a hundred more reasons why I should loathe the film. But, in all honesty, I had a funner time watching it that second go than I did The Dark Knight. I like watching Shia LaBeouf swing through trees with chimps. I like watching the whole nuclear explosion scene, which has overtaken the now cliched Jump the Shark criticism with "nuked the fridge". I like watching Ray Winstone writhe around on the floor of the golden temple as if he's just lost the use of his legs, refusing to take Indy's whip. Its dumb fun, but still fun. The anticipation level for this sucker was through the roof. Most folks thought they'd never get another Raiders of the Lost Ark sequel. Spielberg was quite secretive about it, and most people thought they were going to get something along the lines of the first movie. Of course they were hugely disappointed when they saw it. But come on, people! You saw the Star Wars prequels. Did you? How could you even let your expectations get that high? Well, some did. Thus rendering Henry Jones Jr.'s latest exploits some of the most cry worthy moments of the summer. Boo! Still, though, Willie Scott is the original Jar Jar Binks. And in my mind, that makes Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom a slightly more disappointing flick. The X-Files: I Want to Believe almost falls into this category. It was hugely disappointing, and has been called "the worst episode ever made". That sentiment came from more than one mouth. Thing is, no one seemed to care that it was bad. All of seven people actually made their way to the theater to see it. The voiced concern surrounding this antiquated franchise was at dog whistle volumes. When a bad movie falls, and there's no one around to watch it, does it really matter anymore? Probably not. Plain and simple, fourteen year old kids were more interested in Batman. The X-Files: I Want to Believe received a big fuck you from pretty much everyone that goes to the movies on a regular basis.
Talking to Fake House Plants? Whoop-doo!
When does disappointment turn into unexpected merriment and bemusement? When you are M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. Night has been called the Spielberg of his generation, and its funny that both directors made such hoot worthy films this summer. Of course, it felt shameful to sit and throw spit balls at a senior citizen. Was it just me, or did Indy seem to be suffering from the early stages of Dementia? Anyway, while we initially hated ourselves for laughing at the latest installment of Indiana Jones, we couldn't help but sneer and jeer Shyamalan's latest attempt to scare the Haley Joel Osment out of us. He came rushing in with that glorious red-saturated R rated logo on his billboards, and offered up some pretty cool trailer images. People falling from the sky to land with a thud on the pavement. Tigers ripping off human limbs. A guy taking a sun nap in front of his own riding lawnmower. This looked like the kind of film we'd desperately been waiting for. And a return to form for Shyamalan after his ill conceived Lady In the Water. Instead, it turned out to be the greatest big budget Z grade Drive-In flick of all time. And you have to wonder if Shyamalan planned it that way. If so, it's a brilliant piece of schlock filmmaking. If he did it on accident, this masterwork is even more stupendous and should set the director spiraling down a new career path. Mark Walberg talking to a houseplant? People running from gusts of wind? An old lady with a shotgun, spouting religious rhetoric and shooting teenagers in the face? Walberg's delivery, as if it were from another time and place? This was unlike any other film experience offered up this summer, and those that thought it was awful just didn't look at it the right way. Remember The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra? It was a sly spoof of all those lost Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies that are so much fun to poke in the ribs. It totally didn't work on any level. The Happening does. It's a spoof that gets the genre right. And I don't think I laughed this hard at any other point during the summer. I'd also like to give a special nod here to Tobey Keith's Beer for My Horses, hands down the weirdest film to play out in theaters this August. I'm not saying its good by any stretch of the word. It's fouler than a Durango jerky shed. But the dancing rest area Minstrel show, a mute Ted Nugent, and Willy Nelson's traveling Freak parade popping up out of nowhere with a jug of Circus Jolly in its minted hand make this an odd curiosity. It's bewildering to say the least, and the type of junk that actually becomes someone's secret cult obsession. It's the Moto X Kids of 2008. Whoop-Doo!
No Hype Eddie? Whoop-doo!
The most surprising and least hyped film of the summer? Meet Dave. I know, you still haven't seen it. And you probably won't pick it up when it hits a store shelf near you sometime around the Holidays, either. But grin for grin, when it comes to straight up laughs, this was funnier than most of the comedies offered up these past three pit-stinking months (we're of course not counting Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express because they fall too heavily into the action genre, and we're not counting The Happening, because, technically, it's supposed to be a horror movie.). Eddie Murphy is illuminated in his dual role as Starship Dave Ming Cheng and the Starfleet Captain. With this one film, he certainly delivers on his promised return to comedic greatness. It was a certain lack of hype that did it in at the box office (there was none). Not to mention its loose pedigree. Though I could not find a single person that has seen 2002's The Adventures Of Pluto Nash, it's unhealthy outer space stigma super glued itself to the outer crust of Meet Dave like a piece of Argentine Thiena. And its director doesn't instill much confidence either. Though Head of the Class's Brian Robbins has never made a bad movie, he has made some surprisingly mediocre ones. And you don't necessarily expect to see him helming what was supposed to be one of this summer's bigger movies. Yet, here he is working with Murphy a second time after Norbit, and their partnership is proving to be a good one. What didn't necessarily work in Norbit does here, and this is one of the few comedies that hit this summer that isn't incredibly raunchy or gross, or attached to an R rating. Despite that, which some might call a setback in this day and age, the film still manages to get a solid laugh every few minutes. It's for everybody, it's continually hilarious. A kid and senior friendly adult film is a pretty hard package to pull off. These guys did it. Do yourself a favor and see Meet Dave when you get a chance. It won't change your life, but it sure will cheer you up for a good couple of hours. Another film that didn't suck, though most of you thought it would was "You Don't Mess With the Zohan". For what it was, it was pretty entertaining, unlike a lot of Dennis Dugan's previous films. Especially those starring Adam Sandler. Maybe it did have something to do with Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel penning the damn thing.
Too Much Hype? Boo!
The most over-hyped films of the summer? Anything starring Robert Downey Jr., which means both Iron Man and Tropic Thunder. These two films were heaped with a heaving, high pile of shit hype. Everyone kept talking about them as if they were God's gift to moviegoers everywhere. One kicked off the summer with soaring grace , and the other took it down in a swathed blaze of blistering ammo. On their own effortless merits, these two action-adventure films (one pretending to be a comedy, the other masquerading as a superhero flick) were quite good. They were well made pieces of pop art that managed to splash cold water on the face of a waning public. But when pitted against their rivals, I don't see anything new or interesting about them. Iron Man was just another well-made Comic Book adaptation. It is pretty much like every other well made, entertaining Comic Book adaptation. Like The Dark Knight, it is flawed, but the overall joyous rapture it brings sort of spreads a thick coat of mascara on that sorted business. For the record, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a better movie. It comes from a better script. It has more originality to it. But it just didn't capture the country's attention the way Iron Man did. And that's probably because of Robert Downey Jr. Sure. He is great. Problem is, he's great in everything. A lot of people are only now screaming about this fact. Because it feels cool having his name tumble off your lips. Praising an ex-junky that's cleaned up and made good is the Wacky Wall Walker of 2008. Giving Robert Downey Jr. a water cooler handjob is the IN thing to do at the moment. It's weird watching something like Comedy Central's TV Funhouse, which was released on DVD this summer, but comes from the year 2000. It contains a cartoon exploiting Downey and his drug fueled insanity issues. And it almost seems offensive. Why? Because the whole country is in love with Robert. He's the one that should be running for president. Fuck yes, he'd win. My problem is, Downey was always an insatiably watchable guy. Even in a film like Johnny Be Good. You can't take your eyes off him. If he can achieve that level of honesty on the screen while coked out of his mind, it shouldn't be a miracle that he's pulling in the kind of work he is now, sober. When he was a problem child, no one wanted to mess around with the kid. But still, he was creating the same kind of unforgettable characters that he's creating now. And people are over hyping it, plain and simply. Tropic Thunder is, structurally, a giant mess. Its narrative is all over the place. And it's sloppy storytelling at best. I personally didn't find it all that funny. Tom Cruise's performance is been way over hyped. It's not really that much of a laugh getter. Its just down right creepy. Which is amazing in and of itself, don't get me wrong. But it didn't make me vomit up a bucket of chuckles. I just sort of stared, momentarily checking my asshole for unexpected shrinkage. And if he's doing Joel Silver, which I heard was his main point of inspiration, I think he missed the mark a tiny bit.
See, I sound bitter. And I am. I saw both of these movies a good long while after they came out. And they didn't live up to the glorious words I'd heard squirted into the air like a geyser of semen. This is me reacting to the hype. I was expecting something to fly out of the screen and eviscerate me, like an Iraqi beheading. The simple fact is, I'd heard way too much. If I'd seen either film on a critical release schedule, a few weeks before everyone else, I, too, might have been overpowered by the knowledge that I didn't know what was coming next. I might have become part of the hype machine. I certainly bought into The Dark Knight, and spewed its greatest everywhere. But now, I think it's a merely adequate entertainment. Just like these last two films I mentioned above. Are you going to start calling me names now? More than likely.
Always was Worth the Hype. Whoop-Doo!
Of course, all of these summations are up for discussion, and not based on any of your opinions. So, change the vote in the designated dissertation space below. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, these votes weren't directly pulled from my own personal experience alone. I consulted some top-notch individuals that continue to provoke and reestablish who and what the Whoop-Doo Nation is. So be apart of that. What was your favorite summer movie experience? David Yates loved The Incredible Hulk. I thought it was too cartoony. Some people thought Step Brothers and Pineapple Express were too long. I thought they offered the perfect amount of air-conditioned time for my twelve dollars. Some people were turned on by Julian Moore in Savage Grace. I thought it was the most boring film of the year, thus far, summer or not.
Ricci was Hotter Than the Summer Sun, But No One Cared. Boo!
Let us know what you think! How did summer treat you? Was it as good as Entertainment Weekly is saying it was, or are you somewhat disappointed? And seriously, wtf happened to Speed Racer? Yates liked that one, too. Enough to call it his second favorite movie of the summer. Heck, I forgot it even came out.