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Movie review: best and worst of summer 2008

Alex Schaaf

With the end of summer comes the end of the “summer blockbuster.” The fall and winter seasons are generally full of more high-quality films than the summer, with studios planning their release dates to attract more Oscar voters.
I started this article with the assumption that most of the summer movies would receive poor, bitter reviews like always, but when I looked at the list of movies I had seen, I was pleasantly surprised to realize how many movies I thoroughly enjoyed. All in all, the summer of 2008 was made up of a masterpiece, a few treats, and a lot of just plain enjoyable movies.
The masterpiece, of course, was “The Dark Knight,” the latest in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise. After “Batman Begins,” expectations were through the roof for the follow-up, even without the added drama of Heath Ledger’s death.
The Dark Knight was easily my most anticipated film of the entire year, and it did not disappoint. With so many layers, this movie stayed true to Nolan’s vision, presenting a dark, harsh Gotham City, one that is not clear-cut as to who is right and who is wrong.
Nolan’s screenplay explored the ambiguous nature of crime — when is crime good, when is it bad? How far should someone go to prevent what they see as evil? Ledger’s performance as the Joker was one that will be remembered for a long time to come, and easily deserves an Oscar nomination.
Another movie that hit on all cylinders came as more of a surprise. “Wall-E,” the latest Pixar movie, was charming, funny, and intellectual, all this from a supposed kid’s movie. Sometimes the best films are those that have the widest appeal, and this was surely one of those.
While the younger audience could be entertained by the simple-yet-surreal plot of one robot being the last moving thing on Earth, the adults could notice and appreciate the warning signs that the movie was putting out: Keep it up, and this is where the world is headed.
Another treat from the summer was the other superhero movie — “The Incredible Hulk.” Edward Norton gave a great performance in an attempt to salvage the saga from the last Hulk movie, which just about doomed the franchise to failure.
A few of the movies, however, did live up to the standard of a generic summer movie. Like many of us, I try not to go to movies I know will be bad, as I do not have that much cash to spend on seeing every movie possible.
But somehow I found myself inside the theater for “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” the latest Adam Sandler movie. This movie employed several idiotic plotlines that have all been used before in prior Sandler movies, leading to a very predictable-yet-unbelievable script that was mostly embarrassing for the actors.
Another movie that led to more groans than smiles was “College,” the generically named and even more generically written movie that followed up on movies like “American Pie,” “Superbad,” and other similar movies. The problem was, “College” offered nothing new and simply recycled all the gags that “Superbad” and other movies had already used to success.
Some movies did not live up to “The Dark Knight,” but did not quite fall to the depths of “College” and “Zohan”: “Get Smart,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “Hancock,” and “Pineapple Express” were all entertaining enough.
Suggestion for what to see next? “Burn After Reading.” While it has not been getting perfect reviews as of yet, let us remember: the last time the Coen Brothers followed up a dark, murderous thriller (“Fargo,” “No Country for Old Men”), they gave us “The Big Lebowski.” That alone deems “Burn After Reading” a must-see.