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Rundown: Geek movies of summer 2008

In movie industry terms, the "summer movie season" actually begins before summer, on the first weekend in May (as in, <strong>this weekend</strong>, which is why we're resurrecting this post from March). There are 18 geek-worthy major motion pictures scheduled for U.S. release in this time-span, so here's your rundown.

movies.jpgIn movie industry terms, the "summer movie season" actually begins before summer, on the first weekend in May (as in, this weekend, which is why we're resurrecting this post from March), and ends before summer, on the last weekend in August. There are 18 geek-centric major motion pictures scheduled for U.S. release in this time-span, so here's your rundown.

Based on early data--which for some films is sparse--I've arrogantly rated each movie on the only scale that matters: What point in the film's life cycle I'll make an effort to see it. The categories are: Opening Night, Opening Weekend, Full Price, Matinee, Rental, TV, or Never. All ratings are subject to change once I find out more about the films in question. (Don't ask me about torrenting; that's a whole other category.)

  • Iron Man (May 2) Our lead-off hitter for the summer season, this one promises to be a lot of fun in a plot-optional, popcorn spectacle kind of way. The casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man is inspired, and fanboy/director Jon Favreau looks to have gone the "it's a comic book, not high art" route of snarky cool. Plus, we get to see Jeff Bridges in a battlesuit at some point, which is just too surreal to miss. Rating: Opening Weekend. [Trailer here]
  • Speed Racer (May 9) The guys who wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy, which were basically overly serious live-action anime flicks, are doing an overly serious live-action rendition of one of the most juvenile anime series ever. The effects look like a CGI Hot Wheels racetrack come to life, the frenetic visual tone looks seizure-inducing, and the film is way overcast with expensive heavies who are probably going to mail in the performances for the paychecks. Oh, and it's a PG-rated kids flick. Expect this to be the first major flop of the season. Rating: TV. [Trailer here]
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (May 16) It looks and sounds and feels and has the same cast and director and scriptwriter and producer and effects house as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. If you liked that, you'll like this, though I found the first film to be a lightweight, kid-friendly Lord of the Rings substitute. Which was the point. Rating: Rental. [Trailer here]
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (May 23) The first mass-appeal "Holy crap, everybody has to see this" film of the year. Despite my misgivings about this Indy indulging in a UFO hysteria plot, possibly introducing Shia Labeouf as Indy's son so the franchise can go on without Harrison Ford, and the general Episode I vibe coming off the flick, you still have to roll the dice on this being even half as good as Raiders. Rating: Opening Weekend. [Trailer here]
  • The Happening (June 13) The latest attempt by director M. Night Shyamalan to prove that The Sixth Sense wasn't just beginners' luck, this one chronicles Mark Wahlberg (bad sign) as he attempts to save his family from an epidemic that causes millions of people to commit suicide. Based on how Shyamalan's films have been trending, there's a chance this movie could have the same effect. Rating: TV. [Trailer here]
  • The Incredible Hulk (June 17) Edward Norton and Tim Roth go mano-a-mano as the Hulk and his equally gamma-powered nemesis, the Abomination, respectively. This would make for another great plot-optional popcorn-fest, so long as Norton doesn't try to muck it up with too much depth and symbolism. That's what doomed the last Hulk film. Rating: Full Price. [Trailer here]
  • Get Smart (June 20) Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart. Genius. Alan Arkin as The Chief is just icing on the cake at that point. Probably won't be an eternal classic, but should do everything you expect. Rating: Rental. [Trailer here]
  • WALL-E (June 27) Short Circuit meets A.I. by way of Cars. Pixar's next computer-animated cash-cow tells the story of WALL-E, a trash-cleanup robot alone on Earth for 700 years after humans have moved on, and left the planet a wreck. He finally gets some company when us jerk Homo Sapiens send a probe back to check on the old homestead. Expect a plucking of heartstrings, uber-cute slapstick comedy, and about a billion merchandising spinoffs. Rating: Matinee. [Trailer here]
  • Hancock (July 2) The obligatory Will Smith July 4 weekend tentpole film, this one reads as a cross between My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Arrested Development. (Hopefully more the latter than the former.) Smith plays a hapless, alcoholic, homeless ex-superhero who gets his image rehabilitated by publicist Jason Bateman. It has that "all the funny bits were in the trailer" sheen to it. Rating: TV. [Trailer here]
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army (July 11) Another flick with almost exactly the same cast and production team as the original, which is a good thing. Director Guillermo del Toro's visual genius, Ron Perlman's put-upon cynical superheroics, plus Jeffrey Tambor as a middle management spymaster. Disposable pulp cinema at its best. Rating: Matinee. [Trailer here]
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (July 11) Remember how awful the family-friendly Around the World in 80 Days remake starring Jackie Chan turned out to be? Okay, substitute Journey to the Center of the Earth for 80 days, and Brendan Fraser for Jackie, and then make it 3-D. This has trainwreck written all over it. Rating: Never. [Trailer here]
  • Meet Dave (July 11) Okay, so the pitch went something like this: "Remember that one alien from Men in Black that was actually a robot dude with a little tiny alien pilot in his head? What if we made a movie about that dude, only the robot was Eddie Murphy, and the aliens were some B-list hotties and comedians? And then the robot falls in love." That's Meet Dave. Rating: Never. [No trailer yet.]
  • The Dark Knight (July 18) The other must-see cinema event this summer, this sequel to the excellent Batman Begins had an X-men 2-like chance of outshining its predecessor until Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker, died of an overdose in January. His death came after he finished filming the part, but the reality of Ledger may overshadow what looks to have been an extraordinary performance as Batman's greatest villain. Either way, this is the one film nobody, geek or otherwise, can afford to ignore. Rating: Opening Night. [Trailer here]
  • X-Files 2 (July 25) It's still being filmed, they haven't settled on a title, and rumor has it the plot (as such) will focus on Mulder and Scully's relationship, rather than finally tying up all the annoying loose ends from the ran-three-seasons-too-long conspiracy series. So what's the point? Rating: TV. [No trailer yet]
  • Wanted (July 27) Another comic book film, only they've left out the costumes this time. It's got Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, high-end special effects, and the stars are the villains. It's also directed by the same dude who did the cult Nightwatch Russian horror fantasy film, and it's an R-rated dark action flick. Can't be that bad. Rating: Matinee. [Trailer here]
  • Lost Boys 2: The Tribe (Sometime in July) Somebody decided to resurrect the corpse of Corey Feldman's career, since the Feldster reprises his role as Edgar Frog, the slacker-turned-vampire-hunter from the original Lost Boys. Now, the first Lost Boys was a cult classic because it was legitimately scary, funny, and a surprisingly lucid allegory for the causes and effects of teenage rebellion. This one looks like a low-budget Fast and the Furious spinoff starring extras from Laguna Beach--only not played for laughs. Rating: TV. [Trailer here]
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (August 1) Apparently, somebody made the mistake of telling a producer that ancient China had almost as many mummies as ancient Egypt, which the studio reads as "we can do a Mummy sequel with Jet Li." To Universal's credit, they aren't skimping on the budget, and they've got most of the cast back, but you don't usually waste a major action movie on late August, so the signs are bad. Still, it can't be worse than The Scorpion King. Rating: Rental. [No trailer yet]
  • Babylon A.D. (August 29) The Chronicles of Riddick meets Johnny Mnemonic. Vin Diesel is a sci-fi mercenary teamed with Michelle Yeoh as a kung-fu nun (seriously) who must escort a genetically engineered Typhoid Mary out of post-apocalyptic Russia before she poisons all of humanity. Another brain-dead action flick, trying to get your teenager's last movie-going dollar before heading back to school. Rating: TV. [No trailer yet]

So, which ones are you going to shell out money to see?

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

30 comments
eric_harris_76
eric_harris_76

Could we have an update for the movies yet to open? And possibly capsule reviews for the movies on the list you've seen?

drpruner
drpruner

When I was a child I stopped reading Superman and Iron Man because their science was laughable. (To a child!) The Phantom and Little Lulu were my favorites because the former had a reasonable grip on reality and the latter was adult humor in the best sense. (Remember The Little Beelbleberry Picker? Remember Tubby's nephew who said "Mice!" when he was angry because he was too young to say "Rats!" ?) The Phantom movie was true to its origins BTW. Recommended. I enjoyed the first Indy flick, so there's a possibility. Get Smart was passable on TV, and I like the casting of the film, so maybe. Shyamalan at least has his own vision, so he's worth seeing for that. (Some still don't like Picasso's art, in any of its embodiments.) "Michelle Yeoh as a kung-fu nun (seriously)" You've lost me there. I thought everyone knew that Chinese martial arts had religious origins. And that woman's beauty is one of earth's great natural resources. Does anyone remember that Vin Diesel got [deservedly] good reviews for his acting in that boiler room flick? Does Diesel? Sometimes a prostitute can be found wearing a muscle shirt and tats. What about the Chan/Li flick? One local [Anglo] reviewer panned it because he didn't understand the cultural references, which come from two gen-you-wine Chinese guys! My son and I plan to see it soon. Li is a very good actor [viz. The One], and Chan is a natural-born moviemaker.

MinJRB
MinJRB

May 2nd to Labor Day - 122 days Number of geek movies - 18 Total movie time (approx) - 31.5 hours Total movie dollars - $180 providing no kids go. Smile on my face and wonderful memories because this divorcee will finally get to see all the movies he wants to see without having to testify before a congressional committee as to why chick flicks are not the only movie in the the theaters! - PRICELESS!!!

Tater Salad
Tater Salad

Alas, I must be turning into an adult geek. A few years ago, (okay maybe 10 years ago) I would've been excited about all of these. None of these appeal to me now, except maybe "Get Smart". Time to start pricing ham radios. I love the rating system and Jay's comments though.

marioveguez
marioveguez

I'm 40 and have a family & we rarely get to the movies, but I am going to make the effort for Indiana Jones and i would love to see Iron Man. I might have to actually convince my wife with lots of chores, dinner and a chick-flick for that one, plus have my son begging to go as the clincher. I'd like to see Batman, but I'll probably have to wait for it and most of these others to actually hit the video shelves. Speed Racer, I'm guessing, had best be extremely good, or it will be going "Straight-to-video" & in the $7.99 bin at Wal-Mart so fast it will make your head spin. I'm looking forward to seeing Prince Caspian - maybe I'll get lucky enough to see that in theaters as well.

Trashy
Trashy

The Dark Knight (Heath Ledgers performance is VERY dark) & Get Smart!

jeffshultz
jeffshultz

Well, as a Chronicles of Narnia fan from childhood, I'll definitely be seeing Prince Caspian - I'm hoping they'll manage to do the whole series. I'm also a sucker for Disney/Pixar, and when you come down to it... they haven't wiffed one yet.

acecase
acecase

Garmon, were you asleep when making these reviews, or are you trying to imitate one of those TV shows who do movie review and have lost all sense of what is a good movie and have replaced taste with a witless editorial about the "intent" of a filmmaker. I hope you???re a good technician because you suck at movie reviews. I hope you have another day job.

WoW &gt; Work
WoW &gt; Work

First, I don't see Mark Wahlberg as a "bad sign." He's actually a good actor, like in Invincible. Happening should be good, but I hope Mark does a kick ass job in the Max Payne movie they're currently shooting. As for Speed Racer, here's my beef, and it's a cartoon spoiler warning, (unless you know your cartoon well. And if you do, this should worry you too.) Why are there 2 different actors for Rex Racer (Scott Porter) and Racer X (Matthew Fox)? They're supposed to be the same person! Hopefully Porter is a younger Rex, and Fox is an older Racer X/Rex. I'm also worried about the Mach 5. In a screen shot from the movie, I could swear I saw what looks like...a Mach 6? Please, no. The movie looks semi-good. But it probably isn't a movie going experience, I'm sure. But Christina Ricci as Trixie? Do want!

cdh987
cdh987

I am really looking forward to the Indiana Jones and the Batman (Dark Knight) movies. I would also like to see Ironman, Hellboy 2, Get Smart (Steve Carrel is great!), the Hulk, Hancock, Wanted, Mummy, and yes even the Lost Boys 2(it might be good...>.> one can hope anyway). I like the X-files and who doesn't like Gillian but the whole 'movie' plot sort of trailed off into obscurity in my opinion. I ended hoping that the shows wouldn't be about 'the plot' every week, so I am wont be in a rush to see that one... though probably will anyway. EDIT: Oh yeah I forgot about Speedracer... I will definately want to see that one too

briantw
briantw

Hmmm... this is a great article. Mind if I change the dates of release to be relevant to South Africa and re-post with full credit elsewhere? :-)

barry
barry

Hardcore X-Files fan that I am I will probably see the new film even if it's panned. It would be nice to see Muller and Scully together one more time. I'm also looking forward to another shot of Indiana Jones just for the "back in the day" vibe.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

It's on my shortlist of movies to see. Actually, I'd like to have the Ironman suit. Talk about your power suits!

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Speed Racer was the pits when I was a kid, Hellboy hasn't done anything for me yet, and the rest of them appear pretty unappealing.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I never liked Speed Racer as a kid -- even my kid sensibilities were to sophisticated for that bit of animation series. But I did like the cars. This has matin?e with the nephew written all over it. At 8-years old, he is going to love it. Now I want a modern interpretation of Ultra Man!

bvolpone
bvolpone

I liked all of the Chronicles of Narnia books, although somehow I never managed to read The Last Battle (go figure!). I appreciated that they stayed pretty true to the story in TLTWATW, but I wouldn't mind at all if they deviated in Prince Caspian. That story was the most boring of all the installments. The Horse and His Boy was just ok. I think the best story may have been The Silver Chair.

online
online

I read over on the IO9 blog that Disney may not do any more of the Narnia books beyond the third (Voyage of the Dawn Treader). Apparently Disney and Pixar have bought up a whole bunch of domain names related to Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books, so it looks like some of those will come Barsooming down the pike after the turn of the decade.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Those who can't cry and moan. I'm sure we would all like to see your best effort - feel free to post it. James

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

So long as you link back to the original post, go ahead and tweak for the SA audience.

Berry.jeff
Berry.jeff

You are correct Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, makes Ironman a must see. Wanted is intriguing, gotta love the villains. But Batman will definitely be an opening night flick with my fellow nerds.

ChewyBass
ChewyBass

Tron will be out in 2009 or 2010. Hopefully that will be worth the wait. My only gripe with your list is Wall-E. I'm 42 and can't wait to watch that one. With or without the kids.

JPru22
JPru22

I have an eight yr. old son, so i know what you mean. He has been begging to watch Speed Racer, Iron Man, Indiana Jones, and especially Wall-e. Will proabably have to go see Narnia because we saw the first one. Besides those I would like to see Get Smart (Love Steve), The Happening (Love Mark) and possibly The Dark Knight (Love(d) Heath).

LouCed
LouCed

I remember watching Speed Racer growing up in South America. Seemed better, people that got shot died and got hurt, but here in the US it seemed there was a lot of guns being shot out of hands with machine guns :) I won't go see it though, the trailer looked awful.

jim2350
jim2350

I guess I'll be showing my age here (read: old-timer!), but the animation for the 60's version of Speed Racer was good for IT'S TIME. (The late 90's remake did little to impress me.) When you compare Speed Racer with what was on TV at the time - 8th Man, Gigantor, Kimba, Marine Boy, Astro Boy, etc. - it was comparable and very cool to watch. By today's standards, it now looks like it was made with an Etch-A-Sketch! And don't forget, some of us originally watched these shows on black-and-white TV! (YIKES - how old is he??) We didn't know any better. My short list this summer includes Ironman, Dark Knight and Indiana Jones. My curiousity is piqued by Wanted, Get Smart, Hell-Boy and WALL-E. I'm on the fence about the Hulk. The rest do seem slated for TV and/or rentals.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

I remember Speed Racer when I was kid, but never really got into it either. I just remember the animation being SO bad. Anime before anime was cool. The only anime I ever really remember liking when I was a kid was Kimba The White Lion. I doubt there will ever be movie made of that. Oh wait... there was - The Lion King. http://www.kimbawlion.com/rant2.htm

Spelurker
Spelurker

If either Prince Caspian or Voyage of the Dawn Treader make half as much money as the first movie, then they'll keep making the series. It grossed over 3/4 of a billion dollars worldwide.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

The Speed Racer anime, that is. along with Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets.

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