the take

Vulture’s Summer Movie Review

New Line (Sex and the City), Paramount (remaining)

In the coming weeks, every magazine in America (including New York, we assume) will offer their summer movie preview, pumping up the nation’s moviegoers for the May-to-August season of explosions, superheroes, fast-food tie-ins, and remakes of sorta-popular TV shows. But hell, anyone can preview the summer; it’s apparent to us that the new trend is reviewing things before they even happen, whether they’re albums that haven’t been released yet or movies you’ve only seen the trailer of. So we here at the Vulture Department of Predicting the Future are pleased to offer our Summer Movie Review — in which we reveal the critical reaction and box-office results of summer 2008’s biggest popcorn flicks. We even got Paul Dergarabedian to weigh in!

May 1: Iron Man
Solid reviews and the kickass trailer probably don’t hurt, but it’s only when they find out that Ghostface Killah makes a cameo appearance in the film that reluctant audiences are moved to stop playing Grand Theft Auto IV (which was released the same week) and head to theaters. “The movie’s okay,” declares the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis. “But Ghostface is spellbinding.”

Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
First-weekend box office: $70 million
Total box office: $246 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “Audiences love Ghostface Killah! What a start to the summer!”

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
May 9: Speed Racer

The Wachowski brothers’ movie gets panned by critics, who complain bitterly that the candy-colored, frenetic Speed Racer has no story, no characters, and no believable dialogue. It turns out those old-fashioned qualities have no place in the summer of 2008, though, as audiences feel the need for speed. Says Logan Hill of New York, “I have been driven insane by this live-action cartoon and am now a resident of Bellevue Hospital.”

Rotten Tomatoes score: 12%
First-weekend box office: $61 million
Total box office: $226 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “Audiences really attended this movie in large numbers! This summer looks to be one of the best ever for the Hollywood box office!”

May 22: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Owing to the fact that he didn’t write or direct it, and was distracted during much of its making with the development of its spinoff Lego video game, George Lucas utterly fails to ruin our memories of another beloved film trilogy, and Kingdom features dialogue that doesn’t make everyone want to hammer sharpened pencils into their ears. Critics are lukewarm on Shia LaBeouf’s performance, impressed with how lifelike Harrison Ford still looks, and across-the-board wowed by Cate Blanchett, who goes on to earn the first Oscar nomination ever to be announced in June.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%
First-weekend box office: $83 million
Total box office: $307 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “Indiana Jones whipped all box-office records this weekend! And it’s only May!”

May 30: Sex and the City: The Movie
Despite flood-the-zone coverage in the New York Times — including an unprecedented one-day sweep of the front pages of “Sunday Styles,” “Arts & Leisure,” the Times Magazine, and the Book Review (for “Carrie Bradshaw’s” review of Salman Rushdie’s new novel, The Enchantress of Florence) — SATC fails to catch on with audiences, who are alienated by the mid-film slaying of Mr. Big. Critics, too, are unimpressed, for the most part — Slate’s Dana Stevens proclaims it “The kind of movie that makes you want to snap your credit cards in half out of shame,” while the Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Hunter declares it “a triumph for feminism.”

Rotten Tomatoes score: 41%
First-weekend box office: $19 million
Total box office: $61 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “Mr. Big may be a character in this movie, but the adjective that makes up his name was not apropos to this movie’s box office! However, every other movie this summer will be fabulously successful.”

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
June 13: The Happening

M. Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to Razzie-winning Lady in the Water features a global-warming-fueled environmental phenomenon which causes Earth’s entire population to spontaneously make violent attempts on their own lives. In Shyamalan’s most shocking surprise twist ever, the movie is even worse than that sounds. Reviews are universally unkind and A.O. Scott compares it (unfavorably) to that Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episode where everyone in Springfield kills themselves.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 14%
First-weekend box office: $11 million
Total box office: $12 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “In June, audiences aren’t really so much in the mood for films about people killing themselves. Fox would’ve been wise to put it out during Oscar season when it would’ve been a feel-good movie. But the summer box office is still on track, thanks to The Incredible Hulk!”

June 13: The Incredible Hulk
Critics despise this new version of the green-skinned smashing machine’s story, proclaiming it witless, obvious, and as dense as its hero. The Village Voice’s J. Hoberman reads the film as an apologia for the Iraq war — with Bruce Banner representing the American people, and the Hulk representing the military-industrial complex — and the interpretation spreads widely through the critical community. Nonetheless, the film is an enormous success, and the Monday trades are filled with the news that “HULK SMASH” the all-time record for best second-weekend-in-June opening.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 14%
First-weekend box office: $63 million
Total box office: $185 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “Audiences did like the Hulk when he got angry, and the box office swelled as if it had been injected with a radioactive substance! What a summer!”

Courtesy of Paramount
June 20: The Love Guru

Paramount does not screen The Love Guru for critics, but audiences aren’t fooled; Mike Myers is the only person in America who purchases a ticket for this misbegotten comedy, and even he sees a Saturday matinee. In an unprecedented show of sympathy, the nation’s critics do not review the film.

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
First-weekend box office: $5.50
Total box office: $5.50
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “Mike Myers is a huge star, so he’ll bounce back. But the summer is really humming along!”

July 2: Hancock
Will Smith’s future bankability is called into question when Hancock, about the trails of an alcoholic superhero, fails at the box office after being roundly criticized as unrealistic. “If he’s a superhero, wouldn’t he have been born with superhuman liver function, thus making it impossible for him to get drunk?” asks The New Yorker’s David Denby.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 38%
First-weekend box office: $26 million
Total box office: $78 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “Hey, what did you expect? The trailer looked really shitty! But movies about sober superheroes are still performing well this summer!”

July 18: The Dark Knight
As anticipated, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins sequel is dark, absorbing, epic, and awesome, garnering universal acclaim from the nation’s critics and sparking awards buzz for Heath Ledger’s incendiary final completed film role as the Joker (“He’s a lock for Best Actor!” proclaims Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil, five minutes into a screening). Sadly, the moviegoing public, so confused by Knight’s complicated promotional alternate-reality game, accidentally goes to see Mamma Mia!, which opens on the same day, instead.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
First-weekend box office: $0
Total box office: $220 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote:The Dark Knight? Does that have something to do with Harvey Dent’s campaign for district attorney?”

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
August 8: Pineapple Express

Even though Seth Rogen wrote it and David Gordon Green directed it, Express is widely hailed as Judd Apatow’s return to form after the failures of Drillbit Taylor and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, both of which he was also minimally involved with. The movie, about a pair of stoners on the run from the mob after witnessing a murder, is such a hit with critics and audiences that both nominated presidential candidates flirt briefly with adding pot decriminalization to their platforms before eventually just pledging, should they win, to double-criminalize murder.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
First-weekend box office: $33 million
Total box office: $124 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “Judd Apatow is back! What a summer!”

August 15: Tropic Thunder
Tom Cruise’s cameo as a bald, angry studio executive garners such great buzz that Paramount head Sumner Redstone demands Cruise’s role be expanded. Hurried summer reshoots in front of a green screen produce an additional hour of Cruise footage, which is smoothly inserted throughout the film. Critics and audiences alike love the character and sweep Tropic Thunder to an astonishing run at the box office; by September, Fat Angry Tom Cruise and Blackface Robert Downey Jr. have both had spinoff films green-lit.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Weekend box office: $43.8 million
Total box office: $201 million
Paul Dergarabedian quote: “This movie was shown in theaters! The box-office results of this film can be expressed in digits!”

Vulture’s Summer Movie Review