Summer movie breakdown
Falls coming folks: Next week, valley kids will hump their packs back to school, the aspens will turn colors and a spate of Oscar-bait films will flood the multiplex (er, Riverwalk). But the recent release of Rush Hour 3 signalled the end of the summer blockbuster season; we can expect less computer graphics and more tearjerking performances about struggling artists. But before we wash the taste of overbuttered popcorn out of our mouths, lets take stock of the 2007 summer movie season.
This summer, Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, The Bourne Ultimatum and Rush Hour 3 stormed the box office to massive returns Spidey, Shrek and Sparrow all earned over $300 million. But almost all of them saw their attendance drop by over 50 percent the following weekend, hurt by disappointing word of mouth and sequel fatigue. Only Bourne had the legs to sustain a consistent audience beyond opening weekend mostly because it was awesome.
The Simpsons Movie began gestation over 10 years ago during the shows initial success, but official work didnt get off the ground until 2001. Six long years later, the rabid fanbase finally got their wish in the form of a long-playing movie celebrating Springfields finest. Even better, it didnt suck. By sticking to the shows signature ratio of humor to heart, the movie played like a beefed-up episode, with only slightly better production values. Nothing momentous happened in the Simpsons chronology, but it was damn funny.
Transformers gets major kudos for hiring original voicer Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, but the rest of the movies robots got lost in a blur of unfocused metal and explosions. Blame Michael Bay who else could screw up a movie about giant robots? Shia LaBeouf tried his Disney hardest, but the humans by and large seemed stiffer than the Decepticons and Autobots. More than meets the eye? Less, actually.
Live Free Or Die Hard served as a solid actioner despite several major handicaps, including an over-the-hill star, a weak villain, a 12-year gap between films and a PG-13 rating. Bruce Willis brought back John McLane with the same smartass mouth, and though the plot got a little gobbledegooky, the action setpieces largely satisfied with their lack of CGI. Improbably, the usually human McLane seemed indestructable this time around, but it was worth it to watch him kill a helicopter with a cop car.
Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow can pat themselves for delivering not one but two of the funniest films in decades with Knocked Up and Superbad. These self-proclaimed dirty movies with heart showcased unceasingly raunchy humor, but the relatable, likable characters who carried the movies elevated the films above mere comedy. Michael Cera, Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse filled a teen sex comedy with real-world yearning, while Rogen and Katherine Heigl made for the most believable odd couple in years. Special points go to Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann for wringing painfully funny lines from supporting roles.
Pixar continued a stellar run with Ratatouille, a beautifully rendered film about a French rat and his love of cooking. Brad Bird (Incredibles) never panders because hes making a kids movie, and he uses animation to create worlds both fantastical and recognizable. Youll leave the movie wanting to make a brilliant coq a vin, and you might even let a rodent help you.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry? License To Wed? Daddy Day Camp? Clunkers, all of em. The traditional comedy took a blow in light of other comedy breakthroughs (see above). Not even usually-hilarious Steve Carrell could save the overblown and ill-conceived Evan Almighty.
The moviegoing public didnt really notice, but Stardust wins points for sheer originality (at least this decade see The Princess Bride and youll know what we mean). Robert DeNiro chomped into his part as an effiminate sky pirate, and Michelle Pfeiffer both celebrated and made fun of her still-golden looks as an evil witch. Director Matthew Vaughn sought to create a fantasy non-fantasy fans could get into, and by peppering the film with modern wit, he mostly succeeded.
This summer, a hero both of and for our age cemented his legacy in The Bourne Ultimatum. Unlikely action star Matt Damon steadily grew darker, deeper and more dangerous over the course of three movies, and director Paul Greengrass streamlined his shaky, surveillance-camera aesthetic to create taut, you-are-there suspense. Together, along with a densely plotted but intelligent script and superlative supporting turns from Joan Allen and David Strathairn, they created a modern spy classic the Bond series of our time. In a world where even guns have video cameras, its nice to fantasize that we might have a Jason Bourne looking out for all of us, slinking unseen through the shadowed corners of the frame.Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or email@example.com.