Summer Movie Wrap-Up

Business first: congrats to Lexi, who won a signed edition of THE TUNNELS last week! Afraid I’ve got nothing for you today, but stay tuned: next week, we here at The Kill Zone will be giving away a slew of freebies…

Obviously the summer blockbuster season has not yet drawn to a close, so this post is slightly premature. However, I just returned from a week’s stay at my parent’s house (read: free babysitting). My parents live in a town where everything closes around 8PM (seriously, there’s practically a curfew) and I was jet-lagged enough that a 10PM showtime was within the realm of possibility. So I’m proud to say that I broke my own record for most films seen in a single week (and mind you, this was around the same time all those Olympic records were being broken in Beijing. Coincidence?)

Since I wrote posts earlier this summer on worst blockbusters I’ve ever seen and films I’ve enjoyed so far, I thought I’d post a round-up of the latest offerings. So grab your popcorn and pull up a chair for…


With any luck, this will become a regular thing (but no promises—do you have any idea what movie tickets cost in San Francisco?!)

Loved this one. Sweet story told with all the wry humor and killer cinematography that Pixar is known for. Nice little save-the-planet-and-beware-corporate-monoliths message tucked in
between nods to classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love it when G-rated films factor in adult audiences. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, the animation is phenomenal.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
I liked Rachel Weisz before, and my respect for her went up exponentially after seeing this film—brilliantly, she decided against participating in it. Smart career move. Brendan Fraser tends to be a lot of fun to watch, but even he couldn’t save this mess. Maria Bello stumbles along with a barely-passable accent and a bewildered expression on her face throughout, as if she’s not quite sure how she landed in this role (a question I harbored myself). And the son from the last film has morphed from a cute little British boy to a man that now (inexplicably) has a Southie accent and is way too old to be the child of Bello and Fraser. Who cast this dreck? Jet Li has the best part, and he barely speaks and spends most of the film as a CGI clay figurine.
Even if you’re trapped on a plane and the choice is between watching this or staring at the seat in front of you, stare at the seat. Seriously, it’s that bad.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
I was leery of this one, but had foolishly allowed my husband to choose the night’s entertainment. I thought the first installment was just silly, despite Ron Perlman’s likeable performance as the main character. But I buckled down, gritted my teeth…and was pleasantly surprised. The story was much darker and more based on myth than traditional comic book tales, and director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) brought just as many quirky characters to play here. I also liked that the CGI was involved but didn’t dominate, and even though the story was light on substance, the settings were incredible and visually astonishing. Much better than the first (although I still find Selma Blair annoying).

I was also not that excited for this one, despite the fact that Will Smith is a reliable summer movie action star. But again, I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. This film presented an interesting twist on traditional superhero fare, which gave it more depth than you generally see in these films. Though it was short (about 90 minutes, by my reckoning) it felt like the perfect length for the story it had to tell. Not a must-see, but definitely worth renting.

The Dark Knight
I snuck into a matinee of this a few weeks ago when I should have been working—and man, am I happy I did. I loved this movie—for me it’s neck and neck with Ironman for my favorite of the summer (although with Tropic Thunder on the horizon, all bets are off). Christian Bales was great, poor Heath Ledger did an incredible job with his incarnation of The Joker, and it was such a relief to see Maggie Gyllenhaal in the role that Katie Holmes almost ruined in Batman Begins. Critics have complained that it was dark for a blockbuster, but that was precisely what I liked, that it didn’t shy away from that. Highly recommended.

So I’d love to hear what you’ve seen this summer, and whether you agree/disagree with my assessment. As always, questions/comments/unwavering support are welcome.

18 thoughts on “Summer Movie Wrap-Up

  1. Loved Wall-E! Even the closing credits were fantastic.

    We also just saw Tell No One, the movie based on the (very very good)Harlan Coben thriller. Don’t want to spoil anything, and won’t, but the differences between the book and the movie are fascinating! And someday, when everyone has seen it, let’s all chat.

    OR! Are you all coming to Crime Bake? Harlan Coben is the guest of honor, and that’ll be amazing.
    Check it out at
    and sign up now…spaces are going fast.

    Then we can all talk to HIM about it. And see how he feels about the venue being changed from New York to France. And a whole lot of other stuff.

  2. Good reviews. Sadly I seldom get to the cinema, therefore I watch movies when I can on video and I would like to add to your pantheon of movies one entitled “Black Book”.

    If you’ve seen it then you know, it ain’t new (came out in Holland in 2006, US in 2007) but it was on Blockbuster’s new release shelf two months ago…nor is it in English…it’s Dutch. With the help of a few good subtitles it has climbed it’s way into the list of movies I consider “dadgum spectacular!”

    Nazis, Jewish resistance, Love, Action, and seriously well done scene setting made it well worth the money. Four Thumbs Up for Black Book.

  3. Oh…Horton Hears a Who made my kids laugh till they nearly blew snot on the seat in front of them.

    Any movie that includes a reference such as “my world has ponies that eat rainbows and poop butterflies” always flies with with my boys.

  4. Hi Hank! I can’t wait to see Tell No One, we’ll have to chat about it when I do. When is Crimebake? I don’t know if I can tolerate much more flying after this summer, the airlines have been killing me softly with flight delays.
    And Basil, these sound like great recommendations, will have to check them out.

  5. Oh, yes, Black Book, I second Basil’s recommendation! Fantastic.

    And also, if you missed it, The Lives of Others. Really, maybe the best movie ever for writers.

    Crime Bake is November 14, 15, 16, just outside Boston. Not only Harlan Coben, but terrific panels with Hallie Ephron, The Poison Lady, Peter Abrahams,Brunonia Brry, Linda Barnes, and many more. Agents galore.
    Plus! Mystery Bingo. (How can you resist?)

  6. I’ve seen two of the ones you mentioned — Hancock and Mummy. Agree with your assessment of both. I’m going to see Batman at the IMAX this weekend.

    When did Tell No One come out?? I didn’t realize it was in the theaters! Will have to check to see where it’s playing. I liked the book, of course.

  7. errrmmmp…
    hated every movie I’ve seen so far this Summer, including Iron Man, which makes me in a minority of one…uh…two, my husband hated it too.
    Haven’t seen Batman…’nother one everyone loved, and I’m scared of hating.
    When did “Tell No One” show up.
    Am in Central Michigan, and will probably have to wait for the DVD.
    ‘Black Book’ sounds terrific. Will try to find it here…
    Thanks for the recommendations, wish I could return the favor, but on serious reflection, have not seen anything in months that I’d tell anyone else to see. Woe…
    Bari Wood

  8. I second the recommendation for Black Book (wasn’t the acting amazing? That first love scene where he’s figuring out stuff was incredible) and The Lives of Others. Sebastian Koch can do the movie to my book any time. 🙂 In the vein of those movies I also recommend Gloomy Sunday. Terrific story, acting, cinematography, you name it.

  9. Black Book is surprisingly good. I watched it twice. Speaking of movies, NetFlix just introduced on-demand streaming movies to your TV set with a $100 black box you connect to the Internet. They’re already killing Blockbuster. This should be the final straw.

  10. Unfortunately, the last movie I went to see was the New Indiana Jones. I really didn’t care for it too much. Happily, it didn’t ruin the rest of the franchise for me.

    Hank — I really enjoyed Crimebake last year, especially the trial of Jack Reacher.

  11. Enjoyed WALL-E, but it was too preachy. My kids loved it. Enjoyed Ironman, not the best movie ever made, but worth seeing. Loved The Dark Knight after hating pretty much every Batman movie after the first Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson version. There were problems with TDK, but they didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment. My biggest problem was that the writers didn’t trust the audience. It was 20 minute too long–all the narrative explaining what we just saw, especially at the end. I don’t need to be told about all the sacrifices everyone made. They brilliantly showed it–I felt like I was being talked down to. The Joker was brilliant as well, but again, he over-explained what was well-shown.

    I wanted to see The Mummy. I loved #1, liked #2 and hoped this would be at least that good. Bummer.

    I did see Mamma Mia with my two teen-age daughters. I very much enjoyed it. Definitely a good mother/daughter movie. I cried. But that’s not saying much. I cried at the end of Monsters Inc when Sully said good-bye to Boo, I cried at the beginning–and end–of Finding Nemo. I cried in the damn Rugrats movie when Chuckie is singing about wanting a mom.

    I think I just blew my public image of a calm, cool, collected crime writer . . .

  12. I’m eager to see Hancock, but let me just say: I. Hated. The Dark Knight. Thought it was WAY too long. I liked the dark take on the tale, but the whole thing devolved into endless rounds of plot complications and special effects that didn’t hold my my interest. I didn’t like the Batman at all (especially his growly Batman voice–he sounded like someone with throat disease.) I even got tired of the Joker–his performance was a one-trick snufflefest. And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the two guys were so gaga over the female character as played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Oh well. I’m sure there will be another one next summer. See how that one does.

  13. Allison, I promise I won’t tell anyone (of course, I’ve been known to cry at Johnson & Johnson commercials, so you won’t catch me throwing stones…)
    And Kathryn, you raise a good point re: TDK, there was too much exposition at the end.

  14. I’ve seen Dark Knight twice (so far) plus Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull — not overly impressed. The nuke the fridge scene took it over the edge and the ending sucked. I also loved Get Smart, as a big fan of the original show. Want to see Wall-E and Tropic Thunder.

  15. Just Wall E for me – no adult movies get seen until they are on DVD! I loved it though and I have a feeling I will be seeing it again and again with my boys when it’s out on DVD. Have to check out the others – though at least now I get a sense of which I can give a miss!

  16. OMG I had completely forgotten about the nuke/fridge survival scene. That was beyond the pale in terms of absurdity. Only good scene in that film was the one in the warehouse.

  17. RJ–what a nice thing to hear!Thanks! Hope to see you this year..

    And oh, crying. On one of our first dates, my now-husband took me to see Sling Blade. (We were planning on seeing something else, but for some reason,we didn’t.)

    About ten minutes in, I started crying. Sniffing.

    Jonathan leaned over and whispered: Do you have a cold?

    No, I said, I’m crying.

    (He’s baffled now. Remember, he hardly knows me.) But it’s not sad, he said.

    No, I said. But it’s going to be sad.

  18. Okay, I didn’t check through all the comments, but I’m guessing I’m the only one who hated The Dark Knight. Not all of it. I went along with it the first two thirds. But then it felt like it should be over–and it wasn’t. I thought Christian Bale was stone-faced and yeah, Heath Ledger was great, but even his one-note character got tedious after a while. And I just couldn’t get past the physical impossibility of Two-Face still being able to function with the excruciating pain of his face being burned away.

    All in all, far too depressing with all the death and destruction. I walked out about 20-30 minutes before the (long-overdue) end.

    What did I like? Ironman, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Wall-E.

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