Every May through August, studio execs see their biggest tentpole flicks become mega-hits (Iron Man, The Dark Knight) or mega-flops (Love Guru, The X-Files: I Want to Believe) to celebrate or cry over on Monday morning. Regardless of their box office success, we at Fandango have compiled our list of trends and observations of this summer in movies. Behold the Dirty Dozen 2008!
1. Robert Downey Jr. Is the Man: Book-ending the summer with Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, the former bad boy had two No. 1 opening weekends and is experiencing a career high.
2. Superheroes and Oscars:
If there is anything this summer has shown us is that comic-book movies must now have Oscar-caliber stars (Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Edward Norton, Tim Roth, William Hurt) or serious actors with indie cred (Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal) who can bring the gravitas that these complex characters were always intended to have. An Oscar win or nom can get you respect, but not necessarily box office success. Most of these aforementioned stars’ work in comic book movies gave them more exposure worldwide than the Oscar films for which they were nominated. (Tim Roth and Rob Roy anyone?) Hollywood’s next challenge: Convince Daniel Day Lewis to play “The Flash.”
3. Chick Flicks Matter—Really:
Sex and the City and Mamma Mia! proved you cannot ignore the female audience because they’ll turn out in droves if something good is made for them.
4. Below the Belt: For better or worse, we saw a bare-assed Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Will Ferrell’s (prosthetic) man business on a set of drums in Step Brothers. This continued what already began in spring with Jason Segal’s wiener in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Amir Talai’s little fireman in Harold and Kumar: Escape to Guantanamo Bay.
5. Comic Relief: Funnymen Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Kevin Nealon and Nick Swardson made several appearances this summer in movies like Zohan, Get Smart and Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder and The House Bunny – making them this summer’s go-to guys to pepper any comedy with a little extra spice.
6. Bankable Brendan Fraser: No one expected Journey to the Center of the Earth to do as well as it did and the Mummy 3 held up well against the competition. OK, we’ve seen him flex his biceps and pectoral muscles. Now can Fraser please go back to flexing his acting muscles like he did in Crash, The Quiet American and Gods and Monsters, so audiences can be reminded once again that he’s more than just a pretty face?
7. But What I Really Want to Do Is…: Swingers star Jon Favreau, Chicago Hope’s Peter Berg and Head of the Class cast member Brian Robbins have all but left their humble acting beginnings to direct, respectively, Iron Man, Hancock and Meet Dave. Former child actor Peter Billingsley exec produced Iron Man, while Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst helmed the kid-friendly The Longshots.
8. Stick to the Formula: With Hancock, Will Smith returned to the same July 4th holiday weekend that proved previously successful for him with Independence Day and the Men in Black movies. Judd Apatow continued to prove that August is a lucky month for him with the release of Pineapple Express, which follows his previous August hits like Superbad Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and The 40-Year Old Virgin.
9. Twice Is Nice: Good things apparently come in pairs. Among them we had 2 Robert Downey Jr. movies, 2 Jack Black movies, 2 Brendan Fraser movies, 2 Angelina Jolie movies, 2 Jet Li movies, 2 animals in space movies (in one month!), 2 Marvel comics movies…
10. Going Green: The Incredible Hulk was given the Green Seal from the Environment Media Association, with whom the filmmakers worked closely with to adhere to its list of green guidelines for filmmaking. That included using sustainable and renewable materials, low-VOC and no-VOC paints and non-toxic cleaning products among others. M. Night Shyamalan’s plant-revenge flick The Happening offered up some weird environmental commentary. Meanwhile the animated Wall-E showed us what would happen to our world if we DIDN’T start making such changes.
11. Eddie Murphy Is Dead….Again: Last summer Norbit got terrible reviews, but still collected at the box office – leaving many critics scratching their heads. This year Meet Dave got terrible reviews, and did even worse at the box office.
12: “Did You See…?”: 2008 movies had an endless supply of cameos –
whether it was to lend some credibility with actors starring as themselves, or enlisting celebrity friends to lend a helping hand in the form of uncredited star power. Zohan was populated by the likes of Kevin James, Henry Winkler, Bruce Vilanch, John McEnroe, George Takei, Dave Matthews and Mariah Carey. Get Smart had Bill Murray, Ryan Seacrest and Patrick Warburton. The Love Guru was riddled with cameos by Val Kilmer, Jessica Simpson, Mariska Hargitay, Kanye West, Deepak Chopra and NHL-er Rob Blake. On the superhero front, Iron Man surprised us with Sam Jackson while Robert Downey Jr. popped up in The Incredible Hulk. Tropic Thunder enlisted help from a host of stars including Jon Voight, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Bateman, Lance Bass, Tobey Maguire and Alicia Silverstone. Sex and the City boasted the fashionable Andre Leon Talley and writer Plum Sykes among others. Even those behind the scenes couldn't help but give themselves small parts in their own movies. Iron Man filmmaker John Favreau and exec producer Peter Billingsley had screen time, Zohan helmer Dennis Dugan appeared in his own film, as did exec producer Robert Smigel, while Hancock producers Akiva Goldsman and Michael Mann appeared as boardroom executives. And of course, Stan Lee makes appearances in all Marvel films, which this summer meant Iron Man and Hulk.
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