22 Movies to Watch This Summer

Batman and JokerMay 2008 is here, and that can only mean one thing: I grow another year older, and the summer movie season has started. Okay, that’s two things, but read on anyway! There are a lot of great movies coming out this year, or, at least, movies that appear to be great. From a new Batman movie to one of the most anticipated films of all time – the fourth Indiana Jones movie – buzz is at an all-time high.

But where there is buzz, there is unrealistic expectations… will the 2008 summer movie season offer some major disappointments? If either of those aforementioned films disappoint, I will go on a rampage, and, unfortunately, I feel like I’ve set the bar way too high. Still, beyond those two films, there are 20 other movies that might be worth seeing this summer – and this only counts the mainstream films that have released their trailers. Of course, all the real heavy hitters have showed their true colors by now… or have they?

Also, take my 2008 summer movie survey – you could win an Eastern Promises DVD.

  1. The Dark Knight
    I have been waiting with eager anticipation for over a year for the follow-up to the excellent Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan’s original was a classic, and perhaps the best comic book movie of all time, and there’s no reason to expect any less here. The all-star, Oscar-glistening cast is returning, only with an upgrade of talent that includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart and, of course, Heath Ledger as Batman’s arch villain. Many people think Ledger’s performance drove him to death, and from everything the previews indicate, he turns in a remarkable performance. Is July really two months away?
  2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
    Harrison Ford really hasn’t done anything noteworthy in years, so it’s only fitting he returns to one of his most adored roles. The fact that Ford, Lucas and Spielberg have all returned for this fourth film is a good sign, as it’s not just some lame sequel with some crappy director and a youthful actor. Unlike The Dark Knight, I can see expectations surpassing reality here; George Lucas has even commented on that in recent interviews. As long as I keep my excitement toned down, I think I’ll be OK.
  3. The X-Files: I Want to Believe
    Who knows if this one will be any good. The X-Files passed its prime many years ago, and fans have pretty much moved on. Then again, maybe this is the perfect time to return to the adored franchise for what is presumably going to be the last movie. I don’t expect this one to make an amazing amount of money in theaters, but it should be an entertaining blast. It’ll definitely be cool to see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson back together again, and early previews have been promising.
  4. Hancock
    A movie that has only begun its marketing blitz, Hancock appears to be the latest Will Smith blockbuster. No one is betting against Smith, as he has a tendency to choose quality (or at least decent) projects that result in a ton of money. This movie, about a drunk-and-bitter “superhero,” looks great, as the trailers perfectly blend humor, action and visual effects together. In a season full of comic book adaptations, Hancock should still emerge as a summer blockbuster – and maybe it will even appeal to a crowd that doesn’t normally swarm to the “standard” comic book flicks.
  5. Iron Man
    Speaking of “standard,” Iron Man opens tonight (Thursday) and from the reviews I’ve seen, it’s going to have no problem making tons of money. Reviews have been strong, and it’s really no surprise: the visuals look great, the action intense, the humor plentiful and Robert Downey Jr. in a surprisingly perfect role (playing a cocky, drunken bastard who must redeem himself). The previews have been entertaining and I hope I get a chance to go see this flick tonight.
  6. Get Smart
    Rarely do I get that excited for comedies, but Get Smart, starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, The Rock, Terence Stamp and Alan Arkin, looks pretty hilarious. These TV adaptations can be hit-or-miss, but the goofy spy show seems prime for just such a conversion. The previews have been note-on, offering lots of humorous bits and a promise for some silly excitement. Carell and Hathaway both seem like good choices to lead the film, and it’s always entertaining to see The Rock in a comedy such as this.
  7. WALL• E
    I have no rule: do not question Pixar, unless they’re making a Cars sequel. Pixar continues to set the benchmark for quality writing, storytelling and visual effects among animated films, if not among films in general. Wall-E looks to continue their trend of exceptional, as the film once again avoids the route of pop culture references, modern songs and marketing big voice talent to present us with a unique story about a robot who lives on Earth long after the last of humanity has disappeared. Not only is the story intriguing, but the visual effects look simply stunning.
  8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
    A couple years ago, only a few fanboys knew who Guillermo Del Toro was. Not anymore. The man took a little known comic book character (a red devil, no less) and made a truly entertaining and high quality action film on a relatively low budget. From there, we got Pan’s Labyrinth, one of the best films I’ve seen in years. And with Del Toro signed on to direct the new Hobbit sequels, demand is at an all-time high. Thankfully, he managed to squeak out a new Hellboy movie while waiting, and hopefully it will be just as good as the original. The previews have not been incredible, though it appears as though the elements were just poorly presented by the marketing department. At least I hope that’s the case.
  9. Pineapple Express
    Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen are back, this time in an indie-looking, pot-smoking, crime thriller, about an ordinary guy who witnesses a murder and goes on the run with his drug dealing friend (James Franco). The movie looks substantially different from the recent Apatow films (Knocked Up, Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall), but it still looks good. I like the low-budget look the film has, but the screenplay, once again, should sell this one.
  10. The Happening
    M. Night Shyamalan is at it again. Once a sure-thing, Shyamalan has directed two disappointing films in a row. The Village was okay, until the end, but Lady in the Water was just a disaster. Still, I – and several other people – are holding out hope for The Happening, a movie that looks to be more along the lines of Signs than any of his more recent stuff. Can this movie save his career? It’s impossible to tell. All of his films are marketed very well and give very little away, so there’s no way of telling this one will be any better or worse than Lady. Still, it appears as though he has gone a little more conventional this time around, which should be a good thing. “Conventional,” by the way, is used relatively here.
  11. Sex and the City: The Movie
    The HBO comedy series really shouldn’t get a movie. It’s just not the kind of show that should get a movie. In fact, the only HBO shows that deserve such treatment are Carnivale and Deadwood, though even those are pushing acceptability (I didn’t say The Sopranos because, like all HBO shows, they succeed because the stories span episodes and seasons, and are not and should not be contained within a single, two-hour time frame). All that being said, Sex and the City was a well-written and entertaining television show, and as such I’m looking forward to the movie. And yes, that’s coming from a 25-year old straight guy.
  12. Tropic Thunder
    I’m sort of sick of Ben Stiller, and not only does he star in this movie but he also directs it, but Tropic Thunder just looks like a blast. About a group of actors who unknowingly find themselves involved in real warfare when they are meant to just be filming an action movie, Tropic Thunder has a great comedic cast that includes Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. Downey, in particular, is a selling point, not only because he is the best actor of the group but because he plays the best actor – ever – in the movie, a man so dedicated to his work that he actually undergoes a controversial surgical procedure to make himself African-American. That alone is worth the price of admission.
  13. Son of Rambow
    One of the few films on this list that isn’t receiving a wide release – at least not at first – is the Son of Rambow. What’s better than one Rambo movie in the year? How about two? Son of Rambow is a comedy about a young boy who decides to make his own action movie; the previews are full of stunts-gone-bad and other childhood mishaps. The movie looks touching, but more importantly funny.
  14. The Strangers
    OK, so The Strangers will probably suck. It seems to have been pushed back time and time again, which is never a good sign, and has been dropped in the middle of a hornet’s nest – the end of May. Still, with few other horror movies out and about, if any, The Strangers looks pretty creepy. The movie, which stars Liv Tyler, is about a couple who find their house invaded by a bunch of masked intruders. I’m a sucker for movies that could, in theory, happen to me, and it’s not inconceivable that some psychopaths could put on Halloween masks and break into someone’s house. The trailers are effectively scary, and that’s enough for me.
  15. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
    Way down in the #15 spot is The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The movie looks good. Hell, the movie looks really good. The film is well presented, the story looks darker and more exciting than the first one, so on and so forth. Still, I’m hesitant. The first movie was decent, but a little bland and no Lord of the Rings. The fact that the movie is made for children specifically hurts, especially since the movie is marketed like it’s some kind of gritty war movie. Prince Caspian is rated PG, which means we’re going to get more of the same. I hope that going in with lowered expectations will do the film justice, but I doubt I’m going to come out of the theater raving.
  16. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
    Under other circumstances, a Star Wars movie would automatically be in the Top 5 of my list. But, considering that The Clone Wars is an animated movie originally meant for the small screen, I am not that thrilled. The visuals look questionable at best – while I’m sure the action while be find, the characters themselves look quite cartoonish. This alone has me worried. I don’t know why, but I would have been excited for this had it simply premiered on television like it was meant to; there’s something about Star Wars being on another medium that allows me to separate it from the theatrical films. As such, I am worried that this movie is somehow going to ruin the Star Wars experience for me, regardless of the fact that the three prequels were less than stellar to begin with.
  17. Wanted
    A clear Matrix wannabe, Wanted shows off just enough visuals, action and Angelina Jolie skin to have me curious. This is one of those movies that is going to end up being ridiculously entertaining or pathetically bad; I don’t see much in between here. James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman also bring some promise to the film, but Wanted still looks like more of a paycheck film than a legitimate, quality picture. Still, I’m curious.
  18. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
    Adam Sandler is back in another goofy comedy, and this one is sure to raise some controversy. The movie is about a Palestinian guy who heads to America to become a hair stylist – but ends up getting involved with some Islamic terrorists. The movie definitely treads on shaky ground, but there are enough laughs in the trailer to have me wanting more. I don’t expect this movie to be among his best, but it shows promise. Then again, so did Chuck and Larry, and that one was terrible.
  19. The Incredible Hulk
    Ah, The Incredible Hulk. What can I say? The movie just doesn’t look that good. I’ve never been a big fan of the green “hero,” and the fact that the original movie was forgettable doesn’t help. Still, Ed Norton, one of the best actors working today, has taken on the lead role. Unfortunately, having now seen two different movie trailers, I have yet to be impressed. The visuals look questionable, the direction more so. Those slow motion shots of the Hulk flying through the air? Uh-oh. I am still holding onto an ounce of hope, but compared to the other summer movies, this one is going to sink fast if it isn’t up to par. Hell, it will probably sink fast anyway.
  20. The Babysitters
    A movie few will see, The Babysitters is on this list because it’s about a teenage babysitter who starts an escort service. And no, it’s not a porn. The movie promises sex, scandal, crime and possibly more, and that’s enough to get me to add this to my Netflix list.
  21. War, Inc.
    John Cusack stars in this movie that is being compared to Grosse Point Blank. I didn’t particularly like that movie, but this is the kind of movie where he thrives, so War, Inc. should not be disregarded. In fact, having just watched the trailer, this movie looks really funny and politically edgy. Why is this #21? Because I’m too lazy to move it higher.
  22. The Midnight Meat Train
    Last but not least, there’s this movie. A horror movie that probably won’t be any good, Midnight Meat Train offers a pretty slick and gruesome trailer – and an awesome title. In reality, the title suggests something ridiculously cheesy and the previews show no such things, but other than that, how can I not be excited for a movie called such a thing?

Wow. I’ve been writing for an hour, and as you can tell from the last couple entries, I’ve had enough.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Movies, Top 10 Movie Lists
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