The summer movie season of 2008 ended last weekend, and boy, was it a good one. Led by box office smashes like Iron Man, Wall-E, and The Dark Knight, Hollywood raked in the dough week after week — and, surprisingly, scored major Freshness on the Tomatometer in the process. Rotten Tomatoes takes a look at the Summer in Review to revisit the critical and commercial hits and misses of the summer.

Inside find out which movies fared the best and the worst with critics, which films made box office magic and which earned less than enchanting returns, and how each of the major studios measured up over the course of the season. Also, see which films Rotten Tomatoes’ own editors picked as their favorites of the summer! Chime in below with your thoughts on Hollywood’s summer of ’08.


The Top 10 Tomatometers of the Summer




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10.
Wanted

Tomatometer: 73%

Summer comic book movies are usually based on established heroes — as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and Batman can attest — but Universal wanted something out of the ordinary. Their first step? Hire upstart Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch), who infused the film, about a new inductee into a super-powered ring of assassins, with his signature visual flair. Combined with a script loosely adapted from the comic of the same name, uber geek elements like “bullet bending,” physics-defying set pieces, and Angelina Jolie as a sultry killer, Wanted turned out to be one of the more unabashedly entertaining — and simultaneously critically approved — popcorn flicks of the summer.




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9.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Tomatometer: 77%

Say what you will about the long-awaited return of Indiana Jones, but even almost two decades after his last crusade, critics decided that the fedora still fit. Director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas seemed to revisit a lot of familiar ground in the fourth big-screen franchise outing, but their 1950s Area 51-esque plotline — and the sheer coolness of seeing Harrison Ford reprise his trademark role — provided enough thrills to delight longtime fans. Could Indy’s newly introduced son (Shia La Beouf) don the fedora in further sequels? $780 million in worldwide returns point to “yes.”




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8.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Tomatometer: 80%

Woody Allen’s latest effort opened quietly in limited release before expanding into theaters nationwide, allowing the ebullient enthusiasm of critics to spread. Considering the mixed results of Allen’s work of late (going from the Oscar-nominated Match Point to the uneven Melinda & Melinda, to the disappointing Scoop, to the middling Cassandra’s Dream), critics discovered that watching the Spanish-set Vicky Cristina Barcelona was like unearthing a gem. At 80 percent, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Allen’s best reviewed film since 1997’s Everyone Says I Love You (83 percent).




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7.
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Tomatometer: 80%

Critics (and parents) often groan inwardly when they sit down to watch a family film, but Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Mystery proved a surprisingly good watch for all ages. Credit for much of the film’s success goes to Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin, but we can also thank director Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park) and scribe Ann Peacock (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) for infusing the kid mystery with wholesome smarts.




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6.
Tropic Thunder

Tomatometer: 83%

Ben Stiller’s Vietnam-set Hollywood satire brought up the rear of this summer’s line up, opening mid-August as (arguably) the last event movie of the season. And it surely did pay off. Audiences loved Tropic Thunder; critics made it Certified Fresh. Even protests over its controversial “Simple Jack” and blackface plot devices couldn’t get this war comedy down. Tropic Thunder also notably became the best-reviewed summer film to open since The Dark Knight debuted a month prior, and the first film to topple The Bat’s stronghold on the box office.




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5.
Kung Fu Panda

Tomatometer: 88%

Let it not be said that Pixar has a stronghold on doing animation well; DreamWorks SKG proved otherwise with Kung Fu Panda, starring Jack Black as a rotund bear destined for martial arts greatness. Prior to release, DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg hinted at the possibility of five or six Kung Fu Panda films, a la Shrek; one 88 percent Tomatometer and $577 million later, we’d say a Kung Fu Panda franchise looks very likely, indeed.




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4.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Tomatometer: 88%

While previous summers saw sequelized blockbusters rake in the dough but fall far below Fresh on the Tomatometer (see last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), this summer boasted sequels aplenty that were also critically loved. Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army was one such movie, not only returning its beloved cigar-chomping hero to the screen, but improving on the first film in the process (Hellboy, 80 percent).




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3.
Iron Man

Tomatometer: 93%

While the summer of 2008 will be remembered for the domination of The Dark Knight, let’s not forget another comic book superhero that made his mark on critics and audiences: Iron Man. The Marvel character sprang to life in May, thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s witty star turn and Jon Favreau’s glossy direction. Just one point and about 40 reviews shy of The Dark Knight, Iron Man could even potentially catch up and surpass Batman on the Tomatometer…




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2.
The Dark Knight

Tomatometer: 94%

When Christopher Nolan rescued the oft-silly Batman franchise from campy irrelevance in 2005, critics took note: Batman Begins introduced a gloomier dark knight and went Certified Fresh at 85 percent on the Tomatometer. This summer’s eagerly anticipated The Dark Knight followed suit, and then some; it scored an impressive 94 percent on the Tomatometer and dominated the summer box office for weeks, breaking records — and expectations — left and right. Not bad for a comic book movie!




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1.
Wall-E

Tomatometer: 97%

In grand Pixar tradition, Wall-E not only charmed the pants off of critics and audiences alike, it blasted its way to the top of the Tomatometer to become the best-reviewed film of the year so far. (Recent Pixar movies Ratatouille and The Incredibles also opened to critical acclaim and went on to become the best-reviewed wide releases of their respective years.) The tale of a lonely little robot is well positioned to win this year’s Golden Tomato Award…and if the Academy follows suit, Pixar might just have a few more of those gold statuettes to put on their mantle.

Next: The 10 Worst Tomatometers of the Summer


The 10 Worst Tomatometers of the Summer




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10.
Meet Dave

Tomatometer: 20%

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Critics and audiences alike have been mourning the apparent passing of classic Eddie Murphy for several years now, citing the likes of The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Norbit as examples of the dismal turns his career has taken. Unfortunately, Meet Dave isn’t the movie that’s going to change that trend. Settling in at 20 percent on the Tomatometer, it sadly doesn’t qualify as the lowest-rated film in Murphy’s career, but most assert that the clever premise (devised by a Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumnus, Bill Corbett) gets bogged down by stale writing and sitcom-level humor. Meet Dave has its handful of moments, but they just weren’t enough to propel the movie out of our worst-reviewed list.




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9.
Clone Wars

Tomatometer: 20%

Intended to be an introduction to the TV series of the same name that will debut later this year, The Clone Wars might just have been the least anticipated “Star Wars film” ever released. After disappointing many a fan with the prequel trilogy, George Lucas came right back with this animated feature and failed to rally anyone but his most faithful of followers. To be fair, the movie does suffer from the fact that it was originally supposed to air as the first three episodes of the TV show, and as far as animation goes, The Clone Wars looks great for television but subpar for the big screen. Many critics seem to agree that it will do much better when it transitions to its half-hour episodes, but for now, the feature film debut sits at 20 percent on the Tomatometer, making it #7 in our list.




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8.
The Happening

Tomatometer: 19%

We were already becoming a little skeptical of M. Night Shyamalan after The Village underperformed and Lady in the Water downright flopped, but even as audiences grew disillusioned about the suspense director, few could have expected the depths to which he would fall with his latest, The Happening. The trailers were intriguing, especially considering this was Shyamalan’s first R-rated feature, but the overall premise of the film was kept secret fairly effectively, and with a couple of hits under Shyamalan’s belt, the hope was that this would be a return to form. Unfortunately, while it offered some of his trademark chills, Happening mostly fell flat, due to a poorly crafted script, some wooden acting, and what some ultimately deemed to be a silly premise. If this downward trend continues, Shyamalan may earn himself the title of “one-trick pony.”




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7.
Mirrors

Tomatometer: 16%

Asian horror remakes are a dime a dozen in Hollywood these days, but that doesn’t stop enterprising directors and studios from consistently making them happen. Mirrors, originally a Korean film, is the latest of the appropriated imports, but with a respectable cast (Kiefer Sutherland, Amy Smart, Paula Patton) and an experienced horror director (Alexandre Aja — High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) at the helm, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect a halfway decent frightfest. Unfortunately, the movie was dull, with few scares and an overly convoluted plot, thus earning it a 16 percent on the Tomatometer and a #6 spot on our Worst Reviewed list.




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6.
The Love Guru

Tomatometer: 14%

After doing mostly voice work as Shrek and appearing in a few film cameos, Mike Myers came back in The Love Guru with his first starring vehicle since The Cat in the Hat in ’03. Unfortunately, critics weren’t feeling the Love in his latest feature, complaining that the character didn’t work, that the writing was lazy, and that the jokes were juvenile and, even worse, simply not funny. All things considered, The Love Guru still performed better overall than the aforementioned Cat in the Hat, earning a 14 percent Tomatometer score to Cat‘s 12 percent, but it was enough to place it as the fifth worst-reviewed film of the summer.




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5.
College

Tomatometer: 14%

Last summer’s Superbad was such a breakout hit, MGM decided to remake it for this summer season…only by “remake” we mean cop a poor imitation of that flick and just about every other college-set comedy ever made. Teen idol Drake Bell (of Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh fame), whose attempt at crossing over into “mature” roles began with this year’s inane Superhero Movie, dug himself even deeper into Rotten territory in College, which opened last week, the dumping ground of the summer season. Gross-out humor in the vein of Porky’s failed to impress critics, who found the teen buddy comedy to be overly vulgar, homophobic, and sexist — all of which might have been more acceptable if it were only funny.




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4.
Made of Honor

Tomatometer: 12%

After achieving big-screen success with 2007’s widely acclaimed Enchanted, Patrick Dempsey tried again to bank on his “McDreamy” persona in Made of Honor. Unfortunately, the movie felt just a little too familiar (My Best Friend’s Wedding, anyone?) to most of its viewers, and with nothing particularly unique or interesting to set it apart from its recycled plot, stale humor, and romantic comedy clichés, Made of Honor found its way to our worst-reviewed list for the summer. Scoring a dismal 12 percent on the Tomatometer and prompting such criticisms as “cookie-cutter” and “stew of mediocrity,” the movie is notable for, if nothing else, being the final film appearance of the late Sydney Pollack.




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3.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Tomatometer: 11%

Seven years after its first sequel was released, the Mummy franchise returned this year with its third installment. While neither of the first two movies could be considered critical darlings themselves, Dragon Emperor brought the series to a new low, earning a paltry 11 percent on the Tomatometer, compared to 54 percent and 47 percent for its predecessors. Many cited the formulaic, poorly written script and the heavy use of CGI as reasons why Dragon Emperor ultimately fell flat. It’s difficult to go wrong when you’ve got Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, dragons, and abominable snowmen, but Tomb of the Dragon Emperor somehow managed to secure one of the lowest Tomatometers of any movie this summer.




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2.
Babylon A.D.

Tomatometer: 4%

You know you’re in for a bumpy ride when a director publicly denounces his own film, as Babylon A.D. helmer Mathieu Kassovitz did a week before its release. Once the world took a gander at the sci-fi actioner, it seemed to agree wholeheartedly. With unintentionally cheesy dialogue, poorly staged set pieces, and a silly, muddled plot, the Vin Diesel vehicle played exactly as many people expected — which might be good enough for Diesel fans, but certainly not for critics. Just how bad is Babylon A.D.? Were it not for two lone positive reviews — U.K. critics James Christopher of The Times and Xan Brooks of The Guardian — the flick would be looking at double zeroes on the Tomatometer.




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1.
Disaster Movie

Tomatometer: 0%

Speaking of zero percent Tomatometers…we’ve got Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, quite possibly the most reviled cinematic duo since Hitler and Riefenstahl. (Though Triumph of the Will would probably be Certified Fresh given enough reviews.) Friedberg’s and Seltzer’s long-standing assault on spoof comedy (and cinema, in general) appears to be hitting its stride with Disaster Movie, a film so hastily thrown together that it spoofs trailers, which currently holds a zero percent Tomatometer. This year has been rife with the goose eggs (Witless Protection, Deal, Strange Wilderness, One Missed Call), but this Tomatometer is especially important for Friedberg and Seltzer: after getting single-digit percentages on their previous movies, they’ve finally hit the coveted rock-bottom. Enjoy, guys, you’ve earned it.

Next: The Best and Worst Box Office Earners of the Summer

The Best and Worst Box Office Earners of the Summer

While capturing both critical and commercial success seems to be as difficult an achievement as capturing lightning in a bottle (moreso for a summer blockbuster), the summer of 2008 saw an unusually high number of well-reviewed hit movies. Christopher Nolan’s grown-up superhero movie The Dark Knight struck that rare confluence of art and commerce, driving Bat-fans the world over into a ticket-buying Bat-frenzy, but it also earned raves and Oscar-buzz, and could end up one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Furthermore, The Dark Knight was in good company with its fellow top money-makers, as only two Top Ten films — the femme-driven event flick, Sex and the City: The Movie and Will Smith’s Hancock — earned a rotten Tomatometer rating.

Top 10 Box Office Earners (Gross)

1. The Dark Knight $493,671,047
2. Iron Man $317,570,520
3.


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the


Crystal Skull

$315,337,154
4. Hancock $226,547,044
5. Wall-E $216,798,080
6. Kung Fu Panda $212,958,340
7. Sex and the City $152,440,062
8.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

$141,550,527
9. The Incredible Hulk $134,426,930
10. Wanted $133,822,865

Bottom 10 Box Office Earners (Gross)

*Films released prior to the week of August 29, 2008

1. The Rocker $4,664,559
2. Fly Me to the Moon $4,733,063
3. The Longshots $5,149,624
4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona $9,783,911
5. Meet Dave $11,662,184
6. Swing Vote $15,555,204
7. Death Race $16,849,530
8. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl $17,408,308
9. The House Bunny $19,551,243
10. The X-Files: I Want to Believe $20,750,074

Next: Which Studio Came Out on Top?

Which Studio Came Out on Top?




1. Paramount
Average Tomatometer: 71%
Box office: $966 million

Summer’s winner! Paramount is the only major studio to achieve more than one
$200 million hit leading to the highest box office total, and it did so with
the highest Tomatometer average (four of its five movies hit Certified Fresh
status). The critics’ influence may be diminished during opening weekend, but
here we see good
reviews are indicating what summer movies will have positive
word-of-mouth and staying power.

Movie

B.O.

Tomatometer

Iron Man

$318m


93%

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

$316m


77%

Kung Fu Panda

$213m


88%

Tropic Thunder

$87m


83%

The Love Guru

$32m


14%





2. Disney
Average Tomatometer: 67%
Box office: $376 million

Disney has the least amount of movies, with two of them vastly underperforming
(Swing Vote was a blip and Prince Caspian‘s gross is only half of The Lion,
The Witch, and the Wardrobe
‘s). The silver lining: Wall-E is this year’s
best-reviewed movie and has a strong chance of remaining so if Pixar’s past
performance record is any indication.

Movie

B.O.

Tomatometer

Wall-E

$218m


97%

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

$142m

66%

Swing Vote

$16m


40%





3. Warner Bros.
Average Tomatometer: 56%
Box office: $1.02 billion

The fact that Warner Bros. put out the summer’s most notorious bomb (Speed
Racer)
is easily offset by the enormous success of The Dark Knight. It’s
become second-highest grossing movie off all time (and Certified Fresh to
boot!), pushing WB over the $1 billion mark for the summer.

Movie

B.O.

Tomatometer

The Dark Knight

$504m


94%

Sex and the City

$153m


51%

Get Smart

$129m


52%

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (New Line)

$96m


61%

Speed Racer

$43m


36%

The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants 2

$41m


63%

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (Picturehouse)

$32m


80%

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

$30m


18%





4. Universal
Average Tomatometer: 53%
Box office: $655 million

Wanted gave Universal a surprise critical and commercial hit and Mamma Mia!
has quietly become the highest grossing musical ever. Surprisingly, it was the
superheroes that let the studio down, with both The Incredible Hulk and
Hellboy falling shy of recovering their reported costs.

Movie

B.O.

Tomatometer

Wanted

$134m


73%

The Incredible Hulk

$134m


67%

Mamma Mia!

$133m


54%

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

$98m


11%

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

$76m


88%

The Strangers

$52m


42%

Death Race

$25m


40%

Hamlet 2

$3m


61%





5. Sony
Average Tomatometer: 40%
Box office: $581 million

Sony was in classic Hollywood mode this summer, relying on the stars like Will
Smith, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell to draw crowds in. Behind the scenes, Judd Apatow proved
reliable once more, producing the studio’s sole fresh movie.

Movie

B.O.

Tomatometer

Hancock

$227m


38%

You Don’t Mess With the Zohan

$100m


34%

Step Brothers

$98m


51%

Pineapple Express

$80m


68%

Made of Honor

$47m


12%

The House Bunny

$29m


40%





6. Fox
Average Tomatometer: 26%
Box office: $250 million

It was a brutal summer for Fox, which lacked a single fresh movie or $100
million success. If Paramount is keeping its audience around with fresh movies,
Fox proves the vice versa: resoundingly rotten ones can repel audiences.

Movie

B.O.

Tomatometer

What Happens in Vegas

$80m


27%

The Happening

$65m


19%

Space Chimps

$29m


33%

Mirrors

$25m


21%

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

$21m


33%


Babylon A.D.

$12m


04%

Meet Dave

$12m


20%

The Rocker

$6m


36%

Next: RT’s Editors Pick Their Favorite Films of the Summer


RT Editors’ Favorite Films of the Summer

Here in the RT office we all had our favorite films this summer. And we didn’t always agree with the Tomatometer. But hey, that’s what favorite means — rhyme or reason aside, these movies spoke to us. Below, our editors share their picks!

Join in below and let us know what you think were the best and worst films of the summer season.

The Dark Knight, picked by Editor in Chief Matt Atchity

My pick for best movie of the summer? I’m going to have to go with The Dark Knight. It’s not perfect; Bale’s Bat-voice is a bit much after a while, and it runs perilously close to overstaying its welcome, but those (very minor) complaints aside, it’s a fantastic film. As with Batman Begins, this film is as much a psychological crime drama as it is a comic book movie, and continues to take a sort of realistic look at the idea of a costumed vigilante. And if Batman Begins showed us a plausible scenario that could result in the creation of the Batman, then The Dark Knight shows us how the world would respond; the citizens of Gotham both embrace and condemn him. But if the Batman represents the extreme avatar of order amidst chaos, then it’s inevitable that someone will rise to Batman’s challenge. Which brings me of course to the Joker. Heath Ledger‘s Joker is simply the best comic book villain ever to menace the screen. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Ledger’s Joker is going to stick with us as an iconic villain, along the lines of Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, and Norman Bates. It’s truly a tragedy that Ledger isn’t with us anymore, if for no other reason than that he’ll never experience the acclaim he so richly deserves.

Iron Man, picked by RT Australia Editor Joanna Cohen

I first loved Robert Downey Jr. in Less than Zero as a spoiled new romantic with deep, glassy eyes and a pastel blazer. Since 1987 I have remained devoted through every dive of his cardiac-like celebrity Tomatometer graph. Iron Man is Robert Downey Jr. and vice versa. The flawed genius, the troubled vulnerability…I adored every misogynistic, world-dominating, politically incorrect moment. He shone. And someone should give Gwyneth an award for best acting of a pencil skirt.

Gonzo, picked by Editor Sara Schieron

Telling you it inspired my summer reading list will make Alex Gibney‘s Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson sound a lot less hot than it is. A doc about Hunter S. Thompson, the miserable genius, self-titled “Dr.” and inventor of Gonzo Journalism, Gonzo paints a crystal portrait of an era and a man that in some light looks golden and in others looks leaden. Thompson and his stories teeter between snark and melancholy, fascinating always, by page or by screen.

Mongol, picked by
Community Manager Ryan Fujitani

This summer brought us several wildly entertaining blockbusters, but the one movie that got me hitting up Wikipedia and updating my “countries to visit” list was Mongol, a moderately successful indie biopic chronicling the life and times of Genghis Khan. It may have had something to do with my fascination for ancient cultures and fallen empires, but Mongol grabbed me from the start and wrapped me up in its epic story until the credits rolled. While the movie isn’t without its problems (questionable editing choices, a somewhat abrupt ending), the cinematography was appropriately gorgeous, the action was visceral and cathartic, and Mr. Khan himself was fascinating to watch. Oh, and it inspired me to grow a beard and move every three months.

Pineapple Express, picked by Editor Alex Vo

The Dark Knight‘s better-crafted, and WALL-E got me a little teary, but I haven’t had as much plain ol’ movie fun all year than watching Pineapple Express the first two times. (Yeah, here’s that rare movie that’s beckoned me back to the theater multiple times.) The movie’s alternately breezy and intense, while director David Gordon Green‘s loving care towards fringe characters makes Pineapple Express feel earthy and organic, a rarity for so-called stoner flicks.

Wall-E, picked by Senior Editor Tim Ryan

Is WALL-E more poignant than City Lights? Is it a more potent allegory than Metropolis? Is it as powerful a reflection on what it is to be a cognizant being than 2001? Time will tell if Pixar’s latest marvel is mentioned alongside those classics in the cinematic canon, but let the debate begin here. Achingly romantic, darkly funny, and blessed with some of the most remarkable visuals ever committed to celluloid, WALL-E is one for the ages — and great summer fun to boot.

Speed Racer, picked by Senior Editor Jen Yamato

This particular pick is bound to stir some controversy (bring it on, haters!), but so be it: Speed Racer was my favorite summer flick of 2008. Inventive, innovative, intriguing, spectacular — the Wachowski brothers’ live-action, anime-based adventure is everything I hoped it would be, and more. It’s a “kid flick” I’d have enjoyed as much as a tyke as I do today, a film that transcends the medium as we’ve known it, bursting through traditional boundaries of moviemaking to create an entirely absorbing, eye-popping, immersive alternate reality. It is the movie equivalent of mixing Coca Cola and Pop Rocks. Or like BeDazzling your cerebral cortex. Which would be awesome, were it only possible…

Want to browse more features? We’ve got tons archived right here!

The eagerly awaited new Batman film The Dark Knight broke the all-time opening weekend box office record and drove the overall North American marketplace to the largest frame in history with moviegoers dumping over $250M into theater cash registers over three days. The new musical Mamma Mia! managed to connect with its non-superhero fan base and posted a strong opening of its own in Knight‘s shadow while the animated comedy Space Chimps debuted to mild numbers. After back-to-back weekends when ticket sales were softer than last year’s, the box office soared to heights never before seen.




Records fell this weekend thanks to sky high demand to see the latest Caped Crusader vehicle The Dark Knight which hauled in a jaw-dropping $155.3M over the Friday-to-Sunday period to set a new industry benchmark. Averaging a stunning $35,579 from 4,366 theaters, the PG-13 comic book flick edged past the previous opening weekend record of $151.1M held by another superhero sequel Spider-Man 3 from the first weekend of May last year. The Peter Parker pic even had more total screens with roughly 10,000 which was about 800 more than Knight‘s tally. Batman’s gross included $18.5M from Thursday night shows between midnight and 3am which also set a record beating the $16.9M of 2005’s Star Wars Episode III. Critics piled on praise for the $180M-budgeted Dark Knight which scored some of the best reviews of the year.

The new Batman film reunited director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale who successfully rebooted the franchise with 2005’s Batman Begins after the series was left for dead after 1997’s disastrous Batman & Robin starring George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Begins opened on a Wednesday in mid-June with $48.7M over three days and $72.9M over its five-day opening period leading to a solid $205.3M domestic final. The Dark Knight will surpass that mark in under a week’s time. Veteran character actors Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman also returned while Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Heath Ledger joined the cast. Ledger’s acclaimed performance as The Joker became a magnet attracting millions of comic and action fans and his accidental death in January only heightened the curiosity factor making the must-see film of 2008.




The Dark Knight blew open the bank vault door on Friday and made off with an eye-popping $67.9M (including Thursday night midnight sales) smashing the records for best opening day and best single day gross ever. Both of those marks were held by Spider-Man 3 with $59.8M. Sales fell sharply on Saturday by 29% to $48M, still an amazing haul, and Warner Bros. is estimating that Sunday’s gross will slip by only 18% and come in at $39.5M. Knight‘s Saturday and Sunday tallies were the second best ever. The Spidey threequel can still claim those records with $51.3M and $39.9M, respectively. Rival studios on Sunday projected a three-day tally between $151-153M. Final numbers will be released on Monday.

Also adding excitement to the film’s release was the fact that Dark Knight was the first regular movie to use IMAX cameras during filming. Six action sequences were shot with the heavy-duty equipment allowing those who see the film in IMAX theaters a greater entertainment experience. This helped Knight set a new record for biggest IMAX opening with $6.2M from 94 venues this weekend for a scorching $66,000 average. Ticket prices are also higher for the large screen format.

After just three days of release, The Dark Knight is already the sixth biggest blockbuster of the summer and is virtually guaranteed to swipe the 2008 box office crown away from Iron Man in the coming weeks. With all students out of school in July, midweek grosses will be much stronger than in early May when the metal man and the last webslinger pic debuted.

This weekend’s achievement was nothing new for the Caped Crusader. In fact, Dark Knight is the fourth Batman film to break the all-time opening weekend record. The first Batman did the deed in 1989 with its $42.7M bow at a time when no film had ever debuted to $30M, much less $40M, over a three-day weekend. That record stayed for three years and was broken in 1992 by Batman Returns which bowed to $47.7M. Jurassic Park would swipe the record the following summer but Batman Forever took the title back with its $52.8M launch in 1995. All three Batman films opened in mid-June.




Warner Bros. did not opt for a global attack with The Dark Knight, but it did release the superhero pic in 20 markets this weekend and grossed an estimated $40M from 4,500 international screens led by Australia’s $13.1M over five days. Many European markets open this coming weekend including Italy and the United Kingdom while Asia’s top markets Japan and Korea will launch in early August.

Led by the staggering sales for the new Batman-Joker feud, the overall box office soared to more than $255M in ticket sales making it the best weekend in movie history. The previous high was $218.4M over the July 7-9, 2006 frame when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest bowed to a then-record $135.6M. Studios are hoping that the roughly 36 million moviegoers who saw trailers and posters at multiplexes this weekend will keep coming back in the weeks ahead for more summer films.

Opening in second place with a solid showing of its own was the Meryl Streep-led musical Mamma Mia! which bowed to an estimated $27.6M for Universal. The PG-13 film averaged a stellar $9,276 from 2,976 locations performing just like last summer’s musical hit Hairspray which debuted to $27.5M this very weekend. Mamma, which also stars Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Christine Baranski, played to an audience of adult women with studio data showing that 75% of the crowd was female while 64% was over the age of 30.

It was aimed as an alternative to Dark Knight and the strategy worked like a charm. Streep’s The Devil Wears Prada received the same treatment bowing to a similar $27.5M against Superman Returns two summers ago on its way to a sensational $124.7M domestic and $325M worldwide.




Mamma Mia! has already been playing to sell-out crowds overseas over the last two weeks. This weekend, the $65M production bowed at number one in seven new territories including Germany and displayed great holds in existing markets like Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom to total an estimated $26.8M weekend take. That propelled the international cume to $72.6M and the global gross to $100M with much more to come.

Falling one spot was Will Smith’s own take on being a superhero, Hancock, which tumbled 56% to an estimated $14M in its third outing. The Sony blockbuster has grossed a sturdy $191.5M in 19.5 days and is still following the same path as 2005’s Independence Day weekend offering War of the Worlds which had taken in $192.4M by the same point. That Tom Cruise pic finished its run with $234M and Hancock looks likely to end up with just under that amount. Globally, Smith’s latest zoomed to $444M and will crash through the half-billion barrier in a week.

The 3D adventure tale Journey to the Center of the Earth enjoyed a great hold despite the arrival of Batman and slipped only 43% in its second weekend to an estimated $11.9M. New Line’s final film has now taken in a solid $43.1M for distributor Warner Bros. and could be headed for a $75-80M final tally. The PG-rated Brendan Fraser film cost $60M to produce.

Last weekend’s superhero champ Hellboy II: The Golden Army got hit hardest by the folks of Gotham City. The Universal comic book actioner tumbled 71% to an estimated $10M dropping from first to fifth place. After ten days, the $85M production has collected $56.4M putting it just shy of the $59M that 2004’s Hellboy grossed during its entire run. Hellboy II should find its way to about $75M and become the summer’s only number one opener to not reach the $100M mark.




The animated wonder WALL•E declined by 48% and ranked sixth with an estimated $9.8M. Disney and Pixar have pushed the tally up to $182.5M and are hoping to keep going towards the $215M mark which should eventually put it slightly ahead of Kung Fu Panda to become the year’s top-grossing toon.

Fox saw an uneventful seventh-place bow for its animated offering Space Chimps which debuted to an estimated $7.4M. Playing in 2,511 theaters, the G-rated pic about, well… chimps in space, averaged a mild $2,927 per location. Fox has struggled this summer and remains the only one of the six major studios without a $100M hit this season. The studio’s hopes are pinned to this Friday’s launch of The X-Files: I Want to Believe which will try to persuade the bat-crowds to come its way.

Angelina Jolie’s Wanted dropped 58% to an estimated $5.1M giving Universal $123.3M to date. Warner Bros. followed with Get Smart which took in an estimated $4.1M, off 43%, for a $119.6M sum for Warner Bros. Paramount’s Kung Fu Panda rounded out the top ten with an estimated $1.8M in its seventh frame dropping 60% pushing the total to $206.5M.

The top ten films grossed a record estimate of $247M which was up a stellar 72% from last year when I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry opened in the top spot with $34.2M; and up an astounding 80% from 2006 when Dead Man’s Chest spent a third weekend at number one with $35.2M.

Compared to projections, The Dark Knight flew higher than my $132M forecast while Mamma Mia! bowed on target with my $28M prediction. Space Chimps opened above my $5M projection.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,
www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

ABBA fans and chimpanzee enthusiasts take heed: there’s room for only one at the top, and Batman’s all out of bubble gum. The year’s most anticipated film finally hits this Friday, but will The Dark Knight live up to all the hype? Find out that and more, and watch Dave Chung’s final farewell from RT in this week’s Review Revue.

Many of you will find out tonight just how good this week’s sequel to Batman Begins really is, but join us below to discuss what the critics are saying about Chris Nolan‘s action, Heath Ledger‘s Joker, The Dark Knight‘s PG-13 rating and more. (Also come back after you see TDK and let us know what you think!) Is The Dark Knight a masterpiece? Is it one of the best movies of the year? How many bazillions of dollars will it make this weekend? And really, was it such a bad thing for Joel Schumacher to put nipples on the Batsuit?

Meanwhile, the rumors are true; Dave Chung is leaving us. We wish him the best in his future endeavors and thank him for adding that extra spice, contributing a pantsload of unrepeatable jokes, and dropping a few too many Amanda Bynes and/or Carrie Underwood references during the course of his Review Revue career. As a farewell, we’ve included a rare behind-the-scenes video from the RT offices featuring a farewell performance by Dave “Kobayashi” Chung.

Watch it!

You know you want more Batman. Who can get enough? Check out our Total Recall: It’s the Bat! article remembering all of the Caped Crusader’s cinematic adventures over the years.

And check back next week for our discussion of the family comedy Step Brothers and the long-awaited sequel, X-Files: I Want to Believe.

The superhero sequel The Dark Knight and the musical Mamma Mia! debut head to head in what could a tight race for the number one spot. Or one film might open $100M higher than the other. Either way, the North American box office will soar to dizzying heights and become one of the highest-grossing weekends in movie history. The kidpic Space Chimps also enters the mix hoping to attract a few children, but overall multiplexes will be jam packed as the top ten films alone are set to generate well over $200M.

Riding a wave of anticipation not seen in some time, The Dark Knight arrives in theaters at midnight on Thursday night and is sure to explode with one of the largest openings in history. Warner Bros. is releasing the PG-13 film in a record 4,366 theaters (including 94 IMAX locations) with an estimated 9,200 total screens. The theater count inches past the 4,362 of last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End which used to be the widest opener in that category. As for total screens, Dark Knight‘s count is not as high as the 10,000 screens that Sony secured for Spider-Man 3 when it set the all-time opening weekend record in May 2007 with $151.3M, but it is higher than the 8,500 screens that the second biggest opener Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest locked in two years ago in July 2006 for its then-record $135.6M launch. Both megahits averaged between $15,000-16,000 per screen and between $32,000-36,000 per theater.

The new Batman saga reunites Christian Bale with director Christopher Nolan, the pair seen by many as making the best Caped Crusader film ever with 2005’s Batman Begins. Box office comparisons between it and Dark Knight are pointless as Begins bowed on a Wednesday in June with a brand new cast and crew trying to reboot a franchise that was nearly killed by the prior installment, 1997’s laughable Batman & Robin. Begins opened to $48.7M over three days and $72.9M over five days and found its way to a solid $205.3M rejuvenating the franchise in the process. This time around, the number of moviegoers willing to buy a ticket upfront will be significantly higher.

Joining Bale again are veteran actors Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman while new to the series are Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the late Heath Ledger. Much has been said about Ledger’s death and its impact on the film. Anticipation for the $180M-budgeted Dark Knight has only surged since the actor’s tragic accident. If he had a less prominent role or played a more basic character it would be a different case. But the marketing of the pic before his death was already centered on the film’s most high-profile new addition – The Joker and Ledger’s bold and gritty interpretation of the iconic villain. Even those not usually excited about comic book flicks are snapping up advance tickets to see the last great performance of a talented Oscar-nominated actor. Males will always come out for these types of movies, but the Heath Ledger factor gives a great boost to female interest.

Despite odd promotional partnerships with companies like Domino’s Pizza and Comcast, the overall marketing campaign has been absolutely brilliant and effective. Warner Bros. is pushing the film, but not overhyping it. In fact, with so much free publicity and fan buzz, the studio doesn’t need to go gung ho here. And Ledger’s performance has been in the spotlight just enough to create excitement, but not so much that it borders on exploitation. Reviews have also been glowing across the board and rival the high praise that Iron Man received at the summer kickoff point. Dark Knight stands a good chance of flying past the metal man’s total box office to swipe the 2008 box office crown by summer’s end giving DC Comics a rare victory over Marvel.


Heath Ledger as The Joker.

Thursday night’s midnight shows, Friday’s opening night shows, and all kinds of higher-priced IMAX showings have been selling out for some time now as multiplexes have added extra showtimes anywhere they can. Knight is the first major feature film to have portions shot using IMAX cameras with six action sequences totaling about 35 minutes projected in the large-screen format. The sequences cut back and forth between traditional letterbox and large IMAX shots, but given the darkness of most scenes moviegoers will hardly notice and especially enjoy the panoramic views of Gotham and Hong Kong. Advance ticket sales are among the highest ever recorded as fans do not want to be left out. Repeat business could even kick in during the weekend itself helping to swell the grosses.

The new Batman clocks in at 152 minutes which many think will hurt its chances of reaching record heights, but that will not be the case. The last two films to break the all-time opening weekend record also were about two-and-a-half hours in length with Dead Man’s Chest at 150 minutes and Spider-Man 3 at 140. Studios and exhibitors compensated for the length by booking multiple screens every chance they could to make sure as many showtimes per day could be offered. This will be in play again this weekend with Knight.

As for comparisons, Chest is the best film to measure up to Dark Knight. Both are star-driven sequels with dizzying amounts of fan anticipation opening on a Friday in July with a two-and-a-half-hour length. July greatly differs from May (the month that eight of the top ten openings of all-time came from) in that there is more competition for films, screens, plus audience and media attention. The rest of the top ten grossed $27.4M when Spider-Man 3 debuted but $71.8M when Chest opened. Dark Knight will be in a tougher spot as the nine titles after it on the charts this weekend could absorb a whopping $100M or so. That’s a lot of business that is pre-destined to go to non-Joker films this weekend. But July does benefit from stronger midweek grosses since students of all ages are out of school. Chest scored $60.4M during its first Monday-to-Thursday span, almost double the $31M for the third Spidey in early May.

One factor that could have a small impact is the Mamma Mia! debut. Nine of the ten blockbusters that have opened to more than $100M did so with either no new films debuting against it, or with only minor new titles facing it that grossed less than $4M. Clear sailing helps every subgroup of moviegoers focus on just one event film. And while the ABBA songfest is about as opposite of a film as you can get, there will be pockets of young and older women deciding to avoid the Bat-lines and see Meryl first, saving Heath’s final performance for later.

Also likely to cause a minor dent is the darker nature of the film. Sales from younger children could be in jeopardy if parents find the film to be too scary. The Pirates pics, Harry Potter sagas, and Spider-Man tales, even the last one, promised lighter fare and more fun. Look at the top ten openings in box office history and all are more kid-friendly than Dark Knight which is essentially a comic book epic for grownups.

Still, Warner Bros. will need extra bank vaults to store the cash that’s about to come rolling in for the must-see blockbuster of 2008. For the Friday-to-Sunday period, The Dark Knight might fly to the neighborhood of $132M.


He’s back.
Universal plays the popular counter-programming card with its lavish musical Mamma Mia! which brings together top stars such as Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Christine Baranski. The PG-13 film about a young bride who invites her three potential fathers to her wedding is a big-screen adaptation of the wildly popular stage show that has played to over 30 million people in packed houses worldwide. Budgeted at $65M, Mamma will skew heavily female but has the chance to pull in young and old alike. A year ago this weekend, New Line bowed its musical Hairspray to a better-than-expected $27.5M and sang its way to a robust $118.9M. Mamma Mia! is based on a more popular and more relevant property, however its cast lacks the teen starpower that Hairspray had with Zac Efron and Amanda Bynes who were crucial in pulling in the high school crowd. Plus the latter had a family-friendly PG rating.

Folks not in the mood for dark violence will certainly find cheery upbeat fun in Mamma Mia! which should post long-term numbers more like Dreamgirls and Hairspray than like Rent or The Producers. The music from ABBA is also a solid commercial asset. Fun films with a female skew have been winning over audiences all year from Juno, 27 Dresses, and Hannah Montana at the start of the year to Baby Mama, What Happens in Vegas, and Sex and the City in recent months. Mamma will keep the party going for underserved audiences sick and tired of superheroes and all their personal issues. Dancing into 2,976 locations, Mamma Mia! might bow to about $28M this weekend.


If you want something with slightly less testosterone…

Three monkeys are sent across the galaxy in Fox’s Space Chimps, a new animated comedy aimed squarely at the youngest of children. The G-rated film features the voices of Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines, Patrick Warburton, and Jeff Daniels. This entry will have its work cut out for it since overall buzz is low and there is no brand here that can generate excitement. Plus a number of films are already doing well with the target demographic like WALL•E and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Opening in around 2,400 theaters, Space Chimps might debut with only $5M.


For those too young for The Dark Knight.

Last weekend’s comic sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army is in for a steep fall. Though it has been well-received by critics and audiences alike, most of the fan base turned out on the opening frame and the Caped Crusader’s arrival will steal away any left who may still want to see the devilish hero. Universal’s other action entries this summer Wanted and The Incredible Hulk both fell by 60% on the second weekend. Hellboy II looks to perform in the same way and drop to about $14M for a ten-day tally of $61M which would allow the new installment to surpass the gross of its predecessor.

Will Smith‘s Hancock should hold up a little better since it’s going into its third frame and has been posting solid numbers with ticket buyers taking back the number one spot on Monday and Tuesday this week. Still, The Dark Knight will be a direct competitor so a 50% decline to around $16M may result boosting Sony’s cume to $193M. The 3D adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth won’t be immune to The Joker’s fury. A 45% drop to roughly $11M could occur giving New Line and Warner Bros. $42M over ten days.

WALL•E and Wanted both enter frame number four and may experience drops of 40% and 45%, respectively. Disney and Pixar would collect around $11M for a $183M sum while Universal would see $6.5M and boost its tally to $124M.

LAST YEAR: Adam Sandler scored his latest number one opener with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry which took in $34.2M for Universal on its way to $120.1M. In its second weekend, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix dropped a spot to second with $32.5M smashing through the $200M barrier in the process. New Line’s new musical Hairspray debuted in third with a solid $27.5M and found its way to a robust $118.9M. Transformers claimed the fourth spot with $20.5M in its third weekend and the animated comedy Ratatouille placed fifth with $10.9M in its fourth outing.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week, we’ve got the Caped Crusader (The Dark Knight, starring
Christian Bale and
Heath Ledger), ABBA aficionados (Mamma Mia!, starring
Meryl Streep and
Amanda Seyfried), and space-bound simians (Space Chimps, with voice work by
Andy Samberg and
Jeff Daniels). What do the critics have to say?

The wait is over, Batfans. And the word is good. Critics are calling The Dark Knight one of the year’s best, a brooding, complex, emotionally wrenching film that plumbs the emotional depths of the Batman mythos. The sequel to the series reboot
Batman Begins, TDK finds Bruce Wayne/ Batman (Christian Bale) tangling with his most iconic archenemy, the Joker (Heath Ledger) — while finding the two have more in common than they’d like to admit. The pundits give kudos all around, from
Christopher Nolan‘s white-knuckle direction and provocative script to the able cast that includes
Michael Caine,
Maggie Gyllenhaal, and
Aaron Eckhart. But much of the critical gushing is reserved for the late Ledger, who plays the Joker like a man possessed (some suggest the Academy should take notice of his performance). At 93 percent on the Tomatometer, The Dark Knight isn’t just Certified Fresh. It’s also the best-reviewed Batman movie of all time, and the third best-reviewed wide release of the year, trailing only
WALL-E at (97 percent) and
Iron Man (at 93 percent). (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we revisit all the Batman movies.)





“If only getting the Time Warner cable guy were this easy.”

It is a fact that you can dance. It is also true that you can jive. However, will you have the time of your life at Mamma Mia? Critics aren’t quite going that far. Meryl Streep stars as a single mother whose daughter (Amanda Seyfried) is about to get married, and has invited three men to her wedding in Greece, trying to determine which is her real father; romance and renditions of “S.O.S.” and “Waterloo” ensue. Nobody denies ABBA’s tunes are darned infections (noted fans include
Sid Vicious and
John McCain), and some pundits concede Mamma Mia! has moments of frothy fun. However, others say the movie is ultimately way too sugary, sentimental, and lightweight to truly satisfy, and though Streep is in fine form, others in the cast don’t fare as well with the musical numbers. At 47 percent on the Tomatometer, the scribes aren’t falling “Head Over Heels” for Mamma Mia!



“Let me show you a fast way to wax the banister.”

Monkeys and chimps were some of the earliest space travelers, so an animated take on their exploits would seem like a sure bet for the kiddies, right? Well, critics aren’t going bananas for the CGI feature
Space Chimps
. Ham III (voiced by Andy Samberg) is the good-for-nothing grandson of a space pioneer who finds himself part of team of chimps who have been blasted through a black hole, where they find a planet ruled by and evil monarch. The pundits say Space Chimps is bland and dull, featuring indifferent animation and a tired storyline that may please really little kids but virtually no one else. At
21 percent on the Tomatometer, these Chimps are lost in space.




The mission: Research the effects of zero gravity on the Tomatometer.

Also opening this week in limited release:


Batman Movies:
———————
84% — Batman Begins (2005)
12% — Batman & Robin (1997)
43% — Batman Forever (1995)
87% — Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
79% — Batman Returns (1992)
69% — Batman (1989)
80% — Batman: The Movie (1966)

As Dark Knight hype overtakes the free world this week, prepare yourself with a marathon of Batman lore on DVD with our viewing guide below — or, escape from Bat-mania by shacking up with DVDs to get you ready for Bat-alternatives Mamma Mia and Space Chimps.


If you’re a Batman fan, chances are you’ve already reserved your ticket for Friday’s The Dark Knight. (If you’re really an uber-fan, you might even have tickets to those 3am screenings.) In the meantime, turn your living room into a veritable Batcave with a marathon of our favorite Batman classics.

Batman: The Movie (1966, 80 percent on the Tomatometer)

Adam West is at full-camp best in this classic of ’60s superhero kitsch, based on the popular television series. And while West wasn’t the first on-screen Batman (Lewis Wilson and Robert Lowery preceded him in 1943 and 1949, respectively), his remains one of the most iconic characterizations. Best of all, you get not one, not two, but four of the most evil supervillains in Gotham City lore: The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker, and Lee Meriweather‘s slinky Catwoman.

Pick up the newly released Blu-ray edition for new extras in HD, including a commentary track by West and his Robin (co-star Burt Ward), plus the Holy Pop-Up Trivia Track, Batman!

Batman & Robin (1997, 12 percent)

Joel Schumacher‘s oft-ridiculed film should be enjoyed for what it is; a modern-day throwback to the inherent silliness of two grown men who don costumes to fight bad guys. Holy codpiece, Batman! In the very least, remembering Batman at his preposterous movie low (fighting Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman as Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, two of the worst Bat-villains ever committed to celluloid) will make you really appreciate the sobering, grown-up reboot that Christopher Nolan gave the franchise years later.

The Two-Disc Special Edition DVD features more behind-the-scenes featurettes than you’ll probably want (or would ever watch), but also contains candid revelations from director Schumacher and his cast, who appear to have realized what they had wrought by the time they recorded these bonus materials. One word: Bat-nipples.

Batman – Gotham Knight (2008)

The recently-released animated anthology connects six stories that take place between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, told in different styles by writers like Josh Olson (History of Violence), Greg Rucka, and David S. Goyer. Each of the short stories are shot in their own unique styles, with a visual nod to the look and feel of Japanese anime; Batman himself is voiced by DC Animated Universe alum Kevin Conroy. But don’t dismiss this as animated kidstuff; there’s enough action and violence to warrant its PG-13 rating. Add to that over an hour of extra content, including a look at the life of Batman creator Bob Kane, and you’ve got a great way to supplement your viewing of Nolan’s reboot and its sequel.

Batman Begins (2005, 84 percent)

While our previous selections were more of a Batman variety-hour, this is the no-brainer, must-watch DVD to get you in the Dark Knight spirit. Christopher Nolan‘s 180-degree reboot gave back to Batman what he’d been missing for years: respect. Christian Bale‘s tormented turn as Bruce Wayne/Batman will be remembered as a career highlight for years to come. And while Nolan’s sequel is more of a crime flick than the origin story/character exploration that was Batman Begins, his vision of Gotham City, its people, and its brooding hero will remain much the same in The Dark Knight. As a capper to your Batman marathon, re-watch Begins to ease into the moody atmosphere and recall the state in which we leave Batman and all of Gotham.

(As mentioned in fuller detail last week, pick up the newly released Batman Begins on Blu-ray for the six-minute Dark Knight Prologue.)

Moviegoers looking for alternatives to The Dark Knight this week can have their own DVD marathons, too. Mamma Mia, adapted from the Broadway musical, sets a girl’s search for her real father to the tunes of Swedish supergroup ABBA; luckily for you, there’s plenty of Agnetha, Bjorn, Benni, and Anni-Frid to be found on DVD. Rock out to the 1977 concert doc ABBA: The Movie, watch Guy Pearce and Agent Smith sing “Mamma Mia”; in drag in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and see one woman’s sad-sack life transformed by the power of the pop quartet in Muriel’s Wedding.

If the idea of monkeys blasting off into the galaxy appeals to you, prep for Space Chimps with a more sobering look at the repercussions of NASA’s experiments with chimpanzees in Matthew Broderick‘s 1987 sci-fi flick, Project X. And since he’s carrying the movie as a lead chimp named Ham, get a taste of Saturday Night Live‘s Andy Samberg‘s goofy antics in last year’s stuntman comedy, Hot Rod.

Click for this week’s new releases!

The Bank Job

Tomatometer: 78%

Brit action star Jason Statham (The Transporter) makes a solid career choice in this riveting, well-paced heist flick based on actual events. Toning down his proclivity for fast-paced action roles with an actual drama, Statham exercises his acting chops as the leader of a gang of robbers who stumble upon the scandalous secrets of London’s underworld — and, yes, he does get a few roundhouse kicks in to boot.

Bonus Features:

Here’s a DVD that extends your enjoyment of the film with only a handful of extra features. Director Roger Donaldson (Cocktail) is joined by actress Saffron Burrows and his composer, J. Peter Robinson, in a feature-length commentary that should be interesting to those curious about the real-life events that inspired the film. When the robbery occurred in 1971 London, a government-issued media blackout silenced news coverage, ostensibly to protect the scandalous young royal whose indiscretions may have been uncovered by the contents of stolen safety deposit boxes — a turn of events indeed stranger than fiction.

Step Up 2 The Streets

Tomatometer: 25%

If our culture’s current So You Think You Can Be America’s Best Dancing With The Stars’ Crew obsession is any indication, we loves us some dancing. And if you know the names Comfort, Twitch, and Kherington, then here is a DVD that was made for you. In the sequel to 2006’s Step Up (the movie that bestowed upon womankind the gift that is Channing Tatum) first-time director Jon M. Chu gives America what they want: namely, another star-crossed romance with much, much more hipping and hopping. Where Step Up remained largely in the contemporary dance world (yawn), its sequel, introducing the impressive booty-shaking talents of Briana Evigan and Robert Hoffman, takes us where we really want to go: the streets!

Bonus Features:

In addition to deleted scenes and music videos, director Jon Chu takes you backstage on the very first day of his very first feature film, as well as rehearsals with the cast’s very talented dancers. In the disc’s best feature, watch America’s Best Dance Crew, the JabbaWockeez, in an amazing full dance scene that is only glimpsed in the film — it’s one of the best routines you’ll ever see. Just be prepared to hear a LOT of “Apple bottom jeans, boots with the furrrrr,” because Flo-Rida’s “Low” plays over and over throughout the DVD. .

College Road Trip

Tomatometer: 15%

Road trip, or train wreck? Martin Lawrence makes another journey into dumb hijinks territory as an overprotective dad taking his eager-to-leave-home daughter (Raven-Symone) on a cross-country trip to visit colleges. Note to Lawrence: When Donny Osmond is your co-star — and he gets bigger laughs then you — it’s time to reconsider your career choices.

Bonus Features:

Two featurettes (one with Raven-Symone and director Roger Kumble, the other with the two screenwriters) are probably two too many for this lame G-rated affair. A gag reel dominated by Donny Osmond outtakes might just be the best extra of the bunch.

Penelope

Tomatometer: 53%

Christina Ricci is back playing another quirky chick in Penelope, a modern-day fairytale about a high-society girl cursed with the snout of a pig. Can James McAvoy‘s roguish gambler cure her affliction…with love? Despite a solid supporting cast (Catherine O’Hara, actor-producer Reese Witherspoon), muddled directing by Mark Palansky and a script that turns out a notch below magical divided critics.

Bonus Features:

A spare DVD menu doesn’t say much for Summit Entertainment’s enthusiasm for the flick, although the disc does feature a tantalizing (and completely unrelated) sneak peek at the upcoming teen vampire flick, Twilight (based on the uber-popular novels by Stephanie Meyer).

Shutter

Tomatometer: 7%

The original 2004 Thai version scored well with critics (79%), but Hollywood hasn’t yet learned how to avoid making much crappier versions of Asian horror films. Behold, the latest tired remake to hit DVD: Shutter, starring Dawson’s Creek alum Joshua Jackson and Transformers hottie Rachael Taylor. You won’t find anything new here; rent the Thai version instead. Sometimes reading subtitles are worth the trouble.

Bonus Features:

You’ll find a three-minutes longer unrated cut (plus featurettes, deleted scenes, and commentary), which just might prove better than the theatrical PG-13 version. But probably not.

‘Til next week, happy viewing!

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