After last May’s three-peat festival, it looked like another record-breaking year would be difficult, but two of the big three summer movies came out of the gate strong and helped propel the box office to new heights, though considering inflation would change the outlook considerably.
Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull impressed audiences who also enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Speed Racer crashed and burned while The Strangers and Redbelt got big responses in limited release.
Medium successes that were expected to pack more box office punch due to their large budgets included The Incredible Hulk and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Veteran actor Richard Jenkins built up some summer steam with The Visitor and Step Brothers, and looks to continue his rising status with the upcoming Burn After Reading.
Don’t Mess With the Zohan and The House Bunny continued the ascension of rising stars Emmanuelle Chriqui and Anna Faris, respectively. Lead females Cameron Diaz and Sarah Jessica Parker succeeded with What Happens in Vegas and Sex and the City.
Internationally known leading ladies including Anita Briem (Journey to the Center of the Earth), Michelle Yeoh, Penelope Cruz (Elegy and Vicky Christina Barcelona), and Melanie Thierry (Babylon A.D.) also got some prominent screen time at multiplexes this summer.
July’s first big movie out of the gate, Hancock, starring Will Smith, continued a trend of steady successes that also included Mamma Mia!, Step Brothers, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Look for a possible Oscar nomination for Meryl Streep’s lead performance in the ABBA-inspired musical Mamma Mia!.
The big story was The Dark Knight, second on the all-time list behind only Titanic. Heath Ledger’s memorable performance as everyone’s favorite villain, The Joker, in The Dark Knight should garner an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Who will substitute for the memorable Ledger in the third Batman film? Maybe a rising unknown star would be best with Johnny Depp as the Riddler and another newcomer as Vicky Vale perhaps.
Batman film casting substitute, Maggie Gyllenhaal filled in wonderfully for Katie Holmes as Rachel while Mario Bello’s performance as Evelyn O’Connell in the latest Mummy installment didn’t quite match Rachel Weisz.
Director Guillermo Del Toro got ready for the Hollywood stratosphere with the surprise hit Hellboy II: The Golden Army. With the Hobbit films next, this director looks to give studios plenty of creature comfort for years to come.
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, co-produced by Julia Roberts, Space Chimps, the Mike Myers comedy The Love Guru, X-Files: I Want to Believe and Meet Dave, starring Eddie Murphy, failed to ignite box office fireworks but could expand nicely on home video.
August began with controversial, action-filled comedies like Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder. Cameos from C3P0 and Mace Windu couldn’t save the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars while Kevin Costner couldn’t catch a break, or an audience, in Swing Vote. Traitor and Babylon A.D. finished to the summer season along with box office clunkers like College, The Rocker, and Disaster Movie.
Look for the summer festivities to fill out the rest of this year on the home video circuit (only The Dark Knight and Wanted have not set dates yet at the time of this article).