Sadistic torturers, alien symbiots, undead buccaneers, intergalactic heralds, even the wrath of God: Our favorite heroes have faced their fair share of enemies this summer. Who would have thought, though, that the most fearsome test of all for Captain Jack, Spider-Man and Shrek would come from ... us?
It's the halfway point of the summer movie season, so we issued a midterm challenge, grading the biggest movies so far based on a combination of box-office numbers, critical reception and our own opinions.
Who passed and who failed? Find out below.
Box office: Opened to $32 million this past weekend, about half as much as "Bruce Almighty" did four years ago, or roughly one-seventh of its rumored production budget. It'll be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for this film to turn a profit (see " 'Evan Almighty' Could Use Some Divine Intervention After Weak Opening").
Critical reception: Behold the Lord's wrath! "Evan" was liked by only 21 percent of critics on RottenTomatoes.com.
Our take: Plays like the last bet between God and the Devil, only this time it's not Job who suffers, but us.
"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer"
Box office: Oh, what a difference a week makes. Just seven days after a truly fantastic opening (see " 'Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer' Rides Over 'Ocean's Thirteen' "), Silver Surfer and company fell 65 percent. The film currently stands at $97 million.
Critical reception: A galactic dust cloud of swirling negativity — 36 percent favorable on RottenTomatoes.com.
Our take: This one goes to our own Josh Horowitz, who asked, "Is 'Fantastic Four' the worst superhero franchise ever?" It's not the answer that interests us, but the fact that the question needs to be asked at all.
"Hostel: Part II"
Box office: No need to torture the director. Despite a gross of $17 million, well behind the original, the flick reportedly only cost $10 million to make. Still, it's an overwhelming disappointment.
Critical reception: Sadistic or masochistic? Depends who you ask — flick scores 53 percent positive on RottenTomatoes.com.
Our take: Roth has raised a big stink on his MySpace blog, accusing piracy of costing the film millions. And he's probably right. But he also made the exact same movie twice. Excuse us — this one has women.
"Shrek the Third"
Box office: A whole lot of green — $308 million domestically, or roughly 75 percent of the second film's ogre-size gross.
Critical reception: Far, far away from a hit — film was liked by only 41 percent of critics on RottenTomatoes.com.
Our take: Meh. That's it, really. Meh.
Box office: Stan Lee had it right from the start. With the biggest opening of all time and a robust $333 million, Spider-Man once again proved he's nothing short of amazing (see " 'Spider-Man 3' Busts Box-Office Records With Amazing Opening Weekend").
Critical reception: A little Venom-ous but otherwise OK — 61 percent favorable rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
Our take: Peter Parker's relationship with Mary Jane takes a step backward, invalidating the personal victory at the end of "2." ("Go get 'em, tiger"? How long did that last? A week?). In the meantime, Sandman's involvement in Uncle Ben's murder cheapens Spidey's guilt in the original. In short, this flick not only stinks, it makes the first two films stink a little as well.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"
Box office: Yo ho ho and a bottle of Tums. Continues to circle the drain domestically after a strong opening: $287 million and counting.
Critical reception: Thar it blows! Only 46 percent of critics liked it on RottenTomatoes.com.
Our take: Don't walk the plank quite yet. Busy conclusion nevertheless ties up important plot threads, while last 30 minutes were the most fun we've had at the movies this year. For our part, Captain Jack, we hope you find the Fountain of Youth in part four.
Box office: A total wipeout — only $47 million so far.
Critical reception: 77 percent of critics on RottenTomatoes.com said "Surf's Up" was almost like catching a perfect wave.
Our take: The mockumentary style of the film no doubt flew over a lot of young kids' heads, but any flick that cites "Spinal Tap" as an inspiration has a lot going for it.
Box office: A respectable $91 million, which, if you put it all on a roulette number and hit, would pay out at $3.185 billion. We think Warner Bros. should do it.
Critical reception: Odds any gambler could get behind — 71 percent favorable rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
Our take: Every hard-core bettor occasionally runs hot and cold, but "Ocean's Twelve" left our crew felted. (It was that bad.) "Thirteen" is a return to form for the coolest cats in town.
Box office: A very pregnant purse, "Knocked Up" is swollen with $109 million.
Critical reception: What cold-hearted cynic could hate a baby? Flick sports a 91 percent approval rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
Our take: Not the funniest movie of the year (that honor goes to Apatow and Rogen's next flick, "Superbad"), but close.
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