It's difficult (and a little silly) to try and judge an entire quarter-year's movies in one lump sum -- but that's what we seem to do at the end of every Summer Movie Season. That's when all our excitement, expectations, and final reactions come colliding together and we find ourselves thinking: "Was I actually looking forward to that piece of crap for four months?" But to me, each summer is like a walk through a carnival: Some of the attractions dazzle me, others simply don't interest me, and a few are just a waste of tickets. But once early May rolls around, I'm always ready for another trip to the Hollywood Movie Carnival. (It's where you find all the tentpoles!)

So while I'm elated to greet the upcoming season of "prestige movies," there's little denying that we've had one hell of a good summer, cinematical-ly speaking. I'm not talking about box office grosses, because frankly that stuff is so unimportant. What matters is that we got some good flicks, a few pieces of mindless (yet well-made) popcorn adventures, and even a few great films that will enjoy a very long shelf life. So while I'm not exactly sure that 2008 represents the finest Summer Movie Season of all time, I'd definitely say it was more good than bad. But if you can think of a summer that was better than this one, you know where to throw your comments. (In the comments section.) Here's how I saw the past few months. (P.S. The movies I really liked are all bold! Also, the links will take you directly to the Cinematical review for that film. How convenient!)

The Superheroes

A pretty stellar line-up right here, with Hulk probably the weakest link of the four -- but still quite a bit of fun if you ask me. Iron Man kicked the season off in fantastic fashion, Del Toro's follow-up combined action heroics with fairy-tale awesomeness, and The Dark Knight ... well, what really needs to be said at this point?

The Genre Stuff

Well ... summer's never all that great a season for the scary stuff.

The Alleged Comedies

Yee -- ikes. OK, so Get Smart and Step Brothers had a few chuckles (and I heard Swing Vote was pretty decent), but this summer comedy line-up looks absolutely painful. The ladies seemed to have it a little better than the guys -- at least one demographic was pleased with their specialized treats -- but the boys had to wait until summer's end to savor the one-two punch of Pineapple / Thunder. Both were worth the wait, but dang there's a lot of rotten comedies in that list.

The Family Fare

Most families can deal with the PG-13 fare, but if you've got little ones then your options were fairly limited this summer. The Panda flick was quite a bit better than I'd expected, and the latest Pixar film was an absolute highlight of the whole summer -- but that's about it. Journey had a few cool moments (in between the poundings of my migraine), but Speed Racer makes that flick look like a Merchant Ivory production.

Action and Adventure!

Of course this is where the summer season swings for the fences: the action-adventure stuff, which now has its very own non-superhero sub-division. I skipped the trip to Yawnia this time around, I had a monkey-swingin' good time with Indiana Jones, I got quite the bang for my buck with Wanted, I seem to be one of the only folks who think Hancock is borderline great, and I thought The Mummy 3 was the rottenest big budget flick of the season. Death Race proved to be a late-summer treat (for me, anyway) and while the jury is still out on Babylon A.D. -- I hope it's at least FUN-bad.

So overall, and thinking of films OTHER than WALL-E and The Dark Knight, how would you rate this summer season on a five-star scale? What were your favorites? Biggest disappointments? Most infuriating money-wasters? Um... Movies you thought were overrated!

Give me a week and I'll have the Summer 2009 preview ready.