Associated Press
"Presto," a magician-versus-rabbit short playing before "WALL*E," is a delightful surprise.

Can you believe it? The year — in particular, the cinematic one — is already half over.

Sadly, that means we're now in the usual August doldrums. That month, along with January and October, is when studios usually dump their worst movies into theaters.

So let's be grateful that this cinematic year has had quite a few pleasant surprises.

One of the best of these was "Presto," the digitally animated short that is playing before Disney/Pixar's latest hit cartoon, "WALL*E."

As my pal Kerry Jackson put it, the magician-versus-rabbit comedy short was "the best Bugs Bunny cartoon that Warner Bros. didn't make ... and possibly the best one ever."

And as for the accompanying feature, "WALL*E" only gets better the more I think about it. I really should try to catch it again while it's still in theaters.

While I'm at it, here's a few more of my favorite things from movies this year:

• Getting to see "The Dark Knight" twice in the IMAX format before it had even opened in theaters (at pre-screenings).

Sometimes being a movie critic really does have its privileges.

• Finally getting to interview filmmaker Werner Herzog for his latest, the Antarctica documentary "Encounters at the End of the World."

Although I had to stop myself from laughing throughout the 20-minute phone interview. The German-born Herzog is a crack-up.

• The Dracula puppet "rock opera" featured in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

It was good enough to get director Nik Stoller and screenwriter/star Jason Segel a new "Muppets" feature.

• The first time we get to see the title character from "Iron Man" in action.

The bit in which he emerges from the cave with his flamethrower devices blazing? Cool.

Danny McBride, a real scene-stealer in supporting roles (he was seen in both "Drillbit Taylor" and "Pineapple Express").

However, even McBride wasn't enough to save the lame "The Foot Fist Way.

• The summer's one true guilty pleasure, "Wanted."

The comic book adaptation was morally reprehensible and pretty nonsensical. And yet I was entertained.

ANOTHER FAVORITE THING ....

I am similarly overjoyed by the release of "Steven Spielberg Presents Freakazoid! Season 1" (Warner Home Video, two discs, not rated, $26.98).

This largely forgotten, mid-'90s cartoon featured a title character who sounds and acts a lot like someone Jim Carrey might have played, and also strongly resembles Mike Allred's comic book creation "Madman."

It's worth it just to see the title character running around with his arms in front of him and making "whooshing" noises. (You see, the character can't fly, but is just crazy enough to think he's doing so when he runs around like that.)

"Freakazoid!" also had a great voice cast, including Craig Ferguson and Ed Asner Cosgrove as Freakazoid's mentors and friends. David Warner was the evil Lobe, and Ricardo Montalban voiced his arch-nemesis, Armondo Guitierrez.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com