It’s that time of year again: time for the summer movie, the blockbuster, the movie all your friends are seeing and talking about. Sure, you’ll waste a bunch of money on duds such as Star Wars: Episode I (damn you, George Lucas, and your yes men!), but there’s always a shot you’ll see Inception — something surprisingly smart, tremendously entertaining, and beautifully done.
In the spirit of hope, then, let’s take a look at twelve of the biggest blockbusters coming up (and that have already come out) this summer.
X-Men: First Class
Loved it. Yes, I know that it portrays the Soviets and the Americans as two sides of the same coin, and shows America’s placement of Jupiter missiles in Turkey as a provocative cause of the Cuban missile crisis. Yes, I understand that the villain of the piece, Sebastian Shaw, utters lines such as “If you’re not with us, then by definition, you are against us.” Yes, I realize that American soldiers and the CIA are portrayed as sexist bullies intent on destroying anything that doesn’t fit their cookie-cutter worldview. I don’t care. The movie’s great. I haven’t seen a more entertaining and emotionally cathartic scene than the Argentinian bar scene in a long time. Perhaps it’s a Jewish thing, but all my sympathies lie with Magneto (as do the screenwriter’s, clearly), and I find Professor X to be an accommodationist willfully blind to reality (at least in this movie).
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
If you see this and you don’t have kids, I don’t even know why anyone would talk to you. If you see this and you do have kids, I’m wondering whether you need to give them a time out. Whenever you see previews for films like this, it makes you wonder whether a benevolent God actually exists.
The CGI looks bad. The acting looks bad. The plot looks bad. The reviews look bad. Why is Ryan Reynolds a movie star?
Have heard mixed reviews about this one. On the one hand, my good friend Kurt Schlichter ripped this movie up and down for its anti-military pretentions; on the other hand, it’s J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, and Spielberg’s due for a good movie (isn’t he?). Also, it’s about aliens, which is Spielberg’s specialty. He’s not nearly as good with human beings — Saving Private Ryan is overrated, except for the D-Day sequence, and Schindler’s List is a gussying-up of the Holocaust. (You may send the hate mail now.)
As the Wall Street Journal reported, this new Pixar film is propaganda on behalf of “green energy” and Big Oil is once again the enemy. Director Jon Lasseter explained, “What would be a really good kind of uber bad guy? Who is an uber bad guy? I kept going to big oil.” Terrific. By the way, who thought that Cars needed a sequel while The Incredibles didn’t? I guess Pixar thought it was time for some more Wall-E liberalism (by the way, I liked Wall-E, but thought it was highly illogical that we’d find a way to shoot ourselves into space en masse but couldn’t find a way to shoot trash into space).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II
The most boring series of all time comes to its conclusion, thank God. Haven’t read the books, I know, so that makes me worse than Stalin. But I have been dragged to these godawful movies year after year, and I cannot wait for them to come to a merciful end. And who knows? Maybe there will be a twist ending and something will actually happen.
Jury’s out. Previews look interesting, but if this is another Big Bad Military Makes Monster movie, count me out.
Cowboys and Aliens
I have to hand it to Jon Favreau — he’s doing what every famous movie director should do. He’s taking his fame and wealth and making movies that are plain fun. No idea whether this is going to suck or not — high chance that it will. But it’s pure popcorn stuff, and I know that Independence Day meets Tombstone will be interesting (and you can put money that that was precisely the pitch Favreau made in his studio meeting).
Friends with Benefits
Just what we need: another movie about friends who use each others’ genitals for pleasure. Hollywood claims when it makes these movies that it isn’t legitimizing this lifestyle but criticizing it for its lack of emotional weight — but every one of these movies starts off with the first hour showing how great the lifestyle is. If only we could keep those dang emotions out of the way, folks, we’d have the Brave New World we’ve all been waiting for!
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
When I first saw the preview for this, I thought, “Okay, cool, looks interesting.” Then the logo came up and I saw it was Transformers and I thought, “Nah.” Unfortunately, that’s the Michael Bay Effect. I’ve heard from industry insiders that Bay’s strategy with these movies is literally to walk into a room full of artists and say, “Make me something cool. Then I’ll write a movie around it.” That is not a good strategy.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This violates every cardinal rule of moviemaking. Do Not Remake Great Films (didn’t they learn from Mark Wahlberg’s Planet of the Apes?). Do Not Use Monkeys As Main Characters. Do Not Use James Franco Under Any Circumstances, And Especially, Not As A Scientist. This is one of the worst previews in history. It looks absurd — are we all really supposed to be scared of a bunch of Mighty Joe Youngs? It undercuts the main premise of the original Planet of the Apes (SPOILER ALERT), which is that nuclear war caused the evolution that led man back to primitive state and led apes to man-like capacity. Now, apparently, it’s James Franco’s scientific abil — oh my God, I can’t stop laughing — abilities that turn our cousins into our overlords.
So there’s your summer preview. There’s gotta be something there for you to watch, right? If not, go rent Inception again. At least you know it’s good.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece has been amended since its original posting.