And every summer, America presents to the world its greatest product: crappy movies--big, expensive, derivative, crappy movies--because sometimes, we need to take a break from all of the wars we're fighting and the economies we're destroying and mortgages we're foreclosing on, and just have a really bad time at the theater.
So here they are, summer's movies, presented in the way God intended: chronologically.
THE MOVIES OF MAYIron Man: This is being hyped as the best superhero movie ever made, and if the film is just a montage of scenes from the trailer, then it probably will be. Encouragingly, the lead part is played by Robert Downey Jr., who's a really good actor and can also score you pretty much anything you want. Seriously: Ask him where to get freshly harvested walrus adrenaline, or half-human, half-elephant Afghani slave boys. He'll hook you up. And Iron Man is directed by Jon Favreau, who's sort of chunky, but in a good way, like an ugly, still-living Anna Nicole Smith. So I think this will rock. (See my review in the Cinema section to find out more.)
Fishtales: I expected by the title that this would be a Disney/Pixar version of MacBeth, only with fish. So there'd be MacBass and Lady MacBass, and they'd harpoon their way to the top of the fish kingdom until some fish not of fish-egg born came along and slew them. Or something. Actually, though, it's about a widower who falls in love with a mermaid. The mermaid is played by Kelly Brook, who models swimsuits, so I guess this film has intellectual integrity. I mean, it's not like they cast somebody who models things you'd wear on dry land.
Speed Racer: I've been looking forward to a Speed Racer movie for years. It's sort of my generation's Transformers: a crappy Japanese import that we remember fondly, because we saw it when we were too young to have discriminating tastes. And I think the Wachowski brothers are the perfect team to bring it to the big screen: Their movies are flashy without being totally stupid, and one of them is a reputed transsexual. I just think that's important in a world in which human DNA is being transplanted into chimps. I mean, we need to respect the basics.
What Happens in Vegas: Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz ... in the same movie! Pinch me! I like the plot of this one, because it sounds like it was written by chopping up the plots of a dozen other movies. Ashton and Cameron get drunk and do something they'll regret: They get married. When they wake up, they want to split up, but during the debauch, they won a big jackpot, and they both want the money. My gosh ... they'll probably tear each other apart ... unless, unless ... you don't think they'll fall in love, do you? You know what would be funny? If instead of falling in love, they each hired expensive divorce lawyers, and the case dragged on for years, and they were both bankrupted, and then in the end, you see the divorce lawyers holding hands and rolling around in a big pile of euros, and then terrorists kill them, and then the U.S. Army comes in and kills the terrorists, and then the national anthem plays. That would be awesome.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: I tried to read the Narnia books, but the second one I read was The Horse and His Boy, which is basically a racist screed about how dark-skinned people are evil and beat their children and such. So I stopped reading the series before Prince Caspian, which would have been next on my list. I don't know what to make of this, except I hear that in Prince Caspian, everyone is either a white kid or a talking animal. Kudos to C.S. Lewis on that point.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A lot of people have been making fun of Harrison Ford for thinking he can be an action hero when he's 65 years old. I think that's cruel, and I would rather make fun of him for that twitching movement he makes with his mouth to indicate emotions like love, and pity, and fear, and incontinence. But it really doesn't matter what I think: A fourth Indiana Jones film is gonna pack people into theaters, in spite of the fact that George Lucas, who wrote the movie, said that no one would be happy with it, and that in making this movie, all he could do was lose. It must be rough to be George Lucas, hiding from all the big kids who tease you and then sitting inside your solid-gold mansion surrounded by your posse of sycophants and your bathtubs full of caviar and plutonium and those large-breasted robot slaves who hold you gently until the sobbing stops.
Postal: Uwe Boll is not only the most reviled living director; he's also convinced that he's a genius. And why wouldn't he be? He made Alone in the Dark, BloodRayne and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and on the Internet Movie Database's scale of one to 10, those films combine for a score of 8. Postal is apparently a comedy about Osama bin Laden, terrorism and amusement parks. Like most of Boll's movies, this one is based on a video game, and it's a video game designed to match Mr. Boll's genius: The game has no plot and no background story, and the only "characters" are mere targets for the player to destroy. Someday, I would like to meet Mr. Boll, and just hug him. Just hug him and hug him and hug him until I've hugged all the hate out of him.
Sex and the City: The Movie: I'm kind of amazed that people watched Sex and the City: The TV Show, but seriously, if you could get it for free, why pay for it? I mean, wasn't that the theme of the series? Also, is Kim Cattrall's face safe to take out in public? It's so cybernetic that I'm afraid it's going to transform into a laser cannon and attack the Autobots.
The Strangers: The previews for this film look genuinely scary, and they're tremendously well-shot. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play a young couple living in a rural home. One night, a group of deranged teens decides to torment them. It's not the most original plot idea, but for that large set of Americans who receive aesthetic pleasure from watching innocent people being tortured (I'm looking at you, Mr. Cheney!), this should be a hoot.
Savage Grace: Julianne Moore has so many freckles that her face looks like one of those magic-eye drawings. I'm sure that if you just focus through her, you see the image of a bird holding an olive bough. In this film, she plays Barbara Daly Baekeland, wife of Bakelite fortune-holder Brooks Baekeland, and mother to Antony Baekeland. It's based a true story; it features incest; and somebody dies in the end, so it's kind of like a Greek tragedy or the autobiography that Sean Preston Federline will write in the year 2038.
JUNE'S FINE CINEMATIC OFFERINGSKung Fu Panda: You know what's worse than a Jack Black movie? Nothing! They suck! In this one, he gives his voice to an animated panda, but this is no ordinary panda. It's a panda ... that knows ... KUNG FU! I get that somebody in Hollywood wanted to hear Jack Black squeal for an hour and a half, but instead of making this movie, it would have probably been more morally defensible to just waterboard him.
You Don't Mess With the Zohan: Adam Sandler has teamed up with Judd Apatow, which is a weird pairing, because Sandler sucks in a nonsexist sort of way, and Apatow thinks women are robotic straight men who were put on Earth to destroy all the world's fun. Sandler plays a Mossad agent who decides he'd rather work as a hairstylist than torture Palestinians, so he moves to New York. You might think that'd be the end of it, but not me. I think there's gonna be a zany twist. A zany, zany twist.
The Incredible Hulk: The last Hulk movie was just called Hulk. This one is called The Incredible Hulk, which should make it 900 times better. What's 900 times zero again? Actually, the advance word is somewhat troubling: Star Edward Norton apparently went egotastic and demanded to rewrite the script, and then he wanted the film to be a 2 1/2-hour moody exploration of human emotion. Which makes sense, because Hulk has many feelings. Like smash feeling. And feeling of smash many things. Hulk like feeling of smash. Hulk want rewrite with more screen time for romantic subplot. Hold please while Hulk talk to Hulk agent. Hulk trying for lead in Lyndon Johnson biopic. Hulk think Johnson misunderstood; important figure with complex views on race. Hulk can fix Johnson image. Fix good.
The Happening: I still like M. Night Shyamalan, because I think he's one of the few directors who really knows how to make a B-movie. The problem is that he thinks he's making art films. Which is sort of cute. I just want him to keep making his movies and sitting up and begging for accolades, and then we can all pat him on the head and say, "Good boy! Good boy!" and then give him a Scooby snack, and he'll wag his tail and make another film about a little boy who sees dead superheroes in an alien village full of mermaids.
The Love Guru: This movie stars Jessica Alba and Mike Myers, so it should be really pretty and annoying, and also, it's being boycotted by some Hindus, because, well, imagine if they made a comedy about a Catholic priest who helps young boys find their manhood, and they called it The Love Priest. I mean, it would make William Donohue's day, but everyone else would be really mad.
Get Smart: It's weird how good Steve Carell is on The Office, because he makes some terrible movies. I'm not saying this one will suck, but it's directed by Peter Segal, who made Nutty Professor II and the almost mystically awful remake of The Longest Yard. So I guess, yeah, I'm saying this one will suck. Special bonus point: It also stars Anne Hathaway in one of her rare non-topless roles.
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl: I love movies based on toys. I mean, I hate movies based on toys. But the American Girl line of dolls is different, because they empower young women by encouraging them to buy dolls. So I think this will be a very empowering film, plus it has a very cerebral cast, including Stanley Tucci and Glenne Headly and Wallace Shawn, who probably just needed the money, but, you know, God bless them.
WALL-E: For years, Disney has catered to the furry-porn crowd and has neglected clanker-porn fans. But now, at last, they've released a movie about two robots who fall in love. There's also some stuff about how pollution is bad, so if you're a really nerdy Al Gore fan, you'll love this. Hey, you know who the nerdiest Al Gore fan on Earth is? Yeah, it's Al Gore. He's really gonna like this movie.
Wanted: Nerd alert! This is based on the coolest comic book omigod so L337! But, apparently, they completely rewrote it for the big screen, and it's being directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who directed the gorgeous but painfully stupid films Day Watch and Night Watch. And it was scripted by Michael Brandt, who wrote 2 Fast 2 Furious, which is weird, because it's hard to believe somebody actually wrote that movie. So, I dunno, again, pessimistically, I'm guessing this will be awful, but I'm gonna see it anyway, because the comic was aw3s0m3XXXorZZ!
Frost/Nixon: This docudrama about Richard Nixon's first post-Watergate interviews is potentially the best superhero movie of the summer. (Little-known fact: Richard Nixon could fly.)
JULY, A TIME FOR FILMHancock: I'm really glad Will Smith's career is going so well, because he seems like a swell guy. That said, if he were to quit acting and go into haberdashery, I wouldn't be, like, all that sad or anything. I mean, I'm a critic. I have to go watch his movies. You understand.
12th Man: This movie has exactly the structure I hate: A man wakes up aboard a dying space ship. There's only one escape pod. But he has to fight his way past 11 deadly criminals. Which means this is a series of 11 action sequences with, I assume, no other plot development. I guess this would be really fun if you had advanced Alzheimer's, because you'd be all, "Wow, look at that action!" and then you could do that 11 more times, and each time would seem as fresh as a newly minted penny. Ooh, shiny!
Wasting Away: It's another zombie comedy. I mean, we get it, OK? Ferchrissakes, give it a rest. Seriously. Like, make a comedy about veganism or Jolene mustache bleach or something. Really, anything, pick a topic that hasn't been done 47 times in the last five years. Oh, but this one's from the perspective of the zombies. That's like making a teen sex comedy from the perspective of the pie.
Sister Switch: Hey, what would happen if a shy, nerd-brain-girl switched bodies with her 18-year-old popular, partying, hip-hop sister? OK, it's a stupid, tired plot that's been done a million times. But, goddamn it, I think this time, just maybe, it'll work.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: I didn't like the last Hellboy movie, even though all my nerdy friends did. I thought it had no rhythm. It was sort of like listening to a one-note bass solo, which is great if you're really stoned, but otherwise ... no, wait, that sucks even if you're stoned. Why did people like that movie? Still, I think this one will be good, if only because all critics are supposed to pretend that director Guillermo del Toro is talented. So, yeah, Pan's Labyrinth wasn't an obvious rip-off of a Terry Gilliam film combined with a mediocre and politically naïve thriller about the Spanish Revolution. No. It was totally brilliant.
Meet Dave: I wonder if Eddie Murphy sits around trying to think up the worst possible idea for a movie. He must, really. Pluto Nash, Norbit and now this one, about miniature aliens in an Eddie Murphy-shaped spaceship. But! Oh zany! Oh silly fun! What if the spaceship falls in love ... with an Earth woman?! You know what would be even funnier? If Eddie Murphy just gave all his belongings to charity and retreated to a monastery. I mean, in itself, that's not funny at all, but since he wouldn't be making movies anymore, there'd be an overall net gain in funniness.
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D: This movie proves, once and for all, that the Earth is three dimensional. Take that, flat-Earthers!
The Dark Knight: I'm tired of saying things like this, but I thought the last Batman movie was pretty weak. Like, it was a good film wrapped up in an overly complex, too-long, kitchen-sink action film. But I have high hopes that, with the origin stuff out of the way, director Christopher Nolan (Memento) will go back to the tight filmmaking for which he's known. Also, it stars Heath Ledger, who's dead, so now he's automatically a great actor who was taken before his time. God bless him. God bless his soul.
Mamma Mia!: I know a lot of Swedes, and they never say anything nice about Sweden. I don't know if they actually hate the place, or they're just modest, or they just like to complain. But when they start slagging on their homeland, I always say, "Yeah, but Abba is from Sweden," and they stop, and look slightly upward, and their eyes glaze over, and they say, "Yes, yes, Abba ... ." I'm pretty sure that Benny and Björn and Anni-Frid and Agnetha are worshipped as gods there. In which case, this film, based on their music, is like a religion, so I have to say it's good, because if there's one thing we know about the American media, it's that we're not allowed to criticize religion unless it's the religion of some black guy.
The X Files: I Want to Believe: I'm really pissed off that they gave this movie a name, because until about two weeks ago, it was called Untitled X Files Sequel. I mean, this could have been the best untitled sequel ever. But at least there was a six-year gap between the end of the series and this film that's supposed to finally resolve the plot. It's like Hollywood is a big bully who stole the nerd-kid's copy of Volume 13 of the Magical Breast-Plates of the Boy Wizard novel series and has been holding it just over his head for the last half-decade saying, "Go ahead and take it ... whoops! No, go ahead, here it is. Whoops!"
Step Brothers: Yet another Judd Apatow production. Please, Mr. Apatow, stop while you're way, way behind. This one's written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the writing team for Talladega Nights and Anchorman, both of which were passably funny. So I have high hopes that this will be passably funny, too. I know, I should be snarky about this, but Obama taught me to dream again. Yes. Yes we can.
AUGUST, WHEN MOVIES BLOOM LIKE CALLA LILIESThe Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: Jet Li and Brendan Fraser, together at last! And by "at last," I mean, "as revealed in the Seventh Scroll in the Book of Revelations." Seriously. If this movie comes out, everyone on Earth will die.
He's Just Not That Into You: A movie from a self-help book. That's like making a movie from a cookbook. You know what would be a good movie? Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. That would rock.
Choke: I can't believe it's taken them this long to make another movie from a Chuck Palahniuk novel. The last one, Fight Club, was the second-best thing that Brad Pitt's ever been in, and by far the best movie he's been in. Unfortunately, in the 4 million years since they made that, Palahniuk has gotten worse and worse, and Choke, while not at the bottom of his suckpile, is hardly his best book. Still, the film's got some decent bona fides: It stars Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston and Kelly Macdonald, and it's directed by Clark Gregg, who's a good actor. So, you know, he can probably direct a mediocre movie. Yay!
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2: Holy fucking shit! No, seriously: Holy fucking shit! The first movie had the best tagline ever: "Laugh. Cry. Share the pants." I'm not making that up. I wish I had thought of that. And now, at last, a sequel! Will the pants still fit? Will Bridget and Eric get back together? Will Carmen make peace with her father? Will the girls get yeast infections? I, for one, can't wait to find out.
Pineapple Express: More from the Apatow crew, this time the Seth Rogen wing. Sadly, that wing also includes Bill Hader, who is to suck what God is to love. It's a stoner comedy in which, and I'm just guessing here, the foreground characters have penises, and the background characters do not. Because penis-people are so funny. They, like, smoke pot, and then non-penis people have to be stern with them. Ha!
Hell Ride: Written, directed by and starring Larry Bishop! Yes, the Larry Bishop! I love it when someone I've never heard of, but who's been around Hollywood for years (surely you remember him as Laverne's boyfriend Jake from Season 4, Episode 4, of Laverne and Shirley?), gets it in his head to Barbra Streisand a movie. Because either it'll be surprisingly good (like Teeth), or it'll suck like Lindsay Lohan with a black hole in her esophagus.
Jolene: Sadly, this is not based on the awesome Dolly Parton song, but rather on the E.L. Doctorow story. It's about an orphan travelling across America, experiencing not only life and love, but also feelings. It stars Jessica Chastain, whose big claim to fame was an appearance on Veronica Mars. It also stars Denise Richards, whose claim to fame is an appearance on Charlie Sheen, another one on Richie Sambora, and one more on John Stamos.
Girls Gone Dead: You know what would be hilarious? A campy homage to '80s slasher flicks. Oh, I'm sorry, I was time-travelling to 1991, before that idea had been done 1,300 times. Never mind.
Tropic Thunder: I love the idea for this movie: Three actors making a war movie are dumped in a real war zone when their director gets sick of working with them. OK, that idea is stupid, and the film stars Jack Black, which is like saying, "And for dinner, we'll be serving feces." But the good part is that Robert Downey Jr. plays a white actor who has had himself surgically altered to look black in order to play an African American. So he spends the whole movie in blackface. Seriously, you could kick Robert Downey Jr. right in the nads, and you'd just fracture your toe.
Seventeen Again: Omigod it's a movie with that totally dreamy Zac Efron from High School Musical. I'm so glad he broke up with that slut Vanessa Hudgens. She is so skanky! What's the movie about? Who cares! Oh, it's about a guy who wakes up and finds he's 17 again. That should be awesome! I've never seen a movie before! Hurray!
Crossing Over: This is a "serious movie" about border-crossing, done in the style of Traffic and Babel. It's directed by Wayne Kramer, who made The Cooler, which is the quintessential bad independent film. It's like someone studied all the independent films of the last 10 years, and boiled them down to their most boring elements, and then dulled it down a bit. So I'm guessing Crossing Over will rock, because Kramer must have already used up his lifetime quota of suck.
The Accidental Husband: A romcom with Uma Thurman and romcom veteran Colin Firth. Note to romcom makers: Uma Thurman is neither pretty nor funny. Except her feet. Which aren't pretty, but are funny.
Wild Child: A rebellious "Malibu Princess" is shipped off to a strict English boarding school. Wow, they're really running out of ideas as the summer progresses. But wait, next up is ...
College: Yes, it's a movie called College. And the plot synopsis reads: "Three high school seniors visit a college for a wild weekend." It's like Hollywood has just thrown its collective hands in the air and surrendered. Hey, you know what would be a funny addition to this film? If they went to a frat party, and one of the frat guys was really into beer!
Babylon A.D.: Vin Diesel and Michelle Yeoh star in this sci-fi/human-trafficking flick, but the interesting twist is that Vin Diesel is escorting a woman who is sort of the Virgin Mary of the dystopian cyberpunk future, because she's carrying some sort of organism that can save the human race. Details are sketchy, but I think the organism has the power to turn the news media's lack of interest in policy into a renewable-energy source.
Hamlet 2: You know what's great about David Arquette? He's mortal. While we wait for that to kick in, he'll be starring in Hamlet 2. On the other hand, so will Steve Coogan, who, unlike Arquette, is usually funny. And sentient.
SEPTEMBER, THE DEATH OF SUMMERPunisher: War Zone: This is the last summer-style movie before the fall Oscar scramble begins, and it's the third try at making a movie featuring the Punisher comic-book character. The first two attempts can be found in your local Blockbuster's "landfill" section. While there's little chance this will be good, it does star Ray Stevenson, who at least looks grizzled enough to be the Punisher.
In any event, this is the perfect final film for the summer season: It's sort of a sequel; it's based on a comic book; and it's part of a continuing series of failures.
Actually, in that way, it's also like the Bush presidency. God bless America.