Calendar-makers would have us believe that summer begins on June 21, which, paradoxically, is called "Midsummer Night's Eve," as though the beginning and midpoint of summer occurred at the same moment. Bloated Hollywood filthocrats smartly reject this convention and mark the start of summer with the release of the year's first superhero movie.
So summer started on April 16, when Kick-Ass came out, or if that doesn't actually count as a superhero movie, because the Internet didn't grind to a halt with a flood of negative reviews by fanboys who hadn't actually seen the film, then summer started on May 7, when Iron Man 2 came out.
In fact, I think that as a rule, we should say that summer doesn't start until a movie with a number in the title banks at least $50 million at the box office.Click here to see a video of our summer movie preview
So, though it's been out for a couple of weeks, you should know that Iron Man 2 is not bad, though it's hardly the cinematic tour de force we were promised. Also, if you stay to the very end, you can see Thor's hammer. (Note to our gay readership: That's not a euphemism.)
Anyway, since IM2 is already well over the $250 million mark, I'll start with a frank discussion of the year's second movie with a "2" in the title, Sex and the City 2. I was thinking a good plot would be to have a supervillain bent on controlling the world's menopausal sluts replace Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda with soulless robots. However, his plan is thwarted when Mr. Big realizes that the robot can't be Carrie, because it has some depth of character. Ha! I kid, because I hate.
Shrek Forever After is like Sex and the City in that it's about hideous ogres seeking love. In this one, Shrek has become a domesticated family man and yearns to feel like a real ogre again, so he signs a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to change reality for a day, and then everyone tries to kill him, and then a donkey tells a fart joke. Mike Myers reprises his fantasy role of playing a heterosexual who lives somewhere other than Canada.
The movie has already been released, but I want to commend Just Wright for having the best preview trailer ever. It begins with lonely Queen Latifah getting repeatedly rejected by men. Then she helps a handsome man pump some gas, and it turns out the handsome man is famed basketball player Scott McKnight. McKnight asks her out, and just when it looks like Latifah is gonna get some lovin', her skinny best friend, Morgan, swoops in and marries McKnight. That's plenty of plot-reveal for a trailer. But wait, the preview continues: McKnight is injured and needs a physical therapist. As luck would have it, Latifah is a physical therapist! She does the standard "I'm gonna make you walk, but you're gonna hate me for it" speech, and then gets to work intimately aiding the injured star. So, of course, the trailer must end there, because that sets up a central conflict. But, no, the trailer continues: Skinny Morgan breaks up with McKnight because she can't be with a guy whose career might be over. Then Latifah and McKnight get passionate. This is a three minute trailer. So that's gotta be it, right? Wrong: Morgan returns and wants McKnight back. Then McKnight gets back together with Morgan, leaving Latifah alone again. And then, finally, that's it for the trailer. It's like the studio was saying, "Hey, if you want to find out what happens next, you'll have to watch the last four minutes of the actual movie!"
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the summer's first film based on a video game about Muslims. Jake Gyllenhaal's massive, hairless chest stars as Dastan, a scimitar-wielding prince (probably from somewhere in the Middle East; I'm guessing Persia) who must stop the titular sands of time from destroying the world. While Jake Gyllenhaal could maybe pass for Persian, Gemma Arterton—who plays the female lead—is a pale-skinned redhead. But I'm sure they'll black her up for the movie. I really think this is going to help Iranian/American relations.
There's another George Romero zombie movie coming out, Survival of the Dead. I love the Romero zombie films. He invented the genre, and yet he still works on a budget that couldn't pay for one of Gwyneth Paltrow's cuticle assistants. He uses casts of unknowns, and his special effects look like they were made by the cleverest nerd in Mrs. Parkinson's fourth-grade science class. And yet his films are still more fun to watch than Lindsay Lohan after she's put 14 martinis, two lines of coke and a softball-playing DJ inside herself.
Make your own joke using "dog" and "movie": Marmaduke, featuring Owen Wilson as the voice of a gigantic dog, is coming to your local theater. Marmaduke is based on a daily one-panel gag cartoon. That's like making Vacation Postcard Featuring Scene of Beach: The Motion Picture or Walmart Logo: The Motion Picture. Actually, either of those would have more content than a one-panel gag cartoon about a big dog. And when I say "about a big dog," I mean, literally, that's the entire content of that comic: For 55 years, every day of the week, the strip has told a "joke" whose punch line is, "But that dog is so big! He's a really big dog!"
Get Him to the Greek has one of the least-promising premises of the summer: Jonah Hill plays a nerdy white man who is not currently dating a shaved supermodel. He is tasked by his boss (Sean "I can't decide on a stage name" Combs) with the job of transporting a gross caricature of a rock star (Russell Brand) from London to Los Angeles within 72 hours, or, I don't know, a deadly virus will destroy Jupiter. The advance promo material features Russell Brand making the Satan symbol with both hands while wearing embarrassingly dated rock 'n' roll clothing. Actually, at this point, rock 'n' roll is embarrassingly dated. I mean, are there even rock stars anymore? It's like this movie fell out of 1979, skidded through the stupid comedy craze of the late-'90s, and landed in the post-television no-man's land of 2010. Get Him to the Greek is written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, who's famous for making nothing you'd ever admit to having seen.
A number of people I know have already complained to me that the remake of The Karate Kid is misnamed, because the titular kid learns kung fu and not karate. So there are middle-age men who think that accuracy in the title of a kids' movie is worth getting worked up about. No wonder they called my people "Generation X." In this version, Jaden Smith—son of Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and an army of image consultants—plays the titular role. Jackie Chan takes over for the late Pat Morita as Wise Asian Man Who Will Wisely Display the Wisdom of Asia to a Cocky American Who Will Learn From This Asian Man What It Is to Wisely Be Asian With Wisdom. (That's the actual character name; I didn't make that up.) Kid is directed by Harald Zwart, who also directed The Pink Panther 2, which is a film that falls into my favorite genre: unsuccessful sequels to unsuccessful movies.
Strangely, in my entire life, I only watched one episode of The A-Team, so I can't get all worked up about the sequel. But if I could, apparently I'd be making a lot of noise about Liam Neeson playing the George Peppard role. I'm not sure if I'd be happy about this or upset about it, and I'm not going to read through every blog on the Internet to find out, but mostly, I'm just glad that Mr. T is working again. I mean, they must have given him at least a walk-on. Right? Mr. T?
Remember when comic-book movies starred people like Matt Salinger and Dolph Lundgren? I mean, god bless 'em, but they put "actor" on top of their résumés only because they didn't know how to spell "meat byproduct." Jonah Hex, however, stars Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Megan Fox, at least two of whom weren't hired because of how good they look bending over. The film is based on a comic book about an Old West gunslinger. In the movie adaptation, he's just like Barack Obama, in that he fights an army of reactionary racists who want to bring back the Old South.
Toy Story 3 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse are probably pretty much the same thing. I mean, if you've seen one kids' movie, you've seen 'em all.
Tom Cruise takes some time off from shaving anti-psychiatry screeds into his pubic hair to star in Knight and Day, a movie about a super-spy who goes on a blind date with Cameron Diaz and, I don't know, whatever. Let's say they buy a radioactive dog and then join forces to fight illegal immigrants.
Similarly, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl star in Killers, wherein Kutcher is a superspy-assassin, and Heigl is his unsuspecting wife. The movie starts with the couple's romantic meeting, then they just cut in a bunch of scenes from Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and then the credits roll while a sellout indie rock band plays a song they'll regret for years.
The Last Airbender, based on the Nickelodeon animated series, is the latest film from M. Night Shyamalan, whom everybody used to love and who now sits in a corner hugging himself and crying. The movie, like the animated series, was originally titled Avatar: The Last Airbender, but then somebody made a film about naked sex-smurfs called Avatar, so they had to change the title. The Last Airbender is about a little white boy who fights Asians. Also, he has the power to control the five elements: earth, air, fire, water and surprise. Yes. The most potent element of all. The element of surprise.
This year's entry in the overextended Predator series is Predators, which pluralizes for no less than, but potentially far more than, twice the fun. Strangely, it stars Adrien Brody and Laurence Fishburne. In this one, a bunch of humans get kidnapped and then hunted by the predators, so it's kind of like spending a weekend with Dick Cheney, except the predators will only shoot you; they won't make you lie about it on television.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a feature-length, live-action remake of the animated short starring Mickey Mouse. Nicolas Cage plays the sorcerer, and Jay Baruchel plays the Mickey Mouse part. Except, instead of an animated mouse, Baruchel will be a human, just like he is in real life. Nicolas Cage, of course, will be a cartoon character, just like he is in real life.
OK, wait, do you not love the Ramona series of children's books? Because you should love the Ramona books. And they made the best TV series out of them. It was so good that it was actually made in Canada by Canadians. And now there's a Ramona movie, Ramona and Beezus. Omigod I'm so excited I just dropped all my silly bands and knocked over my animal-eraser collection!
I Love You Phillip Morris is not about smoking. Unless you count pole-smoking. Jim Carrey plays a convict who falls in love with his cellmate (Ewan McGregor). On a second trip behind bars, Carrey decides to con his way out in order to be reunited with his lost love. Apparently the major studios weren't keen on doing this movie, because the lead character is actually gay. They prefer more realistic movies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, in which straight men pretend to be gay so they can get the many social, fiscal and legal benefits that come with homosexuality. Making Chuck and Larry was almost self-contradictory: The fact that Kevin James is a star is evidence enough that heterosexual white people have an unfair advantage in life. Anyway, I Love You Phillip Morris got good notice at Cannes, but then Cannes is full of French people who hate our fried-potato products.
Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore is a sequel to a movie nobody remembers from nine years ago. Similarly, the cast is full of people who were once famous but who've gone past "Where are they now?" to "Excuse me?" Bette Midler, Chris O'Donnell, Roger Moore and Michael Clarke Duncan all hitch their fading stars to this tale of a peace accord in the endless war between cats and dogs. Seriously, it's about cats and dogs, and they talk with humans, and they're at war. Because you know what old Hanna-Barbera cartoons were lacking? $100 million in special effects.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stars Michael Cera as a bass-playing hipster who must defeat his new girlfriend's seven evil ex-boyfriends. Isn't it time for Michael Cera to open a Chick-fil-A or something? He did the child-star thing, and we all get how cute his stammering is, but, dude, leave us with the memories! We don't want to watch you doing that boy-band version of Jimmy Stewart when your hairline thins, and you're caught with a dead furry-porn model in a pile of old Vampire Weekend CDs. Anyway, the film is based on the Scott Pilgrim comic-book series, which is a very decent, somewhat manga-styled, Canadian teen-rock romance.
Sylvester Stallone has gathered the following cast for his new film, The Expendables: himself, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Looking at that cast, I've come up with an unorthodox idea for the film: I think it should include an action sequence. As I understand it, the plot revolves around an ass, and some attempts at kicking that ass. I'll let you know if any animals were hurt during filming, but seeing as Statham, Lundgren and Roberts are fairly fragile, it seems likely that they were. Also, I wonder what Rutger Hauer was doing that was so much more important than being in this movie. Like, was he in the shower when the phone rang, and he was all "whatevs," and when he didn't answer, Stallone just shrugged and went, "OK, I'll call Dolph Lundgren"? Probably. That's probably what happened.
Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh used to be highbrow cinema's reigning husband-and-wife team. Now Branagh is directing the comic-book adaptation Thor (due in 2011), and Thompson has written and is starring in the children's movie Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. I really want to make the standard set of jokes about a film that forecloses on its own porn name, but I just can't say anything bad about an Emma Thompson project. I mean, she had to put up with Kenneth Branagh. Imagine what it's like to have sex with someone that self-absorbed. He probably made her wear a mirror over her face.
The summer movie season comes to an end with Piranha 3-D, which is a remake of the tremendously amusing 1978 film Piranha 2-D, which itself is based on Piranha 1-D, about a very narrow line of deadly piranhas.
In the latest iteration, prehistoric man-eating fish terrorize an Arizona lakeside town by teaching ethnic-studies classes and appearing in public without proof of citizenship.
Other Movies (Not) Opening This Summer
Shrek 5: Shrek Five Ever After
I Now Pronounce You Predator and Alien
Huckleberry Finn Extreme: The River of Blood
Goodnight Moon: The Motion Picture Experience
Harry Potter and the Uncomfortably Pubescent Wizards
12 Angry X-Men
The Hangover 2: The Liver Damage
Alvin and the Catholic Monks: The Prayerquel
Park Bench: The Motion Picture
Angels and Demons and Cats and Dogs
Cloudy With a Chance of Mean Girls
Inglourious Basterds 2: Inglurheaz Bahzturts
Paul Blart: God Emperor of Dune
It's Complicated 2: It's Infected
Tyler Perry's Madea Is Just Me Dressing Up as a Woman Because I Like It
That Song the Ice Cream Truck Plays: The Motion Picture
He's Just Not That Into Your Health Care Plan
The SpiderManchurian Candidate
Julie and Julia and Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
George Clooney's Cloonyful Cloonathon
Twilight 4: The Glitterpocalypse
AOL: The Musical
Worthless: Based on the Novel "Going Rogue" by Sarah Palin
Borat 2: Poor People and Minorities Are Funny
The Men Who Stare at Oats
The Dark Knight Regurgitates
WALL-E 2: WALL-F
The Erotic Case of Benjamin Hard-On
Hannah Montana's Awesome Puberty Party
The Batman of La Mancha
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Joe Pantolionos
How to Train Your Drug Lord
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Meth
National Treasure: Box of Tampons
The Simpsons Movie 2: The Family Guy Movie
The Bucket List 2: The Tombstone Inscription
Halloween 2: Thanksgiving
P.S. I Love Your Shoes
Blog: The Motion Picture
30 Days of Night 2: 30 Days of Noon
Racist, Misspelled Tea Party Sign: The Motion Picture
Finding Nemo's Fingerprints on the Little Mermaid's Corpse
M. Night Shyamalan and Tyler Perry Present Themselves
Forrest Gump 2: Gump up the Volume
The Six Million Dollar Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Charlie and the Chocolate Family
There's Something About Mary Cheney
The Groundhog Day the Earth Stood Still
Seven 2: Fourteen
The Hunchback of Guantanamo Bay
Close Encounters of the Third World Development Conference
Horton Hears a Who 2: Horton Sees a What
My Best Friend's Welding
High School Musical 4: Minimum Wage Musical 1
One Hundred and One Albanians
JFK 2: LOL
Indiana Jones of the Rings: Raiders of the Lost Orc
A Few Good Rain Men
Woody Allen's Increasing Irrelevance
Million Dollar Baby 2: Trillion Dollar Bail-Out
Dial M for Mexicans
The Lion King Kong
Ratatouille 2: Rata-three-ee
Gandhi 2: Diaper of Vengeance
Three Men and a Rosemary's Baby
Snow White and the Seven Dweebs
A Star Wars Named Desire
Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf Blitzer?