“Summer” Movie Roundup
Putting summer in quotes because all of the big summer-like movies are slowly starting to escape from their former hunting grounds and ravage adjacent months. Clash of the Titans came out at the beginning of April, and that was after it was pushed back a week from its March release date. Next week the latest Resident Evil movie, this time gussied up in 3D, is coming out as well. These are movies that, at the very least, get dumped off in August. They’re summer movies, but they’re coming out well outside the summer’s grasp. Pretty soon that’s all we’ll see: a bunch of “event” movies coming out one after another. It isn’t an inherently bad thing or whatever, but it’s amusing.
Anyway, let’s talk about this summer’s crop. Since Hollywood seems intent on twisting the definition of “summer,” we’ll play along with them. This silly little list will cover all the shit I saw from the beginning of April up until this past Labor Day weekend. Typical list format, starting with the worst and working up to the best.
18. Jonah Hex
Lots of reviews say Jonah Hex makes no sense. That isn’t true. It’s pretty simple: Dude dies, comes back, and can now talk to the dead. Dude gets revenge on dude that killed his family and nearly killed him. Insert stuff about other dudes that want to resurrect the Confederacy. The end.
The problem with the movie is that everything is done with the utmost incompetence. The entire movie takes place over the course of a couple of days, yet people dart about the US like they have access to airplanes. One second someone’s in the deep south, the next they’re in a pueblo town that looks like it’s in Arizona or New Mexico. Even with trains such a trip would take a decent amount of time. That’s just an example of how Jonah Hex is as stupid as a movie can get. Throw in the fact that the action scenes suck, what few good actors in the movie (Josh Brolin and John Malkovich) are utterly wasted, and the movie’s insistence on using cringe-inducing intro scene that plays like one of those stupid motion comics everyone hates, and you have the worst movie of the year.
17. The Last Airbender
Almost everything that sucked about Jonah Hex can be applied to The Last Airbender. The only exception is the fact that the handful of action scenes that are tossed about the movie are halfway decent. Other than that, you have an incompetently written story, terrible dialogue, kids that have no business acting embarrassing themselves on the screen, and some of the worst 3D used in a movie.
I never watched the TV series before watching this movie. The movie killed any chance of me ever watching it. It’s that bad.
16. Clash of the Titans
Clash of the Titans rapes mythology. It slipped Zeus and Hades and all of the other gods a mickey and proceeded to have its way with the pantheon.
Perseus is also turned into a pathetic shadow of his former self. He’s a whiney, angsty, rebellious punk who refuses the aid of the gods. The whole “I can do it without the help of the gods” thing doesn’t come off as some sort of humanist, pro-independence thing in the movie. Rather, it just makes Perseus look like a fool, especially since he eventually gives in and uses all the cool toys the gods wanted him to use from the get-go. This is mythology for people who think Michael Bay’s Transformers is high literature.
Clash of the Titans is saved from being the worst movie of the summer due to the halfway decent action scenes and the way the gods are portrayed. Olympus is kinda badass. Shame the movie goes out of its way to denounce all the good stuff that’s in the movie. Fuck you, Perseus. I’m glad your parents are dead.
15. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
It’s a movie based on a game that’s all about acrobatics and funky running stunts, yet every action scene is shot in such a way that you can barely see any of these funky stunts. Yeah.
The movie’s trying to capture the same stuff that made the first Pirates of the Caribbean so awesome. They go for the high adventure stuff and don’t really pull it off. They go for the romantic banter and don’t really pull it off. They go for spectacle and cool fantasy stuff and don’t really pull it off. Then they toss in an ending that basically erases every fucking thing that happened in the movie and restarts everything so they can have a happy ending.
Why am I watching a movie that nullifies itself? It’s the same bullshit that happened in the Wolverine movie. Lame. But the ending was the only blatantly stupid thing. The rest of the movie was trying and just didn’t pull it off, so Prince of Persia isn’t on the same level of suck as the previous three movies.
14. Robin Hood
Posted about this earlier in the summer. It wasn’t Robin Hood, it was Braveheart/Gladiator/whatever part two. Why is this called Robin Hood? Just a poor retread of a bunch of movies that aren’t nearly as good as they seemed when I first saw them. Not terrible, just boring.
Decent but underwhelming. Adrien Brody managed to pull off the badass act without being close to the classical badass seen in the first Predator movie. Lawrence Fishbourne has a cool scene as a crazed, paranoid survivor. The action’s OK. Not much to say about the movie other than the fact that it’s the first movie on this list that had nothing about it that I hated. The problem is that there’s nothing about it I particularly loved.
12. Iron Man 2
If it wasn’t for the cast, which is filled with all sorts of awesome, Iron Man 2 (and Iron Man 1 for that matter) would be utterly boring and pointless. The movie consists of Tony Stark standing around moving CG effects, Tony Stark getting drunk, and Tony Stark shooting robots. All of this happens without the slightest thread of tension, relevance, or importance.
But damn, everyone in the movie is awesome. Especially Mickey Rourke as Whiplash/Crimson Dynamo/whatever. He took a role that was less than nothing and turned it into a creepy, ambiguous, amusing character. And everyone else basically elevates what would be a pretty bad movie to decency with the way they play their peeps. Shame they couldn’t wrap a good movie around these characters. The Iron Man series is the Durarara! of Hollywood event movies.
11. The A-Team
It had a parachuting tank that saves itself from crashing into the ground by shooting its cannon and directing its descent into a nearby lake. That’s some awesomeness right there. The rest of the movie is amusing camp, but nothing special. It isn’t over the top enough to push it over that edge.
10. The Expendables
The biggest disappointment of the summer.
Here’s a movie with a cast filled with 80s and 90s action stars, along with a bunch of other badasses, and the movie only manages to be alright. The action scenes were shot too close to the action, and the editing was too “modern” and quick for the action scenes to really shine. Despite that, the fact that we get to see Jet Li fight Dolph Lundgren while Jason Stratham and Sylvester Stallone hang out and shoot a bunch of South American radicals and rogue CIA agents still has a certain charm that elevates it above the rest of the crap that came out this summer. And despite the fact that the action scenes were shot poorly, there’s still some great action bits strung about the movie.
A decent flick, but it fell well below what I was hoping it’d be.
9. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Everything that Prince of Persia wanted to be in that Sorcerer’s Apprentice is the best Pirates of the Caribbean wannabe of the bunch. Nick Cage is doing his usual crazed stuff that I love. I also really dug the way the movie mixed hermetic-styled magic with crazy Tesla-esque techno shit. It was like seeing a movie version of Mage: the Ascension. The main dude was a little grating at times, but it wasn’t too bad.
But yeah, there was a bunch of crazy, imaginative stuff going on in this movie, and it all managed to be come together into a fun movie. Shame it bombed, especially because the lame Prince of Persia movie did a lot better.
8. Knight and Day
The best 80s throwback this summer wasn’t The Expendables, it was Knight and Day. This was some Romancing the Stone-level romantic action stuff, and that’s a good thing in my book. We need more movies like this that mix up genres. Way too many movies get way too serious about the action, or if they go the opposite way they turn it into some kind of parody. It’s similar to the problems we see in anime, where no one’s willing to straddle that line between comedy and action and feels the need to be super serious or all-out goofy and mocking. Not a great example of this style (True Lies is the best movie of this type), but still pretty cool.
7. Toy Story 3
I’m not a huge Pixar fan. I tend to like their movies, but I don’t love them like most people seem to do. The same goes for Toy Story. It’s a very well-made movie, it hits a lot of the right buttons, but it doesn’t quite do it for me. That said, it’s still the best of the three Toy Story movies. Most of Pixar’s movies are ones that I have a lot of respect for on a technical level, but they just don’t get me in the “heart.”
I guess that’s because my heart’s cold and filled with hate.
6. The Last Exorcism
While it’s one of the best “found footage” movies I’ve seen (Cloverfield being the best of that bunch), that gimmick kinda holds the movie back and doesn’t really add to the movie as a whole. It works in the beginning, where we get to see the main guy explain to us how he became a child preacher and lost his faith, but the rest of the movie seems constrained by the format.
That said, there’s a hell of a lot to like about this movie. I loved how it managed to keep the “truth” behind the girl’s possession fairly vague. Is she really possessed? Is she being abused and is breaking down mentally? Even with the way the movie ends, I’m not sure if we really know the truth. It’s one of those endings that seems to suggest that more’s going on, but at the same time it can be explained away like everything else in the movie.
A great horror movie.
Everything that Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse movie, Planet Terror, should have been. It’s funny without falling into the outright parody of Planet Terror, and its action scenes are far more intense and creative.
What makes the movie is A) Seeing Danny Trejo finally get some props and B) Seeing Steven Seagal play the villain. I loved Seagal in this movie. He plays a slimy, scummy, awesome villain who, in a way, is better than all of this shit. You get the feeling that all of this drug business and illegal immigrant bullshit and scumbag politicians are beneath his consideration, but he’s forced to descend from his Asian Chick Heaven to deal with the unclean masses across the border. And when Machete “defeats” him, he plays it up like he’s doing Machete a favor by committing seppuku-by-machete. That stab wound is nothing, but this one time I’ll be nice and die for you.
Also: Cheech Marin gets crucified. Awesome stuff.
The only thing keeping Machete from topping my list is the fact that the whole thing comes off a little disjointed and haphazard in the end. It fits the low-budget grindhouse style, but Rodriguez needs to take a tip from his buddy Quentin Tarantino: You can adhere to the stylings of a genre like that without mimicking every aspect of it.
Nowhere near as clever as many people like to think it is, but it’s still a damn good movie. The whole “is this reality or is this a made up world” is old, but I can forgive the movie for that since everything else is so awesome.
At its heart, Inception is a straight-up heist movie. Dudes with special skills have to work out a job, break into whatever place that has the shit they way, and they deal with the problems that naturally arise in such a situation. The fact that it all takes place inside some dude’s head, and because of that a tiny bit of dream logic is applied to the heist’s dynamics, doesn’t really change the game plan. And that’s why Inception works so well: It’s a damn good heist movie that plays up all the trappings without making them feel stale or dull.
And it doesn’t hurt that it has that beautiful zero-g fight scene.
Nick Cage does an Adam West impersonation while dressed as a Joel Schumacher Batman.
A foul-mouthed, teenybopper girl slaughters men twice her size with nothing but a few guns and a naginata.
A geek wearing a diving suit plays like James Bond and kills due with a gatling gun jetpack.
A beautiful movie in every way possible. Just not quite the best movie of the summer.
2. The American
I went into this figuring it would be your typical, post-Bourne spy movie. That alone would have made me happy, but it wouldn’t have made it the second best movie I saw this summer.
Instead, we got what amounts to a modern-day samurai movie. Very little dialogue. A big emphasis on mood and setting. George Clooney’s character operates in an antiquated master and servant relationship with his handler, talking to him more like he’s his lord than he is his employer. We see more of what Clooney does rather than what he thinks or feels, leaving us to piece together his motivations and feelings on the things going on around him.
It’s simultaneously low-key and utterly tense and dramatic. Great stuff.
1. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Best movie of the summer and of the year. It takes all of the shit that someone my age grew up with, tosses it around, and turns it into its own little world. Not much else I can say that I haven’t said in my earlier post. Whenever I reassess my personal top ten movies of all time, I think Scott Pilgrim will be in there somewhere.
If you didn’t see this movie when you had the chance, you suck.