Monday, July 26, 2010
Is It Really That Bad?
Writers and critics tend to make, sometimes shameless, use of hyperbole. That's what calling the summer of 2010 the worst summer at the movies ever is. Strangely, I've read, if not exactly that statement, something close to it more often than not. Even many reviews of Inception seem to need to first provide some context by letting readers know that this movie has come out in an awful summer. But what are people basing this on? We need some context for the context. What are you defining as a "bad summer?" Is there another bad summer which we are using for a comparative starting point, or is there a clear definition of what a good summer at the movies needs to look like? If anything, this summer is no worse than last summer. Actually it may be a little better, and it's not even over yet. Sure, not many of the titles will go down in history, but how many of them actually ever do? The summer is about kicking back, having fun, letting the critical safety net slip a little and just enjoying yourself. Sure, Hollywood is phoning it in this summer but who cares that few of these movies will stand the test of time? The point is, as Pauline Kael once wrote to not consume great art, but to enjoy ourselves. And enjoy myself I have been. Sure the box office is down on a lot of films and maybe next year Hollywood will have learned their lesson and give us less films edited in blenders on full speed and more big budget entertainments made by competent craftsmen who know how to walk the line between commercial and quality. But on that note, we work with what we have not what we want, and what we have, when you look at the titles, isn't half bad. Sure there were some big stinkers. Sex and the City 2 is about as bad a movie as I can think of, The A-Team was just about the worst made action movie of the year and Twilight:Eclipse was bad, but who thought it wouldn't be? And even with the latter titles, there were some out there who sincerely enjoyed A-Team and argued that Eclipse was the best of the three movies thus far, whatever that means. Also Marmaduke and Killers crashed and burned and although Shrek 4 raked in the dough, Shrek hasn't been good since the first film. And oh ya, The Last Airbender. 'Nuff said. And then, there were a lot of good ones. The Losers opened the summer to embarrassing numbers but was still a highly enjoyable action movie with a nice performance from Jason Patrick. Both Get Him to the Greek and The Karate Kid were sequels/remakes with no expectations that delivered on the goods. Iron Man 2 didn't quite work for me but it did for a lot of others and even though I think Toy Story 3 is more minor than many have given it credit for, Pixar still managed to deliver again. Although some of the more cynical and jaded skipped Knight and Day because it's star once jumped on a couch, it was a genuinely well made, funny action flick and now Salt is supposed to be even better, getting a four star review from Roger Ebert. Even kid flicks Despicable Me and Ramona and Beezus with Selena Gomez are getting surprisingly good reviews. Not to mention the smaller charmers that snuck through the cracks like the wonderful basketball romance Just Wright, Cyrus with Jonah Hill and The Kids Are Alright with Julianne Moore. And, of course, Inception, which was praised by critics, loved by audiences and was certainly the kind of large scale entertainment that every summer needs. And look, we still have a whole month to go. August, which used to be the month where studios dumped their leftovers has some very promising titles. Will Farrell will maybe redeem his last two or three bad movies against Mark Whalberg in The Other Guys; guilty pleasure series Step-Up will be hitting 3D; Middle Men about the start of Internet porn looks like a teen sex comedy meets Goodfellas; Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables will hopefully bring back the 80s action movie hero aesthetic and give action movies exactly what they've been missing all these years; and Scott Pilgrim doesn't quite have me sold because Edgar Wright still hasn't proven himself to be a great director but many are foaming at the mouth waiting for it. There's also Eat Pray Love, a human drama with Julia Roberts, a new Nanna McPhee movie, a new Drew Barrymore romantic comedy with the always charming Justin Long, Takers, an interesting looking heist movie and could The Last Exorcism be the new Paranormal Activity? I'm looking forward to finding out.