Inspired by Avengers: Endgame, the 182-minute grand finale of the Marvel cinematic saga, I crunched some numbers and examined how blockbusters—especially ones not encumbered by Endgame’s hefty narrative obligations, with so many characters and storylines to pay off—are expanding at a much faster rate than is the human lifespan. I am solely responsible for the math in the piece, and the jokes.
Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon did me a solid with that headline. Of all the giant-shark thrillers that’ve been scaring us out of the water since Jawsinvented the summer blockbuster, The Meg is without question the most recent. Here’s my NPR review.
In olden times, Memorial Day weekend marked the start of what was known as the Summer Movie Season. It’s an obsolete notion, now that would-be blockbuster releases are most heavily concentrated between mid-February (when Black Panther arrived this year) and the first weekend in May, and can come out basically any month of the year other than January. But as a kid who grew up planning my summers based on which hotly anticipated, frequently disappointing tentpole release came out when, I carry the torch for the idea that summertime is the season for escapist genre films that seek to overwhelm the senses.
My pal Alan Scherstuhl, the Village Voice‘s film editor, indulges me, assigning me each May to single out a dozen due before Labor Day that show promise. These features get shared among the whole New Times media ecosphere; sometimes even before they turn up in the Voice. No matter. Here’s the list.
Beloved Pop Culture Happy Hour host Linda Holmes is at the Television Critics Association gathering in Los Angeles this week, so Tanya Ballard Brown and I joined regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon for an uncharacteristically reserved episode. By which I mean, neither of the big summer movies we autopsied, Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad, is very good, though the latter is much worse. I had hopes for both of them, because I admire their directors, Paul Greengrass and David Ayer, very much, and I’ve tended to like their work. You know what late-summer release was not a big letdown? Star Trek Beyond.I endorse it. Continue reading →
The Nice Guys, which I expect history shall remember as my favorite film of the summer of 2016, came out last week; Captain America: Civil War, probably the best of the Marvel bunch, is old news. But Memorial Day weekend is still the traditional start of the summer movie season. Here, for the third consecutive Memorial Day weekend, is my Village Voice list of summer movies I want to see. Light up a phone in any of these and you’ll hear from me. Continue reading →
Since none of us liked this film — in fact we all disliked it so much that the controversial issue of Henry Cavill’s height never even came up — we decided to broaden the topic to try to pin down the elements that make a would-be action blockbuster work or not work. I forgot to say so on the show, but I wrote about this for Linda two summers ago after helping the staff of The Dissolve, may it rest in peace, to determine the 50 Greatest Summer Blockbusters. Continue reading →
The Mission: Impossible film series is 19, long enough in the tooth for its earlier installments to start to acquire the same time capsule effect that makes me love even the worst James Bond movies. I watched Brian De Palma’s 1996 Mission: Impossible the night after I saw the new one, subtitled Rogue Nation, and John Woo’s barely-related 2000 M:I-2 the night after that. Yep, blockbusters are different now.
Trying to articulate just how was part of the chore of writing my NPR review of the fifth impossible mission, from Jack Reacher writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. Short version: I liked it. But I had more thoughts about it than I could shoehorn into the review, so here’re a few outtakes. Continue reading →
1) Yeah, the sense of wonder that still comes through in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original comes back, fleetingly, a little, just in the opening act. I think that’s mostly down to Michael Giacchino’s score, which interpolates John Williams’ stately, noble Jurassic Park theme the way John Ottman’s music for Superman Returns interpolated Williams’ march from Superman.
1a) I haven’t been able to stop humming Williams’ “Theme from Jurassic Park” in the two days since I saw the new one. Giacchino is the busiest and probably best composer in the blockbuster game these days, as ubiquitous as Williams was 30 or 25 years ago. But I can’t recall any of his original Jurassic World music.
2) This movie, while enjoyable, is even better if you imagine there are subtitles under all the shots of dinosaurs’ faces, like when dog and bear confer in Anchorman.
It’s Memorial Day weekend, which a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away used to signal the start of the summer movie season. Sometime around the turn of the century, the summer movies began arriving the first weekend in May. In recent years the first weekend in April has become a perennial launchpad for Marvel movies and Fast & Furious flicks.
But I’m the sentimental type, so I (and The Village Voice and L.A. Weekly) waited until this week to post my look at ten releases coming up in roughly the next 10 weeks for which I’ve got grand or at least moderate hopes. Plus Magic Mike XXL, which I was asked to add so the list wouldn’t be “too straight.” I am aware that Channing Tatum is what the former John “Cougar” Mellencamp would call “a real good dancer,” but Steven Soderbergh is not un-retiring from theatrical filmmaking to direct this sequel, so I’d probably rather see Jurassic World or Ant-Man, neither of which made the cut.
Audie Cornish and Linda Holmes compete in the Wonder Woman quiz administered by Glen Weldon, June 24, 2014.
This was my enviable view for most of Pop Culture Happy Hour’s special 200th episode live show at NPR headquarters last month. But I did have the honor of briefly ascending the stage to join All Things Considered film critic (and my Washington City Paper colleague) Bob Mondello in absolutely crushing NPR’s Tanya Ballard Brown and Petra Mayer in the blockbuster movie IMDB plot keyword quiz conceived by PCHH host Linda Holmes. That’s about halfway through the quiz segment of the show, posted today.
Health Ledger as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” (2008), the 10th-best summer blockbuster, according to us.
“A boy and his Terminator,” writer-director James Cameron told T2 cowriter William Wisher.
I fought for John Landis’ “The Blues Brothers” (1980), to no avail.
I bet all my chips on Sigourney Weaver and the cast of James Cameron’s “ALIENS,” the 6th-best summer blockbuster.
Andrew Davis’ “The Fugitive” got a Best Picture nod in 1993, but only two votes in The Dissolve’s blockbuster poll.
Bob Hoskins and Jessica Rabbit. I’d basically forgotten Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” existed.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ed Harris in James Cameron’s underrated “The Abyss” (1989).
Yippie kai yay, movielover. Bruce Willis in John McTiernan’s “Die Hard,” 3rd-best summer blockbuster ever. John McClane 4eva.
In honor of the historic 25th anniversary of the release of Lethal Weapon 2, give or take a couple of days — no, that’s not actually why I did this — I elucidated the agonizing process of logrolling and negotiating required for me to determine my votes in The Dissolve‘s list of the 50 greatestsummerblockbusters in this essay for NPR Monkey See.
Sometimes you need the Socratic Method and math to discover you’re dead inside.
Tom Cruise in “Minority Report.” Spielberg’s most Hitchcockian film was all about not being able to trust your eyes.
“A boy and his Terminator,” writer-director James Cameron told T2 cowriter William Wisher.
Spock’s final farewell to his old buddy Jim, from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
Ricardo Montalban’s Khan was the grandest of “Star Trek” villains.
In “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” Linda Hamilon’s Sarah Connor swaps roles with the titular cyborg.
It’s only July 1, but thanks to the ever-accelerating start date of the summer movie season — it kicked off the first weekend of April this year, when Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out — summer movies are done. I still want to see Snowpiercer, which will roll out to Washington, DC this week, but the less-than-enthusiastic early notices from critics I respect has tempered my enthusiasm for that. There’s no Dark Knight coming in two weeks. There’s no Terminator 2: Judgment Day opening at midnight tomorrow night. Does that sadden me? It does, a little! Shut up.
Anyway, I was honored to be one of a dozen critics who determined — through three rounds of voting — the 50 Greatest Summer Blockbusters for The Dissolve.Numbers 50-31 were posted yesterday; 30-11 went up today. Tomorrow you’ll all find out what we deemed the Top Ten.
I had the honor of writing the entires for three of my favorites: Steven Spielberg‘s Minority Report, from 2002, which placed 46th; Nic Meyer‘s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, from 1982, which placed 37th; and at lucky no. 13, James Cameron‘s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which is probably my personal all-time favorite summer movie. (I still love you, Jaws, but so does everyone else, and you arrived before I did. Whereas I had the experience of discovering T2‘s greatness at the same as the rest of the world.)