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
Posted in movies, podcasts
Tagged Alicia Vikander, David Ayer, Glen Weldon, Matt Damon, Paul Greengrass, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Stephen Thompson, summer blockbusters, Tanya Ballard Brown, Tommy Lee Jones
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.
I was happy as always to join Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, and my Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon on this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, wherein we perform an autopsy on the rotten corpse of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Based on my defense of Man of Steel on this show three years ago I was, I think, expected to stick up for BvS. I could not.
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
Posted in movies
Tagged Amos Barshad, Amy Nicholson, Christopher McQuarrie, film reviews, Mark Harris, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, NPR, summer blockbusters, Tom Cruise, Tosca, Turandot
Stuff I Ran Out of Space to Say in My Just-Posted NPR Review of Jurassic World:
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.
Have a great summer, movie lovers.