I am an unabashed fan of summer movie season. Screw the Oscars. I want giant robots, guys hanging off of cliffs, and cartoons.
Here, for my own edification and your amusement, is my rundown of this year's summer flicks. I do not count Public Enemies (it's not a summer movie, it's a Michael Mann movie in the 4th of July slot while Will Smith is on vacation) and Harry Potter. Harry Potter has too many spoilers in libraries and bookstores. Also don't count Away We Go, because come on. Come. On.
I have not seen: The Hangover, Night at the Museum, or Angels & Demons.
If you haven't seen UP, you're a fucking imbecile. Are you busy being a good citizen? Fuck you. Go see this incredibly sad and beautiful movie. Or I'll cry all over your so-so important friggin' shoes. This is the best Pixar film to date, better than Wall-E (which I loved).
...are you still reading this? Go cry and watch UP. GO! Now. The rest is hogwash!
2. STAR TREK
I know a lot of people would put Drag Me to Hell above Star Trek. I thought it over a fair amount. For me, they're both pieces of genre hackery done by directors and writers who know the form backwards. Star Trek edges out Drag Me To Hell, for me, because it simply does more tricks that are hard. It allowed for a completely new cast of actors and deviations for the original Star Trek, without tossing out the existing mythology. Here's a reinvention that doesn't have to pretend George Clooney never wore the batsuit. It was funny without being lunkheaded, exciting without being confusing, and the cast is appealing and fresh. It truly made something that felt new from something we all know well.
3. DRAG ME TO HELL
Did the opposite. It did exactly what we wanted it to do, with gusto. It's a playful and raucous, if modest, return to horror for Sam Raimi. What more is there to say? It made me wince and holler. Did it surprise me? Not a lick. I knew it would be solid, and it was.
4. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
Yes, I put this above the two below. And yes, it's a racist, endless, headache inducing, over-indulgent mess. About half-way through the movie, a giant robot that was apparently stolen from Douglas Adams tossed out notes gives our main characters an exposition scene that changes the plot entirely for no reason. The only character anyone wants to see, Optimus Prime, spends 3/4th of the movie under a tarp.
Why is this better than the two below?
Because it is, in its ultimate unending crass monstrous idiocy, a sort of high-water mark for summer movies. It was apparently made by the US Army, a toy company, some computers, and a set of explosive devices. Not that you can even tell. Whenever there is more than one robot on screen, Michael Bay pulls in really close so you can't tell what the fuck is going on. Half the movie is a blur with the sound of a jet behind it.
It has moments of such beautiful awfulness. When "The Fallen" looks up and pronounces "NOW I WILL TAKE YOUR SUN!" to no one. When our heroes look up to see the arrival of the cavalry and say "It's the Jordanians!" It is, by all reasonable standards, dreadful in so many ways that it transforms into a metal monster, roars, crushes you beneath its truck-feet, and leaves you for dead.
I mean, seriously. Seriously. This is the kind of movie you can talk about with your friends for hours. "Why can the Decepticons turn into college girls?" "Why couldn't Starscream talk in the last one?" "Why are the Trees from Lord of the Rings in Shia's heaven?"
I still want to see a movie just with Kevin Dunn and Julie White. They are great in both of these movies, as, um characters. Clearly actors who were just told "Have fun." And they did.
5. TERMINATOR: SALVATION
Man, I wanted this to be good. It does try, here and there, to walk and talk like a Terminator movie. It even has a crowd pleasing moment or two. It is, though, the shell of a better movie, with a few rather bad ideas and editing that seems to say "100 minutes long or die!"
Sure, it's not as actively offensive as Transformers, but it seems so inoffensive as to be forgettable. Transformers rises to heights of absurdity yet unheard of. Terminator: Salvation doesn't bother. The ending is sticky sweet (a strange choice) and John Connor's struggles become the generic struggles of Apocolypse Hero #45. No one makes an impression. Sure, there are a few good robot scenes, and one rockin' cameo. But it's the shadow, the echo, of far better movies.
And Helena Botham Carter? Yeowch.
6. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
This movie sucked my hog. Think about this: in X2 (a really good movie) they show us Wolverine's past in a series of cool flashbacks, and then we wind up in the very room where he was turned into a metal boned freak. Then, he battles another victim of the same program.
In this endless movie, that appears to have been shot with the budget of a TV movie, we see the exact same ground covered far worse. We also meet Sabertooth again, even though we're never told why he is now a Shakespearean actor, and not a hulking pro wrestler. Ryan Reynolds? Will.i.am? Some dude with long hair playing Gambit? All of this made me want to bleed in my popcorn.
Wolverine was awesome in the Bryan Singer movies. He's not even offensively treadful in X-Men: The Last Stand. In Origins he is empty of all that was once cool. He chats with old people. He gets gushy with girls in cabins. He is a little boy in a frilly outfit.
To top it all off, the movie ends with him losing his memory because he is shot in his unbreakable head. I was waiting for someone to say "Have the protocol droid's mind wiped."
Here endeth my self-indulgence.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.