summer lacklusters

July 1, 2010

I’m so jaded.

Usually, I’m all over the summer blockbuster movie spectacle.  Big spaceships, monsters, robots, explosions — I’m there, with bells on.  They can drive me crazy but I love ’em.  Until now.

This summer, there’ve been lots of previews for lots of spectacles — and I have no interest in them.  Prince of Persia?  Boy that looked pretty, and I totally didn’t care.  The Last AirbenderLooks fabulous, but I never watched the cartoon and nothing in it beyond the visuals makes me think, ooh.  Jonah Hex should have been right up my alley (weird west?  steampunk? magic?  woo!), but I could tell from the previews that it would piss me off.  It turns out, based on reviews and the comments of friends, that I was right on all of them.

I’m tired of movies pissing me off with their rank incompetence.  I blame Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation, which both managed to exceed my expectations of how vastly stupid they could possibly be.  I hate that I expect stupid now rather than good, or even tolerable.

At first I thought that maybe I’ve been desensitized to great special effects.  These are no longer the days of Jurassic Park when a well-rendered CGI dinosaur was enough to pin me to my seat.  Quality slam-bang CGI special effects show up every day on the average prime-time commercial.  A movie has to do more than flash pretty lights at me these days.

But I don’t think that’s entirely it.  See, I can tell from the previews how bad these movies are going to be and how they’re going to piss me off — the bad dialog, the unconvincing delivery.  It means the movies are going to be filled with meat puppet characters shuffling around in scenes completely unconnected to one another by anything resembling a narrative thread, spouting inane cliches masquerading as dialog.

And I can no longer learn anything from that.  I used to learn a lot from bad movies — how not to pace an action scene, how not to write dialog, etc.  But I’m not learning these things any more.  Bad summer blockbusters keep being bad in exactly the same ways.  And I’m tired of it.

Inception is the only preview I’ve seen this summer that has intrigued me rather than made me think of all the ways the movie’s going to piss me off.  I hope it doesn’t bite me in the ass.


24 Responses to “summer lacklusters”

  1. Jared Says:

    You definitely should go see Toy Story 3. How Pixar manages to create such intelligent eye-candy so consistently boggles the mind. Plus, it has a Totoro plush! 😀

  2. Clothdragon Says:

    Not a movie, but I recently caught Jekyll on Netflix Instant and was pleasantly surprised. Since it was British-made, I hadn’t even heard of it until I saw it on the recently made instant list, but (except for the slightly simplistic ending that unfortunately invalidated several earlier stated premises) it was done quite well. I think it’s still worth the time.

  3. Jakk Says:

    I am so with you on this one Carrie. I used to love summer movies, but the last 5-10 years movies during summertime have been awful on general purposes. Heck, i am even a FAN of Jonah Hex from the comics, and i did not go see the movie. Sigh.

    Seems movies are more and more being geared to Pixar/Dreamworks Toy Story/Shrek merchandising vehicles. Are movie writers just this awful now?

    This, btw, is not to say some good movies do not come out during summer (Both Iron Man movies were good or excellent, Star Trek was also incredible, and the Harry Potter movies are well liked by all), but for the most part lack of new ideas and going back to the same old,same old over and over gets boring.

    Instead of new chapters of franchise movies, give us NEW movies?

  4. Robert Says:

    Give Prince of Persia a chance. Ben Kingsly pulls off a good performance.

    When I went to see it there were no visions of poor video games in my head. I was flashing back to the Sinbad films in all their campy claymation glory.

    The film has a daring prince, a beautiful princess, lots of flashing swords, and an evil visier. What more do you need?

  5. carriev Says:

    Reasonable dialog? Good pacing? An actual story? A new take on old cliches?

  6. Jared Says:

    Jakk, the nice thing about Toy Story 3 (as well as the previous sequel) is how it feels like a valid addition to the story. To dismiss it just because it’s another sequel to a blockbuster movie would be a terrible shame.

  7. Bradford Says:

    Carrie, your post was refreshingly candid.

    I’m planning to see Airbender even though I haven’t seen the cartoon, either. The director’s (Shyamalan’s) projects are usually worth a look.

  8. T. Hernandez Says:

    Sadly the film industry has so much money at stake all the time it is an entire industry run on fear. Thus it’s very, very hard to take risks. But risk is where great films are actually made. So…there is a basic conflict at the very heart of it all. There are some very brilliant screenplay writers out there and some wonderful screenplays…but it’s much too scary to take a chance on them. Thus a wonderful film, with good writing and good production values is hard to come by.

  9. Some Guy Says:

    Can I recommend Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s film reviews? They’re usually on the money (, although they’re in the British film schedule, not the US.

  10. Joe the trucker Says:

    I took the 5 bucks (senior monday) I had put aside for Airbender and bought the darkside expansion for Dragon Age. I couldn’t follow the trailers, I too passed on Jonah Hex based on reviews, I hope that wasn’t a mistake…

  11. Joe the trucker Says:

    Forgot, really enjoyed Kitty Goes, couldn’t put it down, keep them coming.

  12. Rob Says:

    Uh. Gee, Carrie, you sound a little bitter and jaded.
    Not to play devils advocate here, (that’s what lil brothers are for, right?) but let’s take a snapshot at history. The golden age of broadway musicals for instance. Particularly the films that came out of the 40s and 50s. These films were all about the spectacle and nothing about the story. “Let’s see how many people we can get on a sound stage to perform some truly spectacular choreography.” Guys & Dolls, South Pacific and Music Man are perfect examples of this. Let’s also remember these films were being released during or shortly after a time of world war in which our country needed mindless release. Last time I checked, the body counts in Iraq and Afghanistan are still mounting. Mindless release might be just what the average theatre goer ordered.
    It’s also really easy for us to choose to see what’s wrong in the world rather than choose to see something good. Same thing can be said for movies. Rather than rolling my eyes at the inanity of Transformers 2, I choose to revel in the ridiculousness of it laughing all the way.
    As Shakespeare wrote in JC: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones”. I like to try not to let the good things get buried with the bones. Any movie, no matter how awful, has good in it. We measure the good against the bad and take from it what we can.
    Movies are another form of art. (albeit backed with hollywood dollars) The purpose of art is to make us think. If it makes us angry or pissed, then maybe there is something to it.

  13. carriev Says:

    Hey Rob. You ever been to a play where the set was badly built? Like you can see the nails, the backdrop was badly painted, etc. The design is actively getting in the way of the actors being able to move around on stage? You can’t figure out what the setting is supposed to be, or the mood of the play is really chipper but for some reason they’re all wearing brown?

    That feeling you get when you see that? That’s how I feel sitting through most of these movies.

  14. Jakk Says:

    For Jared: I for one passed on TS 2 after the first one. I was not wowed by it. Does this mean Pixar is not for me? Heck no. I liked(more leaning to LOVED) Up,Wall-E,and the Incredibles. But i do remember sitting thru the first TS and looking at my watch, which is a extremely rare thing for me. But then again, i hated Lion King where every human on earth loved it. Sigh.

    And as for Carrie’s response to Rob,101% on the money. Hard to enjoy something when you can see the flaws glaring at you. That said, i go to movies for fun, not seriousness(i got enough of that in real life,without fictional seriousness to add to my misery).

    Inception looks interesting, but it reminds me of Dreamscape, which considering the time frame probably only us OLD folks like me and Carrie remember it.

    I must go shine my walker now.

  15. ArcLight Says:

    Yeah, Jakk. I’ve been referring to INCEPTION as a DREAMSCAPE remake, too. 🙂 Still…looks like an interesting movie.

    There has been a decided lack of “gotta see that opening day” this season. I suspect the local theater folks are wondering if something has happened to me.

  16. David Bowles Says:

    I think Carrie is about my age (I was born in 1976) and after growing up on real Star Wars movies, Wrath of Khan, Aliens, Terminator and Terminator 2, modern summer movies are becoming a real bitter pill to swallow.

    Note that this is not nostalgia. I STILL occasionally whip out these movies and watch them and they are still entertaining. Transformers? Star Wars prequels? Terminator Salvation? These movies will never get a second look from me.

    P.S. Kitty Goes to War is another brilliantly entertaining success!

  17. izzybella Says:

    My sister and I took a 14-year-old (or two) to see Eclipse, which let’s not at all talk about. But one of the trailers beforehand looked really good: Red. Has Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, etc. as retired CIA agents who don’t take to retirement very well. The trailer was pretty funny.

    Also had the trailer for the first installment of the Harry Potter finale, which looked good.

    The point being that summer may have failed us, but fall and winter is looking up.

  18. Jakk Says:

    to izzybella: Red is actually based on a mini-series written by comic book and novel author Warren Ellis and drawn by Cully Hammer, if i recall correctly. It is available in a Trade paperback edition(which i would assume would be available for when the movie comes out). It was actually pretty good too.

    And i liked the trailer too.

    And i agree…the big event movie of the year(for me) that does not have a boy wizard in it looms in December:
    Tron Legacy

  19. Annamal Says:

    A little off-topic butI’d just like to put in a good word for the ATLA cartoon (not the movie which looks horrendous).

    It’s got fantastic and detailed world building (using solely asian based mythology which is refreshing), a vegetarian pacifist hero and a set of incredible female characters (both heroes and villains). It covers complex moral problems and it’s got a flying monkey-thing and a skybison.

  20. Louis Says:

    Just got through Kitty Goes to War and saw this post as I was looking for more info on Discord’s Apple.

    The movie I saw twice in theatres (both times in IMAX, the second time with my little brother) and which I can’t wait for a Blu-Ray or iTunes HD release, is surprisingly How To Train Your Dragon (3D).

    Everything about the movie, from the snappy pace, to the music by John Williams, to the casting, was absolutely perfect. Even the cliches were charming rather than sappy or boring. If they don’t do a TV spinoff, I’ll be quite disappointed. 😉

  21. carriev Says:

    How To Train Your Dragon was nice, but I found it a bit cliched and predictable (once again, the pilot gets the girl by taking her flying!)

    I’m ALL OVER Tron Legacy like a wet T-shirt.

    And Red. Just saw the trailer for that, and yes, I’m very, very excited — Helen Mirren as action hero? Oh, yes please!

  22. Cat Says:

    Carrie, if you haven’t already seen it, and you don’t have any other pressing things to do (ie, publicity or writing the next book I’m going to devour that you wrote) then for the sake of Phoebos Apollo get your butt out to see Inception.

    I didn’t think I’d like the story, but went because the visuals looked spectacular. Nolan is probably the best and most originally creative director currently working, and this particular movie does well. I even forgot Leo DiCaprio was that guy from Titanic. It has action and drama and on top of it an amazing bit of psychological depth.

    Hope you are getting this one, since it’s been quite some time since there were comments here. (I am a top “thread necromancer”.)

  23. I don’t know if you see comments made to older blog posts, but I think you really should watch the Last Airbender series and its sequel, Legend of Korra. They would be absolutely up your alley.

  24. But avoid the Last Airbender movie at all costs. 😛

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