It seems like only yesterday that the summer movie season kicked off the first week of May but here we are almost four months later and it is time to re-cap the previous four months worth of films.
To put it plain and simple, the summer movie season of 2010 was dreadful a good portion of the time. To be sure there were some good films – but not many. As the season has wound down the movie going public was treated to a whopping 38 movies released from May until August 20. That is an average of over two new movies opening each and every weekend. Wow.
I must confess that I did not saw all 38 films and I will cover that as well. I did see four artsy, independent films during that time but am not including them as they are not part of the big summer releases. When all was said and done I saw 28 of the movies released but only enjoyed 11 of them. Not a good average.
I will breakdown my reaction to the films in different categories (The Great, The Very Good, The Good, The Close Calls, The Fair and The Awful) but should first touch on the films I didn’t see for one reason or another. Probably the biggest film of summer I missed was Robin Hood. At the time the film came out the reviews were less than exemplary and I didn’t get much word of mouth to nudge me into it. I came close a few times but ultimately the fact that the medieval type settings have always been my list favorite kind of movie just kept me away. I also missed Shrek Forever After, Prince of Persia (another one with a similar setting I couldn’t convince myself to see), Marmaduke, Jonah Hex (the film came and went so fast I literally had no chance to see it), Ramona and Beezus, Step Up 3-D (I simply refuse to see this movie) Cats and Dogs 2, Nanny McPhee Returns (I have no intention of seeing) and Eat, Pray, Love, a film I plan to see but just didn’t get around to yet.
I want to begin by singling out my choices of the best and worst film of summer, 2010.
The Best Summer Movie of 2010 – Christopher Nolan’s Inception is an exceptional thriller with some of the very best visuals I have seen in a film in a long time. This was the one and only summer movie where the CGI was so evident it was distracting. The performances by the cast were all impressive and Nolan’s script was both intelligent and complicated with an ending that has been much discussed. I believe this film will be remembered at Oscar time later this year and deservedly so. Sadly there was only one other film to consider for this title but I will talk more about it shortly.
The Worst Summer Movie of 2010 – This one was a little more difficult for me to choose. There were three very bad candidates to choose from but I eliminated Vampires Suck because it aspired to so little so missing its targets wasn’t as astounding. In the end I picked Sex and the City 2 as the worst film of the summer. At an agonizing two hours and thirty five minutes very little happens in this movie other then the four women talking to each other. If they had interesting things to say I wouldn’t complain (or less so) but they talk about nothing for a long, long time until they go on a vacation to a foreign land where shenanigans are expected to take place but script contrivances hold the film back. Speaking of the script, I found it offensive. Not the material but the actual screenplay. The writer/director continually insults his audience by showing a ten to fifteen minute scene only to conclude it with a narration that re-caps everything we have just seen just in case we idiots in the audience were too dense to figure it out. Save for one sweet scene between Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Davis talking about parenthood there is absolutely nothing redeeming about this film. If there is one positive let’s hope this kills any hopes for a part 3.
Great Films – Sadly this category will be brief having already touched on Inception. For me the only other truly exceptional film of the summer was Pixar’s Toy Story 3, which follows the toys as they mistakenly believe young Andy (who is preparing for college) no longer wants them. He is packing all but Woody (who he wants to take with him) to go in the attic but mom mistakes it for garbage and puts them on the curb. Instead the toys sneak into a box being donated to a day care center. Woody tries to straighten things out but the other toys will have none of it and it is up to Woody to get back home to Andy and save the other toys from various dangers. Pixar’s improvement in its computer animation is evident but their stories are also improving and they are responsible for some of the best films the last several years. This film, like Up last year, even brought tears to my eyes and for an animated film to do that speaks volumes.
Very Good Films – Four films made the list this summer of films not quite great but better than good and no one is more surprised than me at each of the titles. Despicable Me was another charming animated film featuring Steve Carell as a “super villain” plotting to steal the moon after another villain has replaced Egypt’s pyramids with a rubber inflatable duplicate. After seeing three orphan girls get into the lair of the “other” bad guy, he adopts the orphans in a plan to get into the lair and steal a shrinking ray gun. Although the script had a few problems (almost every dilemma is easily resolved) I was delighted by the film’s look at the voice performance of Carell.
Angelina Jolie’s action adventure Salt is a truly thrilling adventure film without getting too ridiculous or having the obvious CGI get in the way of the film. Jolie plays a government agent who is exposed by a Russian spy as the assassin who will take out the Russian President that very day and goes on the run from her cohorts. She spends the rest of the movie trying to convince them (and us) of her innocence but a smart script keeps us wondering up until the last few minutes. Nicely paced and directed, Salt is a well made, well written and highly exciting chase film in a summer filled with lousy chase films. This was a refreshing change.
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is one of the most entertaining films I have seen in a long time. Directed by Edgar (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) Wright, the film, based on a series of graphic novels, tells the story of Scott, 22year old guitarist for a not so great rock band who begins dating a high school senior but is soon swayed when he meets the alluring Ramona at a party. Soon after he asks her out and encounters the first of her evil ex boyfriends whom he learns he must destroy as they want to have total control over her love life. The league of evil ex’s will come to him and if he can destroy all seven he can have Ramona. This sets up a visually exciting and very funny adventure film about love, honesty the strength of relationships. Wright directs the film in a video game style with hints of comic books thrown in. This is a highly original piece of entertainment.
No one is more shocked at me than myself as to how much I am enjoying the Twilight series and the latest, Twilight: Eclipse, is the most entertaining film of the series. Frankly, each film is getting better than the one before it. Here there is a new band of vampires killing humans and the Cullin vampires join forces with the werewolves to try and destroy this new pack. This film made more time for character development than any of the others while still moving the story at a steady pace. Things are starting to come into play now that I had to wait three movies for. Although I am quite turned off by the lead actors (particularly Kristen Stewart’s Bella) I am caught up in the story and the characters and I am looking forward to the next installment.
Good Films – I am truly troubled to look over my list and find only five movies I found entertaining enough to recommend. Usually there are a dozen mindless but fun summer movies but not this year. Dinner for Schmucks is a bit of a letdown considering its fine cast headed by Paul Rudd and Steve Carell and direction by Jay (Austin Powers; Meet The Parents) Roach but there are four laugh out loud moments that make it mildly worth seeing. Get Him To The Greek is another amusing film from the Judd Apatow company though on the lower tier. It’s worth seeing but should have been even funnier. Iron Man 2 is a pleasant enough sequel with a strong final act that makes it worth seeing. The Karate Kid was a huge surprise for me not being much of a Jackie Chan fan or a fan of remakes. The film follows the original perhaps a little too closely but Jaden Smith does a nice job and Chan gives humanity to his character, something he rarely does as an actor. I would have liked a Ralph Macchio cameo but that is a quibble. Fans of the original will probably like this version as well. The Other Guys puts Will Ferrell behind the desk as a police officer with a partner (nicely played by Mark Wahlberg) itching to hit the streets. After a truly shocking moment in the film the two do, in fact, hit the streets in this often funny police comedy. For my money the bits off the street (particularly Wahlberg’s first visit to Ferrell’s house where he meets Eva Mendes, playing Ferrell’s wife) are the best part. Michael Keaton turns in a wonderful performance as the police captain who has to moonlight at Bed, Bath and Beyond to get his child through college.
Close Calls – For me there were five more films that were close calls. Not good enough to recommend but they came THIS close and have their good points. Charlie St. Cloud continued to prove that Zac Efron has good screen presence but needs to be better challenged with roles and more believable scripts. This one, as a young man who gives up everything after his brother his killed in a car accident, has nice moments of true emotion mixing with supernatural fantasy but Efron’s main character is awfully slow to catch onto things and behaves in a manner that would have gotten him committed years earlier. For me The Last Airbender wasn’t the total disaster I came to believe it was. The story of good versus evil still holds up well but director M Night Shyamalan made two major mistakes. First he allowed his 2-D film to be converted to 3-D after post-production thus making the film more muddy looking with no convincing 3-D moments at all. Second he cast two teenagers as brother and sister who happen to be the worst child actors I have seen in years. They took me right out of the film. I still thought the action moved the film well enough and some of the effects were decent but not spectacular. There is only one reason to see Letters To Juliet and that is for the performance of Vanessa Redgrave who strongly deserves Oscar consideration. She actually elevates this by the numbers romance into something quite special. Unfortunately she is not on screen enough to save the film. Predators is a well made horror film that is one character and one sub-plot too full. For the first hour the film is well made and genuinely contains a few shocks but then a character played by Laurence Fishburne enters. He does his thing and is out of the picture fifteen minutes later. This effect cripples the rest of the movie. Fishburne’s character is totally unnecessary and his entire character and story could have been eliminated at no cost to the film. Sadly the final act gets too silly to believe but it is still a watchable film. Splice is another watchable thriller along with Predators (both of which star Oscar winner Adrien Brody) about scientists who create a human creature in secret experiments using human DNA. Soon their new creation begins to have a mind of its own and begins to wreak havoc. This sounds like a basic sci-fi thriller and for the most part it is, but the film takes a few interesting twists into odd territory, territory that likely turned off mass audiences who stayed away from the film. It’s an interesting film that doesn’t quite get you over the top but is sure does push with all its might.
The Fair – Unfortunately there is a plethora of films that fit in this category and that is a real shame since many of them were well anticipated. Some were still well directed and well acted but were done in by their scripts. The A-Team is from one end to another a fun but silly movie that hurts itself when it tries to take itself too seriously, which is about half the time. Some good chase scenes are overshadowed by too many ridiculous moments. The Expendables is just about what you expect it to be. Unfortunately I expected a little more based on the talented cast star, co-writer and director Sylvester Stallone has assembled. Basically the film is just a lot of attacks and killing with a script bereft of any character development whatsoever. This is a film that needs to establish its group of heroes by various talents or characteristics. Something. Stallone eliminates this in exchange for nifty action scenes that the audience cares little about. Knight and Day is enlivened by the performances by its leads, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, but is totally ruined by the mostly CGI chase and action scenes that heartily announce how phony they are. Lottery Ticket is an African-American casted comedy about people living in the projects and the one good guy who hits the big ticket. A lot could have been done with this film but it takes the easy road with obvious attempts at humor plus the fact that it is never believable that the main character wouldn’t recognize the fact that certain people are being nice to him because he is holding the winning ticket. MacGruber has hopefully proved once and for all that a three minute skit on Saturday Night Live does not necessarily equate to a funny ninety minute movie. There are glimpses of what the movie could have been but it seems like the production was rushed and the screenplay was taken as is instead of run through two or three more drafts. I laughed a few times but expected more. Piranha 3-D is ninety minutes of boobs and blood. If that’s enough for you then have it. Sorcerer’s Apprentice was an interesting idea that goes nowhere. Nicolas Cage continues to waste his considerable talent in any project thrust his way so why doesn’t someone thrust him a good comedy or serious drama again? One terrific scene is a takeoff of the Apprentice scene from Walt Disney’s classic Fantasia and while it is a great moment it also underscores the rest of the movie by reminding us that there is nothing in the film as delightful or interesting or entertaining as this was. The Switch proves three things when all is said and done. Jennifer Aniston is truly one of the most beautiful, photogenic women on Earth. Aniston continues to prove she can’t pick a good script to save her life. Jason Bateman has grown into such a confident actor he is able to save movies like this from being totally dreadful. It is another typical by the books romance for women and I still can’t understand why it is that women don’t recognize the same old formula and still ooh and ahh at the end as if things are a total surprise. Perhaps they do and they don’t care. Whatever the case I would love to see one original twist in a movie like this.
The Awful – Having already discussed the putrid Sex and the City 2 it is time to touch on the other three movies that battled for the title of worst of the summer of 2010. Killers was an absolutely ridiculous romantic comedy with Ashton Kutcher as (try and believe this) a government assassin who falls in love with a recently dumped woman (Katherine Heigl who, if she isn’t careful, is going to surpass Jennifer Aniston in the number of bad romantic comedies she appears in) while she vacations with her parents. Of course it takes her years to figure this out and soon he has her training to be a killer as well when some other agents come after him. This is one of the silliest stories in a film this year but it doesn’t help that Ashton Kutcher is a terrible actor. He rivals Keanu Reeves in droll, static delivery. He has no emotion but boredom. The only bright spot is the all too brief appearances of Catherine O’Hara and Tom Selleck as Heigl’s parents.
The makers of Vampires Suck also made Date Movie, Epic Movie and a few others and if there is one thing they have proved through the years it is that they haven’t learned a thing about parody. Here the target is the first two Twilight movies but what they do is virtually remake the movies with actors looking just like the original actors and then taking the same moments and trying to change them to make them funny. Almost every other moment has a character saying something silly and then either they or another character cocks their heads to the side as if to say, “Look, something funny was said and I am accentuating it with my reaction so you will recognize this and laugh.” Of course that is the absolute wrong way to do it but as long as they continue to do so their films will be at the bottom of the cinematic garbage heap. Can you imagine Airplane doing any more then borrowing ideas from other movies and having a character resemble Charlton Heston and Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin and so on? The secret to comedy is that the character is not supposed to know he is being funny. That’s how they illicit a laugh from the audience. In every second of Vampires Suck the characters know where they are and what they are doing and are constantly winking at the camera.
In an almost too close to call pick for worst film of the summer, Adam Sandler once again provided film audiences with a film that he stars in, produces and co-writes, and creates a film for those with the mentality of five year olds but the bodies of young adults. Grown Ups tells the story of a reunion of the five kids (apparently no one fouled out as no bench men appear) from grade school that played and won a basketball championship. They reunite at the funeral of their coach. It’s a weekend of hijinks and hilarity in this Big Chill for teenagers. I simply can’t understand Sandler’s continued insistence that pee, fart and vomit jokes piled on each other are funny. You know it’s a bad film when the film’s most sympathetic character is played by Rob Schneider.
Goodbye summer movies. I won’t remember most of you.