A month of mayhem

The summer-blockbuster season kicks off with a big, noisy June

<i>The Purge</i>

The Purge

Apparently the new Hollywood paradigm is to quit making movies for less than $100 million. So, this summer promises some serious smackdowns between studios as they put all their money on one contender. The downside of all this is, of course, that stories takes a backseat to spectacle. And the five weekends this June start off the season with very little in the way of actors talking on screen. But whatever—bring on your big, dumb fun, Hollywood. But please don’t forget the fun.

This first weekend of June sees Hollywood giving M. Night Shyamalan yet another chance, this time with his post-post-apocalyptic After Earth. Will Smith and son Jaden get to work out some father-son issues after their spacecraft crashes on Earth a thousand years after humanity sailed off into space to despoil other planets. And apparently there are lots of giant mutant creatures waiting to make their odyssey spectacular.

The Smiths are up against Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson trying to atone for the awfulness of Zombieland with Now You See Me, playing two-quarters of a quartet of Vegas magicians that uses its stage act to pull Robin Hood-style heists while Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman try to take them down. It’s directed by the dude who brought us Clash of the Titans and written by the team behind Super Mario Bros., so there might be some stoopid, flashy fun to be found.

The following week sees The Purge (with Ethan Hawke) taking the home-invasion theme of 2008’s The Strangers and bumping the mayhem quotient up to apocalyptic levels by presenting us with an allegorical version of ’Murica, where in order to maintain utopia we get one night a year of dystopia when everyone cuts loose with their simmering sociopathy and kills each other with no consequences. Produced by Michael Bay. ’Nuff said.

The same weekend, we also get Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson as a couple of oldsters competing against tech-savvy millennials at Google in the The Internship, plus an update of Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon. I suppose if there’s one dude floating around who can sell Shakespeare to a mass audience, it’s Whedon, the whiz behind a little film from last summer called The Avengers and a string of cult-fanatical TV shows—Buffy, Firefly, et al.

In the middle of June, civilization as we know it gets a last call with This is the End. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg get all their Hollywood friends together and make a disaster movie that promises us that they’ll kill off the Judd Apatow posse (playing themselves) in horrible ways. While the idea of watching Rogan, Michael Cera, James Franco and Jonah Hill die horribly has tremendous potential, I’m more excited about August’s The World’s End from the Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz team. I’m guessing, though, that it won’t stand a chance against the yet-another reboot of the Man of Steel. I’ve enjoyed most of Zack Snyder’s work, and I’m hoping he can take the goody-goody ethos of Superman and darken it down all gritty-like.

Later in the month, we’re invited to Monsters University, Pixar’s sequel to Monsters, Inc., which will probably obliterate its competition for the week: World War Z. The in-name-only adaptation of Max Brooks’ popular zombie allegory (starring Brad Pitt) is Hollywood’s first blockbuster attempt at cashing in on the zombie craze. If approached as having absolutely nothing to do with the novel, it might stand as its own entity.

The end of June sees table scraps tossed into the multiplex with Roland Emmerich’s take on the Oval Office under fire with White House Down. On the heels of the similarly bent Olympus Has Fallen, released just three months ago, it doesn’t look promising. But it’s not as despairing as the Sandra Bullock/ Melissa McCarthy vehicle, The Heat. I’m not gonna think on this one any further, since I’ve heard the feds have replaced waterboarding in favor of using the trailer for this thing during Gitmo interrogations.

Of course, there are more mega-budgets rumbling throughout the rest of the season (e.g. The Lone Ranger and Wolverine in July), but aside from the aforementioned The World’s End (August 23) and Guillermo del Toro’s robots vs. giant monsters smashing up the Pacific Rim (July 12), there appears to be very little noise worth sitting through.