Mission: Mediocre

Summer movies aren’t packing them in, but our reviewer has some reasons to go to the theater

Photo By David Robert

The summer is off to a lousy box office start, with Mission: Impossible III underperforming, Poseidon downright bombing and An American Haunting simply having been in theaters. Oh, the power of DVD. Last year saw a decline in the amount of people heading to theaters for film experiences, and this year is no different. Mother’s Day weekend saw a drop of 13 percent at the box office, and the summer movie season already has its first dud in Poseidon, a $160 million film that will be lucky to make its money back.

The Da Vinci Code had a decent opening, but given the book’s popularity, that’s not a surprise. Even with the Da Vinci numbers, box office for that week was still down from the same week a year ago, when the final Star Wars opened huge. Expect the numbers for Da Vinci to drop rapidly, given that the film isn’t very good and fans of the book probably went on opening weekend.

Why are you avoiding the theaters? What’s the deal, people? We can’t cry poor about the snacks anymore because theaters seem to be slacking off when it comes to sneaking in sodas and candy. (On a personal note: I hate the sound of somebody popping a soda can in a movie theater. I call it a “beverage fart,” and it’s an intrusive, rude thing. Knock it off!) Yes, your home theater probably kicks ass, but seeing summer blockbusters on the big screen is still the way to go. Stop being such a troglodyte.

As for the rest of the summer movie season, it’s looking pretty mediocre. Here are some of my “Must See On Big Screen” movies, rated as such because 1) The picture looks to be the sort of visual experience that requires “ginormous screenage” and 2) I’m so anxious to see it that I can’t wait for the video or DVD. (Couldn’t really do that anyway. It’s my job to see films theatrically—somebody told me that last week).1. Superman Returns: Bryan Singer, please don’t screw this one up. I’m still traumatized from my Superman III experience (A young boy sitting in a matinee crowd, jaw agape, watching Richard Pryor kill his career, amazed at the dying franchise dream on display before him). Forget about Supermans III and IV. Singer has said publicly that this film will pick up after Superman II, as if the other films never happened (That’s the best idea since somebody invented apple juice). He’s also using pieces of John Williams’ original score and using old footage of the very dead Marlon Brando!

Brandon Routh beat out many actors for the Man of Steel role (Remember when Nicolas Cage was supposed to play Supes in a film directed by Tim Burton?). He has an uncanny resemblance to Christopher Reeve, and the previews seem to indicate he plays a decent Clark Kent.

2. Clerks II: It’s funny that Kevin Smith comes in right below Superman on this list, given that he wrote a Superman script that Tim Burton threw away when he temporarily got the director’s gig. Smith, as a sort of gift to recently cleaned up pal Jason Mewes, is dusting off his Silent Bob cap and giving the characters that made him big another go. Dante and Randal (Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson) are back, working at a burger joint and still clerking after all these years. When it comes to good natured slob humor, Smith is one of the most trustworthy directors out there right now (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is living proof of that).

3. A Scanner Darkly: Winona Ryder looks super hot as a cartoon in this animated film from Richard Linklater, based on the Philip K. Dick novel. Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. also get “rotoscoped"—the bizarre type of animation utilized for the film. This one has been advertised for a long time, so it will be cool to finally see the damn thing.

4. Nacho Libre: Tenacious D gets their movie later this year. To tide Jack Black fans over, there’s this one about a priest who takes up wrestling to save an orphanage. From the director of Napoleon Dynamite, it looks funny, although Black sounds an awful lot like Pedro.

5. Cars: Pixar does automobiles, and they look mighty pretty. The likes of Owen Wilson and Paul Newman lend their voices to this fable. Larry the Cable Guy also pitches in, so that’s one strike against it.

6. Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Man’s Chest: The bad pirates in this one, with their tentacle beards, look pretty kick-ass. I dug Johnny Depp in the original, and this one looks like fun, too. Too bad Keith Richards balked at playing his dad.

7. Monster House: A cartoon house that eats people. Cool. From the makers of the monstrously bad Polar Express, this one looks like a much better time.

8. The Break-Up: Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. The new Hepburn and Tracy? Probably not, but I want to see this one anyway. Vince getting his ass kicked to the tune of Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart” looks like comic gold.

9. Little Miss Sunshine: Steve Carell is making me laugh more than anybody out there right now. I expect greatness from this. I will settle for nothing less.

10. Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: The preview has an underwear-clad Will Ferrell running around, believing he’s on fire, screaming “Help me, Jesus! Help Me, Jewish God! Help me, Tom Cruise!” I’m there.

Other big ones that I have my reservations about include X-Men: The Last Stand (To put it frankly, I don’t trust director Brett Ratner), M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water (he is on my shit list after The Village), Miami Vice (it’s a Michael Mann movie, but it’s still a big-screen TV show), and The Lake House, with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock reuniting. I don’t think I need to see those two together unless they’re driving public transportation that’s rigged to blow up while being ogled by Dennis Hopper.

As for possible oddball delights, Snakes On a Plane could be a disturbed blast, the preview for Little Man with Shawn Wayans as a midget looks demented funny, and Click with Adam Sandler as a dude with a remote control that controls the world could be fun.

For headier stuff, Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center starring Nicolas Cage is looking to be the director’s first decent film since Natural Born Killers (1994). Meryl Streep has two decent looking ones coming out, The Devil Wears Prada and A Prairie Home Companion. Finally, Mel Gibson gets back into the director’s chair for Apocalypto, a film about the Mayan civilization that, with luck, his father won’t comment on.

You know what? I started this article with a rant about people not going to the movies enough, but after reviewing the relatively lackluster listing of coming attractions above, I can sort of understand the growing appeal of home viewing. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not that excited about this bunch as a whole. We’ll see how they rank in the year end wrap up.