….because this is one of the worst American Movie Summers in recent memory. We’re about half-way through it now, and there are a couple of supposed humdingers on the way. And I mean, literally, a couple. Because I can only think of 2 more movies, which will be released before September, that I am genuinely looking forward to viewing. Right now, it is pretty much tied with Summer 2001 as the shittiest movie season of our generation. Remember that Summer? Of course you do. Remember the movies released that summer? Of course you don’t. And, even if Osama hadn’t knocked down the towers to make you forget about everything else, you still wouldn’t. It really was that dismal. John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars was released that summer. So was Lara Croft Tomb Raider. In case you’re wondering, the best blockbuster of the summer was Tim Burton’s curiously, um, not very good remake of Planet Of The Apes. So, what does that tell you? Ghost World you say? Yes, I love it too. But it didn’t make money and Scarlett Johansson is a big star instead of…. Never mind.

My point is, 2010 is on a roll right now folks! This is some truly unfortunate shit, my friends. Truly, deeply unfortunate. I’ll be back in a couple of months (and, yes, I promise that this time I will be back) for the rest. But I’ve decided to call this first (of 2) installment KIDS STUFF. Because I’m focusing on the big comic book, tent-pole releases that were primarily aimed at young folk and the parents who they dragged to the theater *

Iron Man 2
Our tale begins with this fine mess of Laurelandhardian proportions. It’s a movie that frustrates me. Because I rather enjoyed it the first (of 2) time I saw it. I found Robert Downey Jr once again in fine form. I found Don Cheadle to be an adequate – if slightly humorless – replacement for Terence Howard. I found that Gwyneth Paltrow still looked good and had fun with her role. Though, at one point, I wanted to jump into the screen and offer her a cheeseburger. I remember thinking Sam Rockwell made for a delightfully hateful pile of shit and was glad he didn’t get blown to smithereens at the end so I could see him in the sequel. I enjoyed Sam Jackson as Nick Fury by way of Tarantino. I enjoyed Mickey Rourke as….whatever the fuck he was supposed to be.

Mickey Rourke in THE GOLD WATCH 2027

The second time I saw it? Not so good. I found that Jon Favreau had indeed gained a greater command of the action footage. But he didn’t seem to know how exactly to distribute this footage. And he also didn’t really have much of a movie to hang it on. It’s a movie that played as a series of set pieces strung together on a very thin rope of a revenge plot. And I guess Devin Faraci is right. There is something wrong with your summer slam-bang when the big action sequence of the second act involves a guy kicking the shit out of his drunk friend, trashing his house and stealing his ride. That would work just fine in a character-driven late Summer counter-programmer directed by David Ayer, starring John Leguizamo and Taye Diggs. But I want something a little more fun for my comic book extravaganza. Not a reminder of what I did last weekend with my beer buddies.

I also think it’s wrong to have your big action climax consist of the villain sitting at a computer monitor using the heroes to play an innovative RTS game. In fact, why cast Mickey Rourke as your villain at all if he’s going to spend 85% of the movie sitting in a basement bitching about computer parts and brooding at monitors? I’m sure Kevin Smith would have paid good money himself for the part.

And then Jon Favreau and his screenwriter Justin Theroux devised a thrilling 27-second showdown. In which Rourke is taken down by Downey Jr and Cheadle impersonating The Wonder Twins.

So, okay, in the annals of comic book sequels and spin-offs, this one is several steps above Superman IV and far superior to Steel. And it’s perfectly watchable. But it was perhaps a sign of things to come…..

Prince Of Persia – The Sands Of Time
…..because this one was just dismal. Truly, completely awful. I don’t even remember the plot of it much. It had something to do with Jake Gyllenhaal putting on a whole bunch of spray-on tan and running around the desert doing something or other with a stupid knife. I remember that Gandhi was the villain in the most surprising plot twist since the ending of Silkwood. And I remember that Alfred Molina did a perfectly serviceable job playing Sallah. I also remember that there was no way I would forget the title of the film. As the characters kept reminding me. “You truly are a prince….of Persia.” “You have carried yourself with the bravery of a true prince….of Persia.” “Will you marry this prince? This prince….of Persia?” And so on.

Yeah, I know… Fuck you too.

Rather than recount the story or my basic impression of the film. I can only express regret. And I would like to apologize to my friend Curly Fries. This turned out to be her birthday movie. She hadn’t seen anything that was playing… We could have seen Iron Man 2. We could have taken her to see Clash Of The Titans. Hell… We could have taken her to the Freddy movie. Instead, for several different reasons, we talked her into choosing this. No Curly Fries, don’t make excuses. Don’t say it was your choice. We all know you would have chosen something else. So fuck us for taking you to this.

I sat next to her. As I was nodding off through most of this thing, I could see she sat in perfect attention. Grimacing. I occasionally glanced at the other friends flanking us on either side…. All with expressions of deep, physical pain.

I’m so sorry fellas.

And happy birthday once again.

Toy Story 3
And, would you believe? The best movie of the summer so far. I haven’t seen the Nolan yet. I saw The A-Team, but more on that next time… However, here was a picture that did unequivocably thrill me. First was the fact that I got to see it in theaters. Because, by some miracle, it actually played here not dubbed. There was actually an English-language copy of the thing and in 3D!

Okay, so the 3D wasn’t so hot. Just your typical pop-up book variety. But I don’t care. This prison comedy about a group of suburbanites who have to learn to move on and not hold on to the past, while escaping the clutches of a sadistic warden who smells like strawberries and his giant, mongoloid enforcer – was the most entertaining thriller I saw in these 3 months.

Chucky ain’t shit

There is real emotion, suspense… Great performances…. Spectacular visuals… Terrific action scenes. Michael Keaton’s best role since Beetlejuice… PRISON RAPE…. And a very suspenseful moment where a Nehru shirt almost gets destroyed. Isn’t that why we go to the movies?

I don’t really understand how Pixar was able to get away with essentially making the same movie three times. But I guess they’re fucking geniuses.

The Karate Kid
And I suppose it’s a telling sign of the times when a movie that had no business being good, that had seemingly nothing particularly redeeming about it (a movie starring an Asian action star who you haven’t given a shit about since 1992 and the kid who played that insufferable little asshole in the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, directed by the man who brought us One Night At McCool’s – aka: That Stupid Movie With Liv Tyler, Produced By A Very Dumb-Looking Michael Douglas, Where A Refrigerator Falls On Paul Reiser At The End And We’re Supposed To Laugh)… A kids movie that is 140 minutes long and…

…stop tape…


…press [REC]

The Karate Kid is a 140-minute epic about a cute kid from Detroit who is taken to China by his annoying stereotype, I mean – his mother, and then a band of Chibis from a Technos NES game come to life and kick the shit out of him repeatedly. So he goes to building superintendent Jackie Chan, and learns martial arts to kick their asses in a low-tech, yet still thrilling, live-action staging of Electronic Arts’ Budokan for the Sega Genesis…

“You could benefit from a wider range of moves.”

I’m actually not kidding. That’s basically what the movie is. There is a romantic subplot involving Chinese Kirsten Dunst and Dance Revolution and some shadow puppets. But, essentially, this is a Rocky movie for kids made with video game sensibilities.

And I really, really enjoyed it. Took my 7-year-old to see it and it was our first movie together. You might say that had something to do with the overall enjoyment of the experience. She sat on the edge of her seat for most of the film’s running time and it was a delight to watch her and the movie at the same time. But, hey, I could have hated it. My father took me to see He-Man & She-Ra: The Secret Of The Sword in a mall in Framingham, MA in 1985. I sat on the edge of my seat, eating Goobers and he took a 75-minute nap. Then we went across the road to the Toys ‘R Us and he bought me Orko, Battle Armor Skeletor and Fisto – and we went home.

But The Karate Kid is a better film than He-Man & She-Ra: The Secret Of The Sword. It has genuine heart, better performances, richer cinematography and a grander scope. There’s more at stake and the action scenes have more power and are character-driven, rather than relying on cheap effects and fabricated “suspense”. Plus, that little bastard is a much better villain than Hordak. Ultimately, I got the sweeter end of the stick.


See you in a couple of weeks.

* M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender – An M. Night Shyamalan film, written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan is missing from this because 1. I haven’t seen it yet and 2. I imagine it will deserve its own blog. Don’t want to let my fans down, you know.