Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Here Comes Hollywood, Limping to the Starting Line

Has anyone out there taken a look at the movies coming out this Summer season? A long time ago (actually as early as 10 years ago) one could expect the Summer movie season to be stuffed with blockbuster titles that make your sweltering days feel a little lighter with a good dose of fun, good humor, and imaginative ideas.

Then there's the last few years. Outside of Inside Out, I don't think I saw a single movie last Summer.

But let's not use me as an example. Did you see any? Did anyone you know? And would either of you consider anything a film you would come back to over and over again like Iron Man or a Pixar original? Because that is what Summer blockbusters are supposed to make you want to do.

For a second, let's take a step back and take a look at the films I'm going to see without a doubt in this Summer:

  • Captain America: Civil War

A completion of what I hope to be the best superhero trilogy is about all I'm dyin' to see. Is your list longer than mine?

Now how about movies I'm interested in on a casual basis. This is a sort of Word Of Mouth/surprise hit category like the last Mad Max movie.

  • The Nice Guys (Shane Black is the reason)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (The last movie was excellent, but I loathe this villain)
  • The BFG (Spielberg and Roald Dahl are an intriguing combination)
  • Suicide Squad (Because of a friend. DC's non-Batman movies have been awful since the '70s)

And that's about it.

I probably won't even see three of those four and wait until Netflix. I didn't list Finding Dory because Pixar's sequels, outside of Toy Story, are never as good as the originals: and this is a sequel that is completely unneeded. But, again, what about you? Is your list any bigger than mine? If so, well, what is there that has you so excited?

The bigger problem here is how bad this year is overall for brand new movie ideas. Check out the amount of sequels, revamps, license movies, and remakes out this Summer Season:

  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Elstree 1976 (If you count these sorts of things)
  • The Curse of Sleeping Beauty
  • Angry Birds
  • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
  • X-Men: Apocalypse
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • WarCraft
  • Now You See Me 2
  • Finding Dory
  • Independence Day Resurgence
  • The Legend of Tarzan
  • The Purge: Election Year
  • The BFG
  • Ghostbusters
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Ice Age: Collision Course
  • Jason Bourne
  • Suicide Squad
  • Pete's Dragon
  • Ben-Hur

Twenty-two. That's 22 out of 37. More than half.

In defense of these sequels, the worst movie of the Summer probably won't even be one of these, but a movie listed below called Swiss Army Man. No, I'm not going to link to the trailer. If you want to see the awfulness yourself, feel free and waste your time. It's somehow even worse than the Ghostbusters trailer and just as barren.

Of course you might be thankful there are any originals at all. Well, you might be, that is, unless you looked up what most of them actually are about.

These are the original movies:

  • Money Monster - A drama starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts about greed. Don't fall asleep on me here.
  • Last Days in the Desert - A movie about a guy who has visions of Jesus Christ. There are two ways these types of movies tend to go and since we're no longer in the '40s or even the '60s, it probably won't go the good way.
  • High Rise - An allegory for class warfare: in a building! Wait, come back! They get more exciting, I swear!
  • The Nice Guys - Shane Black is the writer of the first two Lethal Weapon movies, Iron Man 3, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. His direction in the latter two was quite great, too. He is the main reason I am interested in this movie.
  • Me Before You - It's a modern romance coated in shallow emotions and nihilism. Chances are you already saw the poster and walked away. The modern world can't do romance at all. And that title is rather ironic considering the story, but this cynical generation loves their vacuous irony, so have at it. I won't be seeing this.
  • Central Intelligence - An action comedy starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart. The former would get me to see it, but the latter would drive me away. I'd have to hear strong Word Of Mouth to see this.
  • The Shallows - Remember that movie where James Franco yelled from the bottom of a crevice for six years or something? That's this only with a woman and at sea instead. The only difference is that this is listed as a horror movie. Yay, modern horror! The only genre more bankrupt than modern romance.
  • Free State of Jones - A movie about racism. You know, I don't oppose the subject being tackled, but Hollywood being completely incapable of nuance or subtlety on hot button topics these days always makes these movies ham-handed and embarrassing to watch. Plus, Matthew McConaughey. There's that.
  • Swiss Army Man - Here's the plot: "Hank (Paul Dano), a man marooned on an island and at the verge of suicide, sees a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) wash up on the beach and engages in a surreal friendship with it. Hank soon finds that his new friend, whom he names Manny, possesses the ability to talk and a myriad of supernatural powers." Yes, it's a modern indie film. How could you tell?
  • Equals - Stop me if you've heard this before: "In a futuristic utopian society, human emotions have been eradicated and everyone lives in peace but when a new disease surfaces, everything changes for illustrator Silas (Nicholas Hoult). He becomes an outcast once infected and is drawn to his writer co-worker Nia (Kristen Stewart), who is also infected but hiding her condition. In order to survive, they have to escape together." Okay, okay, you can cease yelling stop at me now. Another films where emotions solve problems instead of start them.
  • Our Kind of Traitor - A movie based on a John le Carre novel (Woo!) of all things. Oh wait, did I mention it was a modern John le Carre novel (Aww!) because that's the important distinction. Might as well just move on to the next movie.
  • The Secret Life of Pets - This is an animated film by the team behind Despicable Me. The problem is that every movie they've done outside of that franchise has been lousy. A pessimistic wait and see.
  • Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates - A modern romantic comedy. So it'll be raunchy, the main guys will be manchildren, the girls will be ho-humming the whole time at their immaturity, and there will be a turn in the end where the boys "grow up" and become the men the women deserve. If I'm wrong, then I'll be happy to eat my hat. I don't want to be right.
  • The Founder - This year's Social Network. That means it's a film you'll only ever see once, so why not wait until Netflix?
  • Nine Lives - This was the plot of a one season family sitcom in Canada called Doghouse. I'm not making that up. How that bodes for this, I don't know. But the only talking animal films I think are worth watching are the first Homeward Bound and Babe, so who knows if this will compare? Given the two decades since those films came out, I'm guessing no.

When I was a teenager, I would spend much of the Summer out watching movies with my friends in between everything else life held. We had a blast. Even if we are older now, that doesn't change the desire to want to recapture the feeling of encountering a brand new story that produces awe and wonder and stirs the imagination like the best stories do. None of us do that anymore, not just because of life, but because Hollywood is all dried up now.

I find that most have grown tired of what Hollywood shovels out these days. Endless despair, empty sex based on shallow feelings, crude and mean-spirited humor, vitriol against views they disagree with, and films about nothing at all blare from every cinema screen these days even if no one is sitting in the seats to watch them. Is it any wonder they are falling further and further into irrelevance?

Well, that's becoming increasingly fine with me. Once independent studios can make films as technically impressive as films like Aliens or Terminator 2 and allow more creative conrol and original ideas out, they will have found a whole market of movie watchers who have been eagerly awaiting for that lost spark to come back again.

Give it a few years and soon enough Hollywood will be joining the publishing and music industry on the scrap heap of irrelevance.

And they will have earned every bit of it.

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