Being in the UK, deciding what actually constitutes summer in our increasingly muddled weather environment is pretty darn difficult. Should we start with May? Well, if summer is the period of the year in which things were sunny and bright and lovely, then May, June and July are all out for us UK folks. Our summer never really arrived, overshadowed as it was by the constant humidity and rain. Instead of going with weather calculations, our summer will start in May, or the end of April to be precise, when the blockbuster season kicked-off in multiplexes, and plexes, across the land. Begin post-jump…
It all began, back at the very end of April, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It couldn’t have started much worse, to be honest. We panned the film pretty comprehensively on the podcast for that show, but not enough can really be spewed forth about the laziness, the poor filmmaking, the comatose acting, the confusing origin story and the general let-down weakness of the film. I suppose we couldn’t really have expected much in the way of quality, this was, after all, the continuation of what was started well by Bryan Singer, peaked by the same man, and then royally shat upon by Brett Ratner. As a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine is a fittingly shit-tabulous slice of idiocy.
All that, however, only served to heighten the unrelenting love and affection we were able to muster for Star Trek, JJ Abrams’ take on the, and I mean THE, cult phenomena of movie and television land. The only negative to take away from Star Trek, was its coining of the now ubiquitous ‘reboot’, a term to signify when a film is seeking to forge its own patch within a franchise series. Reboots of everything from Fantastic Four to Cliffhanger are now being speculated upon. The film itself deserves the term entirely, Abrams taking a franchise bathed in exclusivity and geek love and transforming it into an accessible, hugely entertaining sci-fi blockbuster without losing the essence of the source material. I am some distance from a Trekky, but this is the first film I’ve come out of in a long time with a strong, unquenchable desire to see a sequel.
We had to wait a couple more weeks for another dive into the blockbuster pond, but we were treated in the interim to a film which will likely enter all of our top tens at the close of the year, Charlie Kaufman’s meta miracle Synecdoche, New York. Whether or not you bought into the introspection of Kaufman’s directorial debut, you could do nothing but admire the commitment he felt to try and provide something far beyond the traditional fare. Wonderful as Star Trek is, the depth on show here means Synecdoche will be one we talk about for some time to come, likely outlasting the rest of the year’s fare.
After our break from the popcorn season, we dived straight back in again with Sam Raimi’s return to horror, Drag Me to Hell. Though not remotely close to his genre-topping brilliance in the Evil Dead films, it acted as a showcase for Raimi’s talent in manipulating and poking fun at his audience, all in the best of spirits. I had a few issues with the CGI gore on show, though I would concede it adds a little to the schlockiness of the movie. I was also a major supporter of Alison Lohman’s performance in the lead role, though I was at odds with many over that choice.
If Raimi didn’t haul us back into the popcorn summer, McG would hardly let us escape. His Terminator: Salvation, itself a kind of reboot, wasn’t quite able to match the level of shit reached with Wolverine, but it was a joyless and workaday experience. An inability to understand the interesting parts of the Terminator mythology, the painful casting of the meatheaded Sam Worthington (seemingly unable to decide which accent his character should have) and the wasting of all characters, literally all characters, at the throne of boring, add up to easily the most disappointed effort of the summer thus far. At least, given X-Men’s third incarnation, we had a feeling that would suck. Terminator’s third wasn’t good either, but the trailers promised so much more. Shame on you, McG, for letting us down so hard.
For many, the summer really kicked back into gear again with The Hangover, Todd Phillips’ super-successful comedy which sought to capture the magic of Old School. For us, it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie and contained what deserves to be a star-making performance from Zack Galifianakis. But this is not comedy gold. There are very few, if any, truly memorable single scenes, it’s a distance from quotable (which all great R-comedies should be) and the remainder of the central cast, outside of Galifianakis, are really not funny at all. To compare it to Old School, you have two other funny performances outside of Will Ferrell to latch onto and, I’m afraid, Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper (who really looks like an eagle) are just not up to the standards of Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson. Decent, but only decent.
This first part could only, ever finish with one movie. The biggest of the summer, both in terms of scale and level of crapicity, was Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. I’ve said it before, I’ll keep saying it, this film is Michael Bay knocking three or four per day out over the course of around a year, all onto film stock, before obnoxiously shoving it in the faces of all who would fall under its spell. In our defense, no podcast and we would likely have given this a miss. But we have a podcast, and we didn’t give it a miss. Beyond the incomprehensible yet still boneheaded story, you are treated to exactly the kind of ‘CRASH SMASH BASH BOOM!!’ filmmaking that Bay has begun to take an auteurist approach to. The action scenes, though an improvement on those in the first film, are housed inside a movie which has no regard whatsoever for intelligence or humility, for a good spirit or any sense of fun. Two-and-a-half hours of watching Shia LeBoeuf try his darnedest to prevent you from wanting to gouge out your eyes out with spoons, Megan Fox being filmed in a way that would make most porn stars and glamour models blush and John Turturro reduced to showing his arse purely for giggles. Part 2 will hopefully see some improvement, but we end part one at a low point, both for this summer and, looking at the box-office and listening to the audience which joined us, humanity.