Are we in the midst of the
worst summer movie season on record? The bar's admittedly not very
high, but it certainly looks like we're heading in that direction.
In the five weeks since Iron Man 2 kicked off the season, not one of the 14 studio-backed movies has received what I would call a positive review (a B grade or better) from CityBeat writers, with the universally lambasted Sex and the City 2 heading up a pathetic 2010 class that already includes Just Wright, MacGruber, Prince of Persia, Killers, Marmaduke and The A-Team. (And it's not just us — Metacritic.com and Rottentomatoes.com seem to concur, as does the summer's tepid box-office response.)
And doesn't look to get much better. A quick glance at the remaining summer schedule reveals precious little for those not geeked about the latest Twilight movie or the parade of sequels/creatively challenged fare (this week's Toy Story 3 looks be be an exception).
The best hope for a decent popcorn movie would seem to be James Mangold's Knight and Day, an action-comedy about a couple (Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) on the run; Christopher Nolan's Inception, a sci-fi thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard; Phillip Noyce's Salt, which features Angelina Jolie in a true-life story about a CIA officer accused of being a Russian spy; Adam McKay's The Other Guys, a buddy-cop comedy with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg; Nimrod Antal's Predators, an ’80s-inspired (as in Schwarzenegger's Predator) action/adventure flick starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne; and, among a few others, Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a comic-book satire featuring the ever-feeble Michael Cera as our hero du jour.
Hell, I'm even holding out hope for Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables as a possible guilty pleasure — besides Stallone, its ’80s-centric, testosterone-laden cast includes Dolph Lungren, Eric Roberts, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Steve Austin in a story about a team of mercenaries on a mission to overthrow a South American dictator.
Hey, it can't be any worse than the tripe we've been served so far this summer. Can it?
Elsewhere, the no-budget metalicious documentary of sorts Exit Through the Gift Shop opens at the Esquire this week. Supposedly a film by the elusive British artist Banksy, Exit might be the most fun I've had in a movie theater so far this year, each of its subjects' — of which Shepard Fairey is one — nocturnal street-art excursions generating more suspense, creativity and laughter than all of Hollywood's summer offerings put together.
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP — Banksy, the secretive British street artist whose stenciled images (and accompanying graffiti) are full of visual and political complexity, possesses a sense of pranksterish conceptualism to rival Marcel Duchamp and of pop-art put-on to recall Claes Oldenberg and Andy Warhol. Exit Through the Gift Shop might be one more of his pranks — or it might be a straightforward documentary about street art. Or some of each. Whatever, it’s an entertaining and frequently very funny. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Steven Rosen (Not Rated.) Grade: A-
JONAH HEX — This curiously cast, long-delayed genre mash-up features Josh Brolin as a Western bounty hunter who does battle with an army of zombies nurtured by his arch nemesis (John Malkovich). Jimmy Hayward directs a cast that also includes Will Arnett, Megan Fox, Michael Shannon and Michael Fassbender. (Opens wide today.) Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Not screened for review
TOY STORY 3 — The Pixar team is back with another adventure headed by Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), who this time must deal with some crazy kids at a day care center. Lee Unkrich directs what is the first of the animated series to be in 3-D. More importantly, let's hope it's not the first to suck. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated G.) Review online Friday at citybeat.com