Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

A little bit early to declare this a $100 million dollar weekend?
May 12, 2008

If you check the news on most internet outlets or listen to the radio right now (I’m writing this late Sunday night/early Monday morning, 12:27 AM to be exact), you’ll see news about the film Iron Man having had a $100 million plus weekend. Specifically, boxofficemojo has the number at about $750 thousand over the 100 million mark. This is somewhat of a big deal as only a small handful of films have ever grossed that much in a 3-day period. Spiderman was the first to do it in 2002 and since then, 6 other films have done it (Matrix Reloaded, Pirates of the Carribean II and III, Star Wars III, Shrek II and Spiderman III), so it’s an even bigger deal for a film to do it that’s not a sequel and this early in the summer.

But, I digress, here’s the thing. Does anyone ever wonder how the reports of the box office weekend can come out before the weekend is over? Movie theaters around the country are just beginning to close at this hour and the general managers are counting up the revenue produced at the box office for the day. That’s an entire third of the weekend. Well, what actually happens is that the box office gurus predict the weekend count based on Friday and Saturday’s take and extrapolate for what Sunday is supposed to be. On Monday afternoon and even on Tuesday, studio estimates will continually be updated as returns come in. So the actual figure of whether Iron Man grosses $100 million dollars is a very loose figure, but it still is one that newspapers will take and run with tomorrow morning. Keep in mind, the actual figure could be higher or lower than the current estimate, but either way, $750 thousand is a small enough margin of error, that newspapers should mention because if they don’t, it wouldn’t be an entirely honest headline that will line the top of the arts/style/life sections of newspapers nationwide tomorrow morning.

So whatever happens, Iron Man is pretty much now a hit and has made history as the first non-sequel film since Spiderman to gross $100 million in a single weekend, even if it really hasn’t. Five years ago, Matrix Reloaded was given a very low exit score by dissapointed viewers walking out the theater, and it’s not particularly well-remembered today but as far as the studios are concerned, it will always be known as a commercial success for its historic first weekend and history is likely to repeat itself tomorrow morning.

On a side note: The opening number for a weekend box office gross is very important, as movie theaters make a mid-week decision as to what to run the following week, based on weekend box office figures. As a result if a film doesn’t have a good opening weekend, it haseven less of a chance of doing well the second weekend and each subsequent weekend thereafter, so be sure to see a film you want to support between Friday and Monday.





Film roundup
August 28, 2007

Where is everyone else on this blog? Anyway, I was in Europe and fell far behind on all the movies that have come out. That’s kind of what this over saturated summer makes you feel like with so many back-to-back films lined up in a row. In fact, I’ve only seen four films since I left to Europe on July 13th, so that’s like 6 or 7 weeks. Here’s what I saw:

Bourne Ultimatum: I actually had a slightly negative impression of Bourne Identity because I saw the entire plot as pretty much action-based, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually caring about the characters in this back-end to the trilogy. I found the whole plot very relevant and relatable to much about the War on Terror and our current state of politics, and another highlight was the use of aerial photography. The line, “Do you even know why you’re shooting at me” that Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne says to one of the CIA-ordered snipers is one that will stuck with me for a while.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: I’m kind of a sucker for fish-out-of-water comedies because I practically grew up on those kinds of films in the ’90s, so I did end up liking this film, even though I’m usually weary about seeing an Adam Sandler film (Click was, by far, the worst movie I saw last year). I was surprised how well thought-out the plot was because it seems like when Adam Sandler writes these films, he devotes about 10% of his time to thinking about the plot and 90% of his time to thinking ways to inject the maximum amount of bathroom humor and fat jokes possible. It will be interesting to see how GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) reacts to this film when they have their annual awards considering the film both capitalizes on gay stereotypes and sends a moralistic message against them.

Invasion: The second horror/thriller movie I’ve seen this summer (I also regrettably saw 1408), this film was helped out most by actors who treated the material as if it weren’t so laughably implausible. It’s based on a famous 1956 movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and the movie is true to the spirit of those older sci-fi films that came from a time when filmmakers didn’t really know much about science at all.

Transformers: I ended up stumbling upon this movie inadvertently (I was waiting for another movie to start and wandered into the Transformers theater) and I was fortunate to discover THE event picture of the summer even if it was eight weeks past its release and there was no one left who hadn’t seen it that I could proclaim it’s greatness to. Produced by Stephen Spielberg and directed by Michael Bay, I’m happy to report that between the clash of these two creative visionaries (or should I say one creative visionary and a guy whose primary interest as a movie director is making things explode), that the end result is a movie that’s far more Spielberg than it is Bay. Transformers plays out along the lines of Spielberg’s “Things are best seen from a children’s point of view” theme that is most closely associated with E.T. Along the lines of this E.T. analogy, massive credit goes to the casting department for using Shia LeBouf in the “Drew Barrymore” role, because he is largely the reason the film works so well. Charismatic, a little vulnerable, and witty, Shia LeBouf balances the heavy mythology with lighthearted fun reminiscent of Han Solo’s role in Star Wars. I think it’s also a good bet that like Harrison Ford, Shia LeBouf will enjoy a rich and long-lived career.

While coming off as the second coming of E.T., the film also has a touch of Roland Emmerich films like The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day where the impossible task of trying to portray an entire planet as it deals with a global attack is portrayed through a cross-section of people whose story lines weave closer together as the plot progresses and there were plenty of interesting characters from Jon Voight’s airhead Secretary of defense (a little reminiscent of Rumsfeld but a slightly better listener) to Jon Turturro as a special agent to Rachel Taylor as a sexy intelligent computer programmer to Megan Fox as a very compelling girl-next-door type who commands the protagonist’s interest.

Of course, with Michael Bay as the director, the action gets a little excessive (especially in the final battle scene), but ultimately, the film is all about character and that’s what makes it memorable

License to Wed review/my take on the film’s sexual undertones
July 9, 2007

First of all, my apologies that I’m not posting these reviews as I see them right away. I also felt the need to see the movie twice to really get a firm grasp on it, because I know they lose relevance, the longer you wait. On to the review:

License to Wed (2007): 2 1/2 Stars
Directed by Ken Kwapis, Starring Mandy Moore, John Krasinski, Robin Williams, Christine Taylor, Josh Flitter, Peter Strauss

Robin Williams stars as Reverend Frank, an affable but unconventional priest who puts a couple (Krasinski and Moore) through a rigorous drill camp of sorts to make sure they’re ready to get married.

Groom-to-be Ben Murphy is portrayed as a rugged All-American guy by Krakinski, with little-to-no-variation of his character on The Office*. The problem is that little variation that Krasinski tries to bring here is too little for us to be able to escape seeing him in Jim and this is a context in which Jim comes off as far less likable. On The Office, Jim is the hero because he rallies the morale for all the workers, he sticks up for his idiotic boss, and he keeps Dwight, the office stiff, at bay. In this film he treats Robin Williams’ Reverend Frank as if he were Dwight, all because he wants to have sex with his fiancee and comes off as a suck-up to his in-laws rather than a sincere guy.

Mandy Moore, part of the annoying trend, of singers wanting to promote their latest album through acting (did anyone notice she has a CD coming out this week?). As Sadie, she is a little too cutesy-wutsey for the part, but she has at least a couple moments where she demonstrates good comic timing.

I’ve usually found that Robin Williams can do no wrong and this film is no exception. I read a review in the Washington Post, by Stephen Hunter, on opening day that had the title “Disturbingly Funny” that goes on to say that the film was filled with dark undertones and that Robin William’s character here was similar to the creepy voyeuristic guy in One Hour Photo, who wants to split the couple up in order to be with Sadie. While it took me a while to reconcile my preconceived notions from reading the review with what the film was actually about, I ended up disagreeing with Hunter but I think it says a lot for the talent of Robin Williams that that much complexity can be read into this role. It’s true that Reverend Frank spies on the couple and has a scene where he starts to talk dirty to Sadie. Maybe these perceived sexual undertones might have to do with our increased infatuation in our my space society of sexual predators or the recent Catholic church-scandal, but I think the voyeuristic nature of Reverend Frank fits within the comic framework. The more creepy Reverend Frank gets, the more nervous Ben is, and that’s what creates comic tension. Besides, the beginning and ending of the film indicate that Frank is meant to be a good-although-unconventionally-aggressive guy.

The film isn’t really fully realized but I give it 2 1/2 stars (which means not good or bad) because I think it’s a noble effort and will keep people fairly engaged. The film’s ending is a little haphazardly tacked on, but the film plays out through a series of comic gags (i.e. Ben being forced to play word association with his in-laws, Ben playing an aggressive game of Catch with his minister, the couple being forced to adopt robotic babies) and I definitely heard an ample amount of laughter in my theater as these gags played out.

*Office fans will be happy to note that Angela Kinsey, Brian Baumgartner and Mindy Kaling have bit roles in the films

1408 Review
July 3, 2007

1408: 1 1/2 stars
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom, Starring John Cusack, Mary McCormack and Samuel L Jackson

The premise established in an introduction that doesn’t even try to hide the film’s silliness is that a skeptical writer of ghost stories (John Cusack in a role that’s miscast on the grounds that it resembles his persona in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” too closely) travels to his latest conquest: not the usual haunted house but, instead, a room within an elegant hotel, that’s said to be haunted. According to the hotel manager (Samuel L Jackson) the room is never checked out but the hotel chain wants to keep the outward appearance that there’ nothing wrong with the room to make the other customers feel comfortable. Jackson’s character tells Cusack’s character incredible stories of how haunted the room and how once a maid stayed in the room too long and slit her wrists, or something like that in a scene that plays off as too melodramatic. The writer’s cynicism is too strong for the hotel manager’s appeal and he decides to take the room. Of course once he gets there, bad things happen but the audience can see that coming from a mile away.

What 1408 ultimately comes down to is an adaptation problem. The film was adapted from Stephen King’s short story which probably worked great as an Edgar Allen Poe-type exploration of the darker recesses of the human mind. On screen, however, the mobius strip plot contraptions wear thin. With nearly everything on screen happening only in the character’s mind, there’s little reason to care.

Evan Almighty review
July 1, 2007

Evan Almighty (2007) dir. by Tom Shadyac, starring Steve Carrell, Lauren Graham, Wanda Sykes, John Goodman

Evan Almighty is kind of a half-sequel. It carries over half the title from the original 2003 film “Bruce Almighty” and it has half of the main duo from the last film: Morgan Freeman as God. On a tangent, I think didn’t realize how good a choice Morgan Freeman is as God when I saw Bruce Almighty for this reason: Freeeman’s known for his narrational work, and the narrator of a film often plays the role of God. So because the film’s not really a sequel, it’s kind of a cheap attempt to be perceived as a sequel by the movie going public, because sequels are such surefire bets in terms of box office draw. This probably is what irked critics more than anything else.The other half of the God-Human Muse partnership in this film is Steve Carrell as Evan Baxter, the obnoxious anchorman with very limited screentime in the last film. Carrell’s Baxter is not really much at all what he was in the first film, perhaps because Steve Carrel himself has become such a likable star persona in the last four years. I think with Steve Carrel we have the “TV Star=Movie Poison” problem. It’s hard to get worked up about seeing Steve Carrel being funny in a movie when he does that every week on TV and the problem becomes exacerbated when you consider that the writing staff of The Office can make Steve Carrel funnier than Tom Shadyac as a screenwriter can. Still, the film has its humorous moments. Surprisingly, many of these come from Wanda Sykes, the brilliant female comic, who used to have her own show (she doesn’t have one anymore, because, well, TV networks are just plain stupid). I was kind of thinking as I was watching this that perhaps Wanda Sykes should be the leading lady in a comedic movie or two.

I want to touch up on a couple things that this movie had going for it and one thing the movie didn’t have going for it:

Bad things:
I don’t think the film could ever decide if the film was about a congressman gone crazy or a father and husband trying to win his family back. I’m not sure if the film understands the gravity of being a congressman. This isn’t the typical, “I can’t play with you kids, because I’ve got a lot of work at the office” job. He’s a FREAKING CONGRESSMAN. He’s one of 435 people that create laws in this nation. It’s a very, very big and important job. Evan’s wife shouldn’t be nagging him on “why did we leave Buffalo and move here. It wasn’t beneficial to the kids.” For god’s sake, woman, he’s IN CONGRESS.Congressman’s kids and wives usually bend around and have to play the political game. If Lauren Graham’s character left Steve Carrell, she’d have to understand that that would be political suicide for him and for her causes. That’s why the wives of congressman don’t divorce their husbands in the middle of a scandal. She would also have been followed around everywhere with TV cameras, especially the night after he shows up to congress in a big beard.The film also doesn’t understand how office politics and congress aren’t two different things. I’ve been to Capitol Hill three times in the last few years (I’m a native Washingtonian) and everyone gets a big office. This isn’t Office Space or The Apartment. Evan Baxter shouldn’t have to suck up to the guy who gives him a big office for survival.

Good things:

This is a Steve Carrell comedy but it does have a moral aspect to it. It’s not a religious parable on the level of Passion of the Christ, but on a level that’s not too impressively complex, Evan Almighty has a theme to it about the widely growing gulf between our religious convictions and the cynicism that has come with our modernization. It’s the same point that was thought up by my sister when she was maybe 12 and on that level, I think this is a good family movie for that reason: behind the comedy is a theme and a moral lesson that will appeal to children and perhaps even the children in adults.

The other good thing is the way everything works out in the end. I won’t give a spoiler but I consider it one of the foremost examples of movie magic when a filmmaker can take disparate plot elements and story lines that he has been juggling around through the course of the movie and weave them all together in a clever way, so that everything makes sense, and while the family conflict subplot, the Congress subplot, and the ark subplot seemed like they all were on different planes of existence, Shadyac skillfully fits the pieces of the puzzle in a “ohhh, so that’s how it works” moment that redeems the story.

The AFI list came out
June 23, 2007

First of all, here’s the AFI’s 100 years…100 movies list in case you missed it last night. They recapped the top 100 films of all time. You can find it hereng it:

Now this is basically the only time in 10 years that knowledge of classic film and current events ever mix together, so I better take advantage of that and start writing away. This was such an exciting event for me, because I didn’t even recognize the names of most of those movies the last time around.

So here are some notes:
-I talked to a spokesman for the AFI in an interview and she said the AFI is redoing the top 100 list to account for the last 10 years of film, but she also said that no films from the 400-ballot date later than 2004 because the films do need time to breathe to be properly evaluated and I agree with that. The end result is a little bit low, though. Only 4 films were included: Saving Private Ryan, Titanic, Lord of the Rings and The Sixth Sense. The most frustrating thing about this is the incongruity of this is that since only one of these films was in the 2000’s, this could almost, almost pass for a 20th century list right up to the very last year.

-It also has me worried that perhaps since film critics are exposed to so many more Oscar contenders and there is so much internet criticism out there, that maybe we can’t agree on greatness anymore. During the Great Depression, films like It Happened One Night and 42nd Street pulled people together. I don’t know if that’s the case. We can still all get excited over Spiderman, Pirates of the Carribean and X-Men, and Brokeback Mountain, Dreamgirls and Departed do dominate water cooler buzz, but maybe it’s a fracture between the critics and the public. Spiderman, Shrek and Pirates were all on the ballot as were many of the Oscar nominees. At the very least it’s nice to see a few films added:
– Lord of the Rings is an undeniable safe choice because it has been both part of the Blockbuster culture and the Oscar culture which divides film viewing now more than ever.
-I’ve already seen a lot of complaining about the Sixth Sense on message boards, but I say, let’s just try to agree on something, rather than have this decade not represented. Sixth Sense is an interesting offbeat pick from a director who has a gift for originality. Even if he’s currently struggling a little with where to go with it at the moment (Lady in the Water hit a nerve with audiences and it ended the director’s streak of commercial success), let’s honor how he once showed us something new and original.
-Saving Private Ryan was a film that came along when there was nothing left to say about World War II. It’s another war classic and it shows that the tradition of making great war movies has not been forgotten. Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima is the recent continuation of this.
-Titanic is such an interesting pick. When the last list came out in 1998, Titanic seemed like the biggest cinematic event to hit the face of the Earth. It broke all box office records and it had the biggest production budget ever and it won a record number of Oscars. Nowadays, box office draw and critical acclaim are two different things entirely. The box office champions of the last few years Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest, Star Wars III, Shrek II, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Spiderman, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Mission Impossible II, have virtually no chance at a best picture nomination and seldom appear on critic’s top 10 lists. But back then, Titanic was unstoppable. Even if you wanted to hate it because it was a Goliath of a film and you tend to root for the Davids, the story was so damn moving and emotional, that you couldn’t deny it’s greatness. If Titanic was eligible for that ballot, who knows how high it would have gotten on the list. Some might have voted it #1 due to the fact that box office draw and greatness might have been more correlated. Nearly 10 years later, Titanic is almost forgotten and its entry onto this list is a fairly heavy reminder of the pervasiveness Titanic once held in our culture that one year. I still think it’s relevant because Titanic was the last box office champ to even be nominated for an Oscar and for that might have been the last true blockbuster before our blockbuster culture got saturated. (Sixth Sense cracked the top 10 all time and it was nominated, however)

-One question that’s been asked on a lot of message boards is what’s the biggest mistake: I think the biggest waste of a choice was Night at the Opera because one Marx Brothers film is enough. Honestly, I can’t even remember if I’ve seen a Night at the Opera. I’ve seen about 4 or 5 Marx Brothers Films and i can’t remember them by name. I think they all just blend into each other. Some have Zeppo and some don’t, that’s the only difference.

-Out with the old and in with the new. To make way for some of the new films on the list, a number of films on the list 10 years ago got displaced. I think it is upsetting that films like “A Place in the Sun,” “Stagecoach,” and especially “From Here to Eternity” (my favorite war film) were omitted from the list but i don’t think that necessarily renders them historically irrelevant. The fact that they were on the first top 100 list cements them as classics, and it’s simply that they wanted to mix it up a little. Mostly what the list did was introduce the public to some films that should’ve made the list last time (and probably almost did):
-Do the Right Thing: Spike Lee has combined his filmic ambitions with his desire to infuse the country with racial awareness
-Blade Runner (Ridley Scott): The film didn’t have enough sci-fi the first time, and Blade Runner was aside from being a great and highly praised film, a great influence in the genre. It also introduced Ridley Scott to the list
-Cabaret (Bob Fosse): I saw this film in my film genres class when we studied musicals and in terms of reinventing the conventions of a genre, it’s hard to top this film. In musicals, the songs are used to celebrate life, courtship, community and vitality. In Cabaret, the musical numbers are used to illustrate decadence and foreshadowdeath.
-All The President’s Men (Alan Paluka): This film was basically the 1970’s version of “Good Night and Good Luck,” only it was actually relevant to the times. A strict docudrama that featured Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford running around and looking busy like the casts of Aaron Sorkin shows traditionally like to do, All the President’s Men was as great of a suspsense thriller as it was a history lesson. All the recent buzz about the story with Mark Felt’s identity revealed as deep throat might have contributed to the film making the list this time around
-Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges): I’ve seen two of the three really famous Preston Sturges films: Palm Beach Story and The Lady Eve and wasn’t much of a fun of either of them. The third, Sullivan’s Travels, looks quite appealling now that I’ve seen clips of it and I’m thinking I might watch it. Perhaps, three times a charm. While I am not yet a fan of Preston Sturges, many film historians consider him to be a historically significant film director. Go figure.
-The General (Buster Keaton): The great silent film star who has been considered 2nd best next to Chaplain for the last 40 or 50 years or so. The General was his most epic film and I believe his most expensive to produce. I did see it and personally did not think it was as great as Chaplain or even Harold Lloyd’s films, but it is certainly a different brand of comedy.
-12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet): Along with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (also on the list), there is no film that captures the spirit of American Democracy better than this film. It’s also such an impressive film because its setting is pretty much confined to one single room and there’s nothing but the dramatic tension to keep things moving
-Sophie’s Choice: This is the only film on the list that I know absolutely nothing about (there were other films that I knew close to nothing about). All I knew about this film was that it won Meryl Streep an Oscar and I wasn’t even sure of that. Once again, the AFI list made me feel stupid, but that’s ok.

A new AFI list?
June 20, 2007

This Wednesday, the AFI announced their 2nd edition of their famed Top 100 movies list and I am reminded of how monumental the release of the original AFI 100 Years.…100 Movies list was for me, because it led to my desire to be a film critic.

Back in 1998, when I heard a list was being released of the top 100 films of all time, I tried to guess what might be on the list based on what films I had seen and liked. I thought of films like Cool Runnings, The Mighty Ducks and an obscure Vincente Minnelli musical called Kismet. When I actually looked it up, I was completely taken aback to learn that pretty much all of the films on the list were not only movies I had yet to see, but movies I hadn’t even heard of. I suddenly wanted to know what exactly these films could possibly have that the Mighty Ducks didn’t have. The following summer, I spent a lot of my free time going to the library and checking out films on the list like The Graduate, Who’s Coming to Dinner, The African Queen and Network. The rest is history

It most likely wasn’t just me who gained an appreciation of film around this time. The AFI list came in the middle of a list-making craze occurring around the turn of the century. Between 1995 and 2002, every group from Time Out Film Guide to the British Film Institute to the National Society of Film Critics, in addition to Premiere, Empire, Movieline, TV Guide, and Rolling Stone magazines published lists for the century’s top films. Some might see these lists as arbitrary gimmicks, but the lists act as a reference for sorting between quality and generic drivel for those who dare to venture beyond the new release sections of the video store. Before 1995, the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, awards like the Oscars, and Sight and Sound Magazine’s decennial film poll were the only guides to the history of films and they were all insufficient. The National Film Registry is not particularly well-publicized and the Sight and Sound polls only goes 10 films deep. The Oscars and all other awards that single out great films by the year can often fall into the trap of thinking about what’s big at the moment and selections like Around the World in 80 Days and The Ziegfeld Follies can become dated very quickly.

Of these lists, the AFI remains the most well-known and I’ve come to consider it as a definitive authority. I can’t say the list is perfect but I think that all but two or three (My Fair Lady, Wuthering Heights, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) are pretty safely in the realm of classics. 97 out of 100 is a pretty good mark. The list is also pretty inclusive of all time periods, major actors, significant directors, and runs 8 or 9 films deep in every major American genre. It has everything from recent Oscar winners (i.e. Forrest Gump, Dances with Wolves), popular crowdpleasers (i.e. Rocky, Raiders of the Lost Ark), film milestones (i.e. Birth of a Nation, Jazz Singer), cult monster movies (Frankenstein), literary adaptations (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath), and the most anti-war (i.e. Mash and Apocalypse Now) and pro-war (i.e. From Here to Eternity) films ever made.

This is why I’m against the notion of the list being tampered with. The tragedy of redoing the list is that some great films will inevitably be left off to make room for the new. Also, other than a film like the 1958 Orson Welles’ classic Touch of Evil, that gained praise only after its original cut was finally released forty years later or the 1962 entry (ranked at #67) “The Manchurian Candidate” which was pulled out of circulation until 1988 due to controversial content, I’m not sure why there is a need to reorder the films either. After all, Citizen Kane hasn’t gotten any worse over the last 10 years. Why not just add 10 films for the last 10 years, even if it means changing the catchy marketing title “100 Years, 100 movies.”

My suggestions on what to add can be found on my personal blog here.

Summer gets an early head start in the blockbuster era
May 27, 2007

Hi, I’m one of the movie writers for D.C. Scene and I’m sorry I’m a little late in contributing to this blog. Then again it is memorial day weekend when the summer usually begins:

Five years ago, Spiderman burst into movie theaters across the country an unprecedented three weekends before Memorial day. Boasting a head start over the rest of the summer films, an unlikely choice for the lead in Tobey MaGuire, and a legion of comic book aficionados eager for the movie’s release, the film made movie history by becoming the first film to make one hundred million dollars in its opening weekend.

Since then, Spiderman 3 enters theatres the same weekend, but in an era that’s completely dominated by summer blockbusters. At $151 million Spiderman 3 broke the weekend record once again and has become the eighth picture to do so. Thirty-three movies have grossed $200 million or more domestically and 23 of those came out during the summer whereas only 28 films hit the $200 million mark before this decade.

Ten years ago, there might have been one or two big budget projects like Men in Black, Batman Forever, or Independence Day that would generate water cooler buzz all summer, but nowadays, a big-event picture enters the theaters once every other week during the summer months, with sequels, prequels, remakes. Everything practically falls into this pattern even if it’s not technically a sequel. The 2002 hit Signs and M. Night Shamylan’s sophomore effort, was anticipated “the next M. Night Shamylan film,” which was in essence The Sixth Sense II or we could have called Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, “Bowling for Columbine II.”

“Why don’t the studios care about originality?” you may ask. The good news is that they do. In fact, it’s because of their love of film making and their desire to want to make innovative and original films that the studios put us through this cycle and it also benefits us as well. Here’s how: By expending a lot of money on these cash cow films and shamelessly plugging away at them until every person and their grandmother has seen the movie twice, studios are able to pay for all the more interesting films that might not be as sure of a commercial bet. These films usually appear in theaters from around the end of the summer to the end of the year, and you can often find many of them spilling over into January and February. The films that are released during this time of year in hopes of winning Oscars, which are little toy statues that the winners like to wave around to their peers in hopes of gaining respect, power, and priority seating at high-class Hollywood establishments. It’s a strange culture they have out there.

Nevertheless, once Oscar season ends, we have a season of pretty-much nothing on the movie front. Movie fans can spend their time watching the NHL or college basketball or whatever else catches their fancy, because the state of movies is pretty much unchanged. Sure, there are movies in the theaters between February and April but these are films that are released just for the sake of having something new for the movie theaters to show. With a few exceptions, these movies are usually very forgettable (If films in this category like R.V., the Pacifier, Norbit, Epic Movie, Failure to Launch, The Shaggy Dog, Date Movie or Wild Hogs become classics 10 years down the road, than I will eat my words on this one). I think of it as a kind of absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder-type of process where we take a break from watching current releases and might even swear off movies as a whole considering the quality of the films that comes out during this period.

This is where the summer Blockbuster season comes to the rescue. It presents us with sequels, remakes and tent poles which are virtually impossible to turn down. Anyone who’s watched Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and has even the slightest interest in the characters is going to feel compelled to watch the third one just to see what happens to the characters. This is why sequels are so profitable, although that’s based on the cliffhanger element being done well enough. Personally, I thought one of the weaknesses of Spiderman 2 was that it closed off all the loose threads for me to be invested in the third: Spiderman’s identity revealed to Harry, Spiderman’s identity revealed to Mary Jane, Spiderman’s confession to his aunt, Spiderman and Mary Jane getting together, etc. Still, the people saw it in mass droves ignoring mixed reviews because that’s the power of the sequel: It’s a must-see and more than that, it’s a must-see on opening weekend, which some of us (myself included) have not been able to make. The tragedy of this summer is that if we mutually agree that Ocean’s 12 ruined our good faith in the Ocean’s 11 franchise and that the Rush Hour series was never very good in the first place, than the three big trilogy back-ends this summer, Shrek 3, Pirates 3, and Spiderman 3, are all taking place by Memorial Day Weekend which was when the summer season is traditionally supposed to start. “The early bird catches the worm” is the philosophy. So if you haven’t been able to make the big opening-weekend rushes, don’t worry, there’s still the actual summer to see them. I myself am a little behind on starting my summer. I just saw Spiderman 3 last weekend and will see Pirates this weekend.