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Tag Team Corner: Matt and Curt Lament the Summer Blockbuster Season

Matt: The summer movie season. I can sum it in two words: endlessly mindless. Three months of raunchy comedies and flying stuntmen, formulaic romances and exploding aliens. And I can’t say I’m excited in the least.

My favorite time of year is Oscar season. I love a good story. I appreciate memorable acting performances far more than speeding cars. I enjoy beautiful cinematography or clever camera angles more than soft-core porn and fart jokes. And my wish for this summer movie season is that some studios would offer something worthwhile in the middle of the endless drivel.

Curt, are you with me?

Curt: I’m with you, brother Matt. I’ve considered boycotting theater movies, especially during the inane summer blockbuster season, but I’m ultimately reluctant to give up the big screen movie-going experience, even for a season. And if one persistently mines the depths of mainstream moviedom, occasionally the cinema seeker is rewarded with something of real value.

Thankfully, I benefit from living in a metro area that provides some decent alternatives. In the age of the multiplex and megaplex, I sometimes visit a single-screen movie palace showing primarily independent film. It’s slightly on the seedy side, but it shows the indie films I love. My home city also boasts a brand new theater with two screens featuring the classics, critically acclaimed indie efforts, documentaries, and foreign films. So, I do have refuge from the megaplex monster.

Thankfully, the summer blockbuster stretch–which runs from May to August–does offer some promise in 2008. That’s promise, not profits. Similar sound, different concept. 2007 was a record year for the summer season with a take of $4.1 billion. While I am a proponent of capitalism, it’s of little concern to me if that record is broken in the 2008 summer season.

Give me something that is unpredictable, thoughtful, nuanced, beautiful, and true. Give me a great story. No, the story doesn’t have to be true, but I hope to find truth in the story. And by the way, none of that precludes a good fart joke. I’ve always said, “Never discount the glories of a good fart joke.”

What say you, Matt?

Matt: You can keep the fart jokes. And even the Apatow comedies, which I think I’m the only person on Planet Earth not fawning over such movies.

I, too, have such a movieplex nearby to enjoy good independent film. But I will say that the blockbuster movies can entice me if they’re as intelligent, well-done and just plain enjoyable as Batman Begins. I definitely have a list of the low-brow movies that I’m aiming to check out, including (but not limited to): Ironman, Batman, X-Files 2 and maybe Wall-E (which I’m sure would be a certainty if I had little ones). Other promising titles abound, but I really hope to not give too much to the popcorn monsters at my local cinema.

My definitely ‘no-way’ movie which automatically puts me in the ‘loser’ group around my friends: the new Indiana Jones. I could care less to watch an 86 year-old pretending to swing from whips, ropes and rafters. This movie has ‘Jar Jar Binks’ remake all over it (in the same way that Episode 1 absolutely ruined the Star Wars legacy and made it a joke). I already think they took the Indiana Jones series one step too far, so this is even more.

What are your hopes in the midst of a busy summer season? And what is your ‘no-way’ movie, if you have one?

Curt: In terms of blockbuster fare, despite some concerns about The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, I have high hopes for it. I’ve read that a gratuitous (my word) action sequence has been added and that conflict between Peter Pevensie and Prince Caspian has been fabricated. But I’m willing to wait for the movie before pronouncing judgment on the changes. I’ve seen the trailer and was captivated by the tone. The music, cinematography, and mystical, magical ambiance have me excited about seeing it. I wasn’t enthralled with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but thought it was very good, far exceeding my expectations. Director Andrew Adamson seems to have a handle on this material and appreciates and respects C.S. Lewis’s narrative. They could have hired somebody better (Guillermo del Toro?), but not much better.

June finds The Happening in U.S. theaters, M. Night Shyamalan’s follow up to the dismal Lady in the Water. It’s the story of a family on the run from a mysterious natural disaster. If you were as awed by The Sixth Sense, The Village, and Signs as I was, you will understand my eager anticipation of The Happening.

More brief observations: 1) I am more eager to see Hellboy II: The Golden Army than I am Iron Man, 2) I will see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, but probably only on DVD, 3) Pixar can do no wrong; Wall-E looks to continue the string of hits that captivate children and adults in one fell swoop. Good for Pixar. Oh, and by the way, take a gander at Wall-E. Is it my imagination or does he look a lot like a junkyard version of Johnny Five of Short Circuit infamy? 4) Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale brought the Batman franchise back to prominence in 2005 with Batman Begins. Will The Dark Knight–set to release on July 18–continue the magic? I hope so, 5) This summer is fraught with superheroes, science fiction, sequel, stoner fluff, and for some reason, T.V. show rehashes. It looks like I’ll be scrambling more than usual to find what I’m looking for.

My “No way movie?” It’s Sex and the City. I understand the T.V. show has won all kinds of awards and that it stars Sarah Jessica Parker, but I’ve never had even mild curiosity to watch it on T.V.–for free. So I can’t imagine actually paying real money to check it out on the big screen. Apparently the writing is good, but even that doesn’t inspire one iota of desire in me to see it.

Here’s one sleeper that has me interested: It’s called Son of Rambow and according to the movie’s website, it’s “a fresh and visually inventive take on family, friendship, and faith.” It’s a British comedy featuring young Will Proudfoot, raised in isolation in a religious sect in which music and movies are strictly forbidden. Will encounters his first movie when he gets his hands on a pirated copy of Rambo: First Blood, and his world is blown wide open as he becomes secretly addicted to filmmaking. If that doesn’t top the latest sequel to the X-Files movie or The Incredible Hulk (even though it stars the great Edward Norton), I don’t know what does.

Matt: Good call on Shyamalan. I completely forgot that summer entry and will be first in line.

Ultimately, here’s hoping we’re both proved wrong and some quality is among the quantity (of dollars).

Curt: Readers should note that the smaller films–indie films in particular–are by definition difficult to anticipate. The promotional machine that insures that a blockbuster be positioned as a blockbuster before it’s even released, does not exist in the indie world. As such, we will do our best to cherry pick those that we hope will offer high artistic merit and potential for a memorable movie-going experience as the summer evolves.

Meanwhile, what are your “must see,” “no way,” and “sleeper” movies for the upcoming season?

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