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Friday, June 29, 2012

There are a grand total of seven films receiving nationwide release this July, three of them inked in with spots on the year-end Top Ten Blockbusters lists. This is the magical, artistically stimulating world of mainstream cinema in which we now live. I am excited about exactly one of these. Going to be a slow, desperate-for-content month. Hope you like semi-random theme weeks of classic movie reviews!


I don't know about anybody else, but I have spent most of the last year proving spectacularly resistant to getting even a little bit excited for The Amazing Spider-Man. And it's not because of the "oh, God, we just had Spidey's origin story ten years ago, how can it already be time for a reboot?" thing. Spider-Man's origin is fairly compact (not like the operatically oversized genesis of Superman, at any rate), and character-based to a degree that it makes sense to introduce a new Peter Parker with a new backstory. Nor is it because I liked Spider-Man 3, and would have preferred a Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man 4, though I would have. But heck, Spidey is my second-favorite A-list superhero. By rights, I should be ecstatic to get more big screen adventures with the guy.

Here's why I'm really, really not: that trailer screams, in gigantic block letters, that director Marc Webb and cinematographer John Schwartzman were given extremely specific marching orders to Nolan it up, and that is why we have a dark, gritty, steel-grey-and-blue Spider-Man picture that's just one horrifying charismatic anarchist away from being Marvel's own Dark Knight. Sure, Batman is my favorite A-list superhero, but not for the same reasons that I love Spider-Man - I also enjoy butter pecan ice cream and cheddar cheeseburgers with bacon, but that doesn't mean I want them to resemble one another.

Anyway, we'll know soon enough if all my concerns are justified or not. But this is the most I've dreaded a movie that I knew I'd be seeing opening night, all summer.


There is a 3-D Katy Perry concert documentary in the world, and I bet there is literally not even one thing you can say to me that will make me consider for the smallest measurable unit of time that I might want to pay money to see it.


Remember how Oliver Stone used to be a relevant filmmaker? Or at least a fascinatingly disordered one? Many years ago, I came up with a formula that I was incredibly proud of: "Stone is either the greatest bad filmmaker or the worst great filmmaker in America". And I remember this clearly, because it was how I justified being excited for Alexander, which was of course the movie that launched the part of Stone's career where, no, he was just a shitty director of shitty films.

Anyway, Savages is a docu-thriller about the marijuana trade, and if Stone's name isn't enough to cool you on the project, know that Aaron Johnson and Blake Lively are the headliners.


Does it seem just fucking petty to anybody else that there's actually a fourth Ice Age movie coming out? This one is subtitled Continental Drift, and I assume that, once again, it will consist of roughly six minutes of magnificent cartoon absurdity with that little rodent, baked into an hour and a half of leaden kids' movie bromides.


Time to confess my critical blindness! I did, in fact, manage to snag midnight IMAX tickets to The Dark Knight Rises at Chicago's Navy Pier, and it is the moment of my summer that I have been most excited about pretty much since the shape of this summer started becoming clear. We'll have plenty of time to hash out my unfortunate weakness for Christopher Nolan's divisive aesthetic when the time comes - though if I can get in a first swipe, his movies are so well-edited, they're just not edited according to Hollywood continuity rules at all, and I find that exciting - but for right now, two points: I can't shake the feeling that this is going to be awfully re-hashy and super-damn-dark just for the sake of nihilism being 'artier"; The Dark Knight Rises is a stunningly bad title, if only because it now makes the trilogy started with Batman Begins look much more like "the two Dark Knight movies with that weird little prequel thingy". In retrospect, if they'd known it was going to be for sure a trilogy and not a hacked-together trilogy on the fly, maybe they could have done something about that.


The hastily-retitled The Watch (after neighborhood watch groups become a tendentious thing earlier this year - not to belittle a very serious and truly upsetting moment in American culture, but I haven't ever cared for that kind of neurotic pussyfooting from film marketing departments) is a bro comedy about bros encountering aliens. Everything about the cast and crew (Ben Stiller! Jonah Hill! Vince Vaughn! Billy Crudup? And a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg script!) clangs like a giant warning siren from God that I need to stay all the way away from this one, and yet... I don't know, sci-fi comedies can be cute? God, talk about critical blindness.

Secondly - yes, this is the only day in the entire month with two different movies coming out simultaneously - I lied. There are two of July's seven wide releases that I'm looking forward to. Because after the exquisitely tasteless Step Up 3D, I am 100% on board for any and all future 3-D Step Up movies. Even Step Up Revolution, whose title, I suspect, makes promises that its content will not even remotely fulfill.


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