Every summer it hits me. The sun comes out and I start thinking about a certain type of movie: the summer blockbuster popcorn type movie. It doesn’t even matter if I’m excited for the ones coming out this summer or not. And I’m not, really – there’s a couple Marvels and a Star War, but I’m still high off the last ones, and don’t think these will match them. Otherwise MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE FALLOUT is the main event.
Still, I get the fever, I get nostalgic for the old ones, just the feeling of them being out there. The ones I love, the ones I didn’t, the ones I didn’t see. I love the time travel of watching them and writing about them and remembering the time. This summer I have chosen the summer of 1998 as my topic, my destination. It doesn’t seem like twenty fucking years ago. But then again it does.
This first movie was released on April 3rd, which obviously is not summer. But that’s just because they kept making “summer movie” release dates earlier, like Christmas decorations. It had action figures and fast food tie-ins and was designed to stick around for the season. It counts. (read the rest of this shit…)
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT is what happens when a famed surface level maestro of brain damaged spectacle makes his fifth god damn movie based on a line of toys. Michael Bay’s robo-aesthetic has evolved and improved to a point where I have to begrudgingly respect it. The convoluted mythology has reached new levels of insane are-you-kidding-me-ness. But the characters haven’t developed one bit – is it possible that they have de-developed? Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen, GREMLINS)’s swing between fascist brutality and wholesome-sounding inspirational speeches is taken to even more comical levels – if he didn’t talk like a bad guy and have a red slap mark on his face we wouldn’t know when he was turned into the evil “Nemesis Prime.”
This one opens on a beautifully weird note: a medieval battle between King Arthur (Liam Garrigan, reprising his character from Once Upon a Time) and a horde of barbarians. Arthur’s men think they’re doomed, but Merlin (Stanley Tucci, WILD CARD) shows up with a three-headed robot dragon, courtesy of a blood-stained Transformer he met inside the cave-like thing that voiceover narration by Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins (TITUS) explains is actually a crashed alien spaceship. Yeah, we get it Sir Anthony. (read the rest of this shit…)
BATMAN & ROBIN is 20 years cold, and CHILLED TO PERFECTION!
“There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris did. Uma is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.” –Joel Schumacher to Variety, 2014
It was June 20, 1997, and I thought BATMAN & ROBIN was the stupidest, most tasteless, worst big budget movie ever made. After the wholesale awfulness of BATMAN FOREVER went over well with audiences willing to sanction its buffoonery, Warner Brothers allowed director Joel Schumacher to go full Schumacher for the next one. It’s the same admirable, director-friendly approach that led to Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS, and the bean counters would come to regret it once again. Schumacher’s purest artistic vision is like the aftermath of a rainbow sherbet fight in the costume storage warehouse for an ice skating troupe. He keeps the moody Elliot Goldenthal score and themes of mourning and vengeance, but buries them in a day-glo fantasia of overacting, bad puns, fetishistic rubber costumes and theme park stunt show style super hero battles. For me it became Exhibit A in any argument against the “It’s Not Supposed To Be Shakespeare/Check Your Brain At the Door” school of summer blockbuster permissiveness.
I wasn’t wrong. But twenty years later to the day, after many truly great summer movies, some of them even starring Batman, it’s easier for me to appreciate the uniqueness of BATMAN & ROBIN – the outrageously tacky designs, the subversively in-your-face homoeroticism, the laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of the plot and dialogue and settings and action, and especially the spectacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bulky metal costume and glittery blue makeup as Mr. Freeze, playing like a simultaneous parody of over-the-top Batman villains, blockbuster excess and his own penchant for groan-worthy one-liners. He makes more than two dozen ice or cold related cracks without losing his boyish, gap-toothed Arnold charm.
Today I am prepared to admit that I own BATMAN & ROBIN on Blu-Ray. And have watched it twice in that format. And on purpose.
“Those who cannot remember [BATMAN FOREVER] are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905
You guys wanna see a hit summer blockbuster that was well received at the time, but has since been disavowed like a discredited ideology? The summer of 1995 gives you BATMAN FOREVER.
Just six years earlier Tim Burton had smashed open the zeitgeist with BATMAN, which had been used as somewhat of a reference point for would-be blockbusters since, clearly influencing at least the scoring and marketing of DICK TRACY, DARKMAN, THE ROCKETEER and THE SHADOW, for example. But Burton’s second one, BATMAN RETURNS (1992) was weirder, more personal, and therefore less enthusiastically received by the public. That made the studio weary about plans for a Burton-directed part 3, and they parted ways. Burton is credited as an executive producer on FOREVER, but apparently his only role was to give the new director his blessing and meet with screenwriters Lee & Janet Scott Batchler once to discuss the importance of duality in Batman characters.
Joel Schumacher was a weird but not controversial choice for a replacement. People remembered THE LOST BOYS, FALLING DOWN and maybe FLATLINERS as good movies. And he did THE CLIENT – you know, those John Grisham court room thrillers were a big deal in the ’90s, for some reason. I wonder what happened to that whole genre. Anyway, a 1993 Entertainment Weekly article said “Hiring Schumacher to direct the summer-of-’95 release is seen by insiders as an attempt by Warner Bros. to get the Batman movies back on track” because “Warner doesn’t want a repeat of the macabre 1992 sequel, BATMAN RETURNS, which frightened small children and angered many parents.” It goes on to quote an anonymous “source close to the project” as saying they didn’t want Burton to direct because “he’s too dark and odd for them.”
Yeah, because Schumacher made a real normal movie. No oddness to see here. Just a couple of bros in shiny plastic muscles driving a car up the side of a building. Don’t worry about it, fellas. (read the rest of this shit…)
Honestly, DA THE VINCI CODE or whatever is not a movie I ever though I’d watch. Some of the things going against it are:
a. didn’t look interesting to me
2. book I never cared about
III. director Ron Howard is competent but kind of a square director in my opinion, not somebody whose movies I ever get excited for and
d. in my opinion Akiva Goldsman is the writer of BATMAN AND ROBIN.
And I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for this Summer Movie Flashback I got myself into. There just wasn’t another significant summer of 2006 movie I hadn’t seen. Right up until the last minute I was actually planning to do MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND just ’cause I thought that would be easier to stomach, but I decided that would be dishonorable. This one was obviously part of some cultural phenomenon of the time and is more representative of that summer. (read the rest of this shit…)
I, ROBOT is a movie that I had low expectations for when I saw it that summer, and it exceeded them, so it seemed pretty good. Re-watching it now it’s still pretty good but maybe a little less pretty good now that I expected it to be pretty good.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s a mystery story in a sci-fi world of 2035 where helpful robots are a common household appliance. Will Smith plays Detective Del Spooner (Spanish for “Detective of the Spooner”), an arrogant, trenchcoat-wearing Chicago cop who is horribly racist against robots and always trying to accuse them of crimes, even though they’re programmed to always protect humans and have never in history committed a crime. His boss (Chi McBride) is constantly embarrassed by this fucking idiot working for him but must have an old friendship with him and feels sorry for him enough not to fire his ass like would probly happen to anybody else fucking up as bad and often as this fuckin guy does and always acting like a total crazy person in front of numerous witnesses both at work and in public. (read the rest of this shit…)