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2010: The Worst Summer Movie Season Ever?

Maybe not, but movie-wise the summer of 2010 was a pretty rotten one. Sure, there were some good flicks, but they tended to be few and far between, and could usually only be found in limited release form. This means that unless you were located in a major city your chances of seeing THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE or the MESRINE flicks were pretty slim.

     Hereís my look at the movies released over the past four months, some horror-related, most not. Theyíre listed in the order in which they were released--or at least the order in which I saw them. As always, my opinions are strong and not a little biased, and Iíve admittedly missed several major releases. SoÖ

IRON MAN 2
Didnít see it.

JONAH HEX
This either.

TWILIGHT ECLIPSE
No.

TOY STORY 3
No.

EAT PRAY LOVE
NO!

SEX AND THE CITY 2
NO!!

THE LAST AIRBENDER
No way!

VAMPIRES SUCK
Heeell no!

INCEPTION
First off, this film has quite a few problems: among other things, itís at least 20 minutes too long and has too many extraneous characters (for instance Ellen Page, whose role exists solely to fill in expositional details). Yet like writer-director Christopher Nolanís previous effort THE DARK KNIGHT, the whole thing is so audacious and action-packed that I was thoroughly entertained despite its flaws. In fact Iíd say itís the summerís most satisfying movie overall, offering up enjoyment and provocation in equal amounts.

THE KILLER INSIDE ME
Director Michael Winterbottom tries valiantly to transpose Jim Thompsonís immortal fifties-era potboiler to the screen, but the film ultimately falls short. Itís too bloated and lugubrious overall, woefully missing the novelís pulpy intensity. It does, however, feature a strong lead performance by Casey Affleck and some truly shocking brutality.

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE
This Swedish-made sequel to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (which, FYI, was released in the U.S. back in March) contains all the things that made that film the ass-kicker it was. In particular it has a powerful lead performance by the incandescent Noomi Rapace and unusually frank (by Hollywood standards) depictions of sex and violence.

PREDATORS
Easily the best of the PREDATOR follow-ups, but thatís not saying much. Itís one of those movies that starts off in riveting fashion but steadily dies down, with a real bumfart of an ending. It seems the filmmakers were deliberately leaving things wide open for a sequel, for which Iím not holding my breath.

LIFE DURING WARTIME
Another sequel, this one a follow-up to Todd Solandzís demented 1998 classic HAPPINESS. As with that film, LIFE DURING WARTIME is harsh and cynical. Itís also unusually intelligent and uncomfortably insightful--and will likely be incomprehensible to viewers unfamiliar with its predecessor.

SALT
A moronically enjoyable flick, with Angelina Jolie as a possible Russian spy getting chased around while keeping her motives hidden. Not that the characterís true nature is difficult to predict: itís a big budget Hollywood product, after all, meaning moral ambiguity is kept to a strict minimum. Ultimately the filmís biggest failing is that it tries too hard to ape the BOURNE movies, down to the extended shaky-cam action sequences and the heroineís final watery escape.

PIRANHA 3-D
This sort-of remake of the classic Joe Dante cheapie definitely has some great moments, and more than satisfies in the gore and sleaze department. But itís a bit overly self-aware for my tastes. The original PIRANHA may be far from perfect (as Iíve elucidated elsewhere on this site) but at least Dante didnít try to make a so-bad-itís-good movie, which appears to have been the aim here.

LEBANON
Iíll bet you missed this one, a DAS BOOT-like Israeli war movie set almost entirely inside the ultra-claustrophobic confines of a tank. The writer-director actually manned a tank during the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, and so knows the territory. The film admittedly has its share of dead spots, but when it works it works damn well!

CENTURION
The latest film by THE DESCENT and DOOMSDAYíS Neil Marshall, a bloody actioner set in Northern England during the last days of the Roman Empire. As a historical epic itís only marginally satisfying, but as a no-frills gorefest it delivers.

THE LAST EXORCISM
Iím lukewarm on this one, the latest DV-lensed mock-doc, and very much in the mold of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Iíll be writing a proper review of this film soon, but for now Iíll just say itís not bad but not especially good, either.

THE OTHER GUYS
Didnít see this one, as it just didnít look interesting to me. I mean, itís a comedic actioner about two mismatched policemen--not exactly the most original premise.

THE EXPENDABLES
DamnÖand I was looking forward to this movie! Itís not all that bad, really, just stodgy and by-the-numbers. The idea of bringing back the muscle-bound testosterone fests of the eighties sounded like a good one, especially in light of all the obnoxious nerds-with-superpowers action movies weíve been subjected to in recent years, but THE EXPENDABLES is ultimately tooÖwell, expendable.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
Speaking of nerds with superpowers movies, this is likely the ultimate example of such: it doesnít even bother giving a rationale for how it is that the thoroughly nerdy hero is able to vanquish his hot girlfriendís retinue of psychotic ex-boyfriends, or why said girl is interested in him to begin with, or why we should care.

THE AMERICAN
Another one I skipped. Sorry, but Iíve seen too many shitty George Clooney movies to risk suffering through another.

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
The indie sensation of the moment, which has unfortunately come to mean safe, unadventurous and dull. For that and other reasons I passed on the film. The promise of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in a lesbian tryst might have seemed alluring a decade ago, but nowÖ

MACHETE
A fun old school action fest thatís fun--and better
than THE EXPENDABLES--even though it has all the depth of a roadrunner cartoon (the heavy-handed pro-immigration message aside). Yes, thereís plenty of diverting violence and female pulchritude, but thatís about all there is to MACHETE.

MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT/MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY #1
These two French-made crime epics are perfect examples of the sort of thing Hollywood used to specialize in: theyíre tough and smart yet also thoroughly entertaining, with a note-perfect performance by Vincent Cassel as the notorious seventies-era criminal Mesrine. Unexpectedly enough, the director of both films was Jean-Francois Richet, whose previous effort was the unimpressive Hollyweird remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.

     Hmm, on second thought maybe this was the worst summer movie season ever! My favorite movie of the period, after all, is one I found deeply flawed, as I did with most every film outlined above. Maybe the rest of 2010ís releases will be better, but thus far the offerings--including DEVIL, IíM STILL HERE and WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS--havenít been too promising.

 

--9/25/10 

     

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