We've made it, everybody. Another movie summer come and gone. Catwoman, Club Dread, and Troy are safely behind us, groveling in the deep dungeon reserved for the celluloid sludge that should have never made it to the screen. Now it's full speed ahead into a fall season promising the usual suspects for Oscar glory.
But heck?summer wasn't all bad. Sure, it was brimming with sequels and remakes, tell-tale signs of the old adage that "Hollywood is running out of ideas," but there were some gems, like Zach Braff's magnificent Garden State, and Michael Mann's Collateral. But deep down inside, a Hollywood summer is all about the blockbusting. And blockbusting is just what it did.
For the girls, it was Tobey Maguire's full, trembling bottom lip. For the guys, it may have been the trip back to the innocent days of Happy Meals and action figures, though the sight of Kirsten Dunst in a wet sundress, sprawled on a spider web?in the cold?probably helped too. All in all, even Aunt Pam and that corny headscarf couldn't detract from the mass appeal of Spider-Man 2, as $367 million box-office green ones can attest to. Of course, they're already working on number three, and who could blame them. As long as Sam Raimi's still at the helm and they don't get the Governator to play some icepop villain, I'm on board.
Speaking of number threes, the award for the summer's most surprising sequel goes right to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Chris Columbus had his fairy-tale fun with the first two HP installments, but our little wizard's growing up and can't be running around being all "Kevin McAllister" anymore. What Daniel Radcliffe can't deliver in acting, director Alfonso Cuaron of Y Tu Mamá También could more than make up for in shadows, moods, and the playful camera twirls that made Harry's fantasy world as much a character as Scabbers the Rat.
Feeling like summer was for the wee ones? Don't forget Shrek 2, yet another easy-money sequel and the most successful flick of the summer, pulling in $436 million with a talking donkey, seconds on the anti-Disney musical cynicism, and even a soundtrack that wraps up with (sigh) "Livin' La Vida Loca," which almost made me leave early. And no, she doesn't "bang," whatever that means.
Not all summer's sequels were mainstream family flicks?oh no. Lest we forget, everyone's favorite geeky director Quentin Tarantino sliced and diced his way to visual nirvana with Kill Bill last year. But for those who longed for the reservoir dog's trademark sharp dialogue and crazed narrative structures, there was Kill Bill 2. For completely different reasons?including the five-point palm exploding heart technique?it was glorious, "all right?" But KB2 and the Academy still have some unfinished business: you'll be hearing its name early one morning in January, when an actress with a hangover announces the Oscar nominees.
Tarantino had his own awards to give out this summer, much to the dismay of some of our pals in the White House. With so much controversy that it made The Passion of the Christ look like the Children's Illustrated Bible, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 sold out across the country. Documentary? Eh, who cares. It was fun, it made people think, and it made money. Rarely do all three happen at once.
Take, for example, Dodgeball. Fun, check. Money, check. Brains, better leave them at the slushie machine. This movie proved that all you need to bring in the dough is an excuse to bash someone in the head with a playground toy and Ben Stiller in a fat suit singing "Milkshake." If you don't know what I'm talking about, you didn't follow the cardinal rule of male-driven dumb comedies: stay till the end of the credits.
That rule changes for cheesy Hollywood disaster flicks. Here, the trick is to get the hell out after the last really catastrophic event. If you had followed that advice during The Day After Tomorrow, you could have had one precious hour of your life back. I'm thinking director Roland Emmerich was one of those little boys who stomped on other kids' sand castles, cause he's really got something for destruction. Remember Independence Day and?ugh?Godzilla? At DAT, watch, amazed, as poor New York City get dumped on by a mile of snow-pixels, then leave before you lose all respect for Jake Gyllenhaal.
If the modern world and all its explosions is a bit too much, maybe you appreciated a trip back to a simpler time in The Village with M. Night Shyamalan, the master of the pseudo-terror surprise twist who's still trying to regain the glory of 1999's The Sixth Sense, or so they tell me. I don't think he ever lost it. I guess aliens, comic book villains, and colonial Americans aren't as scary as creepy little kids and dead people.
There's plenty of other stuff we could mull over?Van Helsing, King Arthur, blah blah blah. But when we're old and gray with work and worry come finals week, it's the big-budget, low-brain happy flicks we'll be missing?the warm summer days of kiss, kiss, bang, bang, with just a sprinkling of intrigue and intellect to keep things interesting. It was a good summer. Now it's time to get serious.