Sure, I’ll see Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z and, if a Saturday in July is otherwise drained of options, Man of Steel. And I’ll read reviews of The Great Gatsby, The Hangover III and the other prestige releases — but what I really look forward to this and every summer are the cheesier films. Silly action pics. Sci-fi movies with iffy premises. Movies, in other words, that require very little intellectual and emotional investment because, man, life itself already demands too much of that. Here’s what’s tentatively on my watch list:
Ah, Fast and Furious 6 (May 24), you had me at Vin Diesel. But you lost me at Paul Walker. But you had me again at Jason Statham. But you lost me again at Tyrese Gibson. But you had me again at Jordana Brewster. Not to mention Dwayne Johnson and Ludacris — we’re one past-his-prime actor away from The Expendables 3, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I’m not sure what the plot is, and I’m not sure that it matters. I am sure that the car stunts will be almost as unbelievable as the emotions and that the whole thing will make our conventional notions of “shallow” obsolete. In other words, perfect.
After Earth (May 31) looks a lot like Oblivion, with Will Smith in the Tom Cruise role and Jaden Smith in the my-dad-got-me-this-job role. In a story ripped from today’s headlines, Jaden has to wander the danger-filled ruins of Earth to get help for his injured father. Who can’t relate to that?
I, for one, am drawn to the central question posed by The Purge (June 7): How many goddamn movies will Ethan Hawke be in this summer, anyway? There’s Beyond Midnight (see elsewhere on this page) and August’s The Getaway, in which he helps Selena Gomez escape the memory of appearing in Spring Breakers. The Purge has an intriguing premise: In a “reborn” America, unemployment and crime are at all-time lows because, for one night a year, the whole country gets its Detroit on: All crime is legal and no help is coming. Hawke and family, bunkered in their fortress-slash-home, are besieged by mask-wearing cliches. I may actually skip this one; I feel that merely imagining the inevitable think piece in the New York Times Arts & Leisure section is as good as actually seeing the film.
White House Down (June 28) is another matter, of course. Few think pieces will attend this hotly awaited reboot of March’s Olympus Has Fallen, with Channing Tatum as a lone-wolf ass-kicker trapped in the president’s house as all ridiculousness breaks loose. Expect the day to be saved, after many explosions and a swelling soundtrack.
As to the plot of Jeff Bridges’ R.I.P.D. (July 19), I can’t describe it any better than IMDB does: “A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.” This is the kind of thing arthouse cinema no longer even tries to do well. And if you like your cheese with extra cheese, this one co-stars Ryan Reynolds.
Hold on, this is the kind of thing arthouse cinema no longer does well: A bunch of youngish actors and comedy stars — James Franco, Seth Rogen, Emma Watson, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, Jason Segal, Jay Baruchel, Rihanna — playing themselves, forced to confront the apocalypse during a huge party at Franco’s place. This is This Is the End (June 14), and it sounds like a cheese plate of epic proportions.
The setting for Elysium (Aug. 9) — an Earth in which the super-rich live on a luxe space station while everyone else slags it out on the trashed planet below — is so damn Ayn Rand that I guarantee Mitt Romney will cream his jeans if he sees it. Into the film’s lofty paradise barges Matt Damon, a poor man with a condition that can only be cured by rich people’s medicine, which, in a completely unbelievable twist, the rich aren’t willing to share. Unlike the 1 percenters of our own time, who indulge a haughty animus toward the poor, I indulge an utterly reasonable animus toward the rich, so this is a must-see.
But not as much as Riddick (Sept. 6), the third film in the Vin Diesel sci-fi franchise, a choice I can defend on no other grounds than my own questionable taste and need for brainless escapism in the company of an unconquerable badass. Don’t judge, and pass the crackers.