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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Has this been the worst summer for movies ever, or does it just feel that way?

USA Today issued its Summer Movie Report Card this week, and the overall outlook isn’t great, no matter how sweetly the paper tries to spin it:

No one is sorrier to see summer draw to a close than Hollywood. After stumbling out of the gates early on, the film industry righted itself with a string of unexpected hits like Inception, The Last Airbender and The Expendables. Ticket sales heading into the Labor Day weekend are 4% ahead of last year’s pace, reports Hollywood.com. Sure, attendance is down 2% from 2009. But in this economy, movie executives are beggars, not choosers. Still, there were a few hiccups in what was otherwise a healthy summer, including flops from Tom Cruise and young superheroes.

What seems to have been so awful about this summer is that even the moderate financial hits have been, for the most part, ugly, boring, and creatively tapped out, even grading on the summer-blockbuster curve. So many movies were supposed to have been flat-out, no-caveats awesome, such as Knight and Day and Robin Hood. Others should have been dumb fun but were just plain stupid: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The Last Airbender is the clear frontrunner for worst film of the year (it’s hard to imagine anything coming up this autumn even matching its spectacular terribleness, never mind surpassing it). Only Despicable Me and Inception delivered on — even exceeded — their promise.

Am I alone in being happy to say farewell to the Movie Summer of 2010? Has this been the worst summer for movies ever, or does it just feel that way?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • RyanT

    Before the summer started, I earmarked only three movies I had to see (Toy Story 3, Inception, and Scott Pilgrim) and for me those were the three best films I saw the summer. Unfortunately there weren’t a lot of GOOD middle-ground movies (i.e. those dumb fun movies and/or big bombastic action movies). The A-Team almost had it… if only the whole movie was focused on Sharlto Copley’s character…. and Salt had it too a bit… but for the most part, it did feel like a down summer.

    BTW you mention Despicable Me and Inception are the only two films to deliver on their promise… where’s the billion-dollar grossing, 99% fresh-rated Toy Story 3?

  • Lisa

    I feel this way every summer!

  • RogerBW

    It’s rare that I get excited about films in advance, but there are usually one or two that cause me to think “yeah, I’ll give that a look when it comes round”. Nothing’s really struck me that way this year. The Expendables looked promising, but seems to have been let down by shaky-cam. Inception was too busy being clever to be fun. The 3D-ising of everything that wouldn’t stand still (and consequent sudden jump in ticket prices) seems to have been the only thing keeping earnings at all buoyant.

  • Daniel

    Actually, it’s been a great summer for movies, as long as you skipped most of the big studio films. I enjoyed Ondine, Micmacs, Winnebago Man, Winter’s Bone, Splice, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and Please Give, which came out in late May. I even liked a couple of studio movies, Inception and Toy Story 3. But I suppose if I lived in a state with fewer independent theatres, I would have had to rely on library books and my DVD player.

  • MaryAnn

    Actually, it’s been a great summer for movies, as long as you skipped most of the big studio films.

    And other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play? :->

    I am specifically talking about Hollywood summer films here. Just because some small movies happen to open in the summer doesn’t make them Summer Movies. And as you note, most people do NOT have access to arthouse films until they end up on DVD.

    BTW you mention Despicable Me and Inception are the only two films to deliver on their promise… where’s the billion-dollar grossing, 99% fresh-rated Toy Story 3?

    I enjoyed *TS3,* but it still felt very much like something we’d seen before. *Iron Man 2* was pretty good, too: but it was just another chapter in a familar story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But when I think about big summer movies, I want to see things I *haven’t* seen before. Maybe that’s a leftover from my childhood, when summer blockbusters were a new thing and they almost always felt fresh. Even the sequels then felt different (*The Empire Strikes Back* has a different vibe than *Star Wars*).

  • Nate

    But when I think about big summer movies, I want to see things I *haven’t* seen before. Maybe that’s a leftover from my childhood, when summer blockbusters were a new thing and they almost always felt fresh. Even the sequels then felt different (*The Empire Strikes Back* has a different vibe than *Star Wars*).

    This is your nostalgia filter talking. You’ve forgotten all those god-awful Superman and Jaws sequels.

  • Hmm… Despicable Me was far better than I expected, while Inception and Toy Story 3 were predictably excellent. Scott Pilgrim was good as a popcorn flick, but implied very bad things about the culture that produced it. Iron Man 2 was a bit of a disappointment; not bad, but not as good as the first.

    Hmm… I’d need to look at a list of what came out last summer to compare. I can’t remember what I saw when.

  • The quality of the movies this year has been suspect, but overall it’s been about the same summer stuff as before: blockbusters, surprise hits, and really bad crap filled with fart jokes and explosions.

    I think the main difference this year was the lack of “star power”: No movie truly sold itself as a vehicle of awesomeness for any particular star. Even Inception was more an Idea Movie than a DiCaprio vehicle. The ones that did – Knight And Day sold itself as a Tom Cruise actioner, Russell Crowe as Robin Hood – didn’t do so well. You might notice a lack of Will Smith or Jim Carrey this summer. The big hits were buddy cop movies (The Other Guys), ensemble actioners (Expendables), Idea Movies (Inception), animated family films (Despicable Me) and must-see sequels (Toy Story 3 and whatever Twilight sequel we had this summer). Everything else – including what I would consider an inventive rom-com in Scott Pilgrim – tanked this summer or struggled to keep audiences coming back for repeat viewings.

  • Boingo

    Yeah-disappointing when I look at the overall.
    Liked “Inception,”and “The Girl Who Played With Fire.”

  • markyd

    Yeah, I totally see what you are saying here. Even before it started, I thought this summer was lacking in anything truly WOW. Inception was great, but that really didn’t feel like a summer movie. I enjoyed Toy Story 3, but I agree with you that it really didn’t bring anything new to the table. I was actually let down by Despicable Me. Didn’t see IM2, but I heard it was pretty “meh” anyway. Nothing this year brought out kid-like wonder in me. Like the year ID4 came out. It really wasn’t a good movie, but the whole aura around it’s release was awesome.

  • Nate

    Inception was great, but that really didn’t feel like a summer movie.

    See, this is something I’ll never understand. How the heck was Inception not a summer movie even in the strictest definition of the term? It had car chases, it had special effects, it had a big budget, what more did it need?

    Also, I think this downplaying of Toy Story 3 in comparison to other sequels is unfair. Most of its target audience wasn’t born yet when the first two movies came out and it provided a satisfying and poetic coda to the franchise. What more did you want out of it?

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