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Home / Articles / Cinema / Movie Reviews /  Divide and Conquer
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Divide and Conquer

We scoped out the summer movie scene and noticed some patterns…

May 27, 2009, 12:00 am

This summer’s movies can be separated into three categories, provided one is willing to make up three bullshit categories and put this summer’s movies into them. In this year’s Summer Movie Guide, SFR has exerted just such an effort, taking a look at No. 1, Movies Based On Confused Hippie Theories, No. 2, Movies Featuring RILFs (think MILFS but, like, robots instead of moms) and, finally, No. 3, Seven Movies You Can Actually Look Forward To.

Movies Based on Confused Hippie Theories
Nonsense abounds. One particular breed—the conspiratorial or apocalyptic blather that runs rampant in the New Age cultural margins—provides especially great fodder for big-budget summer flicks. The “Sheeple”—as the apostles of such theories refer to the masses—flock to this type of film in droves. And, thus, the best thing about these movies is how they undermine the knowing coolness enjoyed by the hippie-lectuals who espouse the theories from which the movies are drawn. What self-respecting (and, if they’re anything, they’re self-respecting) coffee shop hippie-lectual can seriously sermonize about the coming apocalyptic transformations foretold by the Mayan calendar when a movie starring the likes of John Cusack, Amanda Peet and Woody Harrelson is currently doing just that? What ponytailed pontificator can remain straight-faced describing the dark works of the Illuminati when Tom Hanks is saying the same in theaters nationwide and in between every episode of CSI? Such are the difficulties faced by hippie-lectuals the world over, with the recent release of Angels and Demons and the forthcoming 2012.

Angels and Demons, a sequel (originally written as a prequel) to Dan Brown’s onetime pop-cultural omnipresence, The Da Vinci Code, opened May 15. Ron Howard, fresh off his success in Frost/Nixon directs yet again, and Tom Hanks returns, too, as Harvard symbologist and fatherly sex symbol Robert Langdon, called upon by the Vatican to unveil the nefarious treachery of the world’s most secret cabal that everybody and their mom has heard about...the Illuminati. Will he be able to prevent a terrorist act on the Catholic Church of such force that even the Pope-mobile cannot serve as a prophylactic?

July 10 sees the opening of 2012, an effects-heavy doomsday action movie directed by Roland Emmerich, the man behind last year’s worst movie and truly one of the dumbest movies of all time, 10,000 B.C. Plagiarizing his own film from 2004, The Day After Tomorrow (that year’s worst film, notice the pattern), which was about a climatologist saving mankind from global warming, 2012 revolves around an anthropologist who must save humanity from the end of the world supposedly prophesized by the Mayan calendar. (If you aren’t aware of this theory’s veracity, 2012’s trailer sagaciously advises viewers “find out the truth” by Googling “2012.” What better way?) But no ancient stone calendar is needed to predict the impending disaster, is it? Any Cute Kitties or Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition turned to the month of July, year 2009, will do.
Now if only next summer a film starring Jennifer Aniston and Keanu Reeves that reveals the American government is staffed by shape-shifting lizards who perpetrated 9.11 would come out and permanently cripple the hippie-lectual movement.

RILFS
To address the ever-growing fascination with big, brawny bots in summertime cinema, a recent BBC documentary special may be instructive. My Car Is My Lover, part of BBC’s America Reveals documentary series, tells the story of two “mechaphiles”—men who proudly proclaim their predilection for gas-powered paramours. For those unfortunate souls who missed it, highlights of My Car Is My Lover—narrated in a staid British accent that scarcely conceals the man’s battle with a laugh attack—include a surreptitiously shot night-vision scene of a man violating the filmmakers’ rented van, a heart-wrenching memoir of a night-that-lasts-forever affair with the recently deceased television star “Airwolf” (tragically lost to explosion in 1992) and a lurid account of doing it in the “tailpipe”…as in literally.

If there are dozens of out mechaphiles, mustn’t there also be thousands, perhaps millions of less extreme, or at least unrecognized, cases of those who find auto-erotica sufficient for autoeroticism, albeit subconsciously? For tapping into this market, Big Buff Bot movies have one competitive advantage over normal car flicks: They do the anthropomorphizing labor for you, turning sexy muscle cars into things that can conceivably be cuddled, mounted.

Nothing this summer manifests mechaphilia more directly than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, though the recently opened Terminator: Salvation seems convinced it needs to compete. Revenge of the Fallen, opening June 24, stars youthful hotties Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, who reunite to assist the fatherly Optimus Prime and his Autobots in battling robotic baddies, the Decepticons, this time led by annoying, high-pitched jet fighter Starscream. Those eagerly awaiting this sequel will certainly not be disappointed, as its reported $200 million budget assures it will be packed with tons of transforming bots, explosions and CGI.

Attempting to use Christian Bale to relaunch its brand and return to gritty form after a few lame, glossy iterations—exactly like the Batman franchise just did —Terminator Salvation, which opened May 21, picks up in the post-nuclear-apocalypse. The survivors, led by John Connor (Bale), are just trying to avoid getting killed by unmanned Hunter Killers (essentially the Predator Drones currently being flown by video gamers in the States, remotely bombing Pakistan and Afghanistan) or getting stomped on by super-sized Transformer-looking über-terminators. Though the addition of Bale is a welcome one, what portends poorly for Terminator Salvation is its direction by the douchey Joseph McGinty Nichol, music video and Charley’s Angels: Full Throttle director who goes by “McG.” McG?

These big-budget, big-robot movies may not look as if they’re going to have much soul, but, in combination, they ought to satiate even the most overheated RILF-fiends for the duration of the summer.

Seven Movies You Can Actually Look Forward To
Sprinkled among the cartoon-based, ADD-causing shit-blowin’-up flicks and the nauseatingly lame chick flicks are seven promising films. Each, for very different reasons, deserves at least a modicum of anticipatory jitters.

The first, Away We Go, opened May 5 and is directed by alienation-expert Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) and written by husband-and-wife duo and The Believer co-founders Dave Eggers (the hyper-reflective author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and Vendela Vida. John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) star as a Gen-Y couple who, expecting their first child, road-trip the country in a beat-up blue Volvo, searching for the perfect place to start a family. Along the way they contend with solipsistic boomer parents and eccentric friends full of bad child rearing advice. Away We Go, full of terrific talent, looks as if it will be a touching, smart, honest and funny film about relationships that is neither male-perspective-centric (think the stable of Apatow comedies) nor female-perspective-centric (think Sex and the City). Moreover, it’s the first studio film to adopt green filmmaking, including the use of biodiesel and ceramic catering dishes, so props for that.

Opening June 12 (though possibly a bit later in Santa Fe), Moon, starring the terrific Sam Rockwell (Frost/Nixon), stands a decent chance of being the sort of philosophical outer space sci-fi film that can be placed in with the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris. Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut nearing the end of a three-year solo stint collecting hydrogen from the surface of the moon—fuel that is used for clean energy back home on earth. On a routine surface excursion, Sam has a close encounter with himself—and not in the metaphorical sense.

For fans of lavishly costumed (the cliché that always accompanies them) period pieces—you know, the ones with romance, intrigue, British accents (no matter where they’re set) and décolletage galore—June 26 is your day. That’s the opening date for Chéri, which has all those things plus direction by Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity) and a script by Christopher Hampton (Atonement). The story, adapted from a Colette novel, is set in 1920s France where a retired courtesan of a certain age (Michelle Pfeiffer, 51, to be exact) initiates an affair with a rival courtesan’s (Kathy Bates) son (Rupert Friend, 27). Chéri reunites Frears, Hampton and Pfeiffer, who collaborated on 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons (also drawn from a French novel), and it is certainly a must-see for admirers of that work—though a more charming, fanciful feel might also draw in admirers of last year’s Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

The Hurt Locker, also set to open June 26, has a trailer that, on its own, is more suspenseful than 99 out of 100 “suspense films.” About an Army bomb-disarming unit in Iraq, the movie also appears to the have the best chance of not blowing itself up by inadvertently touching the red wire of trite moralization to the black wire of the ongoing War On Terror—an entanglement that has caused many recent war films to bomb. The film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, The Weight of Water), written by Mark Boal (In the Valley of Elah) and features a cast that includes Jeremy Renner, Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes.

With direction by Michael Mann (Heat) and a cast fronted by Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose), Public Enemies—opening July 1—can’t help but at least be damned entertaining. And, given that it glorifies the Tommy-gunning of bankers by legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger, who, in these troubled times, can help but feel inspired by it?

On July 10, Sacha Baron Cohen, ie Borat and Ali G, returns to the big screen as his heretofore lesser-known persona: Brüno, the ridiculously flaming host of an Austrian fashion television show. One leaked scene, in which Brüno interviews and then attempts to seduce Ron Paul in a hotel room, already has caused quite a stir online. Others scenes find Brüno adopting an African infant (“Angelina has one and now Brüno will have one too”) whom he names “OJ,” Brüno wreaking havoc at a fashion show wearing an all-Velcro suit and Brüno taking martial arts instruction in which he requests a lesson in defense against attack by dildo. That “Brüno” can pass unrecognized at this level of fame leaves this fan a bit incredulous but, all the same, Brüno should be hilarious.

Begin preparing your delicate psyche now:
Aug. 21 marks the release of Inglourious Basterds, a film in which Brad Pitt and Eli Roth lead a Jewish-American squadron known as “The Basterds” on a secret mission into Nazi-occupied France. The Basterds’ sole mission is to maim, torture and scalp Nazis—a people who, in an ironic twist of fate, have been thoroughly dehumanized so that it’s emotionally easier to see them exterminated. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds promises to be full of old-school Tarantino fun with violence and genres.

 

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