I haven’t written much about the movies lately, mostly because so few of this year’s summer movies have lured us into the theater. Even when we actually saw one it rarely provided food for thought beyond two hours of mindless, repetitive action without much of a story to support it. But here’s a roundup of the summer movies we (or I) have seen recently. I leave it to you to decide whether any of them are worth the price of admission—even if you have to wait until they hit the small screen.
Six Summer Movies and the Scoreboard
Here’s my list of six summer movies In approximate reverse chronological order:
Pete’s Dragon: I took my elder granddaughter to see this right after it opened and we both enjoyed it. I found the story, acting, production values, message, and special effects all very well done and she was engrossed in the story. I was pleasantly surprised to see Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard in the cast.
Recommendation: Some children’s movies or animated features, like Up, Inside Out or Howl’s Moving Castle are just as entertaining for adults as for kids. This, however, is not one of them.Go with children and you will enjoy it. They will be mesmerized by Elliot, the dragon (and so will you). He’s not Drogon but, then, it wouldn’t be a children’s movie if he was.
- Captain Fantastic: If you ever wanted to raise a family off the grid in the woods of Oregon and thought you could a better job without all the distractions of civilization, this movie is for you. If you thought that raising a family off the grid in the woods of Oregon was a terrible idea that would probably not end well, this is the movie for you. Of the six summer movies in the scoreboard, I enjoyed Captain Fantastic the most and it provided the most intellectual stimulation after the fact. Everyone involved does a great job but I can’t tell you much about what happens without spoiling the story. My favorite part came with imagining what would happen in a regular school the first time someone tried to bully one of these kids. Hee, hee.
The biggest problem with Captain Fantastic was the title. It has no real meaning in the context of the movie at best and at worst it misdirected some people who would have otherwise gone to see it.
I spoke with several charter members of its target audience who had ignored Captain Fantastic because they thought it was a superhero movie or an animated children’s film. With Captain America all over the multiplexes, who could blame them? The one-sheet poster didn’t help at all. Better marketing needed, people.
Recommendation: If you like complex movies about the human condition, the striving to be better people and the struggles involved, you will like this movie. Recommended for grown-ups and thinkers.
- Jason Bourne: My husband is a big Bourne fan so watching this was a given. I enjoyed it, as I have the whole franchise, but it offers nothing new or original. You have seen this story before and the only difference now is that Bourne knows his true identity. I hope the next one in the franchise is more original and explores new ground.
Recommendation; Jason Bourne and James Bond fans, along with lovers of action movies will enjoy this film. If you go with someone who fits this description, you will probably like it, too.
Star Trek Beyond: This movie is an extended episode of Classic Trek with better special effects. The problems, as always with these Trek movies, lies in the story, the logic, and the science. So many inconsistencies, errors, and illogical situations appear on the screen that you may, as I did, find yourself drawn into them instead of enjoying the movie. For example: “Hey, why is the captain leaving the bridge during a crisis and handing the con to a lieutenant so he can go rescue his friend?” Or, “Should they have lost gravity by now?” This wouldn’t happen on The Last Ship, but that show is much better aligned with how a professional navy works.
Recommendation: Star Trek and science fiction fans will see this movie as a matter of course. You will get exactly what you expect and not a single warp factor more.
- Ghostbusters: Been there, done that and it was better the first time. My disappointment in this movie had nothing to do with the fact that women starred or that it concerned paranormal pest control. It’s just not as wacky. It tries really, really hard — one might say too hard — but doesn’t quite make it all the way over the top. Maybe they should have gone for something very different or maybe the screenplay of the original was just written in a haze of marijuana smoke. Whatever. It’s fun but nothing special.
Recommendation: Meh. It’s not great and it’s not terrible. I hate to say this but this Ghostbusters is just two hours of mindless whatever. You won’t love it and you won’t hate it, despite all the fanboy frenzy.
Love and Friendship: This take on a minor Jane Austen novel can’t keep up with the master’s timeless stories. It’s cute and complicated and beautifully done but Lady Susan doesn’t provide us with the kind of protagonist one can empathize with or snuggle up to. Think of a PBS “Masterpiece” episode with A-list actors and you’re there.
Recommendation: Fans of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs and other period dramas will enjoy it, if only for the costumes. They are very good. And the snark. The snark is excellent.
Nuthin’ New Here
You may have detected a theme in my comments: lack of originality. That reliance upon dependable franchises and remakes of old movies appears to be coming back to bite Hollywood in a big way this summer. Perhaps the public has grown tired of sequels, series, and remakes. Or maybe the cloning degeneration factor has had an impact. Every subsequent generation of a clone grows weaker, less healthy and more prone to problems than the iteration before it.
Ben Fritz tells us in his Wall Street Journal analysis, “Rising Box Office Masks Glut of Big-Budget Film Flops,” that Hollywood is getting the message. Their solution? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.