Summer Movie Wrap Up – I Didn’t See Any – You Can’t Make Me [California Seething]
If you ask me, I blame the Prius.
Recently, a big name celebrity came to see a show at the theatre where I work. For security and convenience reasons, we allowed him to park in the loading zone in front of the theatre rather than the slightly farther Peon Lot. Since this isn’t exactly legal, I arranged with his people (He has people. I want people! Even midgets would be fine. Do they work cheap? Can I get two for the price of one? I could stack them on top of each other, put them in a really long trench coat and pretend they are a super-tall publicist named KiKi. That would get me in to Sky Bar) that I would hold on to his car keys and watch his car while he was watching the show- never mind the fact that giving me car keys is about as useful as handing a bone to a monkey and telling it to drive the big black monolith around the block in case the cops come. You’re just going to end up with a smashed cow-skull and a big parking ticket.
As I waited for him, I fantasized about the sort of supercar that would soon be at my disposal. Certainly, it would be some kind of Italian Dream Machine- a Maserati or Lamborghini or some other juicy word that sounds like food but isn’t food but still makes you drool like lasagna made out of money. A car designed to look like a spaceship if spaceships were designed to look like naked ladies (NOTE TO NASA: Next time, hire Italian designers. Endeavor is whatever but Endeavero is magnifico!!!) Maybe I would slip inside and sit behind the wheel in the tan leather interior all snug and comfy like a $100 bill in a Coach wallet. Maybe I would even throw all caution to the wind and find somebody to take me for a spin in it. I imagined us squealing away madly like Ferris Bueller’s valets, zooming and roaring through the streets of LA like Radicus and Kickassius, the Roman Gods of Awesome, leaving a blistering trail of burnt rubber and damp panties (not mine) in our wake and returning to the theatre seconds before the end of the show, just in time to hand the smoking hot key to the car’s oblivious owner and walk away all sweaty and satiated trying to mask our knowing grins.
So… naturally dude shows up in a lime-green Prius.
Imagine the worst possible first date from Match.com and you’ll have some vague idea of my disappointment (“Oh, sorry, that picture online is 20 years old- back when I was a blond and had both legs and was still a woman. Call me Jake.”) The key he handed me was no hot metal instrument bursting with possibilities but a circumcised plastic fob that sat in my pocket like a cold lump of porridge sucking little bits of joy out of my fingertips like a squawking, baby vulture every time I happened to touch it.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not hating on the Prius (per se.) I’m sure it’s a perfectly sensible practical car for ordinary schmucks like us. The thing is- Hollywood shouldn’t be about being sensible or practical- Hollywood is about fantasy and what the hell am I supposed to fantasize when I see a star in a Prius? “Can you picture me in that sweet Prius? Man, that would be soooo quiet. If I had a Prius like that, I’d take it out to the desert just to see what that baby can do. I bet I could get it up to 35, maybe even 40 Miles Per Gallon!” I don’t want to see Leonardo DiCaprio pulling up at the Oscars in a Prius any more than I would have wanted to see Cary Grant putting together Ikea furniture, Humphrey Bogart eating Multigrain Cheerios with almond milk or Hugh Hefner in a hot-tub with three retired librarians.
Right, so we’ve established that Prius is Japanese for “Dream Killing Smug Wagon” – does that mean it’s responsible for the tedious crapitude of this year’s summer movies? Well, they do share a certain lack of imagination as well as a joyless earnestness and a fixation on needless computer graphics in common (HELPFUL NOTE TO PRIUS DRIVERS: You don’t always need to know which engine you’re using. You do, however, need to WATCH THE FUCKING ROAD.) They also share an obsessive need to sacrifice everything worthwhile (characters, story, heart, speed, handling, good looks) for one key gimmick (headache inducing 3-D, marginally better gas mileage). Most importantly, neither the Prius nor this year’s crop of summer movies have been able to tempt me in the slightest to spend money. I’ve preferred to spend my summer fantasizing over the new Dodge Challenger and watching reruns of Deadliest Warrior on DVR (Pirate vs Knight- CLASSIC! Though I do wonder why those two would even bother to fight each other. I mean, the only way that a guy in a pirate outfit and a guy in a full suit of armor would even run into each other in an open field would be if they took a horribly wrong turn during the Gay Pride Parade or if the Renaissance Faire and SoCal Pirate Festival were booked too close together- and in that case would only compete to see who will be the Mayor of the Open Field on Foursquare and who’s got the better Tricorder app on their iPhone.)
There was one movie that was tempting though. No, it wasn’t Another Earth- in which a sad young woman with perfect teeth has the chance to live her life all over again on a parallel world where indie films are just as boring as they are at home. It’s also not The Smurfs- as a child of the 80’s and devout Smurf purist, this movie offends me with its revisionist nonsense. No one wants to see the Smurfs in Manhattan- they belong in their ethnically homogenous, weirdly Teutonic (Blue-tonic?) psychedelic, socialist mushroom utopia working together for the Smurfic good and avoiding the wicked machinations of hook-nosed, black clad, dark haired, money grubbing wizard Gargamel, his cat Azarael and his wicked consorts Shmuel the Rabbi, Shylock the Money Lender and Yankel the Blood Libelist (NOTE: these characters are cut from the American version. They are in the underground German Director’s Cut only – the version that also includes all the urine fetish stuff with Papa Smurf (aka Daddy Yellow Beard) and Brainy.) No, the movie I am most tempted to see is none other than:
In this movie a crazy bunch of driven scientists find a way to make apes smarter than humans. Naturally, the apes get tired of being treated like, you know, apes and decide to rise up and take over the world.This begs the age old question- do characters in movies ever actually watch movies- because, if they did, you can bet your ass that teenage girls would know to get the hell out of the house when the killer comes instead of locking the door and running upstairs and scientists would know that it’s NEVER a good idea to make things smarter or better than us since they’re just gonna want to kill us when we’re done. I mean, come on people, we saw it happen with sharks, we saw it happen with robots, we saw it happen in Afghanistan- you better believe it’s gonna happen with apes. How many times are we going to have to go down this road until we learn our lesson? At this rate, we’re going to end up knee deep in an army of super-intelligent hamsters who are trying to achieve world domination by chewing our toes off.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes has inspired me to come up with my own far-fetched sci-fi premise. A group of driven professionals is secretly given unlimited funds by the government to figure out how to save the nation from total collapse. In the process of doing so, these professionals accidentally make American children smarter by exposing them to dangerously high levels of literature, science and math. Eventually, the children become so smart that they overthrow their moronic adult overlords and implement their diabolical plans to find alternate energy sources and cure cancer. I know what you’re thinking- with our current government, this premise is just too far out to be remotely plausible- but, it might work if I made a prequel in which a Wizard meets up with a Urologist and they and find a magical way to grow the Democrats some BALLS.
There are some other issues with this movie. For one thing- I’m not sure how smart these apes really are. In the preview, an ape attacks a helicopter in mid-flight and kills the pilot which, is, uhm, honestly, not so bright. I’m just saying, apes. Please don’t eat my face.
The biggest problem with this movie, though, is that it suffers from, what is known in the biz as “Fast Zombie Syndrome.” In the old days, Zombies moved slowly. They lurched towards their prey with the plodding determination of DMV employees returning to the counter from a coffee break. Now, though, they move quickly- darting in at blinding speed and tearing their victims apart with terrifying ferocity, like DMV employees headed to the break room for leftover birthday cake. These newfangled zombies somehow manage to be both terrifying and lame. Sure, it’s a lot scarier to imagine a fast moving undead predator striking without warning and ripping your flesh off- but does anyone really want to be that for Halloween? It’s way more fun to get decked out in a torn up suit and Robert Smith makeup and lumber about moaning “Brains….Braaaaaiiiinnns” – plus, the drunker you get, the better a Zombie you make right up until you puke in the back of a cab all over your girlfriend’s hair. That’s scary in a whole different way.
These new apes suffer from the same problem. They are ultra-realistic, fast-moving vicious predators capable of terrifying feats of speed and strength. Yawn.
The old apes weren’t cool because they were super-realistic and lethal- they were cool because they had snooty accents dressed like the Beatles and went to Grad School (SPOILER ALERT: Dr Zaius’ degree is in actually in Art History. He’s not even a real Doctor.) They were cool because they were campy and fun. Sadly, in Post 911, Post Janet Jackson, Post Enron, Post Katrina, Post Recession, Post Debt Ceiling, Post Downgrade America- “campy” and “fun” are quaint outdated notions like the Rotary Phone and the Middle Class.
Many other contemporary films are similarly joyless. In the new James Bond flicks, Daniel Craig, with his tortured blondness and omnipresent “will someone for the love of God please add some sugar to my lemonade” facial expression has managed to suck all of the Roger Moore joie-de-vivre out of international espionage. Hey, Danny- it’s a License to Kill – not a License to Buzz-Kill- Happy up! And don’t even get me started about the most recent Batman series. Adam West, Michael Keaton, even, God help us, Val Kilmer understood that there is something fundamentally ridiculous about a grown man who dresses up like a bat at night and goes out to fight bad guys. They realized that Superheroes at heart are basically just drag-queens with muscles, who choose to fight evil instead of lipsyncing Abba. Christian Bale, though, doesn’t get this. His Batman is so strangled by post-ironic millennial, self-help, boo-hoo, poor-me victim crap that he can barely croak out his lines in his super-deep voice, which has been specially Auto-Tuned for extra gravitas. The way things are going, I expect that next summer, we’re going to have a 3-D Care Bears movie where Cheer Bear and Wish Bear are 8 feet tall with razor sharp claws and are facing extinction due to Global Warming and when they run out of food, they rip Grumpy to pieces. Now that’s a fucking picnic!
Whatever movies comes out next summer, I’m pretty sure I won’t see any. Not unless Hollywood types discover a car that actually stimulates their imagination and restores their sense of fun. Hopefully, it won’t be the Smart Car. If anything, that looks like even less fun than the Prius- plus, it’s Smart, so it’s bound to try and kill us. Fortunately, Smart Cars are slower than Zombies, so they should be pretty easy to outrun- or, better yet, you can just hide out at home and watch Deadliest Warrior Season 3 like me. I bet you Pol Pot is going to Fuck. Sadaam. UP.
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>featured image credit: Thom Watson