Summer Smashes 2002



So who went to the cinema this summer and was disappointed?  A fair few, I wager. What did the summer have to offer? Frankly, I feel cheated. What’s the point of working in a cinema? The free films of course. But why would I have bothered this summer? It’s only now, as I leave, that the string of good films appears on the horizon: ‘XXX’, ‘Lilo & Stitch’, Harry Potter, James Bond and ‘The Two Towers.’ Well, I did bother, and ok, so not all of them were so dire as to require smashing the projector into pieces.


The summer recipe seems to have been purely children’s entertainment and action films. Remarkably, until September we saw no romantic comedies whatsoever. Whether that’s a blessing or not depends on the quality of the action and children’s movies. One that covered both genre’s was of course ‘Spiderman’, a cracking proper action figure movie, comes exactly as it says on the tin – no surprises but a solid good 2hrs 20 worth of fun-filled web-shooting.


As so many complaints filed in about Spidey’s 12 rating, a flurry of U and PG offerings arrived. If any of you had the misfortune to accompany a younger sibling to ‘Spirit’, you will be aware of the work of this sickly-sweet children’s flick, blasphemously claiming to be the best cartoon since ‘The Lion King’.  Then we ushered more children into ‘Scooby Doo The Movie’, slightly less cringe-worthy and a delight to we 80’s children who loved the cartoon way back when. Being a huge Buffy fan I awaited Sarah Michelle Gellar’s different character with bated breath, and was sadly disappointed. Matthew Lillard, however, stole the show as Shaggy, absolutely perfect, especially considering all his scenes with the CGI dog.  I give little comment on ‘Stuart Little 2’ and ‘Spy Kids 2’ except is it just me or is everything a sequel these days?


As happens with long boring holidays, people travel around. Free films on offer and my doors are open, so I took a visiting friend to see ‘Reign of Fire’, I then spent the following twenty minutes apologising profusely.  The poster looks amazing, the red sky with dragons swirling tempts you. You are then stuck watching a film as enthralling as ‘Noel Edmunds’ House Party’ and with as much point as re-runs of the Lottery. One thing to keep you amused during the dismal offering in front of you is to consider the mind of the costume designers. What possessed them to dress all the children in small blue sacks? 


Along a similar futuristic vein, but in no other way related, we had the best futuristic Sci-Fi film since ‘The Matrix’- ‘Minority Report’. Original storyline, pretty decent visuals and Tom Cruise. Although not forgetting the gruesome eye removal scene which those squeamish amongst us could have done without. The nigh-on 3 hours sped by as intrigue gripped you to your seat, sadly a rare thing amongst the rest of the summer’s selection.  


A second chink of light at the end of the action tunnel was glimpsed with ‘Sum of All Fears’. Now I thoroughly expected the first flick of the Ben Affleck season to be another one to put on the scrap heap but I was pleasantly surprised. Somewhat like ‘Spiderman’, it contained no big surprises, yet carried off the terrorism; CIA; big bomb; save-the-world agenda rather well. Morgan Freeman gave another flawless, convincing performance alongside Affleck. The only downside is its apparent inconsistencies with Tom Clancy’s novel.


The downhill slope began with ‘Bad Company’ and the avalanche continued with ‘Jason X’, ‘Crocodile Hunter’ (whoever dreamed up that venture should be hung drawn and quartered) and ‘Austin Powers 3’. Ok, so maybe I’m not being fair there, I just dislike Austin so much I’m biased - most people were not appalled that we were subjected to a 3rd helping of the velvet-clad man of mystery. Funniest moment has to belong to the rap to the song from ‘Annie’ and worst moment has to belong to the ending, for those who have seen it – how dare they do that - I love Seth Green. Overall, as Ozzy says in the outtakes “well they used the same jokes they did in the first Austin Powers film/movie.”


Respite from the atrocious screen-killers came in the form of MIIB. Yes, the ‘Men in Black’ were indeed back.  Who can refuse to laugh at Frank the Pug barking along to ‘Who let the dogs out’?  Ok, so the plot was a tad contrived and unbelievable (I heard the word ‘drivel’ mentioned once or twice) but you can’t deny the vibe from the fab twosome. It was only unfortunate that the talents of Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones were abused by an altogether lacklustre script.


Among other comedy news we have ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’. Yep, the title isn’t inviting, although still standing more chance than ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ but this much-talked-about film starring Nia Vardalos is actually worth a few laughs. So it’s not one of those immensely memorable change-your-life chart-toppers, but I giggled quite a bit. Slightly different slant on the rom-com tradition, and a welcome one.


The comedy was not long lived in the box office though. Women were lured by the rumour of “the penis song” in ‘The Sweetest thing’ and alongside, we saw ‘The Guru’ hit the screens. Boasting possibly the most entertaining and eventually irritating trailer for a film ever, the actual full helping of The Guru was sadly a let down. Few laughs and a tacky end, it could have been so much better.


Rather like ‘The importance of being Earnest’ apparently. Colin Firth’s latest got slated as a whole but I gave it a go with several of my co-workers (although I must say all the male staff declined) and found it decidedly funny. However I must say ‘An Ideal Husband’, also starring Rupert Everett, was more adeptly done than ‘Earnest’. The only problem is it’s no different to the original play. The more adventurous critic might say that just sticking Dame Judy Dench in wasn’t enough to make it worth the effort of watching. I say, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, Oscar Wilde’s plays are hilarious in their own right.


On the other hand, take ‘The Bourne Identity’. I have it on good authority that the books by Robert Ludlum are very enthralling tales of Jason Bourne.  Although definitely filling the action movie criteria, with more shooting scenes than you can shake a stick at, I found the film to be needlessly roundabout when really the plot is so basic it barely needs a trailer to explain – a CIA assassin gets amnesia and tries to figure out who he is.  The characters of the two main stars do not seem to be expanded much beyond basic function, despite Matt Damon’s insistence he took the role as a character-based spy thriller to rival Bond. So is Jason Bourne the new James Bond? Despite the initials, there’s no comparison.


To turn to a true character based film. A film to keep everyone awake. Just by thinking about how good it is. ‘Insomnia’. “Cop Thriller”, as I keep telling those who ask at the box-office. But that doesn’t do it justice at all. It sounds like some late night TV movie you switch off half way through when you’ve figured out whodunit. The difference is, you already know who did it. Robin Williams is the bad guy. No, don’t adjust your set, you heard right. Mr. Williams is clearly out to prove he can act more than Mrs. Doubtfire and an ageing Peter Pan. And he can. With Al Pacino as co-star, you expect ‘Insomnia’ to be a skilled masterpiece. And for once this summer, you are not in the slightest bit disappointed.



Also released: ‘Resident Evil’, ‘Eight Legged Freaks’, ‘The Wash’, ‘Devdas’, ‘Black Night’, ‘Pluto Nash’, ‘Windtalkers’, ‘O’, ‘A Walk to Remember’, ‘Once Upon a Time in the Midlands’, ‘Swimfan’


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