Oct. 04--Thankfully, fall has come to put the summer movie season down like an old, sick dog.
The blockbuster season is where brain cells and ear drums go to die, and this summer brought more of the same. I'm glad it's over, but I'm left wondering why I spent so much time in theaters this summer when it was, for the most part, a miserable experience.
I'm a sadomasochist in that way, I guess.
I remember a time when studios would release one or two "flagship" movies for the summer that went all-out in an effort to garner attention and what spending money the 18- to 32-year-old demographic possessed.
For instance, when "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" hit the big screen in 1991, there was no doubt that it was going to be the biggest, loudest flick of the summer. You only had to endure one in those days, which made the experience somewhat tolerable.
People would leave the theater after their "Terminator" pummeling, ears deadened, eyes red and watery, knowing they had experienced a MOVIE EVENT.
The rest of summer 1991 was spent passing time with awful Eddie Murphy buddy flicks, romantic comedies, the requisite Disney movie and whatever Kevin Costner was doing at the time.
(Can you believe there was a time when Kevin Costner was considered the biggest movie star on the planet? Me either. And I'm not a Costner hater, but, damn.)
Of course, "Terminator 2" was actually a pretty good movie. It was well-paced, compact and featured some genuinely fine acting by Linda Hamilton and a welcome comedic turn by Arnie the Governator, who was never given enough credit for how funny he could be when given the right material.
That fall saw "The Silence of the Lambs," which went on to collect all the awards and remains as powerful now as it did in 1991. I saw "Lambs" at the Newton, Ill., drive-in in September that year and was completely creeped out by it. I was sitting on a lawn chair to the far left of the screen, right where the corn met the parking lot. I had to move closer to my parents' car because I feared Dr. Hannibal Lecter might spring out of the cornfield and snatch me away.
At this point, I don't know what counts as a MOVIE EVENT these days. They are all loud, solely visual-based and feature some fresh technological hook that the advertising blitz promises will blow me away.
Yet, I never feel blown away. In fact, I left the movie theater this year mostly bored and groggy.
I liked "Iron Man 3" well enough because I could watch Robert Downey Jr. act in a blender commercial. That guy is great.
But the two movies I was looking forward to the most were hugely disappointing. I grew up a big fan of giant monster movies, so "Pacific Rim" had me jazzed. The trailer was catchy and the director Guillermo del Torro is a real talent.
Too bad "Pacific Rim" was basically a video game stretched over nearly three hours. If it weren't for the ear-splitting noise of it, I might have fallen asleep. Some of my friends keep telling me to see it again to appreciate it, but I'm skeptical. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and believe that I didn't miss any subtlety of action or character the first time through.
The second bummer of the summer was "Man of Steel." I've given up on Hollywood doing Superman justice. The studios are so sunken into cynicism at this point that they cannot capture the essence of Superman without poisoning him with some wacky political or psychological bent.
So when the director realized his Superman was weak garbage and no one would really care about the character, he decided to just fill the last 50 minutes of the movie with explosions and crashing buildings. After 18 minutes of this I started to get a headache. Twenty minutes later my eyes began to sting. Twenty minutes after that I became angry and then saddened.
Well, I thought as I left the theater, that's three hours of my life I will never get back.
In all, I probably spent 20 hours in theaters this summer and I can't for the life of me remember much about anything I saw. Almost a day of my life, gone.
I remain a compulsive moviegoer, much to my detriment. Which is why the fall sees a great weight lifted off my shoulders.
There is plenty of garbage released in the fall, but for the most part the flicks are better.
This is why you will find me planted firmly in a seat in Tinseltown hoping that "Gravity" will mean that 20 hours was not spent in vain.
"Gravity" stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and is directed by a talented dude named Alfonso Cuaron. It tells the story of two astronauts caught in a life-and-death situation in which they are cut lose from their moorings and sent spinning through space. Supposedly, the movie contains a lot of true space physics and some philosophy thrown in for those of us who can dig a spectacle with an IQ above 80.
Theaters are hurting because people are choosing to stream content on their 86-inch, high-def televisions as opposed to sitting side-by-side with strangers in a darkened theater. I certainly understand why some find it preferable to watch a movie in the safety of one's own home rather than brave the theater beating we so often receive.
But I still chase the MOVIE EVENT sugar rush, for better or worse.
(c)2013 the Mail Tribune (Medford, Ore.)
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