A Curmudgeonly Guide to Summer Movies 2010


Happy Madison Productions

This will go down as the Year Generation X took over Hollywood. Finally. As critic A.O. Scott noted, the first wave of Generation X-ers are hitting their late 40's, aging on camera while moving into positions of power off it. The result is a kind of collective, cinematic midlife crisis. John Cusack, whose Lloyd Dobler and Layne Meyer personified Reagan-era suburban angst, has stooped to self-parody in Hot Tub Time Machine. Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, arguably the best comic minds of their generation, have settled into the same kind of dull middle-age as the Shrek characters they keep milking Forever After. Once delightfully puerile, Adam Sandler keeps making movies about mortality, with last year's Funny People, and this summer's Grown Ups (see below) promising more of the same.

There is an upside to all this Gen-X navel-gazing. Namely, it means the Baby Boomers are finally losing their 40-year grip on Hollywood. Mercifully, the Summer of 2010 features precisely zero films about Vietnam, Woodstock, Nixon, JFK, Motown, or the Apollo space program. But while infinitely less self-congratulatory than their Boomer predecessors, Hollywood X'ers are seem just as fond of nostalgia and no more prone to original thought. The only difference is which decade is mined for material. Instead of remaking 60's and 70's favorites like The Beverly Hillbillies and Dragnet, studios now rehash '80s favorites. The The Karate Kid, for instance, which opened well this weekend, and The A-Team, which did not—probably because Bradley Cooper is about as macho as RuPaul and far less charming. Here's what you have to look forward to for the rest of the summer:

Next weekend, starting June 18, expect big box office and bad reviews when Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and a computerized cast of dozens return for Toy Story 3. In Cyrus a semi-dark comedy with an indie feel, John C. Reilly courts Marisa Tomei, but their love is thwarted by Jonah Hill, playing her creepy son. Despite the black humor and Sundance-y dialogue, Cyrus should do very well at the box office, mostly from the millions of pre-teen girls who will mistakenly buy tickets thinking that Miley Cyrus is somehow involved.

One of the few movies of 2010 that doesn't star Jonah Hill has "Jonah" in the title. Josh Brolin plays the eponymous antihero, Jonah Hex. The disfigured, supernatural bounty hunter chases villainous Quentin Turnbull, played by the always-good-as-evil John Malkovich. Megan Fox co-stars, showing tremendous dramatic range as a brilliant scientist haunted by the moral implications of a super-weapon she made for the army. Just kidding. She plays a hooker.

Doesn't it feel like America is ready to like Tom Cruise again? Especially when he isn't dressed as a Nazi. The premiere of Knight and Day with Cruise and Cameron Diaz was pushed up to Wednesday, June 23, opening earlier to avoid a head-to head battle with Adam Sandler's much-anticipated Grown Ups, which opens June 25. Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade play friends from junior high school honoring the passing of their old basketball coach by spending the weekend at the lake-house where they celebrated a championship. Co-starring are Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph as "SNL alum who gets a role because Adam says so." Pray the film isn't as sappy as the trailer makes it look—and try not to wonder how any basketball team with the Spade and Schneider could have won a title.

June 30, another sequel—this time it's some movie about teenage vampires. If you need to know more, ask any 12-year-old girl.

July 2, America begins a weekend of celebrating itself. We also get to see if M. Night Shamalayn made his first watchable movie since Signs. As with the Nickelodeon series it's based on, The Last Airbender is inspired by East Asian design, mythology, folk lore, and martial arts. Yet, somehow, the filmmakers managed to avoid casting a single East Asian actor in a major role. That's Hollywood for you—the same folks who gave us Sam Worthington as Greek hero and Jake Gyllenhaal playing a Persian.

Predators comes out July 9. This venerable monster series reboot sends a roguish band of hunters to the Predators' home planet. There, in a stunning plot twist, the hunters become the hunted. Adrien Brody, buffed up from curls with his Oscar, goes for action-hero status. Co-stars include Laurence Fishburne and Danny Trejo, plus Topher Grace—who could win an Oscar if he ever decides to stop coasting. Try Despicable Me, if the kids are in tow, opens the same day. The new CGI feature spoofs suburbia, and stars the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Kristen Wiig.

At last, an oasis in the desert of remakes and sequels. July 16, a new film premieres from Christopher Nolan, director of Memento and The Dark Knight. To follow his mega-huge Caped Crusader caper, Nolan created Inception, a dystopian thriller with a ridiculously talented cast that includes the wondrous Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, and Sir Michael Caine. Oh, also appearing is Leonardo DiCaprio, known as Growing Pains.

Only dimly based on the Goethe poem that spawned Disney's animated classic, a live-action version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice drops the same weekend. The good news is director Jon Turteltaub and star Nicholas Cage worked together on National Treasure. The bad news is they also worked together on National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. Watch for Cage's co-star, Jay Baruchel, soon to be getting every role once offered to Michael Cera.

Starting July 23, Angelina Jolie plays Salt. A mix of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer, she's an FBI agent accused of espionage. The suspense, though, is whether Jolie can still open a big action movie ten years, two marriages, and several children after the first Tomb Raider.

If you want to see "Dinner for Schmucks," a comedy starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, you may have to hurry. The film opens July 30. Likable stars notwithstanding, it just might close on the 31st.

Luke Wilson's indie project Middle Men was picked up by Paramount. Hooray! Maybe now Wilson won't need to do any more of those awful AT&T ads. In the film, opening August 6, Wilson stars as a family man who gets involved with online porn. A cast including Giovanni Ribisi, Kelsey Grammer and the iconic James Caan suggests a potential sleeper hit.

The big movie that weekend, The Other Guys, stars Will Ferrell, who has mostly avoided the morbid self-reflection to which his cohorts seem so prone. The second must-see-ish movie of the summer, Adam McKay directed Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in a cop buddy movie spoofing cop buddy movies. Eva Mendes, Samuel Jackson and Dwayne Johnson co-star, with national treasure Michael Keaton rounding out the cast.

Your last blast of summer fireworks comes August 22, with The Expendables. Sylvester Stallone directs and stars along with, get this; Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a cameo by Bruce Willis. Essentially, it's every action star of the last 20 years except for Steven Seagal. The movie probably has some sort of plot, too.

Finally, September 3, Labor Day weekend, there might be one more summer sleeper. In Born to Be a Star, a comedy starring Stephen Dorff and Christina Ricci, tells the tale of an Iowa farm boy who discovers that his parents had been major porn stars in the '70s. Inspired, the guy heads for Hollywood to fulfill his dream of adult-film superstardom. This utterly juvenile, moderately offensive, and potentially hysterical story was co-written by a former comedian—a guy named Adam Sandler—who these days makes film for grown-ups. Too bad.