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A Midsummer’s Movie Night Catch-Up

The month of June started off with a reunion of the co-star and director of Bridesmaids and The Heat. Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig’s action/comedy Spy reportedly hits all the right buttons, showcases the bawdy McCarthy in her meatiest (no pun intended) role yet, and is said to be extremely vulgar and bloody. Sounds like crass and anarchistic grown-up fun.

Alas, some of us can no longer get to the cinema every week, and some movies don’t cry out to be viewed on a giant screen, so I let this one slip by. I look forward to catching up with it on home video.

The world shook on June 12 with the long-in-development arrival of the fourth Jurassic Park flick, Jurassic World. Dynamic visual effects, a colorful production design, and the most convincing 3D conversion in a long while helped propel this merely “meh” retread into the stratosphere.

That, plus fourteen years of pent-up audience demand for more dino-carnage.

Also, the presence of Chris Pratt certainly didn’t hurt, and the stellar success of the movie has firmly fulfilled the promise of Pratt’s Guardians of the Galaxy star appeal. Aside from a noticeable lack of magic (Steven Spielberg produces, but his directorial mastery is sorely missed), Jurassic World is desperately in need of more tactile props—the most convincing scene involves a life-sized animatronic dinosaur; the remainder of the pixelated and plasticine digital visual effects look like they were concocted for a video game.

No matter, as the $1.5 billion-plus global box office haul proves audiences aren’t as discerning as critics, and clearly don’t mind paying to see the same script played out over and over again.

Pratt is signed for two more Jurassic sequels—the next one has already been slated to open in June, 2018—so we can expect more of the same old same old, twice over.

Pixar Studios rebounded nicely from the dull Brave and mediocre Monsters University with the clever, funny, touching and visually dazzling Inside Out.

My kids loved it as much as I did, and we’ll definitely be owning this Blu-ray before Christmas.

The end of June brought Ted 2, Seth MacFarlane’s profane follow-up to the surprise 2012 smash comedy about a foul-mouthed pot-smoking teddy bear.

Sure, the preview trailer is funny—I just love a good and raunchy red band trailer!—but in this age of dwindling paychecks, this movie has had “wait for home video” splattered all over it from the moment of its inception.

July was supposed to start with the big bang of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long-awaited return to his most iconic role.

Instead, Terminator Genisys tripped over its own illogic and fell flat on its mechanical face. Fans and critics universally loathed the previous entry, McG’s Terminator Salvation, but at least T4 genuinely tried to buck the tired time-hopping Terminator formula and show us the bleak future landscape. It was too bleak, apparently, and to this day a legion of butt-hurt fan-boys will likely recall Christian Bale’s legendary on-set row with a clumsy crewperson more clearly than any other aspect of the finished film. Thus we slide easily back into formula territory for Terminator 5, in a time-shuffling scheme that revisits and tweaks key events of both T1 and T2, ignores pretty much everything about T3 and T4, and resolves to make the entirety of the series nonexistent because the new movie’s alternate timeline ends without John Connor’s conception.

This is a pivotal and gaping plot pothole that is left unresolved but, blatant sequel-bait or not, it isn’t worth boggling your mind over. For something truly paradoxical and rich for conversation, have a viewing of the film Primer and discuss afterwards for years.

As for T5, dumb down your expectations—we’re a long, long way from James Cameron territory. As the clock ticks down on the ever-shifting Terminator copyrights, there may still be plans for a T6 and T7 despite the humdrum box office performance of the current T5. The nostalgia is strong, and it’s comforting and perhaps even a bit poignant to see an aged and greying Arnold back onscreen in his career-defining role, but enough is enough already.  

Hasta la vista, indeed.

With Ant-Man, Marvel has once again taken a second-tier comic book superhero and delivered a first-tier crowd-pleasing movie.

It’s funnier and more family-friendly than any other Marvel movie to date—including Guardians of the Galaxy—and it’s light years better than the dull Avengers 2, the rusty Iron Man 2 and the completely forgettable Thor 2. Ant-Man coasts on the comic charm of lead Paul Rudd, the grizzled cantankerousness of Michael Douglas, and a kaleidoscope of clever visual effects. 

I suspect co-writer Edgar Wright would have delivered something even more bonkers and visually delirious had he stayed on as director, but eleventh-hour substitute director Peyton Reed does an admirable job of keeping the tone both light and edgy, even if the references to the Avengers and the connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel forced.

We’re now two thirds of the way through the Summer of 2015, and the best movie of the season—nay, the year—remains Mad Max: Fury Road.

No matter how much more moolah Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron have earned in comparison, Fury Road is the only movie of the season worth seeing again. And again. The home video release has just been announced for September 1, and you can bet your guzzoline I’ll be first in line to purchase the Blu-ray. I want it yesterday, dammit!

Looking ahead, the tail end of July brings a new Vacation movie with Ed Helms as the grown-up Rusty Griswold; and Tom Cruise returns as agent Ethan Hunt in the fifth Mission: Impossible flick, subtitled Rogue Nation. Thankfully, it’s not an X-Men crossover with Anna Paquin.

Looming in August are a desperate and “dark” reboot of yet another Marvel property, Fantastic Four, and a big-screen adaptation of the period spy caper The Man from U.N.C.L.E., starring a pair of guys we last saw as the new Superman and the new Lone Ranger.

Have a cool rest of the Summer!

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