As a kid, summer break was the axis around which everything turned. The months leading up to the freedom of June, July and August felt less never-ending to me than as if week by week, from late April to late May, a little more godawful baggage accumulated over the preceding months was being jettisoned by the side of the road. That last week, even when you still had to go to school, afforded bliss, the long year about to be over which, even if you didn’t realize it yet at that age, was always just as good as the long year actually being over. Of course, all of this is precisely why the eventual return to school at the end of summer was so excruciating, the thought of having to go through another nine months simply being too much to bear. The start of school generally coincided with Labor Day which generally coincides with my birthday and is partly why, to this day, the anniversary of my birth still triggers an ache of melancholy, just as the end of May triggers an anticipatory tingle as if, for a few fleeting hours or days, I have lulled myself into thinking summer break is about to start. But it doesn’t start because it never starts because summer break is long gone because time is a straight line with no end in sight except for the end I don’t want to think about.
Yet even as summer break became defunct in my world, remnants of those three months off could still sometimes be found in the space of a summer movie season. When I would catch glimpses of the Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview issue on the rack at Borders, I’d get the flutter like I’d get when I’d catch the first glimpse of the clay at Roland Garros for the French Open which meant just one more week of school. I’d buy that magazine and devour it, mentally mapping out the blockbusters that I found most appealing, memorizing release dates. And even though at younger ages, when I was less discerning, or less critical, I could still sometimes see these movies and come away underwhelmed, there was nevertheless always a sense of escape intertwined with those cinematic experiences, settling into an air conditioned theater during a muggy Midwestern summer, my own personal Tastee-Freez. In there, in the dark, away from it all, I could get the sensation of summer break two hours at a time.
These days that sensation is gone. It’s no longer escape I feel at most summer movies; it’s apathy; it’s like being in school and wanting to be out. I terribly miss the erstaz summer break that summer movies once provided. I miss it so much that when a friend remarked that he rarely reads this blog’s reviews because they are not movies that interested him, I strongly considered upping my game this summer movie season. I would see them all, I decided! I would stay on top of the trends, review my feelings and wake up the summer break echoes by way of summer movie season echoes. Then I got a look at the summer movie season schedule which felt like the summer break when I didn’t even really get break because I had to go to driver’s ed and was therefore given the driver’s ed manual on the last day of school which made me want to cry. Everything is awful. Except, of course, for the traditional Best Case scenarios for each of this summer movie season’s biggest names. This is all we have left.
Summer Movie Preview: Best/Worst Case Scenarios
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12). Best Case: Keira Knightley makes a surprise appearance, in blue paint, to bequeath, in a sense, the title of Guinevere to Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, revealing that the Guinevere of these movies is sort of like the Dread Pirate Roberts, a rotating cast of Dread Pirate Roberts’ in which the role is passed along from generation to generation. Worst Case: Keira Knightley does not appear. David Beckham does appear, but without Victoria. The whole thing is less “Excalibur” and more “A Knight’s Tale”, with Arthur and Lancelot doing kung fu and the round table re-imagined as less a table than a Robinson Crusoe-ish gathering place in the trees of Brocéliande.
Alien: Covenant (May 19). Best Case: Katherine Waterston lives ‘til the end. James Franco is revealed as the evil android and dies early by falling down an elevator shaft, soap opera style. Worst Case: Director Ridley Scott takes so much time explaining what happened between “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant” that he realizes he has foregone his promised return to old school horror movie roots. So, with ten minutes left in “Alien: Covenant”, a piano falls from the spaceship ceiling and kills everybody except James Franco. Billy Crudup is revealed as the evil android.
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“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (May 26). Best Case: With the movie partially taking place in the Bermuda Triangle, upon its arrival there, every showing of the movie, not unlike the USS Cyclops, suddenly vanishes right in the middle of itself. Worst Case: A surprise late movie cameo of a bald Matt Damon as John Glenn immediately ignites speculation that the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” will go to space. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Leaving Orbit.”
Wonder Woman (June 2). Best Case: Placing Wonder Woman opposite Superman, director Patty Jenkins melds
The Mummy (June 9). Best Case: In a twist, the 2017 “The Mummy” takes place in 1926 wherein Tom Cruise is led to Hamunaptra by hapless Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor) of the 1999 “The Mummy” where, sure enough, Cruise comes face to face with, well, The Mummy, yes, but also Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and John Hannah who reprise their roles even as they are “Rogue One”-d to look like their 1999 selves. Fraser and Cruise jockey over who gets to save the day. Getting bored, Weisz, in a “Blazing Saddles”-ish twist, leaves mid-movie to start work on her own version of “Cleopatra” one set over. Worst Case: Ethan Hunt begets Jack Reacher begets Nick Morton.
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Spider Man: Homecoming (July 7). Best Case: Peter Parker and Tony Stark, whose superpowers have mysteriously been lost for the duration of the film, are forced to circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon to make to Peter Parker’s high school reunion at homecoming in time. Worst Case: Boldly forgoing the structure of a Hollywood blockbuster, director Jon Watts, a longtime Rick Reilly fan, imagines his film as a feature length episode of the ill-fated ESPN “Homecoming with Rick Reilly”, in which Tony Stark interviews Peter Parker in his hometown.
Dunkirk (July 21). Best Case: Surprise! The movie opens with Christopher Nolan explaining he bet Joe Wright that he, Nolan, could make a better Dunkirk movie in over two hours than Wright could manage in five minutes. “Alas,” Nolan says, “I lost the bet. So here’s the five minute Dunkirk scene from ‘Atonement.’” Worst Case: An ardent proponent of the expositional flashback, Christopher Nolan, concerned about conveying all the necessary backstory leading up to Dunkirk, makes a movie that just is an expositional flashback, two and a half hours of 65mm expositional flashback.
The Emoji Movie (July 28).