' ' Cinema Romantico: A Walk Down Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview Lane

Thursday, May 27, 2021

A Walk Down Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview Lane

Back in the day, I looked forward to the Entertainment Weekly summer movie preview issue almost as much as I looked forward to the summer movie season itself. If Santa gave you a Christmas list rather than vice-versa, like if he dropped off a Sears and Roebuck catalog at the doorstep of every good little girl and boy sometime after Thanksgiving, so you could go through it and check off what you wanted, that would have been like EW’s summer movie preview issue, this cornucopia of cinematic treats from which to choose. I remember getting that issue, from the Borders or the Barnes & Noble, the B. Dalton or the Waldenbooks, and telling myself the whole way home that I was allowed to only peruse one month a day – May’s movies tonight, June’s movies tomorrow, etc. I would never stick to that, of course. By the end of that first night, I already knew the major releases by heart and then I’d go through them again, and then I’d go through the smaller Other Movies section where all sorts of under-the-radar releases were given a one-sentence synopsis, taking notes on the ones that looked most intriguing, because those movies would never show up in a central Iowa movie theater, just at the video store eight or nine months later.

That’s all gone, of course. There is no need to wait for a special magazine issue because movie news is instantaneous now. I’m not saying it was better then. I remember watching movies and hoping – hoping – certain trailers would be shown because if I didn’t see them then, I would have to wait until the next movie I attended. In 2013 I could watch that first “Bling Ring” trailer 132 times the first day it dropped. At the same, though, there is nothing today that matches the all-at-once feeling of an EW Summer Movie Preview, myriad movie titles just suddenly dropped in your lap. And maybe because I’m looking forward to this summer movie season more than any in recent memory, simply because of what we went through last year when I couldn’t go to the movies at all, I find myself yearning for that EW issue more than ever. The best I can do these days is revisit the ones from the past. My past. Meaning, of course, the 1990s, when my love for movies bloomed. 

Take a walk with me...   


You couldn’t put Nicole on the cover too? Nitwits.


Woah. Now there’s a time capsule. What was it Willie Stokes said? “They can’t all be winners, can they?” 


Sort of a microcosm of most of these EW covers, where despite Michelle Pfeiffer in the Catwoman suit, they’re essentially selling the movies based on the stars. 


A little disappointed here, EW going back to the same well as 1992, though you can detect the shifting marketing dynamics. The velociraptor gets the spot that the top of the page, there, with Meg directly below. Meg would get completely shunted these days. (Whoopi’s on this cover too for “Made in America”, which I remember specifically because it’s what I was forced to buy a ticket for after I tried and failed, at the age of 15, to buy a ticket for Mario Van Peebles’ R-rated “Posse.” It was one of the first times I remember thinking: “Oh, all the funny stuff was in the commercials.”) 


If they had Who Should Have Been on the Cover? lists like they have Who Should Have Won the Heisman Trophy? lists, EW probably would have penciled in Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves for “Speed” over Billy Crystal’s “City Slickers” sequel, “The Legend of Curly’s Gold.” Indeed, “City Slickers II” finished third at the box office the weekend it opened, behind “Speed” and “The Flintstones.” Still, I like imagining Billy Crystal doing an expensive photo shoot somewhere in the American West and then the EW finally just settling on this shot of him in a studio in Burbank holding a rope. 


“Bridges of Madison County”, filmed due south of the county where I grew up, gets the cover over “Batman Forever?” It was a different time.


What the hell is even going on here? “A Time to Kill”, which Sandra Bullock is shilling for, was set in Mississippi, not west Texas. And her character was from Boston! This appears to be an attempt to sell the movie more through sex appeal and I guess whoever was in charge of defining sex appeal on behalf of EW in 1996 had a cowboy fetish.


Working as a concessionist at the Cobblestone 9 (vive la Cobblestone!), the summer of 1997 was the greatest summer of my life. And I will always consider it the summer of “Men in Black”, listening to Will Smith’s hip-hop theme song, like, eight times a night as I shimmied to it while sweeping up popcorn. And this walk down EW summer movie preview lane is a reminder that these covers merely took the temperature of the room before the season truly started, that quality was not grandfathered in before the movies actually screened, that we, the audience, not just The Critics™, could stand up and call crap crap. This also marks the three-year trend of two stars out of character on the EW summer movie preview cover. 


Indeed, here is next year’s cover with Ben and Liv, shilling for “Armageddon.” And man, Ben. Dude’s been through a lot in the years since, including this year’s rekindling of the early-aughts Bennifer phenomenon with Jennifer Lopez, which was three or four years after this, if you can believe it. It’s nice to see Gen-X Ben again. His facial hair, in fact, does not look altogether different from the facial hair I was trying and failing, miserably, to pull off during the summer of 1998. In fact, let’s just move on.


This is a pitch right over the plate, I know, Julia Roberts getting the cover, along with Hugh Grant, even though 1999 was the summer of “The Phantom Menace.” But in the space of that cheeky “And, Oh Yeah, Star Wars” subhead, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a lesson, the glimmer of what could be, a d├ętente between IP-driven franchises and The Star Machine. If only. The whole point of this list, after all, was to feel a little wistful.

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