Thursday, May 15, 2014

Summer Blockbusters

The summer season of action movies kicks off a week from tomorrow.

The film Jaws has been credited with starting the summer blockbuster trend.  Released in 1975, it featured an enormous shark that plagued a small fishing community.  Jaws set a new record for ticket sales, and executives at movie studios took note.  Big action pictures have been released every summer since.

Below I report on this summer's blockbuster-wannabes, all of which involve violent battles or, more often, full-out warfare.  These movies also differ from Jaws in a significant way: None of them is based in reality.  Fantasy worlds, fantasy characters and fantasy wars abound.

Maybe this is because the presumed audience for these films is young men between the ages of 15 and 30, maybe 32.  One speculation is that these viewers have spent so much of their childhood and adolescent years playing video games that they have developed a familiarity with, or maybe a preference for, alternate realities.

In one newish trend, some of this year's movies feature female heroines.  Maybe film producers sense a broadening audience.

May 23

 X-Men: Days of Future Past

The seventh (by my count) in the popular series:  Set in a strange and dystopic future, includes mutants in concentration camps and giant robots called Sentinels.  As the film opens, most of the X-Men have been hunted and killed.

May 30


Angelina Jolie in the title role plays "Disney's most beloved villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty."

This one may have crossover appeal to young women as well as young men.

June 13

All Cheerleaders Die

This seems to have been released in some markets last year.

According to critic Dennis Harvey, "This saga of ill-fated pom-pom girls who return from death to wreak vengeance will amuse if not wow jaded horror fans."

Raters on IMDb gave it 5.4 on a 10-point scale. loved it, though, calling it a "wickedly fun and savage look at high school and gender politics, all with a supernatural bent."

Again, possible chick appeal.

June 13

The Rover

"Set in a world 10 years following the collapse of the western economic system ... the rule of law has disintegrated and life is cheap," says Movie Insider.

Violence ensues.

Shot in the Australian Outback.

Film is reported to be much anticipated.  Maybe people want to see if Robert Pattinson can act.

June 27

Transformers 4: Age of Extinction

Another war of good and evil in the movies inspired by the Transformers line of toys.

The last Transformers movie was the fifth highest-grossing film of all time.  Another one was inevitable.


Based on a graphic novel.  Snowpiercer is a train containing the only surviving life on earth after a failed experiment to stop global warming has instead created an ice age.  On board, a revolt begins.

Released in some markets last year.  Viewers gave it 7/10 on IMDb, 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

July 11

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

A second prequel to the 1968 movie.  In this one, Caesar and his fellow genetically evolved apes are threatened by human survivors from the 2011 film.

War seems inevitable.

July 18

Jupiter Ascending

Mila Kunis (Jupiter), a Chicago woman who works as a toilet cleaner turns out to be "next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos."

Before she can take her destined role, she is targeted for assassination by the Queen of the Universe.

Maybe girls will like this one, too.

July 25


In a new challenge after completing his mythical 12 labors, Hercules is called away from his post-retirement mercenary work by the king of Thrace and his daughter.  His fight: "for good to triumph and justice to prevail."

Stars Dwayne Johnson, based on a popular comic book series.

August 1

Guardians of the Galaxy

Introducing a new superhero, Peter Quill, from another Marvel Comics series.  The opponent is "Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe."

August 29

Leprechaun: Origins

A much darker reboot of earlier Leprechaun films, including one from 1993.

In the earlier movie, described as a horror comedy, "An evil, sadistic leprechaun goes on a killing rampage in search of his beloved pot of gold," according to IMDb, whose raters gave it a 4.6/10.