The pandemic may have spoiled the summer movie season, but that doesn’t mean there are no summer movies.
It’s been a summer movie season like no other. Some would say we didn’t have a summer movie season, with the likes of Maverick: Top Gun 2, Fast and Furious 9, Black Widow, Tenet, and many other highly anticipated blockbusters being punted to the future.
Yet, there were still many movies released.
Out of necessity, the practice of straight-to-streaming exploded this summer. Less than a year ago, many considered such a release as a monstrous curiosity that would destroy cinemas (see Scorsese’s The Irishman), but when there are no cinemas, or a communal viewing experience isn’t safe, distributors and streaming services combined to give cinephiles a way to experience new movies.
And some of them were really, really good!
Here’s a list of “new summer movies” I saw and most certainly recommend*:
After Hot Rod and That’s My Boy I have avoided Andy Samberg like a COVID-19 ward, but good word of mouth had me visit Palm Springs and it was a good trip! There have been many movies to try and take the Groundhog Day repeating-day conceit, but I can think of none that had such interesting characters. It was funny and had some character-driven plot twists that kept me engaged.
If you see only one repeating-day film, see Groundhog Day. But if you want to see another, head to Palm Springs.
It’s the dearth of new entertainment that led me to watch Dave Bautista’s entry in the “muscle man with kids” genre. Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger broke out of his big-guns stereotype and became a family-friendly name with Kindergarten Cop it seems every wrestler-turned-actor has tried to copy that success. Some of these comedies work (I enjoyed The Game Plan),and some don’t (Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny).
After trying the insipid Stuber I wasn’t inclined to see My Spy but… I did. And it exceeded all my expectations. The chemistry between Bautista and child actress Chloe Coleman feels very natural, and the plot avoids several of the Kindergarten Cop cliches.
In a year that also brought the near-unwatchable Playing with Fire, My Spy was a fun diversion.
When this was intended for theatrical release the trailers made the film look funny. Kumail Nanjiani really impressed me with The Big Sick so I’m more inclined to see his work (though with Stuber that was a poor choice).
Lovebirds follows Nanjiani and costar Issa Rae as a couple on the verge of break-up. Well, nothing brings the spark back into a releationship as being on the run for a murder you didn’t commit. The result is the couple trying to find the real killer, uncovering a major conspiracy of Eyes Wide Shut orgiastic proportions, and making me laugh the whole way through.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge
It shouldn’t be difficult to make a Mortal Kombat movie. The stories are pre-written for the characters, the filmmakers then need to dramatize those stories in an interesting way.
Legends differentiates itself from previous Kombat movies by focusing on Scorpion. He was a near-mute ninja in the live-action films. Here, he is the protagonist.
The story is pretty rote. Scorpion is a felled warrior resurrected for revenge (see also: The Crow, The Wraith, Spawn, etc.) but the plot does have a few twists. For fans of the previous Kombat games or movies, seeing the classic characters brings a nostalgic thrill.
The only drawback is the animated action. It’s well-drawn, but either you like cartoon fighting or you don’t, and it never thrilled me in any animated form. I much prefer seeing stuntmen do well-choreographed martial arts to seeing artists’ renderings.
It’s not at Flawless Victory, but Scorpion wins.
*For the sake of this list, only movies released as movies were included. Mini-series that really played like long movies, like Defending Jacob, were excluded becuase their episodic format labels them “TV Series”
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