The Movie Scab: The Big Summer of Suck
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
The Big Summer of Suck: 0 Acks!
"Beware the ides of March, f'r aft'r the big summ'r of sucketh cometh!"
--Lupercal the soothsayer, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.
Have you seen Julius Caesar? It’s about a movie studio exec who wants to become the monarch/dictator of Hollywood, i.e., the Head of Development for the Big Six, baby. Early in the play, Caesar exits a movie theatre munching on a bucket of hot buttered popcorn and a guy named Lupercal, a blind, homeless soothsayer from Burbank, warns him that the summer movie season is going to be a total disaster. Now, traditionally, summer movie season starts in May, but as far as Hollywood is concerned, summer starts whenever the hell they want it to, sometimes as early as mid-March. This is why Lupercal warns Caesar about the Ides of March, which falls on the 15th - after that, he predicts a tidal wave of movie crap is coming and it will last the entire summer season, one crappy movie after another. He calls it the Big Summer of Suck. Caesar is skeptical at first, but the soothsayer’s credibility is strengthened when Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate Films releases The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Divergent 3 or 4 or 50 or whatever the hell number it is) on March 18th - pretty darn close to the 15th, by golly! And, as it turns out, the movie is an enormous pile of moviemaking crap, an undeniable herald of what’s to come. Lupercal goes even further, predicting that because the summer movies will be made so poorly, by summer’s end the mountain of crap produced by them will no longer be able to sustain its own weight. It will collapse, falling in on itself. When that happens, a black hole will form so that by September the only thing anyone will remember about the summer movie season of 2016 is the rather unpleasant sound of a black hole sucking. That being the case, Lupercal suggests Caesar might want to wise-up and postpone his hostile takeover of Hollywood, which Caesar does in fact do. He heeds Lupercal’s warning and jets out of town for an extended vacation in the Bahamas. The play ends with a Blaming Event, live streamed on Youtube: The filmmakers responsible for the Big Summer of Suck gather at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and blame other people and/or things for their addiction to mediocrity and complete and total moviemaking failure. They blame the people who pay their bills (movie fans), Donald Trump, Trump supporters, George Bush, Hillary Clinton (Hollywood’s Bernie Sanders supporters), Bernie Sanders (Hollywood’s Hillary Clinton supporters), capitalism, the U.S. Constitution, Man Made Global Warming, aliens from outer space, Christianity and Judaism in General, Canada, their own children, people who eat meat, and, of course, Don Knotts, the master global manipulator who taught George Soros everything he knows. When their scapegoating crescendos, the black hole they created is so sickened by their behavior it can’t take it anymore and sucks them in, vertically stretching and horizontally compressing them into long thin shapes of crap, known in astrophysics and movie circles as “crapification.” And Julius Caesar? He kicks it in the Bahamas, playing Pokémon GO.
It’s interesting to note that a lost scene from Julius Caesar involving two panicky Disney execs named Cassius and Brutus was found after Shakespeare’s death and it’s worth mentioning here. The scene suggests a different ending to the play. Cassius and Brutus meet in secret to figure out how to convince Caesar to become the monarch/dictator of Hollywood so that he will take the blame for the Big Summer of Suck and not them. But Brutus is a whiny snowflake (read Generation Millennial) and has doubts, so Cassius must persuade him, a pivotal moment in the lost scene. As Cassius and Brutus go back and forth on how to get Caesar to do what they want, Cassius says this: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
In other words, dear moviegoers, we are the ones who worship Hollywood’s Golden Calf of Mediocrity. We are the ones who lay our hard-earned money down, walk into a darkened movie theatre and allow ourselves to get shat upon every summer. We are the ones that bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo - to paraphrase the Ancient Booer from The Princess Bride.
You can blame Hollywood all you like for the god-awful movies that came out this summer and, true enough, that blame is justified, but the fault is also ours.
Now, does knowing this change anything? Nope. And don’t hold out any hope for summer 2017. If you think Hollywood and millions of moviegoers have learned their lesson, I can tell you that the 2017 summer movie line-up is so similar to 2016, well, let’s just say lather, rinse, vomit, repeat.
We’ve become so Roman.
This means, then, that Hollywood is killing itself (with a little help from us). It’s going to be a long, slow, painful death moviegoers will have to suffer through for many years to come, of course, but Hollywood is committing suicide. It’s apt that one of the summer’s most successful movies, and one of the worst movies of the year, has the word suicide in its title.
And now you understand why Monkey Boy and I stopped reviewing movies this summer. After The Legend of Tarzan, I was so disgusted with the poor execution and PC propaganda and Monkey Boy was so tired of issuing out zero Acks!, one after the other, we decided to wait until the end of the summer movie season to sum it all up.
And so, to wit: Here are the movies from the Big Summer of Suck, in no particular order. Monkey Boy gave all of the movies listed below 0 Acks!
Alice Through the Looking Glass (Alice in Wonderland 2).
X-Men: Apocalypse (X-Men 5 or 6 or 50 or whatever the hell the number it is).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.
Independence Day: Resurgence (Independence Day 2).
Pixar’s Finding Dory (Finding Nemo 2).
Now You See Me 2.
The Legend of Tarzan.
Ice Age: Collision Course (Ice Age 5 or 6 or 50 or whatever the hell the number it is).
Star Trek: Beyond (Star Trek Reboot 3).
Jason Bourne (The Bourne Identity 4).
There are more, many, many more, but there’s no point in listing them here because they're all the same: Most were expensive sequels, remakes, reboots, based on video games or comics. What about the smaller films in the list, you ask? Well, they were either shameless, predictable propaganda (Money Monster), sequels, remakes or too damn clever for their own artsty-fartsy good (The Lobster).
But some of these movies made a lot of money, you say. So what? Making tons of money doesn’t mean they’re any good.
Suicide Squad is a great example, so let's go there. The movie trailer was better than the movie - I have to be fair and praise the marketing team. Go marketing team! You tricked us, boy-howdy. The trailer promised an entirely different movie - as it turns out, Suicide Squad is so middle-of-the-road-mainstream it’s kind of startling. It’s the poster child of banality. But the marketing team made you think rule-breaking in the order of Kingsman: The Secret Service or maybe Deadpool. What you got was same-oh same-oh uninspired hokum, and come on! The third act is so terrible, from sloppy storytelling to data dumps in the dialogue telling us everything we need to know to pointless secondary characters doing pointless things to boring non-surprises and superhero comic book movie clichés, Monkey Boy gnawed on his tail just to get through it, a nervous habit formed from watching too many crappy movies. At one point, he began to choke and I had to apply the Heimlich Maneuver just so that he could watch Suicide Squad to the bloody and bitter end. He did not thank me that.
But, to drive Cassius' point home, Suicide Squad is by far one of the worst films of 2016 and lo! And behold! It finds itself the fifth biggest moneymaker of the summer. That means lots and lots of you went to see it. (So far, the big money is nothing to celebrate when you add marketing costs, reshoots and the fact that Tom Hardy wisely dropped out after reading the screenplay.) Suicide Squad “officially” cost $175 million to make and all that means is no one really knows how much it cost, other than it cost a whole helluva lot. It also means to break even, it’ll have to haul in at least $800 million worldwide. Here’s what "break even" means: "To reach a point in a business venture when the profits are equal to the costs.” So if it reaches $800 million, that doesn’t mean the movie is a financial success. It means it’s not a complete and total failure. If it makes one dollar over $800 million, they’ve made a profit of one dollar. Right now, it’s pulling in at $679 million or so. If I was a Hollywood exec involved with this movie, I’d be doing more than wringing my hands. I’d be planning to move to Iceland and disappear.
Now, I have to stop here for a moment to comment about some of the Suicide Squad actors because of the hype. I respect these actors, but come on. What was the big freakin' deal? Will Smith? OK, he tried, I guess, sort of. But so what? Margot Robbie? Same thing. But it's Jared Leto as the Joker that really kills it. Oh. My. Ack! What a missed opportunity. Talk about hype and a whole lot of nothing afterward. He may have been committed to the part as an actor, went all Mr. Method and stayed in character during the shoot, God bless him, but you don't get to see any of that on screen. The Joker may look cool, but none of it matters. All you get is a cartoon without any depth, a paper thin caricature. And that's too bad.
Jason Bourne hasn't done as well as Suicide Squad, but similar to Suicide Squad, watching it was like being force-fed canned spinach. I hate canned spinach. I will not willingly eat canned spinach. You’d have to force it down my throat and that’s exactly what director Paul Greengrass did. Similar to the behavior modification that poor London Droog Alex DeLarge was forced to endure in A Clockwork Orange, Greengrass tied me to a chair and made me watch Jason Bourne. And once again, praise the marketing team for getting us to want to see another clone - which explains why there is not an original thought in the movie. Like J.J. Abrams, Greengrass ate a better movie (The Bourne Identity) and then regurgitated it on the screen so that it looked just like the better movie but lacked its soul. Greengrass could have pulled a George Miller instead, recreating the myth and then reinventing it like Miller did in Mad Max: Fury Road (Mad Max 4), but no. Greengrass gave us a plagiarized clone, the Jason Bourne version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
And 2016 had gotten off to such a promising start.
It did. It really did. Early 2016 gave us Deadpool, The Witch, Risen, Disney's The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, among a handful of others that were pretty decent. Inspired by possibility, I remember Monkey Boy and I thinking that maybe, just maybe, the movies this summer would rise above the Magic Christian’s sewage-filled swimming pool and actually be... good for a change.
Boy, were we wrong. I guess that’s what we get for being hopeful. Thanks, Hollywood, for reminding us that placing hope in you and the movies is about as smart as sticking your face in a Ninja blender.
So this summer, Hollywood threw itself into the Magic Christian’s sewage-filled swimming pool with reckless abandon, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on its movies and overpaid, overweening movie stars - all of which will be forgotten faster than you can say who won Best Actor and Actress in 2016? Do you know? I don't! But none of this was surprising - disappointing, yes, but not surprising. As usual, they wanted us to join them in the pool because we usually do.
But as Lupercal predicted, turns out the summer movies were so poorly executed and so freakin’ familiar (sequels, remakes, reboots) that some of us movie lemmings decided not to jump into the pool of crap this time - a happy surprise - which caused some of those awfully expensive movies to tank at the box office.
Movie insiders tell me the studios are in a bit of a panic. Hollywood is scratching its collective head, wondering why their big summer tent-pole movies failed. Well. It’s simple and I can tell you. When you abandon basic storytelling technique, character development, even the rules of screenwriting 101, when you dumb down your movies and turn them into propaganda, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on special effects, actors and whatever else costs so much to make movies these days, the movies are going to suck.
Did Hollywood release a good movie this summer? Yes. Monkey Boy and I saw one, a four Acker! And we will review it next time.
Let's hope the fall movie season is better than last summer, but it's such a low bar, I don't think that's going to be a problem.
My rating for the Big Summer of Suck: Skip the summer movies (except that one we'll discuss next time) and go and see William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. After the show, sneak backstage and thank the actor who played Lupercal for helping you save money and your soul from being sucked into Hollywood's black hole of crap.