By Hollywood's curious metric, we're about halfway through the summer. And so far, it's mostly been a parade of failures that makes the Trail of Tears look like a fun run. For every Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, there's been a Mummy, a Baywatch and a ... what was it called again? Alien: Covenant? (That was a thing, right?) Oh, and forget the PR fog that states many of these pictures will technically qualify as hits after the international box office is figured in. A studio exec cares primarily about impressing one key demographic: Beverly Hills hookers. And they tend to only recognize pictures they can actually see in their off hours after the first three days.
The MVP of the season is Patty Jenkins, who pulled off a not-so-minor miracle by adapting a DC Comics character into a film that was adored by critics and audiences alike. If we lived in a society that was remotely free of gender bias (SPOILER: We don't), Jenkins would have awakened on the Monday following Wonder Woman's debut to find her nightstand creaking under the weight of a stack of offers to shepherd the cinematic adventures of every remaining character in the DC Universe. Instead, all we've heard is that she's a shoo-in to return for Wonder Woman 2. Seriously? The woman essentially raises the Titanic, and her only reward is that she gets to keep her job? Zack Snyder turned out one DC-derived picture after another that managed to underperform commercially while drawing the brickbats of critics and fans – and Warner Bros. responded every time by giving him the keys to an even more sanctified area of their kingdom. When they finally realized he had made them a laughingstock and hauled in Joss Whedon to salvage what he could of Justice League, they still sent out DC Entertainment head Geoff Johns to reassure the public that JL will still be "Zack Snyder's film." (This is "reassurance" in the sense that it's comforting to dwell on the increasing likelihood of President Mike Pence.) I ask you, would any female director with a similar record of failure have been propped up so visibly and strenuously? Trick question: She never would have been allowed to fail more than once. (PG-13)
Opening Wednesday, June 21:
Transformers: The Last Knight As I've noted before in these pages, attempting a marriage of Transformer-brand tech and Arthurian derring-do seems like kind of a self-defeating exercise. "Suits of armor: They're exactly what meets the eye!" Yet that's exactly the point of this fifth installment, which purports to reveal the secret history of the Transformers on Earth. And if the medieval setting and trappings didn't seem discordant enough, there's also apparently a visit to the World War II era in the offing. In fact, the producers got in hot water for redressing the real-life home of Winston Churchill as Hitler's headquarters – which, shall we say, did not go down a treat with veterans who were sought for comment by the U.K. tabloids. In his picture's defense, director Michael Bay said, "People have not been fortunate enough to read the script." By "people," I'm assuming he meant the actors, the line producer and the director of photography. (PG-13)
Dean Comedian Demetri Martin's first directorial outing tells the story of a cartoonist who has to make some major life decisions after his mother passes away. In addition to sitting behind the camera for the first time and performing the starring role, Martin also generated the character's sketches, which have been hailed as delightful. In fact, the entire picture has been received in some quarters as a fresh and promising take on familiar subject matter; it even won the audience award for best narrative feature at the recent Tribeca Film Festival. So of course its release in Orlando entailed getting dumped with no advance warning on a Friday when six other films were opening. There's no business like show business, huh, Demetri? (R)
The Recall Ostensible star Wesley Snipes is reportedly absent for long stretches of this low-budget sci-fi thriller, which finds humanity subjected to mass abductions by extraterrestrials. You gotta give it points, though, for titling itself after something that happens to tainted dog food. (R)