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David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks of Summer: Glory Days


We’re all used to sequels, remakes, reboots, rehashes, reruns in the summer. But as a 50-year-old man, this summer strikes me as not only being the same old, same old, but a full-on parade of films coming directly from the imaginations (or lack thereof) of people my age, give or take a few years.

There are three tiers to this celebration of middle age. Going farthest back, Tier One is made up of films made from TV shows that We grew on back when there were 3 networks and no more than 4 or 5 active VHF channels in most cities. Mission: Impossible 5 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Tier Two is the direct track… actual sequels, reboots or relaunches of films from the 1980s and 1990s – Mad Max, Poltergeist, The Terminator, Jurassic Park.

Tier Three is very, very familiar homage, represented by Straight Outta Compton, Pixels, Pan, Dope, and Tomorrowland.

I think 11 actually is a trend.

But mostly, it’s timing. 20 and 30 years later, everything old is new again… plus, for those of us for whom it is actually old, there is built-in love.

You can expect a lot of writing about retreads. How harsh it gets – or doesn’t – will end up being based on the box office. Even film critics eventually submit to peer pressure.

But I would argue – and often do – that at over a hundred years old, it is now time to show the respect to cinema as a mature art form, as we do literature and theater, where reproduction, recycling, and homage are the norm.

Yes, there is a need for The New. And as summer will tend to bring out in studios, even The New may end up being rather familiar. This summer, new-ish product includes franchise or potential franchises like The Marvel Universe, Pitch Perfect, Insidious, Spy, The Transporter, Ted, Magic Mike, Despicable Me, the Amy Schumer Universe in Trainwreck, The John Green Universe. Only the last two are truly “new,” even if there has already been a John Green-based hit. Still, all of these have launched (or come of age, as Marvel has, in the CG era) during this millennium… the last 15 years.

I am excited for some of the movies referenced in the last paragraph. But I am more excited about reliving the first blush of my adult-ish movie love. I remember where I was when I saw Mad Max (AMC Omni, Miami), The Road Warrior (Mann Plaza, Westwood), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Loew’s 84th, NYC), Poltergeist (170th St Theater, Sunny Isles), The Terminator (HBO), Terminator 2 (Cinerama Dome, LA), Jurassic Park (McClurg Court, Chicago).

And I will remember where I saw Ghostbusters (and that they shot around the corner from me in NYC where they built those fake cracked streets) when it is remade. Then the Michael Fassbender remake of Tootsie will remind me of another theater. Then, the new Rocky. And Conan. And The Toy. And Tron. There was a bad remake of Trading Places with Get Hard this last week. When will we get Zach Galifianakis as Mr. Mom? And the ultimate meta-kitsch… a remake of the self-reflective classic, The Big Chill?

But this summer is the first giant wave of my movie coming-of-age crashing on the shore of my middle age.

Tomorrowland screams 80s Spielberg to me. Dope feels like a modern response to Car Wash. Pan is the latest spin on Peter and Hook. Pixels seems like a straight up rip-off of Ghostbusters with a Wreck It Ralph twist. And Straight Outta Compton looks like it’s going to be a piece of “our” personal recent history… a Boyz In The Hood (1991) meets The Blues Brothers.

I was a little kid when I stayed up after my bedtime to watch “Mission: Impossible” on TV. And “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” was a fave in UHF reruns, between “The Saint” and “The Prisoner.”

There are youngsters (under 30s) who know these films from DVD or cable or whatever and are excited about the return. But most audiences under 20 will truly be being sold this product for the first time. Or they will be force-fed  older versions in anticipation of the new ones… but the new ones will be “theirs,” just as the first three Star Wars films belong to one generation and the second three another.

I have to admit… I am kinda excited. I want to feel the sheer joy that I felt all those years ago, the first time around. Really, that’s what I want to feel every time I watch a movie.

But déjà vu and joy together? So looking forward to it…

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33 Responses to “20 Weeks of Summer: Glory Days”

  1. Russ Banks says:

    “Dope feels like a modern response to Car Wash.”

    Odd comparison. Was Car Wash the first movie you could think of that had black people in it or something?

  2. PcChongor says:

    Judging by the recent trailer, “Cooley High” probably would have been a better comparison.

  3. Pete B says:

    Darn it Dave, you tricked me with the Fassbender one. I actually quit reading your article to go check IMDB about Tootsie. After Frank, I could picture him pulling that off too.

  4. MAGGA says:

    So the absence of even a remote sense of creativity and brainpower is now a good thing. OK. Looking forward to Compton, but summer cinema is useless dreck. But Mad Men and Louie are back next week, so screw movies

  5. cadavra says:

    Does THE TRANSPORTER, after three films and a current TV series, really still fall in the “new-ish” category, regardless of how you’re using “new?”

  6. EtGuild2 says:

    It just got bumped out of summer into Labor Day. Time to lower expectations.

    I feel like some New Line exec moved the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” reboot to July while they toked up reading this column. Yeah! Nostalgia Is In, Baby!

  7. chris says:

    That’s not what he’s saying, MAGGA, and I think he makes that point fairly clearly. Also, it’s hard to know without seeing it, but I suspect it’s not quite fair to include “Tomorrowland” in this discussion, anyway.

  8. movieman says:

    I was told yesterday that Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha” (one of the few summer movies I’m genuinely looking forward to) isn’t screening prior to its May 29th release.
    Yet “San Andreas” (opening the same day as the Crowe) IS being screened in advance?
    WTF?!?! This has got to be a mistake, right?

  9. Stella's Boy says:

    Isn’t Aloha supposed to be terrible? Hasn’t it been delayed at least once? No advanced screenings would support that. Anyway I recall reading something about how it’s no good. It sure looks terrible. San Andreas looks way better.

  10. Monco says:

    “Mad Men and Louie are back next week, so screw movies”. This has got to the most annoying sentiment expressed by the media and supposed movie fans. The incessant “TV is better than movies” chant has become a cliche.

  11. Stella's Boy says:

    Yeah why can’t you love both? There are a lot of movies to look forward to this summer, movies large and small and in between.

  12. MAGGA says:

    Monco, it’s a sentiment expressed by people who fell in love with movies, then watched as corporatism turned movies into a byproduct of pre-existing IP’s to the near-exclusion of everything else. There are plenty of good movies each year, usually when we get nearer to awards-time, but for evidence of why so many people keep using TV as an example of how things can be done (and yes, TV also includes reality shows and idiotic cable news and superhero stuff, but there’s also always something good-to-great on), just look at the movies discussed above. Things move in cycles and cinema will bounce back at some point, but it’s not helpful when good movie writers make excuses for the total capitulation of creativity in favor of brand recognition. Redoing plays makes sense, and homage is fine, but slapping the name of something the audience has fond memories of because it’s the only way to get a budget for mass entertainment is not paying respect to the form, it’s placing it below lunch boxes as a branch of a bigger product, with comic books or even amusement park rides being the actual cultural statement. Movies are becoming to comic books what novelizations were to movies, and it’s sad

  13. movieman says:

    SB- I thought those “rumors” were squelched when the (terrific) “Aloha” trailer finally appeared.
    You think “San Andreas” looks “way better”?
    I’ve groaned every time I’ve been forced to sit through the “SD” trailer; and, yeah, “terrible” doesn’t begin to describe how abysmal Rock’s disaster movie looks to me. (The “California Dreamin'” cover is pretty cool, though.)

  14. Stella's Boy says:

    I don’t think the rumors were squelched, and it was delayed right? Indeed I think Aloha’s trailer is weak. Does nothing at all for me. And didn’t the leaked Sony emails suggest it’s really bad? San Andreas looks like solid dumb fun, which is all I expect it to be. I’d much rather see San Andreas than Aloha.

    I am not a fan of comic book movies, but there’s still a lot to look forward to this summer.

  15. movieman says:

    Those leaked Sony emails contained a lot of trash-talking shit, most of it w/ zero credence, SB.
    I thought the “Aloha” trailer was a delight…every time I’ve seen it it puts a smile on my face. And I must’ve seen it 30 times already in the past few months.
    “Delayed” from when? The only release date I’d ever seen for “Aloha” was May 29th.
    Speaking of delayed movies, is it true that Clarius (Clarius, for godsakes) pushed the Bogdanovich movie back from May 1st where it might have been OK AARP counter-programming against “Marvel Comic Book Movie Sequel” #281?

  16. Stella's Boy says:

    Aloha was originally scheduled to be released on Christmas Day 2014 (filming began in the summer of 2013). Last summer the release date was delayed until May 29, 2015. So there’s your delay movieman. Trailer did nothing for me, seems to cover very familiar territory, but then again I’m not a huge Cameron Crowe fan.

  17. EtGuild2 says:

    My goodness, quite a bit of debate for a movie that clearly is aiming for middle of the road “We Bought A Zoo” territory. It’s been 14 years since Crowe even attempted to aim for something higher, and “Elizabethtown” merely drew undeserved savagery, because people were A. Determined to torpedo Orlando Bloom and B. couldn’t accept what Crowe was about to become: an adequate filmmaker that prefers his middle age targeted movies with a healthy dose of schmaltz. Switch the release dates for “Zoo” and “Elizabethtown,” and the reviews would trade places.

    At least he hasn’t become Rob Reiner, and the “Aloha” trailer doesn’t give hints that he’s headed there yet. Also, Emma Stone hasn’t made a shitty movie since she started doing leads after “Easy A” (yeah Gangster Squad wasn’t great…).

  18. Stella's Boy says:

    Hey it’s fun just to have a conversation here. I feel like it’s been ages since that’s occurred. I’ve posted as much today as the previous three months combined.

    “Also, Emma Stone hasn’t made a shitty movie since she started doing leads after “Easy A” (yeah Gangster Squad wasn’t great…).”

    Movie 43?

  19. EtGuild2 says:

    Fair enough. It’s Throwback Thursday, where we debate Cameron Crowe’s relevance on the exciting Hot Blog.

    Movie 43 is an anthology.

  20. Stella's Boy says:

    Seriously this place seems pretty dead most of the time.

  21. EtGuild2 says:

    True. This column, for instance, is straight up nuts. The amount spent on budgets for wide releases between May and August will probably skyrocket 50%+. But the scion of “sanity” in box office reporting is probably okay with rolling over since the marketing this year appeals to him.

    Luckily for him, when stuff he likes appears to do well no one remembers the arguments of “World War Z would need to gross a billion to make a profit,” while never acknowledging that “Tangled” cost more than “Avatar,” because hey, how can you hate “Tangled?”

  22. leahnz says:

    i thought this post was an april fool’s prank/satire but then i checked the date, DP are you smoking crack, put that shit down man.

    so it turns out ‘fury road’ IS a straight-up Max reboot, wt-everliving-f… step right up ladies and gents, and bring your blades because ice-skating in hell has begun! cue freaky calliope music, the creepiest of all musics

    (reading movie news these days i often feel like JLD/eva in that scene from ‘enough said’ when she’s sitting outside the changing rooms in the clothing boutique knitting and says to herself, “what is going on?”. what IS going on? once upon a time even mainstream film writers actually used this apparently shrivelling-on-the-vine mind tool called ‘imagination’ used to think up interesting plots and characters and scenarios that they then shaped and finessed into stories, honed using writing skills to create fresh, well-crafted tales underpinned by some universal themes and social commentary; yes there’s always been homage and nods to great ideas and stories that came before, but straight-up copying because writers just can’t seem to think of anything fucking new – with bean counters with the mentalities of 12yr olds and living in a fear bubble in charge – was FROWNED UPON. this can all go fuck itself)

    re: fury road, i imagine astraaaaains might be pretty damn peeved by this new max v2.0 (hell i’m slightly offended for them and i give the obnoxious desert rats across the ditch shit as much as possible). what ever one’s opinion of max he’s a bit of an ozzy icon and i didn’t hear many aus accents in the new trailer for this ‘do-over’: hardy sounds just like hardy (english. max is ENGLISH? hahaha), theron’s clearly a seppo (there you go astraaaains, some proper lingo for ya), the new more OTT version of the warrior humongous may have a slight oz twang but i’d have to listen again and i don’t wanna. what the hell? just super weird

  23. Hcat says:

    While I am a big fan of both Mad Men and Louie, it makes me snicker that someone would say “summer movies are out of original ideas and repetitive so I can’t wait for the eightieth to ninetieth episodes of an ongoing series (I hear Louie gets REALLY sad this year).” And I don’t see how newish soaps like house of cards or empire or scandal are less of a retread than a new mad max.

    I have been reading about television surpassing movies since the days of cheers, Miami vice and hill street, but lately the din of it just seems to getting smug and condescending.

  24. MAGGA says:

    Hcat, it’s as if every band became a cover-band, literally, and music fans were going crazy about how next year we had Sgt. Peppers, Pet Sounds, Dark Side of the Moon and Daydream Nation to look forward to, but in stereo and with the latest guitars, and if you point to a scene where bands are consistently turning out good, new records you’re being smug. TV shows are like bands with a sound thinking up new songs, movies are like my friends getting drunk and going to the karaoke bar.
    I’m into it when they make something like The Dark Knight, where there’s a familiar character but someone has a vision for it, but we’re at a point now where the basis for doing something is that the audience has already seen the movie and just want to reminisce. Hell, just put Poltergeist back in cinemas if new generations want to experience it, there’s literally no point in making it again. If they made The Sopranos again now with a new cast I’d see it as pointless, but in cinema it seems to be the entire point. Karaoke movies are the default and we all know it, it’s just a surprise to see someone I respect like Poland just give up and say “whatever, I was a kid when these movies came out and really, what’s changed?”

  25. Hcat says:

    Television is procedurals and soap operas, cops and funny overwhelmed moms. Same as it has ever been. Television is the only word that is actually classed up by placing the word public in front of it.

    Do you have no faith there will be an equivelant of boyhood this summer, only lovers left alive? You are looking at a list of the populist barnburners and declaring them inferior to the niche product on television. At least do apples to apples and compare the highest rated shows to the highest grossing films. I guarantee that just like every year gems will appear (can’t wait for earl and the dead girl), and if you can’t find something worthwhile it just that you are watching the wrong movies.

  26. PcChongor says:

    “House of Cards” getting a fourth season definitively proves that this “golden age” of tv is just as bad as film when it comes to stretching out a brand name way past its expiration date. And for as bland as any given “Transformers” or “love letter to the 80s” film is now, I’d take any of them over the same amount of time watching the most popular network shows.

  27. Bulldog68 says:

    For every Guardians of the Galaxy, there is Jupiter Ascending. For every Lord of the Rings, there is Seventh Son. For every Harry Potter and Twilight, there is Number Four and The Host.

    I yearn for the middle budgeted original summer movie that could have great break out potential as much as everyone else on this blog, but I also accept that it’s called Show Business for a reason. People lose jobs when big movies fail, and that’s the hard truth. DreamWorks breathed a sigh of relief when Home opened north of $50m. So their reasoning, albeit not a good one artistically, is why take chances on untested product. Even if the movie sucks, Jurassic Park will still get that opening weekend guaranteed.

    And what about that business model where the studio makes more money if your movie opens big and falls fast than opens smaller and has great legs. A movie that opens to $100m and eventually makes $200m is more profitable to the studio than a movie that opens to $40m and goes on to make $210m. (Given that the budgets are the same.)

    So we can gripe all we want, and I still do, but that’s he blockbuster business model now, and I foresee no change in the near future. In the meantime, I just hope for pleasurable experiences like Edge of Tomorrow, GotG, Apes, Days of Future Past, How to Train your Dragon, and others. It’s not all bad, no matter what they say. How quickly we forget that before the sequels came out, we more or less liked the first Transformers.

  28. Hcat says:

    And I am being optimistic to say its improving, but last year while box office was down ther was no John Carter or Battleship or ripd or Lone Ranger. The studios may be getting smarter about where they place their money, And sure max has been done before but as long as it rocks, so what. Just as we used to disperage television adaptations as soulless cash ins until untouchables hit the sweet spot, and fugitive, Christ the fugitive, what I wouldn’t give for a straight forward thriller like the fugitive in the summer months. But when that was announced it was dismissed with the same harrumph that we are tossing at these titles.

    You didn’t find television because it got good, you found television because you reached that age. I’m with you, it sucks to be sold as not your fathers Superman and ealize that you’re the dad their referring to. But these critisicms of summer movie malaise have always been with us, and will only last until one of these directors are able to blast us up against the back wall of the theater by bringing the goods anew.

    We are addicts trying to recapture that first high, that’s why they are enticing us with the shit they know we want

  29. leahnz says:

    no! i’ve wandered into bizarro world, what’s with all the apologia.
    i don’t personally care about the movies v tv thing because i don’t think it’s much of a thing, two completely different mediums — but the state of mainstream cinema or ‘summer movies’ or whatever it’s called has NOT always been like this, with a remake/sequel/prequel of every single fucking thing coming out/being made/announced/on the horizon every day, please. it’s a disease. and it’s spreading.
    also, here’s an idea, accountants who somehow took over the film industry: since human imagination and writing skills are clearly going down the shitter, maybe stop rehash/boot/making classic movies – 99 percent of which the remakes are just mediocre bores – and focus on some interesting ideas that failed in the execution instead; if you must remake reboot rehash try movies that had potential but screwed the pooch, at least you have nowhere to go but up. (but noooooo, the marketing machine and inane pre-existing properties/name recognition paradigm rule the bassackward roost now in this era of shrinking, fear-based cinema. fear is the mind-killer)

    “And sure max has been done before but as long as it rocks, so what”
    for realz hcat? just a thought: instead just watch ‘mad max’ and ‘max 2’, one of the great one-two punches in road action cinema history — and an ode to one of the great male screen presences and cinema’s great beauties in young gibson. which begs the question: is max bigger than gibson? i actually think not. the original movies (i just block out the third one so i don’t feel like murdering a bunch of super annoying australian kids speaking gibberish for 5 hours) work and are so iconic largely BECAUSE of gibson’s max, doing the ozzy version of the ‘man with no name’, his quiet charisma and damaged loneliness and beauty. the clean but crazy in-camera road action in mad max/max 2 is formidable but max is not just the road warrior, he’s also max & goose, max & his adorsballs little family, max & dinky di, max and the feral kid (whose relationship underpins ‘max 2’ and gives it its heart, the kid staring out the back window at his hero the road warrior for the last time as they drive off.) i have grave doubts that this new overblown-looking very orange pole-fest will even begin to match the unique spirit of the real max and the special quality Mel brought to it; a lot of action – even well-staged – is for nothing and not enough if character doesn’t come first and give us someone to care about.

    ha i was going to rant about ‘poltergeist’ but i might burst a little blood vessel in my forehead

  30. PcChongor says:

    “Mad Max” isn’t just bigger than Mel Gibson, but judging by the sequel talk already being generated by the new trailers, it’s bigger than George Miller, Tom Hardy, and the entire GDP of Argentina.

  31. leahnz says:

    oh really, well that’s just perfect somehow, sequel talk being generated by a TRAILER speaks volumes about cinema these days and the idiocracy.
    it kind of remains to be seen if (now englishman) Max is bigger than mel in his bloom of youth, though, doesn’t it? nobody gives a shit about tom hardy (he’s a decent actor and i like him but that amounts to a hill of beans when it comes to star power and asses on seats), i’ll wager that ‘fury road’ opens pretty well and does ok business.

    and just think, all that cash could have been put into a fresh new vision for the post-apocalyptic outback and the war for the last drops of petrol in the wasteland; let Max be max – the man and the legend – and tell a dynamic new story about the next generation of that world, take the time to develop the character of a new, unique protagonist(s) on a fresh adventure rather than REHASH THE SAME FUCKING THING OVER AND OVER AGAIN. pfft

  32. PcChongor says:

    To be fair, it’s not like the original “Mad Max” was anything more than an excuse to go wild and smash the shit out of some old cars in the Australian desert. “Road Warrior” was where things really started to get interesting and that was mostly due in part to Warners getting involved right from the beginning.

  33. leahnz says:


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon