The Summer of Meh: Mediocre movies chilling the summer box office

(DC Comics)

The summer movie season hasn’t quite gone as planned. Films that appeared to be highly anticipated by audiences going into summer have been flopping left and right.

Other than Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” most of the summer blockbusters have imploded under their own weight. From “Fast X” and “The Flash” to “Elemental,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and “Transformers Rise of the Beasts,” all have vastly underperformed based on their budgets or out and out flopped. 

I would argue none of those five movies are blatantly bad, but then again, none of them are even close to being great, either.

It’s been a big summer of meh at movie houses so far this season. 

With ticket prices at the box office and snack prices at the concession stands inflating at ever increasing rates, movie fans are opting to just wait until films are available to rent or debut on various streaming platforms to watch them if at all.

Warner Bros. long awaited “The Flash” opened in theaters on June 16, and the film is already making its way out of theaters with the dubious distinction of possibly being the biggest box office flop in movie history. It’s estimated the movie will lose $200 million.

That does not bode well for the more modestly budgeted DC super-hero movie “Blue Beetle,” which opens in August or the expensive “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” which bows in December.

Mediocre movies with tepid early reviews aren’t bringing in more picky ticket-buyers to the theater like in the days before Covid-19. Inflation is certainly playing a role. With necessities prioritized, trips to the movie theater are becoming more rare, particularly for families. 

While it is a relatively light weekend for debuts in theaters, three highly anticipated films will battle for audience’s attention the next two weeks. The latest installment of Tom Cruise’ franchise “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” opens July 14. The film is receiving enthusiastic early reactions from critics and YouTube pundits. It could be the movie of the summer?

On July 21, director Christopher Nolan’s biopic “Oppenheimer” about the creation of the atom bomb will go head to head with director Greta Gerwig’s satirical comedy “Barbie,” based on the famous fashion doll and her friends. It packs loads of star power with Margot Robbie as the titular character and Ryan Gosling co-starring as her boyfriend Ken.

My guess is that “Barbie” will duke it out with the “Mission: Impossible” sequel to be the latest summer hit, while Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” will trail mightily at the box office, but still be remembered favorably come Oscar-nomination time.

With inflation at the grocery store and gas pump continuing to take a toll on our spending power and more entertainment options at home via streaming, the message is clear that mediocre movies can’t bank on consumers turning over their dollars as easily and readily as in the recent past.

Movies need not just good buzz but great buzz to draw fans to the theaters with the economy’s current climate.

When recently questioned about people being tired of super-hero movies, DC studio co-head James Gunn said he doesn’t buy in to “super-hero fatigue,” but he does buy into fans being tired by mediocrity no matter the type of movie.

Gunn seems to have nailed the reason for Hollywood’s doldrums right on the head.

New Docu-series Highlights Films of 1982

While summertime network TV programming can truly be a vast wasteland, the CW is airing a four-part documentary series that should draw the attention of movie fans titled “Greatest Geek Year Ever: 1982.”

The series, that will air at 7 p.m. each Saturday, in July spotlights all the great genre movies that opened in that landmark year. The first episode “The Summer of Spielberg” highlights two of the filmmaker’s best in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and Poltergeist.”

The documentary features interviews with stars, producers, directors, writers of the films as well as the thoughts of film historians and critics concerning this landmark year that produced such movies as “Blade Runner,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “First Blood,” “Gandhi,” “Tootsie,” “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn,” “Rocky III, “Porky’s,” “48 Hours,” “The Thing,” “Creepshow,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” “Conan The Barbarian,” and many others.

The first episode will replay at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and be available to stream on CW’s free streaming platform on Sunday.

New in Local Theaters – July 7, 2023

Insidious: The Red Door (PG-13) 1 hr. 49 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Starlight)
Joy Ride (R) 1 hr. 35 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne)

Classic Corner

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

If you enjoy Westerns or really any type of genre film, the new-ish streaming channel FAWESOME is one you might want to check out. 

It offers a wide selection of movies, but the best thing about it is it’s free.

I stumbled across the streamer last week and cued up the old John Wayne film “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.”

The 1949 movie, shot in gorgeous Technicolor, is the second of three unconnected films — including 1948’s “Fort Apache” and 1950’s “Rio Grande” — that have become to be known as director John Ford’s “Calvary Trilogy.”

All three feature The Duke as an officer in the U.S. Calvary and are worthy Westerns to seek out and enjoy on their own merits, but “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” is my favorite of the trio 

Befitting the film’s period, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon features Wayne playing Captain Nathan Brittles, a character two decades older than Wayne at the time, who is not only asked to put down a potential uprising by the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes by also escort his commander’s wife Abby (Mildred Gatwick) and niece Olivia (Joanne Dru) to meet a stagecoach that will take them east. 

It’s a dubious task for Brittles, one that seems destined to fail.

Further complicating matters, two lieutenants in the detail — John Agar as Cohill and Harry Carey Jr. as Pennell — have their eye set on courting Olivia.

Wayne, who has never received enough credit for his acting, is excellent in the role of the weary soldier, who has done his duty but fears a life outside the military.

The supporting cast is strong like in all of Ford’s films, including winning work by Ben Johnson as a trusted scout, Victor McLaglen as Brittles’ good friend and sergeant, and George O’Brien as Brittles’ commanding officer.

Shot in Monument Valley, Utah, the movie features gorgeous scenery and the outstanding cinematography by Winton Hoch, who garnered and Academy Award for his work.

If a Western is not to your taste FAWESOME is full of older action, horror, comedy, thriller, romance, crime, documentary, faith, war and mystery films among others, broke down by category. Many are old favorites that I haven’t thought of in years, but as many or perhaps more are movies I’ve never even heard of before. 

I’m going to delve into to some of the older horror and sci-fi flicks on the streamer that I’ve read about, but have never seen before this weekend.