Friday Movie Roundup: Summer of Discontent

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Are we in the midst of the worst summer movie season on record? The bar's admittedly not very high, but it certainly looks like we're heading in that direction. —-

In the five weeks since Iron Man 2 kicked off the season, not one of the 14 studio-backed movies has received what I would call a positive review (a B grade or better) from CityBeat writers, with the universally lambasted Sex and the City 2 heading up a pathetic 2010 class that already includes Just Wright, MacGruber, Prince of Persia, Killers, Marmaduke and The A-Team. (And it's not just us — and seem to concur, as does the summer's tepid box-office response.)

And doesn't look to get much better. A quick glance at the remaining summer schedule reveals precious little for those not geeked about the latest Twilight movie or the parade of sequels/creatively challenged fare (this week's Toy Story 3 looks be be an exception). 

The best hope for a decent popcorn movie would seem to be James Mangold's Knight and Day, an action-comedy about a couple (Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) on the run; Christopher Nolan's Inception, a sci-fi thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard; Phillip Noyce's Salt, which features Angelina Jolie in a true-life story about a CIA officer accused of being a Russian spy; Adam McKay's The Other Guys, a buddy-cop comedy with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg; Nimrod Antal's Predators, an ’80s-inspired (as in Schwarzenegger's Predator) action/adventure flick starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne; and, among a few others, Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a comic-book satire featuring the ever-feeble Michael Cera as our hero du jour.

Hell, I'm even holding out hope for Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables as a possible guilty pleasure — besides Stallone, its ’80s-centric, testosterone-laden cast includes Dolph Lungren, Eric Roberts, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Steve Austin in a story about a team of mercenaries on a mission to overthrow a South American dictator.

Hey, it can't be any worse than the tripe we've been served so far this summer. Can it?

Elsewhere, the no-budget metalicious documentary of sorts Exit Through the Gift Shop opens at the Esquire this week. Supposedly a film by the elusive British artist Banksy, Exit might be the most fun I've had in a movie theater so far this year, each of its subjects' — of which Shepard Fairey is one — nocturnal street-art excursions generating more suspense, creativity and laughter than all of Hollywood's summer offerings put together.

Opening films:

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP — Banksy, the secretive British street artist whose stenciled images (and accompanying graffiti) are full of visual and political complexity, possesses a sense of pranksterish conceptualism to rival Marcel Duchamp and of pop-art put-on to recall Claes Oldenberg and Andy Warhol. Exit Through the Gift Shop might be one more of his pranks — or it might be a straightforward documentary about street art. Or some of each. Whatever, it’s an entertaining and frequently very funny. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Steven Rosen (Not Rated.) Grade: A-

JONAH HEX — This curiously cast, long-delayed genre mash-up features Josh Brolin as a Western bounty hunter who does battle with an army of zombies nurtured by his arch nemesis (John Malkovich). Jimmy Hayward directs a cast that also includes Will Arnett, Megan Fox, Michael Shannon and Michael Fassbender. (Opens wide today.) Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Not screened for review

TOY STORY 3 — The Pixar team is back with another adventure headed by Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), who this time must deal with some crazy kids at a day care center. Lee Unkrich directs what is the first of the animated series to be in 3-D. More importantly, let's hope it's not the first to suck. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated G.) Review online Friday at

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