Seattle Critics Roundtable – 2014 Summer Movie Preview, Part 2

The 2014 summer movie season is officially here, so Brian Zitzelman over at Seattle Movie Examiner hosted a roundtable with other local area critics, including Michael Ward of Should I See It, Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak and “Seattle Gay News,” Erik Samdahl from FilmJabber (me!) and Brian “The Movie Guy” Taibl from radio stations across the northwest.

The first half of the discussion was hosted at Brian’s website; the second part is below:

Sara Michelle Fetters : What do summertime memories at the movies mean to the rest of you? Do they influence your feelings and attitudes towards the cinematic season itself?

Brian Zitzelman : ?Sara, I can’t say my memories of summers past have lingered in relation to having any major influence on me today. When I was younger, there was definitely a bit of fun in the rush of seeing how huge the effects would get, but that peaked at a certain point, as well as my personal taste evolving. ?There are certainly snippets of good times; sneaking from Men in Black to Face/Off in a single theatre while underage, but that’s the ballpark.

Mostly, I see it as an exit from the doldrums of the mainstream that clogs the first months of every cinematic year. ?How about you Mike, as somebody with kids, does that shape your view of these next few months?

Michael Ward : You know it is funny and perhaps Brian Taibl can attest to this as well being a movie critic with kids, but I think my experiences as a kid going to movies is a far different one than what kids experience nowadays sitting at the multiplex. Sure, the sense of adventure and excitement is still there, especially with summer movie offerings, but I have to believe that the thrill is different. My oldest, now just turned 15, tends to pop for a handful of movies each year but there are so many other ways kids are entertained nowadays. She would just as soon get lost in her smartphone and all the wonders it possesses than get lost routinely in a 2-3 hour trip to the movies. For my 8-year-old, she seems to mirror much of the excitement I had.

I was 8 years old when I spent my first time ever inside a movie theater with a little summer movie some of you may remember – E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. I think we all would agree that’s a helluva way to begin your cinematic life, right? After seeing the movie, I literally opened the newspaper every Friday morning and would ask my Mom if I could go see any movie that interested me. I was told no constantly, but one film experience instilled that in me. For a variety of reasons, I didn’t get to the movies regularly until I got into high school, became more mobile, and eventually landed a job at a local video store.  But my youngest gives me a glimmer of my youth whenever a movie targeted for kids comes across her radar. “Are we going to that one, Dad?” is a common question from her and I want to say “Yes” every time. ?My kids don’t see the movie calendar in seasons yet, if they ever will. For them, its more fluid and formless.

My 15-year-old can punch up any movie she wants via Netflix, Amazon Prime, and probably knows how to find an online streaming link of stuff in theaters. My 8-year-old understands Netflix and On Demand and decided, on her own, to rent a movie last week…in HD no less! Sure we spent $6 dollars on The Nut Job, but she was really excited. Which reminds me, where is my E.T. Blu-Ray…?I know Erik was an early movie consumer, as Sara indicated she was a moment ago…so I wonder how does the experience of watching movies compare now to when you were younger? Summer films are bigger, louder, and more impressive visually and technically then ever before, but is the experience organically the same? Settling in for the new Transformers, or the 215th superhero movie, does that still bring out any remnants of youthful excitement? Or does that wane with age?

Erik Samdahl : Hey Mike, apparently E.T. was the first movie I ever saw… but I was only a couple months old. ?For whatever reason, perhaps bad memory, I don’t have huge nostalgic feelings for going to watch movies back in the day vs. now. I remember being upset that my parents wouldn’t let me watch the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and I remember seeing Jurassic Park six times in theaters, and in high school lining up for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but other than that I don’t have much to say.?I still get excited for certain movies for whatever reason. I’m pumped for the new X-Men movie, for instance, even though there have been so many superhero movies over the years. Do I have the urge to go see these movies at midnight like I used to? No. But then again, we get to see them in advance at civilized times anyway… ?So to all of you, a couple of questions? Which one summer movie are you looking forward to most? Which ones are you looking forward to least among the highly marketed ones? Which movie do you think is going to flop hardest?

Brian Zitzelman : Erik, as a Linklater fanboy, it’s definitely Boyhood. I’ve been waiting years to see this project, which documents one’s boy’s trip from childhood to adulthood, which has been shot over a decade with the same cast. Linklater’s filmography certainly hints that he is more than capable enough to handle a tale of this scope and intimacy. ?Of the big releases, the one I am dreading is Transformers: Age of Extinction. I’d like to think, to go back to an earlier part of the conversation, that some inkling of my love of playing with Transformers, especially the Dinobots who make an appearance here, would give me hope. However I know that isn’t go to come about. I know it’s expected of critics/cinephiles to hate Michael Bay movies, but that’s only because the guy makes garbage that always manages to be sexist and racist, even when 80% of the film is digitally concocted machines.

As for flops, I do see Amazing Spider-Man 2 struggling domestically, yet thriving overseas. The first one everyone appeared to be lukewarm on, with nobody seeming to say, “Well, it was better than expected.” It will be forgotten about by mid-May.? The whole flops thing does make me wonder, if a release does especially well that you like, does it matter to you? When your opinion drastically differs with a successful movie, do you doubt yourself?

Michael Ward : You raise a really interesting point Brian that I have thought way too much about; i.e. the critic/public divide. It happens every summer and Transformers movies are the perfect example of movies that are destroyed by our community and pushed to hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sales. I think we view movies through two different sets of eyes. We are in theaters every week and watching screeners and see 150-200 new movies a year while audiences go maybe 20 times a year to a theater on average? They want to be entertained and North American audiences have been conditioned to go see the loudest, most explosive, bang for the buck they can find. Lots of times people want to believe that their dollar, like say their vote, was not in vain and they made a good choice. Plus, we all get dazzled by the unimaginable becoming imaginable and summer blockbusters offer that in spades. ?For better or worse, we tend to understand what makes a film good; subjective an opinion though it may be. We see repetition, patterns, laziness, cutting around corners and big budget summer movies are simply looking to hit you quick and often.

Erik Samdahl : For the record, I’m not a Michael Bay hater. I actually enjoy many of his movies, though I acknowledge all of his shortcomings. I will be shocked if the new Transformers movie does anything to change people’s perceptions however, as I don’t see what can be done that’s “new.”

Brian Zitzelman : Mike, I don’t really think of my viewing’s as innately different, though I know they are. I am a movie fan, first and foremost. I just want to be entertained too, it’s just different things entertain me. ?Bay does not entertain me.

???Brian Taibl : My earliest memory of going to a summer movie was June 1973.  I was four years old and my parents took me – because I assume they could not find/afford a babysitter – to Live and Let Die. I don’t remember much except for the boat jump scene, but it definitely made an impact. Four short years later, I was seven and fortunate enough to stand in line for the original Star Wars (multiple times – because that was the cool thing, to see how many times you could see Star Wars in theaters – my dad pulled the plug after five). That changed me for good.  In 1979 the summer biggies were Rocky II and The Muppet Movie, 1980  was all about The Empire Strikes Back and in 1981 we stood in line for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman II. Anticipation for summer movie season has been a big part of my life.  It’s different now, as a critic, because there is no waiting in lines and we get to see them a few days or so prior to the general public. However, I still race to theaters in the attempt to be the first critic in the seats – which drives my wife crazy.

?In regards to Mike’s comment about kids and movies, My three boys are all under ten and are pretty in tune with the big summer releases – especially if they’re animated or superhero based. They want to consume as many movies as they can in the theaters – they seem to love the atmosphere, the energy…the candy and popcorn.  If they see something with me I’ll always include their thoughts (my wife’s as well) in my reviews – it adds a rare layer to what I have to say and what people should expect.  My oldest was seven when The Avengers was released and that’s all he could think about…  My wife thought it might be too violent, but I sold her on THIS movie being HIS Star Wars memory. He loved it, didn’t have nightmares and I even had him write a review for it. I love the enthusiasm they have for the whole process – I definitely see in them what must have existed in 10-ish year old me this time of year…

In answer to Erik’s questions, I’m most looking forward to X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (based on the surprising quality of their most recent predecessors). I think Jon Favreau’s Chef, Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are all gonna be surprise hits. Thinking Godzilla and The Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending are gonna be the biggest bombs.

Finally – answering BZ’s questions – Don’t really mind (most of the time) if my opinion differs from the pack. It’s usually a matter of taste, mood you were in, whatever…  The only time it’s gotten to me this year was with Divergent and, to a lesser extent, Transcendence. There weren’t many praising the virtues of those two films – but the ones that were…well, they scare me. And it’s always nice to see a film you like perform well – it’s also kind of neat to like a smaller movie that not many people see because you can always have ’em in your arsenal when people ask what they should see – like last year’s Blue Jasmine, Before Midnight, The Way Way Back and Short Term 12.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Action Movies, Comedies