A Midsummer Night’s Screening

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The summer movie season, which runs from February to November, is now half-over (or half-started, as the optimist would say), so it’s time for a recap.

The first blockbuster of the season was “The Mummy Returns,” in which Brendan Fraser and that girl from “The Mummy” battle lots of computer-generated images in a series of random action sequences half-heartedly pasted together with snippets of dialogue from other movies. Wrestling star The Rock appears as The Scorpion King; later this year, wrestling star The Scorpion King will make his screen debut as The Rock.

Just a week later, audiences were treated to more historical fiction, this time in the form of “A Knight’s Tale,” about a guy who becomes a professional jouster while songs by Queen play on the soundtrack (for surely there was no better sports fan than Queen’s Freddie Mercury).

The best historical fiction, though, was “Pearl Harbor.” This remake of a classic old film called “Titanic” is about two military pilots who both love (i.e., have sex with) the same woman, and just at the absolute WRONG moment in their awkward situation, the Japanese start bombing Pearl Harbor. I mean, wouldn’t you know it? You’re just settling into a relaxing bubble bath, and what happens? An Asian empire destroys your house.

Many Pearl Harbor survivors saw the film and were heard to remark afterward, “Who’s giving me my bath? Tell those kids to turn down their music! I’d like my soup now, please.”

Continuing down the slippery slope of summer dumbness, we come to “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” the successful follow-up to “Lara Croft: Trainspotter” and “Lara Croft: Certified Public Accountant.” In this movie, adolescent boys who have lusted after the computer-game version of Lara Croft plunk down seven bucks to see a live-action version of her, played by Angelina Jolie and two cereal bowls full of padding. Technically, the film does have a plot, though it’s hardly relevant to our discussion and I can’t remember what it is anyway.

Speaking of no-talent celebrities who hope their one or two legitimate successes will make people forget that everything else they do is awful, John Travolta was in a movie, too. It was called “Swordfish.” It had an interesting premise, about computer hackers and high-tech bank robbers; unfortunately, Travolta’s huge, meaty face took up the entire screen, forcing the plot, characters and originality to jump into another movie.

The movie they wound up in is “Moulin Rouge,” a post-modern musical set in pre-modern France. As far as stories about poets who fall in love with dying prostitutes go, this is certainly the best. It uses recent pop songs to tell its story, a device that becomes only slightly awkward when, in a moment of passion, Ewan MacGregor’s character cries out, “I like big butts and I cannot lie!”

The animation wars heated up with Dreamworks’ “Shrek” and Disney’s “Atlantis.” “Shrek” made fun of how Disney films always have talking animals and lots of singing, which proved to be a timely bit of satire, considering “Atlantis” features no talking animals and no singing.

Fortunately, there were enough talking animals to choke Hitler in “Dr. Dolittle 2,” a horror film about a man who can communicate with lesser life forms, learn their will, and do their evil bidding throughout the world. Thousands are slain mercilessly in this gruesome tale of revenge and talking beavers.

Finally, we have “The Fast and the Furious,” a very loud movie about people who drive fast in Los Angeles. Next up: A film about New York cab drivers who are rude, and then one about a place in Oregon where it rains a lot. What will the imagination wizards in Hollywood think of next?

One of my favorite columns ever is from 1999, when I did a quick and breezy recap of that year's summer blockbusters. I wanted to do another one for Summer 2000, except none of the movies that year were popular enough to warrant writing about. So now, in midsummer 2001, I got the chance to do a recap, and a rather fast-paced, sarcastic one, too.

I agonized for, I don't know, minutes over which popular song Ewan MacGregor should cry out. In the end (tee-hee!), nothing seemed more (i.e., less) appropriate than "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot. Also in the running, though, was "I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree" from "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band.

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