Welcome to another semester of Pop Culture Summer School, wherein we give a comprehensive breakdown of all the entertainment that warrants your interest during these big, dumb, creatively-barren dog days.
This time, we sift our way through the loud, mindless tentpoles and fifth-verse-same-as-the-first franchises polluting your local multiplex,
Intersectional Dynamics in 21st Century Cultural Practices
Rough Night, Girls Trip
Emboldened by the success of Bridesmaids, and the incontrovertible fact that women exist and are often quite funny, two films this summer explore the nature of female friendship from contrasting perspectives. Rough Night follows Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and a couple of other funny (white) women as a bachelorette party goes off the rails. Girls Trip has Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and a couple of other funny (non-white) women bond over a weekend vacation. So similar, and yet, so different.
Modern Mythology in the Age of Cross Platform Integration
Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wonder Woman
The best parts of both Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the subtle introduction of Spider-Man and Wonder Woman into their respective cinematic universes. It wasn’t hard to be the lone bright spot in DC’s dour scowl-fest — and so Wonder Woman’s main challenge will be not fumbling the pass (the fact that Zack Snyder didn’t direct it helps). But, as this will be the second time Spider-Man is being rebooted for the screen, both heroes are essentially fighting the same foe: viewer apathy.
Studies in Cinematic Explosives Engineering
The Mummy, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Emoji Movie
Maybe it’s because it’s based on a property that no one cares about, or has heard of outside of France, or is a fucking doodle on our phones, but more than any other season, summer provides several opportunities to study how, and why, movies bomb. It’s possible we could be wrong — no one thought a movie involving a talking racoon and a giant fighting tree would be any good — but we’re probably not.
Redundant Studies in Redundancy II: The Re-Tellings
Despicable Me 3, Transformers: The Last Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, War for the Planet of the Apes
You’ve taken this course before. You know how it ends.
Genre Studies 201
Baby Driver, Atomic Blonde
There are very few things more thrilling in cinema than an original story, expertly — and idiosyncratically — told. When material and maker come together to create something more than the sum of their parts. These films might not be great, but they are at least satisfying in a pulpy way. This summer, Edgar Wright — the man behind genre pastiches Hot Fuzz and Sean of the Dead — makes Baby Driver, a film that just might dethrone Drive as the best car chase movie of our generation. And in Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron shows how much more badass she could have been in the last Fast and the Furious movie.
Pretentious Studies 101
Dunkirk, A Ghost Story
These films — one, the true story of an epic WWII battle, the other, a fictional story about Casey Affleck wearing a sheet — will be the most serious films you should see this summer. They might even be as good as you pretend they are.