the summer blockbusters

Revenge of the Sith - George Lucas and Peter Jackson duel to see who can make the longest contiguous multimedia entertainment franchise in history. Lucas launches a cheap but entertaining offensive with the original Star Wars trilogy. Jackson ducks and counters with Fellowship of the Ring. Lucas throws out a concealing cloud of Star Wars paperbacks. Jackson charges through the zone of pulp and dumps the mighty weight of the Two Towers on Lucas' head, but not before Lucas releases hordes of venomous Clone Wars episodes and Xbox games. Jackson shields himself with Return of the King, then reveals himself to be the mysterious Darth Slovenous. He jumps back in time and compels the midichlorians to create J.R.R. Tolkien out of thin air. Tolkien writes a terrifying battery of Middle Earth literature, runy looking scribbles, incunabula and napkin doodles, the combined force of which erupt from the past and flatten Lucas' formidable army. He is left with nothing but the Star Wars Holiday Christmas Special. Defeated, he becomes Slovenous' apprentice and takes the name Darth Throatpoucheius. They invade Iraq.

War of the Worlds - In a horrible alternate universe, Tom Cruise never became a celebrity or a Scientologist. Instead he ends up working as a longshoreman in New Jersey with a crappy house and a couple of ungrateful kids. Suddenly Xenu's forces invade and all those alien thetans that had been hanging around in human bodies are transplanted into giant underground machines. Their express mission: kick the living shit out of New England. The cradle of American liberty! Why they hate freedom is not clear, no clearer than the need to vaporize and vampirize people with Noo Joisey and Bawwston accents, but everything is made right when Tom Cruise kills Tim Robbins over a copy of Dianetics in a farmhouse basement. A bolt of lightning transfers the spirit of L. Ron Hubbard into his head. Suddenly a 1000 foot tall level VIII Operating Thetan spitting electricity, Cruise commands all the microbes of the earth to infect the maurading thetans with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He goes on to marry the Eiffel Tower in a same-stature union.

Batman Begins - On opening night there's a lineup to get into the theatre. You're herded through the garish neon-drenced lobby, shuffling from end to the other in a crowd of stinky 13 year olds. You duck under the rope to use the automated ticket kiosk, but all five stations are broken, each in a diferent way. Two of them have 'out of order' signs. After five minutes of trying to wring a couple of tickets out of the machines you duck back under and join your friends. At the counter you buy your tickets and a cheapass heart-shaped brooch to support cancer research. Somehow you're out more than twenty bucks already and you haven't even hit the concession stand. Once you get to the concession stand you find out that you're in the wrong lineup for the chili dog you wanted, so you follow the glum finger down to the lineup at the far end. After you order the chili dog you discover that they don't take debit or credit cards, but you can get gift certificates from the ticket counter. Close to murder, you send your partner off to get the gift certificates, which come in convenient denominations of twenty, twenty, or twenty. Finally you get your chili dog and your change - which is less than you thought it would be - but you've lost your friends, and now you have to pace up and down, scanning the dozen concession queues for the people you came with. Cranky thirteen year old girls stare back at you. One of them shouts Pervert as you pass by. Finally you spot your friends wrestling with giant bags of popcorn at one end. You all regroup by the flavoured popcorn shaker island. Everybody checks their tickets for the cinema. It's number 5, which means you have to pass by the freaky preadolescent automatons on the Dance Dance Revolution machine. It's like Village of the Damned with a techno beat. Once past the guy who rips your ticket in half and functions as a vector for the germs of every single person who's seeing the movie, you enter the theatre. A sudden profound blackness makes you stumble into the person ahead of you, but as your eyes adjust you make out the terraced rows of hunched figures crunching away on great tubs of food. The strange submarine light makes you think of a submerged pyramid in Atlantis, the popcorn eaters in the seats the ghosts of a doomed and slovenly race. Eventually you all find an unbroken row of seats somewhere near the back and you wade in, stepping on old popcorn kernels and the sneakered feet of teens too comatose with diabetic slurpee shock to register the contact. Once seated you realize that you have set yourself between two groups of people whom you know will talk loudly and slowly throughout the entire film. In front of you are a couple of stink-haired church of Satan wannabees who like to shout "Rip his skin off!" whenever the hero appears onscreen. Behind you slumps the weird remedial duo of Neophyte and Initiate, who explain the entire movie to each other in real time. For some reason the Neophyte has never heard of Batman, knows none of the backstory, and has not thought to find out about it until now. He will spend the film asking all kinds of questions to the Initiate, who will answer loudly and carefully, and as far as you can tell, incorrectly. Finally the lights dim and you settle in, chewing on cooling chili dog. First a commercial for soap. Then another one for detergent. Then a commercial for a car. Then another one for the army. Then a PSA telling you to donate to cancer research and to turn off pagers and cells. Then there's a preview for a story about one man's attempt to prove himself against the backdrop of the civil war. Then one about one woman's struggle to find the man she loves in outer space. Then another about a daughter who helps her mother find love in the big city. In the middle of a preview a gay character says something gay and everyone laughs. Martin Lawrence makes a face and everyone laughs. Heather Locklear swings a tennis racket into Tim Allen's crotch and everyone laughs. Will Smith kicks a woman in the face and that gets a big laugh too. Then a preview comes on for A Scanner Darkly, and it looks so fucking cool you could cry, and someone in the audience goes, "Man, that was weird". Then the screen announces Our Feature Presentation. It's in Digital Dolby Sound, so you spend thirty seconds watching an embedded commercial for Digital Dolby Sound. It's also a Warner Brothers film, so you watch the brief embedded commercial. And then, after all that, Batman finally begins.

It's okay.