Summer Blockbusted 2020: Now Playing…May 8 (FILM FUN/VIDEO)

The theaters are closed, but the 2020 Summer Movie Season is just beginning…

Welcome to Week 2 of Summer Blockbusted 2020.

Through the end of August, I’m curating a weekly slate of movies from summers past, ranging from big blockbusters to small counter-programming indies. But now, instead of new options for the multiplex, they’re classic ones for your home theater.

Every single Friday. All summer long.

(To read more about how each week’s slate is determined, click here.)

Now playing this week: summer movies that opened during the second weekend of May, starting with my REC OF THE WEEK (in the second half of a double-feature).

When possible, video reviews from the Siskel & Ebert archives are included (whether I agree with them or not).

(Find links to other weeks from Summer Blockbusted 2020 at the end of this article.)


  • Barry Levinson Double-Feature: Diner and The Natural (REC OF THE WEEK)
    • Diner (May 7, 1982) 110 min; Rated R. Speaking of artifacts, here’s another one. Personalizing late 1950s memories through a mix of Woody Allen and Neil Simon sensibilities, the debut of director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) takes an affectionate look at the crude, immature impulses of late-teen males. Suffice it to say, much of it feels a little creepy in the #MeToo era, but that shouldn’t automatically cancel it either. The cast is stacked with young actors who would go on to bigger things, many in their film debuts: Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Steve Guttenberg, Paul Reiser, and Daniel Stern, with Ellen Barkin crashing the Boys Club as Stern’s steady (the grief she gets for misfiling an album in his LP collection…yikes). Made well but not aged well, Diner is still worth a watch (adults only) as being a trigger for a whole decade of 80s Boomer nostalgia, from The Big Chill to The Wonder Years to so much more. (Final numbers: $14 million domestic and worldwide.)
    • REC OF THE WEEK: The Natural (May 11, 1984) 138 min; Rated PG. Such a superior effort by Levinson in only his second film. The Natural isn’t just epic; it’s mythic. This baseball movie, set in the 1930s, stars Robert Redford as the titular player. It gives me chills every time I see it, or even when I hear that booming climactic cue from composer Randy Newman’s score, one filled with fanfares and suites of Americana. The ensemble is stacked with prestige talent: Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Wilford Brimley, Kim Basinger, Richard Farnsworth, Barbara Hershey, and more. From the cast to the script to the score to the nostalgic slow-mo glow of Caleb Deschanel’s beautiful cinematography, everything about The Natural is a home run, not because it’s a “fun” movie but because it is so rich, deep, and meaningful. The Natural isn’t just about baseball, it’s about America. It’s honest about both, too, from the cynical side of each to why we still remain in awe of them. Field of Dreams is a personal favorite but it’s also a high-concept fantasy fable. The Natural, however, may be the best pure baseball film ever made. (Final numbers: $2 million domestic; $9.1 million worldwide.)
  • The Mummy (May 7, 1999) 125 min; Rated PG-13
    • No, not the Tom Cruise one. Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz star as the requisite Indy & Marion for this big budget Raiders knockoff. It became the first big hit of Summer 1999, opening to gangbusters box office two weeks before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. It’s a rousing, winking, at times campy adventure with horror frights, anchored by Fraser and Weisz (who have great chemistry and banter). It unleashes an impressive onslaught of digital effects that really hadn’t been seen on such a full-tilt scale before (with, in part, an aesthetic homage to Ray Harryhausen that makes for a fun, modernized throwback), all set against a legitimately epic visual sweep. (Final numbers: $155 million domestic; $415 million worldwide.)
  • Twister (May 10, 1996) 113 min; Rated PG-13
    • I can’t even say that I like this movie, but Twister remains one of the more fascinating artifacts from blockbuster history. Made by Jan De Bont (director of Speed; cinematographer of Die Hard) and produced by Steven Spielberg, Twister is a tornado action-effects thriller that took the country by storm (pun intended) in part because of how go-for-broke gonzo it all is, from flying cows to Bill Paxton yelling with complete sincerity “You can’t explain it! You can’t predict it!” Helen Hunt’s character is still haunted by family tragedy (naturally), plus there’s a young Philip Seymour Hoffman, so there’s that. (Final numbers: $241.7 million domestic; $494.5 million worldwide.)
  • Star Trek (May 8, 2009) 127 min; Rated PG-13
    • Following Mission: Impossible III, reboot king J. J. Abrams jump-started Star Trek, another idle, directionless franchise for Paramount. Abrams goes back to the beginning but then puts a time-traveling twist on this origin story of James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The net effect: the reboot is given an alt-timeline that allowed the budding franchise – led by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk & Spock – to go anywhere that Abrams wanted to take it. Having Leonard Nimoy show up in a pivotal role as Spock Prime helped give it all a stamp of approval, but Abrams and the new cast didn’t need it; they earned this on their own. Follow-up sequel Into Darkness may have been divisive and Beyond a box office dud, but ignore those if you like. Enjoy this in a warp speed vacuum as the inspired take on a seemingly untouchable icon that it is. (Final numbers: $257.7 million domestic; $385.5 million worldwide.)
  • Dave (May 7, 1993) 110 min; Rated PG-13 (A close runner-up for Rec of the Week)

    • A rom-com in the White House? That might be a tough sell today but, back in the earliest pre-Lewinsky days of the Clinton Administration, it became a sleeper hit in Dave, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Gary Ross’s original screenplay. Kevin Kline stars as an Average Joe name Dave who happens to be a dead ringer for POTUS (also played by Kline). When the President (who’s a heartless jerk phony) falls into a coma, Dave (a salt-of-the-earth swell guy) is covertly recruited to be his public doppelganger. Light-but-sharp comedy ensues as the President’s aides discover that Dave may not be the patsy they thought him to be, and there’s romance, too (yes, with the First Lady played by Sigourney Weaver). Plus — Charles Grodin, who’s always a bonus.. From director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Twins, Stripes), this one is a real charmer. Regardless of your politics, Dave will make you feel good about America, the Presidency, and the ideals that they stand for. Who wouldn’t want that right now? Sure, it’s sentimental, maybe even a little pollyanna, but it’s never corny. In the end, Dave is about what our politics should be about: human decency. (Final numbers: $63.3 million domestic and worldwide.)

I’d have thrown in 1986’s Short Circuit in as well (a.k.a. the robot ripoff of E.T.; Tri-Star owned Columbia Pictures tried to suggest as much in the trailer by using music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the only Spielberg movie they owned), but currently it’s not available to stream or rent anywhere, only to purchase. The cost generally runs around $10.

If you’d like to suggest summer movie titles for future weeks, you can email your requests to:

Other weeks from Summer Blockbusted 2020:

2 thoughts on “Summer Blockbusted 2020: Now Playing…May 8 (FILM FUN/VIDEO)

    1. The quality certainly varies, but all worthwhile for their unique place in summer movie history.

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