Given the skyrocketing costs of movie tickets, the convenience of DVD, the ever-increasing sophistication of video games, the current television renaissance, and the preponderance of other, equally tempting entertainment choices, there's never been a worse time to head down to the multiplex. Besides, do you really want to financially reward a film industry that subjects audiences to a deadening, year-round assault of unnecessary sequels, listless remakes, and pandering TV adaptations?
And yet every summer arrives with at least a few movies that threaten to give popcorn escapism a good name, movies like last year's Batman Begins and War Of The Worlds. With that in mind, The A.V Club humbly presents a list of reasons why you're probably better off skipping the multiplexes altogether this summer. Of course, we could be wrong.
What it's about: In this remake of the much-loved 1972 disaster film The Poseidon Adventure, a luxury ocean-liner meets a freak storm and capsizes. An all-star cast has to climb to the ship's top (formerly its bottom) in hopes of rescue.
Why it's probably a waste of time: The all-star cast of 2006: Kurt Russell (yay!), Andre Braugher (cool!), Josh Lucas (?), Emmy Rossum (?), and Richard Dreyfuss (ugh). The all-star cast of 1972: Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Stella Stevens, Roddy McDowall, Red Buttons, and Leslie Nielsen. Case closed. Also, Wolfgang Petersen hasn't directed a memorable movie since In The Line Of Fire.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: But he did direct Das Boot. That's something.
Suggested alternate activity: Thinking up alternate titles. The A.V. Club likes The Crazy Upside-Down Boat With All The Screamy People.
The Da Vinci Code
What it's about: In the film adaptation of Dan Brown's mega-bestselling thriller, Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou follow a series of cryptic art-world clues to a long-kept religious secret.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Wasn't reading Brown's stilted, tortured prose bad enough, without having to hear Hanks declaim it too?
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Given the film's massive budget, it's likely to look really, really good onscreen. Also, if everyone in the country goes to see it, maybe they'll finally burn out on Da Vinci Code fever and America can get a new national obsession.
Suggested alternate activity: Reading a good book, wishing someone would make a movie out of that instead.
Over The Hedge
What it's about: A group of woodland animals invade a suburban enclave for food, setting off a clash with the residents.
Why it's probably a waste of time: It's yet another star-studded CGI comedy about a bunch of animals being wacky. Who has time?
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: It's billed as "from the creators of Shrek and Madagascar," though it'd be far more accurate to say "from the same studio as Shrek and Madagascar, even though it doesn't have any actual writers, directors, or even producers in common with those movies."
Suggested alternate activity: Throwing your own summer-cookout bash; dealing philosophically with any celebrity-voiced anthropomorphic CGI animals that show up.
X-Men: The Last Stand
What it's about: Those nutty X-Men are at it again, this time dealing with the ramifications of a supposed cure for mutants.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Four words: "Directed by Brett Ratner." No wait, six more words: "With Kelsey Grammer as The Beast."
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Ratner's most infuriating trait, his inability to create a distinct directorial style, might serve him well here. The trailer makes this look like one of Bryan Singer's X-Men films. If Ratner apes those well enough, it might be okay.
Suggested alternate activity: Reading the start of the great Chris Claremont/John Byrne/Dave Cockrum X-Men run in Marvel's massive The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus. That just costs money, not wasted time.
What it's about: After breaking up, neither Jennifer Aniston nor Vince Vaughn want to relinquish their condo, so they plot ways to smoke each other out.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Re-shoots were demanded after test audiences rejected the original ending as not bland enough.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: The trailer is funny, and director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Down With Love) has a knack for producing bright, inventive comedies. And poor Aniston could really use a hit to lift her spirits, don't you think?
Suggested alternate activity: Doing everything you can to keep your own rocky relationship on track, because the whole dinner-and-a-movie thing just isn't cutting it anymore.
What it's about: Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles adopt a boy who bears the Mark Of The Beast. He's the littlest antichrist!
Why it's probably a waste of time: Creepy kids are so last year, and devil movies are almost always too damned portentous.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: There might be some cool subtext about how this generation is trying so hard to be different from their parents that they're ditching Christian conservatism for something more… libertine. (Insert evil laugh.)
Suggested alternate activity: Reading the collected works of Anton LaVey and pestering friends with explanations of how "devil worship" isn't what they think it is, and how Satan has wonderful plans for them.
What it's about: In Pixar's latest animated feature, a cocky racecar voiced by Owen Wilson gets stuck in a hick Western town, where he learns about love and life from the other vehicular residents.
Why it's probably a waste of time: It sounds exactly like Doc Hollywood, except with car jokes.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Pixar's hit-to-miss ratio is unsullied so far, and while Cars' trailers seem alternately dull and clichéd, the company has more than earned the benefit of the doubt.
Suggested alternate activity: Re-watching Pixar's The Incredibles, the Toy Story movies, and Finding Nemo while waiting for reviews and keeping your fingers crossed.
What it's about: Writer-director Jared Hess follows up his cult hit Napoleon Dynamite; Jack Black stars as a Mexican monk who takes up professional wrestling to save an orphanage.
Why it's probably a waste of time: The premise sounds like a cross between an overlong Saturday Night Live skit and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Also, Jack Black's shtick is getting tired.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Something about the way he fills out those skin-tight luchador pants is hard to resist.
Suggested alternate activity: A video camera is all you need to convert your backyard-wrestling passion into Nacho Libre fan-fiction.
The Lake House
What it's about: After a lake house's former resident (Sandra Bullock) begins exchanging love letters with its current tenant (Keanu Reeves), they discover they're living two years apart. Talk about long-distance relationships!
Why it's probably a waste of time: Wasn't that good two years ago when it was called The Notebook, and with Valentín director Alejandro Agresti at the helm, expect more sap than a Vermont maple. Keanu: "How's your sunset?" Us: "Gag."
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: After Bullock and Jason Patric burned up the screen in Speed 2: Cruise Control, Reeves has been waiting 12 years for payback.
Suggested alternate activity: If you're dragged to see this film against your will, hope the sound from the blockbuster in the next theater leaks through the walls.
The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift
What it's about: Lucas Black and Bow Wow make like Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, leading speed-addicted cinemagoers into the latest underground racing phenomenon, which apparently involves hairpin turns, reckless skidding, and the Japanese.
Why it's probably a waste of time: How many times can we watch troubled youngsters compensate for their undersized genitalia by souping up jalopies and taking to the streets of foreign lands?
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: We wish to know more about this, how you say, "Tokyo Drift."
Suggested alternate activity: Scouting out the next international underground-racing sensation. Whipping doughnuts in Denmark, perhaps?
What it's about: Adam Sandler plays a workaholic with a magical remote that lets him leap forward and backward through life. Might this fantastical contraption cure Sandler of his addiction to workahol?
Why it's probably a waste of time: From the previews, it looks like the screenwriters brainstormed the most obvious gags possible, then called it a day.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: There's always the chance that Click will shock the world by being a haunting, eloquent meditation on time, remorse, and memory. Also, Sandler uses his remote to make this one chick's boobs bounce in slow motion.
Suggested alternate activity: Why not reward a rare instance in which Sandler actually tried to grow as an actor, and Netflix Punch-Drunk Love?
Garfield: A Tail Of Two Kitties
What it's about: Lasagna-munching misanthrope Garfield and owner Breckin Meyer go to England and battle villainous nobleman Billy Connolly.
Why it's probably a waste of time: As the sequel to the abysmal adaptation of a mediocre comic strip, A Tail Of Two Kitties is several generations removed from anything even resembling quality.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: It can't be worse than the first one. Or can it? Besides, the two or three hours per year that Bill Murray spends doing voiceovers for Garfield movies help finance his addiction to appearing in quirky low-budget independent films.
Suggested alternate activity: Re-reading Garfield: Life In The Fat Lane. All the other Garfield books are worthless, but that one's a keeper.
What it's about: After spending years away from Earth looking for other Kryptonian survivors, Superman comes back and tries to rebuild his ties to the planet and to Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane.
Why it's probably a waste of time: The Superman story has been done to death a dozen times over, in just about every possible medium. And he's rarely a particularly nuanced or interesting character to begin with.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Director Bryan Singer makes the X-Men look pretty cool; he's fumbled the franchise a bit in the past, but at least he understands what makes superhero comics fun. Besides, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.
Suggested alternate activity: Watching Smallville, checking out Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek's current take on Superman in Superman and Action Comics, looking for a new superhero whose story hasn't been mined exhaustively over the last 70 years.
The Devil Wears Prada
What it's about: Meryl Streep plays a viciously catty fashion-magazine editor who makes new employee Anne Hathaway miserable.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Will any of the juicy detail of Lauren Weisberger's novel survive Hollywood's attempt to flatten it out for flyover country?
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Streep excels at playing broad comedy without losing her human core. Also, watching someone else's annoying boss can make your own seem like a sweetheart.
Suggested alternate activity: Taking a long coffee break, calling in sick, having a "personal day"… or going to see The Omen to discover the true meaning of "devil."
What it's about: Shawn Wayans plays a paternal cop who mistakes little-person criminal Marlon Wayans for his adopted son. How can hilarity fail to ensue?
Why it's probably a waste of time: With Little Man, the Wayans have actually managed to come up with a movie premise even more idiotic and surreally far-fetched than White Chicks. The lowest common denominator just got a lot lower.
Why it might be worth watching: The train-wreck potential is off the meter. Also, Marlon Wayans plays a little person, thereby stealing another plum role away from Peter Dinklage. Damn your incredible versatility, Marlon!
Suggested alternate activity: Check out Marlon's surprisingly powerful dramatic turn in Requiem For A Dream, a movie that offers just as many laughs as Little Man promises, but is probably less disturbing.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
What it's about: Just like in the original Pirates Of The Caribbean, Johnny Depp is threatened by supernatural horror, and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley again have to help him escape, not to mention get his buckler properly swashed.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Everything about this film says "Unnecessary cash-in sequel." Also, Keith Richards pulled out of his cameo role as Depp's father.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Oh, why not? The first one was fun. Foolishly hoping for the best can be kind of fun too.
Suggested alternate activity: Dressing up as Depp's character, saying "Arrrr" a lot, quoting the first film extensively, taking a long, deep look in the mirror and admitting you live a sad and lonely life.
What it's about: In the long-awaited Americanization of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's J-horror staple, a group of techno-savvy kids are haunted by ghosts in the machine.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Miramax bought the rights to Kurosawa's original, refused to release it, then never got the remake off the ground. Five years later, J-horror has become to '00 horror what slasher movies were to the '80s.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: The film looks like a Gus Van Sant-level experiment in shot-for-shot mimicry, which could make for one of the strangest, creepiest films ever released by a Hollywood studio.
Suggested alternate activity: Watching the Kurosawa version instead, now that it's finally available on DVD; scaring your cats by imitating a Japanese ghost.
You, Me, And Dupree
What it's about: Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson play newlyweds whose wedded bliss is interrupted when best man Owen Wilson installs himself as a permanent houseguest.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Isn't the whole Owen Wilson thing wearing a bit thin?
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Directors Anthony and Joe Russo worked on Arrested Development. Mmm, Arrested Development.
Suggested alternate activity: Isn't the third season of Arrested Development coming out on DVD soon?
Lady In The Water
What it's about: After rescuing a mysterious young woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) from a pool, an apartment-building superintendent (Paul Giamatti) discovers she's a character from a bedtime story trying to make her way back home.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Tired of the twists and gimmicks of director M. Night Shyamalan, critics and audiences finally revolted with The Village, and there's no reason to expect the backlash to subside here.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Gimmicks aside, Shyamalan knows how to come up with big hooks and has the most sophisticated visual style of any blockbuster director outside Steven Spielberg. Now if only he can keep Shyamalan the screenwriter from cheating on the ending again.
Suggested alternate activity: Annoy your friends by catching up on old Twilight Zone episodes and spoiling the ending for them before the movie comes out.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
What it's about: Luke Wilson breaks up with superheroine Uma Thurman, who proceeds to stalk him in a super-powered way.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Unworthy schlub doesn't appreciate the amazing woman he's with? Isn't this the plot of every beer commercial of the last 10 years? (Also wouldn't it be funnier if Thurman dumped Wilson, and the movie was about the impossible task of him getting back in touch with her?)
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Wilson's a funny guy, Thurman can be funny, and Lord knows—or at least director Ivan Reitman should know—that superheroes are hilarious.
Suggested alternate activity: Retaking your college women's-studies course and writing a new section for your paper on gender stereotyping and representational imbalance in the mainstream media.
What it's about: Spielberg-esque suburbanite pre-teens tussle with their neighborhood haunted house, which has taken "anthropomorphic" to a terrifying extreme.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Remember the way the computer-animation-over-live-action effects in The Polar Express looked stiff and kind of disturbing? Now amp up the grotesquerie, throw in a lot of noise and mayhem, and voila!
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: The original screenwriters—Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab—were responsible for the amusing TV pilot Heat Vision & Jack. On the other hand, they also wrote the Channel 101 series LaserFart.
Suggested alternate activity: Sitting at your desk and writing 500 times: "Animation doesn't have to look 'realistic' to be good."
What it's about: Remember the '80s cop series where Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas solved crimes in dramatic slow-motion to the accompaniment of Phil Collins and Glenn Frey songs? Picture that, but with Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, and presumably a soundtrack featuring today's Collins and Frey equivalents.
Why it's probably a waste of time: The shoot was dogged by rumors of excessive partying and constant reshoots.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Director Michael Mann and tortured cops and criminals are a natural combination. (See also Heat, Collateral, Thief, and Manhunter,)
Suggested alternate activity: Scouring eBay for an original "Miami Device," an '80s electric razor designed to give users that three-days-without-shaving look.
Little Miss Sunshine
What it's about: Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, and Toni Collette star in this dark comedy about a dysfunctional family taking a cross-country road trip to enter the daughter in the eponymous beauty pageant.
Why it's probably a waste of time: The film's subject seems conducive to obvious, labored satirical jabs at pushy stage mothers and other easy targets.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Little Miss Sunshine wowed 'em at Sundance, and the cast is strong. And anything that kills at Park City is destined to triumph in the outside world, right?
Suggested alternate activity: Why not relive the magic of Sundance's storied past with such buzzed-about alums as The Spitfire Grill and Happy, Texas?
Flags Of Our Fathers
What it's about: Adapting James Bradley's book, director Clint Eastwood details the lives of the six World War II soldiers who raised the flag at the Battle Of Iwo Jima.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Today's wars are all about disillusionment and scandal, so audience members under 50 are likely to view it as science fiction. Screenwriter Paul Haggis was responsible for Crash, one of the worst Best Picture winners since the Pacific Theater was won.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Haggis also wrote Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood's best movie in years, so there's every reason to hope their collaboration will be fruitful again. Of all the living directors who could pull off a 21st-century The Best Years Of Our Lives, Eastwood seems like the best choice.
Suggested alternate activity: Begin work on PR Stunts Of Our Great Grandsons, the triumphant story of the flacks who brought you the fall of Saddam's statue in central Baghdad.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
What it's about: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play lifetime friends/NASCAR racing partners whose latest challenge is French driver Sacha Baron Cohen (a.k.a. Ali G). Anchorman's Adam McKay directs from a script he co-wrote with Ferrell.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Isn't this just Anchorman on wheels?
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Anchorman on wheels? That sounds awesome!
Suggested alternate activity: Thinking up more alternate titles for Poseidon. How about Hang In There!: The Motion Picture, or When The World's Turned Upside Down, You've Got To Get To The Bottom To Reach The Top?
World Trade Center
What it's about: Nicolas Cage leads a team of emergency personnel struggling to escape the rubble of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
Why it's probably a waste of time: A suspense movie that trades on 9/11's profoundly emotional memory needs to be respectful and subtle. So who's directing this? Oh crap, it's Oliver Stone.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: Stone promised to leave the politics at home, though he hasn't promised to leave behind blitzkrieg montages filled with crying Indians and tattered American flags.
Suggested alternate activity: Sitting alone in a dark room and silently sobbing.
What it's about: Tim Allen plays a former superhero (still with us, or are you already skipping ahead?) who has to whip an academy of would-be heroes into shape.
Why it's probably a waste of time: They made this movie last summer. It was called Sky High. Nobody saw it, but it was a lot of fun.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: It's from the director of Garfield: The Movie. No, that isn't a reason… Hmmm… Chevy Chase? Courteney Cox Arquette? Rip Torn's in it. That's kind of a reason.
Suggested alternate activity: Rent Sky High.
Snakes On A Plane
What it's about: FBI Samuel L. Jackson fights you-know-what released on a you-know-what by an assassin trying to get at a witness in protective custody.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Is there any possible way this film could live up to its hilariously bad title and the virulent Internet pre-fandom it's developed? Better to skip it, leaving it as one of the year's best pop-culture gags instead of as the mediocre creature feature it's likely to be.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: After the film developed an eager following online, New Line filmed extra scenes reportedly featuring more nudity, more death, more of Jackson ranting about the motherfucking snakes he wants off his motherfucking plane, and unsurprisingly, more snakes. What about that doesn't sound promising?
Suggested alternate activity: Sitting at home bitching at your Myspace friends about how this whole Snakes On A Plane thing was OMG so totally never funny.
What it's about: Ten years after the events of Kevin Smith's black-and-white indie hit Clerks, stars Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson return to their characters, now in their 30s and increasingly unhappy about their wasted lives.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Kevin Smith descended into self-indulgence and self-satisfied repetition long ago, and everything fresh, funny, or exciting about his movies seems to come at the price of a heaping helping of protracted been-there-done-that in-jokes for his devout loyalists.
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: To see whether Smith—himself in his 30s and possibly ready for something new—is actually taking this idea somewhere significant, or just returning to the well for another cash-in on the cult hit that made him famous.
Suggested alternate activity: Doing some serious thinking about what your own crappy job is doing to your life, and maybe looking for a better one. Or at least some better ways to entertain yourself than robotically shelling out $10 a pop for tickets to the latest would-be summer blockbuster.
What it's about: Andre Benjamin plays a gifted pianist working at a speakeasy in the Prohibition-era South. OutKast partner Big Boi plays his manager. Together, they tussle with mobsters and wrestle with familial obligations. Also, there will be music. Glorious, glorious music.
Why it's probably a waste of time: Writer-director Bryan Barber comes from the style-heavy, substance-light world of music videos, and vehicles for superstar rappers have a justifiably spotty reputation. Will Idlewild be OutKast's 8 Mile, or its Get Rich Or Die Tryin'?
Why it might be worth seeing anyway: OutKast has become synonymous with wildly ambitious, high-quality hip-hop. Will that rep carry over to film? If nothing else, the music should be memorable and the setting colorful. And after the twin-solo-album magnum opus The Love Below/Speakerboxxxx, it'll be nice to see Big Boi and Andre 3000 actually working together again.
Suggested alternate activity: Listening to any OutKast CD. They're all pretty terrific.