There are few pleasures better than going to a matinee in the summertime. Even if everything about the experience is awful.
Going to the movies in the middle of the afternoon is one of the great joys of summer. The day outside is so bright it makes you squint like Clint Eastwood, which is a drag because it reminds you that you are not Clint Eastwood but, rather, a short, dumpy guy. The sun is so hot the trees wilt like fainting ballerinas in a 1940s musical. And the air is so thick and still it is positively Raymond Burrian.

But here you are, inside. In the bath of air conditioning. In the lovely darkness. Catching a movie in the middle of the afternoon any time of the year is a decadent treat. You feel like you've stolen something. Like you've done something forbidden. You should, after all, be at work. But as delicious as a matinee is, it's even better during the summer. The movie is so worthless that the guilt is that much greater and so, then, is the pleas-ure. As you wait for the picture to come on, the moment is, as Steely Dan once put it, a countdown to ecstasy.

Summer movies are such a great time they even have their own season, which is summer, and their own genre, which is summer movie. It is a demanding genre. The script can't be just plain stupid, the leading plot device of the mainstream Hollywood movie. It must be monumentally, inconceivably, unbelievably stupid. It has to make so little sense that 13-year-old boys think it's cool.

Cities must explode. Oceans must catch fire. Entire planets must blister. Characters must yell at each other all the time for no apparent reason. And the soundtrack must make absolutely no sense whatsoever because its primary aim isn't to enhance the mood of the film, but to be a big seller in its own right at the record stores.

To ensure this, it must be recorded at incredibly deafening, ear-shattering loudness that could drown out the rock band performing at the amphitheater across town.

All that's fine. Summer is a mindless season, and it deserves mindless entertainment.

The problem is what they've done to movies, not just to summer movies, but to all movies. And that problem is this, or should I say, these:

I'm settled into a seat at my neighborhood quadrillionplex, awaiting the showing of the movie I've come to see. The movie theater is a multiscreen destination, with an arcade, a restaurant, and pretty much everything you could possibly desire for an afternoon, save, perhaps, a swimming pool. The place is the size of a small city and it is as byzantine as a souk, with a warren of spaces the size of your larger living room, with screens the size of your larger home entertainment center. Coming here to this monstrosity, with its bad parking and zillions of teenagers hanging out, is no joy. It is part of the aforementioned problem.

I've bought popcorn and a drink, which caused me to take out a short-term note borrowed against my home's equity. Problem.

Commercials come on. Problem.

Then come the interminable previews. Not only are there about 43 of them that you have to sit through nowadays; some of them are for movies that won't be released until some rare cosmological event. EXPLODING CARS AND GRUNTING MEN. Coming MAY 23, 2007. explodingcarsandgrunt ingmen.com. Problem.

That's followed by the short film with the girl in the cowboy outfit who tells us in a husky, deep male voice that the theater has exits and bathrooms and plenty of candy to buy. Forget that the whole thing is witless, unnecessary, and annoying to the point of fingernails on a blackboard. Forget, too, that the technology probably exists to make her lips move in sync with the words rather than make her seem like a character out of an old Japanese monster movie. Finally, forget that this poor girl's career has been ruined for life since no one will ever look at her again without hearing Jack Palance.

Remember only that we already know everything this insipid movie purports to tell us. ("And no smokin'!") Problem.

Finally, the movie I've come to see appears on the screen. And here is the biggest problem of all. It used to be that Universal Studios, or whoever, made a movie. There was a director, a producer or two, and that was it. Now, though, it seems no one single com-pany makes a movie anymore. It takes a freakin' village.

GALAXY FILMS

in association with

LIVE WIRE ENTERTAINMENT

BON TEMPS ROULER PRODUCTIONS

THE SHOW MUST GO ON STUDIOS

HOW MUCH LONGER, LTD.

YOU'RE JOKING, NOT ANOTHER
MOTION PICTURE

and
OKAY, THIS ISN'T FUNNY FLICKS

presents

a release by

IT DOESN'T END STUDIOS

in conjunction with

WAS IT ALWAYS THIS WAY PICTURES

and

OH, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP CINEMA

and

ALL THE GOOD NAMES ARE TAKEN

Starring

MEG LO MANIAC

TY R. SOME

and

PAM PERD as THE SOUS CHEF

in

[music, scenery, and stuff exploding]

TOO MANY COOKS

Screenwriter

WELL, THERE WAS A GUY, THEN
THERE WAS THIS OTHER GUY, THEN
THERE WAS A SCRIPT DOCTOR, AND
ANOTHER ONE, AND, HELL, THEY
ALMOST WENT ON STRIKE AND,
TRUTHFULLY NOW, WOULD IT HAVE MADE
A DIFFERENCE IF THEY DID GIVEN THE BOMBASTIC DRIVEL
THAT MAKES IT ONTO CELLULOID?