SUMMER MOVIES 2012: A PARTIAL REPORT CARD

First off, let me start by saying that I’m sorry that the reviews have been so few and far between. And by few and far between, I’m mis-pronouncing “there hasn’t been any in a long time”.
The only thing I can say is that, as a manager at the largest theatre in Charlotte, this has been a really REALLY busy summer and it’s been hard enough just to actually watch the films that are coming out, let alone review them. I am going to try and do better now that we’re getting a little breather at work and as a sort of peace offering, I’m going to give you all a small recap/review/report card of the Summer 2012 movies so far. I’m not going to cover everything of course, as that would read more as a novel than a review, so I’m going to talk a little about the ones I’ve seen and that really effected me on either a good way or a bad way.

First up: The Avengers (May 4th)

I’m going to assume that most everyone reading these words will have already seen this film. Since it’s made over 600 million dollars in the United States alone, I’m betting this is a safe assumption.
Confession time: Outside of reading the first 100 issues of GI:JOE when I was a kid, I’ve never really read a comic book. So all my knowledge about Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Black Widow came from the previously released Marvel films. My knowledge of HULK came from the two other films and MOSTLY from the tv show from the 70’s and early 80’s. So going into The Avengers, I was at the mercy of the story and the director. In this case, that happens to be Joss Whedon, which is the best possible person to handle this job. After 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (A series breakdown and review coming soon) 5 seasons of Angel and 1 (half) season of Firefly, he knows how to write for a group dynamic better than almost any living writer. I had high hopes for this film since I knew he signed to make it but I have to admit that it surpassed my expectations.
I’m sure there are comic purist out there who are going to say that they messed X up or didn’t include Y and “this varied from canon” but you know what? Get over it. It was by far the single best pure comic book movie i’ve ever seen. I can hear you now: “what about The Dark Knight?”. Settle down. In my opinion, The Dark Knight isn’t REALLY a comic book movie. It’s a great and dark film that happens to feature a hero who dresses as a bat and fights crime. It’s like HEAT with capes. No, The Avengers is a true blue SUPERHERO comic book film and it captures what draws kids and adults to these kinds of films better than almost anything like it I’ve ever seen.
It has all the effortless comedy and camaraderie that one expects from a Joss Whedon project as well as all the high octane action set pieces that these kinds of films demand. It also has that patented Joss Whedon kick in the stomach death scene that, even though I knew it was coming, still hurt to actually see. In my view, it was not only the best comic book movie ever made, but also one of the great summer films I’ve seen since the Summer of 1982 that lives in legend.
Score: A+

Second: The Amazing Spider-man (July 2nd)

After only 5 years, Sony decided to reboot the Spider-man franchise with a film that, while not getting everything right, managed to get enough right to warrant its own existence. Andrew Garfield is, I think, the best Peter Parker yet on the big (or small) screen and if he had been given the right script, could have knocked it out of the park. I was disappointed that they felt the need to do another origin story so soon. I mean, really, is there anyone out there who DOESN’T know the Spider-man story at this point? Skip that first act and just start the story with Peter/Spidey out there getting it done. And having to relive the death of Uncle Ben yet again (Am I the only one who thinks of the rice when they think of Uncle Ben?) just adds an unneeded heartache to a story that at its heart is light.

The parts I liked: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. They are a delight together and the film soars whenever it puts them in the same frame. The Spider-man effects. The POV flying effects are great. Spider-man seems to soar and fly with less effort than ever before.

The parts I didn’t like: The Lizard effects. Good lord, that was grim. It was like bad CGI from 1997. The Lizard himself wasn’t given very much to do and I could have done without the mad mumblings to himself about how he would show them all. It felt like the writers just didn’t know what to do with that character. The idea of the Lizard is ludicrus on the surface and if it’s not done just right, it will fall flat. That seems to be what happend.

It is fairly common knowledge that the film underwent massive retooling in May after a couple less-than-stellar test screenings and it sort of feels like some of the seams from the patch job are showing. For instance, all the trailers kept touting the “Untold” story of Spider-man and hinted at genetic engineering that played a part in him getting his powers with the line in the trailer that says “You don’t think what happened to you was an accident, do you?” and other hints like that. Guess what? Those scenes appear nowhere in the final film. Now it still all boils down to Peter getting bit by a radioactive spider and getting all webby. It will be interesting to see if they include those cut scenes on the DVD, but I doubt it. And last but not least, that last scene. Who was that talking to Curt Connors? Was it Norman Osbourn? Was it Peter’s long lost father? If the filmmakers were trying to get me all curious about the sequel, they failed. All I could do was shake my head and mutter “Who cares?”.
Score: C+

Third: Prometheus (June 8th)

This is a hard one for me because Ridley Scott is one of my absolute favorite directors. I place Blade Runner and the original Alien among the greatest science fiction films ever made. I loved Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven(Director’s cut) and even enjoyed his lesser works like Thelma and Louise and Matchstick Men. So was I looking forward to Ridley’s return to science fiction for the first time in 30 years and his return to the franchise he created? Oh, more than somewhat.
The results? Um….well…mixed. Decidedly mixed.
First, the Good. The cast is superb. One of Ridley’s greatest talents is casting well. This is no exception. Standouts are Idris Elba as the world weary captain of the Prometheus is outstanding. As is the always mesmerizing Michael Fassbender as the android David. David might be the most fully realized android character on film since Bishop in 1986’s Aliens. Noomie Repace does fine in the pivotal role of Elizabeth Shaw, although you can’t help but compare her to Ripley and that comparison really doen’t do her any favors.
The 3D is top notch. It would be since it was filmed in 3D and not post-converted and since a lot of this film takes place in low light, the difference is amazing. Even though it’s low light, you can actually see what’s happening. This is not the “gotcha” 3D where things pop out at you, it’s all about the depth of field where the screen looks like a window into the world you’re watching.
The Bad. I can’t help but feel like there was an awful lot of story that was left on either the cutting room floor or still on the script page. There was a lot of setup and precious little in the way of payoff. The film asked a lot of questions but seemed to lose interest in the answers half way through. I know this is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, and they probably plan to answer the questions as they go, but I kind of miss the old days where movies were self-contained and the filmmakers felt the need to actually wrap up the story in the third act. Still….it does raise some interesting questions and I never felt bored and it was a rush to see Ridley Scott return to the genre that he redefined 33 years ago. If it feels like I’m going easy and being kind….well…what can I say? I kind of am. I had a great time while I was watching this film and it really wasn’t until later that it started to fall apart for me. I was just really digging on being in a theatre watching a new Ridley Scott film.
Score: B+

Finally, a few review capsules to finish the first part of this.

TED
Wow. just wow. Raunchy and razor sharp in equal parts. Defiantly not for the kiddies or the easily offended but if you’re up to it, you will laugh a lot.
Score: A+

 

The Dictator
As dumb as Ted is smart. Sasha Baron Cohen is much better when he is part of a movie and not the whole thing. I don’t mind tasteless (See TED) and crude, but if you’re gonna go that route, you better bring the funny. The Dictator does not bring the funny.
Score: F

That’s My Boy
Dear Adam Sandler: Please stop. Whatever you had, you lost it and now it’s just sad. As i’ve stated, I work at a theatre and opening weekend, we had more refund requests for this…um…comedy, than I’ve ever seen for any film I’ve ever seen.  
Score: F- or whatever the worst possible score is.

Rock Of Ages
If you are of a certain age and grew up with a certain kind of music, this film will hit all the sweet spots. I expected to hate it but wound up loving it so much I bought the soundtrack. I am not a fan of musicals (Rocky Horror excepted) but this just made me smile and feel good. Is it a good film? Probably not. Is it a good time? Without a doubt.
Score: A

That about covers the first part of this Summer 2012 overview. Up next will be the new version of TOTAL RECALL, The Bourne Legacy and of course, the monster of the year, The Dark Knight Rises. I’m also working on a complete series breakdown and recap of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. so until then, keep the projector threaded.



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