The first of the summer blockbusters is here! (unless you want to count The Hunger Games, in which case, the second of the summer blockbusters is here!) Marvel has been winding us up for this movie ever since Iron Man 2 so The Avengers was going to have to be pretty freaking awesome to live up to all the hype, especially considering how good Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were. And to be honest, the trailer didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Six superheroes butt heads when they are forced to team up against a demigod with plans to lead an alien army against the earth.
The “alien army taking over the earth” thing has, quite frankly, been done to death, but with Joss Whedon (otherwise known as God to all nerdkind) at the helm and half of the population of my awesome list in the cast, I had to believe The Avengers was more than it seemed. And I’m sad to say that it wasn’t. It was funny (Joss-style), it was action-packed, but it was also a little disappointing.
Aardman is one of my favorite animation companies because they consistently turn out movies that I love. The question with The Pirates! was whether it could come close to their earlier film Chicken Run, which sits near the top of my favorite movies list. I like pirates nearly as much as World War 2 (which was the theme in Chicken Run) so The Pirates! Band of Misfits (The Pirates! in an Adventure With Science in the UK) stood a pretty good chance.
The Pirate Captain and his crew, who are the hopeless butt of pirate community, team up with scientist Charles Darwin to earn enough booty to win the Pirate of the Year Award.
I mentioned in my trailer review of The Pirates! that I was concerned about the plot – that the Pirate of the Year Award thing just didn’t seem like enough to sustain it – and it wasn’t. While it was very funny, and the award plot was augmented with hefty doses of Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria, The Pirates! just doesn’t have that hint of genius that I saw in Chicken Run.
Let me start off this review by saying that I am not a Nicholas Sparks fan. The Notebook made me want to puke, I thought A Walk to Remember was trying way too hard, and if they hadn’t changed the ending of Dear John for the film version I may have burned down the theater. I’m not sure what possessed me to read The Lucky One or to watch the film version (it may have started with Z and ended in ‘Ack Efron’) because it sounds no different than any of his other sapfests.
A Marine finds a lucky picture of a woman in Iraq and returns home to thank her for saving his life but ends up falling for her instead.
All love stories are sapfests to some extent, but what sets Nicholas Sparks sapfests apart from the herd is the fact that he invariably shoehorns in a bunch of secondary characters who bring about tragedy that tears the main characters apart at the end in an irritating attempt to slap tears from the faces of his readers. However, The Lucky One is different, and that’s why I like it.
Since I’m not interested in American Reunion and Titanic is thirteen years old, my original plan for this week was to review Wrath of the Titans. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find my theater had managed to get a copy of Friends With Kids, which you may remember from this interview, so I saw that too. And I found that I had things to say about both films, so instead of flipping a coin, I decided to do a double feature.
Wrath of the Titans
When Zeus is kidnapped and taken to Tartarus as a sacrifice to free the Titan Kronos, reluctant hero Perseus is pressed back into action for a rescue mission.
Friends With Kids
After seeing their friends’ marriages implode from having kids, two friends decide to have a kid together to get it out of the way before finding their soul mates.
The main thing I want to say about Wrath of the Titans was that Sam Worthington was right: it is much better than Clash of the Titans. And the main thing I want to say about Friends With Kids is that it’s soooo cute!
Up until it was actually time to go to the theater, debate raged in my brain. Do I see Mirror Mirror or Wrath of the Titans? Do I want to be happy or tense? Comedy or action? Comedy won out this week, but all that means is that Wrath of the Titans will have to wait an extra week, because I’m sure as hell not reviewing the 3D re-release of Titanic next week. Anyway, I digress. Mirror Mirror is a Snow White adaptation:
After her evil stepmother steals her prince and her throne and tries to kill her, a shut-in princess joins a band of thieving dwarves who help her fight back.
In previous versions of Snow White, the princess is a pretty moron who gets fooled and almost killed by the evil queen not once, not twice, but FOUR TIMES before she is eventually rescued by a prince who marries her for her body. Obviously this kind of thing wouldn’t go over well today, so Tarsem Signh’s version is much more fun – full of girl power, snappy dialogue, and a Bollywood dance number.
Choosing a movie to review this week was not hard. It was 21 Jump Street or nothing. I suppose I could’ve chosen something from previous weeks, but there was nothing there to interest me either. So 21 Jump Street it was. It’s not like I was opposed to seeing it per se. I like Channing Tatum. The only thing holding me back was my intense aversion to Jonah Hill. But I could suck it up for one movie. After all, the trailer made the story look pretty funny:
Two inept young cops are sent back to high school to infiltrate a drug ring run by the popular kids.
It sounds pretty simple – all they’d have to do is load it up with the usual high school clichés and shove the movie out the door. What surprised me was that they didn’t do that. They took the clichés, punched them in the nuts, and laughed at them while they writhed on the ground in agony. Which is incidentally also how the characters acted. It was brash, but also funny. Very funny.
I remember reading The Lorax in the dentist’s office when I was little. All of Dr. Seuss’ books have some sort of message in them, but none are so obvious as The Lorax. There’s a creature called the Lorax whose sole purpose is to make you feel guilty for cutting down trees. The end. It’s a message we’ve only now decided to take to heart (the book was published in 1971) so this classic story was the logical choice for adaptation as a big budget animated movie:
A young boy braves the wastes outside his perfect plastic city to get a real tree for his girlfriend from the Once-ler, whose factory wrecked forest.
However timely the message, The Lorax was still only a picture book, which means there’s only about 20 minutes of material in there at most. I wondered: what would they fill up the extra time with? The answer is: some original songs, a few clichés, and quite a bit of really apt satire. It’s not unlike Wall-E, but bonkers and aimed at a younger audience.
Occasionally, my theater (Empire Theatres in Sydney) does something right. A great example is that this week – which just happened to be the week I would be away camping all weekend and wouldn’t be able to go to a movie – they brought in a sneak preview of This Means War. So now not only am I able to get a review out this week, but I’m able to get it out BEFORE the film is wide-released, just like a real critic. The story:
Two CIA agents discover they’re daring the same woman and wage an all-out war to sabotage the other’s efforts to win her heart.
… brought to mind a few other movies, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith (for the turning on each other factor) and True Lies (for the date spying/sabotage factor). Fortunately, it turned out not to be a annoying rehash but a hilarious and actioney adventure that was so cleverly written that I ended up jotting down like fifteen quotes.
Valentine’s Day is this Tuesday, so if you and your significant other want to take in a romantic movie, you pretty much have to see The Vow. (I know – freakish oversight by studios much?) There are probably a lot of guys out there groaning at this news, because although The Vow isn’t based on a Nicholas Sparks book, that’s probably only because Nicholas Sparks didn’t hear about the true life event in time to write a book before the movie people jumped on it. It’s your standard tragic-romantic theme bent around a medical condition.
After injuring her brain in a car accident, an artist cannot remember the last five years of her life, including marrying her musician husband Leo, who must now try to get her to fall in love with him all over again.
Usually these movies are so dripping in sap that they make me want to vomit and end up playing on the Hallmark channel on Sundays, but this one isn’t too bad. There were only a few parts that made me roll my eyes. I’m not saying it’s going to appeal to anyone who doesn’t like romantic movies, because it won’t. Those people should go to One for the Money. But it’s pretty decent for what it is.
I don’t like having expectations of movies because I’m almost always disappointed. Hugo was such a letdown that when I saw the trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I actively tried not to expect it to be good, since so many “real” critics were falling all over themselves to praise it (the “real” critics and I rarely agree). This was difficult, because it was directed by the same guy (Stephen Daldry) who did Billy Elliot (which I love), because the kid in it is extremely cute, and because there was just something sweet about it.
A year after his father is killed in the World Trade Center, a nine-year old boy find a key his dad’s closet and searches New York City for the lock it fits, hoping to find a message.
Grief-and-grieving movies are frequently awkward, slow, and/or weird, but I saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and I was moved to tears by it. However, I should mention that the friend I was with thought it was stupid. I’ve thought about it and came to the conclusion that whether or not you like this movie will be determined by your ability to connect with the character of Oskar Schell.