Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012: The Top (and Bottom) 19 Movies

By my count, I saw 19 new movies this year which had theatrical openings. Note that I didn't say I saw 19 movies in the theater: I caught three of these at home. But I saw one movie three times, so it all balances out. As usual, I'm not counting older movies or anything that went direct-to-DVD.

What follows is a list from least favorite to most favorite. Note that's not the same thing as best to worst: that's a can of worms I'm not opening. A few of these are movies I never reviewed, but those are in the minority.

It probably goes without saying, but there are quite a few movies I should see but haven't gotten around to. I've heard fantastic things about Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lincoln, Wreck-It Ralph, Moonrise Kingdom, Cloud Atlas, and others, but I just haven't had the time yet.

Without further ado, let's begin:

19. Snow White and the Huntsmen
Dark Knight Rises pissed me off more, but this was by far the most boring experience I had in a theater. I'd been looking forward to this, too: I thought the trailers looked amazing. Unfortunately, they showcased every decent second in the film: the rest was bland and pointless.

18. The Dark Knight Rises
I considered putting this in last place, but that would have been disingenuous. The truth is, aspects of this movie were pretty cool. Okay, Catwoman was cool, and the rest kind of sucked. I appreciate that many people disagree, but... look. I've read a lot of Batman comics. I've seen a hell of a lot of animated series and direct to DVD movies. And, in my opinion - and I'm not alone here, by the way - the character is capable of much, much more. This felt like a Batman movie for people who don't really like Batman as a concept, who are satisfied with dismissing Bruce Wayne as a crazy rich guy who dresses like a bat. It's a movie that ultimately mocks the concept it's based on rather than taking it seriously. At least the Adam West series was upfront about it.

17. Prometheus
I know people who think this should be dead last, but I liked it better than Dark Knight Rises and certainly more than Snow White. It was a bad movie with good scenes. It's the kind of movie that kept oscillating between intriguing me and boring me. It really wasn't until the last act that I was certain I was watching something pointless. Numbers 18 and 19 never had me fooled.

16. Underworld: Awakening
I caught this on Amazon Instant Video a while ago. Hell, I'd forgotten it came out in theaters this year, but apparently it did. It wasn't awful, but it certainly wasn't remotely good. It's schlocky pulp, but that's all we have any right to expect from this ridiculous franchise.

15. Rise of the Guardians
There's a long story here. If you want to know said story, click that link. The short version is that I've got some very strong feelings about some of these characters, and I didn't think this movie did them justice. However, there was a good 'Jack Frost' story embedded in this thing, along with some solid visuals. It's kind of a mixed bag. That's not enough to make it a good movie, but it's sufficient to keep this from appearing any sooner.

14. Casa de Mi Padre
On some level, this is sort of the Will Ferrell equivalent of an art house flick. Ultimately, it was more a joke than an actual movie. And, yes, if you've seen the trailer, you already "get it." And, sure - technically - they could have just made the trailer without actually making the full movie. But the reason the joke is funny is that they made it anyway. I don't think this one's for everyone, but I had fun watching it.

13. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Pirates was a solid little flick. It felt small, easygoing. Almost quaint. I never really got into it, but I don't think I was supposed to. If you missed this one in the theaters, it's a good film to check out on video. Actually, I think it'll play better on video, where there aren't so many expectations.

12. Looper
A lot of people love this movie; I just liked it. I had an enjoyable time in the theater. The telekinetic sequences were cool (and unexpected), and the movie was well put together. But... it just seemed so generic. Yeah, things like this don't get made; live-action, big-budget movies that mix several SF concepts in a single piece. Sure, we get telekinesis. We get time travel. But the two together in a single movie? But, despite that, none of it really clicked together. Nothing added up to more than the individual pieces. The time-travel conceits were poorly thought out. The telekinesis was ultimately just a mcguffin. And underneath the makeup, the premise was just Terminator meets 12 Monkeys. The fact it got made was impressive, but the movie itself... was just kind of good. With a little more work, I'm convinced it could have been as great as everyone seems to think it was.

11. The Hunger Games
I like this movie, but I like it's success more. It was the year's first real home run, and it challenged a lot of old (and stupid) assumptions about movies. For example, that action flicks can't star a female lead unless she's there for sex appeal. Or that people won't flock to the theaters until May. It also cleaned up some of the book's issues with the setting. That said, there were questionable choices and sequences that just didn't translate. It didn't have the budget it wanted, and it wasn't one of the year's best movies. But it was definitely solid.

10. ParaNorman
Not enough people went to see ParaNorman. It's a cool little movie with a great opening, a disappointing second act, and a phenomenal showdown. It's uneven, but definitely worth watching.

9. Skyfall
I had a hell of a time deciding where this belongs. My initial reaction was extremely positive and for good reason: this movie pulls off something fantastic. But I held off reviewing it for a reason: absolutely everything I liked - nay, loved - about the movie is a spoiler. That said, enough time has passed. So, if you missed Skyfall, you might want to skip to the next movie on the list. Alright. As a story, Skyfall kind of fails. Miserably. The villain's generic, the plot's incoherent, and characters make idiotic choices at every turn. But none of that really matters, because this wasn't a story so much as a retrospective. It puts Bond back together, effectively rebuilding MI-6 into a near-perfect facsimile of the organization as it appeared at the beginning of Dr. No. Yes, that means 'M' dies and gets replaced by a man, but the actor is shockingly convincing as the character who appeared fifty years earlier. Likewise, Moneypenny (complete with a new origin) is amazingly similar. They cast a 'Q' who was reminiscent of Major Boothroyd before he was recast for From Russia With Love. Even Craig's bond evolved into one shockingly similar to Connery's as the movie went on. I really enjoyed watching that transformation play out; so much so that, had I assembled this list right after leaving the theater, it would have held the #3 spot. But as time passes, the missteps bug me more and more. The plot holes, the bad decisions, and a fairly disturbing seduction sequence that felt extremely out of character and a little misogynistic have become harder and harder to overlook. Ultimately, it's a movie I enjoyed, but I don't think it's holding up in the long term.

8. Chronicle
I missed this in the theater, and I'm actually glad I did. I'm sure I'd have enjoyed it there, but it felt like one of those movies that plays better on a small screen. I didn't get around to reviewing this, because there didn't seem much point: the critics got this one right. It was a great little film, driven by fantastic writing and some great performances. The format - found footage - did feel out of place, but it kept the budget manageable and was incorporated as well as could be expected. I highly recommend you check this one out if you haven't already. It's pretty cool.

7. John Carter
If they'd replaced Kitsch with someone who belonged in the title role, this would probably have made #3. As it is, I still really liked this movie. Dafoe really knocked it out of the park as Tars Tarkas, as did the army of computer nerds who brought him (and the other denizens of the red planet) to life. It was pulp at its purest if not quite its best. Here's hoping this builds a fan base on DVD.

6. The Cabin in the Woods
This is a complex little picture: essentially a dark science fiction comedy about horror movies. Critics loved it; audiences - particularly horror fans - did not. I enjoyed it quite a bit, which is why it's as high on this list as it is. I think if the last scene had been more memorable, it would be a few spots higher.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man
I keep going back on forth on this and #4. In the end, I asked myself which movie I'm more interested in re-watching, and I honestly think that's Brave. This version of Spider-Man was boosted by the shocking revelation that it was, in fact, a good movie. The idea they were retelling the origin story was a major strike against the movie, but they did a fantastic job rebuilding Peter Parker from scratch. This is a new Peter, too, completely different from Raimi's or any version I've seen in the comics. Normally, I prefer these things to stick with the source material, but the director clearly knew what he was doing. This isn't the Peter I know, but I was really fascinated by his story. As for Spider-Man... not so much. The superheroics were disappointing. The fights with the Lizard weren't bad, but I expect better.

4. Brave
Brave was one of 2012's under-appreciated movies: sadly, there were quite a few this year. But the critical dismissal of this was as baffling as it was unfair. Brave was a really good movie. Its world was beautifully rendered, its characters were fun, and its themes complex (don't dare dismiss this as a simplistic story about fate: this movie's about the maternal instinct and female empowerment). Granted, it's not the movie most of us wanted. It's a comedy, not an action-adventure. But it's a really good comedy.

3. Men in Black III
I realize I'm in the minority here, but I really, really liked this movie. I suspect the producers are kicking themselves for not releasing this in the spring instead of summer. It couldn't compete with The Avengers, and as a result was largely ignored. But it was pure sci-fi. The old fashioned aliens were a lot of fun, and the time-travel was executed far better than in Looper. This also carried some real heart and whimsy. Between Griffin and the movie's resolution, this resonated a lot better than I'd expected it to. It provided a great standalone story, while adding depth to the entire series.

2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
This was a great movie and an even better adaptation. It was a hell of a lot of fun, and I thought the characters were fantastically realized. The movie was funny, touching, and exciting. Sure, it was only the first third of the story, but that just means there's a lot more left to experience.

1. The Avengers
I'd hoped Joss Whedon would make this work, but I really had no idea if he'd pull it off. He's created some fantastic television in the past, but his one attempt at doing a motion picture was a little disappointing. In addition, his track record hasn't been spotless as of late (looking at you, Dollhouse). I went into this hoping for the best and got something better. Avengers was game-changing: it threw out decades of conventional wisdom on how superhero movies had to be made, opting instead to fully embrace the genre. It toned nothing down: this was comic-book mayhem on the big screen. This was a Hulk I'd never dreamed we'd see in live-action. This was Black Widow and Hawkeye at a level where they could stand beside a storm god without seeming irrelevant. In short, this was the superhero movie that showed the world why we love superheroes. And damn if it didn't work: this thing set almost every record there is. Even better, it's expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe and even convinced Warner Bros. to move ahead with Justice League. The old rules are gone: this has raised the bar. Oh, and it was also the most fun I've had at the movies in years.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Open Letter to Peter Jackson

Dear Peter Jackson,

How are you? I hope you and Fran are doing well, and that you're planning on doing something fun for the holidays. So then. I've got something I need to get off of my chest.

Where to begin? First of all, I'm a big fan. Love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I even like King Kong, though I do think it would have benefited from a little editing. When I heard there was a Hobbit movie in production a few years ago, I was extremely excited. When I heard that Guillermo del Toro was dropping out and you were taking over... honestly, I was a little worried.

Sure, The Lord of the Rings films are some of my all-time favorites. And, sure, I love your work. But, the thing is, I've seen this before: a big genre director decides they know how to call the shots. Suddenly, they're their own producer, and no one's nixing their bad ideas.

The truth is, I got a little worried. Sure, I was still excited to be returning to Middle Earth, but deep down, I was concerned. Jump ahead to a week or two ago when the early reviews started to appear. While the Lord of the Rings had glowing reviews, these were far more mixed. Sure, it's still on the "Fresh" side of things over on Rotten Tomatoes, but it's close: 66% Fresh, as of this moment.

That was when I got really worried. I started to think that maybe you'd gotten full of yourself, that you'd lost perspective. I started to think you'd gone the way of Lucas, Cameron, Raimi, and others.

Well, I just saw The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey, and I think you know where this is going.

Mr. Jackson, I am so, so sorry I doubted you: that movie was fucking awesome.

Where to start? How about the opening 45 minutes that critics are whining about. As a lifelong Tolkien fan and geek, every second was an absolute joy. After a fantastic nod to your first trilogy, you transitioned right into The Hobbit. And that sequence was a pitch-perfect adaptation of the book, at least to my memory. My favorite part of the movie, in fact. The singing, the jokes, and the fun of the book were all there.

As the movie progressed, you walked a tightrope between Tolkien's book and your other trilogy, and you did so masterfully. Navigating the tonal differences must have been frightening, but I thought you pretty much nailed it. Can I find moments to nitpick? Sure. But nothing all that major.

I hesitate to judge the critics too harshly yet. You see, I sidestepped the largest issue: the 48 fps, which just about everyone despised. I saw this in 2D on a "normal" screen, so it's certainly possible my enjoyment was tied to that choice.

I'll know better after I see The Hobbit in a different format. Even if everyone's right about it detracting from the film, I'll always have the option of shutting my eyes and enjoying the music.

Oh, one more thing. The movie felt a little short to me. Can't wait for the extended cut.

Erin Snyder

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wait. What the Hell Just Happened?

George Lucas just sold the rights to Star Wars. I know what you're thinking: I wish he'd done this fifteen years ago, too, but let's move on.

In the interest of accuracy, I should probably say that George Lucas sold the rights to Lucasfilm. Actually, you know what? No one gives a damn about those details. Okay, maybe there are a handful of Willow fans with bulbs lighting up over their heads, but let's keep our eye on the prize here. And that prize is Star Wars in the hands of someone who might just possibly understand it. Oh, I guess Indiana Jones is falling into new hands, too. But Ford can't keep making those forever, and no one cares about that character if another actor has the part.

So then. Who's the lucky buyer? Who else has four billion dollars in pocket change? Disney.

Yeah, yeah. Before you start whining about how the mouse is going to ruin your childhood, there are a few things you should maybe keep in mind:
  1. Your childhood's already ruined: there's nothing Disney can do to this franchise that Lucas hasn't already done.
  2. The company which produced Avengers just got its hands on Star Wars.
I've got no clue whether this is going to be amazing or garbage. Disney's track record has certainly been mixed. On one hand, they made Avengers and John Carter. On the other, there's Haunted Mansion, Prince of Persia, and... well... most of their other live-action movies.

But there's also a generation of filmmakers who have dreamed of the chance to work on a Star Wars movie. They could basically call any director on the planet and get them on board. Or they could head over to the Pixar offices and see what Andrew Stanton's up to.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Movie Review: Looper

For those of you keeping track, Looper is the second big-budget science fiction movie released this year which uses time-travel as an excuse to have a younger actor play the same character as an older actor. I enjoyed both, but between the two, I preferred Men In Black 3.

Looper is a good movie, but it's a tad overrated in my opinion. It reminds me of Inception in several respects: it's a good genre film for those without much interest in the genre, but those of us familiar with the tropes will recognize the terrain. Looper wears its genre proudly: this movie is absolutely science-fiction through and through. The trailers undersell this, in fact: time-travel may be the most import element here, but it's far from the only one. They took some impressive risks with the setting and should be commended for doing so.

But this movie isn't driven by its setting: it's driven by its plot twists and ideas. And, in that respect, it feels a little flat. Like Inception, it delivers enough complexity and attention to detail to engage its audience. But, like Inception, it winds up feeling by-the-numbers to those who have seen it before. It takes a while for the movie's premise to unfold, but once it does, it becomes clear that it's basically a mash-up of two very iconic properties.

This doesn't mean the movie's stupid: it's actually quite clever. But, despite this, it never shakes the sense that it's ultimately generic. We've seen these ideas, we've seen this setting, we've seen this premise and variations of this plot: hell, we've even seen Bruce Willis playing a mentally unbalanced time-traveler. Mixing and matching those elements isn't enough, especially when the movie lacks a distinct tone.

There's also a sense in which Looper is a Hollywood production trying to pretend it's an independent film. To its credit, this does mean the filmmakers are able to sidestep several missteps common to big-budget science fiction... but not all. There aren't a lot of action-movie cliches in the movie, but that does make the ones that got in feel all the more egregious.

Looper is absolutely worth seeing, but personally I wish I'd waited for the DVD. Not because I don't think it was worth the money; for its faults, it was still a satisfying experience. But this is exactly the kind of movie that I've found I enjoy more on a smaller screen, where expectations are less encompassing. At the end of the year, I'm pretty sure I'll be ranking this below Chronicle, and I'm honestly not sure whether that's just because I saw this in the big screen and that on the small.

As a science-fiction movie, it's really quite good. As a time-travel flick, it's a lot of fun. But don't expect it be one of the best, because - contrary to what some reviewers are claiming - it isn't. Yeah, Looper has some great effects, but it's not Avengers: my advice is to wait for this to show up on video.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Give Us Your Worst, Part 18: Punisher (1989)

Last weekend I came across a copy of The Punisher - the 1989 one starring Dolph Lundgren - at a yard sale for $2. While that seemed a tad high given the film's reputation, I decided it was worth to finally see the one Punisher movie that had so far escaped me.

I'm glad I did, because - and I honestly wasn't expecting this - I kind of liked this thing.

Sure, it had most of the problems you'd expect from a bad 80's action flick. There are slow bits, the acting is mixed at best, and the script is at least 60% cliche. And, yeah, the skull's missing from The Punisher's shirt for absolutely no discernable reason: that's damn annoying.

But, not only is this more entertaining than either of the recent reboots, it's both a far better take on the Punisher and a vastly better comic book movie. This is a cold, murderous version of Frank Castle, but he has a larger-than-life quality that was missing from the Jane flick (they tried in War Zone, but it came off feeling like bad camp). Lundgren's Castle feels like a bonafide superhero, even if he murders someone in every other shot.

Better still, unlike almost every superhero movie that's been made since, this isn't an origin story. If you didn't already know Castle's backstory, it provides you with a flashback, but it's certainly not the focus on the story.

In fact, the movie's focus isn't really on Castle, at all. The main crime lord gets nearly equal screen time, and actually comes close to competing for the role of the protagonist, as does Frank's old partner. The whole thing winds up feeling like an ensamble piece about The Punisher's corner of the Marvel Universe, which is exactly what it should be.

This movie has plenty of issues (did I mention the annoying kids?), but it takes its premise seriously and delivers a solid comic-book action flick, something the newer attempts didn't come close to accomplishing. I'm as surprised as anyone to be typing this, but I honestly think this one is severely underrated. Don't go expecting fine film, but if you manage your expectations, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Movie Review: ParaNorman

ParaNorman is a great little stop-motion flick, a quasi-companion piece to Coraline, though it comes up a little short when measured against that film. Like "Cabin in the Woods," ParaNorman is a comedy/meta-horror movie, though it's aimed at pulp-monster movies rather than slashers (probably best, considering this is intended for all ages). Also like Cabin, ParaNorman really should have been released closer to Halloween, when it was clearly intended to be viewed and could have had a bigger impact.

The movie shifts tones a few times during its run-time. The first section of the movie is surprisingly grounded and measured, built around the sense of alienation and melancholy so many of us remember from grade school. We're introduced fairly quickly to the lead character's "power", to see and speak with the dead. For the record, this feels more reminiscent of Frighteners than Sixth Sense, which is probably best. The movie also does a admirable job of selling this as a curse rather than a blessing: not being able to turn off his visions makes them difficult to ignore and impossible to hide.

The movie's tone changes abruptly when the dead literally start rising. This section feels something like a deconstructed zombie movie and is mostly played for laughs. I enjoyed these sequences well enough, but I will admit to feeling a tad let down by the quick pacing and "no one's going to get hurt" vibe. In addition, it bothers me that the constant parade of ghosts who were always around in the first section just seemed to vanish halfway through. I understand they were trying to keep the movie focused, but it felt like an awfully large omission.

Fortunately, just when I was getting ready to write the movie off as merely "pretty good", the tone abruptly shifted again, leading to a finale that was almost impossibly beautiful, while simultaneously delivering some genuine horror. Not too much, mind you, but the final confrontation wasn't strictly kids' stuff.

ParaNorman's a great movie in a surprisingly large sub-genre of family-friendly horror/comedies. This, Coraline, and Monster House all play together nicely and build off a larger tradition of all-ages dark movies that include classics like The Secret of Nimh, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, and most of Tim Burton's early work. ParaNorman could have skewed a little darker and risen to stand with the best of the pack, but as it is it was still a great picture with fantastic animation, good writing and characters, and  it was a lot of fun.

Monday, July 30, 2012

More on Batman

Spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises follow, though at this point I assume anyone who hasn't seen the movie probably doesn't care.

I wanted to take a moment to revisit a prediction I made several years ago after watching The Dark Knight: I suggested that the last act of the third movie would center around a fight between Batman and Superman. I knew it was a long shot, but I thought it actually made sense given the first two films' inspiration and their direction.

I got in several arguments about this theory. Most everyone thought I was crazy for thinking it was a possibility; a few people thought I was even crazier for wanting it to be true. After all, Nolan's movies were set in a realistic Gotham, one without aliens, magic, or superpowers. How would Superman fit into that world?

Needless to say, my prediction didn't come to pass. I wanted to address this head-on, because it's occurred to me recently that Nolan's last movie largely demonstrates the importance of Superman's existence in Batman's world. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Dark Knight Rises was a $250 million example for why Batman simply does not work without Kal-El and his ilk.

The problem comes down to economics. The Dark Knight Rises focused on the subject intensely. In Nolan's defense, I think he had to: Bruce Wayne is the very definition of the 1%. His absurd wealth was inherited: he didn't even earn it. Batman's training, gadgets, and free time are all made possible because he was born a billionaire. Much of The Dark Knight Rises follows from this. Though his devotion to his city and his willingness to sacrifice make him a hero, Bruce Wayne is compromised by his background. The mistakes he makes in the film are those of the wealthy. He forgets his responsibility to those who are less fortunate, squirreled away in his mansion.

He is unworthy of being the Batman, a conclusion Bruce ultimately seems to reach. It's the logical conclusion, given where Bruce comes from and what he represents: how can a rich man be a hero of the people?

In essence, the concept of Batman collapses under its own contradictions. For Batman to be relevant he needs to be a hero of the people; he needs to be "one of us." But it would take a nearly unfathomable amount of money to make Batman: he can't be an ordinary human.

This is the conundrum Nolan ran into, and it drives the resolution of his trilogy. While his solution may appease a large number of movie-goers, many longtime Batman fans (myself included) are left profoundly disappointed. Ultimately, Nolan failed to make Batman a legend. Looking back at culmination of Bruce Wayne's time as Batman, he only spent about a year in the suit over the course of three movies. It hardly seems worth the six years he spent training or the eight he spent moping. All in all, he was just a rich guy dressed as a bat; nothing more.

I find that portrayal highly unfulfilling. But how do we reconcile the schism between the rich billionaire and the legendary hero? How can Bruce Wayne be anything but the aforementioned rich guy in a cape?

The answer is context. Batman was never meant to inhabit our world; in fact - and I mean this in every possible sense - the concept doesn't work in reality. Batman, as presented in Nolan's movies, can be seen as the pinnacle of what man can hope to achieve: the notion that such an accomplishment can only be achieved by the rich is deeply problematic.

But Batman doesn't exist in the real world: he exists in the DC Universe. And when he was created, it was in response to a simple editorial mandate: give us another Superman.

This is a key aspect of the character that's often overlooked by those unfamiliar with his history. He's a superhero, not a hero. He was always supposed to be "another Superman."

In this context, Bruce Wayne's wealth and physical perfection become less significant. What's important is that he's a human who makes himself into something more. In short, Batman is a self-made superhero. Sure, his money and physique were assets allowing him to accomplish this. But their value becomes far diminished when compared to the might of Superman.

As a cultural symbol, he's supposed to show us that regardless of where we start out, we can be anything. Pull Batman down to reality, and his money makes him seem superior. It gives him an unfair edge, because he's starting at the top. But in a world with aliens, magic rings, and amazons, he's only human. And as such, he's our representative among the gods.

Yes, our representative has all our most useful traits and advantages. He was born with money and connections, just like he was born with a heroic physique, Olympic potential, and a superior analytic mind. He's got the best of everything, but that's because he needs it to compete with beings who were born with much, much more.

Beside Superman, Batman is an underdog. But take Superman away - as Nolan did - and you're ultimately left with either a bully or an aristocrat.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Top 10 Most Dickish Things Batman does in Dark Knight Rises

Wait. STOP READING. Spoilers follow, and I mean MAJOR SPOILERS. If you haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises yet and you want to discover Batman being a complete and total asshole for yourself, don't read another word.

10. Mopes around his mansion for six years while his family's company and legacy dissolves because the Joker killed his girlfriend and he's depressed there are no more super-villains to fight.

9. More or less fires Alfred for trying to protect him.

8. Knocks the gun out of Catwoman's hands when two dozen mercenaries with machine guns are trying to murder her. I'm a big fan of Batman observing the "no killing" rule, but it really seems like he's risking her life over his obsession.

7. When Bane attacks the New York Gotham City Stock Exchange, Batman goes out to play with his new toys. He manages to both do an immense amount of property damage and distract the police long enough for Bane to escape, but that's about it.

6. Builds a NUCLEAR BOMB under Gotham, then allows it to fall into the wrong hands rather than destroying it when he had the chance.

5. Doesn't bother to check on any of those charities he's supposed to be funding with the profits he doesn't bother finding out no longer exist.

4. Hands the legacy of Batman over to someone who doesn't have the training to survive a week.

3. Contrary to his promise to Gordon at the end of Batman Begins, at the end of the trilogy, Scarecrow is still at large.

2. Bangs the daughter of his late mentor and kills her. Okay, yeah: there are a few dozen addendums I should be adding, but he basically just takes Talia out at the end. Whether it was necessary or not, he really didn't seem too bothered by it. Guess the "no killing" rule was more of a guideline.

1. Lying to the people who loved him, making them think he's dead, and letting them bury him and grieve FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. This sequence was basically lifted from the end of Dark Knight Returns, when Bruce had to fake his death since the world knew he was Batman. But his identity's safe here. As far as I can tell, Batman lets Alfred - the man who raised him - bury him in tears BECAUSE HE THINKS IT'S FUNNY.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

If I tell you not to see The Dark Knight Rises, will you listen? If I tell you it's a bad movie, will you care? I assume not. I assume that, as a cultural touchstone and the follow-up to the most successful superhero movie of all time, you'll see it anyway. And you probably should. This is one of those movies you kind of need to have an opinion about: it's divisive. And I'm sure a lot of you will like it. There are things to like. It's fairly well shot, the action is pretty good, and Catwoman is really quite amazing. 

But it was nowhere near enough.

According to the internet, Dark Knight Rises was budgeted at around $250 million. Avengers, in contrast, was a relatively low-budget art house film at $220 million. Keep in mind that Disney still managed to squeeze out a 3D version at the lower price-point, as well as a Hulk. While I'm sure Warner Bros. will get their money's worth at the box office, I certainly felt ripped off.

There are many diverse and valid interpretations of Batman. This wasn't one of them. It's cribbed from some great versions of the character, but only superficially. There are elements of the character lifted from Kingdom Come, Dark Knight Returns, and Batman Beyond, but they're taken so far out of context as to be laughably stupid. For example, Bruce Wayne retiring and wasting away in his mansion is far more believable if he's 70 than 34. Also, Bruce is a total dick in this movie.  

As bad as Batman was, this Gotham is even worse. Rather than go through the trouble of creating a city with its own character and complexity, Nolan stole New York. Sure, there was a prison and a football stadium in the middle of Manhattan, but other than that, it was just New York City. As in, you can actually see the half-finished Freedom Tower. It's right there. Oh, and now they're on Williams Street: didn't even bother to digitally change the street sign. This is at least as much a New York movie as Ghostbusters.

I'm sure it's all intentional: Gotham was Chicago in the last movie; New York in this one. Gotham's every city (or something). It's a real city, with real problems, real villains. And the real villains in this movie are basically Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Regardless of the justification, it comes off as lazy. Actually, a lot of this movie does.

Like the other movies in the trilogy, the plot's lifted from a handful of famous Batman stories, stuck in a blender, then sewn back together. But this time it lacks nuance. Comic geeks will see the threads a mile away: Knightfall, Dark Knight Returns, and No Man's Land seem to make up the majority of the structure. Again, don't get excited: none of these stories were given the treatment they deserve, just faint echoes of elements sacrificing what made these stories worth telling.

To put it bluntly, this was to several of the greatest Batman stories ever told what X-Men 3 was to the Dark Phoenix Saga. This is by far a better movie, but there was a similar sense of sacrifice; by touching on these ideas, the filmmakers have made it less possible for them to actually ever be adapted faithfully.

Like I said earlier, there were some solid aspects, first and foremost Catwoman. But it should be noted that she doesn't actually belong here. She's superimposed on a story she doesn't fit in. Ironically, the best part of the movie actually makes the movie as whole worse by slowing it down and dragging it out.

Meanwhile, the plot is a mess. There are holes, non sequiturs, and even a key section I'm pretty sure was out of order. Things happen which make absolutely no sense. And, finally, the end may pull on your heartstrings if you don't think about it, but if you're paying attention, Batman just comes off as a total asshole.

I know not everyone is having the same reaction, but I've noticed some trends worth considering. The people who love this movie, by and large, aren't Batman fans: they're Nolan fans. If you've never read the stories this is taken from and you love Nolan's first two installments, this might satisfy you. But if you're a diehard fan, I think this is mostly just going to piss you off.

I mean, come on. At the very least, they could have gone with "Richard."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Surprisingly, Amazing Spider-Man was pretty damn good. The appropriately named director, Marc Webb, came at the production from a dramatically different perspective than what we've seen from this franchise. Raimi's movies were fundamentally a blend of superheroics and camp, with some light horror thrown in for good measure. I'd argue that Webb actually drops all three components of Raimi's genre mash-up, including the superheroics. Instead, he's telling a much more grounded story, more sci-fi than fantasy and at lower power-levels than we've seen in a while.

It's a surprising twist, given that the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction, as evidenced by this summer's spectacular Avengers. The more "realistic" comic book fare was starting to feel like a product of the previous decade. This Spider-Man feels like he'd fit right alongside Singer's first two X-Men movies. This version, for instance, would likely lose in a fight against Jackman's Wolverine - can anyone seriously claim the same is true of Maguire's character?

It's all the more surprising, because the one standout in the gritty realistic millennial comic book hero movies was Raimi's Spider-Man. He was the one superhero who seemed lifted from the page, absurdities and all. This version, while ostensibly the same character, is more subdued. He's a character with powers beyond human, but he's nowhere near the lightning-quick, unstoppable hero portrayed by Maguire.

Longtime readers of this site will likely assume I see that as a negative: it was, after all, the reason my reviews on Thor and the Nolan Batman movies have been a tad muted. This time's a little different, though: since we've already seen an authentic superhero version of Spider-Man on the big screen, I didn't feel cheated. Actually, by virtue of being different, Amazing Spider-Man felt worthwhile. If this had been a facsimile of Raimi's origin movie, it would have been a waste of everyone's time.

It didn't hurt that Webb pulled off the details. Comic fans will be thrilled to see Gwen Stacy portrayed flawlessly on the big screen, especially since neither of the love interests in Raimi's trilogy were really all that convincing. Likewise, contrary to a lot of early buzz, the Lizard was fairly well executed. He wasn't perfect, but he felt like a decent adaptation of the concept. I also really liked the supporting characters: Captain Stacy, Uncle Ben, and Aunt May all worked for me, and Flash was spot-on.

But the best aspect of the movie had to be Peter Parker. This version of the character is actually something of a departure from the comic. He's less traditionally "nerdy": more an outsider than a dork. This Peter caries a skateboard everywhere and comes off as something of a troublemaker. It's the sort of alteration that usually enrages geeks like myself, but it works so well I have to go with it. The character is well constructed and rounded, rather than a simple archetype.

There are several other twists to the "classic" origin, but most feel organic and refreshingly believable. You're with Peter as he gains his powers, has a falling out with his adoptive parents, and eventually embraces his new identity. There's far more story here than there ever was in Raimi's film.

The price, of course, comes off the other end. The hero of this movie is Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. And when the movie briefly shifts course, it's rarely to its benefit. You've likely seen enough of the trailers to realize that he spends a lot of the movie without his mask: what you may not realize is that this doesn't feel out of place. When he invariably lost it in the last act of all three Raimi movies, it felt forced. Here, it just makes sense.

Likewise, the fight scenes are generally underwhelming. Not bad; just less exciting than we're used to. While I don't think it's entirely good or bad, it's worth noting that the sequences where Peter's experimenting with his powers and discovering what he can do are far more engaging than his fights with the Lizard. And don't expect a grand payoff: the last fifteen minutes or so were probably the weakest in the movie.

As a whole, this is really good science-fiction flick with touches of drama and a fantastic love story. It's fun, intriguing, and surprisingly touching. The relationship between Peter and Gwen may be the best superhero romance we've seen since the first two Superman movies (though I'll entertain arguments on behalf of Xavier and Magneto in First Class).

Stacking it against the Raimi movies is tough. Obviously it's better than the third; that should go without saying. Other than that, it's a better Peter Parker movie but a far inferior Spider-Man flick. Personally, I prefer Raimi's, but that's a reflection of preferences, not quality. This is a fairly major revision of the character, but it comes together almost seamlessly.

Just don't go in expecting a superhero movie: this is something different.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Movie Review: Brave

As I write this, Brave's at 74% Fresh, with almost all precincts reporting. The 2010 film, How to Train Your Dragon is at 98%. What the hell is wrong with people?

Okay, let's start with this: Brave isn't a perfect film, nor is it on par with most of Pixar's work. This isn't the next Incredibles, Toy Story 2, Up, or Finding Nemo. Those were damn near flawless creations, and this is not.

But it's good. Really good. Brave is better than How to Train Your Dragon, and it deserves a hell of lot better than a tepid 74%. And I can't help wondering if Brave is taking heat for what it is or for what it's not.

Let's get this out of the way. Brave is a comedy, not a drama with comedic elements (Up) or an action movie with humor (The Incredibles) or a love story (Wall-E). It's a comedy about female empowerment, a mother-daughter relationship, and balancing tradition with finding one's own way.

And it's a kid's movie. More specifically, it's a movie made for young girls. This doesn't mean your son isn't going to love it, too, but the movie was constructed to play into girls' interests. You know, the way every other CG movie that's ever been made has been made for boys or men.

Merida is a princess, but I wouldn't call this "a princess movie," nor would I call it a fairy tale. Sure, there are echoes of Sleeping Beauty here and there, but I suspect The Jungle Book was a larger influence. A central plot point involves Merida's parents wanting her to marry a suitor from one of the other clans, and the movie never so much as introduces a love interest (this is a good thing, incidentally).

Most of the thematic elements are less complex than we're used to from Pixar and you don't have to look deep. You don't have to, but you probably should: there are some other ideas the movie plays with that aren't aimed at kids. None are subversive or inappropriate, but this movie has more to say on gender than a girl shooting arrows. While the kids are distracted by the admittedly tedious speeches about finding one's destiny, you'd do well to pay attention to Merida's mother and the power she wields. The film's last (and really only) fight sequence explores this on a very primal level, delving into the concept of strength in a surprisingly subtle way. It'll go right over the kid's heads - and apparently the critics', too - but it's worth giving some thought to what's going on there.

The movie's driven more by its jokes than anything else, so it's a good thing the humor's solid. Well, most of it is: there are a few cringe-inducing sequences with Merida's mother in denial of her... unfortunate situation. But other than that, the gags are entertaining. Yeah, it's mainly slapstick, but it's good slapstick.

So, what's with the relatively low rating? Are critics punishing Brave for being about mothers and daughters instead of fathers and sons? I wish I could dismiss this as paranoid, but I think there's a case to be made that in deviating from what critics are used to, Pixar may have lost some of them. Others may be irritated that Brave's a comedy and not the darker adventure the trailers hinted at. And I suspect a few have expectations for Pixar movies that are just too high to realistically be appeased.

Like I said before, this isn't a perfect movie. But it is a great animated comedy for boys and (especially) girls. And also for adults who can sit back and accept it for what it is. Yeah, I want another Incredibles, too. I want a badass female-driven action fantasy. And this is something different. That doesn't mean it's bad.

In fact, one of the movie's strengths lies in the fact it breaks Pixar's model. I love Pixar's work as much as anyone, but let's face it: the company's movies have started to feel eerily similar. This is mold breaking; it has a different voice and a different feel. That alone is reason to celebrate.

Don't listen to anyone claiming this is another critical failure on the heels of Cars 2: it's not. It's a great little animated movie with good jokes and a new point of view. Yeah, the messages are cliche and the movie skews young, but that's the case with ninety percent of animated movies that get made, including the overrated How to Train Your Dragon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

DVD Review: Superman Vs. the Elite

Last week, Warner Bros. animation released yet another direct-to-DVD movie. These things are coming out at a rate of about three or four a year now and represent a wide range in terms of quality.
"Superman Vs. the Elite" is based on a single issue titled "What's so Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way," also known as one of "the greatest Superman stories ever told," which is in quotes because the issue in question isn't actually all that good.

Fortunately, like "Under the Red Hood," the movie is far better than its source material. The main problem with the comic was compression: it's too big a story to do it justice in one issue of one comic. The movie, which utilizes the original writer (again, like Red Hood), offers the space needed to sell the premise and characters.

The premise revolves around relevance. As a character, Superman's awfully old-fashioned. He adheres to a set of ethics that seem at best quaint and at worse hypocritical to many. He doesn't kill supervillains who inevitably break out of jail and murder hundreds: where's the justice in that?

"What's so Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way" attempted to confront this issue head on by introducing a new team of superheroes who bore more than a passing resemblance to The Authority, a series published by Wildstorm about a quasi-parody of the JLA who used lethal force when they deemed it necessary (which was pretty much all the time).

So "Superman Vs. the Elite" is an adaptation of an issue about Superman confronting a parody of a team who were themselves a parody of the JLA to confront issues about the use of excessive force.

Fortunately, you don't need to know any of that to enjoy this story. It's not actually significant that The Elite are based on The Authority: only that there's a new team in town who aren't afraid to kill.

Nor is it required knowledge that DC folded the Wildstorm characters into the DC Universe last fall, a fact that raises some interesting questions of its own. Was the release date of "Superman Vs. the Elite" coincidence, or was it produced in part as a quiet protest against imposing the lethal Wildstorm characters into a setting which has always been built around more traditional morals?

Either way, it's a great little movie. The use of tension is topnotch, and the character work is fantastic. I'm pretty sure this is coolest version of Lois Lane we've seen outside of the comics, and Manchester Black, the leader of The Elite, is well developed and surprisingly sympathetic. Until the last ten minutes, this isn't a black-and-white situation.

It's those last ten minutes that feel a little off. They're still definitely cool, but there's something a bit "overboard" about the movie's finale. The Elite go from anti-heroes to villains in a heartbeat, a fact which undermines the story's credibility. I'd have liked more deviation from the source material in the climax.

Nevertheless, this is still a great film, both for longtime DC fans and for everyone out there who's ever asked, "Why doesn't Superman (or Batman) just kill the bad guy?" Actually, if you're in that second group, this movie is REQUIRED viewing. Seriously, I am so damn tired of answering that question....

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus

I've been looking forward to being disappointed by this movie for months now. The premise always struck me as an incredibly ambitious direction with some real potential, and the trailers were nothing short of fantastic. But, like I said a few months ago, it's been three decades since Ridley Scott made a movie I like, so I couldn't shake the feeling this could go south.

Not surprisingly, this movie has some serious problems. Fortunately, it's also got a few strengths.

Let's start with the positive. This movie maintains Scott's track record with tone and atmosphere: there's a palpable sense of dread on Prometheus, just like there was on the Nostromo. For the most part, the suspense and horror delivers. Likewise, most of the effects are topnotch, though the CG stood out in a few sequences. Still, this may be the first movie I've ever seen in 2D where I've regretted not upgrading.

The horror aspect of Prometheus worked; I can't say the same for the science fiction.

The thing is, this isn't a movie where the SF stays relegated to the background: this film is less about horror and action and more about posing questions and expanding on the mythology of the Alien franchise. These are fantastic aspirations; it's a real shame the movie fails spectacularly in the attempt.

Spoilers follow, dear reader. Proceed at your peril.

The mythology it offers - mainly around the infamous "space jockey" from the original film - is relatively underwhelming. If you've seen the trailer, you've probably already figured out what they're driving at. On this account, the movie mainly just succeeded in removing any mystery from the strange dead giant. None of the details they filled in were satisfying, and the areas left unanswered lacked the mystique.

As for the more cognitive aspects of the production, if you're familiar with the genre, you're familiar with the ideas and questions it poses. They've played with variations on Star Trek TNG and X-Files, not to mention countless comics, novels, and short stories. This tends to be the case with most science fiction, which is why the best SF movies don't try to compete with with more than a hundred years of idea-driven speculative fiction and instead complement it visually.

The movie's real weakness, though, is in its characters and structure. The actors all do a fine job with what they're given, but in many cases what they've been given is utter tripe. Do we really care that the main character lost her father to disease as a child? Do we need to spend time dealing with her cliche psychological issues of inadequacy due to her inability to have children? There's an alien bio-weapons plant outside, people: get your goddamn priorities in order!  Do we really need yet another movie about holding on to one's faith when God turns out to be a dick from outer space?

In space, no one can hear you retell the story of Job.

Yeah, that's what this thing really boils down to. It's not an awful idea on its own, I guess, but if you're going that route, you need to make sure your dialogue is pitch-perfect, your characters are well-rounded and fascinating, and your story flows seamlessly. And Prometheus delivered on none of these things.

That said, the vast majority of this movie is engrossing while you're in the theater. It pulls you into its world, and the actors trick you into staying interested, even as their characters make baffling, irrational decisions at every turn. You'll love the horror when the film stops pontificating on faith long enough to return to the interesting stuff.

In short, if you're a fan of the genre, you'll enjoy the experience. But, as the closing credits roll, you're going to feel shortchanged by how much of the movie was pissed away on meaningless drivel. And you're especially going to feel ripped off by the last twenty minutes: the ending was downright awful. It's not actually a bad way to spend a few hours; just go in knowing it's going to make you more angry than intrigued.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

About ten minutes into Snow White and the Huntsman, it became abundantly clear the movie was going to fail. But I'd gone into that theater looking to be entertained - let the record reflect that - and I was going to give it every chance. Sure, it was clearly going to be a bad movie, but maybe, I allowed myself to hope, it was going to be gloriously bad. It clearly wasn't going to be Chronicles of Riddick, but maybe it could still turn around and match Underworld: Rise of the Lycans or Dungeons and Dragons. But it soon became apparent this was less Dungeons & Dragons and more Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God. In the end, a handful of interesting moments - almost all of which were in the trailer - kept it more interesting than last summer's dreadful Robin Hood... but not by much.

The movie had several major flaws, but the central was lack of energy. There was nothing driving this forward or pulling the audience in, nothing to keep us engaged or amused. Now I'm going to say something controversial, something that will shock many of you.

I don't think it was Kristen Stewart's fault.

Don't get me wrong: she was miscast and didn't add much, but she actually manages a passable accent (unlike, say, Taylor Kitsch in John Carter). Yes, Stewart lacks range, but she has so little to play with here, it doesn't matter. Hell, her constant underacting was far less distracting than Theron's overacting: at least Stewart was consistent.

The real culprit behind the movie's failure is the screenplay, which makes no goddamn sense on any level. I'm not sure how many drafts they went through before filming, but I'm betting quite a few. There's garbage in the script that feels like it was written for entirely different movies. During the obligatory - not to mention painfully drawn out - sequence following the poisoned apple incident, the huntsman goes to fawn over the body of Snow White. He tells her that he keeps expecting her to get up and give him more "grief". That would be fine, except it didn't remotely fit their (mostly non-existent) relationship. The movie's full of random cliches like that. It's feels like someone cut up random scripts and pasted them together. The lines mostly work in a trailer capacity, but nothing really makes any sense in context. The "I've seen what she sees. I can kill her" line from the trailer is a perfect example. In the trailer, you understand this completely: it's clearly referencing the fact that the Queen and Snow White share some sort of psychic bond, like Harry and Voldemort. The only problem is that no one bothered to include anything like that in the movie: at no point in this film does Snow White see what she saw. THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN.

I don't want to make anyone think this was a one-time error. I'm describing nearly every line of dialogue in the film. Most Youtube mashup videos have more cohesion than this thing.

It's kind of fitting then that the director omitted any internal consistency. Snow White (lacking any martial training or ability) leads an army consisting entirely of calvary across a battle field. Next scene, she's fighting alongside her infantry. Where'd it come from? How did it get there? Who cares: Snow White's got a shield bearing the crest of Gondor.

On every level, this thing's a disjointed mess. Is it a dark retelling of a fairy tale or a fantasy movie loosely tied to an old story? I didn't get the impression the director would even understand that question, let alone be able to answer it.

Yeah, there are a few cool effects in this, but nowhere near as many as you'd expect from watching the trailer. That troll? Way cooler in the trailer - the CG's pretty crappy on the big screen. That weird nazgul/bat-creature? That's a hallucination: you've already seen every second of screen time they give it. The mirror soldiers? Again, the trailers pretty much give everything away. Same goes for the milk-bath and the golden guy who comes out of the mirror: nothing else to see here. The raven-transformation?

Actually, there's a pretty cool sequence where the queen turns back that wasn't in the trailers. You know what? Look it up on Youtube in six months if you still care.

Sure, there's some stuff that wasn't in the trailers, included what may be remembered as the worst version of fairies ever put on film. Also, there's a stag that wandered in from Princess Mononoke that turns into butterflies. I'm not entirely sure why.

In case you skipped down to this point just to get a summary, I'll make this clear: Avengers is still in the theaters, so there's no reason anyone should be wasting their time or money on this tripe. I don't care how many times you've already seen Avengers: you're far better off going again. Or, if you simply must watch a dark retelling of Snow White, there's a version from 1997 with Sigourney Weaver as the queen streaming on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video (it's labeled "Snow White: a Tale of Terror", in a bizarre attempt to sound intense or extreme or something, but the movie's actually just called "Snow White"). It's seriously flawed, but it's about a billion times more engaging than Snow White and the Huntsman. And it's free if you've got Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Movie Review: Men in Black III

The first Men in Black was far better than it seems like it should have been, and the second - unfortunately - was not. Our expectations for the third were a bit harder to pin down. It seemed unlikely that Barry Sonnenfeld would risk what remains of his reputation unless he had reason to believe the finished product would be worthwhile. On the other hand, this is the director of RV and Wild Wild West* we're talking about, so speculation as to his "reasons for making movies" are risky.

I'm pleased to report that Sonnenfeld either knew what he was doing or got damn lucky, because Men in Black III was pretty great.

The trailers set up the premise: Agent K's been murdered by a time-traveling alien, so it's up to J to go rescue him. I knew going in that time travel was going to be used to give Josh Brolin an opportunity to show off his Tommy Lee Jones impression. What I hadn't realized was that they'd invested more thought than that. This is, in fact, a science-fiction comedy about time-travel, rather than an SF comedy with time-travel tossed in. Or, to put it another way, time-travel is an integral piece of the movie, not a cheap ploy.

That's not to say it's used perfectly. There's some slight-of-hand tricks employed to make you overlook the fact that some aspects don't logically work quite as well as they'd like you to believe. And - as is usually the case - the rules governing the trope are neither completely fleshed out or rational. But who cares? When the chips were down, when it really counted, Men in Black III was more intelligent than I'd expected.

It was also more touching. The movie's resolution packs a surprising emotional punch. Yeah, it's still a comedy, but it's a comedy with just a touch of gravitas.

Sure, the villain wasn't really all that memorable, and several jokes felt flat or redundant from previous installments. But those are trifles. Men in Black III accomplishes the one thing I wouldn't have anticipated: in a summer with bigger alien-invasion movies, the third installment of a fifteen-year-old franchise actually justifies its own existence.

Men in Black III is a neat little movie. It's not on par with The Avengers, but - come on - you've already seen that two or three times, anyway. If you're a fan of part one, check this out.

*Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I've never seen RV. And, in the interest of fuller disclosure, I actually like Wild Wild West, despite being willing to admit it isn't exactly a "good" movie. Oh, and I'm aware of the background behind the giant spider and still like it. I mean, come on: how can you not love a steam-punk robot spider?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Darkest Timeline, or Just a Four?

So. Last week Community was renewed for a fourth season. Well, technically, it was renewed for half a season, but nevertheless there was much rejoicing. And for good reason: it has been demonstrated empirically and proven irrefutably through abstract mathematics that Community is nothing short of the greatest live-action half-hour television series in the history of the Universe. At this point, the proof has been so widely distributed and is so clearly manifest by the natural light that to repeat it here seems a waste of space - if you're unfamiliar with the logic behind this argument, it is suggested you collect some scrap paper and work out the proof for yourself. It makes for good practice (a hint to get you started: the reflexive property will be needed).

At any rate, the celebration was short lived: on Friday, Sony announced that Dan Harmon, Community's creator, would no longer be the show runner but would instead work on the show in some other capacity. Soon after, Harmon clarified that this meant he'd been fired, and the other capacity he'd be working in would be none at all.

There's a lot happening behind the scenes here we'll probably never know. It's not clear whether Harmon was fired in an attempt to bring down costs, to make it more accessible for a wider audience, or for personal reasons. But it understandably has a lot of fans pissed off. In the last forty-eight hours, I've read quite a few eulogies for the series.

But I'm not ready to write it off yet. Yes, Dan Harmon created a fantastic series with some fantastic characters in it. And he's developed that show into something unique; it's more or less a given that season four isn't going to be like the first three.

But that might be okay. Let's say, for argument's sake, that the show more or less drops the homages altogether and opts to treat the series as a sitcom. While that's certainly not ideal, it's actually a good time to make the shift. The main characters are entering their last year at Greendale: transitioning into something a little closer to the real world might work thematically. And, while I love the homages, I love the characters just as much. If - and this is admittedly a huge IF - the writers can maintain the character dynamics and personalities, I'll keep watching. I think a lot of us will.

I think the importance of the homages is getting magnified, and it's because there's an elephant in the study room no one's talking about: the first half of season three was kind of weak.

Yeah, there are exceptions: "Remedial Chaos Theory" and "Regional Holiday Music" were both fantastic, and there were some other solid episodes, but most of early season three just wasn't on par with what we were used to. The Halloween episode was particularly disheartening: after the revolutionary Halloween episodes we got in seasons one and two, the ghost story motif felt forced and uninspired.

On top of that, several characters seemed to grow less intelligent this year. Even when the show recovered its footing, there was something off. A lot of the development from season two seemed to have been forgotten, and some characters' key traits and motivation just vanished. Does Abed even care about making movies anymore?

I'm not bringing this up to dwell on the negative: overall, season three was awesome, thanks to episodes like "Virtual Systems Analysis", "Pillows and Blankets", and the amazing finale. But - let's be honest - the show was getting extremely reliant on special episodes to gloss over the characters. I think that's why a lot of us are having such a negative reaction to the possibility (and it is still just a possibility) the homages and special episodes might get faded out.

I don't want to give the impression I'm glad Harmon's out: I'm not. We're almost certainly going to lose something great on this series. But there's a chance what's left over is still going to be good, maybe even great. It's not a great chance, but it's there. Obviously, the best timeline would have been the one where the die wasn't rolled at all, where Harmon was left in charge. But, as evidenced by much of season three, even that timeline wouldn't have been perfect: nothing is.

And, given that Sony did opt to roll that die, I'm waiting for it to land before calling it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Movie Review: Battleship

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably mention that I have not, in fact, seen Battleship, nor do I plan to do so. In most cases, I would consider this sufficient cause to forgo writing a review, but I feel like Battleship deserves special consideration. Besides, while I did not go to the theater, I did go to Youtube, where I just watched the trailers for all three Transformers movies, along with two versions of "In the Navy" (the original music video, as well as the Muppets' take), so I consider myself qualified to discuss Battleship with some authority. After all, the subtle differences between what I just saw and the movie in theaters really can't be greater than the difference between seeing a movie in IMAX 3D versus seeing it in a conventional theater.

Ultimately, I found the experience unsatisfying. At the end of the day, the movie just wasn't memorable. In fact, even if I'd actually seen it, I don't think I'd have retained much. While there were some solid special effects, everything flew by so quickly I couldn't really bring myself to care. On top of that, I really didn't feel like anything I saw was substantially different from any number of Michael Bay movies.

Likewise, the performances were generally underwhelming. Sure, Liam Neeson's cool, but he felt wasted here. The movie's lead, Taylor Kitsch, only makes me wonder why studios have so much faith in the guy: while I actually did like John Carter, he was clearly the weak link. I did think Link Hogthrob did good work in his role as a naval officer, but it's not like he was able to salvage the film.

It should go without saying that I can't recommend this movie to anyone. I'm just glad I actually took my own advice this time.

Yeah, normally I'd feel bad reviewing a movie I didn't watch. But when your strategy is to adapt a strategy board game into an alien invasion flick which DOESN'T end with Hulk showing up to kick the aliens' asses, then you release it a few weeks after the Avengers, I'm not sure you deserve anyone's sympathy.

And you sure as hell don't deserve our money.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

A lot of geek reviewers are saying Avengers is the movie they've waited their whole lives for; that they grew up with this comic, and they've always dreamed of seeing it brought to the big screen. Well, that's not me.

By my count, there are four teams in comics that have always stood above the rest: The Justice League, Avengers, X-men, and Teen Titans. And, of that bunch, The Avengers have always been my least favorite.

I'm explaining this to add some context: I am a geek and a fan of superheroes, but I'm not an Avengers fanboy. So, when I tell you I have never had this much fun watching a superhero movie in my life, it's because this movie is the simply the most awesome goddamn movie I've seen in a long time.

Actually, it might be the most awesome goddamn movie ever made.

Remember last year when I reviewed Thor? I got in some arguments over that one. I thought it was a great movie, but it really grated on me. I couldn't get over the sense that it was still timid; that it was a little embarrassed it was a superhero movie, and it compensated by playing down elements and ideas that would remind the audience where it came from. Avengers made me feel vindicated: this time there were no apologies for featuring gods, magic, spies, and super-science.

The fact this was directed by a genuine superhero fan is evident from the start. Whedon understands what makes teams work. Every one of the Avengers is essential to the team's success, and that includes the ones without powers. That doesn't feel forced either: this movie uses the characters' abilities right. Yeah, the scenes with Hulk are everyone's favorites, but it's the way they utilized Hawkeye in the final battle that seemed the most brilliant.

My god... the final battle. This is the first live-action superhero team fight that looked right. Lots of other movies have pulled off individual battles, but this is the first time we've seen a team fight together on the same field, interacting with each other, fighting together and separately, trading sparing partners, playing off each others' powers and weapons as well as their own.

This is the kind of movie that all summer movies try to be. Yes, it's light. Yes, the plot is relatively straightforward. This is blockbuster entertainment, not drama. But there's an art form in making a great summer blockbuster, and this may very well be the best ever made. Better than Star Trek, better than Pirates of the Caribbean, better than Iron Man, Captain America, X-Men 2, the Spider-Man movies, and Speed Racer.

The characters are fascinating, their interactions are wonderful, and their banter is hilarious. Each Avenger feels unique and intriguing; hell, the non-Avenger characters do, too. By the end of this, you'll want more than just Iron Man movies: you'll be ready to watch a Nick Fury feature, a Hawkeye solo, and about four Hulk films. And you'll be willing to kill for a Black Widow movie - her character is pitch-perfect, and everyone who complained about the casting back in Iron Man 2 is about to shut-the-hell-up.

This is new high-water mark for both big-budget summer filmmaking and for superhero flicks. It also might be a turning point in the trudge towards dark and gritty hero stories: this thing is fundamentally bright and optimistic. I like The Dark Knight as much as the next guy, but Avengers just demonstrated to an massive audience that there's more than one note to this genre.

It's amazing. And I fully expect to go again in a week or two. Hell, I really want to catch some of those lines I couldn't hear over the sound of the audience cheering.

One more thing: at the very least I want to see this nominated for Best Picture. There's a different set of skills that goes into producing, designing, and directing something like this, but Avengers is no less difficult, no less artistic, and certainly no less impressive a finished product than anything that's won recently. This isn't a joke: I will be legitimately pissed off next year if the Academy snubs this.

It's that good.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Futures Market, 2012 Edition

It's that time again.

Actually, it's well past that time again due to the fact I procrastinated, which has become an annual tradition for this series, meaning it actually is that time again, so I was right the first time.

So to speak.

If you have no idea what I'm referring to, then welcome to my annual "Futures Market" post, where I attempt to predict how good summer movies will be and how much cash they'll make.

This rarely goes well.

As this blog is what it is, I'm (mostly) limiting the scope of my prognostication to fantasy, science fiction, and superhero films. Those are more or less the only movies I'll pay to see, so they're the only ones I'm even willing to pretend I'm qualified to speak about.

In addition to the self-evident projections about opening gross and the Rotten Tomatoes's Freshness Rating, I'm including a "Required Freshness Rating" representing what I consider the likely cutoff required for me to see it. This is actually no more scientific than the other stats: the chance that I go to the movies has as much to do with the whims of the weather as anything else.

May 4
The Avengers
Projected Opening Weekend: 165 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 92%, but I'm cheating.
Required Freshness Rating: 20% or less

These guesses are more or less meritless: The Avengers has already opened overseas, and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. I've actually knocked them down by about 5% from the last time I checked (there's almost always some backlash against big-budget flicks that open this strong).

Not that I wouldn't have seen this anyway. I went to see Green Lantern last year when its Freshness rating was less than a third of The Avengers, and I doubt I learned my lesson. Even if the coin had fallen the other way, I suspect I'd still have found my way to the theater opening weekend.

At any rate, it seems that any lingering doubts about Whedon's ability to manage one of the biggest movies ever made were unnecessary: the consensus is that The Avengers is pure awesome. Between the reviews, the scope, and the trailers, it's looking like this one's going to be huge. I'm betting on an opening weekend around $165 million.

May 11
Dark Shadows
Projected Opening Weekend: $35 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 60%
Required Freshness Rating: 92%

I'm betting Dark Shadows opens - and closes - with a whimper. There's nothing in the trailer that seems particularly inspired. At a glance, it looks more like a remake of Beetlejuice than the series it's supposedly based on. Frankly, even if they weren't feeling betrayed, I doubt there's enough fans of the franchise to have much effect, anyway.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure Burton has many fans left, himself. When Alice in Wonderland came out, it cost him what little goodwill he had left. Sure, the man's a legend, but how long has it been since he directed a movie that anyone liked? Ed Wood came out 18 years ago. I'm in a small minority that really liked Sleepy Hollow, but even that was thirteen years ago. I suppose Big Fish (a scant decade old) has a few fans left, but I don't think anyone considers it one of his best.

That said, there's a chance this could be a lot of fun. Even if that's the case, it's odd it's being released in May. This one would have a far better chance in October than it has competing against Avengers, even in its second week.

May 16
The Dictator
Projected Opening Weekend: $20 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 75%
Required Freshness Rating: 95%+

I actually think this will be fun, but I don't see that counting for all that much. I'm not sure what it cost to make, but somehow I doubt its budget was extravagant. It'll do fine for a comedy, but I don't see this becoming another Borat.

My expectation is that most people - myself included - will opt to wait for DVD or Netflix.

May 18
Projected Opening Weekend: $150
Projected Opening Rating: 50% (cheating again)
Required Freshness Rating: 101%

Okay, so I'm being a tad harsh here, but this is the one movie this summer I'm pulling against. I know that, thanks to the international box office, Battleship will do fine in the long run, but I don't want it to. I want this movie to lose more money than any film in the history of cinema. I want it to perform so poorly that the makers of Van Helsing send Battleship's producers a check to help them get back on their feet.

Why? Because this is going too far. This is an alien invasion movie based on the game Battleship.

I know I'm not exactly positioned to take the high road here: the majority of movies I'm planning to see aren't exactly 'original' concepts. But there has to be a line, and while I'm not entirely sure where that line is located, I do know it's at least a mile and a half away from a bunch of Decepticon spaceships on a grid board.

Regardless, there are a handful of reviews up already, so my prediction for the Freshness Rating isn't exactly a blind guess.

May 25
Men in Black III
Projected Opening Weekend: $85 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 75%
Required Freshness Rating: 80%

This one's a dark horse. I assume there's a reason this thing was made, beyond the obvious cash grab. I just can't believe anyone would green light a third MIB movie a decade after the last unless they were holding one hell of a script.

In addition, aspects of the trailers look intriguing. There's a real chance this could be a phenomenal movie. But I remember thinking that about MIB II. It's easy to cut a decent trailer; harder to make a great movie. And it's not as if the trailer is amazing - just kind of interesting. This could really go either way.

Same with the box office, actually. I know that Will Smith was once God's gift to Hollywood producers, but I'm pretty sure those days have passed. The era when his movies were guaranteed blockbusters is over. Honestly, I'm not sure that kind of star-power exists in the Universe anymore: audiences today seem a bit more refined and discerning. People go to the theater based on the look of the film, word of mouth, and their interest in the property. Hell, I think the name of the director has become a larger pull than the star.

That doesn't mean this won't do well. There's still some goodwill out there for the first movie (for good reason: that was a solid flick), and - like I said before - the trailer doesn't look half bad. But this is far from a guaranteed slam-dunk: it's going to take some serious word-of-mouth to make this an immediate success.

Moonrise Kingdom
Projected Opening Weekend: $15 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 90%
Required Freshness Rating: 98%

Including this is a bit of a stretch, as it's not something most people would label a genre film, unless you count "weird" as a genre. But, I'd argue that Wes Anderson films are effectively fantasy. They certainly have geek-appeal.

The trailer for this is certainly fascinating, and I have high expectations for the film. That said, I'd describe the odds that I'll see this in the theater as somewhere between slim and a sepia-tinted none. Given the cost of a ticket, I expect a certain rate of return when it comes to explosions, super-humans, and robots that I don't expect I'll get from this.

Sorry: when it comes to summer entertainment, I've got standards.

Still, I'm eagerly awaiting the day it appears on Netflix.

June 1
Snow White and the Huntsman
Projected Opening Weekend: $115 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 80%
Required Freshness Rating: 80% (or 40% with decent word-of-mouth)

This is a flick with high expectations. Conceptually, the idea of an epic re-imagining of Snow White originally sounded about as good of an idea as an alien-invasion flick based on Battleship. But then the trailer hit and a lot of us changed our tune. Yes, it's starring the chick from Twilight, but everything we've seen so far has looked pretty damn awesome.

Of course, this could easily be a disappointment on many levels. There's a chance we've seen everything cool this movie has to offer, and the rest is permeated with dull melodrama. There's a good chance, in fact: this might be the next Alice in Wonderland. But there's an equal chance this could be an awesome - if silly - fantasy epic.

Personally, I'm looking for one of two things. Either almost uniformly positive reviews, or a split between those loving and hating it. Hell, I'd almost be happier with the latter: while I'd like this to be another solid summer action flick, I'd LOVE it to be another Chronicles of Riddick.

June 8
Projected Opening Weekend: $90 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 85%
Required Freshness Rating: 80%

I'll be the first to admit this may be wishful thinking: maintaining high expectations for Scott's followup to Robin Hood rides the line between optimism and Stockholm Syndrome. But, frankly, I can't help it. The trailers just look so damn cool. And - come on - this is Ridley Scott returning to one of the best films of at least two genres.

But... damn. I think it's been thirty years since Ridley Scott made a movie I actually liked (Blade Runner was the last), and there are plenty of reasons to doubt he still remembers how to direct something that doesn't suck.

Even so, I'm going with the "glass half-full" interpretation. Here's hoping.

June 22
Projected Opening Weekend: $70 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 95%
Required Freshness Rating: 30%

If my expectations for this film are high, it's because Pixar's record - while no longer entirely unblemished - remains extremely impressive. On top of that, the trailers we've seen for Brave have been strong.

I'm basing the opening weekend projection on trends for the company (exempting recent sequels). Actually, the pattern seems to point closer to the $60 Million range, but I'm nudging that up for a few reasons. First, contrary to Hollywood assumptions, girls and women do, in fact, like to watch movies, and they've waited an awfully long time for a female protagonist. On top of that, I suspect Pixar's fans will react favorably to a turn-around after last summer's less-than-stellar Cars 2. A return to greatness would make for a compelling narrative, which should inflate the movie's performance - possibly dwarfing my projection.

That said, this is a two-headed coin. I have every confidence this is going to be on par with the company's legacy, but if I'm wrong - if this is somehow another Cars 2 - the narrative will read that Pixar really has jumped the Bruce, and Brave will be lucky to pull half what I'm predicting.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Projected Opening Weekend: $60 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 65%
Required Freshness Rating: 80% (or at least the right 40%)

This has a lot of promise, but the jury's still out on whether it can deliver. For a movie that's being lost in the shuffle of big-budget superhero projects, the trailers for this have certainly been intriguing. I haven't read the novel it's based on, but at a glance this looks like one of the year's more ambitious concepts.

This is a movie I'm extremely hopeful for, but perhaps not as optimistic about. Timur Bekmambetov directed Wanted, a decent action film that should have been a batshit crazy movie about super-villains (don't ask). But if Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is just a decent action movie, I've got no interest in seeing it. This really needs to be something special; something as unique in tone as it is in concept.

If it can pull that off, I'll be there. Maybe not opening weekend (I'm pretty much committed to Brave) but soon after.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Projected Opening Weekend: $20 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 80%
Required Freshness Rating: 95%

I'll admit up front that I probably won't see this in the theater, no matter how good it's supposed to be (though if there's a heat wave in the last week of June, who can say?). That said, I'm kind of fascinated by the tone of the trailer.

If you haven't heard of this one, we've got something in common: I stumbled across the trailer while assembling this list. Apparently, it's an SF apocalyptic film chronicling its leads' last days before an asteroid exterminates all life from the planet.

The movie looks like it might have some guts, blending dark comedy with an solemn acceptance about what's coming. Characters in the trailer behave in bizarre and irrational ways, but there's something almost believable about the whole thing. It looks pretty cool, actually.

June 29
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Projected Opening Weekend: $85 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 65%
Required Freshness Rating: 80% (or at least the right 40%)

This has to be one of the more bizarre sequel/reboots I've ever seen. At the end of the first movie Cobra was defeated in every single one of their objectives, except for the only one that actually mattered, which no one outside of the organization knew about. Despite the Joes' celebration, at the closing credits, Cobra more or less seized control of the country, leaving the door open for a sequel.

There was just one small problem.

Aside from that ending and a handful of fun moments, the movie was pretty bad. A lot of comes down to casting: part one had what may be the least appropriate cast I've seen in years. The GI Joes are supposed to be an elite military force, not a bunch of geeks.

Frankly, this isn't a team I should look at and think, "Hey, I'd fit right in with those guys!"

Well, the director of the second movie seems to have had the same complaint the rest of us did: with the exception of Snake Eyes, all the good guys have been cycled out for actors who could beat me up and take my lunch money (as it should be). At the same time, it looks like issues with the design and tone have been fixed, at least if the trailers are to be trusted.

Personally, I'd have preferred they simply recast the characters, since as a child of the 80's, I'm partial to their names if nothing else. Instead, they seem to be killing all the characters from part one, so they can replace them with other Joes.

I guess that works, too.

July 3
The Amazing Spider-Man
Projected Opening Weekend: $85 Million (Fri - Sun); $115 Million for the 4-day weekend
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 70%
Required Freshness Rating: 50%

I almost wish this movie looked worse, so I could just write it off and call it a day. The thing is, it actually looks... fine. The trailers and scenes aren't great, but they're pretty solid, provided you accept them for what they are. But what they are looks to be a darker, grittier Spider-Man.

For Grodd's sake, didn't we learn in the 90's that Spider-Man is not and shouldn't be Batman? Parker's got a tough life, but at the end of the day, his life isn't a tragedy even if his origin is.

On top of that, repeating the origin story is an utter waste of time. You want to tell a Spider-Man story where Parker's in high school? Don't sweat it: the only people who remember he graduated in Raimi's first movie are those of us who are going to follow the interviews close enough to realize that it's a reboot. No one else will notice or care.

What's really shocking about Amazing Spider-Man is that it has the 4th of July weekend. If I was running Warner Bros., I'd have wedged Dark Knight Rises into this slot and dared Sony to stand their ground. For the life of me, I can't understand why Dark Knight is opening at the end of the month instead of what could have been the largest weekend of the year.

At the end of the day, I expect I'll go see this. It is a superhero movie, after all. Hell, I might even love it. But I really wish they'd gone a different route.

July 13
Projected Opening Weekend: $45 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 40%
Required Freshness Rating: 80%

The red-band trailer for Ted is kind of awesome, and I want to be optimistic. But... here's the thing: this is Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy. And the strength of Family Guy isn't exactly in its ability to build a compelling narrative.

If MacFarlane can overcome that, this just might be something special; perhaps something incredible. But I'm skeptical.

Even if it's a critical flop, I expect it'll perform admirably for a comedy. But I'm not seeing this unless I get some assurance it's more than a string of crass jokes. That might be enough to keep me laughing through a trailer, but it'll take more to carry a movie.

July 20
The Dark Knight Rises
Projected Opening Weekend: $150 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 85%
Required Freshness Rating: 30%

It's a Batman movie; I'll almost certainly be there. This time, that's the easy question. Everything else is a lot harder.

It's tempting to shrug and say that, as the follow-up to one of the most successful films of all time, this will dominate the box office. And, as a matter of fact, I'm betting on just that. But I don't think it's as sure a bet as you might think.

The Dark Knight was a perfect storm of strong buzz, iconic characters, and positive reviews, all pushed over the top by the tragic death of Heath Ledger. Even before it opened, it had taken on mythic proportions: the fact that the movie could actually back those expectations up with quality pushed it over the top.

There's little doubt the film set to wrap this series will get a bump from its predecessor, but there's a chance it might not be anywhere near what most of us expect. Negative buzz around Bane, who's quickly becoming something of a joke due to his garbled speech and odd design, are making a lot of people wary about the picture. If the movie doesn't deliver, it could easily cement this narrative, stifling the film's box-office potential.

On the other hand, there's a really good chance that Nolan's got an ace up his sleeve. It's easy to forget that he managed to suppress knowledge about Ra's al Ghul's true identity in part one and the extent of Two-Face's inclusion in part two: he's sneaky that way.

I'm betting he's got some surprises in store for us this time, as well. I'm not sure whether that's going to involve a return of Ra's Al Ghul (we know he's in the film in some capacity, but it could be nothing more than a flashback), a sustained appearance from Two-Face (I've always been suspicious of his "death"), or even something more out there (I'll admit it's a long shot, but I still think a third-act fight between The Dark Knight and The Man of Steel is within the realm of possibility). Something like that could reinvigorate audiences and push revenues through the roof.

July 27
Neighborhood Watch
Projected Opening Weekend: $10 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 35%
Required Freshness Rating: 95%

I'm not sure what to make of this. I hadn't heard of this until putting this together, when I saw the description and decided to track down the trailer. Apparently, this is about a neighborhood watch which uncovers an alien invasion (hence its inclusion). Only there's nothing like that in the trailer; just a dumb-looking comedy.

Then again, I've been pleasantly surprised by Ben Stiller comedies in the past, so who knows?

August 3
The Bourne Legacy
Projected Opening Weekend: $25 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 60%
Required Freshness Rating: 95%

Anyone out there still care about the Bourne franchise? Personally, I lost interest after the second and never got around to number three. Given that the concept was pretty much played out in the initial movie, I'm a little confused as to why these keep going.

Total Recall
Projected Opening Weekend: $70 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 35%
Required Freshness Rating: 85%

I love Total Recall: it's a hell of a movie that holds up pretty well. So. With all the possible new ideas out there, why dedicate the budget and time to break something that doesn't need fixing?

This one might end up surprising us. It might put a different spin on the project or it may deliver awesome effects or fantastic effects or magic unicorns that literally leap off the screen and into the theater.

I wouldn't hold your breath for any of those things. More likely than not, this is going to be this year's Conan: The Barbarian.

August 17
Projected Opening Weekend: $35 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 80%
Required Freshness Rating: 80%

This one definitely has potential. ParaNorman is one of three movies being released this year filmed in stop-motion, the animation form that utterly died out about fifteen years ago when it was forever replaced by computer animation.

The teaser for this was atmospheric and fascinating; the trailer isn't quite on par, but it's still pretty cool. This could go either way, but I'm cautiously optimistic that it'll be a solid animated flick.

In Summary

Movies I'll Definitely See:
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises

Movies I'll Probably See:
The Amazing Spider-Man
Men in Black III
Snow White and the Huntsman
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Movies I'll Probably Skip but Wish I'd Seen Later
Moonrise Kingdom
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Unlikely, But You Never Know
Dark Shadows
The Dictator
Total Recall
Neighborhood Watch

Movies I Almost Certainly Won't Be Seeing This Summer
The Bourne Legacy