The Movie Year in Review (2/3 of the Way Through)
Don’t you love it when things rhyme?
Back in April, I posted an article where I reviewed all the films of 2011 (until that point) that I’d seen. As I always say, I do try to see everything that comes out. Or at least most of it. This year, I’m more lenient than I had been in the past. Either way, chances are, if a film came out (especially in wide release), I saw it. And if I saw it, and have this wonderful medium through which we as a people can feed our narcissism and put forth our opinions regardless of whether or not anyone cares about it, why wouldn’t I write up my thoughts on it?
I’m breaking up these articles into thirds for the year just to make it easier on myself come January. There’s no way I’m going to want to write up reviews on everything I saw throughout the year, then going back and doing what I’d planned on doing, which is compare what I actually thought about the films against what I thought I’d think about the films this past January when I wrote all those Release Calendar articles. That would be way too much work (and seriously, you don’t know how lazy I am). So I’m clearing out the cache every four months, making my future life easier as well as breaking up the constant stream of Oscar Quest articles.
This article will focus on every film I saw that came out after the April article was posted (so, post-April 24th), as well as a couple that were released earlier that I didn’t get around to seeing until after I posted that first article. But mostly these are all films from May through August.
How we’re gonna do this is, I’m gonna first tell you which films from the year I haven’t seen, and break those down into two distinct categories. First is the films I haven’t seen that I don’t plan on seeing at all (this includes everything between January and now):
- The Rite — I honestly have no plans to ever see this movie. Even though it’s Anthony Hopkins. I hate horror movies with a passion. I don’t think there’s anything here that would ever make me want to see this. I won’t rule out ever seeing it (if it shows up on Netflix Instant before the year’s out, I’m sure I’ll throw it on), but for now, the plan is to not bother with it and assume it’s terrible.
- Sanctum — I bet most people won’t even remember that this movie exists. It got a wide release though, so I have to mention it. It’s James Cameron’s 3D spelunking movie. Remember? Yeah — I have no plans to ever see this, even if I get the chance. I’m kinda just planning on going back to pretending it doesn’t exist. Trust me, it won’t be difficult.
- The Eagle — Yeah, don’t care. Sword and sandal. Emphasis on action over the setting. So, all sword, not enough sandal. There’s absolutely nothing that makes me want to see this. I don’t think 90% of America saw this movie, and won’t until it’s on Starz in six months. I do not feel bad at all about not bothering with this one.
- The Mechanic — There was like a 20% chance that I was gonna see this movie back in January or February, and when that passed, there was like a 10% chance I’d watch it right before I wrote the first article, or just after. I held out hope that I might do that, but, honestly, if I haven’t seen this by now, there’s nothing that would ever get me to put it on. I just don’t need to see it. And I don’t care about it. Because even though I haven’t seen the film, I have. Put it this way — without having seen anything from this film other than a trailer — I guarantee you they changed the ending from the original to have Statham live. If I’m right about that, there’s no need for me to ever see this movie. I already know everything that’s gonna happen.
- Beastly — I’ll repeat what I said back in April: “Fucking really?”
- Mars Needs Moms — I hate shitty animated films. I only watch the new ones just in case. But really, outside of Disney/Pixar, maybe there’s one, two, good animated films. Maybe. And this film, it’s like, third level below even DreamWorks. And if I don’t even like watching DreamWorks animated movies, why would I even bother with this one? I know it’s going to be terrible. The film’s made less than $40 million off a $150 million budget. Trust me, I will never need to see this movie.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 — Haven’t seen the first one, don’t care about the second one. Leaving it to the kids.
- Tyler Perry’s Bi-Annual Abortion of Cinema, Part I — They all look alike, Tyler Perry movies. Seen one, seen ’em all.
- African Cats — Honestly, if I didn’t mention that this film came out, would you even know? And even so, would you care whether or not I saw this film? Did you? Here’s my gauge. If there’s someone who has seen any of these films I plan on never seeing, and has also seen everything I’ve seen, then I’ll watch the one you saw from this list. Until then — never gonna see it. Don’t need to.
- Insidious — I just don’t care about horror movies. I’m glad they made a lot of money off of this, but there’s no way I’m ever going to like it. Just not my genre at all. There’s no point. It would be a waste of 100 minutes.
- Prom — Yeah, okay. This’ll happen…
- Jumping the Broom — Is there any way to say I’m not gonna see this that won’t come off as racist? Then that.
- Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer — I don’t think anyone over the age of 18 even knows this movie exists. No reason for me to ever see this.
- Monte Carlo — Yeah…I think you understand.
- Final Destination 5 — I haven’t seen any one after the first one (kind of like Saw), and honestly, I don’t care to. So I’m invoking the, “I’m four films behind and need to watch the rest in order to see this one.” Which will allow me to never watch any of them and be a happier person because of it.
So those are the ones I can pretty much promise you, unless someone I trust and whose opinion respect (has to be both) tells me I should watch one of those movies (for whatever reason), in all likelihood, I’ll never see them. I’ll settle for 85-90% completion. Especially since 85-90% completion is basically everything with just the fat trimmed off. I consider those films up there to be the barnacle on the bottom of the boat. There comes a point where you have to say “enough.” Those films are it.
Now, here are the films that, at the moment, I haven’t seen, but am planning on seeing before the year’s out. Some sooner rather than later. A few of them are probably wishful thinking entries, but, I am planning on seeing them, and that’s what counts. What happens between now and December, who knows? But here are the ones I’m planning on seeing:
- Country Strong — I normally wouldn’t have plans to see it, but I think I downloaded it or something. So it’s in my possession. Which means I will throw it on at some point and marvel about how not good it is.
- Barney’s Version — Also downloaded, I think. If not, then I probably won’t see it. I don’t know. I don’t feel a need to, so it all comes down to how easy it is for me to see it. Even the slightest effort will probably cause me not to watch it. This is what happens when you don’t care.
- Take Me Home Tonight — I’m curious to see this one. There’s a good chance I won’t ever get to it, but I’d be interested to see it, and if that’s the case, there’s always hope. I mostly want to see what led to this being shelved for two years. Plus I hear there’s a lot of drug use in the movie, and that’s interesting. But, I would like to see it. So we leave it on this list.
- Red Riding Hood — It might be Unforgivable. I have to see it. I’m gonna put it off as long as possible, but I’ll see it. I’ll force myself to, one way or another. It’s like Two Girls One Cup. Avoiding it is only doing you a disservice. Sure, you can’t unsee it, but that’s heavily outweighed by how much you get to talk about how big a train wreck it is.
- Kill the Irishman — Also have it. So it’s just a matter of time as to when I see it.
- Dylan Dog: Dead of Night — Got a wide release, and looks nothing like a film that would ever get one of those. I’m intrigued enough to check it out. Not gonna try too hard to see this one though. If it happens, it happens. If not — I take solace in the fact that pretty much no one else has seen it.
- Midnight in Paris — Cannot bring myself to actually pay to see this in theaters. If I’ve seen twenty Woody Allen movies, and only liked five of them, why would I pay to see something that there’s an 80% chance I won’t like (or at best, be completely indifferent toward)? I’ll see this, I just won’t pay for it. Which means seeing it will be delayed until it’s out of theaters.
- The Tree of Life — Haven’t gotten to a theater where this is playing yet. I was in the middle of a move right when this was at its high point in theaters. I might have to wait for the DVD. This is probably the highest priority I have right now, though. I will see this movie.
- Beginners — It seems interesting. That’s it, really. I’m not gonna try very hard to see it, but if I make a note that it seemed vaguely interesting, it’ll increase the odds that I actually see this. Definitely a low priority though. Could go either way.
- The Art of Getting By — May or may not see this. Don’t know yet. But it’s possible. So it goes here.
- Another Earth — The concept intrigues me. It’s just fascinating. Definitely want to try and check this one out.
- Attack the Block — I head nothing but great things about this movie. I’m trying to go in totally cold. I refuse to watch a trailer or anything. Plus, I’d rather not get caught up in all the hoopla. I always respond negatively to unbridled positivity from the majority. Whenever the majority likes something, I automatically want to go against it. So, I’m gonna see this one on my own terms, and hopefully it’s as awesome as I keep hearing about.
- The Whistleblower — I was very interested in this a year ago. Now — meh. It got released in like 6 theaters, so really, it’s the kind of thing where, if it comes back during Oscar season, then I’ll check it out. Otherwise, I might not see this before the year’s out. But you never know.
- 30 Minutes or Less — I’ll watch it before the year’s out. Just haven’t had the chance to yet. (AKA, haven’t been able to watch it without paying for it yet.)
- One Day — Might see it, might not. Really not that high on my list at this point.
- Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark — Zero interest in seeing this. But since I’m already down here, and it’s extra work to go put it up there, it’s staying here. Plus it might show up online and I might be like, “What the hell…” So you never know. (Though, I kinda do.)
- Our Idiot Brother — The cast alone dictates that I see this. I will. Just, haven’t by the time of posting.
Okay, all the films I haven’t seen are out of the way. Now to review the ones I have seen. This covers everything I’ve seen between April 24th and now. Surprisingly, only six of them are films that came out before April 24th. And most of those were films I had the opportunity to watch and just didn’t. So, here’s the middle third of the year in review:
(Note: The ratings are out of a Netflix rating system of 1-5 stars. I award half stars, though. Because I’m better.)
Cedar Rapids — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Yeah, I was never really a fan of Miguel Arteta’s stuff. Which is strange, since he’s an alum of my college. But still, I was never a fan of his stuff. I despised Youth in Revolt. This film — was harmless. I can’t say I was bored, but I can’s say I was particularly engaged, either. It was just kind of there. It was a story I had zero interest in seeing, and it didn’t find it particularly funny, either. It was just kinda there. So, you know, whatever. It was harmless. But not really my cup of tea.
Hobo with a Shotgun — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This film is exactly as advertised. It’s just — dirty. The film feels like it has grime all over it. It’s insane, it’s gory, crazy shit happens, it’s disgusting — you know exactly what you’re gonna get when you go into it. And it delivers. I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. And based on the budget they had, and the expectations they set out to meet, this was a huge success. Great job. This is, indeed, a movie about a hobo with a shotgun. The Citizen Kane of hobo shotgun movies, in fact.
Your Highness — * * * (3 stars)
I sincerely apologize for this movie. I was so excited for this back in January, and I said that if it failed I’d apologize to everyone for recommending it in advance. And I do. What happened here? It was just — bad.
The thing, though, about this movie, is — it wasn’t bad. I mean, it was bad, because, expectations where there. That red band trailer was really funny, and led me (and a lot of people, I’d imagine) to expect great things. But instead, the trailer was the only funny thing about this movie. Maybe I needed to be high — I don’t know. But all I know is, it wasn’t very good. And not unwatchable at the same time.
So, I gave it three stars. It’s a very weak three, but, in terms of the other shit I watched, I’d rather have been disappointed in this movie than have seen some of the other ones. I got through it. And they tried. It just wasn’t funny. So, weak three. Which is just very disappointing.
Soul Surfer — * * * (3 stars)
I actually really liked this movie. Marginally. You see the rating I gave it. But, it’s exactly what you’d expect. Thirty minutes of a girl surfing and living in a happy family, ten minutes of losing her arm and being upset, thirty minutes of her learning to live without it and training to surf again, and the rest is the final competition where she has the big uplifting moment where she overcomes her handicap, and, like Rocky, doesn’t win, but we all know, even though she doesn’t officially win, she won. In spirit. I did also get caught up in the excitement at the end when she had the climactic wave battle thing. Even though I knew it was coming. So that’s something.
It’s a fine film. A bit too much Jesus for me, but still, overall a nice film. You could do worse for 100 minutes.
The Conspirator — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this one. I didn’t think it would be perfect, but I also didn’t expect it to suck. This was exactly as I expected it to be — solid, well-made film, with the requisite message behind it, lots of stars, looks good, is engaging, but just doesn’t have that intangible to it. I feel that way with all the films Redford has directed. They’re all various degrees of good, and are ably made, but, they just lack that extra thing that makes it go from solid to classic. Ordinary People — Raging Bull. Quiz Show — Pulp Fiction. I love Quiz Show, but to me, it’s missing something. I don’t know what. Same here. It’s a very engaging movie, and it’s a trial movie, so that holds a lot of attention, but there’s just something about it that feels — off. I don’t know what. You don’t feel like you’re in 1865. You feel like you’re watching this movie, and it’s about 1865, but it doesn’t feel like anything more than actors on a movie set. And suspension of disbelief allows you to go with it, but, I don’t know, I was never really there with it. Which didn’t affect the quality of the film so much as it just kept it from being 4 stars. Still, this is a good one, so, great job. Liked it a lot.
Water for Elephants — * * * (3 stars)
Liked the film. Pretty okay, for something I’m only gonna see once. Waltz was really the reason I saw this. Pattinson is just devoid of any charisma at all, and Reese Witherspoon is like the blandest thing this side of that wafer they give you in church, but, the film looked really nice, so that’s a plus. And I got through it. Who doesn’t like a circus? So, three stars. Worth the first watch. Anything after that is your own responsibility.
Fast Five — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This was easily the best entry in the series. Outside the first. Because the first was fun for different reasons. (Mainly because it was just Point Break with cars.) But outside of that first one, this one was clearly the best. The second film was an abortion, the third was just not good (I don’t care about cars, Tokyo, or dudes with annoying Texas accents representing my country) and the fourth one was acceptable. This one, though, worked. It was a heist movie at heart. And it had Dwayne Johnson. And they brought back all the supporting characters from the earlier films. They even unkilled a character. They went for broke here. And it worked.
Now, granted, me saying that this is the best film in the series really isn’t saying all that much, but, when you’re going by the standards for this specific set of films, it’s definitely the best. It was fun. That’s all you need.
Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs. Evil — * * * (3 stars)
I was going to wait on this one until I saw the first one, but puns in the title go a long way with me. So I watched it — it was okay. Nothing great. It looked slick, though. I liked how they directed it. It was very cinematic, some flashy camera angles and stuff. And I liked the $30 million budget acting like it was $60 million. That was awesome. But the story — and the writing — not that strong. Pretty standard, as kids movies go. Probably because they didn’t have the same people who worked on the first one, and it was one of those, “Let’s try to cash in on the success of the first one.” Which is fine. It was a standard 3 stars, definitely for a younger audience than me.
I almost didn’t watch the first one because of it, but then I read the reviews and they were talking about how this one lacked the first movie’s low-budget charm. So I went and watched the first one, and, I have to say, that’s absolutely true. The first movie, despite being made on half the budget (and you can tell. But it’s not a hinderance in any way), is the better film. Stronger writing overcomes the budget tenfold. It’s a very enjoyable film the first one, and this one was like — Iron Man 2. More effects, more storytelling, less charm. This one, okay. First one, very enjoyable. Stick with the first one.
Thor — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Yeah — I’ve cooled off considerably on this film. It was enjoyable, but not particularly great. I don’t care about Thor, for one. Plus, the story was pretty weak, though better than most origin stories, since he’s born a god and doesn’t have to go through the standard origin bullshit (looking at you, Green Lantern…). Still, it was nothing more than an enjoyable film. In terms of all the Marvel superhero movies (not counting X-Men, because those are still technically Fox films), Iron Man is clearly the best, then Captain America, then Spider-Man (I don’t get the fascination with Spider-Man 2. I thought that was the most boring of the bunch. At least Spider-Man 3 was campy. The second one was just — there), then, maybe this one. And, honestly, I’m a fan of Daredevil. I don’t know why (I know it’s not that good), but I think I like that movie over this one. This one is average at best for me in terms of superhero movies. Fun though. Worth one watch.
The Beaver — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This film did not surprise me at all. Which, in this case, isn’t a bad thing. I expected this to be a good film. I expected a great Mel Gibson performance. I expected that no one would give a shit about it and people would go on hating Mel Gibson and would completely ignore the fact that the man is a really good actor. All three things happened. Mel gives a tremendous performance here. The film is actually really strong. It has its flaws, which is why it’s not a 4-star movie, but it’s still a very strong and interesting original film. If you can find objectiveness here, I highly recommend this one. Mel is just incredible. And nobody saw it.
Something Borrowed — * (1 star)
Unforgivable. Will save the review until January. If by chance it slips off the Unforgivables list, I’ll still provide a review bashing this piece of shit.
Priest — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Mindless action. Not as good as Legion. Short. That’s really what this film is. Legion was a solid 3-star film and enjoyable as a complete Terminator ripoff. This film just wasn’t as good. But it was 87 minutes, which made it bearable. So, 2 1/2 stars. Any longer, I’m certain the rating would have been a lot lower.
Bridesmaids — * * * (3 stars)
I heard such great things about this movie. Then I saw it.
It wasn’t bad. It just, wasn’t that funny. I don’t know why everyone felt the need to talk this up. I guess because it stars women. Which I can totally get behind. That’s why, no matter how much I didn’t particularly love the film, I was pulling for it. Because this is a type of film we need more of. It’s just — this one wasn’t that good. I didn’t laugh at anything that was in it. That’s what made me feel so let down. I was expecting this hysterical movie, and I’m watching, sitting on my hands, waiting for something funny to happen. And it was okay, I smiled a few times, but I didn’t laugh. And then it had those Apatow punches, like the projectile vomiting scene — and I don’t need that. So, it was passable, just, not as good as I was led to believe.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
This is really a 4-star film for me. The extra half-star was because I had so much fun in the theater at midnight. It’s clearly not a great film at all, but the heart of these movies has always been Johnny Depp, and as long as he’s enjoyable, and there’s a lot of adventure, and everything is fun, and it feels remotely interesting, I’m gonna give the movies 4 stars. I don’t care that it wasn’t great, and that the Christian dude with the mermaid was a pointless storyline, and that the entire plot made no sense whatsoever. I’d rather watch a bad version of this film than half the shit that came out before it. (Scratch that. 75-80-90% of the shit that came out before it.) So, I give it four stars, and I enjoyed this movie. It doesn’t matter to me how bad it was, because it was fun.
The Hangover Part II — * * * (3 stars)
Don’t be fooled by the rating, this will be on my Unforgivables list come January. Because, while the film was watchable and I got through it without despising it, outside of those 90 minutes or however long it was, that’s when I despise this movie. It should not exist. This is literally the first movie done exactly again, without all the stuff that made it fun and funny the first time. It just feels like it only exists to make money. And that’s what happened. But this is not a good movie at all. And the fact that it exists is what’s wrong.
X-Men: First Class — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
My response to this film (like the one to Thor, though not as drastically) has cooled considerably since I saw it. I was at the midnight showing for this, and, while watching it, I enjoyed it. I had fun. It’s X-Men. I love X-Men. So of course I’m going to consider this a 4-star movie as long as they have mutants. But, really — this wasn’t my kind of X-Men movie at all. If they didn’t show the amount of respect that they did for the first set of films (loved those cameos and references), I probably would have given this three stars. I hate when franchises reboot like nothing happened. Otherwise, though, I didn’t care about this story. None of that was even remotely interesting. I didn’t care that it was set in the 60s. And I didn’t care about almost any of the mutants in the film. None of them were even remotely interesting to me. They felt like filler. Outside of Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, and maybe Beast (though he was kind of weak), all the mutants felt like filler. (Also, that scene where the kids are sitting around, coming up with their names is one of the worst pieces of writing I’ve ever seen. Not to mention the horribly, horribly, shockingly racist moment when Kevin Bacon shows up during that scene and talks about them all being “slaves,” and then they cut right to a giant close-up of the only black guy in the movie! Are you kidding me?) Plus, Xavier going down from a bullet? That’s not okay.
I will say though, it was a pretty good film. I did enjoy watching it. So that’s why I only dropped it to 3½ stars instead of 3. It felt like a 3½ star movie. I’m hoping that this was just them setting up for the future, and come the next one, they’ll go Dark Knight on us and really make it worthwhile. If they do that, it’ll all be okay. Until then, the best thing that came out of this were these awesome fan-made credits this dude did back in April:
Super 8 — * * * (3 stars)
Yeah, I’m more in love with the idea of this film than I am with the actual film. It was entertaining and all, but, I hate monster films. It’s impossible to make those interesting anymore. The whole “trying to emulate Spielberg” hook they threw out there — this wasn’t even remotely that. When did anyone ever curse in an Amblin film? Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the kids making the film bit and all, but it wasn’t that interesting. It was passably enjoying. It wasn’t a masterpiece.
I never really did like J.J. Abram’s stuff. So that has a lot to do with how I responded to this film. I don’t watch most TV, so when people defend him by saying, “Yeah, but he did a lot of great stuff on TV,” that means nothing to me. And his films, while I enjoyed them all, the man has no style whatsoever. He’s just so — bland. Especially here. At least Star Trek had fun writing, and Mission: Impossible had Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman being awesome. Here, all I’m left with is action sequences and monsters. And while it works as a technical exercise, and I’m glad it made money, because it’s technically an original concept (just done in the style of something else), it’s really only a 3-star movie for me.
Green Lantern — * * (2 stars)
This movie blew! Holy shit, I can’t believe it was that bad. How could they fuck up this badly? There was CGI in the place of a plot. There was no story, and whatever there was of a story was standard, boring, origin story bullshit we’ve seen in every other superhero movie. It was literally: dude exists. He has no character to speak of. He gets a ring. He learns how to use it. He beats up some people. Another dude vaguely related to the plot gets infected by some goo and some alien planet comes to kill everyone. Dude uses the ring to create stupid CGI shit and fights off a bigger piece of CGI. Did I miss anything?
This was fucking terrible. It’s going to be Unforgivable just because they had the gaul to expect people would go to see something without a story just because it was a superhero movie and thought they could skate by with just adding more special effects when things didn’t make sense. For shame, Warner Bros. You should know better.
What’s the over/under on Zack Snyder’s Superman movie right now?
Mr. Popper’s Penguins — * * * (3 stars)
This was pretty harmless. It’s for kids. You can’t expect much. It was fine. I got to see a bunch of CGI penguins and a generic story. It wasn’t terrible. It was perfectly watchable. Jim Carrey gets to mug and make jokes that only kids will enjoy and the kids get to see penguins. Totally harmless 3 stars, and not for anyone over the age of like, ten. Don’t mistake kids film for bad film. You know when it’s truly a bad film. This isn’t it.
Bad Teacher — * * * (3 stars)
She wasn’t bad enough. This is not Bad Santa. Not even close. It was fine, though. It had its moments. Almost none of which were Cameron Diaz’s doing. Most were from the (original, yay) script, and the rest were from Jason Segal, whose part was greatly written up during shooting. That’s what made this a solid three stars. Other than the fact that it was watchable, this wasn’t particularly great. Just okay. All it really did was remind me how shitty comedies are nowadays. I haven’t seen a legit funny film in a while. I can’t even think of a comedy I loved since like, ’09. So, two years without a funny movie I can think of. That’s bad.
Cars 2 — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Well, it was definitely an upgrade from the first one. The first one was just creepy. This one was, fun. Kind of fun. But still not a particularly great film. Not by Pixar standards. Definitely in the bottom three or four for them overall, along with the first one, A Bug’s Life, and probably Toy Story 2. It was fun, though. So, that was something. The first one just felt like — slow death. I guess because it was about Paul Newman’s car dying. I don’t know, the whole thing was just creepy. This one at least had the spy aspect to keep things interesting. But the real flaw of the films is the bland-as-hell lead character. What can you do with him? I guess, though, we can call it perfect casting.
Still, it was fine. I’ll probably never watch this again, but, the one time, it was a solid 3½.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon — * * * (* *) (3 stars/4-5 stars)
Here’s the deal — it’s a 4-star movie in terms of experience. The plot is for shit, the film will probably be hard as hell to watch after the fact. However, the theater experience for a Bay film always bumps it up an extra star. And the fact that the 3D here was so stunning (the best since Avatar), really bumps this up to a 5-star movie, in the right environment. If you’re watching this in 3D, in an IMAX (or even regular) theater, it’s a 5-star film. In 2D, in a theater, it’s a 4-star film. On DVD — 3 stars. It’s kind of like Borat. I hate that film. Don’t like it, will never watch it again. Yet, when I watched it in a theater with a bunch of drunk college students (of which I was one), I loved it. And that’s enough for me. I don’t consider it a good movie, but I enjoyed it in the theater. That’s what this is. The film itself is probably 3-stars, plus an extra star for the theater experience, and an extra one because the 3D is so stunning. Great job either way, Bay. You proved that one really cannot just shit out a 3D movie.
Larry Crowne — * * (2 stars)
This film will be Unforgivable. The reason is because it’s just a lazy film. There was no effort put into this whatsoever. It’s like they sat down and said — and I fully blame Tom Hanks for this, because it was his idea and he co-wrote the screenplay — “I want to write a movie about the people who lose their jobs. So I’ll play a guy who loses his job, and has to go back to college. I talked to this guy at Starbucks, and his story just felt so real to me. He worked at this place for twenty years and they fired him out of nowhere because he never got a college degree. Hell, nobody had a college degree back in the 70s! I feel like if we can turn that into a film — and, you know, make it a comedy. Nobody wants to see the sad end of the economic crisis — we can really tap into the emotions of all these people that lost their jobs. And people like me. We give them a little laughs, a little romance, big kiss with Julia Roberts and the credits roll — they’ll come and see this.” I truly believe that was the thought that went behind this film.
And then I believe, as they wrote it, they just wrote in every possible cliche they could think of, because Tom Hanks is not the right person to be writing a movie, and if you’ve seen anything Nia Vardalos has done (fuck you if you even think of bringing up that Big Fat Greek Bitch movie), it’s all riddled with stereotypes. I truly believe they thought that a scene where Tom Hanks tries on tight pants and you can see his ass in tighty whiteys would connect with an audience. And I believe they figured that just by casting Julia Roberts as the female lead would get more people to see it. And that’s just lazy filmmaking. There’s absolutely nothing of substance to this movie at all. Not one thing. You watch this and all you’re left with is the definition of hubris. Not to mention, Cedric the Entertainer is about the whitest black comedian you can cast in a film. And making him out to be a cheap black man who remains cheap despite being rich, plays on one of the broadest black stereotypes there is, and the worst part about it is, I bet black people enjoyed it. This movie embarrasses me.
Horrible Bosses — * * * (3 stars)
I expected this to be terrible. I got something that wasn’t that bad. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it, and that’s probably the biggest compliment I can ever pay this movie. Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell actually kind of make this work. And, dare I say it — I didn’t hate Aniston in this movie. I know, I’m as surprised as you are. But she wasn’t a vapid cunt in this movie. Who knew?
Anyway, the film is totally passable. The people with bad taste will really like it, but, it’s passable. Again though, comedies just aren’t funny nowadays. What is it? Too much studio influence? A misconception over what’s funny? Or just really stupid audiences? Or all of it? Is it too much to hope for for one legitimately funny movie a year? Just one?
Zookeeper — * (1 star)
I won’t ruin it now, but — I went on a pretty nice-sized rant on this film via a Facebook message to some friends. That alone means there’s a good chance this film might be Unforgivable. And if it isn’t, for some reason, it’ll definitely be used as an example of what happens when a film is Unforgivable. Either way, remember my rating for this one. You’ll be able to read a full review of my thoughts on this come January. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 — * * * * * (5 stars)
You kind of have to give it 5. I give all the films of this franchise 5 stars. They might not be 5-star films, but I love them all, so, that’s what they get.
I can’t imagine anyone reading this blog hasn’t seen the film (unless they’re one of those people who is deliberately not seeing it, which is just stupid. But, whatever people need to be happy). But how can it not be a 5-star film? Just for what was accomplished with the series. These movies are films I grew up with. They’re embedded in my DNA. I will watch these movies for the rest of my life. I will enjoy them for the rest of my life. And that’s something you can’t rate. These are my Star Wars. (The good ones. Not the prequels. I’ve jizzed better films than those movies.)
Winnie the Pooh — * * * * * (5 stars)
Not everyone’s gonna like this movie, but it is a 5-star film. It’s 70 minutes, and it’s just gorgeous. It’s a stunningly beautiful film. Hand-drawn animation needs to come back in a big, bad way. This CG-animation shit has ceased to be interesting. This film is an ode to that old Disney hand-drawn animation. Plus, it’s just so innocent. It’s so simple that it’s just beautiful. This is a film for five-year olds. And if you’re not in tune with your inner five-year old, you’ll hate this movie. And for that, I’m sorry. For the rest of us, you know this is a 5-star movie.
Captain America — * * * * (4 stars)
This is definitely the second best Marvel movie ever made, behind the first Iron Man. (As I’ve said, I don’t count the X-Men movies as part of that because those were Fox movies.) Based solely on the films Marvel has produced themselves, this is the second best one. Granted, they haven’t made many, but the only two they made that I consider to be even remotely good films are this and Iron Man. (And even then, only Iron Man will ever hold up on its own as a legit good movie. The rest are just superhero movies.) Iron Man 2 was fun, but not a good movie. Thor, you read my thoughts about that up there. The Incredible Hulk wasn’t very good at all. And everything else was co-produced with a studio.
This is the second legitimately great superhero picture they’ve made. It’s a solid 4-star movie. It just works all around. I give most of the credit to Joe Johnston, who actually did a lot of live-action work on it rather than phoning it in with too much CGI (though, for me, almost any CGI is too much CGI). I’m not very excited for the Avengers movie, but if they make them more like this, with the focus on character before action and everything else, then they’ll have better films to show for it.
Friends with Benefits — * * * * (4 stars)
Oh, god, I loved this movie. I fell in love with this movie in the first six minutes. Six minutes in, once Mila Kunis got on that conveyor belt, I was sold. I gave it my full allegiance, made it known, and dared the film to fuck me over and suck. And the rest of the film did not disappoint. At all.
Will Gluck is a dude I have so much respect for. Because he took two movies that could have sucked, and accentuated the writing in them. Seriously, the writing in this film and in Easy A were so good, that I actually told people, “Look, watch this film. You don’t know what good writing is today until you see this movie.” Because I’m watching it, going, “Holy shit, emphasis on a script! Dialogue matters! This is something I’d write!” And on top of that, the film works.
I can gush about this film for paragraphs, or you can go and watch this as soon as possible. This and Easy A. Do it. I bet you this will make my second tier of top films come the end of the year. (I have my Top Ten, and then I do that upper tier of films I loved that didn’t make that cut of ten. This will be on that list.) Also, for those who know me and my tastes in comedies (especially current comedies), what does my review of this film really mean? (Also, if you saw Easy A at my insistence, this film is just as good. And I know you know what that means.)
Cowboys & Aliens — * * * (3 stars)
Wow. Just — I don’t know what to say. I thought this was foolproof. Cowboys. Aliens. Fun, summer movie. How did they fuck this up?
This film wasn’t bad. It was just — mediocre. Like, insanely so. I liked the beginning, making it very western. But, the problem is, that part sucked. It was about as generic a western scenario as you can get. Then the aliens showed up, and any interest I had in the film went right away. There were large portions of this movie where I was just like, “Explosions, explosions,” and stopped paying attention. And then, a few minutes later, when I checked back in, the explosions were still happening! And then there’s that weird Native American interlude, and the whole Olivia Wilde is an alien bit. How could a film be so mediocre? That’s the worst thing you can do with material like this. At best, you make a great film that brings back the western by putting it up with what people (apparently) like today — aliens and CGI. And it can be really good. And at worst, you make a campy piece of shit that the title of the film suggests. And even that is good. Then the film is entertaining for different reasons. But this — I’m so disappointed in this one. Huge missed opportunity.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. — * * (2 stars)
I know I wrote that long “review” of the movie, but in reality, aside from being very offensive to women and having some questionable morals and lessons to teach, this wasn’t an awful film. I felt it’s biggest problems were a completely botched tone, and terrible miscasting. I think they just got it wrong. Because this film could have been made interesting if it were a smaller, indie drama and not played for laughs. Here, it seems like they want it to be a comedy. And it’s just not one. It’s a drama with funny moments. That brawl scene could have been hysterical with the right tone. But they just completely missed on the tone of this. Whether it’s the filmmakers or the studio, it doesn’t matter. Plus, Carrell was the wrong actor to cast here. That’s really where they failed. Too much comedy, and questionable values, and just a mishmash of two separate movies, it seems. There are parts of two separate movies here — it’s just a miscalculation on a lot of levels. That rant aside — that was mostly for comedic exaggeration — this film really was pretty badly off the mark.
The Smurfs — * * * (3 stars)
I have to say — this wasn’t that bad. Not at all. I had my worries, in the first five minutes or so. But once Hank Azaria showed up as Gargamel, it evened out. It’s kiddie, but it was not the abortion that Alvin and the Chipmunks was. I at least didn’t want to slit my wrists here. It’s enjoyable. Very kiddie, and not for anyone over the age of like, ten, but for its target audience, it works. I did like the Scottish smurf they created. That was pretty cool. I don’t have a problem with this one at all. It knew what it wanted to be and was exactly that.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes — * * * * (4 stars)
This is a weak 4 stars, but still 4 stars. I was very surprised with this one. I thought it was gonna suck. And even ten minutes in, I thought it was gonna suck. Because, the James Franco storyline was just not interesting at all. But once we met Caesar and started following him, the film got much more interesting. The fact that he was the real focus of the film is really what made it work. Kudos to the studio, too, for having the balls of having the ape be the focal point of the film, and for having him talk in sign language with subtitles. Subtitles are something that’s — like black and white — considered death for a mainstream film. Average Americans? Have to read? Half of them can’t! But really, this film was really good. Not amazing, but definitely very solid, and what will really prove this to be a 4-star film is the sequel to this and how they further this story. If they spend the next movie solely with the apes (leading to the eventual story that is the Heston version), this could be a special franchise for the next decade.
The Change-Up — * * * (3 stars)
I owe a big apology to this film. I thought this would be teetering on Unforgivable for certain. I was dead wrong on this. Here’s a film that you assume — body swap comedy — why? Why bother? How can this not suck? And it starts with some stupid gross out humor, and has a couple of more moments like that throughout the film. But, ultimately, the film does have a heart. And that’s what helped it win me over. I honestly don’t care about all the stuff in it I didn’t like because, one, I laughed. There were enough laughs for me throughout where I was never bored. The scene where Ryan Reynolds as Bateman tells his six year old daughter she should go and shank another girl (“Do you know what a shiv is?”) — you bring in the words shank and shiv, especially in the presence of a child, I’m there. And there were a couple of other line deliveries that had me chuckle. And for the majority of the film, I was thinking, “Okay, 2 ½ stars.” But then, as it all came to a head in the last twenty minutes, I really did find a lot of respect for the film. From the moment when they’re sitting there and really feel like themselves rather than the other guy, I really felt this film win me over. And I respect that. Sure, Reynolds is a huge dick throughout this entire movie — the things he does as Bateman are almost irredeemable — but the movie itself won me over, and that is the biggest compliment I can pay this. Plus — Olivia Wilde — my god I love this woman.
The Help — * * * (3 stars)
This wasn’t a bad movie. Nor was it a particularly great movie. This is one of those movies you watch, get through, and then are done with. The way most films should be each year. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be disgusted by its very existence. Here — I thought it was fine. The now-standard Eat, Pray, Love movie at the end of the summer for women. It was watchable. Not particularly outstanding. Others will be more entertained by it than I was. It’s just — a film. No more, no less. That’s really all you can ask for, most of the time, anyway.
Conan the Barbarian — * * (2 stars)
Well, that was just bad. It just wasn’t very good. The first one was only eve good because it was Schwarzenegger, and had dialogue like, “Conan, what is best in life?” “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!” How can you top shit like that? This, though — come on, not even the grunting? Nothing? This is like that Clash of the Titans remake (another abortion), only, it makes less sense. At least the other one, you can see where the idea came from. Here, it’s just scraping the bottom of the barrel for shit to remake. “Oh, there are like ten people who really love this, let’s remake it?” And they figure they’ll make it like all the other shitty action films to get the other people interested. Hollywood… why do they never listen? When will they ever learn? (This is really bad, though. Don’t even bother with it. Ever.)
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Does this even require a review? It’s a throwaway kids movie. These films were always meant to be nothing more than fun movies for kids. This is no different. Sure, it’s a bit more childish than the rest of the films in the series (too many fart jokes), but it’s fun. It’s short and its fun, and its for children under ten. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Clearly this is the worst entry in the series, but its nice to see Robert Rodriguez give kids a fun time at the movies (there was a three or four year period where I’d have loved scratch-and-sniff cards at the movies) and stick to the roots of the series by having a lot of the cast come back. That’s pretty cool. You know what you’re getting here. Attacking it for being childish just doesn’t make sense. That’s what it’s supposed to be.
Fright Night — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This movie just kind of — is. It doesn’t really have the charm of the first one. They play it very dark and suspenseful. Which, is a choice. I don’t particularly feel either way about it. This film is just kind of there, for me. I got through it, I watched it. That’s about it. Not bad, not good. Just a regular day at the movies, really.
Colombiana — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
I’ll actually be watching this movie as this article goes up. So, shortly after, I’ll probably come back and tweak this. Though, I can be reasonably sure that two stars is what I’ll give it, and that I’ll think this movie is standard boring September action movie bullshit. It’s just kind of there, there’s nothing interesting or intriguing about it, and it’s a movie that 15 year olds will be watching on Netflix in a year because they have no taste whatsoever, especially in groups. But, like I said, I’ll let you know for sure within an hour of when this goes up.
(Note: I was almost right. It is standard September action movie bullshit, but it wasn’t as boring as I expected. It was actually kinda watchable. So, 2 1/2. Meh. You can get through it.)