2012: The Movie Year in Reviews (May-August)

Here is my next batch of reviews for 2012, this time counting all the films I saw between May and August. Most of them are all the films released during that time, and the rest are ones from the first third of the year that I never got around to seeing or couldn’t see before the first article went up. As you’ll notice — I’ve seen pretty much everything, as I always do.

As you should know by now, the reason I do this is to write down what I thought about all of the films of 2012 while they’re still fresh in my mind, and so I can juxtapose those thoughts with what I end up thinking about them come December, after I’ve had time to reflect, and either warm to a film or cool on it considerably. No movie deserves a singular “review.” I like to give them as many days in court as I can.

So — before we get into everything, let’s link to all the 2012 reviews from January through April, and then, as always, since I am fiercely loyal to these articles, link to the Wikipedia 2012 in film article. The latter, of course, is what I consider the most useful resource for finding out what is coming out each year (aside from this blog, of course, since I previewedshitload of films in January, and would guess that I’ve covered about 90% of everything that will come out this year).

And now for the fun part. First, I’m going to list all the films released in 2012 between January and now that I have not seen. As always, I’ll explain why I haven’t seen it and whether or not it is my intention to ever see it:

  • First, a rapid-fire of really indie films that I’ve never even heard of that got added to the 2012 in Film article much later than when I was looking through it. Odds are I’ll never see them (and still don’t know what most of them are), but they’re on there, so I’ll mention them: Once Upon a Time in Anatolla, The Divide, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, Miss Bala, This Is Not a Film, Boy, Attenberg, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, Gerhard Richter Painting, Comi-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, Surviving Progress, We Have a Pope, Fightville, Jesus Henry Christ, Payback, Where Do We Go Now?, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Crooked Arrows, Oslo August 31st, 5 Broken Cameras, The Woman in the Fifth, Union Square, Shut Up and Play the Hits, The Queen of Versailles, Iron Sky, Ek Tha Tiger, Compliance, Samsara.
  • The Devil Inside — I’ve no intention of ever seeing this. I hate horror movies, I have all these shitty exorcism movies, and I am already well aware of over 90% of what this movie will be. I have no need to ever see it.
  • Norwegian Wood — I have it somewhere. I don’t know when or if I’ll see this (though more likely, when). It may be by the end of the year, it may not be. I’d side closer to “not,” but you never know.
  • Underworld: Awakening — I have a rule about never seeing sequels unless I’ve seen the original. I’ve never seen the original Underworld (nor do I ever really feel the need to), so I haven’t seen (and won’t see) this.
  • Gone — Shitty February thriller. These are all the same. I will never see this.
  • Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds — Seen one, seen ’em all. I am not this film’s audience.
  • Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie — Was never going to see this.
  • Natural Selection — Haven’t been able to find it. I hear it’s really good. I’ll probably see this eventually, but that’ll probably be whenever it shows up on Netflix. Which may or may not be by the end of the year.
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi — Documentary. I won’t see this.
  • Bully — Documentary. I never see these. I always explain it like this: I don’t like documentaries, and even if a film is nominated for and wins an Oscar, even then there’s only like a 40% chance of me ever seeing it. So I’ll never see this. I just don’t like documentaries at all.
  • Damsels in Distress — I think I previewed this back in January. I don’t know if I’ll ever see it.
  • The Hunter — I doubt I’ll ever see this. But Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill are in it. That’s worth mentioning. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t see this. But you never know.
  • The Lady — Luc Besson directed this. That was intriguing to me. I doubt I’ll see it, but I’ll single it out just in case.
  • Think Like a Man — I’m white. (That is to say, I’m not this film’s audience, and I just don’t enjoy “black” movies. These kind. There’s one of these every year. It’s broad, stereotyped comedy steered toward a black audience. I don’t like broad, stereotyped comedy, nor am I that familiar with the sensibilities of this particular black audience. But I feel like “I’m white” would have sufficed.)
  • Marley — Documentary. Won’t see it.
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits — Why would I ever need to see this, again? (If you want hardcore reasoning: It’s not Disney, it’s not Pixar, it’s not mainstream (i.e. it made next to no money), and I’m over the age of 5. I leave movies like this to the kids to enjoy.
  • The Giant Mechanical Man — Very indie. Impossible to find. Might see it, might not. Pretty sure I previewed this in January, though.
  • Sound of My Voice — Impossible to find. Probably should see it, but like all indies, it typically comes down to availability.
  • Virginia — The cast is strong, so I’ll probably check this out at some point. No telling when that’ll be, though.
  • The Samaritan — Samuel L. Jackson. That alone means there’s always a chance I’ll see this.
  • Chernobyl Diaries — Hate these movies. A lot. Will never see this. I made the mistake of seeing Apollo 18 last year. That was the last time. No more. Please stop these found footage movies.
  • For Greater Glory — Nope. I like Andy Garcia, and I’m sure it’s totally fine, but, I’ll never see it. I bet 95% of you don’t even know what this is. I don’t feel bad.
  • Moonrise Kingdom — Never got around to seeing this. Really, really, really want to, and I guarantee you I will by the end of the year.
  • Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted — Never saw the first Madagascar, which is great, since I really had no interest in seeing this anyway. Leave it to the kids.
  • Bel Ami — I could have seen this as early as last year. Didn’t, and almost certainly won’t.
  • Lola Versus — I heard great things. I’ll probably check this out at some point. Hopefully by the end of the year. It’s always a toss-up, with these indies.
  • Safety Not Guaranteed — I will definitely see this by the end of the year.
  • Your Sister’s Sister — Toss-up. Leaning toward “won’t see it.”
  • Peace, Love & Misunderstanding — Leaning toward “will see it.” Depends on availability.
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World — Will definitely see this.
  • To Rome with Love — Will definitely see this.
  • Madea’s Witness Protection — Remember what I said up there about Tyler Perry movies? That goes double for Madea films.
  • People Like Us — Will definitely see this.
  • Beasts of the Southern WildWill definitely see this.
  • Neil Young Journeys — Documentary. Won’t see it.
  • Ice Age: Continental Drift — haven’t seen anything past the first Ice Age. My rule stands.
  • Red Lights — Most likely will see this.
  • Ruby Sparks — Will definitely see this.
  • Step Up Revolution — Did you really think I was ever going to see this?
  • Killer Joe — I’ll definitely see this.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days — Haven’t seen either of the first two. I really need to come up with a name for this rule of mine.
  • Celeste and Jesse Forever — I’ll definitely see this.
  • The Campaign — Oh, don’t worry, I’m quite ready to see this and how Unforgivable it is.
  • Hope Springs — I’ll see this, just haven’t yet.
  • The Odd Life of Timothy Green — Came out too recently. Haven’t seen it yet.
  • ParaNorman — Want to see this. Will see it.
  • Sparkle — Not crazy about seeing this, but I probably will.
  • Cosmopolis — I can’t wait to see this. I’m so fucking excited about it.
  • Why Stop Now — I wasn’t going to see this (and didn’t even have an idea what it is), but it sounded like it might be pretty decent or even good, so I put it on the list. We’ll see what happens.
  • The Apparition — Oh, this looks so bad. I might have to see it just because of that.
  • Hit and Run — I’ll see it. Came out on Friday. Next article.
  • Premium Rush — Next article for certain. Really want to see this. Really, really want to see this.
  • Robot & Frank — Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see. Sounds interesting though.

And just to make it easier on myself — here are the films I have access to but have yet to watch (mostly because I’m in the middle of a bunch of other movies), but will:

  • Seeking Justice
  • Keyhole
  • Headhunters
  • The Intouchables
  • Piranha 3DD
  • 360

Okay. So that’s what I haven’t seen. Now for all the films I have seen since the last article of reviews went up. The first handful are all ones released before May. I was gonna say May starts with The Avengers, but I actually saw that before May and it went in the other article. So, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll just say that everything before Dark Shadows (even though Get the Gringo is really the first May film) is stuff from the first third of the year (with a 2011 film thrown in):

Margaret — * * * * (4 stars)

A 2011 film. This was the impossible find of last year. I couldn’t wait to see this one. I’d been tracking it since 2009, it seems. Finally they release it, and then no one hears anything about it, but reviews are strongly positive, and it’s still impossible to find. So I’ve really been looking out for this one. And I saw it, and — I liked it. It was really good. Not amazing, to me at least, but this is the kind of movie that some people will find amazing. And for that reason I’m telling you that you should see it. It’s really strong on its own (that accident scene is intense), but this is definitely a movie some people will see, and they’ll think it’s one of the greatest things ever made. And for that, people should see this. (Plus, given all its legal troubles, almost no one has. So that’s another reason you should see it.)

Big Miracle — * ½ (1.5 stars)

I really want to make this Unforgivable. I think it might make it, too. This was a horrible movie. I knew when I saw the cast. Here’s a movie that wants to be one of those uplifting 90s movies, like Free Willy, only it comes off as so pandering and horrible that it’s actually offensive. First off — John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore (throw in Kristen Bell if you want) do not make good movies. Ever. So that was the first sign. The second — this film’s message is so horribly off-base. All the characters are unlikable and are only out for their own self-interests. Not to mention — how the saving of the whales happens is so horrible. They put it on the news as a two-minute story. And America — ignoring the other 28 minutes of murders and war and horrible things — decides to focus solely on that and make that the number one story in the country. What the fuck is that? (This has to be Unforgivable. And if it’s not, it’s bottom 15. I fucking hated this movie.)

Wanderlust — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This movie — it wasn’t what I was expecting. In either direction. With the people making it, I expected it to be funny. But, on the other hand, with certain elements (Aniston) and that trailer — I expected it to be awful. What I got was — meh. It was okay. I didn’t really laugh, but I was able to watch it. So I was gonna give it 3 stars, but — it’s a comedy. I’m supposed to be laughing. So — 2.5. Pretty flat, overall. Just not my thing. But on the bright side, Aniston will, for the first time in a while, not have a movie go Unforgivable. So I guess that’s a plus. Still not the biggest fan of this.

Jeff Who Lives at Home — * * * * (4 stars)

I should probably have given this 3.5 stars, but honestly — I really liked this. I don’t know why. It was so simple and low-key, and yet — I was always interested. I don’t know why. But — I really enjoyed this. A lot. I like how, even though there was a mixture of no resolution/indie movie resolution, it still felt okay. Like I said, it’s probably more like 3.5 stars (and probably will be come January), but for now — I really enjoyed this, and my gut said to make it 4 stars, if only to recommend it to people. So that’s what I’m doing. I really enjoyed this, and I really only thought I was getting a one-and-done 3 star movie. So this was a pleasant surprise.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen — * * * (3 stars)

Yeah — it is. It exists. I didn’t really get that much out of it. It’s there. It’s all right. I barely remember what happened. Three stars, moving on.

Being Flynn — * * * (3 stars)

Typical indie movie. Underplayed, meant to be like “real life,” though overly quirky, which directly negates the first aspect, and “cute” dialogue, which either thinks it sounds cute, or is improperly delivered. Either way, it sounds clunky. You can get through it, but these movies always end up falling through the cracks. Why? Because it’s not truly indie and abstract enough to be liked by the pretentious crowd, and is too ho-hum to be liked enough to be highly recommended by anyone except those with — shall we say — subpar tastes. This movie is exactly that. Decent, unspectacular, falls into way too many indie traps. Specifically the shitty, on-the-nose music choices that scream indie and make us want to feel something. But it’s hard to feel something when a character is going through a crisis of conscience and the music playing over everything says something like “Look inside yourself / And you will find that you can change.” You know what that makes me feel? Anger. De Niro seems to be nothing more than a set of quirks nowadays. Literally just redoing the things he did in his better days. But all this sounds like I hated the film. I didn’t. I’m just indifferent toward it. And indifference allows me room to say shit like that. This is a pretty standard film. One I’m actually going to forget come December. Three stars, meh, moving on.

Darling Companion — * * * (3 stars)

Yeah, it was okay. I thought at worst it would be this. I was hoping it would be better, due to the people involved. But, the real surprise to me was that this got trashed. Holy shit. Look at the scores this has on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. That’s fucking crazy. I can expect like, 54% and a 5.3, but 20-something percent and 4.3 — that’s bad. This movie’s not that bad. It’s certainly not great, but it’s not that bad. It’s funny — the way everyone feels about this movie is the way I felt about some of his stuff in the 80s, like The Accidental Tourist, that got shitloads of Oscar nominations, and I’m like, “Why?” I don’t know. But — not many people are gonna like this one. Unless you really like the people involved, you can just skip this, because I know most people — they’re gonna hate this. Unnaturally so. Look at the scores it has. I rarely tell people to skip something, but in the interest of this not getting shit further put upon it, I may say that for this one. It’s not good enough to recommend and it’s not bad enough to say bad things about. Which means we leave it alone.

The Five-Year Engagement — * * * (3 stars)

I’m not sure what Segal was going for here. An Apatow thing? How do you market a movie like this? I think they marketed it as a comedy, which it is not. But it’s also not a drama. I’m guessing he wanted to make something true to life that’s also a comedy. Which, by definition, it can’t really be. You’ll see what I mean if you see (or have seen) the film. The parts where it tries to be funny are really obvious. It’s — not bad, but — it feels like the kind of movie high school girls will see and go, “Oh my god, this movie changed my life. It’s so realistic about romance!” And if I were in high school, it would piss me off. But otherwise, it’s watchable, it’s okay. I just wished they chose a side between realistic and comedy. Plus you have these situations that are so “movie,” when the film is setting itself up as something not “movie” in its set-up. Plus it’s too long. Shave off twenty minutes and tighten up that pacing. This movie would have been great if they made it in the 70s. 1971/1972 — this would have been amazing. (I won’t even add the caveat of “and made by John Cassavetes.” That’s just an added bonus. We can start small.) But it came in 2012, where something like this had to take on this kind of tone, and that’s a shame. Because the basic premise is very interesting, and the execution is just — ehh.

The Raven — * * * (3 stars)

You know, this got bad reviews, but — I liked it. I enjoyed it. I was perfectly entertained for the 110 minutes. I have absolutely no need to ever see it again, but honestly, it’s not as bad as one would suspect. If one were to go into this with an open mind, I feel you’d be adequately entertained. What were you really expecting out of this, honestly?

Safe — * * * (3 stars)

Statham always makes watchable movies. This is not surprising. It took a while to get going, but once he started looking after the girl, things picked up. This isn’t bad. It’s definitely worth the one watch. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, but for the one time it was pretty entertaining.

Bernie — * * * (3 stars)

It’s a black comedy. And it’s pretty good. But for some reason, I just didn’t care. I don’t know. I didn’t care about anything, and I didn’t even laugh all that much. It just — was. I don’t know. I’m pretty indifferent about the whole thing. Black is terrific here, though. And McConaughey’s on a real nice streak lately. But otherwise — meh.

Get the Gringo — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

The problem with this movie is that it reminds me of all the other great movies that Mel Gibson could be making. And that’s upsetting (personal issues aside. Talking purely films here. I separate the man from the movie, unlike most). But this movie is terrific. I enjoyed the shit out of it. This, to me, is the backbone of the year, movies like this. It’s so entertaining. This is going to end up being better than at least 60-70% of all the 2012 movies, in my mind. Almost no one will see this, but you’re missing out. Pure B movie fun. We need more movies like this. (And more Mel! … on-screen.)

LOL — Zero stars (No joke. Actually zero.)

Wait until January. It’s worth it.

Hysteria — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Incredible film. I stumbled upon this randomly, while going back to double check that 2012 in film article. They tend to add movies to it after the fact. So I saw the cast list and said, “What’s that?” And as soon as I saw the synopsis, I was in. It’s about a doctor in 19th century London who treats women with “hysteria,” which was basically the term for them being horny as shit and undersexed. And the medical treatment is basically masturbation (by a doctor), and, over the course of the film, he develops the first vibrator. It’s awesome. It’s such a great movie. It has its problems, but on the whole, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. (Best capsule review of this film you’ll ever get: “On the whole, it’s thoroughly enjoyable.”) This will be one of the better films of 2012 (even though it was technically finished in 2011) that almost no one will have seen come the end of the year.

Hick — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I don’t know what this was supposed to be. None of it was actually engaging. I was always watching a plot and not a story. The beginning was setting up for this road trip, and then the road trip happened, and then the movie lost focus. She meets a guy, they have a weird exchange, she leaves. She meets Blake Lively. They go around together, and you think, “Oh yeah, they’ll go become close,” but then they stop and that gets sidetracked. And then the guy returns, and — honestly I don’t know what the hell this all was supposed to be about. Nothing was ever developed. They set up some stuff, and then they went on to some other stuff that was almost always not as interesting, and then this kept repeating. Then she gets raped out of nowhere, and then Alec Baldwin shows up for like a scene — it’s chaos. I wasn’t a fan of this.

Dark Shadows — * * * (3 stars)

Yeah — this was really flat. I got through it, and I moderately enjoyed this, but there was nothing of value in this movie at all (and what was with that budget?). This was a real waste of money and time. Though it was nice to see Eva Green and Michelle Pfeiffer in a mainstream movie again, so that’s cool. But overall — meh.

The Dictator — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

It’s probably really only a 3 star movie, but because I went in expecting it to be horrible, and actually found myself laughing despite myself, I bumped it up the extra half-star. I’m pretty frequent about bumping things up a half star for the enjoyment of the viewing experience But bear in mind, this is a 3 star movie. It will end up going down to 3 stars come January. I just wanted you all to know how much I enjoyed it despite thinking I wouldn’t. Sacha Baron Cohen is a man who can take the absolute stupidest situation and somehow still make you laugh anyway. (Though he also ends up with some of the dumbest scenes that just aren’t even funny and make you wonder who thought they would be. So it’s a give and take.)

What to Expect When You’re Expecting — * * (2 stars)

Absolutely not. Why does this exist? It won’t be Unforgivable, just because — the ensemble nature of it makes it at least partially watchable. But this was terrible. What the fuck were they thinking? Bottom 25 film for the year, most likely. I really did not like this.

Men in Black III — * * * (3 stars)

Really more like a 2.5 star movie, but again, the viewing experience. I expected horrible things, but instead I got a pretty enjoyable movie with a really touching ending. So I gave it 3. But again, it’ll almost definitely go down to 2.5 come January. It wasn’t that good. (Plus, all that money they spent on it — I can’t abide that.)

Snow White and the Huntsman — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Probably a 3 star movie, but I’m making a statement here. The sets and costumes and stuff looked great. But, I had problems with this movie. First — no one in their right mind would ever say that Kristen Stewart is prettier than Charlize Theron. So right there, your entire central conceit is flawed. Then — they had CG dwarves. Now, I love all the actors playing the dwarves, and it’s always great to see them, but they deprived eight actual working dwarf actors of jobs, which feels wrong. Then — they turned it into a battle movie. No joke, I zoned out about 70 minutes in. Because it’s all fighting and speeches — if I want that, I’ll watch Gladiator. This is about the chick who eats the poison apple. And they spent $170 million on this. That’s too much. This movie could have been much better if it were about 20-30 minutes shorter, and they only spent like, $80 million on it. And, honestly, I’ll tell you flat out, while they both had problems, I actually enjoyed Mirror Mirror more than I enjoyed this. But again, this is a perfectly harmless movie, overall, and I really don’t have any major problems with it. I just can’t give it 3 stars.

Prometheus — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Bump it up a half-star for the viewing experience. Still — this movie was awesome. I’m not particularly into sci-fi, but I love Alien. I think that movie is incredible the way it blends sci-fi and horror. And Aliens — while I don’t love it the way others do, I think that’s also a terrific action movie. (Still haven’t seen the other two movies in the franchise.) So, this movie — I was excited to see what Ridley did with his universe. And I have to say, it was pretty terrific. Sure, people on either extreme end of the spectrum (those hardcore into the mythology and those not) will find fault with it. But I thought it was not only thoroughly enjoyable, but also worked real well within what I know of this universe. The real masterstroke here was the pacing. This isn’t an action movie. I like that they completely resisted the temptation to go action with it. That’s what did it for me. That, and the fact that, while it’s not a perfect film, it’s hands down better than 90% of the movies that come out nowadays. This is better than every single movie that came out (wide release) before it in 2012. So why should I focus on its shortcomings when it puts everything else around it to shame?

Rock of Ages — * * * (3 stars)

I think the best way to describe this film is “hilariously mediocre.” The film just barrels from song to song like a rocket, not even bothering to try and make sense of anything that happens. Not to mention — the stuff in between the songs is just so bad. It’s like a bad broadway musical, the story. They don’t even try to write interesting material or make the songs make sense. It’s like they said, “Well, people only give a shit about the songs, so let’s just give them that.” Only — even the songs are kind of laughable. I was actually laughing by the time Catherine Zeta-Jones got to “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” Actually laughing out loud. It’s like they figured the songs would be the plot. That works with original material, not a smattering of 80s music. The good news is — the film is watchable the one time. But it’s much too Glee-ified. The mashups and the sheen on the whole thing. I hate what the musical has become. Why has Hollywood ruined and killed my favorite two genres? But yeah — I’ll give this three stars, since I do like the songs (though a bunch of them really sounded like shit, the way they shoe-horned them into this), so I was at least able to pretend this was better than it was (hence the 3 stars instead of 2.5). Still, though — who thought this was a good idea? (The real key to musicals is to take either original songs written around a story, or take a single artist’s work, like Across the Universe, and write around that. You need some unifying factor. Otherwise it’s just chaos.)

That’s My Boy — * (1 star)

Welcome back to the Unforgivables list, Adam Sandler. Honestly, is anyone surprised? We should just reserve a spot for him on it each year. Or better yet, name one of the spots after him. Jesus…

Brave — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

For Pixar’s standards, this was pretty flat. For movie standards, it was good. I enjoyed it a lot. Though again, for Pixar — one of their bottom ones. I’d say Pixar’s bottom five right now are Cars, Cars 2, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 and this. Still, though, it’s a good movie. I like the Scottish setting (and the accents. God, I love the Scottish accent. Scottish, Irish, Australian… I can listen to them all day), I like the colors a lot, and I really like what they did in terms of animating it. But otherwise — it just wasn’t as engaging as the other Pixar stories. I don’t know. The whole thing with the bear — it just didn’t feel organic. Which is strange. Because somehow they made a story about a robot after the end of the world and an old man in a flying house feel organic. I guess because there wasn’t an emotional hook until halfway through the film. That’s the key. They haven’t made us truly empathize with the characters right from the start. So, while I enjoyed this, it’s not amazing based on the incredibly high standards Pixar has established for themselves. (Which we really shouldn’t be holding them to, yet we kind of have to, because look at that run from 2007-2010.)

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Yeah, there was always this possibility. I always swing and miss on these films. I always want to assume the best with them, and want to think they’ll turn out awesome, and yet, when I watch them, and they turn out like this, it always makes sense. It’s never surprising when films like this don’t work. Something like this — you have to strike a very fine line in order to do it correctly. This just doesn’t strike that line. They play it totally straight. There’s not much humor. Which — it’s Abraham Lincoln and vampires — how do you play this like it’s The Patriot? At least be campy about it. Have some fun with it. Playing it straight just makes it boring. No one gives a shit about vampires when they’re just the antagonist like this. And no one likes serious action like this when there’s not an interesting story around it. Plus the 3D was so obtrusive and unnecessary. This just feels like a giant misfire. And again — one that makes complete sense. I should know by now not to assume great things, yet, to do so feels like I’m giving in to negativity. Oh well. (This was really not particularly great. It was like Priest last year. Meh.)

Oh, also — just wanted to mention — this movie says that the problem with Lincoln freeing the slaves was because it pissed off the vampires, who used the slaves as food. So, according to the film, slavery is directly related to vampires. That’s — revisionist.

Ted — * * * * (4 stars)

I have a long history with this film. Back in January, when I was first writing it up, I thought it could be great. I thought the concept was amazing, I liked the casting of Wahlberg — I was ready. I was also hedgy around it, knowing my luck with comedies. So while I was expecting it to be funny, I wasn’t expecting that much. And then I saw the trailer — and it was funny. The bit with the names was terrific (plus I later found out that Wahlberg did that all from memory and without cue cards. Which is just incredible). So I was even more hopeful that the film was gonna be good. And I have to say — I did love it. It’s not an amazing movie (I sort of held it in the back of my head that this could potentially be a top twenty film for the year and maybe even an outside top ten shot. It’s definitely not that), but overall, I laughed a lot more than I went, “Wow, that’s — that’s unnecessary.” (Unnecessary not meaning the humor, just — the way they decided to do some things.) It’s stupid to get into specifics. Overall, while I’m aware there are some problems with the film, I think it’s a very funny movie. And while it does veer a bit too much at times into the Family Guy style of humor, with the cutaways and stuff, and while there are a bit too many extra jokes that just feel tacky and added on at times, I still thought it was a lot of fun. I laughed more than I normally do at a comedy, and I thought Wahlberg was absolutely tremendous. There are two times where his delivery of lines actually made me laugh out loud simply because of how he delivered them. (One was when he was singing that creepy nursery rhyme, and I forget what the other one was. It was somewhere near the end.) So I’m a fan of this movie, and while I’m aware that it’s not perfect, I will defend this movie. It does much more good than bad. And I hate comedies nowadays.

Magic Mike — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I really enjoyed this. This is actually a good movie. It’s not perfect, and it has its flaws (particularly the last 40 minutes, when it turns into a ‘movie’), but overall, it’s a very solid film. I liked it a lot. Don’t think it’s just about stripping, because it’s not. But even if it were, it’s a window into this world (however realistic), one we’ve never seen on film before. And honestly, who cares if it’s men stripping or the occasional cock on screen? It’s a movie. Get over it. Watch the movie. Deal with the stripping and the cocks, and you’ll find yourself enjoying this. You will. Also, let me say — one of the best McConaughey performances I’ve seen. He’s terrific here.

Take This Waltz — * * * (3 stars)

When this was announced, I was crazy excited for it. Away from Her is one of the great movies of the past decade. I was really excited to see what Sarah Polley was going to follow it up with. And then she cast Michelle Williams, who I love. And I wasn’t upset about the Rogen casting, and I actually liked the Sarah Silverman casting, since I feel like most comedians are very much geared toward excelling in dramatic roles. The only thing was — it disappeared. This movie was in festivals last June, and nothing ever came from it. So I assumed it wasn’t that great. Otherwise it would have caught fire at the festivals and been pushed in for a late 2011 release. Since technically it’s a 2011 film. But that didn’t happen, and they pretty much dumped it here. So by the time I actually got around to watching it, I wasn’t expecting too much. And that’s what I got. Not too much. It was okay. I didn’t dislike it. I just — didn’t particularly like it, either. It just — it was. I’m also pretty ambivalent about the amount of nakedness in this movie. On the one hand, I’m for it, because it’s doing it casually, and breaking down the mental barriers against that stuff, but on the other hand — I don’t particularly enjoy nudity in movies. The only real time I enjoyed nudity in movies was when I was 13 and the internet wasn’t what it is now. (Back when you had to record shit on VHS and pause it. You know what I’m talking about.) Now, to me, nudity is — it doesn’t really serve a purpose anymore. (And don’t even get me started on sex scenes…) So, I don’t know — three stars. It was okay. It wouldn’t have met my initial expectations, but it met the expectations I had going into it. So that’s something.

The Amazing Spider-Man — * * * * (4 stars)

Holy shit, they did it. I had some expectations here. Mostly that it would a solid and entertaining film. I generally expect three to three and a half stars from these superhero movies. I expected three and a half here, being familiar with and enjoying the original trilogy. I was expecting this to be fine, but on the whole unnecessary (since how can you tell the same story again and make it interesting?). But I have to say, after seeing this film, I completely see why they went in this direction. The Sam Raimi trilogy was flawed. It was fundamentally flawed from the ground up. People love that second movie, I don’t. So to me, the original three films are just okay. I enjoy them, but they mean nothing to me. Not like the Batman films. But this — I get it. It makes sense. This is a solid foundation for a Spider-Man franchise. The backstory of the parents was covered, the relationship with Uncle Ben is powerful (though I’ll admit, the death scene was not as poignant was it was with Cliff Robertson, purely on an actor-to-actor basis, but at least here they didn’t shoehorn in ‘the’ line) — everything about this movie works. It’s clearly not perfect, but I like that they found a more solid way to cover the same origin story, and they didn’t make it hokey. Go back and watch the original film now, and it just seems like they went out of their way to make things not work as well as this. And there’s that Sam Raimi humor in it (which really shows up by the third movie), that just makes it seem like they’re not taking it seriously. But this movie — by the time he saves the kid in the car, I was sold. (Plus, major props for having him be a sarcastic prick when he takes down criminals.) Again, though, not perfect (it might not be four stars come January, but I still wasn’t expecting it to be this good), and I’d have liked a little bit more of the wonderment that the other one showed (there is something to be said about those shots of him flying around. They did a little bit with the first-person here, but I felt like they could have done more to just give the audience a visceral feeling of what it’s like to be flying around like that than they did), but I’ll take it. Now I really want to see what they do with the next one. Which is the biggest compliment I can pay this movie. (Though I am kind of upset that they’re eventually going to recast Willem Dafoe. Because he really was the best part of that original trilogy.)

The Magic of Belle Isle — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

It’s all right. One of those typical movies. You see it, it’s okay, it has good parts and bad parts, and that’s it. It’s one of those “summer” movies. Slow-paced, laid back, characters learn things, makes you feel good at the end. You know how it is. Not perfect, not bad either. Actually pretty good. A hidden gem in the sense that this is a pretty good film that no one will have heard of, and when they see it, they’ll go, “That was pretty good. How come I’d never heard of it?” There are parts of this film that made me groan because they’re so “movie” and on-the-nose, but other parts are so great. The parts where Freeman teaches the daughter how to write a story are amazing. Other parts — not so much. But overall, this is a nice film and is wholly unassuming, and for that, should be praised. Don’t ignore this one. It’s better than the majority of the films that will have come out in 2012.

Savages — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Tough call, this one. I fluctuated between three and three and a half stars for the longest time. I ultimately decided on three and a half because — it’s Oliver Stone, it’s classier than most material that comes out, and it’s not — there’s not much happiness to it. I like that it’s not cookie cutter in pretty much any way. It’s dark, and a lot of fucked up shit happens (ending aside, which I’m certain was not the one from the book), and it’s a well-crafted film from a master. So, it deserves three and a half stars, because honestly, simply by existing, that makes it better than the majority of the stuff that came out this year. Plus it’s actually a really great movie too. That always helps.

The Dark Knight Rises — * * * * * (5 stars)

Obviously. (You’ll hear my full thoughts on this in January. I don’t want to say anything more until I see it after it comes out on DVD and I could form a more complete opinion.)

The Watch — * (1 star)

Oh, you’ll hear about this piece of shit in January. Don’t you worry.

Total Recall — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I actually really enjoyed this. I’m sure hardcore fans of the Schwarzenegger/Verhoeven version won’t, but that one’s so of its time and so unique that this is a remake that actually does make sense. Certain remakes are allowable even to the staunchest of the “Why the fuck would you do that?” people simply because they’re such a departure from their source material and from anything that would ever be remade from it. Take Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. While we all want to say that film couldn’t be remade — it could have. That movie, while amazing, is so much of a departure from the book and such a product of the 70s that another adaptation of the book made sense. (I’m not saying the remake was successful or not, I’m just saying a remake made sense.) This is like that. The original is so — Verhoeven — and Schwarzenegger is who he is, so remaking this automatically meant it would be different. Some people aren’t gonna like that, but honestly — I enjoyed it. Can’t ask for much more than that. I was expecting bad, barely passable. I got entertaining, and pretty good. I’m bumping the half star for not expecting it. It’s probably more like 3 stars. But I just wanted to point out how much I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as I did.

The Babymakers — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Meh. I got through it. It’s not — a lot of people are not gonna like this. But I found nothing here that made me actively dislike the film. It’s not horrible. It’s obviously not great, but, you can get through it. This probably won’t deserve to be on people’s lists of worst films of the year, but it will be, because the reviews were not good. And that’ll be a shame. Let’s just leave it at — it’s there, and it is. You can get through it. You may even like it. I am indifferent toward it.

Bachelorette — * * * * (4 stars)

Holy shit, this is the Bridesmaids movie I wanted to see. Holy shit, this is dark. And it is awkward. Holy fuck, this movie. I laughed way more at this than I did at Bridesmaids, and I did not think it was gonna turn out the way it did when I started it. I wonder how women will feel about this film. It feels kind of like the Girls of bachelorette films (and they’re not subtle about the comparison). Fucking wow — everybody watch this movie. No one’s gonna see this movie, but — if this doesn’t make you feel angst and elicit “I can’t believe this” laughs, you’re not really watching it. Fucking wow. It’s a screwball comedy where all the laughs are winces. This might end up being one of the seriously better movies of the year for me.

The Bourne Legacy — * * * (3 stars)

For some reason, didn’t see this one coming, and yet — not even a little bit surprised. They should have just called this The Bourne Addiction. The whole fucking movie’s about a drug addict trying to score some smack. The entire first act is taking place parallel to Ultimatum, and it was so plotty that I wasn’t even interested in the Jeremy Renner story, and was just interested in the Edward Norton part. Honestly, I would have preferred if they just did this like Curse of the Pink Panther, and just had everyone out looking for Bourne and dealing with the fallout. Who cares if you don’t have Damon? I’d have been fascinated if they didn’t focus on another operative and focused on the shitstorm caused by Bourne. Since it’s clear the franchise is all about Bourne. So just focus the movie on them looking for him, keep Damon out of it, and we’ll be interested because it keeps us wondering where he is and when he’s gonna resurface. And what you do is have it end with them getting a lock on him and going to look. And you can then take the end in a multitude of directions. Have it actually be him and then he shows up for a second and you freeze frame on him as another chase begins (and then the next movie can start from that exact shot), or you have it not be him and hint that it was him. Lots of things you can do. But all I know is that this movie does not work. Most people who saw it before I did said there wasn’t enough action. And I was fine with that. I didn’t let that deter me for one second. The problem, though, with no action is — the plot needs to be interesting. This plot wasn’t. All it did was make me go, “Damn, I hope Damon and Greengrass want to come back soon and the studio lets them wait for a good enough script.” Because this shit just won’t cut it. It’ll stop me from complaining, but only for so long.

2 Days in New York — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I saw the original, 2 Days in Paris, and enjoyed it. I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it. And this — was actually better. I think the downside to the other one was Adam Goldberg’s character’s negativity about everything. He’s a good actor, but the character was pretty unlikable for that movie. At least that’s how I’m remembering it. Here everything is pretty enjoyable on the whole. I like Chris Rock’s character a lot better. It’s definitely more enjoyable than the first one. It’s not for everyone (judging by how the box office goes each week), but if you’re willing to give it a chance (and you should. You don’t even need to have seen the first one to enjoy this), you can do a lot worse for 90 minutes.

Freelancers — * * (2 stars)

Throwaway movie. Not good, not too bad. I wasn’t particularly bored, but it wasn’t particularly interesting, either. It’s not like you need to see this. See it if you want to see 50 Cent act. See it if you have to see everything De Niro does. See it if you think a cast of De Niro, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent and Vinnie Jones is interesting. See it if — if you have Showtime or Cinemax in about eight months and are awake at 3:30 in the morning. Otherwise, you don’t need to bother with this. You’ll forget about it immediately afterward.

The Expendables 2 — * * * (3 stars)

And here we see the bad side of Stallone’s writing outweigh the good. The first film was just like this, but I didn’t notice it — I guess because I was so excited that they actually tried to freshen up the action genre, which, for me, has been beyond stale for a while now. This one — meh. It just is. Listen to everything that’s said — it’s so on the nose, just bad writing. And the action sequences are fine and all, but — I just didn’t care here. The first one I liked because I guess I wasn’t expecting all of this. And now that I knew what I was getting, it felt (and I’m sure the first one was like this and I just didn’t notice) like putting on a show. It was like, “Hey, let’s give this person their three minutes.” Whatever. It was entertaining and all, but it just wasn’t memorable. Not that the first one was particularly memorable, but — at least that one felt fresh. This one was more just there. Heart was in the right place and all, just — it wasn’t too good. And actually I’m blaming a lot of that on Stallone the writer. (Though apparently someone else cowrote it, so my guess is he didn’t give much of a shit and just went through the motions. Either way, really.) Though I will say — premise is simple, and the execution (in terms of purely film construction) is solid. I just didn’t care all that much, and that, to me, comes down to writing. So, as a film — fine, but it would have been nice if it were better, so I can say great things about it. Oh well.

From Up on Poppy Hill — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

This was the highest-grossing film in Japan in 2011. It’s not getting a U.S. release until 2013, but it apparently will be getting an Oscar-qualifying run at some point this year. That’s how I found it. It’s by Gorō  Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki’s son (his other film so far is Tales from Earthsea). I think we know by now that anything done by Ghibli is going to be amazing. They’re the Pixar of Japan, and honestly — their track record is even better than Pixar’s. Plus, they hand-draw everything, and it’s gorgeous. Always. I saw The Secret of Arrietty last year, and loved it. That only got a U.S. release this year. Whenever it was released, it’s still one of the best films of that year. This film — just as great. It’s not a very “Miyazaki” story, in that there’s nothing fantastical about it. It’s a simple story of two kids trying to save their school clubhouse. And of course, there’s other stuff happening as well, but I’ll let you discover that for yourself. This is a film that could have been told live-action if they’d wanted to, but honestly, the animation just adds an extra dimension to it and just makes it more pretty to look at. You can take just about any story and if you animate it like this, it’ll be more interesting. (Of course this probably won’t work with action-heavy movies, but you never know. Maybe more people should give it a shot.) Anyway, this was beautiful. Everyone should see this.

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