Vacation Movie Round-Up


I finally took some time off this week, and I caught up on some movies I’ve been meaning to see for a while. As the greatest critic of pop culture I know in my house, I felt it was my born duty to share with you all my thoughts and impressions of some of the fantastic cinema I’ve finally gotten around to seeing in case you missed it for as long as I did.

The Avengers. I’ll cop to the truth and hope they don’t take away my geek card: it took me this long to see The Avengers. Yes, despite my pathetic man-crush on Our Whedon Who Art in Hollywood, hallowed be his name, I held off on seeing this one until now. Why? I dunno. I guess I was afraid it couldn’t live up to the hype, especially since they were on the third Hulk in as many films, or the fact I hadn’t seen Captain America yet (see review below) and I still haven’t seen Thor (although I might actually try it now.)

So how was it? Well, lest I squeal like a schoolgirl I’m afraid I can’t give a completely accurate depiction of my initial impression. Suffice to say that I thought this was hand-down the best action film I have seen in a very long time, and the very epitome of a superhero film. While it played to many of the tropes you would expect, it also played with some tropes as well, and I always like to see that sort of thing. Without giving anything away I think I can safely say my favorite surprise character was S.H.I.E.L.D., which played a much larger role than I anticipated, and in a much more interesting way. The special effects were well integrated, enhancing without dominating the action.

That’s not to say there weren’t some drawbacks. Once you go Ed Norton, it’s really hard to go back, and while Mark Ruffalo does a credible job it’s just not the same. The action is a little slow in the beginning, although threading together four different franchises and adding in some extra material at the same time is always going to be a challenge; Whedon did the best job possible, but that doesn’t make it great. Also on that front is the fact that there are some subplots and character development points that don’t come through very clearly if you haven’t seen the lead-in films. Again, not much you can do about that given the situation at hand; it would be like trying to a sequel to Return of the Jedi for someone who had never seen episodes IV-VI. Doesn’t make for as smooth of a movie as it could though.

All that having been said, it was a rollicking good time, and well worth the price of admission. This is one you will want to see in the theater, because it just won’t be the same at home.

4.75/5 stars

 

Rock of Ages. The simple fact that my wife, who isn’t really old enough to remember any of the songs in this movie, refuses to go see it, pretty well sums up everything you need to know about it and whether or not you should even bother watching it. The simple fact is, I grew up on 80s music, and hair bands in particular, so for me this was a no-brainer. Going with my sister (who saw several of the bands that originally did the songs in the film IN CONCERT) just added to the fun.

Oh, the plot? You mean there was one? No, seriously, there was? This movie is the epitome of a musical that exists for the sole purpose of stringing together a bunch of songs that already exist in the most clever way possible. There are a few inside jokes (including one song that quite creatively DIDN’T get used), but that’s more about wit than anything that could pass for a script. As far as acting, Tom Cruise can’t help being great, and Alec Baldwin has comedy down to a science. Everyone else did an acceptable job to keep the movie going, never taking you out of things, but it’s not exactly Rent. Hell, it’s not even Chicago.

Should you see this in the theater? That depends if you remember teasing your hair, or watching someone else do it, and if you feel like you would have to bite your tongue to keep from singing along to the songs. If not, take a pass and catch it on DVD if you love Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, or musicals in general. Otherwise you might want to just let this one go by.

4.5/5 stars (if you remember the 80s), 2.0/5 stars (if you don’t know who Twisted Sister is)

Captain America: The First Avenger. Overall not a bad film. I was never a huge fan of Captain America, but I never exactly hated Cap either (unlike Daredevil or Punisher, both of whom I would sooner see dismissed to the dustbin of comic book history.) Also unlike Daredevil, I had very low expectations going into this film, which may have helped. For those of you unfamiliar with Captain America… you know what, if you’re unfamiliar with Captain America, I can’t help you. Seriously, crawl back under the rock you’ve been living under for the past seventy years or so. Seriously. That’s like not knowing who Superman or Mickey Mouse are.

Anyway, the film follows pretty closely to the established mythos as I know it, although to be fair I don’t know it especially well, unlike the Spider-Man films, where I was one of the nerds complaining bitterly about the changes even as I had a nerdgasm over the coolness of it all. (Before the third one. That was just awful. What I saw of it. I couldn’t even sit through the whole thing.) But I digress. They stick to the plot fairly well, and though the action doesn’t move along as well as I might like in the middle, there is some nice character development. The end is a serious downer, and more than a little of a Fellowship of the Ring moment for me personally. However, since I didn’t even bother to see it until the Avengers was already in theaters (and they kind of telegraphed it from the title) there’s little room to complain.

3.75/5 stars

Red State. I’m not really known for being a fan of thrillers, but I am known for being a huge Kevin Smith fan, so going into this one was a big toss-up for me. Truth to tell, I got a HUGE surprise out of this one, in a very good way. I have no idea how to describe it without giving anything away, so I’ll do my best but just in case I’m going to say *SPOILER ALERT*. Now don’t call me out for crying wolf even if I don’t spoil anything.

So this movie is a thriller, like I said, but about what? Well, sex and religion and politics. That’s probably the best way to describe it, and I take that more or less from the credits, so don’t credit me with any great insight for picking up on this one. The truth is I was just frozen still for the entirety of the movie, constantly waiting to see what would happen next. The action moved at exactly the right pace, never dragging but not going so fast as to be an action movie either. The tension was perfect throughout.

There were two aspects to this film I enjoyed most. First, there were no heroes. Yes, there were protagonists, but there was nobody I really liked or felt like I needed to root for. But somehow I still felt satisfied by the movie. Second, the customary witty Kevin Smith dialogue was there, but it wasn’t silly, it was sharp, crisp, and direct, almost like David Mamet if Mamet were in any way tolerable. This movie isn’t going to be for everyone, because it’s chock-full of gore and violence and lots of disturbing imagery. That being said, if you think you can handle it, it’s worth checking out.

4.25/5 stars

John Carter. Ah, the curse of mediocrity and what might have been. I’m convinced this movie could have been so much better if Disney had only been willing to go for the gusto rather than trying to appeal to the family audience, or the mass market, or whoever it is exactly they were trying to appeal to. It can’t have been the hardcore fans of the original novels, because outside of a few truly dedicated nerds, I’m not sure anyone even knows there WERE original novels (or did before the movie bombed -er, came out.) As it is, the results of this film were so deep into the realm of “so close” that it’s almost insulting.

Which is kind of misleading to say, because if it hadn’t come so close to being really, really good, it would have been really good. It was fun, exciting, well made, and all around worth watching. It just had so many points of bad dialogue, dragging action, and generic silliness that it was hard for me to focus on the meat of it, which was a decent film. There were some enjoyable characters, and it wasn’t so thoroughly “family-washed” as to lose sight of all the barbarity that existed in the original.

If you like science fiction, if you like heroic films, and especially if you like not having to think too hard while you kick back, this is a good popcorn rental.

3.0/5 stars

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