The Summer of 2012 Movie Round Up!

The summer movie season is done and is now ready for the history books – and upcoming DVD releases. I managed to see my fair share of movies this summer. Not as many as I would have hoped. I’m sure there were some films that came out that I would have enjoyed and will discover them on DVD.

Mainly I stuck with the big guns of the summer. They’re the movies that every movie fan was anxious to see. Ticket prices have gotten so out of hand it’s become a real gamble to take a chance at the theater on something you’re on the fence about seeing. So, before I plan on buying them on DVD or just plain forgetting all about them here’s some quick reactions to what I saw in the summer 2012 in the theaters.

Now looking back….it wasn’t really a very good summer….

THE AVENGERS

The Avengers movie
Thor and Captain America Doing Battle in the Streets

No surprise here. Everyone went to see it. It was ‘the event’ at the beginning of the summer. Was it any surprise to anyone that it was a colossal worldwide hit? It shouldn’t have been. What might have thrown folks for a loop was that it was actually really good!

With the anticipation of this Marvel team-up film, the hype it generated and the fan excitement for it, it was potentially set to being a huge letdown. What a surprise that the film was exactly what a big fun superhero movie should be. Exciting, funny, suspenseful, filled with great distinct characters interacting with each other between fighting a worldwide alien threat!

I really don’t have anything negative to say about it. Well, maybe the invading alien force….they kind of looked a bit blah for my taste….kind of a bit too Transformer-ish for me, but that’s a minor quibble. Director Joss Whedon pulled off a terrific superhero summer entertainment that gave every character a chance to shine and no one got lost in the ensemble. It surprised me how much I really enjoyed it.

PIRANHA 3DD

Piranha 3DD
Awful….

I know….I should have known better. I knew after seeing the trailer it was going to be crappy, but I watched it anyway. I have no one to blame but myself.

It is bad. Really bad. The worst ‘movie’ (and I use that word loosely) I have watched in a long time. It took everything that I got a kick out of in Piranha 3D and completely shredded it and turned it into a gigantic, embarrassing experience. If I made those worst of the year movie lists I can’t imagine anything topping this as the biggest waste of cinematic garbage I sat through this year.

I won’t get into anymore than that. I wrote a long, passionate review after I watched it just because….it really pissed me off. I felt really insulted that this movie didn’t even try. Here’s my scathing review of it. I think it’s funnier than anything in the actual movie.

Oh, and over the summer I happened to rewatch Dodgeball and in that movie they have a David Hasselhoff cameo that is actually funny. Short, amusing and the film moves on. The complete opposite of the way Hasselhoff is used in Piranha 3DD.

PROMETHEUS

Prometheus Ridley Scott sci-fi
Michael Fassbinder trying to make sense of the plot

I guess I would christen this as the most disappointing film I’ve seen in a long time for a lot of reasons.

It being the return of director Ridley Scott to the world of sci-fi, a story taking place in the Alien universe and a trailer and viral campaign that raised expectations even higher. The result was a pretty mediocre movie that had me thinking one thing after watching it – “what was the point of this?”.

Filled with one-dimensional characters, motivations that are not made clear and people just doing stuff to move the story to a pretty anti-climactic silly ending, Prometheus was a letdown on every level but visually. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for me to feel it was worth my time to sit through.

I’ve heard countless debates about the film, some very interesting. Despite all the explanations and theories that have been branded about it, none have convinced me that Prometheus is anymore than a shallow, lazy space story disguised as a film that says it’s exploring deep, meaningful, philosophical questions about human existence, but really doesn’t even come close to touching on anything like that.

Again this movie resulted in me writing a long review of it where I compare it to the the original SyFy film Piranhaconda, a film that I actually enjoyed much more than Prometheus. At first it might seem like a stretch to compare the two, but for me that silly low-budget creature feature was much more entertaining than this big-budget directionless mess. And in a lot of ways it was smarter too.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey

Eh.

That was really the extent of my reaction after watching this reboot of the famous wall crawler. Just that it was ok.

There was stuff in it that I did like. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey were both good. They had a nice chemistry and their awkward beginnings of their relationship was nicely handled and resulted in some effective scenes. I wasn’t surprised by that since director Marc Webb had already demonstrated he can handle the young romance thing in 500 Days of Summer.

The action and effects of Spidey swinging through the streets of New York also looked pretty good. Garfield’s Peter Parker was more of an outsider, abandoned, brainy and nerd-ish than Tobey Maguire’s Peter. Fans finally got to see him build those web shooters himself, a controversy that I really didn’t care much about in the first place.

Other than that the film just felt very routine. Watching Spidey’s origin again be retold so soon didn’t thrill me and there really wasn’t any inspiring new approaches to it. They probably should have dropped retelling the whole origin again and just began the movie with Spider-Man already an established hero swinging through New York City. Seeing Peter get bitten by the spider, discovering his powers, Uncle Ben’s death, was all played out as expected, took a lot of time and wasn’t that interesting to watch.

The major downfall for me with this film though was with Rhys Ifans’ Lizard. He was a pretty weak villain and really didn’t result in much fun. The CGI of the Lizard didn’t look anything special and the creature felt like it didn’t even have a connection to the Curt Conners character. The scene of Ifans having a conversation with his Lizard persona looked to be an exact copy of Willem Dafoe’s scene as the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman film.

Sure the film is watchable, but I’m not geared up to sit through it again. Oddly enough the parts that I liked the most was not of the superhero stuff, but of the teenage romance. Go figure.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

The Dark Knight Rises Christian Bale
Christian Bale’s final grumbly-voiced
performance as Batman

The final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Bat Trilogy was sure to be a hit – and it was. The film truly tries to end with an epic conclusion and expands the scope of Bruce Waynes story, adds more conflicted characters in Gotham City, a villain pulling out all the stops and raises the stakes as high as possible.

This was one I, like everyone else, was anxious to see. I actually went to see it twice. The first time I saw in IMAX and although it looked spectacular, I had real trouble understanding a lot of the dialogue. At first I thought this was me, but my friend also had the same problem. As a result it got very frustrating. The audio aside issues aside I still felt somewhat disappointed with it. I appreciated the scope of the film, but just thought something was missing.

Two months later I went to see it again. This time the dialogue was understandable and I knew what to expect. I ended up enjoying it more, but still had problems with it.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle

I don’t want to get too deeply into the story, so very quickly – like I said I appreciate the large scope of the film, however with the large size of the story it inevitably raises questions that never get answered and you’re left to ponder them.

There is a lot going on in Gotham City and my suspension of disbelief ending up breaking in the context of this Bat Universe. The evolution between Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne/Batman seemed way too rushed and it felt it jumped too quickly from betrayal to immediate alliance. Bane is a formidable villain during the first half of the film, but in the final act just seems to be discarded.

And the most unexpected thing for me, in a film that is trying to be so ambitious and exciting there really wasn’t any great Batman action setpiece. There are some impressive spectacle, huge city vistas being blown to hell, but not one memorable action scene with Batman.

There’s nothing as exhilarating as the Batmobile chase in Batman Begins or the Batpod/tanker chase in The Dark Knight. Even the introduction of the Bat (Wing) doesn’t really offer much other than to help get Batman from place to place. Actually there really isn’t a heck of a lot of Batman in the movie. Maybe they should have called it Bruce Wayne Rises.

Plus, I didn’t like how Gotham City became New York City in the movie. Literally New York landmarks are visible in the city-  buildings, bridges. I like it when Gotham is more its own anonymous city as it was in the previous films. But maybe I’m the only who was bothered by this.

Although it’s a good film and one that is certainly worth seeing, I think it’s the least of Nolan’s three Bat films.

TOTAL RECALL

Total Recall Colin Farrell Kate Beckinsale
Farrell and Beckinsale in Total Recall

My first reaction at seeing the trailer for this was that it was going to be an uninspired remake of the 1990 Schwarzenegger film. It might have some nifty CGI effects and Kate Beckinsale looking gorgeous, but in the end it will be a very forgettable exercise. And I was right.

The film is pretty much a beat for beat remake of that sci-fi flick with Colin Farrell running around trying to find out if he is indeed a secret agent or if he’s just imagining this adventure thanks to some tinkering with his mind. It seems the film definitely took some cues from The Bourne Identity, with Farrell quickly beating up adversaries not knowing how he did it.

The film does skip the trip to Mars and the story is played much more serious than Paul Verhoven’s film. But while the original film may not be a masterpiece, it is a pretty fun flick. I remember when the trailer for the original first premiered and some of those special effects really wowed audiences. That animatronic Arnold head revealing itself under a fat woman’s head – pretty awesome. And Verhoven certainly delivered some nice gore and blood in that movie.

Kate Beckinsale sexy Total Recall
The Best Part – Hot Becks!

Despite some awkward and out of place ‘homages’ to the original, this remake is not nearly as much fun. It doesn’t waste much time on the mind warping dilemma and it mainly spends most of its time on action, none of which is very exciting or original.

One of the main problems with this flick is that since the majority of us already saw this story there’s really no surprises left and this remake doesn’t bother to shake things up enough and change up the telling of this sci-fi adventure to really make it worth sitting through all again.

So it relies on shootouts and characters slo-mo leaping from buildings or floating cars and even slo-mo anti-gravity shootouts. I thought the best sequence is the hovercar chase, but it’s not nearly enough to save the rest of this film.

But Kate Beckinsale does look great in it.

THE BOURNE LEGACY

The Bourne Legacy Jeremy Renner

I was rooting for the movie. I really was. After the successful spy trilogy with Matt Damon, Jason Bourne leaves the stage and Jeremy Renner’s Alex Cross and moves in.

I thought an expansion of the Bourne universe using events from the previous films as background for another story of another agent might have worked. But it doesn’t.

There are some very good actors in it, but sadly they’re stuck with a very convoluted, unexciting script. I had a bad feeling about where this was headed after the first fifteen minutes.

The story takes a long time to get rolling and when it does it creaks along without any clear goals made by the characters. The scientific angle of these special pills that are being used to make super soldiers feels pretty silly in the Bourne universe that I’m familiar with. The conspiracies we discover about Treadstone, Blackbriar and all the dirty goings on with the government bad guys are not that interesting.

There was intrigue that moved Damon’s Bourne through his story. He had a clear-cut agenda and we wanted to find the answers to his secrets as much as he did.

Here, there’s very little mystery to get curious about. I was never sure what exactly Cross was trying to accomplish. Was it just to get more pills? Was that it? And now the bad guys just want to kill him? Hmmm….ok. And how exactly was Bourne’s story – his legacy- connected to this one we’re watching? I felt as confused as Bourne did in the first movie.

Jeremy Renner Ed Norton Bourne Legacy

Ed Norton and the government baddies are in their own separate movie. They feel isolated from Renner running around and what he’s doing. So since I wasn’t engaged by the big evil suits and their plans that Renner and co-star Rachel Weisz are up against and what they plan on doing, the only thing left is watching the action scenes and hope they add some excitement.

And they really don’t do much. Director Tony Gilroy doesn’t inject as much tension and thrills as past Bourne director Paul Greengrass or even Doug Liman. The action scenes rely on the same shaky cam/quick cutting technique that were a staple in previous Bourne films, This time it’s not as effective.

I don’t know why filmmakers keep attempting to emulate this style of editing. I’m starting to think that Paul Greengrass should be the only one allowed to use it, since he’s apparently one of the few filmmakers who can make it work.

I should have known that this film was trouble when I started to hear how the filmmakers were trumpeting Renner’s Alex Cross before the film even came out and talked about possible team up adventures of him and Jason Bourne. That was a bit premature on their part. They don’t get to decide if Alex Cross is a success, the audience does. And based on the general reaction by fans this might be Alex Cross’ solo adventure.

THE EXPENDABLES 2

The Expendables Return

Sylvester Stallone is back leading his famous gun carrying, tough comrades on another mission to fire off millions of bullets, beat up bad guys and blow up a lot of big stuff up, along with giving their devoted fans a nostalgic revisit to the glory days of 80’s action cinema.

That’s the idea anyway. The first Expendables I thought was a letdown (it seems like I’m always disappointed with movies huh?). The premise sounded much better than the actual execution.

The Expendables 2 I think is a bit better, but again the idea of all these action stars coming together just sounds so good that maybe I’m hoping for something more than really what I should. Like the first film, the novelty of seeing all them together wears off for me pretty fast and there’s not much of a movie that’s built around this summit of action heroes.

Simply put it’s a B-Action flick. The movie isn’t on par with Stallone’s Rambo, Schwarzenegger’s Terminator or Willis’ Die Hard . This is an inconsequential story with our heroes shooting guns, staring with squinty eyes and trading their classic quips.

If you’re looking for any more than that you’ll be disappointed. But I find it odd that an action film, that’s solely targeting action fans and has this lineup of stars is made up of action sequences that are so humdrum.

I can’t help but want these films to be a bit more. The action is standard, the story is whatever….they’re after some special computer or something and the actors are all essentially playing themselves. Somehow both these films I find much less exciting than I really want them to be.

I’m not expecting these films to reinvent the action wheel, but I guess I just want a faster, more sparkly wheel than how they’ve turned out.

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2 Responses

  1. David says:

    Only saw 'Dark Knight Rises' at the cinema and boy did I have major issues with that script!! Still worth seeing, but I would like to interview the Nolan brothers about the script writing process and what time/content constraints they were working under. The Nolan/Batman trilogy most reminds me of the original Star Wars trilogy in broad scripting terms. I may see some of the other films on DVD, but they won't be priorities. Is this the weakest summer season in memory. Avengers aside: No break out new film. No real surprise packages either.

  2. Kieran says:

    This was a disappointing summer. It started off with such promise but ended with only 2 films really being worth seeing,Avengers and Batman, the rest where disappointments.

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