Like many of the expert movie reviewers, I’ve been underwhelmed by the new releases this summer. There hasn’t been a movie that’s taken my breath away - stuck with me – made me want to go back again and again to watch it one more time. Here’s my quick reviews of the movies I’ve seen so far in the summer of 2012 – and my personal grade for each movie.
The Avengers – I’m the mother of two boys (men now). You don’t survive 2 sons in the same household without knowing a lot about superheroes. I can name 15 of them without blinking an eye. I’ve seen most of the movies that each of these characters starred in – Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America… I thought Iron Man was the best written and acted movie, and Thor was escapist fun. So I had pretty high expectations for The Avengers movie. It didn’t quite meet that goal. The highlight of the movie for me was the interplay between the heroes as they tried to subvert their – well – oversized egos and work together for a common goal. I especially liked the scenes where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner discovered they had similar areas of expertise in the lab and bonded over computer displays that were indecipherable to most of us. Robert Downey Jr. continues to imbue his character with a twinkle behind every cocky statement. He’s having the most fun and he takes the audience with him on the ride. This movie failed in the antagonist – besides Loki – the “bad guys” they fought in the overlong finale were reminiscent of B grade movies from the 50’s. Did you also notice that the city streets were decimated and yet no bystanders were hurt? The opportunity for a great movie was squandered and transformed back to comic book silliness in these few key scenes.
My score - B
Men In Black 3 – I’m a fan of Will Smith. I’ve enjoyed his work in almost everything – back from the days of “Fresh Prince” going forward. I watched all of the Men in Black series. I’ve been on the ride countless times at Universal Studios in Florida. Who doesn’t want to laser some aliens and get a “good job” from Will Smith before you get neuralized? While I believe the 2nd movie in this trilogy was a misstep, this latest installment had all the heart of the original. Josh Brolin was spot on as a younger Tommy Lee Jones. The time travel set up was well done and the scenes where Will Smith tries to acclimate as a man of color in the 1960’s were handled with just the right touch. The movie is pretty standard “beat the alien, save the world” stuff until the last 15 minutes. And then there’s an emotional punch that gives depth to the entire trilogy and kept me pondering the implications long after the movie ended. The scenes shot outside the shuttle were exquisite – if there was CGI employed here, I couldn’t tell. This will be the one movie I’ve seen this summer that I’ll buy on DVD for the extra scenes alone.
My score – A
Madagascar 3 – Europe’s Most Wanted – Three words sum up this movie – phoned it in. The plot is contrived, the characterizations of the animated animals were recycled with no new depth, and I was never happier than when the movie ended and I could get out of there. I’ve seen excellent animated movies – see almost anything created by Pixar – and in comparison this was like reading the back of the cereal box at 6 a.m. before you are fully awake. The 5-years-old-and-younger crowd probably enjoyed it. Everyone else – not so much.
My score – D-
Brave – On the topic of animated movies, this one far exceeded the prior entry in June. Pixar delivers a solid entry in their latest creation about a young girl in Scotland struggling against the responsibilities of her title and trying to define the woman she wants to become. I went to see this movie because my daughter requested it on her birthday. Half way through the film I leaned over and whispered, “I really, really like it!” I was surprised at the depth of the relational story woven into the broad humor and brand of magic that’s standard in most Disney tales. This is what Pixar absolutely nails – at some point in almost every movie – you forget that you’re watching an animated film. The facial expressions – the nuances in movement – along with the tone of the story – pull you in and like me, you’ll find that you’re pleasantly surprised at how much you’re enjoying yourself. This film doesn’t elicit quite an emotional response in the audience akin to some of the other Pixar movies – “Up” and “Toy Story 3” are at the top of their game in that response.
My score – B+.
Magic Mike – I can’t tell you anything about this movie that you don’t already know. Yes – there are copious amounts of eye candy. But there’s a story as well – and Channing Tatum proves that he’s more than just good looking as he aptly handles his character’s realization that he might want something more out of life than to be the “good times” guy. Matthew McConaughey portrays a manipulator with a level of slime you’ll want to wipe off with a knife – against type for him – and he does it convincingly. I’ll tell you something else about the movie – it’s one of those audience participation kind of movies – and the more girlfriends you go with – the more fun you’ll have.
My score – B+
The Amazing Spider Man – This remake far exceeds the original. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are well cast as the would be superhero and his romantic interest. My biggest issue with the movie – we are asked to buy that these two actors are in high school. They look and act at least 8 years older than their characters. That issue kept pulling me back out of the storyline, along with the overwrought antagonist that becomes a lizard akin to King Kong and terrorizes New York. Again, if you’ve lived in a house with boys, you become immune to this kind of stuff. I’ve invested so much time and money in comic books, Halloween costumes and action figures over the years that I kind of need to see it through when it gets to the big screen. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone that has managed to not be indoctrinated in super hero animation over the years. The holes in the plot and the leaps in logic required to enjoy this movie without the aid of alcohol would be too much for the rest of you. In the meantime, I’ll meet all the moms at the back of the theater.
My score - B