Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer 2013 Movie Reviews

Updated: July 12th, 2013. It's time for my Early to Mid-Summer 2013 Movie Reviews. Scroll through the following to hear my thoughts on the following blockbusters recently released in theaters. It has been an action-packed male audience geared summer so far. Unfortunately, there not too many great flicks, considering all of the hype that went into most of these titles. Of the entire list? I'd only recommend seeing Star Trek and Epic in theaters.

Disclosure/Note of bias: I've been considering the theory of rating movies this year based on the "Bechdel Scale" in regards to female lead characters. Almost all of these movies would fail. Bechdel Scale: "1. has to have at least two [named] women in it, 2. who talk to each other, 3. About something besides a man." It's frightening how hard it is to name a movie that passes this test! Check out which ones pass below.

THE WOLVERINE: It was good, but not "great" and I'd advise you to rent it rather than to spend $25 on a ticket and food. The Pros: it's an X-Men movie. I love X-Men movies, especially X-Men: First Class, X2, and Wolverine: Origins and as fun as it was to step away from Marvel's Avengers series to get back to X-Men, this prequel (The Cons:) didn't come close to having the character development that the other films did, or the casting. I loved the character cameos of the hundreds of mutants in the other flicks. (Even Stan Lee was noticeably absent from his usual Marvel-flick cameo.) The Plot: I was surprised, but it was, in fact, believable enough to land us in Japan without question. (Thank you, exposition.) I enjoyed the Asian fight scenes, and yes, there is an incredible rooftop bullet train action fight scene that trumps even some of the best 007 stunts for coolest fight sequence I've ever seen. The romance though was awkward, and uncomfortable, (he's over a hundred years old, and she's barely out of her teens, remind you of Twilight too? Yuck!) and there was really no chemistry between the leads, not like in Wolverine: Origins, which had a much better romantic match, but oh well. It's an action film and it delivered when it needed to. It whetted the appetite for the next film: X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is a sequel to First Class, but a prequel to the X-Men trilogy. (I realize that sounds almost as ridiculous as the title to the new flick, sorry.) So Advice: Date night flick? Not really. Friend night flick? If you're bored and love X-Men. 

PACIFIC RIM: I love movies of all types. I don't discriminate when I go to see different genres of films in theaters, or when I watch them at home on our television, and computer. The HBO, Showtime, Movies on Demand, iTunes and Netflix services give me more titles than I need and often suggest films that I end up liking. However, my husband Tom picked this movie, and counted down the months, weeks and hours until we saw it last night in 3-D after seeing the trailer, and I have to admit: the demographic of viewers coming out of this movie was, not surprisingly, male dominated, aged 16-35 with their friends, out in droves of man packs. They loved this movie. It was basically Godzilla(s) vs. Transformers with the digital visual coloring of Tron vs. Jurassic Park, with stunning effects that tickled the inner child of every man in that audience. So, let me begin my review of Pacific Rim with the questions that every guy wants to know before they drag their friends/family out to see this movie: (1) Yes, the effects are spectacular/cool/new/unbelievably rendered in a way that we only see every few years, usually from Michael Bay. (2) Yes, the alien Godzilla-like creatures are believable enough to suspend disbelief and appreciate this Monster vs. Robot war in its entirety. (3) Yes, the movie is generally action-packed with good pacing. (4) Yes, it was one of the better films this summer if we're talking action and effects, especially in 3-D. Now that's about where my good reviewing of this film will end. So, if those aforementioned criteria are all that you are seeking, go enjoy a good mindless, fun action flick. (SPOILERS AHEAD.) Now here are my thoughts: boy, this film made me angry. It was terrible. Cliched dialogue that made the audience groan, a plot that was barely developed: aliens invading, robots are the only solution, (because apparently there are no Armed Forces in this film) so every hotshot robot "pilot" disobeys orders directly, (ego!) breaks his billion dollar robot, and puts humanity in jeopardy for a boy vs. boy intercontinental pissing contest. Yes it failed the Bechdel test because it only had ONE female character. REALLY? Only one? Amongst dozens of egocentric, testosterone filled, apparently uneducated gunslingers. Perhaps the producers simply FORGOT to put any other english speaking female characters in. J.R.R. Tolkien sure did. (The Hobbit). [Wait, I'm forgetting the female Russian robot pilot, but she doesn't really count because she never speaks, and dies after three minutes of battle.]  I just can't believe that a $200 MILLION dollar movie was so badly written. They couldn't hire anybody to fix that script? I would have done it for free. Also, after all of these movies this summer, I am becoming more and more horrified that generally, almost across the board, mainstream movies don't have TWO female characters, with names, that talk about something that is not the lead man. This absolutely disgusts me. So no, Pacific Rim bombs my expectations and I am further disappointed in humanity by the release of yet another, testosterone fueled violent advertisement for "acceptable" male behavior. Advice: Skip it unless, like my husband, you want to see the effects and just want to be entertained. 

DESPICABLE ME 2: After looking forward to this film for a year and half after seeing an adorable "Barbara Ann" (Banana) song trailer by the Minions months ago, I have to admit, painfully and sadly, that this movie was really disappointing. The storyline was mediocre if not predictable, and the humor relied too heavily on slapstick, rather than the funny banter of well developed humor in the last flick. There was even a horrifying "bimbo date scene" with Gru that was a bit inappropriate for kids which made me cringe. The scary purple minions? A bit too creepy and not at all funny. I will admit that I will be seeing the next film, The Minion Movie, because I continue to enjoy their hilarious shenanigans. This movie also failed the Bechdel test, because none of the female characters (of which there were six) had a conversation with each other about not Gru or a future with Gru. Sorry, Universal, clearly you tried hard, just not hard enough. Advice: Rent it. 

EPIC: Think Avatar meets Fern Gully meets A Bug's Life in yet another charmingly animated story that is compelling from start to finish. Yes, it passes the Bechdel test. (The first true pass of the summer!) It's not enough anymore to just have a compellingly animated story, to compete with Disney, Blue Sky (the makers of the Ice Age series) have really honed humor, from slapstick to device to comic relief, this movie had all the jokes it needed. Definitely a great PG movie for kids, and parents will really enjoy it as well. Advice: See it in theaters, rent or buy it. 

WORLD WAR Z. If you liked the thrilling moments of I am Legend, then you'll like this movie. There were some fun "shriek in your seat" moments, believably scary zombies both in dormant stage and in full bite mode, and believable plot events, where things just go wrong for the lead character as he travels to find the origin of the infection as they would for anyone else (Murphy's Law.) What was particularly terrifying about this movie, was the eerie accuracy in the portrayal of the doom of the human race when faced with the chaos of an apocalypse. Watching societies around the world be lost, and despair, have hope, then despair again raises questions of team work, diplomacy and preparedness for viewers that may seem comic when thinking about zombies, but also important when thinking about other contagions. I'd give this flick a B. (Oh, yes, it failed the Bechdel test, too.) Advice: Fun to see in theaters to see other reactions. Or rent it at night.

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. The best movie so far this summer by far...especially in 3-D as the action sequences are easier to follow with a third dimension (I saw it in both 2-D and in 3-D). Even seeing it the second time, I was equally engaged and excited as the first, knowing more of the information that created confusion in the first, and I could detach myself from the stressful experience of seeing it the first time to really enjoy it again, and even more. I really liked the villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch (also amazing as Sherlock on Sherlock). Here he was terrifying: his cold, calculating plans being revealed piece by piece as his game is played out- it's satisfying to have a criminally brilliant villain again, because it's more satisfying seeing him be defeated. Chris Pine animates Kirk in a loveably irritating way, and Zachary Quinto pushes his Spock into legend. I appreciated Zoe Saldana's Uhura, with her angry frustration and honesty with Spock, and brilliant Klingon dialogue. I was irritated by the boring blonde cookie-cutter "Carol," played almost unnoticeably (by everyone except Kirk) by Alice Eve. It seemed like a cop-out to have her character at all. With that one minor gripe, and my reluctance that, yes, this movie fails the Bechdel Movie Test, I can admit that it was very good. Advice? See it in 3-D/Buy it.

IRON MAN 3: Thank you Marvel and thank you writers for making a character who is renowned and respected worldwide have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on screen, for humanizing his panic attacks with the humor of the teenaged boy who helps him recover, and for letting Tony really deal with the emotional and psychological aftermath that followed The Avengers. (I also saw this movie in both 2-D and in 3-D and the difference was unremarkable. I'd definitely recommend the 2-D. Save the 3-D for Star Trek.) One of the best parts of this film was the role played by Ben Kingsley. I've always enjoyed his performances, but this was special: so funny and surprising! Great stunts, great recovery by Tony, great ending (if somewhat unbelievable, at least it was enjoyable!) and a great ending to the trilogy. Can't wait to see Avengers 2 and 3 now that Robert Downey Junior has signed on for them, news that came out today. In case you were wondering: This movie surprisingly just barely passes the Bechdel Movie Test, the two lead females discuss (besides Tony AND the main villain) just briefly scientific research, and how to save the world, briefly, before returning to interact about the male leads. Advice: See it in 2-D, rent it. 

SUPERMAN: This is a terribly long movie. At almost three hours, I found myself completely disengaged from the final scenes, just waiting for the movie to finish. Henry Cavill was a humble, believable, likable if somewhat boring lead; and Amy Adams was a meek, curious, starstruck Lois Lane, and the two seemed to have some chemistry together, but it was very staged. There were at least three minor scenes where I said to myself, "Wait. How did she get there?" for them to have an "experience" together. Also: the villain (Michael Shannon) was overacted and campy. Then I always spend a lot of time wondering about alien clothing and costumes. When it's hard to suspend disbelief with these "Power Rangers" bad guy outfits, it's hard for me to take in  and appreciate the alien scenes very easily. (Just like it was for Green Lantern, and some of Thor.) The fight scenes were boring. Really? A supernatural fist fight? Boring, and yes, it fails the Bechdel test. Advice: Rent it when you have three hours to waste.

NOW YOU SEE ME: This was actually a good movie, enough puzzles and tricks to keep me engaged nearly the whole time! Reminiscent of "Oceans 11, 12 & 13" or "The Italian Job" this magical thriller has you guessing until the very end, which I didn't like and was annoyed by, but could still appreciate. Note: Failed the Bechdel test. Advice: Rent it with friends.

FAST 6: I'm so mad at this movie. What a dud. It was really terrible. My husband is still quoting "Ride or Die" with a whispery tough guy sarcasm around the house. Granted, Fast 5 was probably the best movie in the series so far, so this one had a lot to live up to, but it was just a big joke all around. I can't even talk about how disappointing it was. The Stunts? They were so ridiculously unbelievable that the audience was laughing and groaning! The cars? Not impressed. I refuse to even put a picture up for it. It's not worth the space. It was just a campy, adrenaline fueled testosterone trip that by the way, also failed the Bechdel test. Advice? Let's just all pretend this movie never happened and rewatch Fast 1, 2, and 5. 

THE GREAT GATSBY: Groan. Another dud. It was very overhyped and the delayed opening also contributed to my overwhelming disappointment in the Baz Luhermann adaptation. As a film, it was fine, it told the story, it was flashy, it had the glitz and a work of art, it left something to be desired with its over-the-top sequences, costumes and sets. The artistic crew just tried way too hard. Surprisingly, one of the only redeeming acting performances was Carey Mulligan's Daisy, who I have always loathed as a character: she played Daisy with a deep pain that created a pity for her early on in the film, before the tumultuous events of the climax where again, I loathed her. DiCaprio was "too" romantic, the music was "too" trendy. It reminded me of Les Miserables, the movie everyone was talking about and loved that I just couldn't appreciate. Oh well. I'm still glad I reread the book (and liked it) in advance of the movie this past year. Another point for the "book being better than the movie" category. Also, it failed the Bechdel test. Advice? Skip it, unless you liked the book. 

JURASSIC PARK 3-D: I really enjoyed when the audience laughed at Lex when she said, "Wow! A touch screen with an interactive CD-Rom!" in the Jeep during the Dino-Tour this time around, twenty years later. The dinosaurs are still as scary, especially in the darkened theater, especially in 3-D, and I even appreciated a few "new" moments, even after having seen this movie a dozen times, now viewing it as an adult. Definitely worth the ticket. Sadly, it too fails the Bechdel test, although it's a toss-up with the Ellie Satler line here: [After Ian states: "God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs."] Ellie: "Dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the earth." Advice? See it in 3-D for nostalgic purposes. 

OBLIVION: A decent sci-fi/fantasy psychological thriller, starring Tom Cruise, after the apocalypse of Earth. While I do not necessarily agree with Cruise's angst-ridden political rants in real life, he has always played a believable agent in an action flick, and here is no exception. Also: it fails the Bechdel test unless you count a female robot talking to lead female. No more giveaways, I don't want to spoil it! Advice: Rent it.