Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Summer Movie Views And Don't's: Upcoming Best and Worst

Summer is upon us already, people.  This means huge blockbusters, sequels galore, and a few sleepers sprinkled in there as well.  With summer comes a lot of baggage.  This is the time where the Michael Bay's of the world come out of hiding and give us brainless popcorn fare in 3D IMAX smell-o-vision, seat cushion ass warmer style.  It's hard to tell which are going to be decent films worth spending $87 on a ticket and a small popcorn.  That's why I'm here.  These are the films that, in my head, appear to be the best ones to take a chance on and which ones to probably avoid.  (Let it be known that I would've had Star Trek on "Upcoming Best" and The Great Gatsby on "Upcoming Worst" but they were already included on my previous list Best and Worse Upcoming Spring list.)  Also, I'm well aware that I don't have very many arthouse-indie type films on this list because this is a list for SUMMER films-- a very specific type of film-- which may not be a good movie in the grand scheme of film, but as for entertaining summer fodder will serve nicely.

Upcoming Best:

 May 23: The Hangover Part III
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifinakis, John Goodman
Dir: Todd Phillips

Wait, wait!  Don't discredit me yet!  Remember how much you loved the first one?  Remember how funny it was and still is to this day?  So, yeah, they made a second one that sucked and was essentially an unfunny carbon copy of the first one.  But, guess what... remember a little film called Ocean's 11?  Remember how good that was?  Then came 12 and it took everything you loved about the original and bashed it with a lead pipe.  So, what did they do?  They made 13, the apology movie.  It was a much better film, back in Vegas, to say sorry for the sequel screw up.  I have a feeling that's what Hangover Part III is doing.  It's apologizing for the screw up.  And, even if I'm wrong, there's still going to be very funny moments in the film.

June 14: This Is The End
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson
Dir: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

We haven't had a Seth Rogen/Frat Pack movie since Pineapple Express.  Apatow's crew has somewhat gone quiet and joined other projects.  But, remember the good ol' days where there'd be two or three a year and they weren't only the funniest movies out that year, but also good???  Well, you can bet on a few things with this movie: it's going to be hilarious, it's going to be crude, and it's going to go balls out.  You'll get to see your favorite celebrities get killed (can't wait to watch Aziz die) and say horrific stuff during the apocalypse.  It may not be the best movie of the year, but it'll probably be the funniest.

June 21: Monsters University
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, John Krasinski, Steve Buscemi
Dir: Dan Scalon

Yeah, so it's another unnecessary sequel from Pixar when they should be making more original movies like Up and Wall-E, but then again it IS Pixar. By now, one should just assume that no matter what Pixar is putting out (unless it's Cars) is going to be solid gold.  And this isn't a bad film to make a prequel to.  The first one was a cute, endearing little feature that probably doesn't warrant a prequel because we already know how everything turns out, but it's done, it's made, and it's probably going to be great.

June 28: White House Down
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods
Dir: Roland Emmerich

Yep, now I've completely lost you, haven't I?  Hear me out!  I swear, I have a logical explanation for this one!  Okay, so you know how I thought Olympus Has Fallen was going to be an "upcoming best" and then it turned out to be a shit movie?  Well... that led me to believe that this movie was going to suck just as much.  But, Roland Emmerich... is one of the best when it comes to big-budget destruction and mayhem.  Independence Day is one of the greatest movies of all time.  I know 2012 sucked, but at least the destruction scenes were fun to watch and the CGI was competent.  Plus, just give the trailer a watch.  It looks like he's back to that perfect combination of funny and action.  It's a buddy-cop movie with the president.  At the very least, it couldn't be worse than Olympus, right?

July 5: The Lone Ranger
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter, William Fichtner
Dir: Gore Verbinski

This is one that even I'm a little skeptical about.  It's got a great cast (I mean Fichtner as the villain!!!) and the director has proven his worth with the first Pirates movie, but it's the latest trailer for the movie that makes it seem like it'll be a worthwhile Summer flick.  If it isn't, this might not be too good for Depp's career.

June 5: The Way, Way Back
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette
Dir: Jim Rash and Nat Faxon

This [hopefully] is going to be the small, indie hit of the year.  It's cheaply made, but makes tons of money.  At the end of the year, its not nominated for any awards but its everyone's favorite movie.  Written and Directed by the guys who wrote The Descendents, I think this is the movie I'm most excited for over summer.  I wish more movies were like this one.

July 12: Pacific Rim
Starring: Idris Elba, Charlie Day
Dir: Guillermo Del Toro

This movie, I fear, will be misjudged by most people.  It is probably going to come off as another Transformers or Battleship type film, when in actuality it's much, much smarter than that.  Guillermo Del Toro's name alone, including a writing credit, should speak volumes as to how epic and awesome this movie will be.  It's more about science than pyrotechnics.  I'm excited and I think this will be the start of what summer movies should aim to be.

July 19: The Conjuring
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor
Dir: James Wan

Good horror is hard to find and few and far between.  But, James Wan has proven with Insidious that he knows how to scare the crap out of people.  This movie is rated R.  Not because it has blood or gore or language or nudity or drugs.  It's rated R for being too scary.  Plain and simple.  Tell me that doesn't pique your interest just a tad?

August 2: 2 Guns
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington, Paula Patton
Dir: Baltasar Kormakur

Finally!  A buddy-cop movie!  We've been waiting for the resurgence!  It's Lethal Weapon for the 2010 era. Denzel has a pretty good track record as of late and Wahlberg looks like he's picking scripts that allows him to have the most fun possible while filming.  This one is definitely a hidden gem nearing the end of summer.

August 9: Elysium
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley
Dir: Neil Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp's follow up to District 9 has been held to such secrecy that until recently there had been no plot details released prior to the trailer.  While it doesn't look as crisp as District 9, it looks like the much better alternative to After Earth.

August 23: The World's End
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman
Dir: Edgar Wright

 Edgar Wright- Simon Pegg- Nick Frost-- the brilliant trio behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz finally complete their "blood and ice cream" trilogy with The World's End.  I don't care what this movie is even about, I will see it.  Three of the best writers of our day, combined with Britain's best duo since Farley and Spade make this one the most anticipated movies of Summer.  It will be great.  No matter what.

Upcoming Worst:

May 31: After Earth
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Dir: M. Night Shyamalan

Fool me once M. Night Shyamalan, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me five more times, I've given up on you and will no longer trust your judgement when it comes to movies.  Oh, it's not a horror film?  Oh, it's not something you've written yourself?  I don't care.  Will Smith looks like a smug asshole in the movie, and I don't like you M. Night.  Oh, and just watch the preview.  It's gonna suck.  (What's with those accents??)

June 7: The Internship
Starring: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, John Goodman
Dir: Shawn Levy

Let's face it.  Vince Vaughn hasn't been funny since Wedding Crashers.  He's had attempts at comedy with Fred Claus, Couples Retreat and The Watch but they've all missed.  What's the one thing that could possibly rejuvenate his career?  A reunion with fellow Crasher Owen Wilson?  Yet, watching the embarrassingly unfunny trailers for this film has made me believe that this is it for Vince Vaughn.  Maybe a large cameo in Anchorman 2 can save him.  I doubt it.

June 21: World War Z
Starring: Brad Pitt, David Morse
Dir: Marc Forster

Even though I've already detailed 7 reasons World War Z is gonna suck, my mind has not changed. The CGI looks cheap, the movie looks humorless, and it's gone back for multiple reshoots because there's creative disputes aplenty.  This will not be a good movie and it may be the catalyst that knocks zombie movies back a few years.

June 28: The Heat
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy
Dir: Paul Feig

Paul Feig's directorial follow up to Bridesmaids is a "buddy cop" movie starring Miss Congeniality and Miss About To Be Overkilled In Hollywood That No One Will Find Her Funny Anymore Because She Only Plays One Role.  It's rated R which gives it a little bit of credibility back, but take McCarthy's already tired schtick out of the movie, out of the trailer even, and what's funny?  She's chunky, she's crude... she's a cop?  Not enough to convince me.

July 12: Grown Ups 2
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade
Dir: Dennis Dugan

Adam Sandler's first sequel ever comes from his [second] worst movie ever made.  Did anyone really find Grown Ups funny?  Anyone with a brain, I mean?  There was no story.  There was no character development.  Just five actual friends, having fun on a lot of money, and getting paid to do it.  There's not a single memorable moment from the first film and the second one doesn't look like its going to provide that either.  It would be very difficult to make it worse than the first one, but don't think ol' Sandler won't try.

July 19: R.I.P.D.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon
Dir: Robert Schwentke

This is the one that I'm the most sad about.  When I first heard the plot description of undead police officers working to arrest the baddies of the ghost world and that Ryan Reynolds would be teaming up with the man, the myth, the legend Jeff Bridges, there was no way it could go wrong.  Throw in a bad script and some incredibly cheap CGI (I'm talking Van Helsing bad, like are we playing watching Despicable Me or a live action movie kinda bad) and you've ruined all chances at producing a great movie or starting a franchise.  Rest in Peace.

August 2: 300: Rise of an Empire
Starring: Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro
Dir: Noam Murro

Do I even have to say why this movie is going to suck?  I mean, Gerard Butler wouldn't even come back.  No trailer attached yet.

August 23: The Mortal Instruments
Starring:  A bunch of no names
Dir: Who cares

Yawn. Snooze.  Another piece of Twilight fan crap.  It'll make some money.  Hopefully not enough for the trilogy.  I will actively avoid it.  You should too.

Movies I Haven't Decided on Yet:

I've got a good grasp on which movies I think will be good and which to avoid.  But there are still a select few that could go either way.  Check out the trailers below and judge for yourself.  Have a fun summer!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Iron Man 3: Third Time's A Charm

Thanks, in most part, to Christopher Nolan, superhero movies have been given an almost unreachable standard of quality.  We no longer want the silly antics of shit-ass comic book movies like Fantastic Four, Daredevil, or Hulk.  We don't want CGI bad guys, or anything that doesn't have a path of believability to it.  You got lucky with The Avengers because of the star-power and the skills of Joss Whedon were able to keep your head just a little bit above water.  But, trust me, in lesser hands, that movie would not fly.  Now that we've had The Dark Knight, which was basically a crime-thriller disguised as a Batman movie, that's what we yearn for.  Since we've had The Joker as the perfect film antagonist, that's what we yearn for.  Iron Man 2 was not a good movie for a number of reasons.  First, it was the first superhero film to be released after the success of TDK.  So, audiences wanted more like that.  There was the plausibility that Mickey Rourke's "Whiplash" would be as insane and badass as The Joker.  Unfortunately, Whiplash appeared once, then disappears into a room to tinker with his outfit, leaves for almost an entire film, and returns at the end for a very less-than-satisfactory battle with Iron Man which lasts less than five minutes.  It was disappointing to say the least.  So, studios decided to bring in a different set of eyes and ideas into the franchise.  They may have made the best decision of all time... they brought in Shane Black.

Shane who?  Ryan, you set that up as it if were to mean something to me.  Oh, yeah.  I forgot.  I'm the nerd here, you're the reader who had two minutes to yourself so you thought you'd check to see if I liked the movie or not.  Shane Black is my all-time favorite writer in Hollywood.  He's the sole reason that Robert Downey Jr. was resurrected back to life.  He's written Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Long Kiss Goodnight.  The latter two being a couple of my favorite movies of all time.  The man is one of the smartest writers I've ever read.  He knows how to write such crisp and witty dialogue that it almost makes me feel inadequate as a budding writer myself.  The man knows how to play with plot and when to reveal certain information to the audience.  So, when you're watching a Shane Black film, you're laughing your head off, but you're also not entirely sure what is going to happen.  He'll practically leave the last bit of important information until the very end of the film where everything will tie in and the crowd will utter a resounding, "ohhhhh!".  And, goddamn, does the man know how to turn a phrase.  (And if you have not seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, stop reading right now, and watch it).

So, when I heard he'd signed on to continue the Iron Man series, I could think of no one else more perfect to write Tony Stark.  And the end result is that this, bias aside, is hands-down the best Iron Man of the series.  This time around Tony is back from New York having just saved the world from the events in The Avengers, but he's not handling it well.  He has anxiety attacks whenever New York or aliens or wormholes are brought up in conversation.  Despite this, a new threat is plaguing America with The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) hacking into television feed and offering up "lessons" to America backed by bombings.  Also, happening at the same time is Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce), the head of AIM an organization that has made the drug Extremis-- which allows the body, when injured, to rebuild itself almost instantly (but not without the possibility of very costly side effects).  This is what Shane Black does, people.  He takes three seemingly random plot courses, and eventually collides them all together at the end.  Tony is ambushed by The Mandarin, sending his beach house to the depths of the Ocean, along with blowing up every Iron Man suit he owns, save for the prototype he's wearing during the attack.  This sets out Tony on a mission to find those responsible for the attacks, and get his Iron Man suit back to functioning.

This is where the movie is at its best.  Not with Downey donning red and gold, but when he's Tony.  Left only with his cunning to defend him in moments of dire need.  The film turns into a Tom Clancy-esque mystery and Iron Man is gone for a good hour.  It's now a Tony-centric plot.  He's still put in impossible situations, cornered by baddies with powers much stronger than his own, and we get to sit back and watch how the man, not the superhero, is the true genius.  Iron Man is nothing without the man inside of it.  And, I'll tell you, it looks like he doesn't even need a suit except for when it's time to take flight.  Alas, do not fret Iron Man fans, the suit makes a triumphant return in the last half hour or so.  The climax is one to watch.  While the first half hour is Tony Stark/Iron Man fun, the next hour is Tony Stark mystery mode man, and the last half hour is pure action genius (with a tad of buddy cop movie thrown in as well).  Some fans of the standard Superhero formula may be a tad turned off by the amount of time Tony spends out of suit, and in the wrong hands again, I believe that our interest in his quest to find the truth may have become a little bit stale and boring as we yearn for the suit to make a resurgence (I'm looking at you, Iron Man 2), but Shane Black can do no wrong.  It's the film he's been destined to write his entire career.

Robert Downey Jr., again, is perfect as Stark.  But, as great he's been, this is his best time out.  Backed by Shane Black's God-given penchant for sharp dialogue, Tony Stark is in his finest form.  Gweneth Paltrow isn't as annoying as she is in the other films, so I guess that's a plus, right? But, it's Guy Pierce and especially Ben Kingsley who complete the circle.  While they're not The Joker, or even Bane, they're not trying to be.  Shane Black didn't set out to make a Christopher Nolan superhero movie with an awesome villain.  He set out to make his own type of superhero movie, one not yet seen before, and own it.  Kingsley isn't trying to be the Joker, Pierce isn't trying to be a crazy, chaos-loving, brute force in the film.  He's his own villainous entity that doesn't disappoint.  They're the perfect combination of frightening and funny, a combo that most writers would have a difficult time with.

One of the things Shane Black does best is he knows how to pull wool over his audience's eyes.  He does it again here.  There's a couple of neat little twists in the film that I hope don't get spoiled for you before you're able to see it.  Iron Man 3 represents the beginning of Summer Movies.  Each week one gigantic, explosion-filled, hundred-million-dollar movie will enter cinemas and crowd you into sold-out shows of movies you've been waiting for.  Damn it, if they didn't kick it off with a bang.  I'm not sure many movies this summer will be able to top this feat.  And yes, Iron Man 3 is already on its way to a billion and a half dollar profit, but it's nice to know that at least that money isn't going to a movie that doesn't deserve it.  Spend your money here.  Don't spend it on After Earth or World War Z or Fast And Furious 19.  Guaranteed, this will be a top 3 best summer movie by the end of summer, if not the best.  It still has some competition, but the bar has been set incredibly high already.