28 May 2012

I Go to the Summer Movies: Men in Black 3

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Before getting into Men in Black Part the Third, I must retract a promise made in an earlier post, where I vowed to review eighteen of this summer’s genre movie releases. But the blame rests with Paramount, not with me. In a move that can best be described as a vote of “less-than-zero confidence” in their own product, Paramount has delayed the release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation from next month to March 2013. With only a month to go before its originally slated release, and with a promotional campaign already going full throttle, G.I. Joe just got banned from the summer leagues. The excuse: “3D conversion.” Uh huh. I can’t imagine how terrible the film must actually be if Paramount chose to ditch it this late and swallow a few million bucks of promotion. I estimated that The Amazing Spider-Man would viciously pound G.I. Joe in its second frame, and Paramount apparently decided that G.I. Joe’s first frame would be so poor that they didn’t want to go through the embarrassment. I wonder how much Hasbro’s Battleship flop affected Paramount’s decision to drop the toy company’s other movie of the summer?

Anyway, Men in Black 3, a.k.a. MIIIB, pronounced “Mieb” and known on Arrakis as “Mi’i’d.” The film that, whatever it else it may achieve, has the distinction of taking down The Avengers from the #1 box-office slot after reigning for three weeks.

21 May 2012

I Go to the Summer Movies: Battleship

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

You sunk my interest.

And so The Avengers gets another week at #1. Welcome to the Billion Dollar Club. Have a seat next to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and watch that The Dark Knight doesn’t try to steal your popcorn.

The question burning my mind as I left the theater after watching Battleship was: “Why ‘Fortunate Son’?” At the close of two hours of a rah-rah, fist pumping, pro-military glamor parade, why play one of most famous and angriest protest songs ever over a montage of alien ships getting smithereen’d? Did no one involved in the movie listen to the lyrics? “Some folks are born made to wave the flag / Oh, they’re Red, White and Blue. / And when the band plays ‘Hail to Chief’ / Oh, they point the cannon at you.” Maybe the music supervisor thought, “Oh, hell ya! People love Creedence Clearwater Revival. Let’s crank it up!” Perhaps director Peter Berg was trying to allay blame for the film, screaming “It ain’t me! It ain’t me!” Or maybe Berg filled his Navy vs. Aliens blow-em-up flick with a subversive anti-military/industrial complex message that I failed to find on my radar.

However, I will never know for certain, because there’s no way I will ever watch Battleship a second time. This is the essential Stupid Summer Movie, a Michael Bay film without Michael Bay’s obsession with disaster porn that at least gives his junk a crazy edge. If you thought the idea of adapting a strategy guessing game was a poor choice for a blockbuster movie, you were right: stick a red peg on your upper tactical screen.

14 May 2012

I Go to the Summer Movies: Dark Shadows

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Dark Shadows is the first victim of The Avengers. Next up is Battleship.

Contrary to the horrified reactions to the trailer, the state of Tim Burton’s creative career, and Warner Bros. willful promotional ignorance of the movie, Dark Shadows is not a massive disaster. It’s merely a dull flick that suffers from the most standard of bad-movie flaws: an uninteresting story. A few flashes of something better appear—although it is hard to determine what that something was—but this latest attempt to revive the 1966–71 Gothic daytime soap opera seems to drift in clouds of weed, lazily resorting to some broad yet humorless gags while forgetting that it has multiple plot strands that require attention. The film’s slogan really should’ve been: “We were going to make a compelling story for Dark Shadows, but instead we got high.”

Dark Shadows also isn’t much of a comedy; the reviled trailer sells the film as outrageous culture-clash humor, but these kind of jokes makes up only about a third of the film. The rest of it consists of stilted scenes of characters sitting down and talking about what isn’t happening in the rest of the movie.

At least there’s a great soundtrack, a surprisingly smooth meld of one of Danny Elfman’s better scores in recent memory with pleasing early ‘70s pop and rock. Another plus is a production design that feels more natural and sensuously subdued than what Tim Burton usually produces. If Burton was consciously experimenting with an understated Gothic d├ęcor and a more realistic vision of the 1970s than people expect of him, I applaud him for it. It works, and it’s one of the few aspects of Dark Shadows that does.

07 May 2012

I Go to the Summer Movies: The Avengers

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

So begins my long trip through the genre movies of the Summer of ’12. I’m glad that things got off to a tremendous start.

As in a recording-shattering $207 million dollar take at the U.S. box-office, for a total of $640 million globally—so far. Oh, what a menacing term: “so far”!

The Avengers is not the end product of five movies and five years of preparation from Marvel Studios. It’s a beginning. While the two Iron Man films (2008 and 2010) were smash hits, the other three superhero films in the Avengers roster (The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger) were more standard successes, and they meant more to the comic book fan-base than to general audiences. Now, the general audience is pumped to get more from these characters. All the Avengers are now major public stars, and with this insane success, Marvel is poised to truly unleash their stable of heroes on a public than will be drooling and clawing to get more.

I have watched The Avengers twice in theaters on its opening weekend, something I haven’t done since The Lord of the Rings films. That’s a review in itself, but a since I am 1) a Marvel zombie and Avenger fan since childhood; and 2) inaugurating this series of movie reviews for the summer, I have an obligation to go in-depth on this stupendous piece of entertainment cinema. I will avoid big spoilers as much as I can, since this is technically still a “review,” but some tidbits about the massive set-pieces will leak out. But you’ve seen the film already at least once, right? Three times, anyone? (I know plenty who are “three times and counting.”)

Okay, let’s assemble and do this.