Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Summer is here!

Summertime is upon us again! One can tell from all the trailers and posters and ads for upcoming movies. So now is the time to take a look at all the big-budgeted blockbusters we all will be seeing instead of going outside and enjoying the sunshine.

I am also taking a vacation, and thus not updating for at least two weeks (shocking, I know). So if you're waiting for the report from Night Visions, keep on waiting. It's gonna be a doozy, I can promise you that.

April 27th/May 4th

The Avengers
Director: Joss Whedon
Studio: Marvel

As has become a tradition, the summer season kicks off with the latest adaptation of a Marvel comics hero. Only in this case it's a whole bunch of heroes. Yes, after years of teasing us with post-credits sequences, Marvel's major super team will be assembling up! Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury and pals will be taking on the power-hungry God of Mischief Loki and his mystery army of some sort of alien/interdimensionary beings. Luckily the good guys have a Hulk.

What I like most about these movies is that they have successfully resisted the Nolan lure of going more realistic and grittier, opting to be more fun. In these films, comedy's an important element, as are individual characteristics for our heroes. And I think every trailer will show that this film will be bucketloads of fun. Just having Robert Downey Jr. throwing smart-assed remarks will be worth the ticket price alone. And director Whedon has shown in his various own TV series that he can handle a group dynamic, giving each cast member the time to shine. Heck, he has shown in his own scripted comics that he understands the dynamic of The Avengers well. The only problem the movie could have is for the villain to be underwhelming (yet again). Tom Hiddleston didn't really get his time to shine in Thor, and generic scooter-based alien-things and their Transformer-like robot dragon pets don't seem that exciting either. Presumably The Avengers will spend more time fighting each other, like comic book types are won't to do before teaming up.

It's a small miracle that we here in Europe get to enjoy the company of Earth's Mightiest Heroes from April 27th onwards, while Americans have to wait until Star Wars Day, May 4th, to see the film. Ha, ha! One can tell where the biggest source of revenue comes from!

Predicted Stars: ****
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win!

May 11th 

Dark Shadows
Director: Tim Burton
Studio: Warner Brothers

The problem with Tim Burton these days is that he's playing it too safe. He's taking on subjects that were the Timburtoniest to begin with, and the end results are usually just what you expected them to be. To be a proper auteur, he should fight against the norms more (like he did in the late-80's, early 90's), not create them himself. And like director-like-muse, the same applies to the career of Johnny Depp. So their latest film together is an adaptation of some sort of a gothic soap opera from where-ever. I guess that has some sort of a built-in fan base.

Depp plays a 200-year-old vampire (those are popular now, right?) who gets released from a curse and reawakens in the 1970's. He finds out his descendants are now inhabiting his old home mansion and decides to help them out in their life problems. Hijinks and hilarity (presumably) ensue. Depp's own soap opera 21 Jump Street was recently made into a movie so he retaliated by making another one. I myself have never seen a good soap opera movie adaptation. But 21 has had some praising reviews.

I would really want Burton to be good again, so I'll give this the benefit of a doubt. He does work best as an underdog, so perhaps this will be a pleasant surprise. The trailer doesn't quite convince me, with it's Basic Hits of the 70's #3 soundtrack. But it may be that the big audiences are as tired of him serving the same shit over and over again and don't bother turning up at cinemas. Maybe.

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail?: So-so.

May 18th

The Dictator
Director: Larry Charles
Studio: Paramount Pictures

Sacha Baron Cohen is back with another wacky character. Like Charlie Chaplin before him, he's decided to send off various dictators around the world this time. Although Chaplin didn't wait Hitler was dead before doing so, like Cohen has done with his version of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Ghaddafi and Kim-Jong Il. Cohen can't surprise celebrities any more, but he sure as hell can annoy them, as witnessed when he dumped a bowl of ashes on Ryan Seacrest in the Oscar red carpet (my hero!).

I think this will be more or less like Brüno, a mixed bag of occasional brilliance, but also way too many dumb celebrity and body fluid jokes, and raising up of Cohen's own bloated image. But the viral marketing has ensured that it will go well with audiences.

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win

May 25th

Men In Black III
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Studio: Amblin Entertainment/Columbia Pictures

Like with many other major movie stars nowadays, also Will Smith's bankability is currently on the downhill slope. Thus, he also needs to go back to his former successes. Due to the fact that X-Men: First Class did all right last year, the Galaxy Defenders are taking a blast to the past now, and goung to the swinging 60's. Yeah, baby, yeah! Totally original and radical, dude! It even turns out lady gaga is an alien! Who knew?!

I don't think there are too many MIB fans out there any more. The whole thing feels too much like a late-90's thing to make me interested. It's like watching a sequel to The Matrix.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail: Fail.

June 1st

Snow White And The Huntsman
Director: Rupert Sanders
Studio: Universal Pictures

From the people who brought you Alice in Wonderland (except Tim Burton), comes another classic fairy tale update that sees the heroine as a Chosen One to defeat the Evil Queen and bring Order to Chaos. Y'know, since Alice in Wonderland worked so well and wasn't at all bullshit (I'm being sarcastic). And it stars that mouth-breathing lady from those vampire movies!

I would be surprised if anyone would be interested in another Snow White movie just a couple of months since the last one flopped. To be fair, Tarsem's Mirror, mirror seemed a lot worse judging by the trailer. This has the Magic mirror turning into shrapnels and killing a whole lot of dudes. On the con side, the dwarves seem to be quite sidelined, and they are played by shrunken tall actors. But one of them is played by Nick Frost! Yeah, I know. Faint praise and all. Better is that Hossein Amini, screenwriter of Drive, had a hand in the script.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail: Fail.

Piranha 3DD
Director: John Gulager
Studio: Dimension Films

Now here's high concept for ya! Whereas the first Piranha got quite close but not quite at the manic Joe Dante-style gleeful chaos, Piranha 3DD seems to want to top it in any way. If ever there was a movie for chauvinist pigs, it's this – tits are promised even in the title! And we have David Hasselhoff parodying himself and Gary Busey and Christopher Lloyd making cameos. This time, it has actually been shot in 3D! Plus it has even more, outrageous Piranha carnage! My ticket is practically bought already.

Predicted Stars: ****
Box Office Win/Fail?: So-so.

June 8th

Director: Ridley Scott
Studio: 20th Century Fox

I can finally rant about Prometheus! What is it about Prometheus that has gotten everyone so crazy excited? I mean, sure, it's a sci-fi movie made by Ridley Scott, which might have been exciting in the late 70's, early 80's. But the Scott we have today is not much better from your basic Bruckheimer hack, having delivered at best forgettable thrillers and at worst unbelievable garbage the last decade or so. This may be a bit better than most of those, but I wouldn't wager it to be worth more than three stars.

Okay, so the trailer that mimics the one from Alien does have a few interesting-looking scenes. But I myself am more or less done with the world of Aliens. And I'm dead worried that my beloved xenomorphs get an origin story nobody wanted to hear. It's just too much of a price to pay to see a couple of beautiful sets. One can see about half of them by watching Alien on blu-ray anyway.

Even this Viral ad featuring Michael Fassbender as an android didn't win me over, even though everyone and their grandmother is raving about it. The reason? The script is godawful. I mean "What is it about robots that makes them so robotic?" If this is a joke, it's a bad one. And Fassbender is a good actor but here he seems to ham it up when he's supposed to be as unemotional and asexual as possible. Rant over.

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win! Thanks to marketing.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Director: Who Cares?
Studio: DreamWorks

So they made another one of these as well. Enh, whatever. The kids will probably see it nevertheless. That's about as much thought as the studio executives gave for this in advance.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail?: So-so.

June 15th

Rock of Ages
Director: Adam Shankman
Studio: New Line Cinema

It's some sort of a high profile romantic musical where Tom Cruise plays an aging rock sta-zzzzzzzzzzz.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail?: Fail.

That's My Boy
Director: Sean Anders
Studio: Columbia Pictures

Meanwhile, unlike Tom Cruise and Will Smith, Adam Sandler thrives just by name recognition alone, no matter how awful garbage he feeds to his audiences. Is this a sort-of sequel to Big Daddy? If you paid to see Jack & Jill, you don't deserve anything better.

Predicted Stars: *
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win.

June 22nd
Director: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
Studio: Disney/Pixar

Now we're talking! Pixar returns to do original stories with this yarn about gender differences in a medieval scottish village. What I like most about this one's premise is that it's not otherwordly or to far-fetched a concept. It's a simple old-timey tale of bravery and knight-viking-like warriors. It may have a lot to do with the nature of storytelling and tall tales as well.

Visually, this looks as realistic as ever, with it's believable copying of natural light, be it from daylight, candlelight, dawn or dusk. The fog and cloud effects are breathtaking as well. These sort of details and settings are important in the overall athmosphere of the story. Pixar's jump to live-action films can't be far behind.

Predicted Stars: ****1/2
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win!

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Regularly I don't much care for the literary genre of inserting monsters in a straight book. And I wouldn't read the one this one is based on. But damn, if I don't find the concept of ol' Honest Abe battling it out with some bloodsuckers. The trailer doesn't show much, besides some guys talking in the woods at night and some pretty horrific clips of hell. I'm still intrigued.

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail?: Fail.

June 29th

G.I. Joe – Retaliation
Director: Jon Chu

As you may know, if you've ever read a similar post written by me, that I'm easily fooled by a cool trailer. If a trailer looks good enough, I'm willing to forget that the film is a sequel to something which should have no sequels whatsoever. I really don't know a single case where a sequel to a bad movie would have been a considerable improvement, at least in Hollywood.

But that being said, dang, if the trailers for the next toy soldiers fight toy ninjas movie doesn't look entertaining! This time around the Joes have an actually threatening villain to fight with, not just a cloud of nanobots. And they have to fight for America's freedom! And their own freedom to survive and to be able to shoot America's enemies! It seems the various actors posing as action figures have adventures worth repeating at one's sandbox this time. I mean, ninjas fighting at mountainside! Bruce Willis! I can't add any more to that trailer, watch that.

Predicted Stars: ***1/2
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win.

July 6th

The Amazing Spider-Man
Director: Marc Webb
Studio: Sony Pictures/Columbia

I would like it more than anything to have the smart-assed, playful Spider-Man I so love reading about on the big screen. Tobey Maguire was great as a teenaged nerd, but he's no comedian. It seems long-time comic nerd Andrew Garfield has a better grasp of the character. But the clips I've seen so far make the joking Spidey act like quite an asshole bully. I wonder what kind of taunting will The Lizard have to endure?

For all the pandering to the Twilight crowd, I also like really much that Spidey is at odds with the police. He's a weird vigilante with odd powers, and can't resist joking on the expense of the boys in blue. I'd rather watch that than him having a parade and kissing babies or whatever was in Spider-Man 3. The melodramatic romances were also done quite well before, but the combination of Emma Stone and Gwen Stacy would melt even the hardest of cynics.

It seems that the film will be a mixture of familiar and new. The villain, of course is another scientist/father figure who has an experiment go wrong and turns into a monster. Hey, Batman's villains are all horrifically disfigured crime bosses. Spidey has these. I like The Lizard but really hope he doesn't speak. Rhys Ifans is a weird choice to play him, but I can see they are going somewhere very different with this. I'm also very intrigued to know where they are going with all the mysteries surrounding Peter Parker's parents. And it seems that even though we get Spidey's origin, it will play out quite differently from Sam Raimi. I don't think this will be the Spidey movie of my dreams (Spider-Man 2 is the closest one we'll get of that for a while), but I will definitely be there to see it.

Predicted Stars: ***1/2
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win.

July 13th
Ice Age: Continental Drift
Director: Steve Martino (The non-union Mexican equivalent of Steve Martin?)
Studio: Sony/Blue Sky

See Madagascar 3. Or rather, see what I wrote about that. See Brave, so we'll get some more original animated films that bring the humor and heart.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail: So-so.

July 20th

The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan (had to check it!)
Studio: Warner Brothers

This is the big thing of the summer, there's no denying it. There's a lot of trust in Nolan, even though he has to juggle against impossible expectations following clearly the best superhero film ever made  and the subsequent threequel-itis. But word has flowed that those who have seen the opening sequence say it's as appetite-wetting as the opening for The Dark Knight. Plus, as we have a clear auteur on board, it is intriguing to see how he plans to close one of the biggest franchises in the world. It's the sort of chance we may never again witness in the history of motion pictures.

That's not to say there won't be more Batman movies. It's the end of this interpretation, and as with comics there have been multiple reincarnations of the character. But will this last chapter make this take truly legandary, to be talked about by superhero fans for all eternity to come? It seems that no grandiosity of thought would not be too big enough when discussing this movie. But still, after all that thought and talk, it's best to remember it's still just a movie. It has three acts, it's a rise-and-fall-and rise story in three acts and it's an action film about a hero's journey. It's not the messiah.

Still, I'm kind of bummed we don't have IMAX theatres in Finland. Nolan has had more piles of money to burn than The Joker could ever dream of and he has used them no doubt in some quite impressive explosions. I wonder how much of Gotham City will be left at the end of the film. I also wonder how exactly does Catwoman fit in the story about Bane wrecking Batman's body, city and life. But we shall see.

Predicted Stars: ****
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win!

Anything opening the next week after that one might as well not open at all.

August 3rd

The Bourne Legacy
Director: Tony Gilroy

Want proof Batman will be coming back? Another hero had his story wrapped up good and nicely in a satisfying trilogy-closer. They insult the memory of the good times with this. Oh, Jeremy Renner. You're in so many tentpole films that you're just going to get shunned just like Sam Worthington or Shia LaBeof or that guy who was in the first G.I. Joe, whatshisname?

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail: Fail.

Total Recall
Director: Len Wiseman

Another film that has a premise that guarantees that I'm not interested. Wait, scratch that. I might be interested in a Paul Verhoeven remake, if it were done by a similarly strong auteur, such as Darren Aronofsky or José Padliha. When you got the guy who directed the Underworld films, man, you would've been better off even calling to Brett Ratner or Paul W.S. Anderson.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail: So-so.

Genius director Fernando Meirelles' new film also opens that same day, but since it's about old people having sex, it has about snowball's chances at a Mexican drug cartel.

August 17th

The Expendables 2
Director: Simon West
Studio: Lionsgate

I know I didn't like The Expendables 1. That was directed by the man who directed Rocky IV. But that man is an egoist, and this film is helmed by the man who brought the world the Best Action Film of the 90's, Con Air! At most, we have already witnessed just the cast list of this steroid-pumped super ensemble piece. But just the knowledge that Arnold Schwarzenegger will fire a gun this time around will more than make for this to be the film to close quite an extensive summer of big tentpole movies.

Predicted Stars: ****
Box Office Win/Fail: Win!

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