The Good, The Bland, and the Ugly: Summer Movie Recap
Can you feel it? Fall, that is? While the summer may not be over according to the calendar, September marks the end of the summer movie season. With the summer of 2011 in the books, it’s time to reflect back on the movies that helped us beat the heat.
It’s something I like to call The Good, The Bland, and The Ugly. Cue the Spaghetti Western music.
Summer 2011 was a big one for Hollywood with no less than three films crossing the half-billion mark (or beyond) in terms of gross dollars. It also saw diminishing revenue from 3D viewing in the United States, with nearly every blockbuster, sans Transformers: Dark of the Moon, seeing only roughly 40% of their gross monetary intake from 3D screenings—a reversal from just a few months earlier.
Now, I am but one man, so this list is in no way comprehensive. I did see quite a few movies, but not every movie. You will also see some movies that were either not reviewed here on GFBR or do not necessarily fall under the purview of our site.
The films are broken up into three different categories each containing three films. The Good: these are the three films that I feel were most emblematic of the best Hollywood offered us. The Bland: not necessarily bad films, but movies that were broke in some way and should have offered us a better experience. The Ugly: fairly self explanatory, these are the films that were just utter dreck, movies that I am loathe to experience again.
Cap was the first movie that I’ve bothered to see more than once in theaters since Return of the King back in 2003, and both viewings happened in less than a 24-hour period. In many ways, Captain America is the culmination of more than three years of planning by Marvel Studios. It’s the last movie that they are releasing before The Avengers next summer and it has to be good enough to make audiences even hungrier for that superhero team-up movie. It is.
The thing is, Captain America could have been a disaster. Think about this: it’s set in World War II, far from the familiar settings of the other Marvel movies; its star, Chris Evans, has already been the lead in four other comic book movies (some of which were critically hammered); and America isn’t exactly the most popular country in the world. Despite all the things that could go wrong, director Joe Johnston managed, with a few small issues, to craft what is one of the top Marvel movies ever made. Considering the quality of the previous Marvel flicks, that is no small feat.
Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, and Hugo Weaving all delivered fabulous performances. The settings, the action sequences, the characters—I love it all. This is one flick I cannot wait to revisit on home video.
I’ve made no secret of me being a “Johnny-come-lately” to the Potter series. In fact, the only reason that I caught up on the series (aside from being forced by friends to see Prisoner of Azkaban in theaters) was because I was participating in the pre-PAX Potter-themed pub crawl at last year’s Penny Arcade Expo (it’s technically called the Tri-Wizard Drinking Tournament and yes it is just as awesome as it sounds) and didn’t want to be surrounded by Potter fanatics and be completely left in the dark. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate the series while being simultaneously frustrated at the strange, often poor adaptations of the books. I know, I know, the books explain everything so much better. I get it.
Considering my hesitance in experiencing the Potter-verse it might come as a shock to some (my wife, namely) that I’m naming Deathly Hallows Part 2 as one of my three favorite movies of the summer. The thing is, it was just such a damn fine flick. I love that it eschews the narrative structure of the previous Potter installments (which, while fun, got a little tedious seeing Harry going to school and solving the year’s mystery just before finals) to show us the final showdown between Harry Potter the devious Voldemort.
Plus it was pretty awesome to see Neville Longbottom kick some ass, just sayin’.
I have a love/hate affair with J.J. Abrams. I loved his work on Lost (the show really suffered when he left), I loved Alias…but Star Trek? Oh no, that wasn’t Star Trek…nope. But, Super 8? Now, that’s a damn fine movie. All I knew about Super 8 going into it was that it centered on kids, it was filmed in a small town in West Virginia, and everyone was likening it to E.T. the Extraterrestrial. Now, saying something is like E.T. is pretty ballsy. E.T. was the first movie I saw in theaters, one of my all-time favorites, I was a little worried that Super 8 was going to be a disaster. Thankfully my worries were unfounded.
Super 8 turned out to be completely reminiscent of the classic ’70s and ’80s children’s movies that I grew up on and love dearly. If there is a problem with Super 8, it would have to be the mysterious ad campaign that trumpeted the movie into theaters. There’s no big twist to hide in this film and the alien doesn’t even look that special. Hiding this information from the public really only added to backlash towards J.J. that began with his involvement in Lost and Cloverfield.
Super 8 is a fun, tense, and funny action/sci-fi film with some great set pieces and fabulous acting. I love all the kids in the movie and Kyle Chandler (probably best know as Coach Taylor on the TV adaptation of Friday Night Lights) shines as the small-town sheriff trying to keep his son safe in the midst of the strange occurrences around town.
I did not expect this one to be funny at all, but thanks to excellent performances by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Charlie Day, I had a blast with this one.
David Tennant is awesome. That is all.
Didn’t think that I would end up rooting for those damn dirty apes, but a fantastic digital performance by Andy Serkis made me not only root for them, but love this flick.
I wanted to like this one, I really did. Seriously. But a terrible, terrible script made this movie damn near intolerable. The special effects were, in many places, downright awful. Did they really need to make Hal Jordan’s costume CG? I really don’t think so.
In a year where Marvel had not one but THREE decent comic book movies I continue to ask why DC/Warner Bros cannot launch another successful series aside from Batman. It shouldn’t be that hard, they have some of the most well-known characters and they have the Batman movie franchise, dammit. Hey Warner Bros, here’s a free tip: go to Christopher Nolan with a big check and say, “Hey man, you know how everyone loves Batman? Do you think you could maybe use Batman to launch our other movies?” But, of course, knowing Warner Brothers they will probably green light a sequel to Steel. I mean, Shaq can use the work, right?
Okay, so Green Lantern wasn’t ALL bad. The design of the Green Lantern Corp aliens and the planet of Oa were pretty great-looking, and Ryan Reynolds was that bad as Hal Jordan. On paper, Green Lantern looked like it would be a home run, maybe Warners can salvage the series with the sequel, but you’ll excuse me if I won’t hold my breath.
Fans of the series should be happy to see this one listed here in The Bland and not The Ugly, because I think the other two entries in this series deserve to be placed somewhere even worse than “bad.”
Dark of the Moon is by no means a good movie, but it is the least reprehensible of the Bayformers series and as much as I dislike 3D movies, shooting in 3D did manage to make Michael Bay into a slightly less spastic director on account of the lack of shaky-cam necessary to allow the human brain to register 3D images.
Dark of the Moon still has the distinct problem of having a completely stupid script and generally hammy acting from nearly everyone in the cast. But those shots of a destroyed Chicago are, two months later, still some of the most interesting images that I saw this summer.
It’s not great, but it could have been much, much worse.
Cars is the one Pixar movie that everyone loves to hate. I took my father to see it in theaters because I knew that he liked NASCAR and I liked Pixar and this was a combination of the two. My father fell asleep during the movie. Not that big of a surprise in retrospect. Hey, I admit it, it’s the only Pixar movie that I don’t own on DVD/BD, but it’s not that bad.
Cars 2 takes everything from Cars (a surprisingly down-to-earth story about stupid looking anthropomorphic cars learning life lessons) and throws it away in lieu of a story about the Larry the Cableguy Tow-truck being mistaken for a freaking spy car. If Cars was a Doc Hollywood riff, then the closest analogy for Cars 2 would be The Man Who Knew Too Little a 1997 box office flop starring Bill Murray as a bumbling American caught up in an espionage plot despite being completely clueless.
Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen, the lead of Cars, is virtually absent from this movie. I even hate Owen Wilson and thought that diminishing his role for Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater was a stupid idea. But, just like Cars, Cars 2 isn’t that bad, just a very stupid movie.
The first movie I reviewed here at GFBR, it was one of the first summer movies and sadly one of the worst. Priest is appropriate in the Ugly category because it is one hell of an ugly movie. With bad special effects and terrible design work. Its not even one of those bad movies that people can laugh at and say something like, “well, it looks like the cast is having fun,” because it looks like everyone is having a dreadful time.
A stupid script with inane logic (Vampires were at war with humans for centuries and once we won we decided to put the vampires on…reservations? Say wha?) and terrible dialogue only compound the problems that this movie has.
It’s loud, ugly, and dumb. The perfect trifecta.
The Hangover Part 2
It wouldn’t be on this list if it were A.) not just The Hangover in a new setting or B.) funny in any way.
The shame is that it’s got some pretty cool action sequences but it’s just. not. funny. at. all. Hey, I liked the first one, but this movie is almost beat-for-beat the same damn flick and since I already know all of the jokes (hey, just like I knew all the jokes from the first one from seeing the trailer a million times before the release) I didn’t find it slightly funny at all.
Guess what’s got two thumbs and isn’t going to see The Hangover Part 3? This guy.
Judging by the relatively small gross that this movie pulled in, I guess quite a few people feel the same way about this film as I do. I love the director of the movie, I love the people in the movie—so why did I loathe the movie? Short answer? I hate three of the seven people who had their hands on the script.
Okay, I’ve got nothing personally against Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, or Damon Lindelof, but their script for this flick is just…bad. There isn’t any story to speak of, Daniel Craig’s character is the most bland bank robber this side of the Pecos, and the aliens fall into my most hated Sci-fi cliche— animalistic aliens who snarl, growl, attack, and seem to have no form of communication but have somehow unlocked the key to interstellar travel.
The saddest part about this travesty is that I was actually really excited to see it, so much wasted potential.
Maybe I wouldn’t have been so disgusted at this attempt to make a comedy based on a real life pizza bomber incident (that happened in my hometown!) if it were…oh, I don’t know…funny.
As a child of the ’80s I am shaking my head in disappointment at this terrible attempt to capitalize on my childhood. Somewhere in the past little Billy is wearing Smurfs underoos and is oblivious that Hollywood is going to mess up his favorite cartoon in 27 years. Smurfs in New York with Katy Perry as Smurfette? Seriously. No.
So that’s it. Summer 2011 in easily digestible form. It’s been a strange and interesting summer and I’ve had a great time sharing my thoughts about the movies with you for the last few months. We’ve got some cool looking movies coming up in the fall, but before that why don’t you sound off in the comments? What are your good, bland, and ugly movies of the summer season?