I saw a lot of movies this summer and have been very busy with a new job. This is why I have not written a review for all the movies I went to. Starting May 6th until this last weekend I went and saw 12 movies in the theater. You do the math with the current ticket prices…JEEZ! This is an expensive habit.
During the summer I try to really focus on big summer blockbusters, I love art house films and romantic comedies, but during the summer I really want to get my money’s worth out of at least two of my senses. All the movies I did see fit in this category; big, expensive, A-list actors/directors, and they all made a lot of money. To tell you the truth it was a really good summer, I can honestly say only one of the movies was awful, another few were okay, but the other eight were good or really good.
I have been thinking and examining my top 5 and they have changed here and there, but this final list is really where I feel the most comfortable and feel like I can justify an explanation.
5. Tie!!! Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. First time ever I have had a tie, but this is truly a tie. First HP, I loved this movie, it made me cry and gave me other emotional responses that reminded me of being a kid. That being said, it was not this one movie that did it for me, it was combination of 7 other films and 7 books that made this one movie so great. Second, RotPotA, this movie will most definitely win an Academy Award for visual effects, WETA is the absolute best in visual effects right now. Not since Jurassic Park have I been so in awe of animal CGI. Again, this movie could not be as good as it was if not for my childhood love of the “Apes” series. As a kid my favorite one was Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Rise is just a reimagining of, and a really good one. Both these films have sentimental connection to me that was unrivaled this year, but it was because they are a part of something much bigger than just one film.
4. Thor. This is in the Top 5 because I had very low expectations, I would say I even dreaded going to see and was happy that X-Men was coming out a couple weeks later. You know what happened, it blew me away. It was not the best comic book hero movie ever, but it was better than a lot of them, and Thor is a really boring comic book character in my opinion. This movie was fun and exciting and a great fit into what Marvel Studios is doing right now. As will all the current Marvel films, the casting is what sold it. Everyone in the cast was believable and not too over the top, and Kat Dennings could have been way worse. This movie exceeded my expectations, which is nearly impossible these days.
3. Super 8. This movie was nearly flawless, which is what everyone should expect from J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg. It was a throwback to the late 70s and 80s movies that launched the latter to the top of Hollywood. It was mysterious and fun and exciting and scary and just so good. It was not your typical alien movie and the alien didn’t end up being E.T., it ate people, but the whole story was not about the alien or government. This movie was about people in a different era and their problems and hopes and dreams, and how they define those individuals in an extreme circumstance that makes them reflect on themselves and the people who are in their lives. Great film can’t wait to watch this with Jack and Nora when they are older.
2. X-Men: First Class. At the beginning of the summer I would have said this will be the best movie of the summer, and it nearly was. I love X-Men, the comics, toys, cartoons, movies, and books, all of it. The X-Men are my favorite, by far, comic book characters. So of course I loved this movie, but so did most of you. It was because it was a different take on what we had seen before, it was not set in present day, didn’t have to conform modernism. It was a 1960s movie with 2011 special effects! I have been a fan of Matthew Vaughn for a while now, everyone should rent Layer Cake and Stardust, and I think this is best film, followed closely by Kick-Ass. He has this relaxed cool thing about his films and actors like Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy fit right in and sell it so well you forget they are acting. I think Vaughn may have revived Kevin Bacon’s career too. This movie is so good, after a couple of viewing it has overtaken X2 as the best X-Men movie made.
1. Captain America: The First Avenger. Like with Thor, I was a little weary when I first heard about this film. Then I heard Joe Johnston was going to direct it, and after Jurassic Park III, I was not too thrilled about that. I was completely wrong; Johnston went back to his roots and made hands down, the best movie of the summer, and most like a Top 5 of the year. It had the perfect combination of action, story, special effects, romance, humor, and Tommy Lee Jones. Like X-Men, it was a period piece that worked fantastically. I will say I am worried about how Cap’ will fair in the modern world because typically, comics, that can sometimes get boring. This movie was both cool and up to date, yet still reminded me of the movies I watched as kid (probably because Joe Johnston was art director of The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark). With as good as every movie Marvel has made, yes I liked Iron Man 2, I am very excited for next summer and the reign of The Avengers.
What were your favorite movies of the summer? I really want to know…seriously.
P.S.- I apologize of the X-Men: First Class poster, it didn’t realize they never made a good one.
After watching Captain America: The First Avenger earlier tonight, I had thoughts. Here is a list of live-action movies released in the U.S., starting in 1998, based on Marvel Universe characters. They are in chronological order and ranked out of 10 and based solely on my opinion of the films. If you are in need of an explanation, please comment.
Blade (1998) – 6.5
X-Men (2000) – 6.0
Blade II (2002) – 7.5
Spider-Man (2002) -6.0
Daredevil (2003) – 5.5
X2: X-Men United (2003) – 8.0
Hulk (2003) -6.0
The Punisher (2004) -4.0
Spider-Man 2 (2004) – 8.0
Blade: Trinity (2004) – 6.0
Elektra (2005) – 2.0
Fantastic Four (2005) – 6.5
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – 4.5
Ghost Rider (2007) – 6.0
Spider-Man 3 (2007) -4.5
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) – 7.5
Iron Man (2008) – 8.0
The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 7.5
Punisher: War Zone (2008) – 4.5
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – 7.0
Iron Man 2 (2010) – 7.0
Thor (2011) – 7.0
X-Men: First Class (2011) – 8.25
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – 8.5
One of my favorite filmmakers is Wes Anderson. There are a broad number of people who feel the same way; unfortunately at this point most of them are “hipsters” who see his films as clever and cool. Most of these people do not understand how much he was influenced by J.D. Salinger, Francois Truffaut, and Woody Allen.
All that said, to express my great love of his films, every single one of them. A few have a lasting impact on my life. The thing that is wonderful about Anderson is that he can appeal to such large audience, people who like British pop music, who like comedy, who are into fashion, etc. He really is a master at his craft; he is involved in the writing of, direction, editing, acting of all his films.
Now to the theory. American Empirical Pictures is the production company started by Wes Anderson, thus The American Empirical Theory. Over the years I have run into many people who “love” Wes Anderson films, this is great. The theory states that most people, who know Anderson’s movies, typically prefer their first experience to the other similar experience. Whichever Wes Anderson movie a person sees first, it usually ends up being their favorite. I know this to be true for me, I saw Rushmore for the first time in 2002, and this is still my favorite film by Anderson. Rushmore spoke to me on many levels including private school, perceived exclusion, misguided energy, etc. It also started my love of Jason Schwartzman and reignited my love of Bill Murray. My wife saw Bottle Rocket before any other Wes Anderson movie and this is her favorite. On Christmas Day 2004, my cousin Jered and I went to see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, his first Wes Anderson film; as far as I know it is still his favorite. A recent conversation with our friend Jessica revealed that The Royal Tenenbaums is her favorite Anderson film, and it was her first exposure to his films. I find that only about 50% of the people I talk to about this theory have seen every single Wes Anderson film, so it is obviously not scientific. As with any theory, there are exceptions, some people I have talked to have a different favorite Anderson film then the one they first saw. I believe them. If you do, by any chance test this theory, you will find that the vast majority will say that The Royal Tenenbaums is their favorite; this is because it was and is the most popular and widely known of all the Wes Anderson films. This is a situation that the popularity is justified; Tenenbaums is a fantastic film that has many characters inspired by Salinger’s Glass Family, which I love.
I think the thing that stands out to me is that it is the experience of seeing a Wes Anderson film for the very first time that makes thevery first time that makes the impression on people. It is new and exciting and refreshing, like listening to The Beatles for the first time, or your first bite if ice cream. You have never seen artistic expression like it and now you are hooked. Tenenbaums was a movie with Luke and Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, and Bill Murray, these actors are typically slap stick comedy guys, and this movie was not that. People still loved it and thought it was funny.
P.S. Sorry about the lack of any The Fantastic Mr. Fox footage, I could not find any that I liked.
Just some guys, taking it easy.
A quick listen through the new Death Cab for Cutie album, Codes and Keys, and it’s clear that this is the group’s finest album yet. With their last album, Narrow Stairs, some fans were ready to write the group off as a band that would live on only in the hearts of people who watched The OC in High School.
Codes and Keys seems like a progression from their 2005 album, Plans–more “concept” style songs that don’t rigidly follow traditional song structure. That is what they have done on their latest effort, while at the same time, shedding some of their abundance of angst and sentimentality.
Now that the band has been fairly well established, it sounds like they have become much more comfortable in expressing their creativity. You can tell it is the album they wanted to make. It is not so much an album of memorable hooks, but hidden sonic surprises, sprinkled throughout each track. It is an album that will continue to surprise you with each additional listen.
Codes and Keys is definitely worth listening to and the sound is unique enough that it may have some good shelf life. If the band continues to develop their sound and continue to push themselves like they have done here, Death Cab for Cutie are set to be one of the more memorable bands of the last decade.
Turn it up!
With two comic book hero movies out already and two more on the way later this summer, I wanted to throw my two cents in. Not all are great, but so far so good this summer. Go out and see Thor and X-Men: First Class
Some people think comic books are for kids or just for nerds. I strongly disagree. I could write a very long paper about the history of art and how it is storytelling and so on. I think this is becoming less common thought. The recent popularity of summer blockbusters that include comic book heroes is opening up a new audience of readers from all walks of life.
This is a list of my top 5 favorite comic book heroes, and after this summer all will have been seen in a love action adaptation. These may not be the best or most popular heroes, but they are the ones I read the most, I watch the most, and if I could be any one of them I would in a heartbeat. These guys also have something that some other more popular characters do not, they are all cool. Really cool.
James Howlett was born in Canada in the late 19th century. When his mutant power manifested and he ran away, he was unsure of his future. Over the years James killed, loved, and lost. He worked for the Canadian government and eventually for the Weapon X program. The program grafter his mutant bones claws with a near indestructible metal. His mutant healing power helped him survive this process. The Weapon X program also wiped his memory and he fled the experimentation with no memory and took on the name Logan. He had run ins with the Hulk, Spider-Man, and eventually joined Professor Xavier’s second generation of X-Men. It was under Xavier that he learned to control his rage and that he was ultimately a protector and avenger. He would eventually become a major part of the Marvel Universe.
Wolverine was a childhood favorite of mine. He was an antihero who kicked butt and took names. He wasn’t most powerful mutant, but he was rough and had passion. His constant loss and rage made him seem more real then a lot of comic book and cartoon heroes. The fact that he was manipulated most of his life and is now on a path of revenge is exciting and worthy. He was Jason Bourne before Jason Bourne even existed. His place in the Marvel lore is steadfast and he is loved by many. Hugh Jackman has played him nearly perfectly (I even liked origins). I am excited to see Wolverine grow and become even more interesting.
Wolverine: Weapon X (1994)
Wolverine: Enemy of the State (2005)
Old Man Logan (2008)
Born into wealth and love, Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered in front of him. He vowed to rid crime and evil from Gotham City. He has never and probably will never accomplish this mission, yet he still continues to fight. Batman is a symbol to instill fear into the evil and corrupt. He is a detective, hero, friend, and lover. He has a hard time with emotions as seen with his many sidekicks who take the mantle of Robin. His only tie left to his parents is his faithful butler and dear friend Alfred. Batman is the dark knight and caped crusader who will never stop living by the code he holds dearest: Protect the innocent.
Kids either liked Superman or Batman; I was definitely a Batman fan. He had cooler villains, he wasn’t indestructible, and he all kinds of cool gadgets. Batman has gone through many changes throughout the years, but he has always been mysterious and level headed. Of all the comic books and all the movies and cartoons and superheroes out there, Batman seems the most possible. I think that is a major draw with his character, you could realistically grow up to be like Batman. I think it is also important to point out how important his villains are. Mainly the Joker, he defines Batman. The compliment each other perfectly, one is a crazy person who kills on a whim and loves chaos, the other is a crazy person who dresses in all black, solves crimes, and always tries to achieve order.
The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)
Batman: The Long Halloween (1996)
Batman: Hush (2002)
Hal Jordan was a test pilot. He became the greatest hero in the universe. He was the first human chosen by a green power ring to become a Green Lantern, he was chosen because he had the potential to overcome great fear. He joined the Green Lantern Corp and saved the world and universe many times over. Jordan is one of the many heroes who becomes consumed by evil and then comes back from the darkness to be the ultimate hero. When his home city was destroyed by Mongul, he became enraged when the Guardians of Universe (masters of the GLC) and he gave into fear and unleashed the entity Parallax. While consumed by this evil he went on a rampage to remake the universe in his image. Fortunately he was stopped and exiled until he used his power to reignite the sun and ultimately redeem himself.
The Green Lantern is by far my favorite DC character. He has cosmic power, he has a ring that can do anything, he has a dark side, and he was originally drawn to resemble Paul Newman. Of the four GLs that are part of the silver and bronze age of comics, Hal Jordan is the most complex and interesting. He stands up and fights when he doesn’t believe in something and he is willing to put it all on the line for love. His greatest enemy is not Sinestro, even though that guy is brutal, it is himself. He overcomes doubt and has some self-esteem issues. You can relate to him, even though he wields the awesome power of ring.
Green Lantern Vol 2 #9: Battle of the Power Rings! (1961)
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time (1994)
Final Night (1996)
Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Volumes 1 and 2 (2007)
Survived a Nazi concentration camp, became a brother to Charles Xavier, conquered fear, stood up to oppression, devoted his life to help other mutants, brought hope to an entire race. Max Eisenhardt (Erik Magnus Lehnsherr) is a radical individual; he has many deep wounds that will never heal. His closest friend and person who knows him best is Professor Xavier, yet his beliefs and values take precedent over that friendship. Magneto has used his hate, anger, and even passion to be a reluctant figure head for Mutants across the world. He never wanted to lead, he just wanted what was right and natural, and leadership was something that he happened to be born with. His powers over the magnetic field make him an impressive advisory to the X-Men and the governments of the world. He was introduced as a villain in 1963, but as time went on, he became a friend, partner, father, messiah, and icon to a planet filled with hatred of the unknown.
Many would argue that Magneto is a hero, but I believe he is highly misunderstood. Much the way that Karl Marx, Malcolm X, Che Guevara was and are. They have an ideal world in their minds where everyone contributes equally to a greater good and no one person or group of people rules over another. Unfortunately this world will never exist, over the course of the comics, Magneto realizes this. He becomes more mature and even sacrifices himself for the cause of Xavier. If you don’t read the comics, watch the movies closely, Magneto is not an evil man, yes he murders and destroys, but he is doing what he thinks is right. Not for world domination or money, but to create a better world. Even though they are not in continuity exactly, my two favorite stories involving Magneto are Age of Apocalypse and House of M. In A of A, he is the leader of the X-Men after Xavier has died; he leads the resistance against the Mutant oppressor Apocalypse, and ultimately becomes the savior to the world. In House of M he is seen as a tyrant who lives in a perfect mutant world, but he is reluctant and when he discovers that it is all a lie, he only wishes for Xavier to be brought back and the world to be as it was. Magneto is one of the most interesting characters in the history of comics and it is because he has conflict within himself.
X-Men Vol. 1, #1 (1963)
Uncanny X-Men vol. 1, #150 (1981)
Magneto Rex: Once We Were Kings (1999)
House of M (2005)
Norrin Radd was a scientist on a distant planet that sacrificed his freedom to save that planet. He did this be offering to help the planter devouring Galactus. He gained cosmic powers beyond imagination, but lost his home and love forever. It was not until the Silver Surfer came to earth and met the Fantastic Four that he remembered his home world and that he was honorable and had a choice, he could save lives. He defied his master and gained his respect. After the Surfer was “freed” he came to call his new home. He contributed to helping save it many times. He eventually grew home sick for Zenn La and left to explore the cosmos and had a great impact for good in the universe.
I love the Silver Surfer; I love him in comics, in cartoons, and even in that one movie. He has unlimited power, he rides on a surf board, and he is completely silver! He makes Superman look lame and he is always looking to make the galaxy a better place. I love the story of the Surfer and how he made the ultimate sacrifice for love and how it wasn’t until he felt love again that he was able to break free from Galactus. He has been portrayed as a harbinger of doom, a messiah, and hero, and outcast, and as a man. He is all of these things, but none of them define him. He is the ultimate character in my eyes, I find every story involving him to be poetic and deep, he is so human without being from earth.
The Silver Surfer: Parable (1988)
Silver Surfer: Requiem (2008)
The movie Groundhog Day is a timeless masterpiece. Directed by Harold Ramis in 1993, this film is highly philosophical and yes, even spiritual.
After the basic premise has been setup, there is a key scene in which Bill Murray’s character, Phil, asks his drinking buddies a question: “”What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was the same and nothing mattered?” This question is the key to unlocking the pure joy that is to be had in watching this movie. He’s not just asking fellow bowling alley patrons a silly question; the movie is asking you, the audience. If your reaction to this question is the same as the drunken barfly, “Well, that about sums it up for me,” this is where you should start paying attention.
At the beginning, Phil is the kind of guy who is truly self-centered, rude and has a huge ego. But, after being stuck in literally the same day for an undetermined amount of time (I read somewhere that the director thought it would have been in the neighborhood of 40,000 cycles of the same day), Phil experiences a soul-crushing despair, even to the point of trying to kill himself over and over. It never took.
But, like any good protagonist, he learns and changes along the way. He is eventually able to break the “curse” and go on living his life and is a better man for having the experience. So, what did he do that got him out of his perpetual misery? This is the important moral or lesson of this story.
Phil, having nothing but contempt for the “hicks” he was surrounded by in Punxsutawney, PA, starts learning more about them, and to know what they are like, how they ticked. Phil stops looking inward. He starts focusing his attention on the people around him and learns to accept them as they are. Phil leaves his cynicism in the dust. He learns to play the piano, buys an aging homeless man a meal, and even helps fix some little old ladies’ flat tire. He has become kind and giving to others. Why? Because nothing else was working!
There is a lot of religious philosophy in this movie, but I am of the opinion that you don’t have to be religious to find meaning in it. Anyone can take it to heart and be the better for it. If I’m not mistaken, Christian theology actually teaches that these lessons are meant for everyone. If the world is what we make of it; change yourself and you will change the world.
In the immortal words of Bill S. Preston, Esq.,
“Be excellent to each other.”