Summer is here, and so is a flock of movies that require consideration. I have taken this terrible burden upon myself, and fought my way through the throngs of mass public to view five of the biggest contenders for your movie money. What flicks are worth your cash or, more importantly, time? Which aren't worth a bucket of day-old popcorn? I'm here to tell you.
At the end of the day, Thor feels like what it is - a set-up for the Avengers movie. Still, it ain't bad! In fact, I found it to be better film than those Iron Man movies. I loved the art direction, the cast is great and the writing is just better than good enough - but seasoned Shakespearean director Kenneth Branagh ain't in his element, when it comes to shooting and choreographing action.
The single best action sequence I've seen thus far this year is the spectacular train crash that caps the first act of Super 8. What makes Super 8 a good movie is its comfortable script, its well-realized characters, its gifted young cast and its exceptional pacing and structure.
Moments are never wasted in Super 8, and characters are never introduced unless the story immediately requires them. It's an efficient, well-tuned storytelling machine - and it's a pleasure to take in a film that directly recalls the coming-of-age stories that so populated the 1980s - but it's such an efficient, well-tuned machine that I can't help but be a bit cynical about it.
I certainly cared about its characters and was invested in how things would turn out - but I was also always aware of the technique JJ Abrams was using to manipulate me to such an end. Yes, this is by-the-numbers film making, but it adheres so well to classic formula that it reaps the benefits of such construction. It's a good film - even a very good one - but not a movie you'll need to see again any time soon.
First Class is, as a film, the single best X-Men movie there's ever been. As a movie it's easily the biggest disappointment of the franchise.
We go to X-Men movies to see folks with awesome super powers throw down with (a) hapless humans in uniform and (b) other folks with awesome super powers in thrilling action sequences.
That is not what we get, here. What we get here are some folks with the dumbest super powers you've ever seen. If that were the only point of the movie, it would be an unmitigated disaster - but what First Class is actually about is the relationship and origins of Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr.
The two leads are wonderfully handled by James McAvoy (Wanted) and Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds), and it is in their exploration and evolution that the story finds its center. The best parts of the movie are invariably watching these two, alone or together - and they are alone the reason to see First Class.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is not as well-constructed as its predecessor, in terms of narrative. At the same time, I probably had more fun with Panda 2 than any other film on this list. It's still gorgeous to look at, it still has capable, comfortable performances from the cast and it still has the odd cloudburst of kung fu action.
Given that the story is so feeble, compared to the original, I was pretty damned surprised to find myself actually crying at one point - Panda 2 has moved me more ably flick this year - and it's still an entertaining romp of action and spectacle. It's worth noting it also did 3D better than any movie I've seen (though it's also worth noting I never saw Avatar in 3D).
This and Rango are definitely getting day-one purchases.
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Our final film got a sound tongue-lashing from critics, but I and my companion rather liked it. I suppose we can judge if you would as well based on one question:
Are sexy mermaids awesome?
If you (correctly) answered yes, then you too will likely find some pleasure in the fourth Pirate of the Caribbean movie. Personally, I found it to be another delicious Johnny-Deppian romp through treacherous waters of double-crosses, high adventure, wonderful action set pieces, charming comedy and the aforementioned sexy mermaids.
On Stranger Tides boasts all the attributes we expect of a satisfying summer movie, and I must submit it's gotten a rather bad knock from critics. It certainly helps that unlike Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, it applies itself to telling one whole story - instead of a half of one.
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TL:DR:If you're heading to the movies any time soon, I highly recommend Kung Fu Panda 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.