Our 2012 films in review pt. 2 concentrated on the DC universe with animated titles like Justice League: Doom, Superman VS. The Elite, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1. Now, in our part 3, we take a look at summers biggest blockbuster, The Avengers and Prometheus, two crowd favorites. In the mood for comedies, we tell you if the adorable and potty mouth Ted and The Dictator are worth your time, after the jump.
The Avengers – 4.5/5
Marvel Studios took a huge chance with the creation of their expanded cinematic universe. Nothing like this had ever been done before: launch four separate successful film franchise-able characters and then bring them together for a gigantically epic crossover. Obviously, it paid off in spades: Avengers became the third highest grossing film in history (behind the two Cameron juggernauts Avatar and Titanic). But it wasn’t all just marketing and risky investment.
They succeeded in giving us one of the most entertaining films imaginable.
Comic book fans were obviously there in toe, to see something we might’ve only dreamed about since our childhood. It had the huge, Summer blockbuster appeal for casual folks. It was enjoyable for both children and adults alike, with Whedon’s humor on full display and the featured violence being mostly hyper-fun action sequences involving fantastical fictitious creations. What little bloodshed or death we do see is effectively used on heroic characters making sacrifices for the greater good. Flaws are examined, individuals learn the importance of team work. It’s the epitome of what I love about these stories: relatable tales of superhumans dealing with normal problems on a grand scale. It’s melodrama, blown up to epic proportions.
What more needs to be said? Everyone knows about who is in it and more or less what it’s about. I only say that if for whatever bizarre reason you’ve yet to check it out, do so. It has massive appeal, and aside from some minor pacing issues, gets the big comic team-up movie done perfectly right. This is all coming from a die hard DC guy. But I bow to the almighty Avengers. I can only pray that something similar is in the cards for my true love, The Justice League. All I can say is Warner Bros, please take note and learn from the masters.
Buy ‘The Avengers‘ on Blu-ray.
Dark Shadows – 4/5
This movie was maligned by just about every critic I could see. I was sorely confused, because I went into the theater and had a blast with this goofy-fun spooky romp. I had no prior fandom for the 60’s daily Gothic soap opera that was the inspiration for this feature, though I obviously did a bit of research prior to seeing this so I’d get some idea of what to expect. It reminded me of the Addams Family films of the early 90’s and director Tim Burton’s earlier works, which were my favorite of his filmography (I’m a “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure through Sleepy Hollow” kinda guy).
I suppose by this point, some people were thinking the Burton/Depp pairing were growing stale, but honestly, I never groan when a new project of theirs is announced. Even the worst they’ve done is at the very least entertaining. And we’ve gotten masterpieces like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood (a top ten favorite for me) out of them. So I say let them do as many collaborations as they want. They still tend to be better than half the other films out.
Also, Depp independently has earned the right to pretty much do whatever he wishes, and rightfully so. He’s paid his dues. Now, in the prime of middle-age, he’s chosen to bang out all his dream projects before its too late. Playing Barnabus Collins in this film was one (and his upcoming stint as Tonto in The Lone Ranger is another) . I’m content with the guy having some fun before he’s too old to do so. And he clearly relishes each scene in Dark Shadows.
I’ve heard from a lot of folks complain about the negative reviews and bad word of mouth and have avoided this film because of it. I implore you to give it a shot. The worst that could happen is you hate it. But best case scenario, your expectations are so low that you actually end up enjoying it. And really, at this point, we waste so many hours of the day doing unnecessary stuff. Why not set aside a few hours to watch two of the most creative minds in Hollywood play in the world they both grew up loving so passionately?
Buy ‘Dark Shadows‘ on Blu-ray.
The Dictator – 2/5
I consider myself a Sacha Baron Cohen fan. Loved Da Ali G Show, loved Borat, even loved Bruno (which I felt got some strange criticisms; like everyone turned on him after the success of Borat). I even liked the Ali G movie, which broke the usual pseudo-mock-doc style of the other work for a completely scripted comedy with actors. So I figured I’d enjoy The Dictator, which follows the same concept. Sadly, it did next to nothing for me. I don’t remember much about it, nor do I remember laughing a whole lot. The trailer had some good gags, so I was at least looking forward to it, but as the reviews poured in, my anticipation sank a bit. And when I finally watched it, I was left pretty disappointed.
Cohen is too recognizable at this point to go back to the Borat/Bruno style of filmmaking, and the direction he took with this film seemed light in comparison to his belly-laugh inducing earlier work. But he is a great actor, and I’ve enjoyed his supporting roles in other films. Plus he’s playing Freddie Mercury in an upcoming Queen biopic. Can you say perfect? No sense in me questioning the man’s talent, because there’s little dispute that he’s far from “being past his prime”. I still have an affinity for the man, so I’ll just chalk this one up as a dud and move on.
Buy ‘The Dictator‘ on Blu-ray.
Prometheus – 4/5
When it was announced that Ridley Scott would be directing a prequel to his sci-fi masterpiece Alien, my brain imploded a bit. It was one of those fanboy dreams that no one could’ve anticipated. As the script developed, we got word that the “prequel” was ultimately developing more into a very different film, but was “taking place in the same universe” as Alien and that the original film was at the very least “in the DNA” of the upcoming feature. My emotions were being pulled around by this. Why get us pumped for a prequel and then stiff us? But in the end, it was mostly just used as publicity, since the filmmakers realized the “is it or isn’t it” question was great marketing. A buzz grew, and the film actually performed pretty damn well, all things considered.
Now the content is a separate conversation altogether: this is one of the most polarizing films I think I’ve ever seen. I went in with my expectations in check (even though every trailer released was flippin’ mind-blowing) and had myself a good time. It had all the great visuals we’ve come to expect from a master craftsman such as Scott. It had intense and imaginative action beats. It sprinkled plenty of trippy “what the…?” moments one would come to expect from sci-fi, and it didn’t shy away from bringing up some pretty bold questions and statements about humanities place in the universe. Let’s face it; the film is exploring the notion that if Jesus existed, he might’ve been an alien. That’s bound to piss off some folks.
But I didn’t take it too seriously, enjoying the more philosophical musings that lay within. I figured this would be a film to go back to again and again to dissect and have fun analyzing over the months and years to follow. But in this day in age, it was mere hours before the internet blew up with amazingly complex essays, video reviews and humorously harsh criticisms about every stitch up and down in the fabric. None of it really soiled my feelings on the film. Sure, people brought up some interesting points to ponder, but social media has given everyone a voice, and it seems most were using it these days to do little more than complain. The reactions reminded me much of how Inception was quickly received and obsessively picked apart.
Now, I love movies. I especially love talking about them with other fans. But there comes a point where one may actually ruin their enjoyment by not simply sitting back and taking in a film experience as a whole and allow themselves the time to sit on it for a while. Cutting everything apart until the pieces make no sense anymore is a poor way to go about viewing cinema, especially the fantasy and sci-fi kind. I say quit killing the magic and just enjoy the ride.
Buy ‘Prometheus‘ on Blu-ray.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – 3.5/5
I did see one Lincoln film last year, and it wasn’t the Spielberg one.
I love high concept films. The title itself is the entire pitch and selling point. You’re gonna see our 16th President wield a silver-headed axe like a ninja and violently take out the undead sucking their way through America. Brilliant idea. I eat this up. Total sucker for it. And you know what? Unlike decades ago, where an exploitative notion such as this would often disappoint audiences, I found this to be so wildly over the top, I couldn’t help but get into it. It’s not a perfect film, but it sure is fun.
The filmmakers had no real obligation to historical accuracy, but one of my favorite elements of the film is how they took actual happenings from Lincoln’s life and presidential tenure and interwove vampiric elements into it, to sell the notion that, yes, they could’ve been there all along and it just never made it into the history books. I won’t delve too much into the specifics, as I’d rather have those reading this that haven’t checked it out yet to give it a watch, however little your initial interest may have been.
I will say, however, that this film contains one thing I’ve certainly never seen before: a moment where a character THROWS A HORSE at another character. If that didn’t sell you, I’m not sure what will.
Buy ‘Abraham Lincoln‘ on Blu-ray.
Ted – 3/5
I used to like Family Guy. Then it got canceled. Then it came back from the dead. But… the magic just didn’t seem to be there anymore. Maybe I had grown out of the humor, or maybe the concept had simply gotten stale. Either way, I tuned out. But I like Seth MacFarlane. He’s always struck me as a down to earth kind of guy, who despite all his millions, has likely stayed humble. I wanted to give his first live action feature a chance. It was shot in and around the Boston area where I grew up, so there was that. And once again, that high concept pitch grabbed me: a stuffed bear comes to life to befriend a young boy. But where most stories like that would end abruptly at adolescence, what would happen if we followed these two into adulthood? What a plot.
Now, I will say that I enjoyed Ted. I laughed at parts, and found the overall story entertaining. But while there’s bits of it here and there, I think they missed out on featuring enough genuine melodramatic moments of sentimentality, which always makes crude humor movies more enjoyable in my opinion (kind of the reversal on how I felt about a film like Elf). But the effects with the talking bear are impressive. The performances are decent (I never get sick of seeing Giovanni Ribisi play a weirdo). The story works. It’s a good film. Not great, but a fair experience. Not something I’m likely to ever watch again, but that’s not a slight on the quality. I got it the first time, that’s all.
Buy ‘Ted‘ on Blu-ray.
The Amazing Spider-Man – 4/5
A lot of people were complaining that the Spider-Man franchise was being rebooted after only 10 years. I for one wasn’t. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the Raimi trilogy; those films have their issues (looking at you, part 3), but overall, I certainly found them entertaining. I’d even say that the second one is one of the best superhero films ever made. And many critics would appear to agree. But the story had a nice feeling of closure at the end. If it had to end there, I was content. But Spider-Man is a great character, and the thought of another filmmaker taking the reigns and giving it another go appealed to me. And since Raimi’s films were so distinct, it seemed to make sense to start from scratch and rebuild the character and his world in live action from the ground up.
Is this the best Spider-Man film ever? Not quite. That still goes to part 2. But I do think it’s superior to the other two entries. My major gripe, as most seem to agree, was in the fact that they sold it as “the Untold Story”, with trailers hinting to some grand design with Peter Parker’s history and how he becomes Spider-Man. But as some article writers with keen eyes caught, there appears to be a good
portion of exposition, likely the stuff we were promised, cut from the final film. Perhaps these angles will play importantly into the eventual sequels. I’m fine with that. But I did feel a little misled.
But no bother, as the film we did get was still thoroughly enjoyable. The action sequences were stunning. The Three Stooges routines that Raimi was so fond of are thankfully omitted, but that’s not to say the film is devoid of humor. It just gives us the stuff that feels more accurate to the portrayal in the comics. Peter’s a cocky wise-ass, and Andrew Garfield’s performance is spot on. Plus he’s tall and lanky, which is a much better representation of how he’s supposed to look. And it would be unfair not to mention the huge improvements in the CGI used since the earlier films. Oh, and best Stan Lee cameo EVER. While not a perfect film, it feels like a good start, and will hopefully develop even further in the sequel scheduled for 2014.
Buy ‘Amazing Spider-Man‘ on Blu-ray.
Special segment: 2012 Blu-ray releases
I was able to grab some new release BD’s during the year.
Instead of doing a super thorough blow-by-blow, I figured I’d
just get down to the meat of it: The quality of the film (or show),
the audio, the video and the special features included.
Beavis and Butt-Head Vol. 4
Buy ‘Beavis and Butt-Head‘ on Blu-ray.
Justice League: Doom
+Film: (review in “part 2” of this article)
Buy ‘Justice League: Doom‘ on Blu-ray.
Buy ‘Deer Hunter‘ on Blu-ray.
Battle Royale: Complete Collection
Buy ‘Battle Royale‘ on Blu-ray.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Best Buy Exclusive)
Buy ‘Mission: Impossible‘ on Blu-ray.
Buy ‘Red Scorpion‘ on Blu-ray.
Superman VS. The Elite
+Film: (review in part 2 of article)
Buy ‘Superman VS. The Elite‘ on Blu-ray.
Buy ‘Halloween 4‘ on Blu-ray.
Buy ‘Halloween 5‘ on Blu-ray.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Buy ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2‘ on Blu-ray.
Universal Monsters: The Essential Collection (UK Edition)
Buy ‘Universal Monsters: The Essentials‘ on Blu-ray.
The Poseidon Adventure (Wal-Mart Exclusive)
Buy ‘Poseidon Adventure‘ on Blu-ray.
Buy ‘Funhouse‘ on Blu-ray.
The Dark Knight Rises
Our full length Blu-ray review
+Film: (review above)
Buy ‘The Avengers‘ on Blu-ray.
What would sit on top for your 2012 films in review?