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Friday, September 24, 2010

Summer Movie Report Card 2010

Days are getting shorter, the temp is getting colder, and the movies are getting less blockbuster-y. Summer is turning into fall, and that means its time to look back at the summer that was, movie-wise.

Two big movies I wanted to see but which fell through the cracks were the acclaimed Toy Story 3 and the 80s-nostalgia, 'roid-filled action extravaganza The Expendables, but I'll hopefully catch those on DVD (or maybe even a theater still).

Anyways, here's what I thought of what I did see.

Iron Man 2

A worthy follow-up to the first film, though not without its flaws (I could have done without the drunken Iron Man/Rhodey fight and with more Scarlett Johannson, but that's true of most movies...).Once again, Robert Downey Jr. is so entertaining as Tony Stark that it isn't until the movie is over that you realize how little the title character appears in it.

Get Him to the Greek

It certainly has its funny moments (then again, it doesn't take much to get me to laugh), but largely forgettable. I'd honestly forgotten I'd seen it until I looked over the list of movies released over the summer, and am having a hard time coming with anything else to say about it. That's pretty much the definition of average, I suppose.

The A-Team 

Tons of fun. Patently ridiculous, in parts, but still tons of fun. Bradley Cooper was good enough as Face, in a role that was more central to the movie than I was expecting, that I wouldn't mind seeing him play the witty action hero in future summer blockbusters. Thankfully, the obligatory romantic subplot with Jessica Biel was downplayed almost to the point of non-existence, and we got to just sit back and watch the boys have some fun and blow stuff up.

Knight and Day

Another movie, like The A-Team, that is little more than summer fluff but enjoyable enough. This felt like an old-fashioned kind of movie (in a good way), an original story banking on the star power of its actors to sell tickets (and, as such, is one of the few films from this last summer that isn't based on or spun-off from something else). Tom Cruise, in Mission: Impossible mode (complete with his trademark goofy running) is an old hat at this kind of super spy stuff, and Cameron Diaz managed not to annoy the piss out of me. Marc Blucas, The World's Greatest Actor, also makes an appearance, which is a plus for any movie. I have a few minor quibbles with the plot (specifically, one of those annoying scenes which requires a character to act out-of-character in order to move the plot along) but it holds together better than you'd expect a movie which probably had its puntastic title written before its screenplay would.

The Last Airbender

The film I was most looking forward to seeing, and easily the worst movie I saw this summer (in fact, in a long while). M. Night Shymalan sucked all the fun, humor and energy out of the television series and presented a leaden, murky and poorly-written turd of a movie. As my brother said, it was like the first draft of the movie got filmed instead of revised. "What's a better word for 'sacredness'? Ah, screw it, we'll fix it later." Even the special effects and action scenes (which can at least make a bad movie fun to watch) were crappy and/or non-existent. The poor actors did the best they could with some awful material (and Dev Patel's Zuko wasn't half bad) but the only enjoyment to be had in this one was in laughing at how bad it is.


Easily the best movie of the summer. It isn't a flawless masterpiece or anything, but it is very, very good. Like lots of Nolan's films, it adds some substance to the summer blockbuster formula and leaves you both exhilarated and thinking. Any movie that is, essentially, the love child of Total Recall, The Matrix and Ocean's Eleven is a-ok in my book.

The Other Guys

On the Will Ferrel spectrum, this falls closer to Step Brothers than Anchorman. It's definitely funny, but it has some plotting problems. Things are setup that never payoff, and what seems like foreshadowing turns out to be foreshadowing nothing. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see multiple endings on the DVD, as it felt very much like a film which was tweaked several times between being shot and showing up in theaters.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

It's a shame this wasn't more of a success, as it's a very unique and enjoyable film, combing elements and tropes of comic books, video games and pop music with a great cast. Michael Cera brought enough energy to the title role to separate it from the numerous ennui-soaked characters he's made a career out of playing without leaving behind the listlessness inherent to Scott's character (and the reason Cera was likely cast in the first place). I haven't read the manga-esque graphic novels on which the movie is based (and thus am more or less ignorant of the inherent flaws and charms of the property) but the film did a good job of creating an environment where the video game style battles, sound effects and other callbacks were both fun to watch but believably ordinary for the characters. Definitely worth checking out as, judging from the box office returns, most people reading this haven't seen it.


  1. Iron Man 2- I agree with you not perfect but a lot of fun and a good follow up to the first one. I think while the villain was not bad he wasn't the best either. Kind of one of Iron Man's flaws though, he doesn't have a great rogues gallery.

    A-team- I really enjoyed this one a lot more than I was expecting. Just a good mindless action movie with stuff blowing up and all the actors were great.

    Knight and Day- Much like A-team I really didn't expect a lot out of this one and was pleasantly surprised. One of those that the wife kind of dragged me too and I was glad that she had.

    Last Airbender- I wasn't as disappointed with this as a lot of people were. But than again I haven't seen the TV show it is based off of. It certainly wasn't great but I didn't find it nearly as bad as everybody else did.

    Inception- Agreed, best movie of the summer. After it was over I felt like I needed to catch my breath. It kept my brain working through out the movie while giving some cool action scenes along with it. I didn't get a chance to see it a second time so I guess that will have to wait till DVD.

    Expendables- It was about what you expect. A bunch of guys kicking ass with a pretty paper thin plot. It was entertaining but nothing terribly fantastic.

    I also missed Toy Story 3, along with Scott Pilgrim. If you are interested in reading the Scott Pilgrim GNs Amazon has them all discounted quite a bit right now. Somewhere in the five dollar neighborhood. OK I am done with my wall of text now.

  2. @Phantomas:

    Agreed about the relative weakness of Iron Man's rogues gallery. Even his biggest gun, Mandarin, is complicated/not easy to adapt, what with the alien rings and quasi-racist origins.

    A-Team was very well cast, which added to the fun, and Knight and Day was a movie my wife wanted to see more than me, too, and I'm similarly glad she did.

    A lot of what I didn't like about Last Airbender is because I watched the show, but there's still a ton of non-adaptation stuff I didn't like, such as the way it breaks the fundamental writing rule of "show, don't tell", repeatedly.

    I'm excited for Inception to come out DVD to see it again as well.

  3. That gets me thinking. Do you think that comic book movies will ever create their own villains for the movies? If I am not mistaken pretty much all of them have been lifted from the comics. I am sure there might be one or two out there that I am too lazy to think about that are original creations but they are definitely in the vast minority if they do exist.

  4. @Phantomas: Good question. I highly doubt we'll ever see an original villain in a comic book adaptation, other than tweaks (like a female playing a male villain, something like that). Heck, the comics themselves have a hard time coming up with new villains that have any staying power these days, and I bet studios are more comfortable using villains that have an established following.

    The only existing original villains I can think of offhand in comic book movies are secondary/henchmen type characters, like Two-Face's stupid Sugar and Spice girls in Batman Forever.

    Can anybody else think of any major villain characters in a comic book movie that didn't come from the comic itself?

  5. I can't think of any in movies (i guess xmen 3 had a bunch of random mutants, but i think they were actually supposed to be people, like Callisto), but Joker didn't have Harley Quinn until the tv show, so i fugre that counts for something, amiright?

    You know, i can forgive what Night did to the Avatar franchise (well, not really), but what i can't get is how crappy of a MOVIE it was. it's like he didn't go to film school, or had never made a movie before. There's an Avatar storyboard (tv show) artist that i know on Deviantart, and she's been doing all these posts about the movie and how basic movie-making skills would've helped (such as the show, don't tell, or setting up shots better, etc). Everytime i watch the tv show now i'm sad because we'll never see it in movie version the way it should have been.

    you TOTES need to see Toy Story 3- it was one of our favorite movies this year- up there with Inception and Iron Man 2

  6. @Anne: Good point about Harley Quinn! That's probably the most high profile original villain from a medium outside the comics.

    The X-Men movies were "good" at appropriating names and/or powers of existing characters to create characters that barely resembled their inspirations, which is something they seemed to do simply so they could whirl fans into a frenzy before the movie was released by saying "so-and-so" is in the movie (even though they weren't in any way said fans would recognize them).

    Agreed on Avatar.

    I definitely will see Toy Story 3 at some point (if nothing else, I suspect it'll get nominated for Best Picture, so I'll see it before the Oscars). It was one of those movies we wanted to see, but we always went to something else because it was doing so well we figured it would be around longer than other movies.

    And it was, but we still never got around to seeing it...

  7. The only movie I saw this summer was Inception. Wow. I just realized it. Now that I think about it, I can't wait to own the hell out of that movie. And own the hell out of it means I'll probably watch it as much as I do Sunshine, Seven and Shaun of the Dead. (FYI, those are movies I watch a lot.)

  8. @Hannah: I picked up Sunshine during B&N's last Buy 2 Get 1 sale, pretty much cuz of you and Falen constantly raving about it.

    I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but soon.

  9. How the hell did i miss this post?
    I'm so confused.

    OOH i'm excited for you to watch sunshine!

    I don't even want to talk about Avatar. For reals, i think that movie fail has turned me off Shyamalan permanently.

    I wish we had seen Scott Pilgrim but we just never got around to it due to vacations and junk.

  10. @Falen: How the hell did i miss this post?

    I dunno...Coast Guard?

    I don't even want to talk about Avatar. For reals, i think that movie fail has turned me off Shyamalan permanently.

    Seriously. I've never been as much of a Shymalan hater as some people, but after that turd of a movie, I think I might have to jump on that bandwagon.

    I wish we had seen Scott Pilgrim but we just never got around to it due to vacations and junk.

    Yeah, that's what happened to us with Toy Story and some others. Only so much time in a day/week/month/year...


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