Even though I was too busy the last couple months moving and working and traveling and whatever else to broadcast my reactions on the Interwebs, I still wasn’t too busy to make it to the movie theater. I’m very rarely too busy for that. So here is a quick run-down of the new releases I’ve seen recently, along with the 30-second version of my verdicts on them. I do feel wistful that I’m not taking more time to engage in meaningful conversation about some of these titles – particularly Man of Steel. My complex emotions about just that one could probably fill an entire book. But realistically, more movies get released each and every weekend, I’ve started watching a new-to-me show (more on this later), and this fall television season just might see a genuine attempt by me to watch a current show or two for the first time in a very long while. So this is all you get.
Despicable Me 2
I was probably the only person in the world who preferred Megamind above the original Despicable Me, but that never meant that I didn’t like it. I always thought it was charming and funny, it held up remarkably well to repeat viewings, and it contributed at least one running joke to my household. That I didn’t embrace it completely without reservation just made me much less likely to find a sequel disappointing. And so it was that I think I enjoy this just as well, perhaps even better, than the first (time will have to tell on that). I will say that this sequel had one gag occurring late in the movie that reduced me to such a sustained and overwhelming fit of giggles that I literally had tears running down my face and found it difficult to breathe. Nothing in the first one had me laughing that hard, and that one perfect moment might ultimately color my perception of the entire movie forever.
World War Z
If you must, then do it as an audiobook. A stellar full-cast recording elevates the entertainment value of a middling novel. Now the book isn’t that great, but it did at least have a unique approach. That unique approach has been completely abandoned in the film version. After scrubbing it of all originality or anything that people who actually liked the book might expect to see, what we’re left with is the single most generic zombie movie of all time. There are a couple interesting sequences and some scattered effective scenes that keep it from being a complete waste of time. But ultimately it’s like a 116-minute trailer for the zombie genre.
I’ll give Pixar this much: I thought the concept was a horrible idea, and I wouldn’t have bothered if my partner hadn’t wanted to see it. But actually it wasn’t all that bad. It had its moments. I especially appreciated the way they chose to wrap up the central conflict. But I only chuckled a couple times during the entire movie. I wanted it to be funnier, more of a send-up of college movies. Instead, it was more or less a straight interpretation of an college movie/underdog story. Better than a lot of kids’ features, but still. So much “meh.”
Man of Steel
As someone who openly admits to caring a little too much about the Superman property, it wasn’t all that I feared it might be. But it also wasn’t everything that I could’ve hoped. I left the theater feeling an odd mix of relief and disappointment. In lieu of writing my own review, I will link to this one. I don’t agree with absolutely everything in it*, but I do feel like it’s fairly on point. Generally speaking, my impression is that they have finally made a decent Superman movie, but still not exactly the one I want. On the bright side, I saw this at the AMC across town, and it was the swankiest AMC I’ve ever seen. Individual leather recliners FTW!
Another disappointment. I’ve commented before on how difficult it is to hit the exact right alchemical sweet spot with an action comedy. And so there was something a tiny bit magical about how everything came together in the first RED. All the pixie dust had worn off by the time they released this sequel, sadly. I found it sort of bland, very uninvolving, and a little stupid.
Rifftrax Live: Starship Troopers
Does this even count? Can I even really review this? I can tell you I had a really good time. As I always do at these live events. And some of the commentary was so amazingly hilarious. However, I still think my favorite event was the line-up they had for House on Haunted Hill. If they keep doing these, I’ll keep showing up. That’s a promise.
This sequel is also lesser than its original. However, I can’t really say I was all that disappointed considering that I didn’t even like Kick-Ass all that well. But at least it had its moments, and it demonstrated greater clarity of purpose than this one, which seems confused about what it even thinks about the events and characters depicted. I think Chloe Grace Moretz is really talented, and I’d kind of like to see her expand past her Hollywood industry niche as the actress you call when you need a cute young girl to perform horrifying acts on camera.
* I’m apparently more forgiving of the Amy Adams/Henry Cavill pairing than Matt Zoller Seitz is. I thought their chemistry was perfectly adequate for the level of romance they had.