This summer’s good, bad and ugly in film

As always, another September has begun and the summer movie season has come to a close. Just as it was a year ago, it’s time to sit back and revisit the last couple of months to see whether Hollywood delivered on its annual blockbuster bonanza. Spoiler alert: it was very mediocre.

The Good

This year’s stock of summer fodder was, in my opinion, a slight improvement from what we were given in 2011. There were indeed a couple of instant-classic films, but in a recurring theme from a year ago, there just seemed to be a lot of merely “okay” movies.

One of the dilemmas that seemingly led to this problem was having the best movie of the summer released right at the very beginning of it. Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was by far  the best flick of the break and quite possibly of the year thus far. He managed to pack so much into the two-hour run time and yet you never felt like it was a problem. There was definitely enough scenery to chew for every actor involved.

The only subsequent attempt that came close to matching the quality of Whedon’s effort was everyone’s most-anticipated summer movie, The Dark Knight Rises. Director Christopher Nolan made good on his promise to conclude the series with a bang and very few people could argue that it was anything but great.

Inception carry-overs Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy proved worthy of their casting, and Anne Hathaway really stole the show as a contemporary Catwoman. I only say the Batman conclusion was inferior to The Avengers due to its exhaustingly packed story and some pretty gaping holes in the plot. Still, these two films were the Grade-A meat of the 2012 summer movie buffet.

There were indeed a number of solid efforts as well though. Three-quel Men In Black III was a perfect, no-thinking-necessary, popcorn movie. I expected to be entertained and that’s exactly what I got. Little else though.

Wes Anderson’s latest outing, Moonrise Kingdom, was pretty enjoyable, if not a little weaker than most of his repertoire.

There was also the indie Ruby Sparks, which was a delightful take on the “fiction coming to life” premise. It goes a little south of “hipster” at times, but is grounded well through Paul Dano’s lead performance and the subtleties of the film’s soft cinematography.

And finally, a pair of animated films deserve some recognition. Pixar’s newest Brave and the stop-motion horror comedy Paranorman were both flawed in different ways, but made up for any small negatives through their stunning animation.

The Bad

It wasn’t all heroes and quirk though. There were a number of forgettable entries to this year’s summer movie regimen.

Forgetting of course the movies that didn’t even look good enough to give a chance, there are a few that shouldn’t have even bothered with.

The first was Tim Burton’s adaptation of gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. While there seemed to be a lot to work from for a stellar cast, there was really nothing gained by the time the end credits rolled. Burton either wanted to stay faithful to the source material, or tried a very long and plodding attempt to develop his main story line, but either way the finished product is just very dull. Eva Green does her part to salvage something from the movie, but she could only do so much with the mediocre material she was given.

There was then of course the raunchy plush comedy, Ted, in which Mark Wahlberg tries to act opposite a disgusting CGI teddy bear. It felt like an extended episode of Family Guy and that’s far from a good thing. Trying too hard to be a stoner comedy is the worst kind of stoner comedy.

And we can’t forget reboot attempt The Amazing Spiderman. Why we needed a reboot five years after the last Spiderman film was made, I still don’t understand, but nonetheless we were provided with this staple of mediocrity. Andrew Garfield deserves credit for his Peter Parker portrayal, but ultimately it’s a rushed and cheesy entry for the sake of making another superhero movie. Oh, and the villain was terrible.

The Ugly

No other film was as messy, amateur and overall disappointing this summer as the musical adaptation Rock of Ages. Whatever director Adam Shankman got right with 2007’s Hairspray (which was a lot) he got wrong with this one. Only Tom Cruise seemed to get what is supposed to be going on as he turns in the film’s lone standout performance. The rest of the movie though is almost unforgivably terrible.

The lead performances are especially cringe-worthy, often feeling like a highschool play. A number of songs can’t find a tone and stick with it, volleying back and forth between comedic and melodramatic. That is the most prominent flaw of the whole movie. It’s uneven through and through and is completely uncomfortable because of that.

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a different kind of ugly. While not an inherently “bad” movie, it was strictly sub-par. And that is a terrible thing for a movie with such hype. I was intrigued over the first half of the movie but about halfway through things start to go awry and they lost me. In fact, other than a few key “shock” sequences, a lot of the movie has been forgotten. A movie with that much prominence should not have felt so easy to dismiss.

-With opinions from Justin Smirlies

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