Movie Reviews – June 2012

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The Avengers
Disney
In Theaters: 05.04
Ever since Samuel L. Jackson uttered those three special words (“The Avengers Initiative”) in the secret, end credit scene in 2008’s Iron Man, geeks have been clamoring to see the ultimate on-screen comic book experience that would unite four of the largest Marvel franchises in one cinematic production. Four years and five movies later, Joss Whedon has been deemed the one true director to lead the charge in developing this culmination of superheroes and, in return, has delivered the greatest comic book movie of all time. When the once-thought-to-be-dead God of Mischief, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), resurfaces on Earth in search of the Tesseract, a source of unlimited energy, a ragtag group of egotistical and misguided superheroes including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must set aside their differences and learn to work together before the planet is destroyed in an intergalactic invasion. Whedon has achieved the impossible, offering non-stop excitement that refuses to slow down even during the brilliant dialogue that allows each member of his talented ensemble cast their moment in the spotlight. Whedon does all of this without leaving any character in the shadows. Every range of emotion is handled with careful precision for each character, which allows Whedon to build upon the already established solid foundation the previous Marvel films set up so efficiently. It’s evident Whedon has nothing but respect for the source materials, and his love shines through every frame of this Marvel-ous personification of filmmaking.  –Jimmy Martin

Battleship
Universal
In Theaters: 05.18
As if 1985’s Clue wasn’t enough to sustain the desires of game enthusiasts, the preposterous trend of adapting board games into feature-length movies has resurfaced with the sloppy splash that is Peter Berg’s Battleship. When a group of scientists attempt to contact an Earth-like planet in another galaxy by blasting a signal through space, they’re surprised to receive a response six years later in the form of an attack that pits the United States Navy against the intergalactic invaders. Leading the fight for the survival of the human race is hot-tempered Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), his responsible brother, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård), both of whom are under the command of stringent Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Berg is the poor man’s Michael Bay, as he too refuses to present any form of genuine character development and tries to disguise this fact with explosions and loud music. Except, in Bay’s defense, he can actually direct comprehensible action sequences with striking CGI-images. Berg, on the other hand, shakes the camera to its breaking point and booms AC/DC at every possible moment, neither of which help the situation. Along with the drab action, clichéd dialogue and chintzy effects, not one actor delivers a fitting performance. Like the board game, the movie adaptation of Battleship is simple, boring and only gets better with the addition of copious amounts of alcohol. –Jimmy Martin

Dark Shadows
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 05.11
Tim Burton strolls into familiar territory with his reimagining of the gothic soap opera that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971, generating 1,225 episodes. He brings along his gang of pale misfits including Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and composer Danny Elfman. In 1752, a wealthy entrepreneur (Depp) is transformed into a blood-thirsty vampire by a jealous witch (Eva Green) and buried in the ground for two centuries. After being unearthed by accident in the 1970s, he finds his family legacy in ruins and his distant relatives in desperate need of guidance. What starts out as a humorous tale filled with gruesome happenings that once again showcase Depp’s talents, quickly spirals out of control with spotty CGI, lackluster characters and a poor excuse for a third act that leaves nothing but a taste of buyer’s remorse. One of the biggest frustrations with the film is the lack of utilization of Burton’s ensemble cast. Rather than using the on-hand gifts of Jonny Lee Miller, Jackie Earle Haley or Chloë Grace Moretz, we’re given more time with another lackluster Carter performance. Burton’s films still possess the same look and feel of his previous creations, but the passion and essence that made cult classics like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice so fantastic seems to be slipping away as though the director has set his ingenuity on autopilot.
–Jimmy Martin

The Dictator
Paramount
In Theaters: 05.18
As soon as an image of Kim Jong Il appears on the screen to open Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest delectably distasteful escape with superimposed text reading, “In Loving Memory,” you’re immediately reminded of the no-holds-barred attitude the comedian has with his projects and the waft of imminent vulgarity instantly enters the room. Partnering with director Larry Charles for the third time, Cohen stars as the merciless General Aladeen, who has led the country of Wadiya with an iron fist since before he could crawl. While on a trip to America to ease tensions between the two nations, a failed assassination attempt on Aladeen forces the dictator into the gutters of New York with no identity and into the care of political activist, Zoey (Anna Faris). Sadly enough, the film’s speed bumps come from the conservative love story between Cohen and Faris. Cohen is a master at upsetting the general public with his crude concoctions. Forcing him to settle down for a romantic subplot is equivalent to clipping a bald eagle’s wings, then setting it on fire. Rather than waiting the recommended 22.3 years (thank you, South Park) to poke fun at monumental catastrophes, Cohen takes comedic aim at 9/11 and unleashes a rapid-fire assault. The more offensive Cohen becomes, the more entertained audiences will be. I’m a true believer that if you make fun of everyone, no one can be that upset. If that’s true, with Cohen at the helm, not one soul can walk out of this movie slighted. –Jimmy Martin

Safety Not Guaranteed
FilmDistrict
In Theaters: 06.22
“WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91, Ocean view, WA. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. I have only done this once before.” Based on a real ad published in a magazine in the mid-’90s, Safety Not Guaranteed tells a heartwarming tale of three magazine employees who go to Ocean View, Wash. to find the story behind the ad. Posing as an interested candidate, Darius, (Aubrey Plaza) the unmotivated intern, strikes up an unlikely friendship with the quirky and charmingly childish, self-proclaimed time traveler, Kenneth (Mark Duplass). Once he deems her trustworthy, Kenneth begins to train Darius for their time traveling mission to go back to 2001 and avoid the loss of their respective loved ones. Meanwhile, her coworkers, Arnau (Karan Soni), a nerdy biology major, and her douchey boss Jeff (Jake Johnson), go on their own adventures––Jeff unsuccessfully revisits an old flame and Arnau finally gets laid with the help of Jeff. The story between Darius and Kenneth was the strongest of the plot lines. Though she’s definitely been type-cast, Plaza plays her role well as a socially awkward young woman who finds a connection with the paranoid but adorable character of Kenneth. Duplass’ role is the highlight of the film, as Kenneth at times seems mildly insane, and the audience is left to wonder whether his time traveling mission is reality, or construed by a scrambled mind, until the finale. Though I could’ve done without Jeff and Arnau’s storyline, overall the movie left me smiling, and I can see it being a favorite among all you sentimental indie kids. –Esther Meroño