The US summer season is that time of the year where Hollywood studios release their biggest, most hyped, expensive and heavily marketed films. 2011 was the year of the superheroes, a genre which has become too crowded lately. There were good films, as well as bad. Some movies achieved box office and critical successes whereas other were downright failures or minor disappointments. This is by no means a complete list. I myself have missed a lot of movies and if you missed them, this list might prove useful if you want to catch them later in DVDs and Blu-rays (or any other convenient method of watching it, like online and by that I mean Netflix, iTunes, or what have you). This list is not in any particular order and for those movies I’ve missed, I’ve done some extra effort to ask other competent and credible people about their opinions and listed them at the last part of the article.
Kung Fu Panda 2. This is without a doubt the most visually stunning animated feature from Dreamworks to date. I saw this film in IMAX and it was downright stunning. This has to be seen (and heard) to be believed. That said, there are a couple of things missing in this movie and while there’s a very deep story here, the film ultimately misses to hold on to that and instead focuses on some dazzling action choreography and jaw dropping visuals. Kung Fu Panda 2 has to be seen in high definition Blu-ray to be fully enjoyed, but it might as well be as good as a RENTAL.
Thor. I missed this film in the first 2 weeks of its showing, so I had to scour for that ONE theater still showing it, and boy was it worth it. Director Kenneth Branagh took a very bold step here in creating something operatic and dramatic that it feels like his previous works Henry V and Hamlet (you know that movie that has been running for more than a decade in HBO) and superimposed on it the gripping world of Asgard and its inhabitants. Add to that a very good cast of characters (and a sympathetic villain), dazzling special effects, a good musical score and we have here Marvel’s first step in the road to redemption after its previous failed efforts (I’m looking at you Wolverine and X-Men 3). Definitely BUY this one when it comes on DVD and Blu-ray.
X-Men: First Class. I have to admit, I was skeptical when MARVEL announced they were doing a prequel/reboot of X-Men especially after Wolverine which left a very bad taste among fans of the franchise. The first posters and stills didn’t do well to assuage those fears as I thought they were too campy and cheesy for my taste. Then the trailer arrived and woah, that was enough to convince me they were going to do it right this time. And when it finally arrived, even with the highest expectations I had set, X-Men First Class nailed it. The right amount of character development, action, plot and casting successfully delivered what is without a doubt my favorite X-Men film to date. If you missed this one, BUY it on DVD and Blu-ray when it comes out later this year.
Green Lantern. Worst superhero movie of the summer, or make that the worst superhero movie of DC in this decade. It’s right up there with the campy, cheesy and awful Clooney Batman films. In fact, I already lowered my expectations for this one, and it still turned out worse. The screenplay is so thin, the pacing so uneven, the direction so messy, a villain so vapid, and the effects while good was all over the place. They could have done better. I don’t mind Ryan Reynolds playing Hal Jordan, it’s just that the screenplay made him a boring and repugnant character you’ll find yourself rooting for the enemy. The critics slammed this movie, and even the general audience found this rather unpalatable except for the ladies who find Reynolds dreamy and worth the price of a movie ticket. SKIP it when it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray. If they ever make a sequel, you probably won’t need the boring backstory this film offered. (You can read it in the internet anyway, it’s more fascinating. Really.)
Super 8. I’m going out on a limb here and profess my bias for all things Spielberg. So yeah, this is my favorite film of this summer and one that I consider as the best. It just brings me back to the ‘70s and ‘80s age of wonderment Spielberg delivered with his classics which include ET, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, among others. JJ Abrams perfectly nailed it with some dazzling effects work, and brilliant direction. A lot of people complain it’s too excessive and yeah this film revels in its excesses. I watched this film in IMAX, and it’s very excessive indeed. The whole train wreck sequence alone is jaw dropping. Then again, this is probably too old school for some, but for someone like me who adored the ‘80s classics (I’ve watched Stand By Me countless times already), then you’ll probably love this film. Definitely, BUY it most especially in high definition Blu-ray.
Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides. Pirates is the kind of franchise I wish would just die after the ridiculously excessive and over the top ‘At World’s End’. But no, the producers choose to milk this cash cow further by creating this uninspired, and lazy sequel. It’s not all bad, Jack Sparrow is still quirky and entertaining as well as the rest of the cast. But it all feels so hollow, and too tired, you feel like you’re watching some rip-off of the original trilogy. On Stranger Tides is probably the weakest of the Pirates film and this is as unexciting as pirate adventures films can get. Your enjoyment will probably depend on how you see the Pirates franchise as a whole. SKIP it, but if you can’t get enough of Jack Sparrow then this might be worth a RENTAL.
The Hangover Part II. This film is quite divisive even among the general audience. Some people loved it, some hated it. Count me in the latter group. The first Hangover film was near perfect. It’s how a Las Vegas comedy should be done. The winning combination of a somewhat witty screenplay, an admirable cast, and some over the top jokes made the first movie arguably the best R-rated comedy out there. There simply is no way a sequel or any other R-rated comedy will top it. The Hangover 2 missed a lot of things. It’s essentially the SAME movie, this time with more ridiculous jokes which somehow end up tasteless and bland. I rarely laughed in this movie and thought about how re-watching the original film still had me laughing out harder than this one. Simply put, they just couldn’t replicate the brilliance of the original film. Despite that, if you want a brainless comedy, then this might be worth a RENTAL. But if I were you, just buy the original Hangover and you’ll get more laughs RE-watching it. But don’t take my word for it, our reviewer here loved it. Read what he has to say HERE.
Source Code. This little gem surprised me. I’m a big fan of Duncan Jones ‘Moon’ and after seeing the first trailer for Source Code, I felt a bit anxious for this film. It felt half-baked and too indie for my tastes. Despite that, I simply couldn’t resist the intriguing concept and I’m a big sucker for all things sci-fi so I just had to see this film. Source Code isn’t really that consistent. Pacing issues abound and the whole thing feels messy. Some of the characterization fell short and there simply is no escaping the film’s indie vibe. But here’s the weird thing, Jones has created one brilliant, gripping film that just works you’ll easily forget the film’s glaring flaws. When Jones brings all the disparate and fractured movie elements together this neatly, Source Code becomes a truly breathtaking film. BUY it on DVD and Blu-ray when it comes out. It’ll be worth re-watching and poring over the details to see what you’ve missed.
Here are the films I’ve missed and how people saw it. Their views have shaped my assumption whether a film is worth a buy, rental or neither.
Fast Five. Considered by some as the best of the series and it seems the critics have come to a consensus that this film is indeed better than the previous films. Might be worth a RENTAL or even a BUY.
Water for Elephants. A romantic drama based on a novel. Some say this film feels too forced and is generally an underwhelming drama despite its good source material. I’m sorry but I can’t get over the ‘I am Edward the sparkling vampire’ complex of Robert Pattinson, so I’m skipping this one. But really, this film might be worth a RENTAL for its convincing world building (yes the circus has lost its charm but it’s still an intriguing business).
Scream 4. This film has already been reviewed here and was generally viewed as an average horror film at best. I say, the series should have died after the third one. SKIP it.
Bridesmaids. I actually find chick flicks repulsive. They’re simply not my taste. But for a romantic comedy that has received glowing reviews everywhere, this might be worth a RENTAL or worse a BUY.
Priest. An action movie that feels as drab and insipid as Paul Bettany’s previous film. Outside of Christopher Yong’s fantastic score, this film has been reviled by critics and general audiences alike. Actually I only found one of my friends to actually like this, the rest found this bad. SKIP it.
The summer season is not yet over and bigger films are still coming this July. Watch out for Part 2 and see if Transformers, Captain America, Harry Potter, Cowboys and Aliens and the other films are worth your time (if you plan to miss it in theaters that is).