Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 Second Quarter

We're halfway through 2012 so it's time to reflect upon the films of the second quarter.  (For a reminder of what came out in the first quarter, click here.)

Generally speaking, the second quarter was better than the first, and I even gave out two A+'s.  'The Cabin in the Woods' and 'Hysteria' are easily my two favorite movies of the year so far (and both very different from each other.)  Though, sadly, neither one got the attention it deserved in theaters.  Hopefully they'll find an audience on DVD late this year.  And many of you probably blinked and missed the next four: 'Newlyweds', 'Your Sister's Sister', 'Sound of my Voice', and 'God Bless America'.  If you like something less mainstream, definitely look for them.  (Note that depending on how you do your bookkeeping, 'Newlyweds' probably technically belong on the 1Q12 list, or maybe even the 2011 list since it was apparently on VOD on December 26th.  Regardless of what list it belongs on, it's my favorite Edward Burns film to date and the best Woody Allen-ish film I've seen not by Woody Allen, and you can see it now on DVD or VOD.)

And of course, I sat through more than a few painful experiences, like 'The Three Stooges', and 'The Dictator'.  Though the award for worst film of the quarter goes to a movie I saw at a film festival almost two years ago, but was just released in theaters, called 'High School'.  It was terrible.  Possibly it's been recut and improved since last I saw it, but I wouldn't count on it, and I certainly won't be watching it again to find out.

Below is a summary of my grades for 55 films released in the 2nd quarter of 2012.  (Yes, I tweaked a few grades from my initial review.  And yes, that's an average of more than four a week!)  I hope you find this interesting and useful, and I always look forward to comments. 

The Cabin in the Woods    Grade: A+

Hysteria                              Grade: A+

Newlyweds                        Grade: A

Your Sister's Sister            Grade: A

Sound of My Voice                 Grade: A-

 
God Bless America                  Grade: A-

 The Five Year Engagement     Grade: A-

 Ted                                        Grade: A-

Brave                                    Grade: A-

Prometheus                         Grade: A-

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel     Grade: A-

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

Comic-Con Episode 4: A Fan's Hope      Grade: A-


Safety Not Guaranteed       Grade: B+

The Intouchables               Grade: B+


American Reunion            Grade: B+

Think Like a Man              Grade: B+

The Hunter                        Grade: B+

Headhunters                    Grade: B+

People Like Us                  Grade: B+

Elles                                  Grade: B+

Delicacy                              Grade: B

The Salt of Life                   Grade: B


Mansome                         Grade: B

Lola Versus                      Grade: B

Bernie                                Grade: B

Dark Shadows                  Grade: B

Columbus Circle               Grade: B

Lockout                               Grade: B

Chernobyl Diaries             Grade: B

Bully                                    Grade: B


Rock of Ages                     Grade: B-

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter      Grade: C+

What to Expect When You're Expecting     Grade: C+

Let the Bullets Fly             Grade: C+

For Greater Glory            Grade: C+

Hick                                    Grade: C+

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding     Grade: C+

Snow White and the Huntsman     Grade: C+

Jiro Dreams of Sushi         Grade: C+

The Raven                          Grade: C

Pirates!  Band of Misfits     Grade: C

Meeting Evil                      Grade: C

Men in Black III                 Grade: C

That's My Boy                   Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Madagascar 3                   Grade: D+

Damsels in Distress           Grade: D

The Moth Diaries             Grade: D

Battleship                          Grade: D

The Lucky One                  Grade: D


Turn Me On, Dammit       Grade: D

 The Three Stooges            Grade: D-

The Dictator                      Grade: F

High School                       Grade: F

 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 6/29/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Brave', 'Ted', and 'People Like Us'.

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

Hysteria                              Grade: A+

Your Sister's Sister            Grade: A

The Hunger Games             Grade: A-

Prometheus                         Grade: A-

Ted                                        Grade: A-

Brave                                    Grade: A-

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel     Grade: A-

Safety Not Guaranteed       Grade: B+

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

People Like Us                  Grade: B+

Lola Versus                      Grade: B

Dark Shadows                  Grade: B

Bernie                                Grade: B

Rock of Ages                     Grade: B-

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter      Grade: C+

What to Expect When You're Expecting     Grade: C+

For Greater Glory            Grade: C+

Snow White and the Huntsman     Grade: C+

Men in Black III                 Grade: C

That's My Boy                   Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Battleship                          Grade: D

Madagascar 3                   Grade: D

The Dictator                      Grade: F

Ted


It's hard to believe this is Seth MacFarlane's first film since he has a cult following from his animated shows 'Family Guy' and 'American Dad', and he clearly has his finger on the pulse of what us thirtysomethings wax nostalgic about.  Guys like he and I grew up in front of the TV, and his references to all the pop culture we loved as children never get old.  In fact, they make me feel like a kid again.  Plus, he's really, really funny.  And so is his film.

Mark Wahlberg plays a man who, as a young boy, wished his teddy bear would come to life.  And then it did.  Mila Kunis co-stars, MacFarlane voices Ted, and Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, and Patrick Warburton have supporting roles.  But don't let the childlike allure of the premise fool you.  This is not a movie for kids.  It's extremely profane, politically incorrect, and borderline offensive to some.  But it's also a riot from start to finish and the funniest movie of the year so far.  So if you're like me and you like crass comedy and/or grew up in the 80's loving films like 'Flash Gordon', then this is a must see.

Grade: A-

People Like Us


Chris Pine plays a smooth deal-maker who finds out that his estranged father has passed away.  So he returns home to his estranged mom, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and learns a lot about his family he never knew.  Elizabeth Banks co-stars as a single mom/barmaid with a heart of gold.

While watching this film, my appreciation for it waxed and waned a bit.  It has a great ensemble cast and at times it's poignant and engrossing.  At times it's cliche, unnecessarily deceitful and contrived.  But overall I enjoyed it and left the theater feeling fulfilled.  Those who appreciate a good dysfunctional family drama should definitely check it out.

Grade: B+

Friday, June 22, 2012

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

Hysteria                              Grade: A+

Your Sister's Sister            Grade: A

The Hunger Games             Grade: A-

The Five Year Engagement     Grade: A-

Prometheus                         Grade: A-

Brave                                    Grade: A-

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel     Grade: A-

Safety Not Guaranteed       Grade: B+

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

Think Like a Man              Grade: B+

Lola Versus                      Grade: B

Dark Shadows                  Grade: B

Bernie                                Grade: B

Chernobyl Diaries             Grade: B

Rock of Ages                     Grade: B-

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter      Grade: C+

For Greater Glory            Grade: C+

What to Expect When You're Expecting     Grade: C+

Snow White and the Huntsman     Grade: C+

Men in Black III                 Grade: C

That's My Boy                   Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Battleship                          Grade: D

Madagascar 3                   Grade: D

The Dictator                      Grade: F

Your Sister's Sister


Great filmmakers can make the simplest of premises on a shoestring budget more compelling to watch than any $100M+ borefest.  And Lynn Shelton is one of those filmmakers.  After making a notable splash in 2009 with 'Humpday', the largely improvisational 'Mumblecore' film, she follows up here with an even better entry in that genre.  And she brings back Mark Duplass (this year's MVP so far), as well as Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt.  It's a dream cast for a small character driven dramedy.  Don't expect any action scenes or special effects.  This is a small story about interesting and complicated people.  To say anymore would lessen your experience.  But it's very, very entertaining and one of the best movies so far this year.  Pair it with 'Safety Not Guaranteed' for a great Mark Duplass double feature.  But don't trust me.  Trust all the critics on this one.

Grade: A

Brave


If you know me, follow my blog, or watch my TV spots, you know by now I'm generally down on animated comedies.  Yet PIXAR is my exception to the rule.  They just do them so well.  And this one is particularly good, even for PIXAR.  Perhaps it was their collaboration with Disney.  Like all great Disney classics, it really captures the magic with great characters you actually care about, great casting, a great story, and a great score.  And there's just something about setting a fantasy film in Scotland that enhances the experience.  And, of course, if your story takes place in Scotland, you make sure and get Billy Connolly, Kelly MacDonald, and Craig Ferguson.  You just do.  And they did.  Well done, PIXAR, well done.

Grade: A-

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter


What if one of our most well known Presidents wasn't as well known as we all thought?  What if he actually hunted vampires?!?  Cool concept.  And there are certainly some things to like about this movie.  Benjamin Walker certainly looks the part of Lincoln (perhaps crossed with more than a little Liam Neeson).  And the relatively unknown supporting cast fits appropriately.  Plus the film ties in nicely with a lot of American history, as we vaguely recall it from grade school.  And it certainly has an interesting visual style.  Yet a lot of the time I was struggling to stay interested.  Sometimes you need more than a cool concept and interesting visual style.  You need memorable moments.  And I didn't get one here.  Sadly, we can throw this one in the pile with 'Woman in Black' and 'The Raven', as somewhat disappointing gothic period films with loads of atmosphere that didn't quite hit the mark.  But at least it's the best of the three.

Grade: C+

Friday, June 15, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 6/15/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Rock of Ages', 'That's My Boy', 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows', and 'Thin Ice'.

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

Hysteria                              Grade: A+

The Hunger Games             Grade: A-

The Five Year Engagement     Grade: A-

Prometheus                         Grade: A-

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel     Grade: A-

Safety Not Guaranteed       Grade: B+

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

Think Like a Man              Grade: B+

Lola Versus                      Grade: B

Dark Shadows                  Grade: B

Bernie                                Grade: B

Chernobyl Diaries             Grade: B

Rock of Ages                     Grade: B-

For Greater Glory            Grade: C+

What to Expect When You're Expecting     Grade: C+

Snow White and the Huntsman     Grade: C+

Pirates!  Band of Misfits     Grade: C

Men in Black III                 Grade: C

That's My Boy                   Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Battleship                          Grade: D

Madagascar 3                   Grade: D

The Dictator                      Grade: F

Rock of Ages


Well, it's been over an hour and I still can't believe what I just witnessed.  This could actually be the most ridiculous movie of the year, and I've seen some pretty ridiculous movies.  I mean, Alec Baldwin in a shoulder length bob alone puts it in the running for the coveted Most Ridiculous award.  Add in Tom Cruise as an Axl Rose-type rock star, Paul Giamatti as his David-Crosby-look-a-like manager, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, Catherine Zeta Jones, Bryan Cranston, a monkey, and two charisma-lacking youngsters as the leads and you've got the weirdest mixed bag rock star/karaoke-esque movie ever made.  (Of course that's not a genre with a lot of contenders, though I do have a special place in my heart for 'Duets', a true karaoke joy.)  AND YET ... halfway through the film I settled in and realized that I shouldn't even try to take this movie seriously because it clearly doesn't take itself seriously.  Not one bit.  'Rock of Ages' seems perfectly comfortable with you laughing at it rather than with it.  And Tom Cruise commands the big screen in any role.  He is worth every dollar of his generous salary in every film.  And actually, this is a good companion piece to his lauded supporting role as bald, overweight Les Grossman in 'Tropic Thunder'.  And the same kudos go for Paul Giamatti who shines in any part.  So, I'm actually going to give this one a mild recommendation for anyone who still digs all those hair bands and overplayed ballads from the 80's like 'Don't Stop Believing'.  I only wish there were some original tunes thrown in as well.  And I'd certainly be happier if Hollywood started casting the leads under 30 based on more than just looks.  But that's probably too much to ask for.

Grade: B-

That's My Boy


If you regularly read my blog or watch my FOX segments, you know by now that Adam Sandler is not one of my favorites.  And that's an understatement.  Though I willingly acknowledge that in the past he's made more than a few good movies, including 'Funny People', 'Spanglish', 'Big Daddy', 'Mr. Deeds', 'Billy Madison', and even the bizarre yet strangely appealing 'Punch Drunk Love'.  But it's the movies where he plays a complete idiot, like 'Little Nicky' and 'The Waterboy', that I just can't stand.  And we can now add one to that list.  Kind of.

This time Sandler plays a former scandal headliner as a tween who impregnated his teacher.  Now he's grown up and broke and needs to track down his estranged and successful offspring, played by Andy Samberg, to help him pay off a tax debt.  But all of that exposition is just a vehicle to be able to juxtapose Sandler's trademark crass, moronic character with the stereotypically stuffy bourgeoisie that his son is marrying into.  And the result is exactly what you expect from a Sandler film:  fart jokes, masturbation jokes, juvenile slapstick comedy, and cameos of has-beens like Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges.  In other words, it's that same old Sandler shtick.  Though I honestly can't say it was devoid of entertainment value.  Truthfully I laughed more than a few times in the second half (though I'm not proud to admit it.)  But most of the jokes fell completely flat in the first half, and if you listened hard during the uncomfortable silences you could almost hear Andy Samberg regretting his decision to leave Saturday Night Live.  Probably a bad decision, Andy.  Probably a bad decision.

Grade: C-

Lola Versus

 

Greta Gerwig has certainly found her niche.  As Lola she plays an ultra hip, ultra cool, yet ultra confused 29 year old living in New York and dealing with love, heartbreak, and strained friendship.  And although she's hardly a household name, those that are familiar with her work would probably agree that Lola seems so Greta.

This movie belongs in a time capsule.  It captures exactly what it's like to be 29 and ultra hip, ultra cool, and ultra confused in New York in 2012.  (Or so it seems to me.)  And while I find that particular subculture a turnoff and somewhat annoying at times, there's no question that it's also very engaging, witty, and at times even charming.  For several of the cast, these are probably the roles of their careers, including Gerwig, and ultra hip, ultra cool friends Hamish Linklater and Zoe Lister Jones.  (Even their names are ultra hip and ultra cool, aren't they?)  They're all absolutely perfect in their respective roles, and yet any more of them past the short 87 minute runtime would be too much of them.  And of course the movie goes a bit too far with Lola's ultra hip and ultra cool parents, played by Debra Winger and Bill Pullman.  (Does anyone have or know of a father who would actually encourage his daughter to sleep around more and experience life?  Let's save that nonsense for 90210 or teen shows on the CW, shall we?)  But my criticisms aside, this is a good movie and will charm and entertain all but those who are jaded and cranky.  (Remind you of anyone?)  This one's for fans of Gerwig's 'Greenberg', and may even be the 'Reality Bites' of the 2010's.

Grade: B

Safety Not Guaranteed

 

I love movies that are different, and original, and take you along for a ride where you don't know where you're going.  And this film is a good example of that.

Aubrey Plaza plays an intern at a newspaper who pursues a story about a mysterious classified ad:

"Wanted:  Someone to go back in time with me.  This is not a joke.  You'll get paid after we get back.  Must bring your own weapons.  I have only done this once before.  Safety Not Guaranteed."

I love it.  It's another clever film produced by the Duplass Brothers and starring Mark Duplass (the MVP of 2012).  If you liked 'Jeff, Who Loves at Home' or have been fortunate enough to see and enjoy the soon to be released 'Your Sister's Sister', then this one's for you.  Though, I must admit it's not quite as good as those.  And I say that to set your expectations reasonably, but you should see it anyway.

Grade: B+

Friday, June 8, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 6/8/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Prometheus', 'Madagascar 3', and 'Breaking Bad'.

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

Hysteria                              Grade: A+

The Hunger Games             Grade: A-

The Five Year Engagement     Grade: A-

Prometheus                         Grade: A-

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel     Grade: A-

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

Think Like a Man              Grade: B+

Headhunters                    Grade: B+

Dark Shadows                  Grade: B

Bernie                                Grade: B

Chernobyl Diaries             Grade: B

For Greater Glory            Grade: C+

What to Expect When You're Expecting     Grade: C+

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding     Grade: C+

Snow White and the Huntsman     Grade: C+

Pirates!  Band of Misfits     Grade: C

Men in Black III                 Grade: C

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Battleship                          Grade: D

Madagascar 3                   Grade: D

The Lucky One                  Grade: D

The Dictator                      Grade: F

High School                       Grade: F

Prometheus


As hard as I try, it's rare that I actually succeed in avoiding all trailers, spoilers, and even basic plot elements for big budget films.  If you ever watch TV, go to the movies, or talk to people, it's virtually impossible.  And yet somehow I managed to do that here.  The only things I knew about this movie were that it was directed by Ridley Scott (who directed the very first 'Alien' in 1979) and there's been a long-running whispered-about rumor, which is the thing that made me so excited to see it ... (slight spoiler alert) ... that it's a prequel to the 'Alien' franchise!  And that's all I needed to know to make it one of my most anticipated movies of 2012.  Furthermore, it features an eclectic and quality ensemble cast including Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, and Guy Pearce.  So, did it live up to my expectations?  Yes and no.  I absolutely love the feel of it and the build up.  Right from the start you can tell it's going to tackle the big questions.  This is not just some lame story about love, money, or boring super heroes vs. super villains.  It's about the existence of life as we know it.  Where did we come from?  Who made us?  And that's my kind of premise.  In some ways this is the model for what big budget movies should be, with a storyline as big as its budget.  And yet, I must admit I left the theater wishing there were more answers than teases, which seems to be a writing trait of 'Lost's Damon Lindelof.  But just like when 'Lost' ended, I felt grateful it had existed and though it was flawed, it was still better than most anything else on TV.  The same could be said for 'Prometheus' versus almost every big budget movie released this year.  So I hope this movie does well at the box office because I'm super psyched for a sequel.  And I don't say that often.

Grade: A

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted


When I started as a film critic, it was never my intention to regularly trash films.  That's just not something I particularly enjoy.  I understand that studios invest a lot of money on them, and lots of people put a lot of time into them, and that I'm lucky to have the opportunity to see them for free in advance to review them.  But I just don't get animated comedies like this one.  Of course I'm significantly older than the target demographic, but I didn't find it remotely entertaining.  So is it me or is it the movie?  I still love the Disney classics I grew up with like 'The Jungle Book'.  I also like most of the Pixar films, and even a bad Pixar like 'Cars 2' is still better than this.  I actually walked out halfway through and I almost never do that.  Now, this isn't to say that your child won't like it.  They probably will.  But I didn't.  And I can't understand why any adult would.

Grade: D

Moonrise Kingdom


I don't get Wes Anderson films.  I try.  I try really hard, actually, because a lot of people who I respect really love them.  And I certainly can't deny the draw of his casts; They're a filmmaker and filmwatcher's dream.  Aside from regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, this time he managed to attract Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Harvey Keitel!  Holy cow!  How?  Why??  WTF???  Why do such sought after A-list actors regularly jump to work on films like 'Bottle Rocket', 'Rushmore', 'The Royal Tennenbaums', 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou', 'The Darjeeling Limited', and 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'?  I sure don't get it.  In my opinion, no one wastes talent like Wes Anderson.  And his latest movie about a boy scout and a young girl who run away doesn't just show that, it more or less proves it.

Grade: D+

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 6/1/12


Check out my appearance from Friday where I gave my thoughts on 'Snow White and the Huntsman', 'For Greater Glory', and 'Bernie'.

Friday, June 1, 2012

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

The Cabin in the Woods    Grade: A+

Hysteria                              Grade: A+

The Hunger Games             Grade: A-

The Five Year Engagement     Grade: A-

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel     Grade: A-

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

Think Like a Man              Grade: B+

Headhunters                    Grade: B+

Dark Shadows                  Grade: B

Bernie                                Grade: B

Chernobyl Diaries             Grade: B

For Greater Glory            Grade: C+

What to Expect When You're Expecting     Grade: C+

Snow White and the Huntsman     Grade: C+

The Raven                          Grade: C

Pirates!  Band of Misfits     Grade: C

Men in Black III                 Grade: C-

Battleship                          Grade: D

The Lucky One                  Grade: D

The Three Stooges            Grade: D-

The Dictator                      Grade: F

High School                       Grade: F