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Summer blockbuster summary

Summer is a period of time that varies based on the definition.  If you go with the scientific definition, it goes from the summer solstice (around June 21) to the autumnal equinox (around September 21).   In a more emotional sense, it is bookended by two holidays:  Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Either way, it is around three months long.

In the world of movies, however, summer begins sometime in April and runs to around the end of July.  The last of the big summer movies opens this weekend:  Cowboys vs. Aliens, a movie I’m not all that inclined to see:  based on the previews, it might be good, but it might also be really bad.  Somehow, I am reminded of Snakes on a Plane, a clunker of a film with a great title and little else.  Cowboys vs. Aliens offers a similarly fun title that captures the whole plot, along with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, but I have the sense it won’t deliver.

Normally, I’m not much for going to the theater for movies, but this summer, I caught a few, including all four superhero flicks:  Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern and (today) Captain America.  I also saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 along with a couple films that don’t really fit in the “big summer film” category:  The First Grader and Horrible Bosses.  But for the big six, here is how I rate them from best to worst.

  1. Captain America:  This is actually the film I had the least hope for.  The previews didn’t make the movie shine and Chris Evans was annoying in the two Fantastic Four movies (though better in The Losers).  But basically everything works here, from Evans to Tommy Lee Jones as a curmudgeonly colonel to Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull.   It is also one of two films that is also a period piece, and it creates a nice 1940s world that may be more fantasy than reality but still works.  The very beginning of the movie and the after-the-credits bit connects the movie to the present and offers viewers a first look at The Avengers, one that had the audience cheering in anticipation.  (I don’t think this is any sort of spoiler:  the after-the-credits bit in the other related Marvel movies (Iron Man, Thor and Hulk) have all been leading up to this 2012 release.
  2. X-Men: First Class:  The other period piece, one which I discussed in an earlier posting.
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2:  A nice conclusion to the movie franchise.  With the superhero movies, the viewers may have a general idea of the plot based on exposure to the comics, but with this film, most of the viewers will already know the full story going in.  This is not a film for newbies.  It is the success of the film that it can still have an impact even with such a handicap.
  4. Thor:  While the first three films are top-rate, Thor is merely good.  Not that there is anything really wrong with this movie, just that it doesn’t really strike the same emotional chord as the other movies.  It doesn’t help that Natalie Portman makes a rather dull love interest and is overshadowed by the much more charming Kat Dennings.
  5. Green Lantern:  Too much CGI, a villain that is too much force-of-nature and not enough scenery-chewing evil, and an only occasionally good bit of acting by Ryan Reynolds and this is just a s0-so film.  Not awful, but not nearly on the level of the four movies above it.  For a movie that approaches awful, there is always….
  6. Transformers:  Dark of the Moon:   While not as wretched as its immediate predecessor, this is also a below-average film.  The humor is designed for eight-year-olds but the violence, though mostly bloodless, is still for an older audience (as various evil Transformers go on killing sprees).  At over two-and-a-half hours, it is way too long.  I have to give some credit to Josh Duhamel, however, who has for three movies basically phoned it in while playing a character with little personality.  You’d think with all the money they spent on this flick, they could have found someone to explain to the writers/director/actors that the far side of the moon is not the same as the dark side of the moon.

And so ends another movie summer.

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