green lantern

Bottom 10 Movies of 2011

Say what you will about worst of lists, but the fact of the matter is that with the wealth of opinions out there both top and bottom picks can be quite different. When I sit down to make my own list I have to avoid making choices based off what would make people respond better to my picks and more towards arranging them in the order at which they entertained me the most. I do not enjoy trying to arrange movies in a list of what I hate because I try very hard to find something to enjoy in everything I see and sometimes I end up enjoying things other people would put low on their totem pole. You won’t see any obscure straight to DVD picks here because there’s no point in sifting through titles most people will ignore anyway unless it was very good in which case it could get a shout out in the best of list even if it doesn’t make the top ten.

Below are my choices for wide theatrical releases that I have enjoyed the least throughout the year that was 2011. Keep in mind there are a handful of titles I have not had the chance to check out or don’t plan on checking out do to time restraints or interest. You may not agree with my choices which I more than anticipate and I encourage discussion, but keep it civil.

10. Green Lantern – The superhero movie starring Ryan Reynolds earns its spot here for being the most disappointing of the hero movies this year and just disappointing overall. The actors mostly sleepwalk through with the exception of Mark Strong, the story is all over the place and the side plot involving Peter Sarsgaard is bizarre and pointless. If not for an interesting visual approach this could have landed much lower- even with the uninspired design of the Lantern’s power and shaky effects here and there the film has a decent look. Given the budget though, this should have been so much more than it is.

9. Season of the Witch – Nic Cage has had an intriguing career. He has award worthy performances and others that border on strange and insane. I loved his performance in BAD LIEUTENANT recently but this is not Cage on his A game. If the film embraced the craziness at the end of the film it may have avoided being included here but the timeline of the film is unintentionally funny at times and tonally all over the place. The effects are cheesy and Ron Perlman is a lot of fun which made it hard to come to terms with the film being as bad as it was.

8. Zookeeper – I like Kevin James. It’s hard to admit that when his presence remains unseen in a movie that doesn’t get completely dumped on by critics and other moviegoers. I enjoyed him in THE DILEMMA but even that film has a lot of problems. In all honesty ZOOKEEPER did make me laugh- but not enough to make me overlook what I look for in movies I want to watch over and over or recognize as an actual “good” film. This movie lacks originality in its premise and is uninspired when it comes to the voice actors and execution. Some of the animals were funny, but in the end family entertainment begs for better products than this even if it does hide some decent laughs.

7. The Smurfs – After finally sitting down to watch this I now know without a doubt that if not for the success of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS this movie would probably never have happened. It imitates the style of that movie around every corner and that’s not really a good thing. The little blue dudes are cute yes and do serve as great fodder for nostalgia for anyone who grew up with them, but mixing them in to the real world was a fatal mistake. The mischief and set ups are tired and overdone and the effects of when the real people touch or interact with a Smurf are terrible. The animation before they enter the real world is cartoonish but at least it was enjoyable. If we must have a sequel, keep it out of reality.

6. New Year’s Eve – One of the only reasons this one is not lower on the list is solely because I expected absolutely nothing out of it- which can be said for any movie on the list that isn’t at the number one spot. Don’t be fooled, NEW YEAR’S EVE is not a good movie, but there were a few moments and aspects of some of the stories that made me laugh or entertained me so I have to give the film a little bit of credit, but not too much.

5. Jack and Jill – I hated the trailer for this movie. I thought it was a joke- like one of the movies from FUNNY PEOPLE the movie where Sandler mocks his career in dumb movies. When the tragic truth dawned on me I knew I’d have to see it for myself. This IS one of those dumb movies Sandler poked fun at himself for doing in a movie like FUNNY PEOPLE- that doesn’t make this comedy genius. There is too much sophomoric humor and not enough clever dialogue and jokes between characters. Sandler is annoying when he does that over the top voice he uses when he plays his own twin sister- to a painful extent. Pacino is hilarious and even more so when him and Sandler are basically joking about the terrible product they are watching. Sandler fans like me are dying for a return to form and this isn’t it.

4. The Rite – A wasted performance by Anthony Hopkins is about all there is to remember in regards to THE RITE. This film got more kudos from me after initially watching it than it would have had the events had time to sit in my brain and then almost completely disappear less than a day or two after seeing it. I do however remember that the main actor in the film is the second coming of Keanu Reeves, should any aspiring filmmakers be planning their movie around a hollow shell of an actor with no personality.

3. I Don’t Know How She Does It – If nothing else I blame this movie for the endless amount of “I don’t know why she does it” jokes from countless other reviews and blurbs from other people that hate it. I usually endure these movies because as a husband my wife is often powerless to the call of a romantic comedy or dramedy- it doesn’t happen often given out differentiating tastes but we both walked out taking very little away from this mostly pointless movie.

2. Your Highness – I love comedy, I loved all the stars, but I don’t usually care for movies set in the medieval times. The setting in this case presents the only interesting aspect of the film with the trippy visuals and non-human characters. The idea of a midlevel stoner comedy sounded hilarious and I was stunned to silence as I laughed far less than I thought I would. YOUR HIGHNESS is a misfire in almost every direction and the stuff that does hit a target misses the funny bone by an embarrassing distance.

1. Sucker Punch – If I was much younger- I’m talking adolescent age- this movie would be the best thing ever created. In fact after I watched it all the way through once, every time after that would be one frame every few minutes or so as I paused my way through every key scene of a girl flipping around half naked. From my perspective now, sure the girls are very attractive and sexy in the movie, but beyond that this movie gave me nothing but a headache. Given all the truly uninspired movies listed above I really did expect more from Zack Snyder and when I walk by this movie at a retail store I consider burning my copies of WATCHMEN and DAWN OF THE DEAD. I don’t want to give up on Snyder just yet though- fingers crossed that his SUPERMAN film brings the goods.

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Movie Review: Green Lantern (2011)

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I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with super hero movies. I love the concepts of each hero, but sometimes I just hate the way the execution comes off as cheesy. There’s the perfect blend for me though which includes movies like BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT and even IRON MAN to an extent that I love both concept and execution. GREEN LANTERN is none of those three previously mentioned movies and for me is the bottom rung of the ladder for super hero movies released in 2011. It wins on concept, but the script acting and even effects at time unravel the overall product to something that’s stripped of everything that makes it interesting.

Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, a conflicted but cocky fighter pilot that is chosen by the powerful ring of a dying alien. As it turns out the alien was part of a league of beings chosen to protect their specific sectors of the universe as Green Lanterns. Hal must overcome the perceptions that he is not worthy of wearing the ring and his own fear as a vengeful cloud of fear threatens to destroy Earth all of its inhabitants.

That’s the simple version, if I were to start talking about the colors of will and fear and other specifics I feel I’d be wielding a double edged sword that on one side is interesting and on the other is painfully boring and weird. From a pure aesthetic perspective the film is very colorful and visually interesting, but there are extreme and jarring visual effects issues with choppy CGI and other moments of lazy animation. Even with the abundance of lifeless CGI characters I found the film tolerable on a visual standpoint flaws and all.

Sub standard CGI is one thing, but the characters in GREEN LANTERN are dull and completely one dimensional. Ryan Reynolds I usually find to be a decent actor especially in a movie like BURIED, at times seems indifferent to the fact that he’s even in the movie. Most of the side characters seem to have more invested in the film aside from Blake Lively, who is anything but lively throughout. Mark Strong is great given his extremely limited screen time and I even liked Peter Sarsgaard up until he started belting out an extremely bizarre scream- plus I found his character almost completely worthless.

Scattered, incomplete and unfocused is that best way I can describe GREEN LANTERN- which is pitiful for a movie that carries such a hefty price tag. Each scene feels forced, rushed and the script just isn’t strong enough to save something so scatterbrained. There’s moments that make no sense, such as when Hal quits being a Green Lantern, but is not forced to give over his ring. The biggest story flaw however is the fact that this giant cloud of fear, Paralax, is a huge looming threat to the Green Lanterns and intends to destroy their planet of Oa after Earth but not a single Lantern steps up to help Hal when he asks for help or when he’s fighting it on Earth.

GREEN LANTERN is a wealth of half baked ideas that instead of being a delicious batch of cookies is a cinematic salmonella risk. It seemed almost everyone involved just did not give the material their full commitment which is evident in the shaky special effects and lackluster acting. The writing isn’t near as sharp or clever as we’ve seen in far superior superhero movies which for a film hero such as Green Lantern it desperately needed. While I wouldn’t recommend the film to most, there are small glimpses of hope in the overall visual scope and acting from Mark Strong as Sinestro. As a whole though GREEN LANTERN is a colorful mess that should have been given more time to tweak the jarring flaws that are on display.

Strip To Script: Comic Book Heroes On The Big Screen

The summer of 2011 marks a big time of year for the superhero movies that will be bursting through theater speakers to fans all over the world. Each of these superhero characters were born on the pages of comic books and not with the camera. Each year the superhero movies draw large crowds and I’ve always wondered if every single person in the theater is turning out because they read the comics as kids or adults, they were dragged by a fan or if they like me are mostly associated out of context and have a natural curiosity. I didn’t take a poll on this subject, my curiosity is the inner workings of my mind as I’m a product of a sole interest in the visual are of movies, even though I’ve enjoyed the occasional comic here and there.

I’ve sat and thought about all the comics I’ve read in my life and I can really only think of a few. Yet, I find myself liking if not loving a lot of the comic based movies that get released. I love Batman and I get asked all the time what my thoughts on who the villains should be in the upcoming movies when they get made and I’m always going back to the ones I grew up with in the original Batman movies like Catwoman, Bane, Two Face, The Riddler and of course The Joker. Everyone once in a while I absorb information from articles I read or videogames where characters I was previously unfamiliar with are discussed and my memory bank grows a little bit. I often wonder if not being well versed in the source material makes me a less discerning viewer of the films and I would agree if someone said my opinion isn’t fully valid, but only to a small extent. I may not know all the characters and backgrounds but I am able to learn and can make distinctions of their ability to work on film, even if that distinction is not always going to be gospel. I am a member of a specific audience demographic that will see just about anything if it looks agreeable enough up to and including superhero movies that I may not have a thorough frame of reference on. Comic book aficionados may face palm whenever someone like me tries to talk about a comic book universe, but that doesn’t make my opinion any less valuable to someone who might have the same mindset as me.

As I mentioned, I’ve read only a few comic books in my life that include Batman, maybe one or two Spiderman stories and the entire series that makes up the Watchmen graphic novel. I would never even pretend to come off as knowing even slightly more than any random fan about any comic book character. The information I’ve retained over the years comes almost entirely from pop culture information that includes movies, video games and just random information I’ve picked up from friends and people I’ve had conversations with; none of this qualifies me as an expert in anything comic book related. So why is it that these comic book movies appeal to someone like me?

When directors approach the comic book stories they always begin with the origin story. If they were looking to appeal ONLY to the comic book lovers there would be nearly no point in pandering to the uninitiated. As a fan of movies and the possibility of grand special effects along with a hero’s journey, these superhero movies appeal to me a great deal. The opposite end of the spectrum is if the movies appeal to me, why don’t I feel the need to seek out the comic books that they originate from? I wish the answer was complex and controversial, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t actively avoid comic books; the plain boring truth is I just don’t rush out to get them. Movies have always been my escape and the most attractive form of entertainment. Reading always stimulated my imagination, being able to visualize the words on paper, but movies push things a little further by showing you the potential of one’s imagination. All forms of entertainment that includes books, movies and even radio serve as outlets of imagination and have always inspired me to explore my own thoughts and ideas; the choice from there is the medium that fits my personality.

As a kid movies completely captured my imagination. The technology involved and the way they made me feel when one connected with me emotionally or perfectly portrayed how fun going to the movies could be. My allegiance to movies is traced back to those days as a kid, cherishing those moments in the movie theater and waiting in excitement for the next trip to the theater. Reading also has a special place in my heart since I can create the printed world in my own head and in a sense direct the events with my own visual style. Comic books combine the print aspect with the visuals the book represents, giving one a little less control over the images your imagination would conjure up. Movies being my first love (entertainment wise that is) has remained so over the years, because I can connect with it more than I can in the time it takes me to read a book. I am not a fast reader; therefore, it takes me a little longer than most to read a book from cover to cover. Time consumption also factors into my love for movies over books; I can absorb the story told in a movie in the span of an hour and a half or more where a book could take me day, weeks or even a month to find the time to finish from beginning to end. In a world where most people are strapped for time between work, family and any other hobbies that take up time, sometimes finding hours of spare time to read is scarce. I do read books; it just takes a very determined mindset in order to do so.

Comic books are tricky for me. Comic books tend to be much shorter than a full on book, therefore take far less of a time commitment, yet I’ve read far more books than I’ve taken for comic books. If I were to be handed a comic book, I would easily sit down and read it and not feel guilty about what I could have gotten done in that amount of time. Over the years the comic book community to me is a very small but dedicated group of people that are very passionate and loyal to the work they read on a regular basis. In my opinion they are the people that have migrated to that medium in the same way that I migrated primarily to movies. However, more often than not the comic book readers probably love going to the movies just as much as any other person, which mirrors my attitude where if I’m given a comic book I’ll read it and I’ll either enjoy it or not. I’ve never felt the pressure that I must like a movie because that’s the popular consensus or hate a movie because people say that I should. Yet when it comes to comic books, because I am so out of my element in that community I wouldn’t be able to decipher quality from complete crap and the comic book fans would tear any opinion I had either way apart with due precision. Do people that enjoy movies as a secondary source of entertainment feel the same kind of scrutiny if they love or hate a movie?

This argument merges into the point of this piece because of the sheer amount of superhero movies exploding into theaters this summer. Each of them being heroes that I have not read a single comic of, yet will likely see and weigh an opinion on once I do, but without the comic book reference. This is topical because comic book lovers often read movie reviews like anyone else and will weigh their opinions of people’s knowledge of the character to their enjoyment of a movie about a character they were not previously connected to. If I liked a movie like THOR but didn’t read the comic and had critiques of something that a comic lover might have really enjoyed, does that mean that I might have liked it if I had read the comic, or had more bad things to say if it didn’t live up to a comic I might love and then hate how the movie represents it. I won’t lie, the argument I am presenting even gives me a headache.

The first movie I ever saw that was based on a comic book character was Tim Burton’s BATMAN. For the longest time that was one of my all time favorite superhero movies. Nowadays, superhero movies are frequent and thus audiences have much more to choose from. BATMAN BEGINS stole the thrown from BATMAN for me when it was released and then THE DARK KNIGHT came along and the changing of the guard continued. I’ve also enjoyed the likes of films like SPIDERMAN, IRON MAN, KICK ASS, THOR and most recently loved X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Many of the universes certain characters inhabit have not clicked with me and I had no previous knowledge of, even just listening to friends talk about them. With THOR, the name and the hammer were the only recognizable characteristics and I know absolutely nothing regarding the mythology behind GREEN LANTERN. The upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA film is another character I have little back story on beyond name and look of the costume. So for me the business behind comic book movies relies heavily on appealing to non-comic book readers and possible even converting those people in order to get them to KEEP coming back for sequels and/or prequels.

The question studios face with these movies is how do they make these superheroes appeal to people that may be looking for more realism than fantasy in their theater escapades. When I see a trailer for a superhero movie I do not always worry if the character’s background will connect with me; I can make the distinction of rather or not I like the mythology once I watch the movie. What I look for is a movie that at least looks like it will be fun, interesting and with enough substance that I will feel the need to see it opening weekend. If it goes down a path that resembles darker grittier tones like THE DARK KNIGHT it has more chances of getting that opening day ticket, but fun absurd superhero movies are not a deal breaker. I am a lover of gorgeous special effects, so when I see a trailer that shows me great special effects, I may not always see it with urgency, but I WILL see it at some point or another. Non-stop action is not always a must, and with the first film in a superhero franchise I expect that there will be a certain amount of character development, but that’s not a free pass to skimp on decent action here and there and a satisfying finale. People that read the comics already have the benefit of all the different character development stories and variety of action beats; the initiated don’t and studios know this so they can’t always please both the readers and the people going in blind.

My biggest problem with some transitions from the illustrated pages to the big screen is dialogue that doesn’t find my ears well. This is a personal preference and in no way reflects all moviegoers, but certain cheesy dialogue just doesn’t appeal to me. I love cheesy dialogue in certain movies, but it has a penchant for making me cringe as well. One example is a line from SPIDERMAN in which the Green Goblin is flying off after a battle with Spiderman and shouts “I’ll get you next time Spiderman,” followed by an over-the-top villainous laugh. In the right movie I’d be ok with that type of delivery, in that one though, I cringed; I can already hear the keyboards furiously typing to refute and berate my dismissal of such a line.

Comic book movies don’t always have to be superheroes though; SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT for example. Of course, we’ve seen what ended up happening with the minimal theatrical success Edgar Wright enjoyed with his effort. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD was a film I really loved but for whatever reason the idea just didn’t click with mainstream audiences. Was it because of the marketing? Was it because it wasn’t a superhero movie? Whatever the reason, it was a film that I feel had a wider appeal than any sales numbers reflected. The ratio of heroic movies to not so heroic movies is generally lopsided as is the box office.

It might seem pointless to state at this juncture but the point of this isn’t merely to force my views on anyone or even to make an overall point to begin with but just as a means to spark the debate. A debate as to rather or not reading the comic book of a character in a movie we are going to see heightens the experience hinders it or has no effect. My personal belief is that as long as the filmmakers deliver a fun well rounded movie, the source material is inconsequential. The argument then is that in the process filmmakers can betray the source material and alienate the comic fans. As I’m not a comic book reader I cannot comment on any film that has stayed true and complimented its source material, but I have heard opinions of movies that actually improved the source material (i.e. KICK ASS).

Over the next few years as these films continue to vary in quality and ticket sales it’s likely we will continue to see more and more hit theaters especially with THE AVENGERS being set up with a series of films (IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, THOR etc.). It will be interesting to see if attendance increases or decreases with the barrage of films as audiences either embrace or shun the efforts of Hollywood. With the sheer number over the course of the last few years the Hollywood machine appears focused on an unending assault of films based on previous works, board games and comics. On principle alone it is quite disheartening to see such a lack in creativity with the films begin churned out to make a quick buck instead of throwing money behind high concept original works, even if they don’t all succeed. Realistically the gamble would be equal on both sides since original movies like AVATAR and INCEPTION broke bank at the box office. Not everything is going to be a homerun, but at least with original movies the pitches are random enough to surprise us instead of hurling fastball after fastball till it becomes predictable and boring until one comes along every once in a while with a little extra zip to it.

What are your thoughts on this subject? What are your favorite comic book movies? Least favorite? What are some you’d like to see get made? What are ones that should never get adapted?