Tag Archives: The East

A Mid-Summer Report Card: Pondering Superman, Monsters, and “The End”

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We’re at about the midpoint of summer, movie-wise, and it’s been a wild one, with a few hits, several high-profile bombs (“After Earth,” “White House Down,” “The Lone Ranger”), and some indie successes. I have not seen everything – still need to get to “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and “World War Z” – but here are some very brief thoughts on what I HAVE seen. (Note that even though I said “report card,” I’m sticking with the 4-star system.)

“Iron Man 3:”: Not a BAD film , exactly, but one that to my mind did nothing to move along the franchise. Robert Downey Jr.’s shtick has grown increasingly old, and I found the second installment far superior. That being said, Ben Kingsley gives his funniest performance on years. 2 1/2 stars

“Man of Steel”: There are some great moments here, and it will turn out to be, I think, a fine first chapter in a new Superman series. But it’s an odd film, and in some ways, a brutish, unrelentingly grim one. Still, I love Michael Shannon having a role in a blockbuster, and Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, and Russell Crowe each turn in solid performances. What’s up with the insane product placement? By the way, I’m fine with Supe the killer. I come down on the side of the semi-satisfied … barely. Because 2 3/4 is not allowed, I’m going 2 1/2 stars

“Monsters University”: I haven’t seen “Brave,” so I’ve yet to see EVERY Pixar film, but this felt like the weakest by far. It’s entertaining, as they all are, but wayyy too long. 2 1/2 stars seems low, but I gave the superior “Despicable Me 2” 3 stars, so …

“This is the End”: Funniest comedy I’ve seen in some time, and can’t wait to see it again. Backstreet’s back. Yes, I would have liked Michael Cera and Emma Watson to have stuck around a bit longer, but still. 3 1/2 stars

“Before Midnight”: Another insightful, smart, passionate burst from Linklater-Hawke-Delpy. The opening, with the son boarding the plane alone, still gets me. 4 stars

“Frances Ha”: I’ve made my feelings on this clear – still the best thing I’ve seen this summer. 4 stars

“Copperhead”: I’ll be writing a longer review of this one soon; it is compelling, well-acted, and a tad dry, but overall it works – if you care about the Civil War going in. 3 stars

“The East”: Impassioned, brisk, and utterly fake. 2 stars

“The Great Gatsby”: This came out during the summer? Feels like I saw it two years ago. 2 1/2 (being generous)

“Mud”: A twisty coming- of-age epic brimming with great moments and performances. 3 1/2 stars

“Despicable Me 2”: What can I say? It entertained me more than Superman and Iron Man. 3 stars

 

Rentals …

“Hyde Park on Hudson”: This one literally evaporates upon viewing. Even Bill Murray can’t save this dull, strange concoction. It’s a misfire on every level. 1 1/2 stars

“Warm Bodies”: Not particularly funny or clever, despite a game cast. 2 stars

“Mama”: Scary and silly on equal measure, “Mama” has just enough to qualify as slightly above-average horror. 2 1/2 stars

“Quartet”: I love Dustin Hoffman, and it is difficult to find a weak link in the cast, but his directorial debut makes “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” look like a Gregg Araki flick. 2 stars

 

More to come soon, including “Fill the Void,” “The Conjuring,” and, hopefully, “Stories to Tell.”

 

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Weekend Preview: “Much Ado” About Brad, “Bling,” Brit, and “Monsters”

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Last weekend was pretty special, with “Before Midnight,” “This is the End,” and “Man of Steel” all opening, but guess what? This Friday is just as solid.

The biggies, of course, are “Monsters University” and “World War Z,” and we can expect these to land 1-and-2 (unless “Man of Steel” trumps Brad Pitt — more on that below) at the box office. How high will each go? That’s the question. It has been a shockingly quiet summer so far for straight family fare, so Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” sequel is dropping at the right time. It does seem that there has been less and less buzz with each new Pixar release since “Toy Story 3” in 2010 — “Cars 2” and “Brave” both did well enough, to be sure, but neither captured the zeitgeist as strongly as some other Pixar releases. I expect “Monsters” to make more dough than either “Cars 2” or “Brave,” and to play well into July.

Ahh yes, “World War Z,” that embattled, bloated, ending-challenged franchise-to-be. I’m not sure all that talk has hurt the film much, but then again, I never felt it necessarily had franchise written all over it. Reviews have been mixed so far, but the trailer look good, Brad Pitt is promoting the hell out of it, and it is rather unique in the summer lineup. I have not read Max Brooks’s book, but the changes Marc Forster and company made seem to make it a less interesting product. But there is nothing else quite like it this season, and you have to respect its ambition. I could see “Monsters” doing anywhere from $70 to $90 million, with “Z” ringing up $40 to $50 mill.

Where will “Man of Steel” fit into this equation? Zack Snyder’s reimagining of Superman opened so large — wayyy more than I predicted — that it could certainly beat “World War Z” to the number two spot. This second weekend will really determine if the film has “Dark Knight” legs, or “Amazing Spider-Man” legs. I expect the former.

Indie alert: This weekend sees the Buffalo release of three fascinating, unique films. I’ve seen two of them, and loved one.

First is the long-awaited release of a film I’ve prattled on about too often (for obvious reasons), Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” I am anxious to see if the film will play as well to me now as it did on a Sunday morning at TIFF; I believe it will. It is exciting to see the smart, funny film make it to Buffalo. It’s showing at the Dipson Eastern Hills.

Brit Marling is near the top on my list of favorite young actresses, but her latest, “The East,” was a stunning disappointment, surprisingly. Its plot, about a former FBI agent going undercover with an eco-anarchist group, held great promise, but the execution is all wrong. It feels childish, horribly unsubtle, and worst of all, just plain phony. It will play, to some, and there are certainly successful elements, not the least of which is Marling’s performance. She, and director Zal Batmanglij, who last collaborated on one of my favorite films of 2012, “The Sound of My Voice” — will be back.

Lastly comes Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” a glossy, stylized take on the real-life robbers who shocked Beverly Hills. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a Coppola fan, and her aesthetic seems an ideal fit with this material. Even if the film as a whole seems iffy, it stars the increasingly wonderful Emma Watson and a WTF-supporting cast: Gavin Rossdale, Paris Hilton as herself.

A couple other quick screening notes: The Screening Room is showing Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; it is followed at 9:20 on Saturday with the noir classic “D.O.A.”

And in the outdoor series world, Bacchus screens the iconic “Big Lebowski” on Wednesday (June 26); the UB North Campus shows “Oz the Great and Powerful” on Friday and “Monsters, Inc.” on Tuesday (June 25), both at 9:15; and the UB South Campus offers “Despicable Me” at 9:15 on Wednesday (June 26.)

All in all, a unique weekend. But sadly, there are some grim weeks of blockbuster releases ahead …

 

Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions