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Summer Movie Preview Revisited! (2007-2008)
Posted By: Sam, on host
Date: Tuesday, April 3, 2012, at 15:43:49
In Reply To: Summer Movie Preview Revisited! (2005-2006) posted by Sam on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, at 14:21:42:

The time is right to do another Movie Preview Revisited post, to see how my expectations lined up with how I actually came to feel. While a lot of my thoughts were spot-on, I am pleased to say a lot of movies took me by surprise.

I'm not going to go over everything I previewed in 2007-2008, but here are the preview entries that inspired me to comment.


Shrek the Third

> No reason to think this won't be more of the same. The question is, are you
> sick of the green guy yet? For me, the novelty has worn off, but I still like
> these movies quite a bit. They're not sophisticated comedy, by any means, but
> they've been very clever and fun in the way they play with fairy tale cliches.

While not terrible, the series took a severe nosedive with this third part.
It was enough to sour audiences on the fourth and allegedly final chapter,
which is took bad, because that one was a nice recovery.


Ocean's 13

> Al Pacino as the new villain as got to be just about perfect for
> this series. In a franchise that's all about being cool and
> chewing scenery, who better? Let's hope 13 loses the unevenness
> of 12 (here, the odds are even).

It did. Ocean's 13 is cohesive and buoyant. Though it never dazzles, as 11
did, it inspires grins throughout.


Live Free Or Die Hard

> Still the best title of all time.

Unfortunately, the title was the best part. It's sort of fun in a goofy way,
but it's easily the weakest of the four movies.



> There's no reason to think Pixar's eighth film will be the first to go wrong.

I was right, but I had no idea that Ratatouille would wind up being my favorite
Pixar movie.



> It's tough to explain why, but even the trailer for a Michael Bay movie makes
> my stomach churn. There is a shallowness to his movies that go beyond mere
> superficiality and into this weird brain-sucking dimension.

The venom in my remarks pales in comparison to the hatred Roger Ebert (and
indeed many other critics) have heaped upon the sequel. But the first
Transformers movie was only mediocre rather than outright bad. I would rank
it third in Bay's filmography, behind The Rock and The Island, which were
good and pretty good, respectively, but above his other titles, which are all
garbage-flavored garbage.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

> ...[I have worries] over the forthcoming part five. For the first time,
> an untested director is at the helm. I will never understand why the studio
> saw fit to hand one of the biggest moneymaking movie franchises in history
> over to an unproven director. . . . We can only hope that the producers
> know something about him that we don't, which is admittedly very little.
> I want to like it. I'm still basically expecting to like it. But
> I'm paranoid that sooner or later, one of these movies is going to fall
> flat and ruin this series' standard of excellence.

It did. Other than Imelda Staunton, who was a great Dolores Umbridge, the
fifth movie is clumsy and joyless. The narrative flits from plot point to
plot point without letting the emotional resonance sink in, and the visuals
are drab and gloomy. Part 6 is better, but only just.


The Bourne Ultimatum

> Although the second film was a noticeable step down from the first, I love
> this series. They're edgy, down-to-earth action movies that are welcome
> changes from the more slicked-up action extravaganzas that are popular today.

Did I really say this? That the Bourne movies aren't slicked-up action
extravaganzas? I guess I know what I mean. People get banged up and dirty in
the Bourne movies. They're not just thrown around in front of blue screens
and wind fans until the credits roll. But the Bourne movies are heavily
stylized, particularly the Greengrass films, in a way that suits the series
well but which unfortunately have proven so influential that other films have
started to emulate them. While I liked Quantum of Solace, it was disappointing
to see the Bourne influence in a place it doesn't belong.

But back to The Bourne Ultimatum: It's almost as good as the first and much
better than the second. This is proof that wild and fast and crazy action
movies need not require a brain-check at the door.



> I think this adventure fantasy looks like it's probably a lot of fun.

It was. Loved it.


Mr. Bean's Holiday

> It's not cool to love the Mr. Bean character, but so what? I love the
> Mr. Bean character. The show is hilarious. The movie was uneven, alternately
> recapturing the spirit of the show and then missing the point entirely. But
> it's worth seeing for the good parts. The early word on Mr. Bean's Holiday --
> and most of the world has already seen this movie -- is that it does a better
> job.

Indeed it did. Whereas the first movie was too Americanized, this one is very
much a European film. Instead of lots of unnecessary subplots and dialogue,
this one simply gives the Mr. Bean character a simple and beautiful place to
breathe in and be himself. That, ultimately, was the secret to the humor in
the show, and it was lovely to see a movie that understood that.

I was about to say that Mr. Bean feels more at home in this movie -- but the
whole point, I suppose, is that he's the proverbial fish out of water. Well,
this movie, as opposed to the earlier one, is the water that he's a fish out of.


Iron Man

> The first big summer movie usually gets a pretty decent turn-out from
> people who are starved for a big summer movie. But can any of you actually
> imagine Robert Downey Jr. making a good comic book hero? And hey, I liked
> Elf and all, but what about it suggests that Jon Favreau should do the next
> superhero flick?

I sure had this wrong. Iron Man was a delight, and Robert Downey Jr. is a
lot of the reason why. I wasn't expecting a movie that empathized with the
characters, rather than simply cranking through a formula.



> I'm always up for a David Mamet film. Mamet is one of the greatest
> working screenwriters. I don't remember where I read it, but I can't
> put it better in my own words: Mamet is the best writer out there
> for capturing the rhythms of everyday speech. But his dialogue
> doesn't sound "everyday" at all. Like Tarantino, his style is instantly
> recognizable.

It's not memorable in the way most other Mamet films are, but I did indeed
love this a lot.


The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

> I'm pretty excited about this. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
> was a lot better than I was anticipating. Prince Caspian is a weaker
> story, but I suspect it's even better suited for a film adaptation,
> so the potential is high here. But I think it's arriving in theaters
> about a year too late. The pleasant surprise of the first movie has
> evolved into an expectation, and fervor over it has cooled. Still, Narnia
> has been loved for generations, and the availability of a reliably
> family-friendly action movie should fare well in summer. Here's hoping
> this franchise sticks around for a long time to come.

Alas! If only! Prince Caspian skewed older and (slightly) darker, screwing
up what people liked about the first movie. It's not bad, but the magic was
gone. Thanks to this movie, Disney dumped the series, and the third movie was
made at another studio for a much smaller budget and suffered for it. I can
take or leave any further Narnia movies they might want to make at this point.
Too bad. I was looking forward to a strong, cohesive set of seven.


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

> No movie has been anticipated more since Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
> But that very fact should steer us toward caution. The Phantom Menace was
> a good movie, not at all the terror many call it. But it committed the
> unforgivable crime of not recreating and living up to the iconic status
> of the biggest movie phenomenon of the last 50 years.

Crystal Skull committed that same crime. In many ways, it's less of a failure
than the Star Wars prequels; in other ways, it's more of one. It had lots of
good moments in it, but the whole affair is undone by a lot of terrible
choices in the action choreography and stalling out on character development.
Why do you bring back Karen Allen and then do nothing with her?


Kung Fu Panda

> Does this title make you laugh or groan? It makes me do both. DreamWorks CGI
> animation hasn't done much for me, though. I liked some of DreamWorks' 2D
> work, but the CGI stuff is all just too wacky. They try too hard. They're
> desperate for a laugh and, as such, elicit fewer than something like
> Ratatouille, which creates characters so real and sympathetic that the
> humor flows naturally from that. When your starting point is a kung fu
> fighting panda bear, you're already fighting an uphill battle to
> establish a character anybody will care about.
> This movie might indeed be funny. But it's hard to imagine it'll be a
> kind of funny that you won't forget about the next morning.

In a way, I stand by what I said: It was an uphill battle. But wow. The
movie won that battle. Kung Fu Panda was probably the best DreamWorks
CG-animated film to date (though not any more). While there was certainly
plenty of slapstick, the movie had a heart for its underdog story, and that
made it all work.


The Happening

> I was the guy that sort of kind of liked Lady In the Water. But Shyamalan's
> track record is heading down a path that, mathematically speaking, will lose
> me on his next movie. I thought his first three signature thrillers were
> brilliant, The Village good, and Lady In the Water passingly entertaining
> despite its slipshod construction. At that rate of decline, The Happening
> will be as intolerable to me as some thought the last two were.

It was! Oh man. The Happening was so terrible. It's almost a parody of
Shyamalan movies, because a lot of scenes have that same creepy Shyamalan vibe
to them. But this time around they were just laughable. I don't even know
that I completely understand why, although it doesn't help that Mark Wahlberg
turned in what will hopefully be the worst performance of his career here.

My preview blurb went on to say that Shyamalan is a brilliant filmmaker, but
it's getting harder to justify using the present tense. The movie he made
after The Happening was worse still, not only hitting bottom but breaking
through and discovering new depths. I don't know what happened, but I feel
robbed. The guy that made The Sixth Sense could have been one of the greatest
of all modern directors.


The Incredible Hulk

> It's so weird to me that any studio would want to attempt this. We had a
> big Hulk movie not that long ago, and it didn't perform well. Nobody asked
> for another one, but here it is.

While Ang Lee's Hulk was ultimately a failure, it was interesting in the way
it tried to get at the psychological element of the story and creative in how
it used comic book visuals. The reboot was just noisy trash.



> For my money, Ratatouille is the best CG-animated film to date. The next
> four on the list are also by Pixar. I see nothing to suggest WALL*E will
> break the pattern. Once again, Pixar has come up with an idea that just
> looks so rife with potential. Every frame of the trailer looks pitch perfect.
> . . . Even by Pixar standards, it's an experiment of sorts. It's essentially
> a *silent* film -- but I'm betting it's done in such a compelling way that
> nobody notices.

Boy, did they notice. While the film was and is cherished and adored, a huge
faction of people couldn't stop whining about the first half. Hey, something
original that you haven't seen before. The horror! For my money, WALL*E was
every bit as great as Ratatouille. And to think Pixar had two more in the
pipeline that would equal those as well!



> I only hope the movie is as funny as the IMDb synopsis.

It was. The problem was that the movie didn't realize it. It took its
ridiculousness seriously, making what could have been campy fun into slick


The Dark Knight

> He specializes in psychological thrillers, and Batman, that most
> psychological of superheroes, is the perfect fit. I'm sure one day Nolan
> will make a bad movie, until he does, my money says he's as reliable as
> Pixar for producing great work.

I was expecting this to be big -- bigger than Batman Begins, because I guessed
that a lot of people had discovered that one late that would show up on opening
day for the sequel. But I still wasn't prepared for just HOW big, nor that
Nolan would outdo even himself.


The X-Files: I Want To Believe

> Why so long before this got a sequel? I never watched the show much,
> but I did like the first movie, and I look forward to this one.

A disappointment.


The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

> [prophecies of wretchedness deleted for brevity]

I was right. This was pretty horrible. Rachel Weisz was smart to opt out.


The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

> I have to admit it, and I don't even have the decency to be embarrassed
> about it. I saw the first movie and loved it.

I saw the second movie and loved it.


Return to Sleepaway Camp (Direct-To-DVD)

> For those not keeping count, this movie is fifth in the series, which started
> in 1983. For those who *are* keeping count, professional counselling is only
> a phone call away.

I'm embarrassed to say I actually saw this. It was one of the worst, most
unpleasant movies I've seen. I mean, I'm not surprised it was bad, but
sometimes these things are bad in a campy, somewhat fun way. Not this time.


Quantum of Solace

> Hey, it's James Bond. Moreover, it's James Bond continuing the path laid
> out by its outstanding revitalization in the previous film, Casino Royale.
> Obviously I'm anticipating this movie more than any other this holiday season.
> Besides that, the film will be directed by Marc Forster, whose "Finding
> Neverland" and "Stranger Than Fiction" were two of my favorite films from
> their respective years. He's never done an action thriller before, but most
> of that will come down to the second unit, an outstanding team that's been
> part of the Bond machine all along. I'm fascinated to see what Forster, who
> specializes in films about brilliant outsiders persevering in the face of
> grief and loss, can bring to this table.

As it turned out, not enough. I liked Quantum of Solace a lot, more than most,
but not like I loved Casino Royale. Forster's strength with character wasn't
enough in evidence, but his lack of understanding of action was. The action
scenes in Quantum are incomprehensible: a flurry of fast cutting and
disjointed movement that this series should be better than.

Nonetheless, there was much to love here, including Craig's grim portrayal of
Bond and the terrific back-and-forth between Bond and M.



> A dog plays a superhero on a TV show, but he thinks the show is real.
> The trailers play this up as a comedy of chaos, and the question
> is whether the movie will be confined by its genre or rise above it.

It was largely dismissed, and admittedly it fell short of Meet the Robinsons,
but I quite enjoyed this one.



> All I'm willing to predict at this point is that if nothing else the movie
> will look beautiful. Even the poster looks beautiful.

It did look beautiful. It was not a bad movie at all. Unfortunately it was
not the second coming of Moulin Rouge, and while the drama worked for me,
there wasn't enough there to stick in the mind after the credits rolled.
Baz Luhrmann should have been able to do better.


Seven Pounds

> I credit this movie already for inspiring thought. The best
> movies aren't just disposable entertainments, though ideally they are as or
> more entertaining as disposable entertainments. Movies that are *about*
> something at their cores are the ones that stick with us.

I was cautiously optimistic about Seven Pounds. As it turned out, I loved it
unreservedly. This was a great and moving film, and I'm confused about why
it didn't catch on in the way that a lot of other Will Smith dramas have.


The Wrestler

> Pretentious, ingenious, or both?

Probably neither, really. It was simply a great character portrait, solidly
directed but not overwhelmed with the screaming directorial flourishes I was
expecting from Darren Arofonsky.


Marley & Me



Ok, I have to say something serious about this. Because however much that
movie looks like a generic Hallmark movie, this was a shockingly compassionate
and empathetic story about a marriage and a family. I went in expecting the
movie to crank through a standard family formula, but there was an honesty
and genuineness that took me completely by surprise. The characters aren't
just placeholders but flesh and blood, with ranges of emotions and experiences
you just don't expect from a holiday family movie (purportedly) about a dog.

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