In a summer of blockbusters and superheroes, 2012 has already delivered its share of great movies – not to mention a stinker or two. If you’re looking for some last-minute summer flicks to catch or some great DVDs to rent soon, here’s a helpful guide.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN — Those who scoffed at the announcement of a Spider-Man reboot just over a decade after the first movie and a mere five years after the last have been shown the problem with pre-judging. The re-imagining with Andrew Garfield in the red-and-blue suit swings higher than the Tobey Maguire original ever reached. While the loss of J.K. Simmons’ newspaper editor is felt, all the new faces (Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Rhys Ifans) do wonders with their stock roles. It may not have been the biggest or most impressive superhero movie of the summer, but it was the most fun.
THE AVENGERS — After four years of build-up, Marvel unleashed its first umbrella picture, combining the leads from Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, and both Iron Mans. The Avengers is a movie with everything you could want in a blockbuster; it was hard to find a better time to be had at the theatres this summer. With so many strong characters vying for centre stage, and so much narrative ground to be covered, the fact the movie works so well is, quite simply… a marvel.
BATTLESHIP — Who would have expected Taylor Kitsch would follow the disappointing and muddled John Carter with an even worse movie? In a bomb of sizable proportions, the movie adaptation of the classic Hasbro game manages to take a stupid premise for a movie and make it even dumber, with atrociously bad dialogue and supporting “performances” by Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker. Oh, and there’s aliens for some reason. Nobody sunk this Battleship; it’s just dead in the water.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES — With so much hype, the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was bound to disappoint in some ways. For the most part, though, The Dark Knight Rises is a gloriously epic movie, with ideas and action scenes that are almost too large for just one movie to tackle. Tom Hardy’s Bane may not have been as fascinating a villain as Heath Ledger’s Joker, but Nolan ingeniously makes Bane nearly unintelligible, giving him a mystery and an unpredictability that couldn’t have been achieved otherwise. The ending may try too hard to please everyone, but this is a worthy climax to the greatest superhero movie trilogy to date.
THE DICTATOR — Not as brilliant as Borat but not as awful as Ali G: Indahouse, The Dictator pretty much delivers what it promises. For the first time since before Borat and Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen relies on a script and fellow actors, with mixed results. When the writing works, Admiral General Aladeen’s misadventures in NYC recall the finest moments of Coming to America; when it doesn’t, it makes you miss the refreshing spontaneity of his unscripted comedies. Overall, though, The Dictator succeeds more often than it fails.
MEN IN BLACK 3 — Like most movie trilogies, the third entry proved better than the second, if still not as great as the original. By breaking with the formula, having Agent J travel back to the ‘60s, and making the movie a time travel comedy, the newest Men in Black feels almost as fresh as it did when Will Smith first slipped on those Ray-Bans. Josh Brolin proves just what an adept comedic actor he can be, as well, perfectly imitating Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K’s younger self.
MOONRISE KINGDOM — Wes Anderson is the only modern movie director whose work is instantly identifiable through visual style alone, and his Moonrise Kingdom is no exception. The posed, almost-storybook look he gave earlier movies like The Royal Tenenbaums and Fantastic Mr. Fox works wonderfully here, giving this tale of two runaway children in the 1960s a wonderfully timeless feel. Fans of dry humour will find much to love.
THE PIRATES!: BAND OF MISFITS — The minds behind the Wallace & Gromit series return with another clay-mated piece of brilliance. The jokes fly as fast and frantically as those in Airplane! or The Naked Gun, weaving every possible style of comedy into a delightful tapestry. Top that off with hilarious voice work from the likes of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, and David Tennant, and you get one of the best animated movies in years.
PROMETHEUS — The question of whether or not it’s an Alien prequel was rendered moot by the awesome spectacle of a fantastic sci-fi story with an original voice. Not only is this the most visually impressive movie of the summer, it also intersperses a hearty dose of intelligence amongst its action and terror. Some derided the movie for being too confusing or slow at times, but Prometheus has its aim not at being a monster-of-the-week movie but at standing alongside genre masterpieces 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien. It nearly makes it there.
TED — Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane set his sights on live-action for the first time, with surprising success. He gets good distance out of a seemingly one-note joke. Much like MacFarlane’s TV shows, every scene in Ted continues until the jokes run out of steam, at which point, a new scene begins. The movie takes an odd turn in the last act and runs a good 20 minutes too long, but Ted is certainly the funniest movie of a rather disappointing summer for comedies.