Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Movie Roundup - Transformers, Thor, Captain America

Since I don't have to be to work until 4:00 pm tomorrow and I really don't feel like going to bed quite yet (give me five minutes, maybe), I'm going to do something I've meant to do since the 4th of July and that is review movies I've seen this summer.  I've already reviewed Harry Potter, so I will skip that one and proceed with the others, starting with the dumbest one first -

SPOILER WARNING for "Transformers: Day of the Moon," "Captain America: The First Avenger" and "Thor"

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Punch me in the face, this movie is horrible!

The only reason I even saw Transformers was that our little two-screen movie theater back home had a matinee for the 4th of July (they almost never do that) and my only other option was "Cars 2."  Since I found the premise of a second "Cars" movie rather pointless (the first one was so good - why ruin it with a sequel?  Oh, wait... Disney... that's right...)  I supposed I didn't have to see a movie that day, but it was the principle of the thing.

Full Disclosure - I haven't seen any of the other Transformers movies, so I was at a loss at quite a few things Like, why in the world is this porn star dating this geeky kid?  (No, seriously - at the beginning, I thought that girl was a hooker he'd paid with all his millions of dollars the government gave him for saving the world in the previous movies.  Or something).  However, I have seen some Michael Bay movies (it's anyone's guess why I would do such a thing) so I more or less knew what to expect.

I wish this hadn't have been a Michael Bay thing.  Because the Transformers (forgive me - I'm not into this fandom, so I don't know the proper terms for the different factions of alien robots) have such interesting backstories!  Or, at least, I think they do.  I don't know.  Because the movie dispensed with any useful information in favor of an HOUR LONG battle sequence in the finale (did I mention it lasted an hour?  I timed it).  Also - how in the world could any human survive falling out of shattering glass buildings?  Even my disbelief can't be suspended for that much.  I could maaaaaybe buy Hooker Girl running through a warzone in ten-inch heels.  Maybe.

One more thing - Shia LaBeouf is NOT an action star.  I'm sorry, but every time I see him, I see goofy Louis Stevens from the old Disney Channel show "Even Stevens."  He and Jon Heder could probably make a pretty decent comedy movie, but I never want to see this kid in an action movie ever again.  Ever. Again. (will I get my wish? Probably not).

Captain America: The First Avenger

Ever since my high school buddies and I caught the first "Spider-Man" movie on opening weekend, I have been a sucker for comic book movies.  Even having never really been a reader of actual comic books, I love the humanizing side of these characters and I think this is something the Marvel movies have done well (yes, I know Spider-Man isn't exactly under the Marvel Studios - it's with Sony - but go with me here).  While I enjoyed Christopher Nolan's Batman movies (and I hope he does something decent with Superman because the Man of Steel deserves a good movie), the DC movies haven't been as captivating.  But with the Iron Man movies, Marvel has something really intriguing going on here, so I was excited for this.

I was also a bit nervous.  Because I didn't want Captain America to be this hokey mockery of patriotism.  I was afraid that the filmmakers would make Cap into this jokey cartoonish guy that no one took seriously.  The number one thing the filmmakers did right was setting this movie during World War II and Steve Rogers is this kid who just wants to fight for his country.  Not in this wide-eyed idealistic way - he just can't stand bullies (which, I think sums up America's involvement in World War II pretty nicely).  And while parts of the movie addressed the fact that Captain America could have been this farcical character, he eventually is allowed to become the hero that the country and the world needs at that moment.  But even while he's the hero, he's still kind of this kid from Brooklyn who hangs on to his principles and ideals.  Mad props to Chris Evans for playing a character who, while a bit naive, still had the gravitas necessary to pull off the hero schtick. I am excited to see how his character and personality fit in with the 21st century Avengers.

(Also - a big hand to the ensemble dark horse, Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Phillips.  I didn't know he was going to be in this movie, but I enjoyed his character a lot.  My personal favorite is when the Colonel and his boys are fighting it out with HYDRA and one of the HYDRA mooks says "Cut off one head, two more..." Colonel Phillips blasts the guy and says "Let's go find two more!"  Vintage TLJ and it's brilliant).


Maybe it's my Scandinavian heritage, but this was the movie I was most looking forward to seeing this summer.  For a while, I thought the studios were going to have "Thor" play second fiddle to "Captain America" - you know, release "Thor" at the beginning of the summer just as the opening act to the main event in "Captain America."  As such, I figured they would sort of cheapy-up on the God of Thunder and bank on the hype for later.

Oh, how wrong I was.

First of all, Asgard is positively gorgeous! (scenery porn, anyone?)  I love that the movie spends so much time there and explaining who the Asgardians are and how important they are to human history. Big thumbs up for the "Ancient gods are really aliens with and magic-that's-really-science" premise.  It's probably been done before, but I haven't seen it, so I think it's pretty original and I liked it.  I love the family dynamic between Odin, Thor and Loki (really, I could have just watched an entire movie with those three reading the phone book.

Also - just the right amount of sappy love story.  I think all the Marvel movies do the romance well - just enough to serve the larger story - but for some reason, the balance in "Thor" caught my attention more than in any of the others.  Probably because Jane and Thor's relationship wasn't the driving force behind the story, but it was there and I didn't feel insulted by it and I even felt a little sad at the end - I hope the Rainbow Bridge gets fixed!

Oh yeah - the Rainbow Bridge.  When you think "Rainbow Bridge," don't you think of the multi-colored tiled track in Mario Kart Racing that we all hate because there are no side walls?  But I liked the way the graphics guys designed that to be all swirly and pretty and not stupid-looking at all.  Like I said, Asgard was really cool-looking, but special mention must go to the Rainbow Bridge.

Best line of the movie: After a night of drunken merriment, Thor has to carry Dr. Selvig home.  Of his drinking buddy and their evening's activities, Thor says: "We drank, we fought, he made his ancestors proud!"

The Bottom Line: Marvel hits two out of the park. Michael Bay just leaves the park. Can't wait for "The Avengers" next year!

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