Sony did its best to shut critics out of early Columbiana screenings, and upon further inspection of the film itself, that was a solid company decision. The film is an utter disaster on nearly every level, the kind of ass-backwards movie experience that seems to run counter to our understood notions of what makes a film “rational,” “comprehensible,” or simply “good.” Perhaps the filmmakers purposefully intended to fly in the face of traditionally sound writing and directorial practices…or, more likely, the movie just plain sucks.
Author Jason McKiernan
Four Lions is a comedy with the potential for wicked bite that all-too-frequently allows itself to meander into softer humanism. Such a transition could work beautifully if the filmmakers’ hearts were in it, but the end result is too indecisive to commit to a consistent tone. What we’re left with is a film of conflicted characters and conflicted tonal ideas – the characters aren’t sure they want to go through with their plan, and the filmmakers aren’t sure if they want to make a black satire, a genial human comedy, or a frantic tale of tragedy. Of all modern filmmakers, I think only Pedro Almodovar can pull off all of those in the same movie – and unfortunately, British humorist Chris Morris hasn’t quite reached that level.
After a while, I just had to give in and let Fright Night bite me. My advice to you: don’t even try to resist. Let the kink and kitsch wash over you from the opening organ notes of Ramin Djawadi’s rollicking score, which rings in like a creepy-thrilling overture indicating precisely what we’re in for. This is a wild haunted house of a movie, full of jump cuts, overt creepiness, and an ever-present smirk on its face that lets us in on the joke – every element of horror is utterly ridiculous, so why not just revel in it?
There are moments of Crazy, Stupid, Love. that sing as beautifully as any other film this year. There are performances of wonderful nuance and versatility. Once, in the midst of the film’s best scene, when intimacy and intensity are pulling with equal strength, I snapped out of my trance and had to briefly acknowledge how deeply the film was affecting me. There are moments here that are that special. And then there’s a lot of surface-level, studio-friendly padding that tethers the movie to the ground when it should be soaring to the heavens. Not many things are more infuriating than a potentially great film that is re-worked into just being ‘good.’
In spite of its tumultuous journey as a cinematic franchise, Planet of the Apes truly is quite ripe for a prequel. “Just how the hell did those apes come to control the planet?” was perhaps a question many audience members asked themselves as the first film came to a close. Behold your answer: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is the only solid Apes installment since the original. It is also – alongside Captain America: The First Avenger – one of only two successful non-comedy Big Summer Blowout movies.
Beginners offers a greater insight into humanity than any film I’ve seen in 2011. This is not because it mirrors my life experience in the slightest, because it doesn’t. In point of fact, many of its thematic and stylistic eccentricities preclude it from that oft-mentioned film critic category of “realistic.” Realism is not the film’s stock-in-trade. But it masters authenticity for these unique characters, in this beautifully realized cinematic world.
In a summer filled with surprising and engaging comedies (Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses, and Friends with Benefits among them), The Change-Up feels like the runt of the litter…or perhaps I should refer to it as the hideously-rendered CG black-eye on the summer comedy landscape, since the film is so oddly fond of employing bad effects work when CG isn’t even necessary. The bad CG use is indicative of the problematic nature of the movie as a whole, which can’t even manage to be engaging about how pointless and stupid it is.
Captain America: The First Avenger is the best non-comedy film of summer 2011. Read: here we have the first and only strong action-laden comic book adaptation of this season, a minor godsend in the midst of heinous sequels, lame comic adaptations, and overblown action epics.
For a movie with a kitschy-verve title like Cowboys and Aliens, the resulting film sure is flaccid and joyless, without even a hint of spice. Rare is the instance when a film directed by Jon Favreau – he of the comics-inspired joy of Iron Man, the ode to edgier children’s adventure films that was Zathura, and the celebration of Rankin-Bass holiday cheer in Elf – comes across leaden, dispirited, and boring. Cowboys and Aliens, however, accomplishes all three; it is the unfortunate exception to Favreau’s career.
When one encounters a CG-meets-live action version of The Smurfs, one should be fully aware of what to expect walking into the theater. It will be mildly stupid with brief, infrequent descents into more offensively stupid territory. There will be lots of puns, most of them capped with the word “smurf” used as an adjective, verb, or both. Madcap adventure and goofball comedy will give way to an earnestly good-hearted conclusion. Emotions will be sweetly insipid and pour over the audience in abundance. Credits will roll. Sweet little kids will walk out loving it. Their cynical older siblings will roll their eyes and talk trash. And critics like me will lambaste the poor sap of a movie with nasty verbal barbs, some of which are deserved and others that are totally unwarranted.