The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (August 19)

Good news: The latest Spider-Man sequel is hitting the shelves earlier than anticipated. 

Bad news: it’s because it under-performed in almost every way it could have.

Yes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had high hopes dropped on its shoulders from the start and couldn’t live up to it all. But despite its glaring problems, it’s still one of the most fun movies this summer, mess and all. If you can push past the fragmented scripting, mishandled villains and clear evidence of studio/producer meddling, there are many moments of pure elation in the Marc Webb-helmed follow up.

Stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are more electric together on screen than the villain of the piece and every single Spider-Man sequence visually hits it out of the park. Never before has the fun and energy of being Spider-Man been better conveyed. And, even if it wasn’t properly built up to, the last 20 minutes of the movie are a gut punch the likes of which we normally don’t see in blockbuster entertainment.
While Sony hasn’t scrapped all future plans by any means (Sinister Six is now on for November 2016, with ASM 3 releasing in 2018), that doesn’t mean this franchise isn’t in trouble and they know it. If there was any listening to reason, the head honchos would keep their nose out of the editing room, let Marc Webb do his thing, and cut loose a certain producer who has led these movies astray for some time.
Luckily, each edition of ASM 2 comes with a better than average amount of special features, including featurettes on the awesome visual effects of the film and filmmaker commentary. But the big daddy among them, and perhaps key in shifting perception of the film, is the 13 deleted scenes from the film, many of which include scrapped plotlines that could have fleshed the film out more. The same thing happened with the first movie and this one look to be no exception.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available for pre-order now at $19.99.
Buy It

Godzilla (September 16)

Speaking of films that had a lot of hopes and anticipation riding on them, Gareth Edwards’ update on the king of monsters also didn’t get quite the welcome wagon they were expecting. 
But rather than decry it as a bad movie, most people were left scratching their heads, wondering “when does the big guy show up?”
Devoted superfans (or maybe just time-savvy individuals) have clocked the estimated screen time of Godzilla in this latest movie at nine minutes and 49 seconds. That’s a surprisingly short amount of time for a two hour film named after the character. It’s easy to see Edwards trying to emulate the restraint of films like Jaws and Jurassic Park in revealing the monster.
However, you need something to keep the interest up in between all the monster business. That’s where this film falters a bit. All 10 minutes of Godzilla are pretty darn cool but the human characters are largely flat, joyless archetypes and are more serviceable than endearing.
What keeps the film’s head above water is that Edwards knows how to get just the right tone out of the film and crafts some suspenseful set pieces with the rampaging M.U.T.Os and their fearsome EMP blasts. Where payoff is sparing, tension and scale are left to carry the piece.
It’s honestly hard to predict how new viewers will react to this one, whether it be them appreciating the tone and risks the movie takes or just continually checking their watches. As such, it’s better to recommend a rental first for newbs, just to make sure. If you dig it, the blu-ray editions have the requisite Warner Bros. amount of special features and should hold enough hi-def glory to make it worth while.

Godzilla is available for pre-order now at $22.99.

Rent first, buy later

Little could we have guessed that while Spider-Man was tangling its web in reboot complexities and Marvel was focusing on expanding and yucking it up, X-Men would sneak past them and become the most consistently satisfying superhero franchise around.

Sure, it took a few embarrassing mistakes getting there, but with X-Men: Days of Future Past, the series cements itself in greatness while paving the way for newer and better things.
Days of Future Past is like watching a harmonic convergence between old and new. The veterans return to remind us what we loved about the originals, while the new blood expands on what soared in First Class (the Xavier/Magneto dichotomy) and teases some great new avenues (Quicksilver). Best of all, there’s one hell of a solid story to back up this seemingly daunting effort.

There are just so few, minuscule places this passing of the torch goes wrong. It’s certainly not in performances (stellar), effects (polished) or tone (full of gravitas). Bryan Singer seems to be the only weak-ish chain, as the man is not as strong in visuals and action as he is in character studies and performances. A more colorful palette might have benefited the past scenes as well, but neither gripe makes much of a dent in the overall picture.

World started circling last month that an extended cut of the film would be released, and while that’s confirmed to be true, it looks like it won’t be released until sometime next year. Until then, fans will have to be content with a few deleted scenes on this blu-ray version, reportedly including Ana Paquin’s much-publicized cut scenes as Rogue, as well as a few other special feature goodies. The biggest missing piece of the regular blu-ray edition is a lack of a DVD copy, which, sadly, seems to be less of a given these days.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is available for pre-order now at $22.99.

Buy it

Maleficent (November 4)

When things are all said and done, Maleficent will no doubt have the strongest legs of any film this summer. The re-imagining of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale is entering its 11th week in the box office top 10, longer than any other film released since May. Domestic and foreign grosses have pushed it past heavy hitters like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in global earnings and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping there.
Success like that is nothing short of impressive. It’s just a shame it had to come with this movie, for which there is no higher compliment than “meh”.
For being a story immersed in magic, there’s surprisingly little of it felt throughout Maleficent. All heart and ingenuity are thrown out so Disney and their production designer director can focus on what apparently matters most: dumping tons of visual effects on screen for hokey battle scenes and overdone fairy comedy.

Angelina Jolie certainly looks the part, but only occasionally gets to live up to it, as the humanizing “she’s not so bad when you understand her” angle once again manages to make a character less interesting than they were. One or two scenes are the exception to a film where the main character is nothing close to how we remember her.    

There’s nothing really to hate about Maleficent — there’s also nothing that deserves distinct praise about it. It’s just consistently stale; a concept that should be full of life but just goes through it’s required, banal motions. It just exists.

Rent it if you must

The Rest:

Neighbors (September 23)

Million Dollar Arm (October 7)

Blended (August 26)

A Million Ways to Die in the West (October 7)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s