Sean K. Cureton

Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews: 2011’ Category

We Bought A Zoo: Review

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on January 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm

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We Bought a Zoo
3 out of 4 stars
Directed by Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe is probably one of the best American directors working in Hollywood today, primarily because he is also one of the most accessible directors, whose films seem to be made exclusively for the average American moviegoer. Most American moviegoers will probably remember quite fondly Crowe’s 1996 film Jerry Maguire, which was the film where Tom Cruise played a loveable sports agent who, rather naively, decides to become a free agent and build up his own list of clients with the help of another fairly naïve character played by Renee Zellweger, with whom he starts a romantic relationship. While Maguire certainly helped to make Crowe a household name, it was his other films, like his 1989 debut Say Anything or 2000’s auto-biographical release of Almost Famous that showed Crowe to be a great film maker with a true ability to craft great narratives through the medium of film.

Crowe’s newest release, We Bought a Zoo, falls somewhere between the aforementioned categories. Zoo is certainly well-made, and it shows how good Crowe has become over the years at crafting great cinematic stories about relatable characters to an American audience, but at the same time it does seem to fall into the category of Maguire, in that the protagonist, played by Matt Damon, takes on a task naively and falls into a relationship with another character in the film, played by Scarlett Johansson. Like Maguire, Zoo is a very predictable Romantic Comedy that fails to challenge either the audience or Crowe’s abilities as an artist.

Yet, at the same time, Zoo is definitely just as gripping as something like Say Anything, since Damon’s character, named Benjamin Mee, engages with the other characters in the film in a way that is both moving and believable. Like Lloyd Doppler, Benjamin Mee is smart, sweet, and just innocent enough so that his actions don’t feel too scripted, or obviously thought-out by a writer. Thus, Benjamin Mee comes off like someone honestly engaging with the world around him and stumbling along the way.

However, Mee’s stumbles do feel at times to be too easy and archaic. While the film progresses, one can not help but guess what will happen at every step, and for the most part one’s guesses will be completely right. At times in the movie, one wonders whether Crowe knew how to really end the film, or whether he was simply using endings from other films from over the course of his career to help him end this one quickly and cleanly.

Yet, We Bought a Zoo ultimately overcomes its rather tedious plot, if only because of how well written each of the characters are, and how well the characters are acted. Damon exudes warmth as a recent widower trying to reconnect with his kids and the world, Johansson seems more human in this film than ever before, and less like a super beautiful goddess, and Thomas Haden Church is hysterical as Damon’s older brother, providing a performance on par with his equally wonderful performance in Alexander Payne’s Sideways. Even newcomer Maggie Elizabeth Jones is wonderful in this film as Damon’s young daughter, whose cute quips seem to outmatch Maguire’s “cute kid,” played at the time by a young Jonathan Lipnicki.

Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo is a good film, even if it is more on par with something like Jerry Maguire as opposed to his more interesting films like Say Anything and Almost Famous. Yet, Crowe has made more challenging films in the past, which, while being more interesting, are definitely not better than this film, such as 2005’s Elizabethtown. We Bought a Zoo is a good movie, and is one of this reviewer’s favorite films of 2011, even if though it is not one of the best films released this year, or within Crowe’s entire career.


A Revue of Feminism and Violence

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on January 1, 2012 at 10:23 pm

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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
3 1/2 out of 4 stars
Directed by David Fincher

After last year’s The Social Network, one would think that the Academy award nominated director David Fincher might want to take a year or two off before delivering his next feature film. Instead, Fincher decided to immediately delve into his next project, the eagerly anticipated US adaptation of the Steig Larsson novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first book in the Millenium trilogy.

Fincher’s adaptation of Larsson’s novel delivers on every level where the Swedish adaptation, released in 2009, did not. Where the Swedish film was slow, amateurish, and lifeless, Fincher’s film is fast paced, expertly shot and edited together, and has been given the best cast possible. Where the 2009 Swedish film contained only one truly notable performance, given by actress Noomi Rapace as the heroin protagonist Lisbeth Salander, Fincher has put together a cast that is filled with great actors all assigned to a part perfect for each of them to play.

Most notably, casting Daniel Craig as the male protagonist Mikael Blomkvist was a perfect decision, as he breathes humanity into Blomkvist in Fincher’s film, where Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist was dull and questionably breathing at all. Rooney Mara plays Lisbeth Salander, taking over for Rapace, and fills the bill perfectly, while also making the role her own. Where Rapace was considerably older than Mara, and thus played a slightly less innocent looking Lisbeth, Mara’s portrayal of Lisbeth is slightly younger, which makes her character’s tormented and violent personality all the more powerful and shocking when the most distressing scenes in the film arrive.

In addition to the protagonists, Fincher also captured a great performance from Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger, the man who hires Blomkvist to solve a murder case that much of the film revolves around. Plummer was a pitch perfect choice for this role, as was casting Stellan Skarsgard as one of the film’s villains, Martin Vanger. Skarsgard’s portrayal of Martin Vanger is menacing and absolutely frightening, which is exactly what the character calls for.

However, Fincher’s adaptation of Larsson’s novel does not evade one problem that the Swedish film shares with it, being the difficulty of translating the fairly complicated plot into a film under three hours. In the novel, there are two plots, or issues, that are separate from each other in their subjects and goals, but intertwine together due to the involvement of individuals from both plots with one another. In Fincher’s film, the attempt to address both of these plots is a little confusing for the average viewer, as Fincher is forced to explain the complexities of how each plot is resolved in accordance with the other plot in a fairly fast paced, and slightly dizzying final twenty minutes of the film. In the end, one of these plots is given more importance, and time, than the other in Fincher’s film, despite the fact that the other plot is given just as much attention over the course of the entire film.

In conclusion, David Fincher’s US adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo lives up to every bit of the anticipation that has been attributed to it leading up to its release. Fincher’s film adaptation of the best selling novel of the same name is satisfying for fans of the book, and delivers a great thriller that will also satisfy viewers unfamiliar with the Millennium trilogy at all. Despite being encumbered by a story that can get confusing at times, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a great adaptation of one of the best-written murder mysteries of the twenty first century.

Diablo Cody’s Response to Baumbach’s Greenberg

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on December 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm

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Young Adult
3 out of 4 stars
Directed by Jason Reitman

Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody have teamed up again after the success of their 2007 release of Juno, which was one of the best films of that year. Now, with the release of Young Adult, both Reitman and Cody have offered a film that lives up to their previous endeavor, while also allowing them both to evolve as filmmakers.

Where Reitman’s films in the past have been fairly fast paced with polished-looking cinematography, Young Adult seems dialed down, with a slow-paced plot, dependent predominantly on dialogue, and cinematography that is a little less polished, and more realistic looking. Similarly, Cody’s script for this film is not quite so overtly witty or snarky. Instead, much of the dialogue in Young Adult is fairly conventional, and leans more toward the dramatic than the comic. This change is quite surprising at first, but allows for a movie that is ultimately more interesting than Juno, even if it is not a greater film.

Young Adult follows the almost delusional escapades of Mavis Gary, played by Academy award winning actress Charlize Theron, a ghost writer of a nominally popular young adult series of books who returns to her home town to attempt the wooing back of her now married ex-boyfriend Buddy Slade, played by Patrick Wilson, of 2005’s indie release Hard Candy. The fact that Buddy has a new born baby and is obviously devoted to his family doesn’t deter Mavis, who continues to try to woo Buddy despite the moral counsel that is continually offered to her by Matt Freehauf, a crippled geek from Mavis and Buddy’s high school graduating class, played by Patton Oswalt. Inevitably, Mavis’ selfish antics lead to a climactic scene of chaotic confrontation between Mavis, Buddy, Buddy’s wife, and numerous other characters.

While much of the film is very depressing, and a bit slow and hard to watch at times, Reitman and Cody have also made a film that is intellectually stimulating, as the film’s character study of Mavis is very well done and endlessly interesting. Attempting to figure out what it is that makes Mavis the person that she has become is what makes the film so compelling and hard to take your eyes away from, even when her behavior is completely self-absorbed and cruel.

The only thing wrong with the film’s plot comes in at the end of the film, when Mavis almost changes her personality for the better, until Matt’s sister tells Mavis how much she has always looked up to her. The reason why Matt’s sister would look up to Mavis is non-existent. Thus, there is no motive within the film for this final scene to take place. If anything, Matt’s sister should be the person who finally gets Mavis to really open up about herself. Instead, Cody decides to make Matt’s sister another enabler of Mavis’ destructive behavior, despite the fact that such an action towards Mavis is unwarranted, and leaves the viewer unsatisfied and a little confused at the end of the movie as to how to feel about any possible change in Mavis’ character over the course of the film.

In conclusion, Jason Reitman’s Young Adult is satisfying in its delivery of another great Diablo Cody script, especially after Cody’s lackluster script for 2009’s Jennifer’s Body. Young Adult is a great character study film, with stellar performances given by Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, who jointly carry the entire picture. The fact that Theron’s character’s personal change is ultimately denied at the end of the film is admittedly a draw back. However, the rest of the film being so consistently interesting and engaging makes up for the lack of a real conclusion for Mavis’ character.

The Best Feature Film of 2011

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on December 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

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4 out of 4 stars
Directed by Martin Scorsese

The idea of critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese directing a film adaptation of a youth oriented novel sounds ridiculous on paper. On film, however, it may be one of the best ideas that Hollywood has ever conceived.

Based on the novel by writer and illustrator Brian Selznick, Hugo is a film about a young boy named Hugo, played by the young actor Asa Butterfield, whose life as an orphan in a Paris train station in the1930’s leads him to meet the legendary silent film maker Georges Melies, played by Ben Kingsley, among many other notable characters. The way the film presents the story is exceptional, as Scorsese is able to very slowly introduce us to each of the characters involved, and grants each of these characters enough screen time to resolve each of their individual story arcs. In many ways, Hugo feels less like a film, and more like a well-constructed novel, which is a delightful surprise.

Hugo is also one of the most atypical films of Scorsese’s career, given its child oriented material, and its almost magical elements and themes. Instead of directing another gritty and realistic film, Scorsese seems to be calling on all of his experience as a director to craft a film this time that is vastly different in its look and feel than anything he has ever done before. It is definitely not a change of directing style to be taken lightly, but Scorsese’s experience with filmmaking allows Hugo to look easy and unhindered by any unnecessary directing choices, which is a feat that simply could not be done unless a director like Scorcese had made this film.

Hugo is also a great film on film, in that with this film, Scorsese has been given the unusual position and privilege to pay homage to silent film director Georges Melies, and with him all of cinema. When watching Hugo, the viewer is not only being engaged with the film on the screen, but all prior films that helped to inform its production. In other words, Hugo is not only a great movie in and of itself, but is a movie that represents all the great movies that have come before it, and will come after it.

Finally, Hugo boats one of the best ensemble casts of any film this reviewer has seen in a long time. From Ben Kingsley’s excellent portrayal of the director Melies, to Sacha Baron Cohen’s turn as a train station cop intent on placing every orphan he sees, including Hugo, in an orphanage, as well as Asa Butterfield’s wonderful feature film debut and Chloe Moretz as Melies’ goddaughter Isabelle, every performance captured by Scorsese’s camera in this film is nothing short of amazing, and the fact that each of these actors play off of each other so well only makes the performances work better.

In conclusion, Martin Scorsese’s late 2011 release of Hugo is a surprisingly inspired change of pace for Scorsese, which is not only a great film of the year, but also quite possibly the best film of the year. Come Oscar time, it would be a shame if this film were not at least nominated for best picture, even though it should not only be nominated, but win.

Trouble in Paradise

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on December 2, 2011 at 4:04 pm

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The Descendants
4 out of 4 stars
Directed by Alexander Payne

Director Alexander Payne has for a long time now been one of the best directors of film drama. Starting in 1996 with his debut release of Citizen Ruth, which was closely followed by the 1999 release of Election, Payne has been a director who has been able to take a novel, and adapt it so perfectly to the screen that one ever becomes aware of the fact that the plot of his films are not of his own invention. Payne’s films are so seamlessly beautiful and achingly honest that his audience has continued to come out for his subsequent releases, which only got better with 2002’s About Schmidt and 2004’s Sideways.

The Descendants is Alexander Payne’s first feature film in seven years, and it delivers just as much of an emotional wallop as any of his other films. In the film, George Clooney stars as Matthew King, a Hawaiian land heir, who is faced with the difficult decision of either selling the land his family has owned for generations, or keeping the inheritance in the family. To make matters worse, his wife has just landed herself in a coma, leaving Matthew to take care of their two daughters on his own. Things become even worse when Matthew learns from his eldest daughter Alexandra, played brilliantly by young actress Shailene Woodley, that his wife has been cheating on him for a substantial amount of time.

The way the rest of the film is then able to take this fairly conventional drama, and turn it into one of the most humanly funny and tragically beautiful films of this year is what makes Payne one of the best directors working in Hollywood today. The way in which Payne uses his paradise setting as a place that is both beautiful and depressing becomes something that the viewer cannot take his eyes away from while the film is being shown, and it is something that the viewer will carry around with him after he has seen the end. Down to the very last details of the cinematography and the use of Hawaiian music on the soundtrack, Payne has made a film that is so in tune with its own themes, that the audience becomes so completely immersed in the film that the story never feels tired or clichéd, but is consistently and brutally honest.

Payne has also captured one of the best performances of George Clooney’s career in this film, with the only greater performance for Clooney having been delivered in 2009’s Up in the Air, which this reviewer still thinks should have received Best Picture for that year. Clooney’s performance is backed by the stunning performances given by Shailene Woodley as his daughter, Nick Krause as the strangely charming Sid, and Matthew Lillard giving his best performance since Scream, as the man that Clooney’s wife has an affair with. To top it all off, Payne also captures a great performance from Beau Bridges as a greedy uncle, whose laissez faire attitude is reminiscent of Beau’s brother playing the Dude.

In conclusion, Alexander Payne’s 2011 release of The Descendants is Payne’s first film since 2004’s Sideways, and proves to be just as emotionally powerful and humanly funny as any of Payne’s other films. Come Oscar season, Clooney should get a nomination for Best Actor, Payne should get a nomination for Best Director, and the film should receive a nomination for Best Picture. It’s just that good.

A Muppets Revival

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on November 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

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The Muppets
3 ½ out of 4 stars
Directed by James Bobin

In an attempt to revitalize Jim Henson’s Muppet franchise, screenwriters Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller were given quite a challenging task. The last Muppets movie, the 1999 release of Muppets in Space, was fun in its own right, but was also not something that anyone really remembers very well, or would want to view again upon reflection. More importantly, with such a long absence of any major Muppet film or television appearance, one might wonder whether anyone really cares about the Muppets anymore, or if the Muppets are even entertaining in the 21st century.

That being said, the 2011 feature film release of The Muppets is a very successful revival of the Muppet franchise. Depending on the monetary success of the film’s release, it would not be at all surprising if more Muppet films will be on the way.

A large part of what makes The Muppets so great is the care and attention that the writers, Segel and Stoller, obviously paid to make sure that their film would be both worthy of the Jim Henson franchise as well as being faithful to the franchise’s characters. Segel, who wrote and starred in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which Stoller directed, was obviously the perfect choice to write the new Muppet movie, since he is a self-avowed super fan of the Muppets himself. It also doesn’t hurt that director James Bobin had a hand in the film’s creation, as his work on the television show Flight of the Conchords has a sense of humor that seems to lend itself very well to the Muppets style of comedy.

Centering on the lives of two brothers, one of whom is played by Segel, while the other is played by a brand new Muppet named Walter, voiced and manipulated by puppeteer Peter Linz, The Muppets is about how these two brothers grow apart when Walter begins to realize that he is a Muppet and not a human being. Much of the movie has to do with Gary, Segel’s character, and Walter going to California to visit the Muppets studio. Upon finding the studio in disrepair, and about to be sold to oil tycoon Tex Richman, played to a very comedic level by actor Chris Cooper, Gary and Walter decide to round up the old Muppet gang to put on a show to raise the money to save the old studio.

The way in which the movie is able to round up the old Muppet gang is fun and ultimately heart warming, since while the viewer has definitely changed over the years since he has last seen the Muppets on the big screen, Kermit, Fozzie Bear, and the rest of the gang have not changed at all, and instead of getting more cynical like their viewers, they have gotten more genuine and honest, which is something that is very refreshing to see in an age where shows like Jersey Shore abound.

The Muppets also boasts some really great musical numbers, ranging from the barber shop quartet rendition of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, to the Bret McKenzie (one half of Flight of the Conchords) penned Man or Muppet sung expertly by Jason Segel, as well as old classics like Rainbow Connection.

All in all, The Muppets is one of the funniest and most genuine family themed movies to come out this year. Instead of going to see something like the new Twilight movie, or watching reruns of Entourage, or worse yet Jersey Shore, go see The Muppets. You won’t be disappointed.

50/50 Flys but Doesn’t Soar

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on October 5, 2011 at 9:27 pm

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3 out of 4 stars
Directed by Jonathan Levine

50/50, the new movie from director Jonathan Levine, whose only other feature film at this point in time is the stupendous 2008 release of The Wackness, is a movie that is at least interesting, if not mind-blowing, at least entertaining, if not revolutionary, and will be sure to make you laugh and cry even though the bottom line is that the movie is completely predictable from start to finish.

Based on the actual real life experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser, the film follows the path taken by Adam, who is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as he confronts and battles with a rare-form cancer diagnosis. Adam’s best friend Kyle, who in real life was Seth Rogen, and is played in the film by Rogen, helps Adam along the way. The rest of the film is fairly conventional from this point on as far as Dramatic Comedies go, in that Adam’s existence is challenged in funny and tragic ways, and he ultimately comes out on top in the end, and beats the cancer.

While the film is certainly entertaining, and is well performed, it still seems to fall short in the fact that it is so predictable. It’s a good film, but not a great one. Yet at the same time, one finds oneself viewing the film with a certain expectation of where the movie is going to go, and that seems perfectly fine given the fact that the movie is executed quite well for the film that it is. On the other hand, when you think of the fact that the same director who directed this film also directed 2008’s The Wackness, you are forced to acknowledge the fact that while this film worked, it did not offer the same sort of challenge that The Wackness did. While this movie is entertaining and well done, it simply lacks a sort of power to grab its viewer so strongly that the viewer will carry the film around with them after the credits roll.

In conclusion, 50/50 is a good, standard fare Dramatic Comedy that will be sure to please fans of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, as they truly shine in this film. However, it is not a film that will exceed one’s expectations or challenge its audience. Instead, 50/50 offers a pretty good semi autobiographical script, which is edited into a decent film by a talented director, and sometimes that is all that is necessary.

The Planet of the Apes Series Returns

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on August 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2 1/2 out of 4 stars
Directed by Rupert Wyatt

After Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes remake, no one was in any hurry to see another film to continue or renew the series. Fortunately, this summer’s release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the perfect remedy for Burton’s horrid remake, and provides for what could prove to be a completely new and interesting remake of the entire original series.

Set in a time period much like our own, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is about how a young scientist named Will Rodman, played by Academy-award Nominee James Franco, is seeking to find the cure for Alzheimer’s by experimenting with chimpanzees. Unfortunately, his early experiments are shot down after one of the apes attacks his staff out of fear for her child. Will is then given the baby ape, the only ape not put down by his company, and raises it on his own in order to continue his research uninhibited by his boss, Steven Jacobs, played by David Oyelowo.

Eventually, the ape Will takes care of, who he names Caesar, becomes too difficult for him to manage, and he is forced to give him up into the care of an animal reserve run by a character named John Landon and his son Dodge, who are played by Brian Cox and Tom Felton respectively. After being mistreated at the hands of Dodge for several weeks, Caesar inevitably starts an uprising among the apes by the end of the film, and the film ends with a rather ambiguous ending that is obviously meant to indicate to the audience that more films are on the way to continue the story started in this film.

What makes this film so interesting and fun largely has to do with what the effects team at WETA Workshop, the same effects team that brought the Lord of the Rings trilogy to life, was able to achieve in their crafting of the cast of apes in the movie. Starting with Caesar, who was animated entirely from the performance of Andy Serkis, WETA was able to create the first Apes film that featured apes that actually looked like apes. They were then able to manipulate these apes to do anything using performers such as Serkis. At the end of the movie, one simply doesn’t remember many of the human characters, and instead is moved almost entirely by the apes.

In conclusion, Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a success largely due to the compelling performances given by the actors whose movements and facial expressions were used to create the best looking apes this series has ever seen. Andy Serkis, a veteran of the motion capture technology used in the film, should certainly be applauded for his great work in the role of Caesar, the ape who initiates the rise of the apes. While it may not be the best movie of the year, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is certainly a whole lot of fun, and boasts the best special effects that this reviewer has seen in years.

Great Summer Film With No Superheros, Cowboys, Aliens, Smurfs, or Apes

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on August 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm

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Crazy, Stupid, Love.
3 out of 4 stars
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

For the most part, Hollywood is fairly consistent when it comes to churning out average to mediocre romantic comedies on a bi-monthly to monthly basis. With films like Valentine’s Day or any Katherine Heigl film that has come out after Knocked Up, it is very rare for a romantic comedy to come along that breaks away from the average and delivers a story that is fresh and original. Crazy, Stupid, Love. is just that kind of romantic comedy.

The movie starts with Cal and his wife Emily, played brilliantly by Steve Carell and Julianne Moore, at dinner together. Before Cal can even say what he wants for dessert, Emily tells him that she wants a divorce. The rest of the film takes place over the next year of this couple’s life, and how they find their way back into one another’s hearts. Along the way, several other characters find their way into the story, and the ways in which each of these characters ultimately find themselves involved within Cal and Emily’s relationship is an unexpected thrill.

What makes this romantic comedy so special is the way in which each of the actors within the film have been perfectly cast and give performances that make everyone of the characters within the film interesting and more importantly original. In particular, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling shine in their roles as Cal and Jacob, a womanizing bachelor who attempts to gain all his happiness through money alone. Gosling is hysterical and disarmingly pleasant to watch even when he engages in behavior that would otherwise be despicable if it were not for his excellent performance. And Carell is able to match Gosling’s sleaze perfectly as the recently divorced husband who is trying so desperately to forget the fact that he still loves his ex-wife by feigning interest in various women that Jacob introduces him to.

Outside of the Cal and Jacob story, Julianne Moore is also brilliant in her character, who immediately feels a sense of regret at leaving her husband, while trying to find a way to love David Lindhagen, played by Kevin Bacon, a colleague that she slept with while still living with Cal. It would be very easy to go on and describe in detail all of the other notable performances in the film, but then every actor would need to be mentioned as every performance in this film was so great. Instead, names will be mentioned as follows: Emma Stone, Jonah Bobo, and Analeigh Tipton.

In conclusion, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is the best romantic comedy this reviewer can remember seeing within the past four years at least. It boasts a great script, a stellar cast, and characters that are too real to be easily forgotten. Steve Carell delivers his best performance since 2007’s Dan in Real Life, and everyone around him is able to match his performance in spades. Crazy, Stupid, Love. might not have spandex clad demigods, cowboys, aliens, a smurf, or any super intelligent apes, but it does have a heart that beats with the rhythm of the human soul, and that is something that is hard to find in Hollywood today.

The Best Marvel Studios Film of the Summer

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on August 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm

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Captain America: The First Avenger
2 1/2 out of 4 stars
Directed by Joe Johnston

In preparation for next summer’s long awaited adaptation of Marvel’s Avengers comic series, Captain America: The First Avenger has been released in order to introduce Captain into the already created Marvel film universe, and luckily, it’s one hell of an introduction.

Set in 1940’s New York, Joe Johnston’s adaptation of the Captain America comic book hero sets out to tell the tale of how Captain came to be the hero he is, and how he ends up fighting in 2011 as part of the Avengers team. Starting out as a scrawny runt who has failed to pass the medical examination required to enlist in the U.S. Army, Steve Rogers happens to meet a German scientist named Abraham Erskine, played by Stanley Tucci, who turns him into a super soldier that can be used to fight Nazi’s. Inevitably, plans go awry, Erskine is killed, and Steve finds himself pitted against Hugo Weaving’s super villain character called Johann Schmidt, or more notably Red Skull.

What makes Johnston’s superhero movie stand out amidst all the other superhero films released this summer is the fact that his film boasts the best supporting cast of all the other Marvel films of this summer combined. First, there is Stanley Tucci, whose brilliant portrayal of the doctor that brings Captain America into exsistence is very touching. Ultimately, Tucci is probably the best part of the film, and it is just too bad that his character is killed off so early. Next, Tommy Lee Jones is hysterical as the surly Colonel Chester Phillips. Jones’ very presence just seems to lend the film authenticity and substance. And lastly, Hugo Weaving is fantastic as Red Skull, by being able to breathe life into the heavily CGI animated face that he sports for the last quarter of the film.

The other main thing that really sets this film apart from the other Marvel films of this summer is the patriotism and romanticism that is present in this film’s 1940’s setting. Had this film been set entirely within a more contemporary setting, much of its spirit and levity would be lost.

In conclusion, Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger is quite frankly the must-see summer superhero movie of the year. With its varied and talented supporting cast and its 1940’s setting, it truly is the most original film Marvel has to offer this summer.