It's that time again: summer movie season! And once again we're back to go through this summer's slate of motion pictures and pre-judge them based on trailers, hype and other factors. Join us in the comments section to talk about the May and June releases, and check back at Comics Bulletin for Part Two!
Nick Hanover: There's a lot at stake with Marvel's Avengers film. For one, it's the culmination of the work of Marvel Studios, which has been crafting franchises for the individual Avengers leading up to this release, with hits of varying degrees devoted to Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and, most recently, Captain America himself. But it's also the first team superhero film that features stars of other franchises, all set within the universe of those franchises, making for a grand continuity experiment that could very well change the game for superhero franchises on the whole. As great as the first two X-Men films were, they were self-contained and the attempts to build individual franchises out of that series — namely that wretched X-Men Origins: Wolverine — haven't fared as well as expected. And the Fantastic Four films, while popular, don't feature characters suited for solo adventures. Personally, I'm optimistic about The Avengers' chances, even if there are plenty of naysayers out there already trumpeting its imminent failure. Joss Whedon is at the helm and outside of being a guy who knows how to handle large ensemble casts, he's also a comic fanatic who has penned excellent arcs for the X-Men and the Runaways amongst others. On top of that, this cast is insane, it's like the comic geek equivalent of those holiday-themed romantic comedies.
Danny Djeljosevic: Do you guys remember the days when Sam Jackson showed up at the end of Iron Man and we all wondered how the hell they could pull off an Avengers movie? The sheer fact that it's happening is impressive, but if Marvel studios doesn't stick the landing with this film, it will make films like Iron Man 2 and Thor — both of which were marred by excessive set-up for THIS movie — seem like complete wastes. A bunch of comic people and web critics have caught early screenings, and by all accounts The Avengers is a great action flick. Now it's just a matter of seeing what kind of box office records it breaks.
Dylan Garsee: I liked the first Iron Man, but all of the other Marvel-based comic book movies just seemed to phone it in, like the film equivalent of Top 40 pop music. For every Justin Timberlake (Iron Man), there seems to be a million lame-ass knock-offs (Captain America, Thor). I'm excited to see what sort of magic Joss Whedon will inject into the Avengers, but I for one am not overly excited for this movie. I'll see it because I'm bored, not because I want to.
Nick: In other words, Dylan will only be watching it because he works at the Drafthouse.
Dylan: Dylan will only be watching it so he knows when there's a quiet point in the movie for him to take your sweet sweet money.
Death of a Superhero
Nick: Death of a Superhero seems to share some eerie similarities with the mostly forgotten Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, which similarly injected its "heart-warming yet dark" coming of age story with comic-style animation. In the case of that film, the animation came courtesy of Todd McFarlane, and the film was marginally better than the book, which was admittedly not so great in the first place. Death of a Superhero's hook seems to center around Andy Serkis not being a CGI monster. Wait, I meant that its hook is that it's about the tragedy of a young person being afflicted with a horrible disease. So upon further reflection, it's actually Unbreakable meets 50/50 but with Irish accents. Which sounds about as appealing to me as watching the infamous gorilla episode of Misfits over and over for two hours.
Dylan: This felt like last year's It's Kind of a Funny Story, but replace the American accents with Irish, the mental hospital setting with Ireland, and Zach Galifianakis with Smeagol, and you have Death of a Superhero. While it's nice to see a heartwarming movie every once in a while, this one looks like it's pumped with artificial sweetener.
Danny: I'm a sucker for coming-of-age movies, so I'd totally watch Death of a Superhero on Netflix Instant. Is that damning with faint praise?
Nick: I don't have the same hang-ups about a musty but beloved series getting reinterpreted for the modern era that a lot of people seem to have. I remember Dark Shadows from the years my mom spent trying to convince me it was interesting despite all the evidence to the contrary (sorry, give me the Addams Family or the Munsters any day of the week) and even as a kid it seemed ripe for ridicule. So that said, my concerns about Dark Shadows have nothing to do with "OMG WHAT HAVE THEY DONE" and everything to do with my experiences with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp in the 21st Century. Depp is almost always fun no matter what crap he's landed in in order to give his kids something to watch, but the last time the two got together for something of this nature it was the dreck that was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. Both of those were updates of one sort or another and despite looking relatively good, they had no substance or value to them, particularly Alice. Dark Shadows, based on the trailer alone, already seems more lively, but I don't feel confident enough in Burton anymore to go out and see this around release day.
Dylan: Dark Shadows seems to be following the same path that the recent 21 Jump Street movie went down in that it used existing characters to make something completely new, and I find that excellent in an era of film where everything feels like producers pressing CTRL-C. While he may never be able to return to the peaks of Ed Wood and Big Fish, Dark Shadows feels just right for the modern day Tim Burton: cla
ssic, dark and campy as shit.
Danny: First of all, I would like to submit that Ed Wood is Tim Burton's only good movie. As for Dark Shadows… the moment I heard Burton and Depp were adapting a campy vampire soap opera, I figured its purest form would be the inevitable T-shirt at Hot Topic. So, I find the fact that Dark Shadows looks to be a goofy, Beetlejuice-esque affair to be refreshing. Still, we're talking Tim Burton, so I'm going to wait on this one until someone I trust tells me it's really, really good.
Danny: A lot of these jokes seem really, really cheap, but that track running scene at the end is glorious. If The Dictator maintains that kind of comic absurdity, it might be a laff and a half. If it has more "_____ Movie"-esque Kardashian jokes, then it will be pretty much what I expect.
Dylan: I've seen this trailer enough times to where I have almost memorized it.
Nick: I never got around to seeing Bruno, but at this point, Sacha Baron Cohen's films are almost experienced as much through the publicity as they are the movie itself. And The Dictator may be the apex of that concept, as it's arguably already the most devastating attack by the Jewish people on their enemies since the Six-Day War.
Dylan: I'm not even going to pretend I'm smart enough to get that reference, but it's really sad to see someone so brilliant rehash the same jokes for the past 10 years. Da Ali G show was brilliant, Borat was probably one of my favorite comedies of this millenium, Bruno was an entertaining disappointment and this just looks sad.
Nick: That's the thing, though. Is it even for comedy anymore? If Bruno was a way of making homophobes queasy and uncomfortable in a gigantic public setting, with its commercial success in many ways a bigger achievement for gay rights than much of the activism at the time, The Dictator seems tailor made to mock the bogeyman of fundamentalist terrorism. And sadly, that might be a more successful attack than the full extent of US foreign policy over the last two decades.
Dylan: I don't even think the movie will be smart enough to do that. I think it's just a dilution of the proven formula that SBC is used to and he's gone from making comedy to making money.
Nick: Oh, I don't doubt it's a cash grab. But it's a cash grab that has the potential power to prove through its box office receipts that people are no longer scared of terrorism, which in turn potentially indicates that the American people are less interested in sacrificing the Bill of Rights in order to defend against shadow threats.
Dylan: Sacha Baron Coen is Ron Paul. I knew it.
Nick: Because, hey, who the fuck needs original stories anymore? We've got a film adaptation of Battleship coming out, helmed by none other than Peter Fucking Berg. I not only have no idea what this film is about (aliens create the Battleship equivalent of those chess games played with human pieces?), I have no idea why this has the Battleship title thrown over the top. It's not like people play Battleship for the (non-existent) story, so why even waste the money getting the licensing rights when you could just, I don't know, make it its own damn thing?
Danny: This is a direct result of Hasbro's success in getting those Transformers movies made. But here's why I think a Battleship movie isn't that big a deal: they made an "original" story out of the directive of "Hey, make this board game into a movie." I shall maintain that if this exact movie was coming out under some other title (say, Battle of the Depths or Sailors vs. Aliens) we'd just be complaining that this was another big-budget piece of armed forces recruitment propaganda.
Nick: I shouldn't complain. After all, thanks to the predicted success of Battleship, Dylan and I have now been asked to adapt Operation, which we have turned into a torture porn film where that red glowing nose means your friend is about to explode and take out an entire city block with him.
Dylan: At least the Operation movie has something to do with the board game which it's based off of. Unless a large chunk of dialogue is "YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!", this movie has no reason to be called Battleship. And if Rihanna sings at any point in this movie, I will walk out.
Danny: If they actually adapt the basic idea of the board game so that the alien ships have stealth capabilities that force the Navy to blindly figure out where the enemy is, I will give this movie FIVE STARS on principle.
Men in Black 3
Nick: Finally, the origin of that talking pug is revealed!
Dylan: That is the secret beyond the secrets of the Universe.
Danny: The original Men in Black is a hoot (from what I remember), but I DESPISED the sequel. This installment at least looks like it's trying to be more than a rehash of the first one, so I'll give it credit for that.
Dylan: I was never a fan of the MIB series, but this just seems like a fun little summer blockbuster that doesn't take itself too seriously. And anything with Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords is a-okay in my book.
Nick: The MiB series is more or less the definition of popcorn moviemaking. There's nothing great about it, but when it's 100 degrees out and you just want to sit in the air condition and drink soda and eat popcorn until you can't move anymore, not much is better to zone out to than this.
Dylan: The cinema equivalent of a nap. And no one hates naps.
Danny: I don't care for napping.
Nick: Heheh. BOOBS.
Dylan: More like FISH. Amirite?
Nick: I'm finding it difficult to actually say anything bad about Piranha 3DD, because it is so firmly committed to absolute stupidity that it may as well just have a self-defense tagline of "No, YOU'RE stupid." Its cast is mostly comprised of comedians and strippers. It has a dumb boob joke for a title. It is completely immune to any criticism you could possibly levy against it.
Dylan: There's no way of critiquing this movie without seeming like a pretentious douche. The only way to critique a movie is whether or not it accomplished what it intended, and judging on the trailer, I think it has achieved its goal of being completely over the top. So naturally, it'll be the best movie ever.
Danny: Piranha 3DD's predecessor (Piranha 3D, natch) had Alexandre Aja at the helm, which made for an over-the-top horror-comedy with some serious gore. I haven't seen Feast or its sequels, so I don't know if director John Gulager and his Feast/late-period Saw sequel screenwriters can deliver anything close to that [Feast is fucking awesome. Never forget. -ed], but we can surely expect at least a dumber, louder version of Piranha 3D.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Danny: I was all ready to write this screed about how, considering Immortals and this Snow White movie, it looked like Tarsem had given up on making artful, visually arresting films. But then I watched the trailer and GODDAMN this looks like the cure for every piss-filtered action movie that has a giant robot making a Dubsteppy BWOMMMM sound. [I didn't have the heart to tell Danny this Snow White film isn't the one Tarsem Singh directed, that would be Mirror Mirror. This one is directed by newcomer Rupert Sanders. -ed.]
Nick: Sure, there are about five million Snow White-related projects out there at the moment. But how many of them look like they're part of the Elder Scrolls series?
Dylan: Of the two Snow White movies of 2012, this one looks much more enjoyable than the rushed and irreverent-for-the-sake-of-being-irreverent Mirror Mirror — which was directed by Tarsem Singh, who did The Cell, which is pretty much the opposite of Mirror Mirror. Snow White and the Huntsman looks like how the fairy tales these days should be told: action packed and starring Charlize Theron.
Danny: Who here saw Tarsem's The Fall? This movie looks like that but with slightly more mainstream sensibilities. SOLD.
Nick: The biggest obstacle that Snow White and the Huntsman has really isn't even the fact that there's some serious Snow White saturation going on right now but that someone decided it was a good idea to cast Kristen Stewart in the lead role of a film where she's supposed to be a charismatic hero for the common people.
Dylan: I like that she seems kind of brooding the the trailer. If she was charismatic in any way, she'd stick out in the world of melodrama that this movie seems to take place.
Nick: Fair enough. But Robb Stark is brooding and intense and also a hero for the common people. And he manages to make more than one expression.
Dylan: I am Robb Stark. Here me mumble. 😐
Nick: That is Kristen Stewart's acting career in a nutshell right there in that emoticon.
Danny: I think Kristen Stewart is okay in movies where she isn't obviously getting stoned between takes. At least, I liked Adventureland (going back to my love for coming-of-age stories).
Dylan: I've seen this trailer exactly 1000 times, and this is about to be 1001
Nick: Is it an Alien prequel? Is it something new? Who gives a fuck, it looks amazing.
Danny: I actually hope it's NOT an Alien prequel, just because we could seriously use some new sci-fi in the world. Ignoring the fact that this is by Ridley Scott, whose last major contribution to sci-fi was conceptual design porn masquerading as story, I'm approaching this the same way I approached Inception: disregard the hype, have no expectations and then get blown away when the thing finally comes out.
Dylan: It's like this movie was made for me. Charlize Theron? Check. Idris Elba? Check. Noomi Rapace? Check. Micael Fassbender? Check. Ridley Scott? Check. That screeching bird sound that makes me diarrhea myself every time I watch this trailer? Check. My only hope is that this movie is six hours long.
Nick: My hope for this film is that it does so well, it gets sent back in time and somehow kills Avatar.
Dylan: Or Alien Resurrectiopn.
Nick: It just keeps going back in time, killing films.
Dylan: Until it kills Ridley and none of the Alien movies are made and Prometheus isn't made and what.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Nick: An intelligent, thought provoking examination of Abraham Lincoln's status as our first gay president. HAHA JK Fuck the biopic, what we really need is a stupid faux-revisionist history interpretation of Lincoln as a white Blade directed by the asshat who turned Wanted into a movie about weaving.
Dylan: There is nothing more in the world that I want than to see this movie never exist. It's going to be a stupid movie that attracts the kind of people that thought Sucker Punch was a good movie, that go on 9gag because they think that shitty rage comics are funny, and that if they were to get married, it would probably be zombie themed because they're so original and quirky and and zombies are cool lol. The same kind of people who hate Justin Beiber because he's popular, but love Pink Floyd because "Dark Side of the Moon is an experience, man". The kind of people that think How I Met Your Mother is the best comedy on TV and Scrubs is the best show ever. The same people who put "Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan on their Facebook every week and have a mixtape full of overplayed Queen and Journey songs labeled "Epic Mix." Basically the same people who think they're smarter than everyone else, but in fact are just as dumb as the unwashed masses. Goddammit.
Nick: If there's any justice in the world, this film will be a massive flop and we won't have to see these kind of LOL MONSTERS & HISTORICAL FIGURES LOL mash-ups ever again.
Dylan: I really hope so.
Danny: Maaan, you guys couldn't be more wrong if you got Associate's Degrees from Wrongtown Community College. What sells me on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the trailer's total straightfaced-ness. It doesn't let on that a big-budget action movie about Honest Abe murdering vampires is silly and laughable and that just makes the whole thing funnier. And the fact that it's directed by real-life Kazakh lunatic Timur Bekmambetov just sweetens the deal for me, for I love his particular brand of stupid, viscerally appealing filmmaking. But I will agree on this point: I seriously hope that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter flops just to prevent idiot bandwagoners from making stuff like Martin Luther King: Mummy Lover.
Nick: It's Pixar. 'nuff Said.
Dylan: After the fabulous failure that was Cars 2, Pixar seems to be returning form with what seems to be a carbon copy of the best non-Pixar animated movie in a while, How to Train Your Dragon.
Nick: How to Train Your Daughter?
Dylan: 8 Simple Rules for Training your Teenage Daughter.
Nick: The only thing that concerns is me that the trailer does make it seem like this film is influenced by the Dreamworks animation style, with its wonky human characters and nonstop jokes about going commando in a kilt. Hopefully that's just some terrible marketing and not a sign of what's to come.
Dylan: Or maybe Pixar is going the way of in-house Disney films in the '90s.
Danny: I guarantee you Disney is scared to death of releasing this movie. The company with the same marketing department that practically begged you not to see John Carter? And now they're releasing a more "serious," action-oriented Pixar movie with a female protagonist? You better believe they cut a trailer with the goofiest jokes in it to undercut all that gravitas. I'm shocked they didn't dub over the Scottish accents while they were at it — y'know, just in case.
Speaking of dubbing, you should watch the Japanese trailer for a dramatically different view of the material:
G.I. Joe Retaliation
Dylan: Hmmm, this looks interesti — Is that a dubstep remix of "Seven Nation Army"? I quit.
Nick: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does it bother you that they use an awful remix of "Seven Nation Army"?
Dylan: More than there are numbers.
Nick: On the plus side, RZA is in it.
Dylan: Even RZA can't save what this movie will inevitably be.
Nick: That's the best I can do.
Dylan: And the best you can do is half the battle. And the other half is war.
Nick: At least Joseph Gordon-Levitt managed to escape this franchise?
Dylan: I'm Ron Burgundy?
Nick: I don't know what we're shouting about?
Danny: Since I've been the naysayer/devil's advocate so far (mostly), I may as well continue. I'm not gonna lie, you guys: I love G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. Barring the Jean-Claude Van Damme Street Fighter and Megaforce, that was exactly what a G.I. Joe movie should have been like — all ridiculous underground bases and characters with names like Dr. Mindbender. The fact that the sequel drops such weak links as Stephen Sommers and Marlon Wayons only to replace them with Jon M. Chu (also not gonna lie: I also loved Step Up 3D), The Rock, the RZA and the Ray Stevenson has me way more excited than I should be for a movie about toys that I only casually liked as a kid. And they put fucking Tunnel Rat in this movie? The character based on Larry Hama? That's amazing.
Also, the part where they put up Cobra flags on the White House fills me with glee.
Part Two coming soon! Check Comics Bulletin for updates!
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmake
r (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His newest projec, the webcomicThe Ghost Engine with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.
Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon and you can follow him on twitter @Nick_Hanover