The transition from summer spectacular to fall failure can be as jarring as this roundup’s title. Heroic space thugs, big-brained simians, deformed kung-fu reptiles, and in-and-out-of-costume super heroes/heroines all offer young adult peril for the young and adult. As in the past, when the stars are at war, we’ll need some Guardians of the Galaxy (Rotten Tomatoes – Metacritic).
“You’ll laugh because the jokes are good, you’ll clap because the action is awesome, but you’ll get emotional because you truly care about the characters.” Devin Faraci Badass Digest
You’ll be ordered to do things and you’ll like it.
“The film seems content to be the class clown of the Marvel Universe, which is all well and good. But like most class clowns, sometimes you wish it would apply itself — because it seems capable of being so much more.” New York Magazine (Vulture) Bilge Ebiri
“Guardians boasts not one, but two Han Solo proxies — not to mention an ass-kicking Princess Leia surrogate, a villain with a very Sithian fashion sense, and the flora answer to Chewbacca. Also, one of the Han Solo types is a talking raccoon.” The A.V. Club A.A. Dowd
So, it’s Star Wars without the Jedi?
“If blockbusters are the cinematic equivalent of junk food, then 2014 has been a goddamn ice-cream sundae, and Guardians is the bright, sickly sweet cherry sitting on top.” Adam Ross The Aristocrat
Next up, those multi-colored, mostly-inedible, sprinkles you wish you’d left off your summer sundae. If only the eye candy tasted like actual candy, instead of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Rotten Tomatoes – Metacritic).
“A dark, shaky, standard-issue superhero picture.” Philadelphia Inquirer Steven Rea
Defining a film as ‘standard issue superhero’ is as constructive as reused tape. Since most film protagonists are super, and we like hero-centric narratives, almost every action movie is a super hero movie (costume optional). Consider the super-ness, hero-ness, and costume-ness of the following characters: Indiana Jones, John Rambo, Gandalf, Jason Bourne, John McClane, Dirty Harry, Harry Potter, James Bond, and any movie with Chuck Norris.
“If TMNT the franchise is going to reach the same lofty heights of blockbuster-dom, it still needs to find its own inner hero.” The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Cliff Lee
“If nothing else, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reminds us that nostalgia is often used as a mandate for spectacularly lazy filmmaking.” RogerEbert.com Simon Abrams
Be advised, this reminder costs $12.
“It can’t be overstated what kind of a marvel these Turtles are onscreen, however. As crude and unpleasant their design might be, they feel like living, breathing things, not special effects.” The Playlist Gabe Toro
In the digital age, it is common to praise technicians over theatrics, yet how many special effects artists can you name? The unsung and unnamed SPFX teams deserve more screen credit, especially when they’re the primary actors. Exhibit A: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Rotten Tomatoes – Metacritic).
“It’s a provocative sci-fi action film with dynamite special effects, a powerful humanistic theme with echoes of real-life social conflicts, and a truly wondrous performance by Serkis.” USA Today Claudia Puig
Perhaps this movie will force the Academy to recognize digital performances as “acting” Since, Gollum wasn’t precious enough, maybe this ape is deservedly human.
“‘Dawn’ is not just a good genre movie or a good summer movie. It’s a great science-fiction film, full-stop, and one of the year’s very best movies so far.” HitFix Drew McWeeny
Argumentative claims are stronger if you end with a full-stop after saying full-stop.
“Serkis’ Caesar gets more than his fair share of rip-snortin’ badass moments. He’s arguably the finest leader of men we’ve seen on screen since ‘Lincoln.’” Film.com Jordan Hoffman
“It speaks to the masses with some treats for the discerning types in the back.” indieWIRE Eric Kohn
Translation: Speaking to the masses, but aimed over their heads.
“Good news – it’s incredible. It sets the standard for blockbuster action movies, and manages to be even better than its predecessor.” The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Dave McGinn
“Engaging as it is to look at, this stop-motion animation film from the young Oregon studio Laika seems to have been masterminded by people thinking, “Everyone loves Pixar. So let’s do everything the opposite!” Admirably contrarian. Like being cast overboard and calling out for an anvil.” New York Post Kyle Smith
If the thrower is feeling contrary, you’ll get a lifeboat.
“While The Boxtrolls does follow kiddie-action genre conventions in its big, noisy climax — a hectic brawl of explosions, collisions and oversize machines — it also finds an impressive number of quiet, eccentric and haunting moments along the way.” The New York Times A.O. Scott
This just in: New York Times spelling mistake isn’t ‘oversized.’
“The Boxtrolls hold their own on screen, too, and children will fall in love with the creatures’ mischievous antics, gurgling language and tendency to use their boxes as both a disguise and a portable bedroom.” USA Today Brian Truitt
“The Boxtrolls is a kiddie charmer that makes you laugh, cower, and think of Hitler. That’s an unusual trifecta, but then again, this is an unusual film.” Village Voice Amy Nicholson
“Say this for The Equalizer: It gets the job done, and that job, to quote A Clockwork Orange, is delivering a little of the old ultra-violence.The Dissolve Scott Tobias
A.K.A. – a good date movie for men and their guns.
“Director Anton Fuqua has jettisoned almost everything related to the TV series except the title, the main character’s name, and the bare-bones premise. Even the theme song is gone. For all intents and purposes, The Equalizer isn’t so much a reboot as it is an entirely new entity.” ReelViews James Berardinelli
“It’s the sign of an empty, depressing experience when the only tension is over Bob’s choice to use a power drill or a weed whacker for his next kill.” Entertainment Weekly Joe McGovern
If creative modes of killing is the central gimmic, the only thing separating this movie from slasher films is that the killer is the protagonist, not just the star.
“The Equalizer, which reteams Washington with his Training Day director, Fuqua, is an origin story, like the birth of Batman, or Daredevil. If audiences and star are so inclined, it’s easy to see this premise and this character – a tough, taciturn gent burdened with regret and a very special skill set – going into Roman numerals.” Philadelphia Inquirer Steven Rea
“The resolution to this puzzle is so botched it’s insulting, as if they’re daring us to laugh at the notion that this is merely ‘the beginning.’” McClatchy-Tribune News Service Roger Moore
Adaptation conundrum: The perils of adapting book one of a quartet is the first movie will be judged on its own merits.
“A perfectly serviceable entry in the young-adult dystopian sweepstakes.” The New York Times Ben Kenigsberg
“If you’re going to treat your audience like a rat in a maze, it’s best to offer a tastier reward than the promise of more maze to come.” The A.V. Club A.A. Dowd
Unless the mice are maze fetishists.
“Think “Lord of the Flies,” without all the jerks.” San Francisco Chronicle Peter Hartlaub
“Lucy earns points for its unpredictable treatment of its vaguely superhero-ish premise and an appealing silliness, but it struggles to match wits with the genius at its center.” The Dissolve Matt Singer
Translation: It looks moronic, but it’s smart on the inside.
“Lucy plays more like a big dumb superhero flick than sci-fi.” The Hollywood Reporter John DeFore
Self-Reflexive Counterpoint: If there’s nothing super about superheroes, why do super heroine movies still seem rare?
“The funny thing about all these sub-”Matrix” shenanigans is that they’re genuinely meant to stoke thought and reflection. Frankly, though, few movies have left me feeling as shorn of gray matter.” Time Out New York Keith Uhlich
“There are moments of real wonder and even beauty amidst the slam and the bang and the big bada boom, and while Lucy is a mixed bag, it’s been mixed by a master, and it is delightfully, happily insane.” HitFix Drew McWeeny
Big bada boom Besson’s bombasity could fill District 13 (with the letter B being The Fifth Element). Whether The Messenger gets Taken 2 the Subway, The Professional contracts The Transporter’s Taxi or The Family gets Unleashed after a Lockout at the Brick Mansions, Lucy still gets Taken From Paris With Love by La Femme Nikita.
“By the time the film exhausts itself—in a brisk 89 minutes — it feels like there’s literally nowhere that Lucy and Besson can’t go, no boundaries, no laws, no logic. Just go with it.” Entertainment Weekly Jeff Labrecque