July Movie Wrap-Up: Superheroes, Teddy Bears, and the End of the World

by A. Journey

Hello fair readers! Another month has gone by in this busy movie season, and one of the most anticipated movies in years was finally released. And no, I’m not talking about Step Up Revolution. Since it’s been another busy month for me (weddings, travels, getting psyched for the Olympics, etc.), I wanted to give you my quick takes for the films I saw last month: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Ted, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises. **THIS POST IS SPOILER-FREE**  I am planning on seeing TDKR in IMAX next week, so I will be posting a more in depth, spoiler-filled analysis on that afterward. 

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

2012 Post-Apocalyptic Rom-Com, Dir. Lorene Scafaria

Seeking a Friend is an oddball, dark comedy/drama starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as two strangers who meet each other and decide to go on a road trip right as the world is about to end. Now that’s a premise. The film tries to be a wild comedy and a poignant, thoughtful drama all at once; it is mildly successful, but the tonal shifts and the inconsistent attention to the film’s themes might be too off-putting for some to enjoy.

What Works

  • Carell/Knightley– I love Carell in dramatic roles (see Crazy, Stupid, Love and Dan in Real Life), and the two have a surprising amount of chemistry. They carry a crazy plot and manage to draw you in with their stories about finding themselves.
  • Connie Britton– Whenever I see the Friday Night Lights actress on screen, I get really excited, not only because  she’s from my hometown, but she has great screen presence. Though her part here is fairly small, she’s funny and natural and brings a slight bit of realism to the beginning of the film.
  • T.G.I.-Orgy– TJ Miller (Denver! Yogi Bear! Yeah!!) and Gillian Jacobs (Community) highlight the film’s funniest scene: a look at what would happen if T.G.I.Fridays turned into a ‘shroom and Ecstasy-fueled orgy party every night.
  • The End- The final scene beautifully represents the main theme the rest of movie haphazardly tries to present. I actually choked up a little.

What Doesn’t Work

  • Tonal Shifts–  The movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. Sometimes it’s a dark comedy. Sometimes it’s a heartfelt, quirky romance or a tragic love story. Sometimes it’s none of those things. And sometimes it tries to be everything all at once. At first I thought the film was trying to capture the chaos of the end of days, but in the end the movie just feels inconsistent.
  • Road Vignettes– Most of the film is a road movie with the main characters travelling to and fro, encountering various peoples and places. The problem is that almost all of these individual scenes seem disjointed and have no real impact on the overall narrative. You could rearrange the order and there wouldn’t be much of a difference. Again, the mishmashed feel and inconsistency are major flaws here.

See It?  Most moviegoers would probably not like this. It is unique, however, and definitely different. I love seeing the end of the world on film, though, and after recently viewing Melancholia, Seeking a Friend was a nice change of pace.

Ted

2012 Bromantic Comedy, Dir. Seth MacFarlane

One  night, a young boy with no friends wishes upon a star for his teddy bear to come to life. Twenty years later, he and the talking bear are best friends, but there comes a time in every boy’s life when he has to move on from his teddy. Unlike a majority of today’s comedy films, there is a strong story here that takes precedence over stupid laughs (though there are plenty of those). While the film is funny, it’s also surprisingly earnest and charming.

What Works

  • ’80s style opening sequence – Nostalgia and holding onto youth is a constant theme in the film, inherent in the “teddy bear” premise, but nostalgia also informs every part of the film’s construction. First of all, the beginning of the movie starts off like something from the eighties. There is a likable innocence and cheesiness to it all, anchored by the purity of the child actor, and helped by the narration provided by Patrick Stewart. The sequence sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
  • Bromantic Triangle– Take the talking teddy bear out of this movie and you have a solidly constructed romantic comedy about keeping the perfect girl and learning how to transition from childhood to adulthood. The story is the film’s focus, and adding the magic stuffed animal, voiced by Family Guy creator and director Seth MacFarlane, doesn’t seem unnecessary or forced, as it actually enhances the film’s themes.
  • Flash Gordon– A running gag in the film, which is once again guided by nostalgia, centers on the so-bad-it’s-good Flash Gordon movie. I saw Ted in a packed house, and these bits, by far, got the most laughs.
  • Cameos– There a some big cameos in the movie that are hilarious and very surprising. I won’t spoil them here.

What Doesn’t Work

  • Stalker Subplot– Ted, as a talking stuffed bear, actually gains quite a bit of fame in the context of the film’s world.  At one point, he is confronted by a stalker, and that leads the film into an odd direction for a few scenes. It sets up a climactic plot point, but it feels out of place. It’s nice to see some action in the movie, but again, it might fit better in another movie.
  • Music– While there are some notable similarities to the film and Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy, they are actually quite different, and I would say you could hate the television show but love the movie. However, for me, Walter Murphy’s music reminded me too much of the show at times. I only saw it as a negative because it took me out of the movie. It is old-school and nostalgic, though, so it fits. But if you have ever watched a Family Guy episode, the music will remind you of the film’s connection to the it a lot.

See It? It might be the year’s best comedy film (21 Jump Street is still great, but story comes second in that one), and for me, that came as a total surprise. Regardless if you love or hate Family Guy, check the movie out.

The Amazing Spider-Man

2012 Superhero Reboot, Dir.Marc Webb

Following a similar origin plot as Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, this iteration reboots the franchise with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The story focuses more on the relationship between Peter Parker and first love Gwen Stacy, and it also showcases Spider-Man’s rise as a legitimate hero.

What Works

  • Garfield/Stone– What a great duo. They are so natural in their respective parts, and they both bring a refreshing realism to these iconic comic book characters. The romance and relationship between the two is genuine and funny–definitely the highlight of the movie.
  • Spider-Man’s Arc– I really believed Peter Parker’s progression into the hero; at first, he is motivated only by anger and revenge, but he soon realizes Spider-Man’s potential impact on people’s lives. Garfield is perfectly subtle here, and he sells the story well.
  • Setup of a Larger Story– The film has a to-be-continued vibe to it, which may or may not be a good thing for some, but I think it shows forethought as far as a bigger picture. The hinted-at story of Peter’s family is intriguing, and so is the looming presence of Norman Osborn, and I’m dying to see more Gwen Stacy. Bring on more movies! Just as long as they launch the series in a new direction.

What Doesn’t Work

  • Not Enough New– The movie has a distinct atmosphere, yes, but the story has been seen on film before. At times, it’s too similar to the original series, which I wouldn’t mind, except that the original is only ten years old! We don’t need to see another origin, honestly. People know who and what Spider-Man is.
  • The Villain– I like the Lizard character (and in this movie, Rhys Ifans gives an applaudingly creepy performance), but after the Lokis and Banes of the summer, he comes off uninteresting. His character arc is similar, too, to the Doc Ock villain in Spider-Man 2.

See It? You know I’m going to recommend any superhero movie. So yes. The actors are great, and though it retells a familiar story, I believe it to be a great start to a new series.

The Dark Knight Rises

2012 Superhero Film, Dir. Christoper Nolan

I don’t want to get too much into the film right now, especially if people haven’t seen it yet. Like I said, expect an in depth post about it after I see it again. Suffice it to say, I think it may be my favorite of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. The scale of the film is beyond any others, and the number of risks the movie takes is shocking (in a good way–for example, Batman doesn’t even show up until an hour into the film). Jonathan Blake and Selina Kyle, characters new to the series, are among my favorite in the three movies. I found myself constantly in awe from start to finish. The movie does have some plot issues, issues that didn’t seem to exist in the first two films, and the massive amount characters and subplots lead to some awkward plotting and muddy character motivations. Still, it’s been almost two weeks and I’ve been analyzing the movie in my head everyday. Check out my longer review soon!

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