“The Avengers” has been a long time coming. Starting with the post-credits scene in 2008’s “Iron Man” and through the four following movies (“The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” and “Captain America”), expectations around this film have been building slowly but surely. There was a lot riding on this, and it does not disappoint.
There is a special place in my heart for films that know exactly what they are and set out to fulfill their destiny with utter enthusiasm. “Lockout” is in that class of film. It knows it’s a B-movie sci-fi action flick, and has no pretensions otherwise. There’s no subtlety here, the film is predictable right down to much of its dialog, and the action and one-liners are slathered on thickly.
Disney has a knack for producing movies that aren’t terribly demanding, but are very entertaining for kids of all ages, including grown-up ones. “John Carter,” loosely adapted from the Edgar Rice Burroughs book “A Princess of Mars,” is just such a flick. If you’re the kind of person who can’t set aside science and enjoy a grand adventure on the surface of Mars, this is not a movie for you.
“One for the Money” seemes to be getting treated like a red-headed stepchild by its production companies — preview screenings for critics were delayed or simply not held, and although it’s a light-hearted action comedy, it’s being released in the no-man’s-land cinematic tundra of late January. It’s a shame, because this charming little film is a lot of fun.
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Matthew Macfadyen, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Logan Lerman, Christoph Waltz
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of adventure action violence
It seems to be a requirement for Hollywood to make a film based on “The Three Musketeers” at least once every twenty years, preferably saturated with whatever is currently in vogue. So, back in 1993 we had Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, and Oliver Platt as the titular friends, and the whole thing was very bright and shiny and silly. Now we have Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans, and Ray Stevenson, and there’s lots of slow-mo martial artsy awesomeness, some snark about governmental budget cuts, and steampunk airships.
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangelie Lilly, Kevin Durand
Rated: PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language
Disney has many strengths, and “Real Steel” plays to two of them: telling heartwarming tales about underdogs and offering sweet stories about kids and parents bonding. The latter sometimes spills over into laughably twee territory, but “Real Steel” manages to avoid that. No, this is not a groundbreaking art film. This is a movie to see if you want to watch giant robots fight and maybe get a little sniffly watching an underdog father-son team learn to care about each other while beating the odds.
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, Tom Felton
Rated: PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality and brief strong language.
Prequels are by definition at something of an advantage — knowing even the basic plot of the stories that take place after them means that you have at least general knowledge of how the prequel must end. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” definitely has this problem; even folks who haven’t seen the other “Planet of the Apes” movies know how things wind up. Even so, the characters (both human and ape) are engaging enough to draw viewers into the film.
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.
Westerns and alien invasion flicks both have their cliches, and the idea of mashing the two together is a clever one — that kind of genre smashing has done well in the past (“Shaun of the Dead” remains my favorite example). “Cowboys & Aliens” held great promise when its previews first started showing, and while it doesn’t quite live up to its potential, it’s still a lot of fun.
It’s still summer, and “Captain America” is a summer superhero movie if there ever was one. It takes us to a 1940s America where the little guy can achieve beyond his wildest dreams, and where good people can destroy evil with tenacity, luck, and a strong jawline.