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Nolan's Pop Culture ReviewThe Summer So Far
POSTED BY NOLAN B. CANOVA, June 24, 2011    Share

Just a few casual thoughts to share about the flicks I've seen so far this summer. The 2011 Summer movie season is off with several considerable "bangs" to its credit, but I'm not sure any of them qualify as having any real "blockbuster" status, and depending on your personal standards, may or may not have any staying power beyond this year.

A few issues ago I mentioned the successful Thor as an encouraging sign that super-hero movies are continuing to be done right and on a consistent basis. The Marvel Comics Group stock of characters are particularly noteworthy in this category dating back to Spider-Man, the devastatingly spot-on Iron Man, and all the X-Men movies, including this year's X-Men: First Class.

DC Comics has had consistent success with Superman and Batman films over the years, but the new Green Lantern I'm not so sure was a success on the same level. Though sufficiently action-packed, it suffered from several slow-moving and relatively pointless scenes, a script that seemed a little juvenile (even for a comic book movie), and worst of all, inconsistent CGI qualities to its effects scenes. Any time our hero uses his ring-powers in battle is where all the money went, because they're great. Way too much of everything else -- including the main villain -- looks like the animation just barely made it out of the wire-frame phase of the video game department. Still, it was enjoyable to see this classic character in action on the big screen, and with a believeable actor in the role (Ryan Reynolds). For more details, check out Mike Smith's in-depth review. I agree with Mike about everything, except the inconsistent CGI quality where he was far more generous.

I've seen all of the Pirates of the Caribbean films to date. I attended this year's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth film of the series, with good friend Corey Castellano who did many of the make-up effects (Jack Sparrow's "skull" tattoo is Corey's, for one). I wanted to like this film, and for the most part, I did. To read a complete synopsis, please read Mike Smith's review, but basically, Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) seeks to assemble a new crew to voyage west in search of the Fountain of Youth. I assumed that would take him from his native England to Florida, right? Well, though the voyage is long and Ponce de Leon's name is invoked frequently (the original "discoverer" of the rumored Fountain), Florida is never actually spoken by name (although I think it had its name by this time) and most hilariously, Florida -- if that's where we are to believe Sparrow landed -- is lush with mountains, cliffs, and waterfalls! Sort of like Hawaii, which is where most of this was filmed. Alas, I guess we're just not picturesque enough in Florida for this kind of thing. In any event, besides the confusing locations, I came away from the movie feeling that there was almost too much Johnny Depp in contrast to the last film which had too little. Depp's comic timing with the Sparrow character is impeccable, so hey, who's complaining? And, of course, I did appreciate Keith Richards' cameo as papa Sparrow. I am a huge fan of this series and I would recommend this episode, though I wouldn't call it my favorite. (I am a sucker for "Dead Man's Chest", not sure why).

My final spotlight for this go 'round is Super 8. It's 1979 and several 12-year-old boys -- and one slightly older girl -- are busy filming their zombie movie in the most popular home-movie format of the day, Super-8mm film. A midnight rendezvous at the local railroad station for added "production values" yields an added surprise when an oncoming train derails and something monstrous escapes from one of the security boxcars. All caught on film. For more details about the story and cast, please consult Mike Smith's review. You may have heard that this movie is a more or less even cross between The Goonies and E.T.. While the point is well-taken, I'd like to add Close Encounters of the Third Kind with a pinch of Stand By Me and a tablespoon full of Cloverfield. To get the most out of this film, prepare for a pretty hefty suspension-of-disbelief. This is one of those screenplays where the kids know everything, find out everything, solve the case, save the world, while the adults are useless idiots (for the most part) and the military consists of ogres and monsters ready to take you out if you get too close. There's your Goonies and Close Encounters and E.T. for you, very, very Spielberg-esque. Not to say the film is bad or unenjoyable, quite the contrary. While it's going it's quite a fun ride, with great performances by all and stand-outs by young'ns Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney. I just came away with the feeling that this really is more of a kid's movie, despite the period nature of it. I loved reliving the halcyon days before video camcorders when budding filmmakers (like most of the older PCR staff) were trying to film their own epic monster movie on Super-8. (As a traditionalist, I always insert a hyphen between "Super" and "8". Phil Vigeant of Pro8mm in California--my hero, and the man Spielberg and director JJ Abrams went to for their Super-8 needs for the film--omits the hyphen, leading me to believe that's why there's none in the official title, but maybe that's just me.) The special effects are great as expected, but the family-oriented syrupy script disillusioned me to the build-up that this was going to be this summer's big monster movie. Not bad at all....but just not quite as great as expected. Final point, and I don't think it's a spoiler: stay through the end credits and you'll see the end result of the zombie movie the kids made. It's worth the wait, and will be especially welcome for the older kids in the audience--like Ye Olde Editor.

"Nolan's Pop Culture Review" is ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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