It’s been a quite a pleasant summer so far. We’ve had some of the typical heat and humidity for which Georgia is known – even before the official first day of summer – but we’ve also had some downright pleasant days (lord knows, I like having a fire in the fireplace, and I’m grateful for some cool evenings in May that provided the opportunity to use some well-seasoned firewood).

Another aspect that has made this summer most pleasant is the fun movies coming out. Everyone already knows I loved The Avengers.  Well, a few days ago, I loved it a second time.  This coming weekend, I’ll love it a third time when I go with my roommate who has not seen it yet.

Tim Burton Almost Redeems Himself

Tim Burton has been one of my favorite creative minds in filmmaking for many years. But some of his recent projects struck me as self-indulgent and just plain trying too hard, like they were caricatures of what used to make Burton films so eerie and magical. I truly disliked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and wondered why in the world an iconic film like Willie Wonka and Chocolate Factory would ever need to be remade. I also wasn’t blown away by Alice in Wonderland, which was more sterile and staged than enchantingly nightmarish, as the book really is. It should have been a perfect fit for Burton; alas, it was not.  Of course, both of these films are in my “everything-he-ever-made Johnny Depp library.” Obviously, I don’t stand on principal enough to prevent THAT.

But Dark Shadows marks a step back in the right direction Burton-esque direction (at least, I am hoping with all my will and might), though he’s not quite there yet. It has more of a Big Fish tale-like feel to it, and less of the bizarreness for the sake of being strange that mark what I consider to be Burton’s failed features. It manages in part to return to the whimsy and era-specific jibes that Burton worked so well into films like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. It’s great to see that step back, with no small thanks to a terrific cast led by Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer, but it still lacked that earlier Burton spark. The worst part of the movie is the character of Carolyn Stoddard, played by the talented (but wasted here) Chloe Grace Moretz. Most of the way through, she is a sullen, tripped-out, unintelligible creature for whom there seems to be no purpose. At the end, when she turned into a werewolf, I actually groaned. Dark Shadows is worth seeing, but it’s not yet the awesomeness-of-old that Tim Burton films used to be. And – big caution sign here –  it is NOT like the original series that some of us may recall. If you were a fan of the show, put those memories on the shelf as you go to see this interpretation of the Barnabas Collins story.

B-

Men in Black Wear It So Well … Again!

Men in Black is officially one of my favorite franchises of all time.  I adored the first movie, really liked the second, and am crazy about the third. These movies are hilarious, well-acted and pun-filled, with plenty of special effects eye candy. The team of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith its one of the trilogy’s strongest aspects, naturally, along with the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of aliens assimilating on earth (watch for some new “which celeb’s an alien” reveals).  In MIB III, the crowning achievement belongs Josh Brolin and his portrayal of young Agent K, and he does an absolutely unbelievable job of inhabiting the skin of a younger Tommy Lee Jones!  At times, I forgot who I was watching on the screen.

In addition to the usual save-the-world-from-hostile-aliens scenario, this installment of the MIB adventure wonderfully brings the story full circle and provides a brief tearful moment as we find out how our two favorite black-suited agents are really connected. If you want a summer movie that’s satisfying, exhilarating, and truly entertaining, go see Men in Black III.

A

 

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