Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guest Blogger Simon Woods: Biggest Surprises and Disappointments of the Summer Movie Season

One of the best parts of having this blog is it gives me the opportunity to give my friends a venue to get their writing out to a wider audience. Today I am posting some movie reviews by my good friend Simon Woods, who has spent even more time at the movie theater this summer than I have.

I could have done a top 10 list, but to me this summer was about being surprised by some movies, and being horribly disappointed by others. Let’s start with the bad news first.

Top 5 Biggest Disappointments
5. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Understand that this is not a list of the worst movies of the summer. As bad as this summer was, this movie was still one of the best. It was disappointing because Harry Potter has become one of the most reliably awesome movie franchises around, and with this movie, past James Bond for the highest grossing. This just didn’t reach the incredibly high bar of the past two films. The wonder of the world wasn’t there like it was in the past. The amazing sights and incredible creatures were kept on the down-low.

Voldemort who, played by Ralph Fiennes, has become one of the coolest movie villains ever, was completely left out. I know this was according to the book, but I’m also to understand that the book had plenty of Voldemort back story, that this movie cut out. The reason for these cuts lead me to my biggest complaint, the Twilighty CW-esque teen romances. I hope against hope that the writers didn’t see how successful Twilight was and try to add in some sick syrupy teen drama. All of these factors add up to a movie that was still decent, but nowhere near what I have come to expect.

4. Public Enemies
This is another film that was hindered by the expectations for it. Michael Mann has distinguished himself as one of the most talented and enjoyable directors in Hollywood. He can handle a crime movie, so with a cast that boasted Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, I was thinking Oscar nominee. What followed was one of the most mediocre movies I have ever seen. Christian Bale was as bland as I have ever seen him. Johnny Depp was alright but he was saddled by a waste of time love story. What-could-have-been became a waste-of-time, and a forgettable entry into the ever growing crime genre.

3. Angels and Demons
I was not a fan of the Da Vinci Code, but I found the premise of this one intriguing. The addition of Ewan McGregor made me think that this might have been a sleeper hit. Boy was I wrong. Like Public Enemies, even though the parts are phenomenal, that doesn’t mean the movie is going to be good. And this one isn’t. This is Ron Howard’s worst movie, even worse than the DaVinci Code. The plot went no where, and the characters were still completely unlikeable. Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany were more important than I thought, in that no one in this movie brought the performances like those two did in the first movie. In the end, I have trouble even remembering that I saw this movie.

2. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I hated all three X-Men movies, but this one looked like it could be incredible. I am not a fan of Hugh Jackman, but I don’t hate him like Dr. Cox does either (Editors Note: That's an awesome Scrubs reference people).

The rest of the cast looked incredible, though. Liev Schreiber was inspired casting as Sabretooth. Danny McBride is a better fit for Stryker than Brian Cox was. The kicker was Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. He was perfect casting for one of the cooler characters in the Marvel Universe. And, that trailer. I hated the movie, but I still get goosebumps watching that trailer. Considering the source material, that may be the finest trailer ever made. But alas, expectation seldom delivers, and I was treated to the worst movie I watched this summer. Deadpool was horribly misused, and was more of a sideshow than anything else. Gambit was AWFUL. Hugh Jackman did nothing to silence Dr. Perry Cox. Only Liev Schrieber was good in his role, and in the end it felt like a futile effort because he completely outclassed his costars. The special effects sucked. The plot was horrible. But man that trailer…

  1. The American People

No, this isn’t a political movie starring Michael Douglas. This is you, all of you who made Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen the highest grossing movie of the year by far that experts are predicting only Twilight 2 has a shot at touching, as horrible as that is. I’m assuming that you idiots saw the putrid piece of shit that was the first Transformers, which was an exercise in masturbation by the worst director ever, Michael Bay. Why of all the movies to see this summer did you people decide that the sequel was the one to see? This is the worst reviewed movie in the top 10 highest grossing movies, and its average review of 1 ½ stars will probably keep it that way until Transformers 3, which you morons have just ensured will be made. As charming as he was in Even Stevens, Shia LeBeouf is not a talented actor, and I’m starting to lose hope that he ever will be. In a summer of big dumb special effects movies, this was the biggest and the dumbest. And anyone who went to see it, maybe other than a matinee at the cheap theater, is one of the dumbest people in America, and I’m ashamed of all of you.

You liked Transformers 2? I'm a baby and even I think that's juvenile.

Now that I have that out of my system, I’ll focus on the positive, what little there was. My friend Albert has consistently warned each summer that that summer’s movies would be the worst ever. Every summer, I scoff at him and deride his movie taste. I did that at the beginning of this summer too, but I must apologize now, because he maybe right. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t surprised by some of the gems that were out there, and here are my top 5.
Top 5 Biggest Surprises
5. GI Joe:Rise of Cobra and Terminator: Salvation
I have lumped these two together because they share something in common. This summer had the distinction of having the worst three directors each have a movie come out. McG, Stephen Sommers and Michael Bay have all had crappy summer movies comeout before, but never the same summer. It could have been bad, but to my delight, it wasn’t that bad at all. McG actually made an enjoyable movie. I almost had a heart attack at the end of Terminator: Salvation because I didn’t absolutely hate it, and even thought it was well-directed. I was into it, there were parts where my pulse pounded. The effects were not over the top, and even kind of cool. And Sam Worthington was a revelation to me because he was great and really made me care about his character.
GI Joe on the other hand was horribly mis-directed. I felt that if it would have been directed by anyone else, now including McG, that it would have been one of the best movies of the summer. But, even as it was it didn’t suck. As bad as I thought the cast looked, they all played their parts well, with the exception of Marlon Wayans.

Shiiiiiit. I shoulda done White Chicks 2.

GI Joe was enjoyable in spite of Stephen Sommers and his goofy over the top style, but it still counts. GI Joe and Terminator: Salvation should have sucked as much as Transformers, and part of me still has a hard time believing that they didn’t. It’s too bad Michael Bay couldn’t have gotten as lucky as these other two, even though part of me believes Terminator: Salvation was ghost-directed by James Cameron.

Another Terminator? No thanks, I have a retarded fish-people movie to make.

4. District 9
After a decent May, I was starting to panic that all the rest of the summer was going to completely suck. June was characterized by mediocrity, and there was no Steve Carell to get us through. July was an absolute disaster, as just about every movie that month was a horrible disappointment. When August started, I was demoralized, and I didn’t believe anything could save this summer. When I saw the previews for District 9 I thought that it looked intriguing, and any other summer it would be good, but this summer it was destined to suck.

Then the strangest thing happened. I started reading good reviews. I had to see it for myself, and I was amazed. This movie, with not a single recognizable actor in the cast, was the little movie that could. It had by far the best Effects of the summer, and the story was actually moving and powerful. Even though there were no big names, Sharlto Copley was sincere and sympathetic in his role. The rest of the cast was good as well. I was moved as I left the theater and actually desired a sequel, a rare feat indeed these days.

3. The Hangover
At first sight, this movie appears to be another dumb gross-out comedy. One of those booze swilling retard fests that lacks any heart or brains. Even though this movie is booze-swilling, it has the brains and heart of a tiger, like the tiger they steal from Mike Tyson. I should have realized from the fact that Ed Helms, who is phenomenal in the Office as Andy Bernard and has paid his dues with small parts in a number of crappy movies like Meet Dave, has a leading role, and he is delightful. So, for that matter are his companions Bradley Cooper, from Wedding Crashers, and Zach Galifianakis. I haven’t laughed this hard since Wedding Crashers, as what could have been a one-joke entirely unoriginal movie was clever and actually funny. I loved it, and I didn’t think I would.

2. Star Trek
I will admit I am a Trekkie. My father took my brother and I to Star Trek conventions. I have eaten dinner with Q and hugged Sulu. That said, I didn’t have high hopes for this movie. When I heard it was a re-envisioning from JJ Abrams, I thought here is another franchise ruined from being made to be fresh. When I heard that through a temporal rift, an alternate universe is created where the writers can do whatever they want I thought the plot would be hoplessly convoluted, and infuriating to a Star Trek fan like me. I was completely wrong. This plot was easy to follow, and my girlfriend who has never watched an episode of Trek in her life was able to get into the characters and follow the plot. And while there is some nerd injected into the script, for the most part it is pure action and excitement. And I’ll say it, I thought Zachary Quinto was a better Spock than Leonard Nimoy ever dreamed of being. This maybe the best Sci-fi movie since Serenity.

1. Inglourious Basterds
I have not been pleased with Quentin Tarantino this decade. He was my favorite director, and he changed cinema forever in the 90s with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown. In the 2000s it seemed he replaced innovation with wanting to recreate his favorite movies from his childhood. Kill Bill was at least watchable, but Grindhouse quickly lost its novelty and sucked a fat one. It was indulging himself to see if he could make a 70s exploitation film, even though no one wanted to watch those movies even back then. He also seemed to want to produce more than direct, and spent large parts of this decade procuring money for Eli Roth to make Hostel movies. Those were "good" (insert sarcasm).

Sarcasm? Oh yeah, I've made shit lately. Ha ha, okay you got me, touché.

When I saw that finally he was releasing another film, I didn’t hold my breath. When I saw that Brad Pitt had the lead, I rolled my eyes. But this was Tarantino, and for old time’s sake I went to see it. I am glad I did, because he completely blew me away. The German actor who played Hans Landa, the villain of the movie, is headed for an Oscar. I enjoyed this more than any of his other movies, other than maybe Pulp Fiction, and that’s just because it had Bruce Willis. He got back to doing what he does best and that is making a movie that doesn’t play by the rules of any genre, or history for that matter. He triumphantly vaulted back to being my favorite director, and easily made the best movie of the summer, and so far of the year too.
Learn more about Simon Woods here.
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  1. I didn't care for your little "tirade" about Transformers 2. First of all you apparently wouldn't know good film making if it came up and bit you on the ass. Second, calling the average movie-goer an idiot is taking it to far. You probably prefer movies with a limited plot and plenty of nudity any way since you are clearly a narrow minded man.

  2. Shia Lebeouf is a very talented actor. If he wasn't then why has his movies earned over 2 billion dollars?? And we are not morons. I'm ashamed of you!

  3. An average of 1 and a half stars. Average. That isn't just one movie critic, it is the vast majority. They get paid to give opinions about movies, so I think they know good filmmaking. Roger Ebert gave it 1 star and he has a doctorate in the subject. Also, if you believe making money is the test of a talented actor, then I suppose you think Nicholas Cage and Keanu Reeves are great actors too? Give me a break.
    Also, your laughable attempt to insult my character is just evidence of your intelligence, and low intelligence is exactly the sort of trait these movies cater to, like Tranformers 1 and 2, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, any movie that values effects over an intelligently written script.