July 2012 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in July of 2012. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
Part of Me
Katy Perry grew up the daughter of two pastors. She was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson in Santa Barbara, CA, and she grew up around gospel music. When she started her musical career, she was billed as Katy Hudson, and her first album in 2001 was a gospel pop rock album (imagine Alanis Morissette doing gospel.) While the critics liked it, the album didn’t achieve any success. When she switched to mainstream pop rock and changed her name to Katy Perry, she found success with the controversial but infectious song “I Kissed a Girl” on her 2008 major label debut One of the Boys. Many hit singles (and a third album called Teenage Dream in 2010) came later, and she became a pop superstar. She met comedian Russell Brand on the set of his movie Get Him to the Greek, and they fell in love. They married in October of 2010. The major focus of this documentary though is her California Dreams Tour and the effect that it has on her personal life.
When I first saw the name of her single “I Kissed a Girl,” I thought that it was a cover of the Denver-born Jill Sobule’s 1995 song of the same name (I had yet to hear Katy’s version.) As much as I like Sobule’s song, Katy’s song was catchier. As I saw the song rise to the top of the charts, I was amazed at its success. I was even more amazed that, not only did it go to #1, but it also remained there for seven consecutive weeks. She had two more top 10 hits (“Hot n Cold” and “Waking Up in Vegas”) from One of the Boys. After that, she managed to top herself by doing the impossible…she became the first female to have five #1 hits off a single album (“California Gurls” with Snoop Dogg, title track “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “E.T.” with Kanye West, and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”.) Her re-release of Teenage Dream (subtitled The Complete Confection) produced a sixth #1 hit, “Part of Me.” It debuted at #1 (the twentieth song to do so) and it beat Michael Jackson’s record of five #1 songs from a single album (Bad) with her sixth #1 song from Teenage Dream. Her tour that supported the album was a big success, but it was at the cost of her marriage to Brand. In the scene where Katy breaks down crying before her performance in Brazil (Brand had just filed for divorce), it was heartbreaking. While it isn’t one of the best musical documentaries I’ve seen (that honor would go to either 2004’s Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, 2006’s Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, or 2008’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil), but it’s better than others (like 2008’s Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert or 2011’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.) I’m a big music fan, so I actually like all of those artists, but the docs I like better have their reasons. I like the Dixie Chicks doc because of the controversy of Natalie Maines’ comments about George W. Bush; the Metallica doc because of the in-fighting that almost broke up the band; and the Anvil doc because it felt like the real life version of This is Spın̈al Tap. The Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus docs were just about the singers’ lives and their tours. As I said when I did my review of Rock of Ages, your enjoyment of the movie probably will depend on if you are a fan of the artist or not. The 3D element doesn’t make it better necessarily (and it drives up the prices of the tickets.) See it if you are a fan of Katy and you like watching a documentary that has a bit of real life drama.
In this fourth chapter in the Ice Age story, Manny the mammoth (voice of Ray Romano) is having issues with his daughter Peaches (voice of Keke Palmer.) She wants to hang out with her molehog friend Louis (voice of Josh Gad) at the falls and go see another teenaged mammoth named Ethan (voice of Aubrey Graham, a.k.a. Drake.) Louis secretly has romantic feelings for Peaches, but he goes along as a supportive friend. Manny forbids it, but Peaches defies him and goes anyway. During an argument between Manny and Peaches, the ground starts to split…possibly because of Scrat the saber-toothed squirrel (voice of Chris Wedge) and his obsession in obtaining an acorn. Manny, Sid the ground sloth (voice of John Leguizamo), Diego the saber-toothed cat (voice of Denis Leary), and Sid’s senile grandmother Granny (voice of Wanda Sykes) are on one side, while Peaches, her mother/Manny’s wife Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah), Louis, and Ethan are on the other side. As Manny and friends try to get back to his family, they have a run-in with a band of pirates led by a prehistoric ape named Captain Gutt (voice of Peter Dinklage) and his first mate, Shira the saber-toothed cat (voice of Jennifer Lopez.) At first, they want Manny and friends to join their crew, but after they escape, Gutt and crew go after them. Meanwhile, Peaches runs with a herd of other woolly mammoths, led by Steffie (voice of Nicki Minaj), Katie (voice of Heather Morris), and Meghan (voice of Ally Romano), who encourage her to stop hanging out with Louis. Other subplots involve Diego falling for Shira, and Granny’s imaginary pet giant whale.
I will admit that, as much of a fan that I am of the Ice Age movies, 2009’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs didn’t impress me much. I thought that maybe it was time to retire these characters. Boy was I wrong. The addition of Granny and Gutt crewmember Flynn the 4000-pound English elephant seal (voice of Nick Frost) made Continental Drift hilarious to watch. I could finally laugh to something other than Sid and Scrat. Speaking of Scrat…it felt like I had almost seen half the movie before other Twentieth Century Fox movies. He was in a two-part short called Scrat’s Continental Crack-up that was integrated into the movie. That’s okay though…I didn’t mind seeing them again. Speaking of shorts…The Simpsons short that preceded the movie, The Longest Daycare, was more sweet and touching than it was funny, but I liked it.
It may have been four years in reality since 2008’s The Dark Knight, but in the world of this Batman trilogy, it’s been eight years. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, while “Batman” is still being hunted for killing beloved district attorney Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart.) The Dent Act, named in honor of Dent, has had the Gotham City Police Department clean crime off the streets, so Bruce feels no need to be Batman again. Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) feels guilty that he has covered up the fact that Dent became evil right before his death. He decides to confess his cover-up in a resignation letter that tells the public the truth, but before he can do anything about it, he is shot during an escape from a madman named Bane (Tom Hardy), who also steals Gordon’s speech. Local cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) rescues Gordon, who promotes him to detective and instructs him to report only to him instead of his previous superior, Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley (Matthew Modine.) Meanwhile, Wayne Enterprises is almost bankrupt after investing in a clean energy project brought to Bruce by Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) which reveals that it could be used to make a nuclear bomb. Wayne Enterprises leader Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who also creates Batman’s cool toys, is concerned by Bruce’s lack of concern of the corporation’s failings. Also concerned is Bruce’s loyal butler/father figure Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), because Bruce has exiled himself into a Howard Hughes-like seclusion. Board member John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) takes this opportunity to take over Wayne Enterprises by hiring Bane to infiltrate the Gotham Stock Exchange and take it over, thereby bankrupting Bruce. Daggett has also hired cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) to lift Bruce’s fingerprints from his safe for unknown reasons. When Bruce realizes that Selina did this, his interest is piqued. When he realizes that Bane has more evil intentions than to bankrupt him, Bruce finally brings Batman out of retirement.
Tim Burton brought Batman back to the big screen in a darker, more serious version with 1989’s Batman. After being a serious comic book character for decades, the ABC TV show made Batman look a bit campy. After directing 1992’s Batman Returns, Burton gave the reigns to St. Elmo’s Fire and The Lost Boys director Joel Schumacher. Despite the fact that Schumacher is usually a good director, most Batman fans think that he killed the Batman franchise. When Memento director Christopher Nolan took over the “re-boot” of the franchise in 2005 with Batman Begins, fans were happy again. Nolan’s next Batman movie, The Dark Knight, became the third highest grossing domestic movie of all time (third place now has been recently taken over by this year’s The Avengers.) I think that most of the reason of the success of Nolan’s second Batman film is because of the Oscar-winning performance of the late Heath Ledger. His Joker was darker and more evil than Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson’s performances. The main bad guy in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane, is evil…but it’s hard to tell behind that mask. I’ve seen Hardy in other roles, and he looks creepy…but you would never know that in Rises because his face is mostly covered up. Hathaway, on the other hand, does a good job playing Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman. She is one of the better Catwomen. I would put her above Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt…and certainly above Halle Berry (she doesn’t beat Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance though in my opinion.) Not that I’m giving much away, but you can tell that Blake was Robin from the beginning (even though he is named Dick Grayson in the comics.) If they ever do a spin-off from the Batman series and make a Nightwing (Robin’s independent identity) movie, Gordon-Levitt would be perfect for the role. While Rises isn’t as good as Begins or Knight (in my opinion), I still would recommend seeing it, since it is a thrill-packed good time at the theater.
On a side note…I have to share something with you concerning my viewing of The Dark Knight Rises. I was at the Aurora Cinemark Theater on July 19 watching the 9:20 PM showing of Katy Perry: Part of Me in theater 3. It ended at a little after 11 PM, and I left. I did see the excited crowd of people waiting to see the midnight premiere of Rises as I was leaving. As much as I like Batman movies, I don’t like going to midnight premieres because of the hassle of it, so that’s why I didn’t go to this one. I woke up the next morning from a phone call by my freaked-out mom (actually I missed the call. I slept through it and called her back after hearing her odd voicemail asking if I had gone to the Rises midnight showing.) She told me to turn on the news, because there was a mass shooting at the theater. It chilled me to the bone that I had been at that theater just about an hour and a half before the shooting started. I feel for the families of the 12 victims of the shooting and all of the other casualties involved, but I hope that this single act of a lunatic won’t make you afraid to go to the movies, much less The Dark Knight Rises. I certainly went to see it (obviously…I went to the 88 Drive-In in Commerce City with my fiancée to see it), so I encourage you to see it too.
SEE THIS MOVIE!
Catch this movie at the theater if you can...
Wait until it comes out on video...
Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...
Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!