The Avengers. Directed by Joss Whedon. I must admit that I have not seen Iron Man 2 or Captain America: The First Avenger. Still, my general enjoyment of Iron Man and Thor, as well as encouragement from friends, led me to see The Avengers in 3D. It was an enjoyable adventure, although I always thought of myself as more drawn to DC comics – mostly because of Batman, but also Superman – than I am a fan of Marvel. (X-Men, on the other hand, are indeed Marvel and I really liked X-Men: First Class.) The collection of superheroes, super-spies and all-powerful gods assembled to fight Loki, who is played by the ever-popular Tom Hiddleston, are fun to watch. A little of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark goes a long way, but Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Clark Gregg and Stellan Skarsgård contribute agreeable performances. Neither the acting nor the screenplay is great across the board, but you could do worse for two and a half hours of solid entertainment.
Lola Versus. Directed by Daryl Wein. I believe S. Jhoanna Robledo from Common Sense Media described this movie best: “Hipster romantic dramedy has some sex, drinking, language.” Yeah, that’s about it. Lola Versus, which aspires to be an anti-rom-com, falls prey to many of the expected clichés of indie filmmaking. It’s a shame since its leading lady, Greta Gerwig, did such fine work in Greenberg and Damsels in Distress. The premise of Lola is that a woman approaching age 30 has her life turned upside down when her fiancé, played by Joel Kinnaman, dumps her. The rest of the film is about Lola trying to “salvage” her life; apparently her identity is at stake. It’s hard to feel bad for characters who make such a big deal out of the NYC dating scene whilst being a) obviously attractive and b) willing to go to parties. Zoe Lister Jones, who co-wrote the film with director Wein, is especially irritating as Gerwig’s kooky-to-the-point-of-annoying best friend. In fact, the only actors in the film who are worth seeing are Bill Pullman and Debra Winger as Gerwig’s parents and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as an overeager date. Otherwise, I would advise you to skip this film.
Men in Black 3. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. All things considered, the third (and supposedly long-awaited) installment of the Men in Black series is an enjoyable movie. The MVP is definitely Josh Brolin, who is every bit as terrific at portraying young Agent K as reviewers would have you believe. Tommy Lee Jones, on the other hand, barely has anything to do, appearing only at the beginning and very end of the film. (Appearance-wise, he looks as though he’s been embalmed.) I guess Will Smith is alright, though the script is such a bloated mess that many of his jokes either fall flat or are so obvious that it doesn’t matter how funny they might be. As the villain Boris, Jemaine Clement attempts to be menacing – a feat he doesn’t quite accomplish – but the lost opportunity is in his lack of humor in the role. I don’t know if it’s the script’s fault, but Clement never uses his comedic talent to add anything funny to his character. Ultimately, the decent use of 3D is the best reason to see MIB3. I doubt that it would appeal to anyone who’s not already a fan of the franchise, but seeing as how this film doesn’t include Zed, Jeebs or Frank the pug, a longtime fan might be disappointed by the finished product.
Moonrise Kingdom. Directed by Wes Anderson. After having seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums in the last two weeks, I felt ready to see Moonrise Kingdom. I must happily report that the latest Anderson venture is an altogether delightful moviegoing experience. Its cast is terrific: besides the gifted young leads, Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, the adults are played by Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban and Marianna Bassham. It is sometimes easy to forget that Willis is actually a pretty good actor, capable of wonderful subtlety and nuance. I was reminded not only of his similarly bespectacled character in Death Becomes Her but also of Die Hard (there’s an exciting moment in Moonrise when Willis’s character, the local law officer, has to climb all over a roof during a heavy rainstorm). The film’s technical aspects, including cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman and a score by Alexandre Desplat, give each scene the colorful beauty of children’s books. Moonrise Kingdom is truly lovely, a confection not to be devoured but rather to be nibbled delicately. Needless to say, it is the best Anderson film I have seen thus far.
The Woman in Black. Directed by James Watkins. Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Potter film role is basically a worthwhile way to spend an evening. Psychological horror is one of my favorite genres and this film more or less succeeds. The atmosphere is suitably creepy, despite utilizing tricks that were used to better effect in another psychological horror film set in the Victorian era, the 1961 classic The Innocents. While Radcliffe is no Deborah Kerr, he certainly does his utmost to hold the film together. There are few other main characters in the film, with principal parts going to Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer and Liz White. When I saw the film, which was at the Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 at Times Square, there were a lot of young children in the audience. Clearly, the parents had no clue that “film starring Daniel Radcliffe” does not equal “film suitable for age thirteen and under,” an issue which caused an unduly large amount of screams and chatter during the film. (Perhaps the parents should have noticed that The Woman in Black‘s MPAA rating is PG-13 for “thematic material and violence/disturbing images.”) To be fair, none of the screaming kids compared to the crying baby and his/her unmoving parents in the row behind me. That was probably my last visit to the Times Square Regal E-Walk for a while.