“Man of Steel”
Micah: I am very much in favor of the first two-thirds of this movie. I like Henry Cavill. I like the flashbacks in Kansas. I like Kevin Costner as Pa Kent. But that final act … endless. I don't knock the battle royale for intentionally evoking 9/11, as a lot of critics have. (Hollywood blows stuff up; that's just what it does). But I do knock it for being boring. By the time Superman finally defeated that giant spider robot thing, I'd checked out. I know you enjoyed this quite a bit more than me, but don't you think they could have landed the ending better?
Dave: I really loved this movie. I've always wanted to see a Superman movie that took the character completely seriously. "Man of Steel" delivered. I didn't find the ongoing "superbrawl" in the final third tedious in the least. Visionary director Zack Snyder finally showed the world what a battle between beings of such immense power might actually look like. No one in the past has even come close. One could argue that the brawling might have been intercut with more scenes of Superman saving innocent bystanders, and, yeah, I think that might have provided a little relief from the "punching-each-other-through-buildings-repeatedly" business. It might have also have undone the perception by some that Superman didn't care about the "collateral damage" while still allowing him to do "super" things.
Micah: A lot of comic book fans had a problem with the end result of the Zod-Clark rumble. I didn't take issue because by that point in the movie, I was thinking about my grocery list. But how did you feel about Superman's choice?
Dave: Well, in spite of the cries of the “Superman DOES NOT kill!” crowd, I wasn't disturbed by it. The main point behind that philosophy in the comics was that because he had such immense power at his disposal, Superman would never use it to take a life. But in this case, he was fighting an inhuman being with equally great power, who intended to destroy an innocent family. There was a similar “shocking” decision at the end of “Batman Begins,” when Batman decided not to try and save Ra's al Ghul from the impending train wreck. In the comics, Bats would generally stick his neck out to save a villain who was about to die. I think the idea in these films is to raise the stakes and strive for consequences that are a bit more realistic.
“White House Down”
Patrick: Micah, having already talked to you at length about this film, we both know this will evolve into a “White House Down” vs. “Olympus Has Fallen” debate, so let's just skip to the climax. I liked “WHD.” I was entertained, I thought Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, both A-list movie stars, played off each other nicely, and the casting of Jason Clarke of "Zero Dark Thirty" fame was a plus. And it was funny! But “OHF” was actually a good movie. Much more suspenseful, more action-packed. Gerard Butler, for the first time since "RocknRolla," delivered a performance I didn't hate. And “OHF” had Morgan Freeman! We all know you can't beat Morgan Freeman. (Except "The Bucket List." That was a bad movie.)
Micah: With the exception of some inventive brutality, "Olympus Has Fallen" was mostly a slog. I did like Butler, but I didn't think the movie was particularly well-made or well-acted. The supporting cast, save Melissa Leo, phoned it in (and I wish Leo had phoned it in because her big scene was the worst thing I've seen in a movie all year). "White House Down" was more aware of what it was, a dorky, ra-ra 'Merica good time. On production values alone, "WHD" is the clear winner. Director Roland Emmerich, whatever his shortcomings in logic and taste, is a skilled ringmaster of this kind of circus. He handles every big action setpiece with aplomb. The special effects extravaganzas in "OHF," meanwhile, often look like the stuff of Syfy Originals. Maybe Butler can fight the Sharknado in the sequel.
“World War Z”
Patrick: This just wasn't a good movie. Too many handheld shots, too average a cast, too much hair below Brad Pitt's shoulders. The whole point of this film was to inject realism into the zombie genre, and I just don't think anyone left the theater petrified like they might have with Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion." The only suspense came in the penultimate scene, with Pitt racing through a W.H.O. facility, ducking zombies, trying to save the world. If Marc Forster gives me 90-100 minutes of that in the sequel -- this is rumored to be a trilogy -- I'll come back for more.
Dave: I've more or less forgotten this movie. I'm not a Brad Pitt fan. In fact, “Meet Joe Black” and “Mr. And Mrs. Smith” are probably the only Pitt headliners I've liked, and that had a lot more to do with Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie than it did Pitt. The biggest failure of “Z,” for me, is that all of the coolest scenes (swarming zombies) were shown for months in the previews. “The Killing's” wonderful Mireille Enos was completely wasted. My brother, a true “zombie connoisseur,” complained that there was nowhere near enough carnage on display. Certainly, “The Walking Dead” is far more graphic. It has been reported that the final 40 minutes of the film were completely rewritten and re-shot at great expense after the movie was already finished. I tremble to think how bad the original version must have been, given how lame the final cut turned out.
Patrick: Don't be crazy. Pitt's in a lot of good movies. "Inglourious Basterds," "Benjamin Button," "Moneyball," "Burn After Reading," "Fight Club," the “Ocean's” films, the list goes on. And haters are gonna hate, but I also liked "Troy." If the trailers are any indication, "The Counselor" and "12 Years A Slave" will be two of this year's best.
Patrick: In a summer where "The Internship" passed as an above-average comedy, "2 Guns" was the best, by quite a ways. The gist of the story was tired -- two federal agents, betrayed by the ones they trusted the most, out to seek revenge. But Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington were fantastic and played off each other better than anyone could have expected.
Micah: I thought not only was the gist of the story tired but also the execution of the story. It had all the right stuff for a good action comedy: competent direction, a gritty location, two game leads and a cast deep in great character actors. But the script was so rote, it just felt like a chore, a grind from one action cliche to the next. And good as Washington and Wahlberg are, they can only take the subpar banter so far. Their dialogue felt like a bad imitation of Elmore Leonard to me.
Patrick: Wahlberg had me laughing as hard as I had in a movie theater since the original "Hangover." Even my mother loved it!
Dave: Looking forward to a movie can be a nasty, triple-edged sword. Sometimes, you don't fully enjoy what a good film has to offer because you're not seeing the film you wanted. But every once in awhile, you enter the theater with high expectations, and the filmmakers still manage to blow you away. Such was the case for me with “Elysium.” My expectations were elevated because I loved director Neill Blomkamp's first outing, the ever-creative, innovative and subtly subversive “District 9.” I loved Sharlto Copley as a hapless South African bureaucrat. The opening moments of “Elysium” revealed that Blomkamp was picking up right where he left off, visually and in terms of breathtaking pace and thought-provoking plot and action.
Matt Damon's Max is a sturdy hero, who takes endless vicious lumps while propelled first by desperation and later by an emerging nobility. Jodie Foster wears both her faintly Nazi-esque accent and her Armani suit as though she's auditioning to reprise the role of Darth Vader. And when Copely is let out of whatever cage they were keeping him in, he begins swallowing scenery whole. As Foster's psychopathic enforcer, Kruger, Copley's a whirlwind of crazy evil, a sadistic Tasmanian Devil.
“I can't wait to see it again, and I can't wait to own it, so I can watch it as many times as I want.
Patrick: I applaud Blomkamp for making another original feature and the studio for giving him a reported $115 million production budget. Like you, I was also really looking forward to this film, even knowing it fail to live up to "District 9." I liked the message of the film, I liked the action (I mean, a dude's face was ripped off). The effects, which Blomkamp reportedly spent well over a year finalizing, were sensational. I will say that although I liked Damon and Foster, I thought other actors could have turned in similar performances. The supporting cast, though, was brilliant, starting with Copley.
Dave: I watched “District 9” the night before I saw "Elysium," and while I still thought it was great, I'd have to say that I found “Elysium” far more polished and entertaining. I don't think too many actors project the sort of self-effacing inner decency that Damon generally delivers (to the point that audiences and critics may take it for granted), making him a natural hero. As for Foster, I can't think of too many female stars who could come off as demure and iron-fisted as she did. I think that both performances may seem run-of-the-mill next to Hurricane Copley, though.