Right now, everyone seems to be heading out to see The Dark Knight Rises for the first, second, or hundredth time. By my own personal count, the various writers here at The Shattered Lens have seen the film a combined total of 12 times since it opened on Friday. (Myself, I’ll be seeing it on Tuesday.)
But what if you don’t want to see The Dark Knight Rises this week? What if you just don’t want to deal with the big crowds? Maybe you want to wait a few months so that you can see it for a dollar. Or maybe, you showed up at the theater and discovered that the showing was sold out or perhaps you’re just not into the whole Batman thing. What then? Well, believe it or not, there are other movies out there and below, you can find 6 reviews of films that came out this year but are not The Dark Knight Rises. Some of them are worth seeing and some of them definitely are not. But all six of them are alternatives for those of you who want to see a movie but, for whatever reason, don’t want to see The Dark Knight Rises.
(Even better, they’re six films that I saw earlier this year but, until now, still hadn’t gotten around to reviewing.)
1) The Girl From Naked Eye (dir by David Ren)
Jake (Jason Yee) is the driver for a sleazy escort service that’s headquartered out of a strip club called Naked Face. Jake ends up falling in love with Sandy (Samantha Streets), an escort who writes poetry in her spare time. (Yes, one of those…) When Sandy is murdered, Jake goes on a violent search for her murderer.
The Girl From Naked Eye is a pretty uneven and rather predictable film but I actually enjoyed it. It’s obvious that director David Ren is a fan of the same old film noirs that I love and, at its best, Girl From Naked Eye is a loving tribute to those films. Streets is likable as the ill-fated Sandy and Gary Stretch brings some unexpected depth to his villainous role. Perhaps best of all, Girl From Naked Eye is only 80 minutes long. Sometimes, you just don’t need that extra 30 minutes to tell your story.
The Girl From Naked Eye is very much an independent film so it might be playing near you or it might not.
2) Magic Mike (dir. by Stephen Soderbergh)
After me and my BFF Evelyn saw Magic Mike, I hopped on twitter and I tweeted, “Memo to single guys. Go hang out around the theater when Magic Mike gets out. You will get laid!” Yes, Magic Mike is that type of film…
“Magic” Mike (played by Channing Tatum) is the most popular attraction at Xquisite, a male strip club that’s run by Dallas (a wonderfully sleazy performance from Matthew McConaughey). Mike ends up serving as a mentor for Adam (Alex Pettyfer) while pursuing Adam’s disapproving sister (Cody Horn) and saving up his money so that he can start his own business. However, the life proves a lot more difficult for him to leave then he originally thought…
There’s actually a lot of plot in Magic Mike but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The film knows that we’re all here to watch Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and Joe Manganiello shake everything that they’ve got and the film does not disappoint. Director Steven Soderbergh’s directs in such a way that the film’s dance numbers are both exciting and, at the same time, distancing. By taking a rather documentary approach to otherwise salacious material, Soderbergh reminds us that, ultimately, Tatum is just doing a job and fulfilling the requirements of fantasy as opposed to reality.
When Christy Lemire of the Associates Press gave a less than positive review to The Dark Knight Rises, all of the fanboys on Rotten Tomatoes became obsessed with the fact that she had previously given a positive review to Magic Mike. Many of them left comments complaining that the only reason Lemire enjoyed Magic Mike was because it featured naked men. While all one has to do is read Lemire’s review to see that’s not the case, so what if it was? Films have been objectifying women for over a century. What’s wrong with a little fair play?
Magic Mike is still in theaters.
3) Rock of Ages (dir. by Adam Shankman)
In this adaptation of the hit Broadway show, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) is an innocent girl from Oklahoma who dreams of finding super stardom in Los Angeles. She gets a job working as a waitress at an incredibly filthy-looking club run by Alec Baldwin and she also gets a boyfriend (played by Diego Boneta) who is an aspiring musician himself. Everything’s great except for the fact that the mayor’s puritanical wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) hates rock and roll and wants to close the club down. Luckily, alcoholic rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is willing to help out. Did I mention that Russell Brand is in this film as well? Because, he like totally is…
Rock of Ages gives you a chance to watch your favorite actors and actresses shake it to some of the least danceable music ever written and it’s just about as bad you might expect. Between the vanilla performances of Hough and Boneta and the film’s rampant sexism (every female in the film is either a shrew or a whore and apparently, the only thing that can redeem them is allowing Tom Cruise to drunkenly cop a feel), Rock of Ages is a combination of the forgettable and stuff that you wish you could forget. For a director who specializes in musicals, Shankman seems strangely lost here and the majority of the big numbers feel lifeless. The one bright spot is Mary J. Blige who shows up in a minor role and quickly reminds everyone what singing is all about.
Rock of Ages opened with a lot of hype but that hype didn’t translate into box office success. You can probably still catch it at the dollar theater but you might want your money back afterward.
4) Ted (directed by Seth MacFarlane)
Ted tells the story of a lonely 8 year-old boy who, one night, wishes that his beloved teddy bear Ted might come to life. Well, Ted does come to life and ends up proving to the world that magic does exist. Briefly, Ted and his owner are celebrities but soon, Ted’s fame fades and, 28 years later, Ted (voiced by director Seth MacFarlane) and his owner (now played by Mark Wahlberg) are slackers who spend their time smoking weed, watching TV, and obsessing over pop culture. (At times, it almost felt as if the film was a documentary about life here at the TSL Bunker.) However, Wahlberg’s girlfriend (Mila Kunis) feels that Ted is holding him back and eventually, Wahlberg is forced to make a choice between childhood friendship and adult love.
I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane’s. I hate the Family Guy and I’ve never gotten through more than 2 minutes of The Cleveland Show. However, I also have to admit that I enjoyed Ted for what it was. It’s a massively uneven film that pretty much tells the same joke over and over again but that joke (i.e. a cute toy saying or doing something incredibly crude) turns out to be surprisingly resilient. For their part, Wahlberg and Kunis are a likable couple and Kunis does a good job generating some much-needed sympathy for her thinly drawn character. Add to that, Joel McHale is in this film and how can I not enjoy a film that features Joel McHale?
Ted is still playing at a theater near you.
5) 21 Jump Street (dir. by Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
Morton (Jonah Hill) and Greg (Channing Tatum) have been unlikely friends since high school. Greg was a jock and bully while Morton was a guy who looked and acted a lot like Jonah Hill. When Greg and Morton graduate high school, they both enter the police academy together and, upon getting out of the academy, they find themselves assigned to hazardous duty like patrolling the local park. However, it turns out that there’s a new designer drug out there and Hill and Tatum are both sent back to high school. Only now, they’re working under cover…
21 Jump Street was a real surprise when it came out earlier this year, a laugh-out-loud comedy that managed to both satirize and celebrate the conventions of the American cop film. Hill and Tatum had a lot of chemistry together and there was something oddly touching about watching Hill return to high school and discover that he was now considered the cool guy while Tatum was now the outsider. 21 Jump Street has kinda gotten forgotten in all the hype surrounding The Avengers and the Dark Knight Rises but ultimately, 21 Jump Street can stand with those two films as proof that occasionally a big-budget studio production can turn out to actually be a good film.
(Plus, James Franco’s look-alike brother, Dave Franco, is in it!)
21 Jump Street is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray but it’s also still playing at a few dollar theaters across the country.
6) Underworld: Awakening (dir by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein)
Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is back and this time, she’s searching for Michael, who has gone missing. The plot doesn’t make much sense and the film has one of the most disappointing endings ever but it does provide the viewers with everything that they’ve come to expect from an Underworld film (with the exception of Scott Speedman, who does not return to the role of Michael in this film).
Underworld: Awakening opened at the beginning of the year, got terrible reviews, and made a decent enough amount of money that there will probably be yet another installment in the series come 2014. That said, Underworld: Awakening is probably the most vapid of all of the Underworld films (and that’s saying something) and, following the releases of both The Avengers and the Dark Knight Rises, it looks like even more of an empty exercise in CGI and action than it did when it was originally released. That said, this film does star my girl crush, Kate Beckinsale, and, after watching her in this film, I spent a few hours looking for monsters to fight. I will always recommend any film that features a women kicking ass and that’s about the only reason I have to recommend Underworld: Awakening.
Underworld: Awakening is currently available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.