It's almost summertime, which can only mean one thing: time for all of our favorite superheroes to return to the big screen. Over the next five months, Avengers, web-slingers, space bandits, and two different sets of mutants will arrive in theaters to entertain you with exciting new movies. But with so many coming out in such a short period of time, it can be hard to decide which ones to commit to. Do you go for the classic comic book appeal of Spider-Man, or take a chance on the weird goofiness of Guardians of the Galaxy? Do you see a new twist on a familiar face with Captain America or watch the Ninja Turtles make the jump from Saturday morning staple to blockbuster stars? Or do you just give in to the hero-packed, time-travelling insanity of the new X-Men?
It's a difficult decision, one that carries almost as much weight as the knowledge of which Ninja Turtle best fits your personality. After all, you don't want to be stuck with an adaptation you don't like, or a hero whose code of honor doesn't appeal to you. Luckily, we've created a handy guide to help you determine which 2014 superhero film is perfect for you, based on several key personality traits. You'll never have to worry about wasting popcorn or ticket money on the wrong superhero film again.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Set a year after the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers is living in Washington DC and learning to adjust to the modern world. However, when a colleague’s life is put in danger, he’s forced to shake off assassins, villains, and the mysterious Soviet agent known as The Winter Soldier in order to uncover a vast conspiracy. Opens April 4. What You Were Like as a Kid: You were a complete goody two-shoes, and were constantly worried about doing the right thing. You were never shy about calling out cheaters or line-cutters, even if it meant you would be branded a tattle-tale. Much to your friends’ annoyance, you always made an effort to include everyone in your games, and you always let people’s younger siblings stay at bat until they hit the ball. In high school, you were captain of the baseball team, and your probably ruined the grading curve for everyone. What You Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: President of the United States. Or a firefighter, since you dressed as one for four Halloweens in a row. Fictional Character You Idolize: Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights. He’s a leader, he’s a family man, he stands up for what’s right, and he fights for the underdog. “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” is basically your mantra. Favorite Non-Superhero Film: Miracle. A story of determination, teamwork, good leadership, and overcoming insurmountable odds, with a little bit of patriotism thrown in for good measure.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Peter Parker is attempting to balance his personal life and his secret alter ego, but everything is thrown into disarray with the return of an old friend, Henry Osborn, and the emergence of new villains that might be stronger than he imagined. However, he soon discovers that all of his enemies have something to do with Oscorp, which may lead to a shocking discovery about his parents' death. Opens May 2. What You Were Like as a Kid: Rather than hanging out with a large group of friends, you pretty much stuck with one partner-in-crime. You managed to hide your mischievous side pretty well, which came in handy whenever you got into trouble (which was more often than you'd like to admit.) You were curious about everything, and you were constantly conducting "science experiments" and sneaking into places you shouldn't be for the sake of adventure. There weren't many things that scared you or freaked you out, and so you took a lot of risks and climbed a lot of trees. You were probably one of those kids who brought home random animals once a week as pets. What You Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: A scientist, a pilot, or a veterinarian. Or, ideally, some terrifying combination of all three. Fictional Character You Idolize: Abed Nadir from Community. Nobody really understands him, but he's smart, confident, and is never afraid of whatever strange, exciting adventure comes his way. Favorite Non-Superhero Film: The first three Indiana Jones films. An archaeologist who gets to travel to exotic locations, fight bad guys and be unbelievably cool? Sold.
X-Men: Days of Future Past When the entire mutant species is threatened with extinction, Wolverine must go into the past in order to help mend the broken relationship between Professor X and Magneto, and convince them to join with their future selves in order to stop a war before it even begins. Opens May 23. What You Were Like as a Kid: You were definitely the weird kid growing up, and you only surrounded yourself with other weirdos. You were never afraid to stand up for yourself against bullies who picked on your or your friends. You stayed up late on the weekends to watch scary movies, and you probably tried to make some horror/superhero movie hybrids in your backyard. You were the kind of kid who would collect bugs and worms to scare the other kids in your class with, and you always wanted to have a pet snake or tarantula. What You Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: Something creative, like a writer, director, or musician. Fictional Character You Idolize: Daria. You're the kind of person who admires wit above all else, looked down on everyone you went to school with and you can't remember the last time you said something that wasn't sarcastic. Favorite Non-Superhero Film: Edward Scissorhands. The weird, creepy outcast defeats the bullies, wins over Winona Ryder, finds a family who love and accept him and lives in a castle.
Guardians of the Galaxy Pilot Peter Quill accidentally finds himself being hunted by intergalactic forces after he steals a valuable relic that belongs to the evil Ronan the Accuser. In order to take him down, he teams up with a group of misfits — murderous Rocket Racoon, the strong, almost silent Groot, Drax the Destroyer, and former assassin Gamora — to make one final stand against the villain and protect the universe. Opens August 1.What You Were Like as a Kid: You were the class clown, always willing to make a fool of yourself in order to get a laugh. You were often sent to the principal's office for disrupting class, but everyone wanted you to play with them at recess. You pulled pranks on almost everybody, even though they weren't very successful, and you considered yourself to be something of an evil genius. You had a pet who was endlessly loyal to you, but hated every other person on the planet. You probably got things stuck up your nose a lot. What You Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: An astronaut, even though you wouldn't really get to fight aliens. Fictional Character You Idolize: Han Solo, the coolest, smoothest, most sarcastic smuggler in galaxies both near and far. And he marries a princess, so he's basically living the dream. Favorite Non-Superhero Movie: 21 Jump Street, because it combines your favorite things: comedy, action and two enthusiastic, if unprofessional, cops becoming major heroes.
Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesAfter Shredder and his evil henchmen take control of the city and wreak havoc, four brothers rise from the sewers in order ot become the world's most unlikely superheroes. Alongside fearless reporter April O'Neill and her team, they must stop Shredder and restore order to the city. Opens August 8. What You Were Like as a Kid: You were often described as being “spirited” or “a handful.” You were usually pretty hyper, and you spent a lot of time running around with a gang of friends, pulling pranks and having adventures. You’ve never been able to turn down a dare, and you were always willing to risk getting hurt or getting into trouble if it meant doing something crazy and fun. You lied and told everyone that you had a black belt in karate, and you probably spent far too much time in the Emergency Room. What You Wanted to be When You Grew Up: A Ninja Turtle, and you’re still a little heartbroken that dream hasn't yet come true.Fictional Character You Idolize: Spinelli from Recess, who was tough, funny, stood up for the little guy, and was never afraid to be herself. Truly, a hero of Saturday morning cartoons. Favorite Non-Superhero Movie: Hot Fuzz. It's funny, it's action-packed, it's violent, it's a little weird and it pays homage to the classic action movies that have come before it, which means it's technically educational as well.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.