Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Summer blockbuster season is officially upon us, and you can't have a summer blockbuster without a proper action hero. After all, someone needs to stare into the distance with grim determination, crack jokes in the middle of a tense fight, run in slow motion away from an explosion, and make audiences everywhere swoon over the silhouette of their perfect profile in the sunset. 2014 has its own crop of actors competing for our affections and wallets, all of them hoping to be the next big movie star. But which one is truly the most heroic? Who stands triumphant over his fallen comrades as the best action hero of the year?
The Ones We've Seen:
Mark Wahlberg, Transformers: Age of Extinction Who He’s Playing: Cade Yaeger, a struggling inventor who stumbles across and injure Optimus Prime and restores him to health. Strengths: No matter what he’s in, Wahlberg gives off an intimidating vibe – he seems like the kind of guy who would punch a giant robot in the face without thinking twice about it – but he’s also able to give whichever tough guy he’s playing this time some charm. Wahlberg isn’t afraid of anything, especially not the rules of logic that state a born and bred Texan shouldn’t speak like he grew up in Boston. Weaknesses: It’s a Transformers film, so ultimately, character is less important than robots punching each other. Wahlberg doesn’t get a lot to work with here, but he doesn’t seem to put in enough work to make Cade anything other than a generic tough guy. He could be giving this same performance in basically any action movie.
Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow Who He’s Playing: Major William Cage, a solider in the United Defense Forces who goes back in time to one day in particular every time he dies. Strengths: Everyone knows that Cruise can perform impressive stunts or drive alien spaceships with ease, but Edge of Tomorrow brought back a side of the actor that we haven’t seen in a while, something that was dearly missed in many of his recent blockbusters. We are, of course, talking about his ability to play a complete jackass better than almost anyone in Hollywood. As Cage, Cruise was sarcastic, rude, obnoxious and more charming than he’s been in years, and it felt like a proper return to his former action hero glory. Weaknesses: Once he stops being so obnoxious, we like him less, and the movie suffers for it. Plus, all of the charm in the world isn’t able to distract us from how awkward Cruise looks in the battle skeleton, which seems uncomfortable and unwieldy.
James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, X-Men: Days of Future Past Who They’re Playing: Professor X and Magneto, of course. Strengths: One of the things that make the X-Men movies so great is the chemistry between Professor X and Magneto, and McAvoy and Fassbender have it in spades. Every time these two are onscreen together it’s exciting, which makes them one of the best action hero teams around. They also bring a sense of gravitas and depth to their characters, rather than just letting the stunts and effects carry the film, which makes their characters and relationship even more compelling, and the X-Men films as a whole more enjoyable. McAvoy’s drunk, depressed Charles is a tour de force performance that you’re unlikely to see in most summer blockbusters. Weaknesses: As interesting as they are together, their performances can easily get lost in the complicated plot and cast of thousands. Sure, McAvoy and Fassbender are brilliant together, but when you left the theater, the only person you were still talking about was Quicksilver.
Chris Evans, Captain America: The Winter Soldier Who He’s Playing: Captain America, duh. Strengths: A lot of the time, people seem to think that Cap is a dull, by-the-book, overly-serious character who’s focused on nothing but rules and easily confused by technology. But Evans gives him dimension, charm and the kind of biting wit that is normally associated with Tony Stark. He easily carries the film with his performance, which is by turns sympathetic, intense, and incredibly hilarious, and he managed to make the most impressive, complicated stunts look simple and graceful. Plus, he has the best profile of anyone on this list, and everyone knows an action hero is nothing without a strong jawline. Weaknesses: As charismatic as Evans is, Cap often gets overlooked in favor of the more dramatic or hilarious characters, like the Winter Soldier or Falcon, since they’re a bit flashier.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Godzilla Who He’s Playing: Ford Brody, a US soldier specializing in EODs. Strengths: Like Wahlberg, Taylor-Johnson looks like an action hero. He’s got the steely gaze, the clenched jaw and the trademark action hero biceps, all of which help him come across as a tough, capable soldier. He’s best in the quieter moments when Ford is reuniting with his family or connecting with his father or comforting a lost child on the train, which gives him a bit more depth and charm than the average hero. Weaknesses: Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that Ford Brody has going for him. He’s rather generic, staring out at monsters with a blank face and getting little to do other than running from disaster to disaster. If only Godzilla had realized that Ken Watanabe was the real protagonist of the film; maybe then Ford wouldn’t seem so bland.
The Ones We Haven’t:
Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy Who He’s Playing: Peter Quill a.k.a. Star Lord, a pilot and thief who teams up with a band of misfits in order to protect the galaxy. Strengths: As anyone who has ever seen a single episode of Parks and Recreation can attest, Pratt basically radiates charm. He’s funny, he’s warm, he’s likable and if the trailer is any indication, he can kick some serious butt as well. A goofy action comedy is the perfect vehicle for Pratt, and the combination of his comedic chops and his natural gift with stunts (he does every single one of Andy Dwyer’s pratfalls himself) should be enough to turn him into a proper movie star. Weaknesses: Pratt might be just a touch too goofy to be taken seriously as an action hero. Sure, he’s tall and buff, but he seems more likely to hug your than punch you, which might make it difficult for audiences to see him as a tough, intimidating superhero.
Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Who He’s Playing: Caesar, the Simian ruler of the new nation of Apes that has taken over the planet. Strengths: We might have to wait until July 11 to see Serkis in action, but we did manage to get a good impression of the character in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis is wonderful at communicating Caesar’s thoughts and ideas even without words, which gives him the advantage of not having to deal with the typical cheesy action movie dialogue, and his performance is intense and intimidating. Weaknesses: It might be a challenge for universal audiences to connect with an ape the same way that they would a human, but Serkis proved in Rise that he can instill Caesar with plenty of empathy. Now able to speak, we imagine he'll top even himself.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Hercules Who He’s Playing: Hercules. Who else would The Rock play? Strengths: Despite his intimidating size, Johnson is an incredibly goofy, charismatic guy, and he’s generally very good a bringing that to the characters he plays. An ideal Hercules would blend the action and heroics with enough charm to make us care about him and root for him, and if there’s one thing that Johnson is good at, it’s winning over an audience. Weaknesses: Hercules has to follow the dismal Legend of Hercules and Pompeii, so Johnson is under a lot of pressure to create a charming, likable, interesting character in order to avoid being lumped in with the rest of them. That’s a big challenge for his first proper action hero role, and the trailer seems to give off a dismal, serious vibe, so he’ll have a lot working against him.
Scarlett Johansson, Lucy Who She’s Playing: Lucy, a woman with the ability to access and control her brain’s full potential, which gives her the ability to control the world around her. Strengths: With experience as both a leading lady and a superhero, Johansson should have no trouble blending both to create an exciting, original character. As Lucy, she gives off a strong, independent vibe that’s at once intimidating and compelling. And we already know that Johansson’s able to inject a healthy dose of charm into whoever she’s playing, so it seems like Lucy might just beat the boys at their own game. Weaknesses: She’s got a complex, convoluted plot to contend with, which means she’ll need to spend a lot of time rattling off exposition. That takes away from the time the audience spends getting to know the character, and if Johansson doesn’t make it interesting enough, it could keep them from connecting with Lucy.
Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, and Pete Plozek, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Who They’re Playing: Ritchson is Raphael, Fisher is Michelangelo, Howard is Donatello and Plozek will be playing Leonardo, although his voice will be dubbed over by Johnny Knoxville. Strengths: They’re all practically unknown, which means that audiences don’t quite know what to expect from them – a fact which the Turtles themselves would no doubt use to their advantage. The most recognizable of the bunch is Fisher, whose role as Mickey Milkovich on Shameless has proven that he’s a talented actor who brings a lot of depth and layers to his characters. He turned one of the show’s bullies into one of its heroes, which bodes well for his ability to connect with an audience. Weaknesses: The Turtles themselves are CGI, and since the trailer promises weird, slightly freaky-looking creatures, it’s going to be a challenge for them to give a compelling performance through all of the effects. Since they themselves will be unrecognizable, it’s going to be harder for them to win over the audience and get them to root for these characters.
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
In the wake of The Fault in Our Stars' ride to the top of the box office on a wave of tears, there's been a great deal of debate about YA novels and their film adaptations. While the genre has many defenders, both young and old, some critics believe that anyone out of their teen years should abandon YA novels in favor of more mature, intellectually stimulating, and therefore more rewarding books. Still, as anyone who went to see the hit tearjerker can attest, moviegoers of all ages turned out for The Fault in Our Stars, since everyone, no matter how young or how old, loves a good cry. Just like everyone who enjoys a fun, exciting action movie went to see the first two installments of The Hunger Games, which broke box office records. And both adults and children filled out theaters to watch Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort fight a corrupt government in Divergent.
The films seems to be enjoyed by a wide, varied audience, so why should the books that they're based on be restricted to only middle schoolers? They're just as dark, just as complex, and just as entertaining, if not more so, than their big screen counterparts. Yes, these books and films are being targeted at a younger audience, but that doesn't mean that you have to be a certain age to find meaning and depth in these stories. Luckily, the trend of YA franchise adaptations doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon, with four major blockbusters due out before the rest of the year. That's not to mention the countless novels that have either been optioned by studios or are currently in the middle of casting and filming. All of these stories have plenty to keep an all-ages audience entertained, so we broke down the biggest YA releases of the year in order to make a case for why you should take a chance on them, both at the box office and at the book store.
The Fault in Our Stars What It’s About: When cancer-stricken Hazel Grace Lancaster is forced by her mother to attend a support group for other survivors, she meets the charming Augustus Waters, and after bodning over their favorite book and their illness, the two embark on a slightly twisted teenage love story. Who’s In It: Shailene Woodley as Hazel, Ansel Elgort as Gus, Nat Wolff as Isaac, Laura Dern as Hazel’s mom and Willam Dafoe as Peter Van Houten. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Though sometimes the pretension of the main characters can rub people the wrong way, it’s a genuinely touching love story that feels realistic, rather than simply being a series of rom com clichés. Hazel and Gus’ relationship really is all about the small moments, and they’ll win you over and warm your heart… before they shatter it into a million pieces. Our Thoughts on the Film: Since The Fault in Our Stars did so well at the box office, we’re hoping it can help usher in a new generation of realistic, down-to-earth teen movies. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good fantasy adventure or dystopian future as much as the next person, but normal teenagers, without powers and without an oppressive government to overthrow can be just as moving and compelling.
The Giver Opens: August 15 What It’s About: Jonas lives in a futuristic utopian society that makes everyone equal through “Sameness,” which also eradicates emotions and color from their lives. However, when he starts his job as the Receiver of Memories, he gets a glimpse at the way the world used to be – messy, emotional, colorful, tragic and hopeful – and starts to question the world that he has always called home. Unfortunately, questioning is the one thing the government doesn’t want people to do. Who’s In It: Brenton Thwaites as Jonas, Jeff Bridges as The Giver, Meryl Streep as Chief Elder, and Taylor Swift as Rosemary. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): It encourages people to question their surroundings, to search for more, to not be content with accepting the status quo just because that’s the way things are, which is an important message not just for children, but for adults as well. The Giver also argues that even though life can be difficult and heartbreaking, we wouldn’t truly be living without experiencing those things. Plus, the ending still gets people of all ages riled up more than a decade later, which means it must be worth checking out. Our Hopes/Worries for the Movie: We’re pretty wary about this one, from what we’ve seen in the trailers. It looks like they’ve finally caught onto the fact that the lack of color is important to fans, but we’re still worried that the film has had some unnecessary action added to it in order to make it fit in better with the current slew of dystopian teen movies. Still, it has Streep and Bridges in the cast, so it’s got be good, right?
If I Stay Opens: August 22 What It’s About: After a car accident puts her in a coma, Mia has an out-of-body experience where she can hear and see everything that’s going on around her. After learning about the death of her family, she must decide whether to go with them, or stay in a world full of tragedy. Who’s In It: Chloe Grace Moretz as Mia and Jamie Blackley as Adam. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Everyone loves a good, cathartic cry, and this is just the book to cause one. But it’s also a story about the choices we make and how they affect our lives, as well as one about persevering through heartache and loss. Our Hopes/Fears for the Movie: The trailer seems to focus more on Mia’s romance with Adam than on her love for music and her relationship with the family, both of which are just as crucial to the story. While their relationship is a major part of what makes If I Stay so great, we don’t want it to dwarf all of the other great aspects of Mia’s story.
20th Century Fox Film
The Maze Runner Opens: September 19What It’s About: Thomas wakes up in a place called The Glade with no memory of anything other than his name. As he tries to recall his past life, he learns about the society of boys that has been established there, and about the Maze that might be their only hope of escape. Nobody has ever survived a night in the Maze, but Thomas thinks that nighttime might be their only opportunity out, as more and more kids start dying. And then, one day, a girl arrives at The Glade, claiming to know Thomas… Who’s In It: Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, Kaya Scodelario as Theresa, Will Poulter as Gally and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt. Why It’s Worth Reading (At Any Age): If you’re looking for a fun, exciting adventure with a slowly unravelling mystery at its center, The Maze Runner is the book for you. It’s a quick read, but an enjoyable one, and all of the characters at The Glade are funny, frustrating and compelling. Our Hopes/Fears For the Movie: The film will succeed or fail on its version of the Maze and the Grievers that inhabit it, as both are such a key part of the story. They’ll need to be genuinely terrifying in order for the story to have any weight, but the Grievers are a tricky creature to adapt. However, we’re looking forward to a different take on the dystopian genre, and The Maze Runner should make for a fun fall popcorn movie.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Opens: November 21 What It’s About: After defeating the Quarter Quell, Katniss Everdeen becomes the eluctant face of the revolution to overthrow the Capitol and free the citizens of Panem. Who’s In It: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Though it’s the least popular installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, it still has everything you loved from the first books: action, excitmement, high emotional stakes, a strong heroine, and compelling, flawed characters. Our Hopes/Fears for the Film: Mostly, we’re just concerned with how and where the film will be split in two, as choosing that point of separation is always difficult. We’re also hoping that a third (and fourth) record-breaking opening will finally convince studios to make more female-fronted action films. Clearly, there’s an audience for them.
Insurgent Opens: March 20, 2015 What It’s About: Tris and Four must continue to fight against a powerful alliance that will tear the city apart, and could lead most of the population to their deaths. Who’s In It: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Kate Winslet, and Octavia Spencer. Why It’s Worth Reading (at Any Age): Because you read or watched the first installment in the Divergent series and you’re dying to know what happens next. Our Hopes/ Fears for the Film: Look, Hollywood, it’s a second successful female-led blockbuster franchise. Is that enough to help change your mind?
Summer at the movie theater generally means one thing: big-budget popcorn films packed with explosions, robots, superheroes, aliens, or a combination of all four. But even though we're currently in the middle of blockbuster season, that doesn't mean that action movies or outrageous comedies are your only option for summer entertainment. This also happens to be the best season for indie movies, and low-key, high-brow alternatives to the obnoxious, annoying and/or unintelligent blockbusters are flooding into theaters everywhere. So, when you're tired of being dragged along to yet another movie where superheroes punch each other or people (unrealistically) run away from explosions in slow motion, or you're forced to endure another onslaught of unfunny, overly-crude humor, why not take spend the afternoon with one of these indies (opening on or around the same dates) instead?
Instead of Tammy, Try Life Itself (Opens July 4) Melissa McCarthy makes her screenwriting debut in Tammy, a film about a woman searching for a new lease on life on a road trip with her alcoholic, diabetic, inappropriate grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon). But if you’re looking for a quieter – if no less cinematic – celebration of life, try Life Itself, the documentary about the life and career of the legendary film critic Roger Ebert. It’s an uplifting, fascinating look at a man who made film criticism accessible to the public and became the definitive voice of entertainment and cinema, even when he could no longer speak. Although it probably won’t have as many pratfalls as Tammy is likely to have…
Instead of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Try Boyhood (Opens July 11) In many ways, Caesar, the simian overlord from Planet of the Apes and Mason, the titular boy at the heart of Boyhood, are on a similar journey. Both are discovering their full potential, both are dealing with a growing sense of responsibility and pressure from the people around them and both are experiencing the joys and pains of growing up. It just so happens that Caesar’s growing pains have to do with the new monkey-led nation he’s establishing and Mason’s are the result of the ups and downs of the normal teenager experience.
Instead of Sex Tape, Try Mood Indigo (Opens July 18) At the box office, summer love is generally interpreted as a raunchy comedy, and this year’s offering is Sex Tape. However, there is a sweeter, more romantic alternative hitting theaters the same day: Mood Indigo. Directed by Michel Gondry, it’s a surreal love story about two newlyweds (Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris), whose relationship is tested when it’s discovered that a flower is growing in her lungs. A little offbeat, very dreamy, and wonderfully heartwarming, it’s a sweet summer treat. Plus, it has just enough special effects to satisfy any lingering desire for big-budget spectacle.
Instead of Lucy, Try Happy Christmas (Opens July 25) Summer movie season isn’t known for having a notable amount of female-fronted films, but 2014 has several lined up. The big-budget option is Lucy, which stars Scarlett Johansson as the only person in the world who is able to unlock and control the full potential of her brain’s capacity, but if you’re not in the mood for shooting, explosions and special effects, you can instead check out Happy Christmas, which opens the same day. Anna Kendrick stars as an irresponsible young woman who moves in with her brother (Joe Swanberg), his wife (Melanie Lynskey) and their infant son without any warning, and her slow, rocky journey towards adulthood.
Instead of Guardians of the Galaxy, Try The Trip to Italy (Opens August 15) Equal parts comedy and action, Guardians of the Galaxy is about a band of misfits who come together to save the universe. The Trip to Italy has a bit less action and a lot more impressions, but it too centers on a pair of misfits (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon), who are on mission to travel around Italy, review restaurants and annoy the crap out of each other. Watching these two trade jokes and attempt to one-up each other is quite possibly the most pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.
Instead of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Try Love Is Strange (Opens August 22) Six years after the first Sin City hit theaters comes A Dame to Kill For, which sees Josh Brolin’s Dwight hunted down by the woman he loves (Eva Green), and brings back several of Frank Miller’s classic characters – well, the ones that weren’t brutally killed anyway. But if you’re in the mood for a more low-key love story, try Love Is Strange, a film about a middle-aged gay couple forced to live with friends after one of them loses his job at a Catholic school. Part love story, part family dramedy, part fish-out-of-water tale, it’s a funny, original take on the marriage plot, anchored by excellent performances from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.
Instead of The Expendables 3, Try The Congress (Opens August 29) If you’re a fan of actors in a career renaissance and action films, but you’re looking for something a bit more inventive than Stallone and Co. blowing things up, The Congress might be the film for you. The sci-fi film centers on a fictionalized, down-on-her-luck version of Robin Wright agrees to allow a studio to digitize her likeness for a future Hollywood. However, the studio will have complete control over her image for the rest of time, and Wright has no say in what or who they turn her into. Just as exciting, but much more stimulating and creative, The Congress is a perfect alternative to your standard action fare.
As the summer reaches its peak and the Fourth of July swiftly approaches, it's time to look back on the six months of 2014 that have passed in order to evaluate where we stand in terms of pop culture. But while most lists and articles choose to only focus on the best, most exciting, and most memorable moments that have occured in television and movies so far this year, we feel this retrospective wouldn't be complete without a look back on all of the worst that Hollywood has offered us in 2014. From unfunny, offensive premieres to movies that are held together by crude jokes and slow-motion sword fights to the once great shows that have seen a dramatic decline in quality, there's plenty to repress about the year in entertainment. Allow us to refresh your memory...
Dads Nobody had high expectations for Dads. It was a live-action Seth MacFarlane comedy about two immature best friends whose fathers move back in with them. It was probably never going to be a great sitcom. And yet, nobody expected just how terrible Dads actually turned out to be, an unfunny combinations of racism, misogyny and the way it turned two great character actors (Martin Mull and Peter Reigert) into walking fart jokes. Thankfully, Fox decided to put everyone out of their misery by cancelling the show in May, even though everyone blocked it from their minds well before that.
The Other Woman The Other Woman had everything it needed to be a success: two talented, likeable comedias in Leslie Mann and Cameron Diaz, a well-worn dramatic trope at the center of its plot, an attractive leading men, Nicki Minaj, and an early summer release date that ensured it wasn’t competing with any major blockbusters. Unfortunately, it also had a terrible, unfunny, insultingly stupid script that managed to somehow tell a story about women who bond over their cheating significant other in the most misogynistic fashion imaginable. Truly, The Other Woman did the impossible.
Sherlock, Season 3 For a while, it seemed as if the BBC’s modern adaptation of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories could do no wrong. They were smart, well-written, well-acted, and well-directed; more like mini-movies than a television series. But then the third season premiered, and instead of the sharply crafted mystery we had come to expect, we got a pandering, oddly-paced, awkwardly-written show that shunted the cases to the side in favor of plotholes and fangirl fodder. The fact that we had to wait three years for Sherlock to make such a disappointing return only compounded all of our issues into a giant letdown of a season.
Super Fun Night After her breakout roles in Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids, America wanted nothing more than to spend more time with Rebel Wilson. Unfortunately, they changed their minds once her TV show, Super Fun Night, premiered. Everything that they loved about Wilson – the accent, the confidence, the charm, the wit, the jokes, the sweetness – was gone, and in its place was an painfully awkward, unfunny show with a painfully awkward, unlikable protagonist with an American accent. Luckily, Pitch Perfect 2 is set to hit theaters soon, at which point everyone will forget that Super Fun Night ever happened, and our perfect image of Wilson as the ideal best friend will be restored.
That Awkward Moment Like The Other Woman, That Awkward Moment is a marvel. It’s a film that takes another familiar premise (in this case, friends making a pact to stay out of relationships, only to fall in love) and three of the most charming, talented and good looking young actors in Hollywood (Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan) and squanders its potential on bad voice overs and boner jokes. Also, Efron’s character might have been a sociopath. Regardless, That Awkward Moment felt like less of a disappointment than an insult to intelligent audiences everywhere.
House of Cards, Season 2 If we were to ask you what the worst thing about the first season of House of Cards was, chances are you’d say the convoluted policy talk, Francis petty feuds, or or the unrealistic way he managed to get away with everything. Unfortunately, showrunner Beau Willimon disagreed with the rest of us, and made those three elements the focus of the entire second season. He must have assumed that we’d be too distracted by Kevin Spacey chewing the scenery to mind the boring, long-winded and convoluted discussions of foreign policy, the comic idiocy of President Walker, the far-fetched plots designed to conveniently dispose of characters who asked questions, and the fact that Francis had turned from a manipulative power player into a full-blown cartoon villain. We wouldn’t be surprised if next season, he wore a top hat and a monocle and twirled his mustache during his asides to the camera.
The Legend of Hercules If you were in the Twilight films and your name isn’t Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, or Anna Kendrick, your biggest career challenge is overcoming the stigma of being a supporting player in the most devisive movie series of all time. So we don’t blame Kellan Lutz for branching out into leading man territory with The Legend of Hercules. How was he to know that the film would be stupid, nonsensical and only tangentially related to its source material? Or that it would be a cheap-looking, boring, plodding mess that lacked any sense of fun? Really, he was just trying to be something other than Emmett Cullen for a change.
A Million Ways to Die in the West Seth MacFarlane has not had a great year so far. First, critics reacted to Dads as if someone had dumped a pile of hot garbage on their freshly mowed lawn, and then he made A Million Ways to Die in the West, a comedy that basically shot Blazing Saddles in the face. Terribly unfunny, over-reliant on references and repeated jokes and a waste of a stellar cast, the worst thing about the film was the fact that it completely lacked MacFarlane’s voice, which, while not for everyone, at least has a distinctive comedic perspective. At least there’s always Ted 2, right?
I Wanna Marry Harry Sometimes, a network isn’t just content to put crap on television to fill airtime during the summer. Sometimes, they want to provoke a reaction – any reaction – and so they come up with a show that crushes your soul, and destroys any lingering hope you might have had in not only the future of television, but also society as a whole. In 2014, that show was I Wanna Marry Harry, a festering sore disguised as a reality TV competition in which girls are tricked into competing for the affections of a potato with legs. And that’s the nicest way I could possibly describe that show.
The Cancelation of Enlisted What hurts the most about losing Enlisted, Fox’s funny, original and criminally underrated show isn’t the fact that the network made it impossible for the show to gain a following and then used its lack of ratings as an excuse for cancelation. It’s not that we lost a wonderful, well-written show that could be both hysterically funny and incredibly moving. It wasn’t even that the world never got a chance to appreciate the talents of the wonderful ensemble, all of whom created hilarious, realistic, delightful characters. No, what hurts the most about the decision to cancel Enlisted is that it was announced in the same week that I Wanna Marry Harry premiered. Never has a metaphorical slap in the face felt so painful.
Summer at the movie theater generally means one thing: big-budget popcorn films packed with explosions, robots, superheroes, aliens, or a combination of all four. But even though we're currently in the middle of blockbuster season, that doesn't mean that action movies or outrageous comedies are your only option for summer entertainment. This also happens to be the best season for indie movies, and low-key alternatives to your favorite summer blockbusters are flooding into theaters everywhere. So, when you get tired of watching people run from explosions in slow motion and you can no longer tell one superhero from the next, why not take a break from the multiplex and give one of these indies a try instead.
If You Liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Try Snowpiercer (Opens June 27) The sequel to 2011’s Captain America saw Chris Evans lead a band of rebels who took down an oppressive regime that infiltrated a major government agency in order to save the world and protect American citizens. Snowpiercer sees Chris Evans lead a band of rebels as they attempt to take out and oppressive bureaucrat in order to establish better living conditions for the people living aboard the train. One of them has Tilda Swinton and one has Anthony Mackie, but both are worth watching.
If You Liked The Fault In Our Stars, Try What if (Opens August 1) Now that you’ve recovered from watching two people fall tragically in love, why not follow it up with a funnier take on romance? Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, What if tackles the immortal question of whether or not people can be just friends if they have romantic feelings for one another. It’s a smart, creative take on the traditional rom com, and it won’t leave you a shell of your former self at the end.
If You Like Tammy, Try They Came Together (Opens June 27) Comic powerhouses Melissa McCarthy and Amy Poehler both happen to be starring in major movies this summer. Co-written by and starring McCarthy, Tammy is a road trip movie that follows the titular character’s misadventures with her alcoholic, diabetic grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon). Poehler’s role as Molly in David Wain’s rom com parody is a bit more low-key, but promises to be just as funny and irreverent.
If You Liked 22 Jump Street, Try Life After Beth (Opens August 15) At its heart, 22 Jump Street is a film about a couple attempting to hold their relationship together despite their different personalities and the obstacles that arise because of them. It just so happens that Life After Beth tells a similar story, except instead of being undercover cops whose partnership is tested by college, the big hurdle that Beth and Zach need to overcome is the fact that Beth is, well… a zombie.
If You Like Get On Up, Try Frank (Opens August 15) Chadwick Boseman stars as the hardest working man in show business in Get On Up, which charts the life and career of James Brown, culminating in his comeback in the 1990s. But if you’re looking for a slightly more unconventional take on the music “biopic,” we recommend Frank, which stars Michael Fassbender as an eccentric, brilliant musician who wears a giant fake head at all times and Domhnall Gleeson as the newest recruit to Frank’s band. Although something tells us their music won’t be as easy to dance to…
If You Like Sex Tape, Try Two Night Stand (Opens August 22) Summer isn’t just filled with alien-fighting robots and superheroes protecting the galaxy; it’s also the time of year when the world celebrates the raunchy sex comedy. First up is Sex Tape, which follows a couple who film themselves in the act in an attempt to spice up their marriage, only to accidentally send it to all of their friends. Two Night Stand also centers on a regrettable decision – sleeping with a drunk stranger you met at a bar – that spirals out of control due to unforeseen circumstances. In this case, it’s a blizzard that traps the unhappy couple in an apartment together.
If You Liked X-Men: Days of Future Past, Try I Origins (Opens July 18) If you prefer the X-Men to all of the other superheroes on the block, you’re likely someone who appreciates a slightly complicated storyline, discussions of science and genetics and misfits coming together to form a family – which means that I Origins, a sci-fi romance about a molecular biologist who studies the human eye and his journey for truth and his lost love.
Pop pop! Six seasons and a movie, that long-awaited goal that has grown from a funny quip to a full-blown rallying cry for Community fans, are finally within our reach. The cult comedy has been resurrected for a 13-episode sixth season by Yahoo Screen, with most of the cast and creator Dan Harmon back on board for the new installments (via NYTimes). Though NBC’s cancelation took fans by surprise when it was announced in May, the Greendale Human Beings' fervor for the show inspired the site to take a chance on a weird, well-loved sitcom. The news has made us all happier than that time Abed – actually, you know what? I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t write about Community anymore.
Over the past three years, we have been inundated with news about the show, from its permanent home on the cancelation bubble to the abrupt departure of its creator and show runner to the abrupt rehiring of its creator and show runner to the loss of two key cast members to its eventual cancelation and now, finally, its renewal. And that doesn’t even take into consideration all of the rearranged premiere dates, arguments over when – if ever – the show started to go downhill, and the meta implications of everything Abed says. Community’s run on television has been a tumultuous one, and it’s required thousands of words to cover and keep up to date with and dissect everything new that is announced about the show. Frankly, I just don’t know what is left to say at this point.
It’s not that I’m not excited about getting to spend another semester at Greendale. I am. Sure, I’m somewhat apprehensive as to what form the revived Community will take now that it’s being made for a brand new format and a significant chunk of the cast has gone. But more than anything, I’m just relieved, because Yahoo’s decision to renew Community has provided some kind of stability on the roller coaster ride that has been its tenure on NBC. That stability is a good thing, not just for the fans who were terrified to face a future without the Greendale Seven, but also for the writers who cover the show.
We no longer have to provide up-to-the-minute updates about the show’s likelihood for renewal, we no longer have to be on constant alert in cast Harmon actually does make a Community movie in his basement, and I get a few months off before I’m forced to come up with an appropriate quote or reference to end a post with. The darkest timeline has truly come to an end. Okay, I guess I had one more left in me.
Friends who star on Saturday Night Live together go on to star in almost every movie they make together. At least, that appears to be Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader's philosophy, and the two are carrying on the tradition with their latest film The Skeleton Twins. The first trailer for the Sundance darling showcases a slightly different side of the pair, however, as they play twins who reconnect after they coincidentally each cheat death on the exact same day. Their second chance at life inspires both of them to re-evaluate their lives and mend their relationships with one another. Between the eight years they spent together on SNL, the 10 movies they've both starred in, and the countess talk show and award show appearances they've made together, Wiig and Hader have created many wonderful, weird, and goofy characters. In celebration of their chemistry, here's a look back at all of the hilarious pairings that Wiig and Hader have entertained us with over the years...
Devin and Karina, The Californians Despite being one of SNL's most divisive recurring sketches, The Californians was a cast favorite, which explains why it was performed so many times. Still, the pointless soap opera about rich people giving directions would be nothing without Hader's Devin, whose close relationship with Wiig's Karina caused a great deal of tension with her husband, Stuart (Fred Armisen).
Brady Trunk and Anastasia Hicks, Hollywood Dish As the world's worst entertainment news hosts, Wiig and Hader had the perfect opportunity to showcase both their most obnoxious, arrogant voices and their silliest faces during some extremely uncomfortable interviews with various celebrities that culminated in a series of dramatic spit takes.
Lyle Round and Mindy Elise Grayson, Secret Word Nine times out of ten, if SNL was doing a game show sketch, Hader played the host. Still, his most famous host was Lyle Round, an obnoxious, sleazy '50s television personality who always laughed at his own jokes and alternated between flirting with and yelling at Wiig's Mindy Elise Grayson, who has never been able to understand the one rule of the show. It's Wiig and Hader at their most over-enunciated, which is generally when they're at their finest.
Bobby and Paulette, Adventureland As the permanently exasperated couple that runs the titular theme park, Hader and Wiig got the chance to introduce audiences to their relaxed, hilarious chemistry and the oddball characters that we'd come to love them for, along with the real reason why nobody ever wins a giant panda while playing arcade games. They just don't have that many left.
Phone Sex Callers, Her In perhaps their strangest co-starring role (and considering the kind of weirdos these two normally play, that's saying something), Hader and Wiig each provided voices for people in a chat room that Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) enters at the beginning of the film to connect with another person. Though Hader plays a man pretending to be a woman, his cameo is brief (and if you didn't know to listen for him, it would probably pass you by completely). Wiig's performance as SexyKitten, on the other hand, is much more memorable, primarily because she asked Theodore to... well, "choke [her] with the dead cat" in the throes of passion. You'll never be able to watch Bridesmaids the same way again.
At the beginning of the year, it seemed like you couldn't go a single day without hearing about whichever insane thing Shia LaBeouf had gotten up to in the name of "art." After coming under fire for plagiarizing his short film, the former Even Stevens star embarked on a whirlwind press tour of oddity, until both LaBeouf and the general public grew tired of his antics, so he took a break from being outrageous for a living and we all stopped paying attention to him... until Thursday night, when he was escorted out of a performance of Cabaret in handcuffs at intermission. According to BroadwayWorld, LaBeouf was disruptive and distracting during the entire first act of the Broadway show, which frustrated both the cast and the audience. He was also rumored to have been smoking inside the theater, which is designed to look like run down nightclub in Germany. When security asked him to leave at intermission, LaBeouf refused, and the police were called to escort him out of Studio 54 in handcuffs.
The news confirmed by cast member Danny Burstein, who posted about the incident on his Facebook page, and composer Benj Pasek, who tweeted about it. And because one bizarre altercation wasn't enough for LaBeouf, footage surfaced early Friday morning of the actor chasing a man through Times Square, hours before the show began. Guess now we know why he was in such a terrible mood at the theater. Since this is truly just the latest in a long line of weird, dumb, completely crazy and attention-getting stunt that LaBeouf has pulled over the course of his career, we decided to see where it would fall in the great tableau of his insanity.
23. Feb 2008: Given a ticket for unlawful smoking in Burbank; issued an arrest warrant for not showing up in court a month later, but the warrant was rescinded when his lawyer showed up a day later.
22. December 2013: Revealed to have plagiarized two of his comic books.
21. August 2011: Brags in Details magazine about hooking up with Isabel Lucas and Megan Fox while they were both in relationships
2o. Jan 2014: Skywrites #stopcreating after he feels attacked by Daniel Clowes and the media for plagiarizing
19. Jan 2014: Hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Daniel Clowes and his lawyers after tweeting about his “new project” and copying the description of one of Clowes’ novels word for word.
18. Nov 2012: Starts a bar fight in London after someone steals his hat.
17. Feb 2013: Drops out of the Broadway production of Orphans, citing “creative differences” with Alec Baldwin; Baldwin maintains he was fired due to difficult behavior.
16. June 2012: Appears nude in music video for Sigur Ros’ "Fjögur Píanó."
15. Nov 2007: Arrested for misdemeanor trespassing after refusing to leave a Walgreens when a security guard asked him to.
14. Feb 2013: Publishes an apology email he wrote Alec Baldwin on Twitter which he plagiarized from a 2009 Esquire essay.
13. Dec 2013: Revealed to have plagiarized significant parts of his short film, HowardContour.com from the graphic novelist Daniel Clowes; tweets an apology that itself was plagiarized.
12. Dec 2013: Begins overtly plagiarizing all of his tweets from other celebrities.
11. Jan 2013: Takes acid in preparation for his role in Charlie Countryman, films his trip and sends the video to co-star Evan Rachel Wood for critique.
10. Jan 2014: Skywrites an apology to Daniel Clowes… nowhere near where the novelist would be able to see it.
9. Jan 2014: Retires from all public life on Twitter; continues to tweet.
8. Feb 2014: Arrives at Berlin Film Festival press conference in ratty, dirty street clothes, recites Eric Cantona’s infamous “seagulls” speech, then abruptly leaves.
7. Feb 2014: Attends the Nymphomaniac premiere with a paper bag over his head that reads “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE.”
6. June 2014: Is escorted out of a Broadway performance of Cabaret in handcuffs after “acting disorderly, yelling and being loud” during the first act and reportedly smoking in the theater.
5. June 2014: Caught on video chasing a man through Times Square. Some onlookers claimed he wanted the man’s McDonald’s French fries, while TMZ claims that the man was actually holding a tan cap, rather than a fast food bag.
4. Feb 2005: Arrested and charged with assault after threatening his neighbor by driving into his car; allegedly showed up on neighbor’s doorstep later that night brandishing a kitchen knife.
3. Oct 2013: Attempts to film two girls vomiting on a sidewalk in London, gets punched in the face and kicked in the junk.
2. Jan 2013: Dropped acid on the set of Charlie Countryman in front of the cast and crew to get into character, despite the fact that the character actually takes ecstasy. Gets naked, runs around, hallucinates an owl and traumatizes Rupert Grint.
1. Feb 2014: Holds an art exhibition – titled #IAMSORRY – in which people select a random object and sit in a room with him, while he endures whatever they do to him; he always cries at the end, even though everyone thinks they’re the only person he cried for. The exhibition is criticized for ripping off performance artists Marina Abromovic and for being insane. Only Jaden Smith gets it.
Weinstein Company via Everett Collection
In what might be the first bit of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice casting news that won’t send fans into a tailspin, DC and Warner Bros. are reportedly adding Scoot McNairy to the cast of the upcoming blockbuster. However, though Deadline revealed the news, the character that McNairy will be playing is being kept securely under wraps, along with whether or not his role is a Zack Snyder original or if he’s someone comic book fans are already familiar with. Since he’s joined the cast this late into production, it seems unlikely that McNairy’s character will play a large role in Dawn of Justice, but we have to imagine (considering his cult acclaim) it will be one of thematic sigificance. All of this leads us to believe that even though McNairy might not have a lot of screen time in this film, he’s most likely going to play a larger role in one of the other films that the studio has lined up. In other words, his Batman V Superman cameo might be the inception of McNairy's role as a member of the Justice League.
Since DC has the Justice League film slated for release immediately afterwards, it would be a good way to introduce fans to McNairy without throwing him immediately into a major superhero role. Many fans seem to be speculating that he will bring The Flash to the big screen, which is most likely due to his appearance and previous roles, as well as to the fact that DC hasn’t revealed whether they plan to recast Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern... but of course they won't.
Casting McNairy as The Flash – or any major superhero, for that matter – would be a change of pace for Warner Bros' DC series, a company that has thus far stuck to actors who are already household names for this film, between Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jeremy Irons. Even Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill, who were unknowns when they were chosen to help fill out the Justice League, are blockbuster stalwarts (Gadot broke through to the mainstream in the Fast and Furious movies, while Cavill had roles in everything from Immortals to Red Riding Hood). McNairy, by contrast, is a character actor, one who is well-respected amongst critics and cinephiles, but not particularly well-known by the average moviegoer.
McNairy brings something of an edge to a cast that is already packed with A-List actors and respected talents. Affleck might have more awards, by McNairy is far more "hip"; he’s still an underground celebrity, which appeals to a different kind of audience than his co-stars might. It’s an avant-garde choice for DC, a step away from the standard big-name approach that they’ve been taking recently to turn an acclaimed indie actor into a major superhero. In fact, it seems much more like the kind of casting decision that Marvel would make. This is their equivalent of casting Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Or just about anybody in Guardians of the Galaxy.
If McNairy does join the cast, it would be the closest that DC has gotten to following in Marvel’s footsteps. It doesn’t matter how quickly you can churn out blockbusters, or how much money they make, or even how heavily intertwined your universe is if you don’t have the right actors on board to inhabit the heroes. Sometimes, that means casting the best actor you can find instead of the most famous or the best looking one. McNairy would be a step in the right direction for DC in terms of building a solid cinematic universe, and depending on how fans respond to his character, it could be the model that the studio should follow when casting other roles. McNairy would give them a talented, well-liked actor with plenty of indie cred who could probably play any role they asked him to, and it would definitely benefit DC to have someone like that on their roster.
And it would benefit the rest of the world to finally see McNairy become a household name, rather than just “that guy who was in that thing.”
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Every two or so years, when the sun is at its hottest and summer blockbuster season is reaching its peak, a long shadow is cast over the movie theaters of the world, bringing with it dread, despair, and a week-long migraine. It is time for another Transformers movie. The latest one, which arrives in theaters on Friday whether we like it or not, does away with the established story of Shia LaBeouf, his trusty car and the gorgeous girlfriend who isn’t given much to do, and instead places the fate of the world in the toned arms of Mark Wahlberg.
There aren’t many people who are expecting Transformers: Age of Extinction to be a great film. In fact, most fans and critics are expecting the film to be torn to shreds by the press, many of whom had the pleasure of doing the exact same thing to its predecessors. Though most of the world now regards Michael Bay as the architect of the downfall of modern cinema, it’s worth remembering that there was a time when he wasn’t the most reviled filmmaker in America. But if you follow the reviews for the first three Transformers films, you can almost pinpoint the exact point of no return.
Transformers It might be difficult to remember – three very long, very loud movies later – but the first installment in the Transformers series was actually relatively well-received. By that, of course, we mean that it received mixed reviews rather than outright scathing ones. Still, there were plenty of critics who were never a fan of the franchise, and made their disdain for Bay’s most famous works clear from the beginning.
Some were upset over what had become of such a beloved part of their childhood:
“Transformers is a terrible film. It’s not even bad in a campy, funny way that is enjoyable in the right mindset. It’s bad in a horrible way that makes you wish you’d spent your evening doing something other than ruining your childhood memories.” - Sean Gandert, Paste Magazine
Many found it difficult to follow the film, which was somehow simultaneously overly-complicated and full of holes:
“The story has something to do with Autobots and Decepticons battling to be the first to get to what amounts to a giant battery pack (a "cube of infinite power," someone calls it, I think) that's been held for decades by the U.S. military in — oh, never mind.” – Bob Mondello, NPR
Or, they just had trouble looking past one glaring fault:
“Even by Michael Bay standards, this movie is vapid.” – James Berardinelli, Reelview
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Because audiences failed to heed these early warnings, the first film made enough money to warrant a sequel, two years later. A sequel which took all of the worst parts of the first Transformers film, made them louder, more obnoxious and four times as long, pumped them full of steroids and then strung them out to create a full movie. A sequel which will one day be remembered if not for its quality, than for the exuberance that critics showed in tearing it to shreds.
First, they ripped apart the script:
“Describing the plot of Revenge of the Fallen pretty much equates to making “boom, crash, kablooey” noises, but I’ll attempt to distill all the boring, non-explodey elements into this bite-sized paragraph.” – Simon Miraudo, Quick Flix
“Much of this film was put together during the Writer's Strike, and I'm guessing Michael Bay never once worried about it.” – Drew McWeeney, HitFix
Then, they tackled the exhausting experience that was sitting through Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:
“It’s like standing in the middle of a dust storm and opening your eyes to let the grit pour in.” – Josh Tyler, CinemaBlend
“Trying to take in this movie is akin to shaking up a snowglobe and paying attention to glitter shard No. 432,581: When two similarly-colored CG robots are simultaneously morphing and punching each other in the head, it’s impossible to figure out where one ends and the other begins, resulting in a visual cacophony that goes hand-in-hand with the bowels-rattling bassline and the shrieking, incoherent dialogue.” – Alsonso Duralde, MSNBC
Some put the blame squarely on Bay’s shoulders:
“Sweet Jesus! Does Michael Bay not know how to make a movie?” – Michael Edwards, What Culture
But nobody summed up the contempt that critics held for this movie quite like the legendary Roger Ebert, who was primarily concerned with helping moviegoers save their money:
“If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.”
Transformers: Dark of the Moon Just when we thought that we were free, that there was no way for Bay to come back from the torrent of abuse that was levelled at him as a result of Transformers 2, along came Dark of the Moon, because this is Hollywood, and it doesn’t matter how terrible a film is as long as it makes boatloads of money. On the whole, though, critics seemed to like the third movie a lot better, and focused on the positives:
“With his third, and by all accounts final, try director Michael Bay has made what is probably his best Transformers film yet. Which means that it is merely mind-numbingly bad rather than eye-gougingly bad.” – Joshua Starnes, ComingSoon
“There is more of a plot this time. It is a plot that cannot be described in terms of structure, more in terms of duration. When it stops, it's over.” – Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com
“It's better than 2009's horrendous Transformers 2, but almost anything is.” – Claudia Puig, USA Today
“At least McDreamy gets sucker punched. Simple pleasures.” – Kieth Uhlich, Time Out NY
But there were still some who couldn’t look past the marginal improvements that Bay and his team made in the third installment, and instead remained focused on all of its loud, headache-inducing faults:
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a work of ineffable soullessness and persistent moral idiocy, concludes with Chicago taking it in the shorts for 50-odd minutes, at the hands of the Decepticons in an alien takeover scored, partially, to an emo-ballad mourning the "cataclysm" of it all.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“Transformers 3 is one of the stupidest movies I've seen since Transformers 2.” – Scott Weinberg, Twitch
And then there was one critic who managed to sum up the way that critics and moviegoers everywhere feel about Bay, his movies, and the Transformers franchise as a whole, in one pithy sentence. Never has something so scathing, so true, and so unbearably funny been said so succinctly.
“I am no expert in theology, but I'm pretty sure evil looks a lot like Transformers 3 – Will Leitch, Yahoo Movies
Well, on the bright side for Transformers: Age of Exctinction, it truly can only go up from here.