QUICKIES: ‘Super 8,’ ‘Green Lantern,’ ‘Bad Teacher,’ Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and The Civil Wars

Apologies once again for the lull in updating. I’ve been overwhelmed lately with things going on in my life, personal and career-wise. I had some posts going here and there and I plan to finish them and start on new ones hopefully soon, but there have also been a bunch of other ones that I had been meaning to write and won’t be able to due to the amount of time that has passed. So to keep the blog afloat, have some mini-reviews!

Super 8

Gabriel Basso, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney, and Riley Griffiths play an inquisitive group of young friends in a small town plagued by mystery in JJ Abrams' 'Super 8.'

JJ Abrams wrote and directed; Steven Spielberg served as executive producer. It sounds like a match made in heaven, right? Well, if the script was a little more solid and entrancing to back up this otherwise fine and decently executed story, it would be. Despite not reaching its full potential and living up to its hype, Super 8 is a good summer film that combines (pretty cheesy) fluff with obnoxious explosions, nostalgia from its 70s backdrop and similarities to 80s kid-centric films (The Goonies, The Explorers) with modern sci-fi suspense. The film centers on a group of kids in a small Ohio town, who witness a train crash while filming a movie on a Super 8 camera. When strange occurrences take place and residents mysteriously disappear, they venture out to see who—or what—is causing the chaos in their previously quiet and innocent home turf. The cast is consisted of fresh new faces—including Elle Fanning, the younger sister of Dakota—and their characters’ smart-alecky ways and words make up about 90 percent of the fun and delight of this movie.

OVERALL: 8/10

Green Lantern

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively showcase a rather chilly relationship in 'Green Lantern.'

Another summer, another season of superhero films vying for box office gold. But although it had big opening weekend numbers when it was first released a month ago, lackluster Green Lantern sheds light only the fact that DC Comics needs to launch better comic book-adapted film franchises other than Batman. Overshadowing the extravagant use of CGI is sloppy and vague storytelling, nonexistent personalities in most of its characters, and an unmemorable script—and the CGI looks like it could be better utilized in motion theater amusement park rides than this two-hour borefest. Ryan Reynolds is beautiful and charming enough to fit well into the superhero suit of Hal Jordan, the pilot who becomes the Green Lantern after a mysterious green ring comes to him. But we’re pretty much just watching Ryan Reynolds being Ryan Reynolds—only difference is that he’s in a skintight green CGI uniform. Blake Lively as Hal’s love interest Carol Ferris doesn’t do much to make the film good, but only to show that there is very little chemistry between her and Reynolds, though in all fairness, the script doesn’t tell us much about who they both are individually. It’s little moments—such as a revealing flashback of Hal’s family life juxtaposed with him testing a plane in modern times—and a horrific prosthetically-modified Peter Sarsgaard as the villain Hector Hammond that give Green Lantern some redemption. Hardcore comic book and space geeks may find the enjoyment in this film, but the general moviegoing public is likely to be very disinterested. Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, and Angela Bassett co-star.

OVERALL: 5.5/10

Bad Teacher

Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, and Justin Timberlake are junior high educators in an unspoken love triangle in 'Bad Teacher.'

Bad Teacher‘s teacher isn’t that “bad,” but the film itself is simply a C-grade fodder comedy, which is worse to me. It’s supposed to be a chill, mindless film, yet the laughs don’t come in hard and much at all. And when Justin Timberlake‘s glasses, cardigan sweaters, and artsy hipster way of speaking are the best parts of the film, the overall quality of it should be questioned. Timberlake reunites with real-life ex-squeeze Cameron Diaz, who leads this movie as middle school teacher Elizabeth Halsey. Recently dumped by her fiance, Elizabeth channels her angst into vegging out as she shows her students movies in class. She attracts the attention of substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Timberlake), who also shows interest in the obnoxiously perky suck-up Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch). At the same time, gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) attempts to befriend Elizabeth in hopes of something more. So begins a lightly funny competition between Elizabeth and Amy to win—for both a bonus from the school district and the guy. Chances are if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the best parts already. Phyllis Smith, John Michael Higgins, and Thomas Lennon co-star.

OVERALL: 6.5/10

Born This Way (Deluxe Album) – Lady Gaga

Mother Monster continues to dole out the hits in her third studio album, containing an unbelievably addicting mix of monster pop. It goes heavier and darker with more rock and industrial influences and more religious allusions that have already caused plenty of protests, but as with her two previous efforts, each song is crafted and selected that it’s so distinctive from the rest of the album. If you enjoyed her first two singles—the anthemic title track and “Judas”—you haven’t heard the best of Lady Gaga until you’ve heard all of Born This Way. From the trance that “Government Hooker” will put you in and the electric guitar-heavy “Hair,” to the epic power ballad closer “The Edge of Glory” and everything before and in between, it’s quite a fun earful, and interesting to say the least whether or not you’re a Gaga fan. However, the deluxe version won’t be necessary to get the full Born This Way experience. The bonus tracks “Black Jesus + Amen Fashion” (The best of the three), “Fashion of His Love,” and “The Queen” showcase a broader range of influences but pale in comparison to the tracks that have already made up the standard edition. The deluxe edition also contains a second disc featuring Gaga’s country version of the title track and remixes of other select songs—which, like the bonuses on disc one, don’t matter as much as the standard edition songs.

KAREN RECOMMENDS: “Yoü and I” – Featuring Brian May of Queen and produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, this very rock ‘n roll ballad—about a love renewed—shows that underneath the costumes and theatrics, Gaga can really rock the whole singer-songwriter vibe (Think back to “Speechless” from The Fame Monster album).

OVERALL: 8.5/10

Femme Fatale Tour featuring Britney Spears

Britney Spears dons a kimono for her hit "Toxic" at her headlining Femme Fatale Tour in San Jose, CA on June 18th (PHOTO CREDIT: 99.7 Now FM).

It’s Britney, bitch—and she is still quite the dominatrix of the pop world. Ms. Spears took the HP Pavilion by storm on June 18th for her headlining tour in support of her latest studio album, Femme Fatale. Now, Spears isn’t exactly known for being a singer, but she’s known for being a consummate performer. With the strenuous choreography, spectacular stage props and stunts (Cars, insanely oversized speakers, trapezes, swings, lifts, and cages, just to name a few), sparkly and colorful costumes, and mysterious video interludes that live up more to the title “Femme Fatale” than the tame album cover, there is no denying that the concert was all about production. However, Spears truly connects with the crowd—all she ever has to do is dance along to her most beloved songs. She simply beholds a quality that makes people want to look, listen, and enjoy themselves, an unexplainable quality that pop stars of her caliber exclusively possess. The set list is a real treat, featuring revamped renditions of her older hits, such as amped-up versions of “Baby One More Time” and “Boys” and a jazzy “If U Seek Amy.” And since it’s the Femme Fatale Tour after all, most tracks off the album, from “Till the World Ends” and “Hold it Against Me” to “How I Roll,” “Trouble for Me,” and “He About to Lose Me” had places in the live show. Nicki Minaj, a collaborator with Spears on the official “Till the World Ends” remix (With Ke$ha), set the tone for the evening as the main opener with her own mini-concert, complete with theatrics on a smaller scale. Minaj held her own with her solos on collaborations like “Monster” and “Roman’s Revenge” and tunes that feature much more of her, like “Super Bass” and “Save Me.” The other openers, the DJs Nervo and the project Jessie and the Toy Boys, brought on the unadulterated electropop to complement Minaj’s hip-hop and Spears’ personal and iconic brand of top 40.

The Civil Wars

Joy Williams and John Paul White make up The Civil Wars, shown here at their San Francisco tour stop on June 19th (PHOTO CREDIT: Monica Datangel).

The next day was quite a departure from the arena spectacular provided by Spears and company: On June 19th, The Civil Wars played a dimly-lit show for a small crowd at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. The indie duo, which consists of California girl Joy Williams and Southern boy John Paul White, played a mellow yet completely mesmerizing set of organic and elegant music. Taking from their album Barton Hollow, the two musicians sang and played a variety of instruments on tunes that ranged from the Deep South-influenced title track, the heart-searing “Poison and Wine,” and the whimsical “I’ve Got This Friend.” They managed to squeeze in a couple of covers, including a very Civil Wars-stylized version of Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean,” with harmonies and acoustic guitars galore. Adding to their incredible songwriting abilities, their performing styles are effortless and their chemistry on-stage (Including the plentiful banter) is so natural that it’s unbelievable that they took off as a duo just a couple of years ago—You’d think that they were married (Side note: They are, but to other people). Irish import James Vincent McMorrow served as the evening’s opener. Even more mellow than The Civil Wars, McMorrow also showcased an open-hearted style of indie, using just his guitar and lullaby-like voice to elicit cheers from the audience.

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2 responses to “QUICKIES: ‘Super 8,’ ‘Green Lantern,’ ‘Bad Teacher,’ Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and The Civil Wars

  1. Pingback: ‘Friends With Benefits’ is friendly, sexy, and fun fare « Karen On·

  2. Pingback: KAREN’S FAVES IN 2011: The Songs That Wrote My Year « Karen On·

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