Josh Tyler
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WRITTEN BY Josh Tyler

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows contains all the action movie beats amped up audiences are hoping for, in fact the big budget explosions are bigger than ever; but it’s also a movie capable of culminating in a game of chess and making that every bit as exciting as watching things blow up.

War Horse

If you’re looking for a way to teach your kids about one of the darkest periods in human history, War Horse is the perfect way to do it. If you’re looking for something more than a few interesting stories in an overlong movie, you’ll walk away from War Horse disappointed. Spielberg’s film, despite a great deal of effort, feels like a good stage play that never quite makes a full transition into the world of movies.

Hugo in 3D

Hugo and Scorsese have found a way to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the usefulness of the 3D format, not as a gimmick, but as a device for making even the simplest stories feel so big and important that they’re ready to burst out of the screen and into real life.

Immortals

Immortals is Hollywood’s most successful attempt at turning ancient Greek myth into an action movie, in recent memory. Maybe that’s not saying much when the other competitors are movies like Troy or even worse, Clash of the Titans, but it’s worth noting that Immortals succeeds where other movies with bigger budgets and bigger names have failed.

The Muppets

The movie’s theme song is “Life’s A Happy Song”, a brilliant musical number performed by Segel, Adams, and others whose cameos I wouldn’t dream of spoiling. It’s more than just a song and dance sequence though, it’s an anthem for everything that’s beautiful and wonderful about the Muppets and their resurrection, here, in this movie filled with laughter and electrifying life.

The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary is a mediocre movie made with the best of intentions. Hunter S. Thompson would hate it. Hunter S. Thompson was never mediocre. He had his highs and his lows, but even at his worst, he always went down swinging and shouting and firing off rounds into the crowd. This take on The Rum Diary doesn’t have that kind of crazy inside it. In the words of Thompson, “it never got weird enough for me.”

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

I’m sad to report that Harold and Kumar have lost much of whatever it was that made them so great in the first place. This movie doesn’t have a scene like the one with NPH on a unicorn, or the one where Anthony Anderson threatens to “burn this mother*er down” when confronted with the undeniable perfection of White Castle burgers. Instead it has a lot of stuff you’ve seen before.

The Ides of March

Though it’s a story told within the world of politics, March isn't really political at all. It's about something bigger and more deeply cynical. It's about the kind of damage that growing up can do to the human soul. To get there writer/director George Clooney has crafted a movie that's talky and intense, built on the bedrock of brilliant ensemble performances from his cast.

Real Steel

Take a pair of scissors to this script, give us a shorter movie, and Real Steel would be all fun instead of occasional fun punctuated by awful script moments. This could have been another Night at the Museum, instead it’s a flawed family film which will definitely be twice as good on home video, where you’ll be able to hit fast forward any time Evangeline Lilly shows up.

The Big Year

Six months from now you’re going to receive a phone call from your grandfather. And he, knowing how much you love movies, will ask if you’ve seen The Big Year. You will tell him, of course, that you haven’t. In fact by then you may not even remember that you’ve ever heard of it. He’ll get excited to see something that you haven’t, for a change, and begin to tell you that it’s the best movie of the year. It isn’t.

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

This isn’t just a total rehash of the movie you saw in the 80s, the script they’ve used has a fresh spin with a few specifically clever additions which really do make this attempt to resurrect the franchise completely worthwhile. Some of it’s silly and results in buildings crumbling for no reason other than to heighten tension, but a lot of it’s good. If only they ‘d found a better way to connect it all together.

Shark Night 3D

There’s nothing new here, just the usual shark movie stuff, except done with far worse special effects, scripting, and characters than it has ever been done with before. Oh and most of the shark stuff happens off camera. Shark attacks are brutal and this movie’s PG-13, they can’t actually show those pointy teeth sinking into human flesh at that rating, but they can show you a lot of people falling into the water and half-heartedly screaming.

Final Destination 5

This film wouldn’t deserve the three and a half stars I’m giving it as a stand-alone movie, but it’s not a stand-alone film. Final Destination 5 is the culmination of ten years of crazy kills and scared teenagers in the making. If you’ve seen any of the other Final Destination movies, don’t miss this one.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The truly shocking, unforgettable, genre changing moment of the Heston film in which both he and the audience learn the true identity of the planet on which he’s been stranded can never be topped, so Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t try. Instead it sets out simply to be a well-crafted, carefully woven, big budget summer movie. It works.

The Change-Up

The Change-Up is more than funny, it’s smart and interesting too. It’s not a Judd Apatow movie, it’s not that poignant, but it capably walks that line between over the top comedy and sympathetic subtlety the way few other comedies are able to do. It does all of that in a world full of rated-R topless scenes, shit jokes, and computer-generated knife-wielding babies. Pulling this movie off is no mean feat, but it was worth the effort.

Captain America: The First Avenger

In an era where we’re obsessed with dark and brooding superheroes Captain America is a breath of fresh air. Superheroes don’t have to be dark and disturbed to be interesting. Captain America in his own simple way embodies much of what's noble and good about humanity. That’s not boring, it’s awesome.

Friends with Benefits

When Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) become sex friends, there’s reason to hope that eventually their sex friendship will turn into a real, long-term relationship. They prattle on about how this is just a holding pattern until they find real romance, but hidden within the subtext of the film is the idea that romance is a mirage.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

More than either of the previous films, this Transformers 3 feels like an ultra-violent version of the two-dimensional cartoon it’s based on. I think I’m almost alright with that, when it’s done this well, in this kind of summer blockbuster. We’d probably all be happier watching another movie like Inception, but as long as those movies still get made, I guess there’s nothing wrong in sitting down with a Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Larry Crowne

Feel good and forget about it, that seems to be the goal of Larry Crowne, and it’s something this Tom Hanks directed film accomplishes with flourish. As light and airy as a summer breeze, Larry Crowne wafts across the screen with amiable stars giving a series of effortless performances, in a simple little story more interested in pushing you out the door with a smile than leaving you with anything substantive or genuine.

Cars 2

In Cars, Pixar used the standard big city boy gets trapped in a small town formula to create a loving, nostalgic homage to the good old days of Route 66 and the vanishing mystique of the American road. In Cars 2 Pixar basically just makes The Pink Panther with cars. At times it’s a lot of fun, but there’s nothing here that’ll stick with you, the way Pixar’s other films so often do.

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