Taking Chances

More times than not, I find out that when I go see a movie that I’m semi-sorta interested in viewing, I end up being pleasantly surprised. Of course, this isn’t the case every time; theoretically, it can’t be. There just aren’t enough good movies coming out in current time that one can be pleasantly surprised about. That’s probably not theoretical, but it sounded right at the time. Perhaps it’s technical.

Regardless.

Originally, my highest hopes for 2011 summer films went to Captain America, Crazy Stupid Love, and the final Harry Potter. You can read my Harry Potter review here. While each film had good things going for it, such as Crazy Stupid Love‘s cast (Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling – come on?!), or the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 being the final film of the series, each of those films ultimately disappointed me in some way or another.

X-Men: First Class

Three other movies, however, unsuspectingly sneaked up on me this summer and surprised me in that pleasant kind of way. Originally, I had not intended to see the biggest surprise for me, which was X-Men: First Class. I had never seen any of the X-Men films. They didn’t appear attractive in any sense to me, from story line, to cast, to special effects. I mean, come on, it’s Halle Berry with blonde hair. Do you really expect me to approach that movie with any seriousness?

But the previews were looking good for this prequel, and already being a fan of James McAvoy (anyone see Wanted? YES!), I figured paying matinee price at a lower-end theater two towns away on a plan-free Friday evening would be harmless. I was immediately drawn in, like most people would admit to a first viewing of the film. I was also really impressed with Michael Fassbender. The colors were bright, the characters were interesting, and the effects were great. Possibly one of the best moments was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine cameo. I didn’t have to be a fan of X-Men to know Hugh Jackman was Wolverine and that was one of the best cameos . . . ever. Kevin Bacon proved once again to be a slimy, rather humorous villain, and Henry Jackman’s score won me over before the film ended. Despite the mediocre reviews, I would place X-Men: First Class at the top of my summer 2011 movies list.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The second surprise for me was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Although I have never watched a previous Planet of the Apes film in its entirety, I did attempt to make it through a few short scenes in the Mark Wahlberg version. It was just too much. With that in mind, I was assured this movie would be deemed OK, if anything positive. I am a major James Franco and John Lithgow fan, but I didn’t expect great things from the zillioneth remake of watching humans in ape costumes bat eyes and imprison non-speaking humans in cages. Alas, this movie was nothing like it’s predecessors, as confirmed by Apes fans and viewers of the older films. This film served more as a back story for what was to come–what all of us know as the Planet of the Apes movies. Lithgow was a believable Alheizmer’s victim, and it was nice to see Slumdog Millionaire‘s Frieda Pinto on screen again. Possibly the best performance goes to Andy Serkis, who played the main ape, Caesar. Overall, it was a fun and even occasionally, touching movie. Tom Felton’s Dodge Landon served his purpose, battering the apes into forming an alliance among one another. It was an enjoyable film that outdid many of its fellow summer flicks in my opinion.

The Help

The Help was probably the one to shock me the least, primarily because my expectations were fairly high for the movie. After a look at Rotten Tomatoes average rating for it, however, my expectations lowered. I didn’t expect to be moved the way I was. The story was powerful and it was impossible to not be moved during it. I, personally, was a huge fan of the costumes. The story took place in the ’60s in southern Mississippi. Bryce Dallas Howard has apparently moved up in the world of character actors–her performance was flawless. Emma Stone proved me right once again that she has yet to give a poor performance. Jessica Chastain made a nice film debut playing the sweet and hilarious Celia Foote. The stand-out role easily goes to Viola Davis. This is a gorgeous story that demands to not be taken lightly. I’m inspired to read the book now.

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