Sweet summer cinema, bear edition 

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Well, the kids are out of school so what better way to celebrate than a reimagining of the classic Pinocchio story except with a weed-smoking anthropomorphic teddy bear with the mouth of a b-circuit stripper's bodyguard/boyfriend?

Ted 2 opens Thursday at the air-conditioned Village 8 theatres and this time the titular puppet teddy bear gets bored with his already miraculous life and wishes to be a real boy father.

Mark Wahlberg stars again, but Mila Kunis is noticeably absent from the trailer (no pre-screenings at press time). Ted — the living, smoking teddy bear — is living the dream with new bride Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth, killing it) but when it comes time to have a child there are legal issues, a hot lady lawyer, masturbation jokes and Morgan Freeman as the voice of authority.

Ted 2 will have a tough time besting the original Ted, which kind of came out of nowhere and pulled a solid, sustained comedy out of its high-concept ass.

The sequel will still work but primarily for converted fans of writer-director Seth MacFarlane's fast-paced wit and ability to stretch jokes longer than anyone expects/wants (but it almost always works).

MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West was the under-appreciated flick of all last year, and while Ted 2 is obviously not for everyone, discerning viewers who can quote Super Troopers, Hot Rod, or Strange Wilderness will find plenty of bear to hold onto.

Despite summer having only technically just begun, there's already been enough hits for this blockbuster season to be considered a success. Mad Max: Fury Road is all-time amazing, Jurassic World made the most money ever, Pixar's Inside Out slays, and Magic Mike XXL is still to come (July 1).

If Mike does well it can be paired with Melissa McCarthy's Spy and the upcoming Amy Schumer flick, Trainwreck, to demonstrate to the Hollywood studios that the female demographic is both broad and diverse.

One interesting trend this summer, though, has been the number of flicks released with no pre-screenings or big-delay embargos on printed reviews. Traditionally this has always been a bad sign — studios would only shut out the press when they lacked confidence in the movie and were fearful of being shat upon by increasingly bloodthirsty reviewers. And very often they were right, but these days it seems studio execs are holding their cards closer to their chests.

I think it's a wise move. The Internet has democratized film criticism. It's a rule of nature (and Bob Marley) that you can't please all the people all the time but now that every cinematic taste has a voice — and those opinions can be spread increasingly further and louder than ever before in the history of bitching and moaning — it becomes harder than ever.

For instance, I love the aforementioned Strange Wilderness. It's a freewheelin' bigfoot-hunting road-trip movie that stars Steve Zahn (Rescue Dawn), and views like a nuanced kind of free-flow jazz riff on nitrous. It's amazing, and yet Strange Wilderness holds only a 2 per cent approval rating on film-review bible rottentomatoes.com. (Here's to you Donald Clarke from the Irish Times. You and me, brother!).

So a good film can get panned before it ever hits screens and Hollywood is, I think, noticing how that affects the bottom line. (Also, fewer press screenings means less chance of a bootleg leaking out.)

The other good thing about embargoing reviews is it forces people to go see movies without knowing 90 per cent of what to expect. Even trailers often give too much away, but for a horror movie fan rolling into a theatre there is definitely such a thing as too much information prior.

That idea works with any flick really. Cinema is one of the greatest art forms ever invented; we should allow it to retain the ability to surprise us.

On that note, the legal Download of the Week is What We Do in the Shadows, a vampire mockumentary with that perfectly dry New Zealand comedy vibe thanks to the always-awesome Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords). Just when you thought the Vampire genre had been sucked dry by teeny boppers these guys come out with a fresh meal. It has a bit of trouble sustaining the humour straight through till dessert but the first few courses are to die for.

The other Download of the Week is Dazed and Confused because the barrage of non-movie-related information on the Internet can really bring a person down and Dazed is a nice escape to simpler times (both the 1976 setting and the first time you watched the film).

It's a crazy world out there, and only getting crazier, but as Wooderson says, "You gotta keep on livin'...L-I-V-I-N."

Happy summer.



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