After essentially taking the summer off I’m now returning with a recap of the more notable films that came out during the summer movie season. I had to assign an arbitrary cut-off point so I decided the last week of summer was the weekend of Elysium. I don’t have a great reason for this. It’s just what I felt like doing. The first movie of the summer season should probably be considered to be Iron Man 3, as it destroyed the box-office and kicked of the box-office blockbuster season. I’ve split all the movies I’ve seen (and a couple that I haven’t) into the categories that follow. I apologize for being absent for so long, but hopefully at least a couple people will be able to enjoy reading this. So, here we go… (keep in mind I didn’t see every movie that came out this summer, but I tried to be as inclusive as possible).
The April Batch
There were a few films of note that came out just before my arbitrary beginning of the summer movie season that felt like a sort of pre-game for the summer. Also, I have to note a couple of my favorite films of the year had there releases fall in April, so I had to come up with an excuse to include them on this re-cap of what turned out to be a mediocre summer.
Evil Dead – Gruesome, bloody, and not really that funny, this re-make/re-boot or whatever you may want to call it, of a cult classic comedy-horror film certainly had it’s moments, but did not at all capture the original charm of it’s predecessors. Fans of the Rob Zombie versions of the Halloween remakes may enjoy this film a little bit more. To it’s credit, the film certainly did deliver on what I’m sure many fans were looking for in over-the-top violence and gore
42 – I felt like I couldn’t leave this movie out, even though it certainly feels like a film that will be forgotten in a few years. It’s a shame with such an interesting and important topic in history that a more compelling film wasn’t created. 42 is not a bad film, but it is a fairly generic take on one of the most important sports figures ever and I felt the film almost dehumanizes Jackie Robinson to the point where the character became uninteresting. It’s still a solid baseball film, but it really felt more like a PR event for the beginning of the baseball season than a legitimate attempt at telling Jackie Robinson’s story.
Oblivion – Much like 42, Oblivion felt like a very generic film, the difference being Oblivion is a piece of science fiction and 42 was about an important historical figure. This made it difficult to really care about this movie at all. Oblivion may not bore everyone, and for those who enjoy Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise would be well-served in giving the film a watch, but this is probably going to be one of those TBS/TNT films that ends up re-running 1,000 times when the stations have nothing else to air.
The next two films are films that I’ve already reviewed but I thought I’d include them since both of them may be in the running for my favorite film of the year. The first is Mud, which is an absolutely brilliant film from director Jeff Nichols. It’s his follow-up to Take Shelter and I can’t imagine a follow-up to such an awesome movie being as good as Mud turned out. It’s certainly the best thing I’ve ever seen Matthew McConaughey do, even during his current run of good performances. To the Wonder is the other film, which is probably a little bit more controversial because there are many who will not like the latest Terrence Malick entry. But… it’s an absolutely astoundingly beautiful film, and it can’t be overlooked.
The Blockbusters that Were Actually Good
Iron Man 3 – This was the last film I wrote a review for on this site, so for my full thoughts feel free to refer back to it. I saw it a second time with my nephew so it’s possible my feelings towards this film have somewhat changed. There are certainly things about this movie that got on my nerves a little bit. The panic attacks experienced by Tony Stark in this film due to the happenings in The Avengers film felt quite unnecessary. There were a lot of scenes in the film that came off as time killers and there was a certain feel to this film that made it seem like maybe the director didn’t get to make the movie he wanted. There was an odd mixture of goofball humor and darkness in the film, giving the movie a split-personality and making the movie seem bloated.
This sounds way too negative for how much I actually enjoyed both viewings of the film, because there are still things to like about the movie (Downey’s performance is as good as usual, even if he does appear to be coasting through it at this point). It is certainly more memorable than Iron Man 2 (I still can’t remember anything about the second movie).
Star Trek Into Darkness – The 2nd installment in J.J. Abrams’ successful attempt to actually make the Star Trek franchise relevant and entertaining was probably my favorite big budget film of the summer. The charisma and chemistry between the characters remains present in this sequel and the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead villain makes this film akin to The Dark Knight as far as improvement in the villain category goes.
While I understand there’s a little bit of backlash towards this franchise, I can’t really accept many of the complaints. I can’t blame a movie for trying to please a group of dedicated fans for continually trying to reference things that have happened in the original Star Trek universe. While the self-referencing does seem forced at times, I don’t believe either Star Trek film takes itself too seriously to make the moments of winking at the audience anything to be upset about.
I feel that Abrams has created a Star Trek that both Trekkies and a general audience can enjoy and has brought some very talented actors together for a really great summer movie experience.
The Wolverine – This movie could probably be in the category of films I can’t believe I enjoyed simply because of how much I despised X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I felt this movie was big enough to put here. Plus the other two were at the beginning of the summer and this makes a good end cap for the category.
This movie was shockingly good, and it’s a movie that is able to stand on it’s own, not dragging too much of the previous X-men movie history into the scenery. I’ve always enjoyed Hugh Jackman in the wolverine role, and there’s no exception with this film. I think director James Mangold handled the content well and this movie did not feel as rushed as the previous Wolverine installment. There was also not much catering towards the kids in this movie. Wolverine gets punished badly throughout the film and there’s a real sense of pain and suffering within Hugh Jackman’s character. It’s very difficult to make a character that is somewhat invincible seem vulnerable (something the Superman franchise has some difficulties accomplishing), which is something The Wolverine accomplished in this chapter of a tortured character.
The Movies I Liked More than I Should Have Because they Weren’t in 3D
Okay, so I guess I should re-iterate my discontent with the 3D thing. I think there may have been 1 or two films I’ve seen altogether in which 3D actually enhanced my experience with the film (Avatar is the obvious one, and maybe Hugo). Otherwise I feel like I’m forced to pay extra for an enhanced probability of obtaining a headache. Screw you 3D!
World War Z – There’s a fairly decent argument that this is a film that isn’t a successful Zombie movie because it moves too fast and doesn’t use the traditional slow-moving zombies of the past; that much of the suspense that comes from older zombie films is lost in this intensely paced action film. However, this turned out to be a film that I enjoyed a lot more than I probably should have because it doesn’t adhere to the rules of most zombie films, and it has an excellent ending.
While many may be uncomfortable with the pacing of this film, I feel like the quickness with which everything occurs is somewhat the point. Chaos breaks out in a heartbeat in this film and Brad Pitt’s character is in charge of figuring out how to stop it.
One thing I do like about this different type of zombie movie compared to the traditional zombie characteristics is that this movie does not allow the audience too much time to yell at characters for making obviously stupid decisions. Things happen quickly and everyone needs to make quick life-or-death decisions.
Elysium – I’m going to go ahead and get this out of the way… Jodie Foster was terrible in this movie. There. Enough. I’m past it. Everyone just move on.
With the exception of at least one dreadful performance and possibly hitting the immigration allegory in a pretty heavy-handed manner, I found this movie pretty awesome. It was just about what I was expecting it to be… a solid science fiction movie carried by a standard performance from Matt Damon.
In the end this is really just a slick looking action sci-fi film that basically gives the audience what it wants. There’s not a lot of character development aside from making the bad guys really bad and Matt Damon good, but that’s really all that’s needed.
I would certainly recommend giving this film a chance… but seriously Jodie Foster really sucked in it.
The Movies I Didn’t Actually See for Which I Would Still Like to Comment
Bad Hollywood! Bad! Go sit in a corner somewhere!
Grown-Ups 2 – I feel like I already know every scene of this movie considering I saw the trailer about 20 kajillion times within the span of a month, and not one time did I think “hey, that looks like a movie that I would want to see.” Unfortunately, this movie, which might as well be a giant turd lit on fire, actually made a substantial amount of money. This means we’ll probably get a Grown-Ups 3, in which the stars will probably be older guys making jokes about how they’re getting older… (let that sink in for a second).
I understand why this movie was made and all, but that doesn’t prevent it making me feel depressed. Even though I haven’t seen this, I can guarantee it’s terrible.
R.I.P.D. – Speaking of depression… how about this paycheck collection for Jeff Bridges. Again, I have no interest in watching this movie. I think the Ryan Reynolds pushing needs to end. Has there ever been anyone given more chances to succeed than Ryan Reynolds? I mean, really?
The Good Comedies
This is the End – This movie essentially asked the question “What if we make a comedy about the apocalypse that shows a bunch of famous people being stupid and getting killed?” It sounds risky as far as general audience appeal goes, but this film works as one of the funniest movies of the year so far. Yes, it is raunchy and at times can seem repugnant. The success comes from the sheer volume and shamelessness of the jokes packed into the 107-minute run-time. The joke ratio is astounding. There may be times when this film throws out 10 jokes in a row without it being funny, but then the next 5 all work, and it only seems like its been 30 seconds. This movie is not altogether successful and will not work for a lot of people out there (especially kids and people who like any sort of clean humor), but this movie is bound to make some people laugh quite a bit.
The Heat – This movie grabbed onto me and held on for the most unexpected reason… Sandra Bullock. I typically don’t like much of anything Sandra Bullock is involved with but it looks like the tables are starting to turn (can’t wait for Gravity). I found Sandra Bullock to be the most important part of this film and the driving force as to why the movie worked.
More can be found about my thoughts on these movies here.
The Not So Good Comedies
The Internship – I think the time of Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson paired comedies has passed. Well, let me revise that. I think the time of Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson paired comedies that use essentially one joke throughout the entire movie is over. I wasn’t altogether against the premise of The Internship and putting the two comedic actors in the Google environment, but any movie that is essentially a one-note joke that never goes farther than the “older people have trouble adapting to technology” aspect became uninteresting very quickly.
The whole movie is based on a joke that my parents could easily tell, and while I enjoyed some moments of the film, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are very charismatic performers, the experience as a whole was pretty empty.
This should have been much better than it turned out.
We’re the Millers – A drug-dealer, a stripper, a homeless girl, and a lonely kid decide to get together to smuggle some drugs across the Mexico border. The idea being that if these 4 come together and pose as a friendly family, no questions will be asked by customs. I honestly didn’t mind this movie, but I certainly felt there was a whole lot left on the table. We’re the Millers didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth and it didn’t make me feel good about myself. It’s a movie that had almost no effect on me once the credits began to role.
This is a film that tries to cash in on how good Jennifer Aniston still looks and relies on quite a few obvious jokes (not that I didn’t laugh a few times) and fails to really be much more than a throwaway comedy. It’s hard to explain the amount of indifference I feel towards this movie.
The Comedy that Made Me Want to Tear My Eyes Out
I have a review of this movie here, but I still need to vent a little bit right now.
The Hangover 3 – I don’t know why I had any hope that the 3rd installment of The Hangover series was going to be good at all, which leads me to ask why I was so utterly upset about how bad it actually ended up being. You know what I don’t like? A comedy devoid of actual humour.
The Hangover 3 is so pessimist and so full of negativity and violence that it becomes too difficult to laugh at any of the silliness brought onto the screen, which is devalued doubly by one of the worst characters in recent cinematic history, Mr. Chow. I know you’re probably thinking you could think of worse characters, but I have some qualifiers in mind that I’m not going to explain here. Let’s just say as Ken Jeong’s screen-time goes up, the movies in which he appears get worse.
I guess I can at least give this 3rd installment some credit for trying to do something other than being such a retreaded cash grab part 2 became. Unfortunately the somewhat original effort was even worse, and it was still a cash grab.
The Most Pretentious Disappointment
Man of Steel – I have a feeling Zack Snyder will get a lot of the blame for this long-winded version of Superman being what it is, when in reality, this film really felt like Christopher Nolan had a lot of control.
Don’t get me wrong. In no way will I ever defend Zack Snyder, considering I think he’s one of the most overrated directors on planet earth. He’s like a hipster version of Michael Bay for crying out loud and hasn’t really made anything I’ve liked since his Dawn of the Dead remake (I re-watched 300 recently and found myself bored and annoyed).
Anyway, Man of Steel certainly has it’s problems, but there is hope for the series if it makes a similar leap the Nolan Batman franchise took. There are some similarities to Man of Steel and Batman Begins, and I feel like at the least Snyder and company have Mr. Kent headed in the right direction.
For one thing, the casting for Man of Steel was just about perfect. However there may be something left unturned when Michael Shannon and Amy Adams are in a movie in which the best performance comes from Kevin Costner.
The really big problem that became evident with this version of Superman is that the film came with a sense of over-importance, partly coming from the way the Christ-like comparisons were pushed to the forefront. I think most audiences could get the Christ similarities with Superman without the heavy-handedness this film employs.
One thing I would like to bring up is the destruction element of the film. Yes there was a great amount of fighting that caused buildings to collapse. I didn’t necessarily have a huge problem with this aspect, because quite honestly I feel like the mass amounts of destruction were appropriate for the situation. The issue with the buildings falling over was the shameless drawback to 9/11, another item in the film that suggests maybe this movie thinks it’s more important than it actually should be.
The Most Pretentious Film that Was Still Pretty Good
The Way Way Back – Here’s a movie that’s right up my alley. It has that small film feel and reminds me of films like Little Miss Sunshine and Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s funny, but not too funny, charming and maybe overly so, and there are some interesting characters. I liked it. Go see it. It’s pretty solid. Not much else to say. Okay let’s move on.
Most Obviously the Worst Summer Movie
The Lone Ranger – I feel like my experience watching this film sums up the movie pretty well. The best thing about the showing I was in is that there was a cricket in the theater (yes a real cricket) and at the end I got a coupon for a free small popcorn. Of course I probably should have gotten a free small popcorn just for sitting through a near 3 hour experience of utter stupidity.
Yeah, that sums it up pretty well.
The Movie that was So Bad I Forgot it Existed
After Earth – I honestly wiped this movie out of my memory until I started thinking about this piece. This is an incredibly dull, incredibly unimpressive, incredibly nepotistic film. It’s as if Will Smith wants to create a clone of himself to continue his stardom through his son. And of course everyone knows the best way to do that is to give your son a role in a bad science fiction movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan, of which all that is required is walking around and showing no sense of emotion or capability.
Alright, that’s enough. Back to me forgetting about the existence of this scum posing as a film.
The Movie that was Okay, But I Still Forgot it Existed
Now You See Me – Mark Ruffalo seems to be in a lot of these forgettable movies. Now You See Me is that magic/heist film that was randomly released in the middle of the summer. This has TNT written all over it. I know I’ve already used the TNT thing with Oblivion but seriously, I’d be shocked if this movie doesn’t show up on basic cable within the next 5 years.
I guess the magic things were kind of cool and the heist thing wasn’t all that bad. It’s worthy of a rental if you can’t wait until it comes to it’s inevitable basic cable destiny.
The Critical Darling that Deserves All the Praise
Before Midnight – I was not surprised when people were walking out of this film during the screening in which I participated. After all, it is Missouri. Although I did sit back and silently judge those people for walking away from the brilliance that is this movie, I truly can’t blame people for not falling in love with a movie about a relationship which essentially consists of an ongoing conversation between a couple. No matter how wonderfully crafter and excellently executed the characters and performances are, some audiences just will not go for this type of film.
Whenever I watch one of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy entries, it amazes me how captivated I become. These are movies that just make me want to watch Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy talk forever. I can’t imagine many films that would make me want to watch something like that (Certified Copy accomplished this a few years back).
I thought I would throw out that warning however that this is not for everyone, but it’s freaking amazing filmmaking. So now you can’t get made at me if you watch this and don’t like it (which should be a crime considering how awesome the movie is).
The Movies I Couldn’t Believe I Enjoyed Even a Little
White House Down – This is a film that absolutely has no delusions about what it is supposed to be. It’s an action movie in which Jamie Foxx is the President of the United States. I shouldn’t have enjoyed this at all, but it was okay for what it was… and action movie in which Jamie Foxx is the President of the United States.
Pacific Rim – There seemed to be a lot of excitement about the trailer to this movie and I didn’t really understand why. I mean it was robots fighting monsters. Why would anyone think that this could be a good movie? It turns out this was a movie that was entertaining beyond belief and one of the better visual spectacles of the summer.
This was absolutely cheesy and ridiculous, but it was a film that was loads of fun to watch. It was an ultra-American movie infused with Japanese culture created by Spanish director Guillermo Del Toro.
Astonishingly, robots fighting monsters turned out to not be all that bad of an idea. I still think the trailer made it look stupid though.
Fast & Furious 6 – Wow! This franchise really turned itself around by doing exactly what these types of movies need to do. It found an identity and embraced the dumbness. These movies should really be nothing more than utilizing tremendous set-pieces to their full extent. These are the closest movies we have to those 80s action films that everyone seems to adore so much.
Oh the Horror! (In a good way)
The Conjuring – So this movie scared the crap out of me. Not literally, but if I had eaten anything beforehand it may have come close. This is one of the rare horror films that feels like the creators actually cared about turning into a legitimate film rather than just provide creatively boring jump scares (by the way, is there anything more false than thinking a person is scared because they jump? I mean, if I jump, which this movie made me do, it’s normally because an unexpected sound comes from somewhere. Of course I’m going to react to a loud noise that comes from nowhere! I should stop ranting about jump scares now). The film creates a level of verisimilitude that provides a genuinely uneasy feeling of terror (which after living for 25+ years I’m still not sure I care for. I don’t think I like being scared which is why I generally stay away from the horror genre in general but this was too good to pass up).
Along with a movie that actually wants to be a good movie, the performers who were chosen were legitimate actors as well. I love it when these types of movies put some effort into casting.
This is one of the better horror films of the decade, and it’s a film that used a story and atmosphere instead of tricks, gimmicks, and blood.
This made a whole lot of money as well… so we’re headed for more of these with each one guaranteed to have dilapidated quality.
By the way, mothers of the world should probably stay away from this movie. Just saying.
The Animated Films I Saw
Monsters University – Yay! Pixar movie = good. Even if it is a sequel. The only drawback to this particular Pixar effort is that it may be lost on the kids. There’s an awful lot of college jokes in this movie that I don’t feel will connect with a lot of the younger kids out there.
Despicable Me 2 – I really enjoyed the first episode in the Despicable Me universe and not much changed with this one. I do think the minions may be a little overused and the whole premise with the minions may have been a misstep. But I guess the kids probably enjoy the slapstick humor those little yellow (and purple) guys bring to the screen.
Also, if a guacamole sombrero doesn’t exist in real life, someone should probably get on that.
The Lindsay Lohan Train Wreck
The Canyons – I couldn’t get myself to not watch this disaster of this so-called comeback attempt for Lindsay Lohan. The movie was an option to rent on iTunes and resistance was futile. It really is sad that it has come to this for Lohan. She showed so much promise earlier in her career and now she’s in this really terrible movie that’s not quite porn… but it comes close.
I’m afraid she may be unable to show emotion anymore either due to whatever work has been done on her face. Things can’t get a lot worse than this. I didn’t even find the commentary provided by the film to be all that interesting.
The HBO Original Film that May Have Been Better than Most Things Released this Summer
Behind the Candelabra – I wasn’t actually planning on including this film initially but I watched it recently and really found it to be one of the more captivating films I’ve seen this year. I couldn’t have imagined myself being interested in the story of Liberace, but this film was wonderfully crafted and Steven Soderbergh did a great job with this material.
I’ve never particularly enjoyed Michael Douglas as a performer, however he puts together a wonderfully uncomfortable performance in this effort and really this is a movie that would have been worthy of a wide release in theaters.
By the way, Rob Lowe… just awesome.
Okay everyone. That’s all I have. I hope everyone had a terrific summer movie season and maybe I’ll stick around next summer so folks won’t have to put up with such a lengthy re-cap.
I look forward to making my posts more consistent. As always, comments are welcome!