Summer Wrap Up!
Another summer gone. We wait for these movies for months and months and the summer finally gets here and BOOM! it feels like it's over in a heartbeat. Where'd the time go? It's probably still stuck somewhere in the interminable last act of TRANSFORMERS but now is a good time to reflect on the summer past.
This summer ended quite similarly to how it began. A beloved and iconic character trotted out for another pointless sequel. Michael Myers meet Wolverine. But while the summer went in like a lamb and right back out like a lamb, the in-between was, lucky for film fans, filled with lions.
For genre fans, this was a particularly fulfilling summer. While WOLVERINE and HALLOWEEN 2 were surely disappointing, there were plenty of other options to please us. If you were looking for a big-budget action origin movie, STAR TREK was there to pick you up and dust you off. If you wanted some good old-fashioned scares, DRAG ME TO HELL was the perfect vintage horror flick for you. If YEAR ONE made you cringe, THE HANGOVER was there to double you over with some belly laughs. If TRANSFORMERS 2 made you want to quit watching movies all together, GI JOE was there to prove that toy movies can still be fun.
To take a look back at the best of what this summer had to offer, we asked our three critics, JimmyO, Chris Bumbray and Jenna Busch to give us their Top Five Movies from this summer. I also threw in my Top 5 as a little added bonus. There are some obvious choices, some surprises and, sadly, no DANCE FLICK. Maybe next year Wayans Bros.
Chris Bumbray's Top 5
5. UP - An absolutely beautiful film from Pixar- which sets the bar even higher for a company that’s produced nothing but quality year after year. I’m counting the days until TOY STORY 3…
4. STAR TREK - J.J Abrams TREK re-boot is all us fanboys hoped for, and then some! What BATMAN BEGINS was to BATMAN, and CASINO ROYALE was to James Bond, this is to STAR TREK- a reboot of a franchise that was dead, dead, DEAD! It did the impossible- it made TREK cool again.
3. THE HURT LOCKER - I still don’t understand how a film like G.I JOE can open with over $50 Million, yet THE HURT LOCKER had to crawl to a $10 Million gross. I’ve been pushing this film for months- ever since I saw it at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal, and I stand by my statement that it’s the best American War film since SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
2. DISTRICT 9 - The big sleeper of the summer. 97% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes for a reason people- if you haven’t checked it out already, I strongly urge you to do so…
1. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - As I said in my initial review a month ago- “f*** I love this movie”, and I still do.
Jenna Busch's Top 5
5. DRAG ME TO HELL - Sam Raimi wounded my soul with SPIDER-MAN 3. How would the man who gave me so much joy with THE EVIL DEAD and the first two web slinger flicks do this to me? Yes. I take things a bit too personally. But not only did he redeem himself with DRAG ME TO HELL, he scared the crap out of me. I am now terrified of buttons and gypsies, and I'll never look at a stapler the same way again. A happy return to Raimi's past glory, DRAG ME TO HELL brought back what's been missing from horror lately. Pure, gross-out, squealy, screamy, jump-out-of-your-seat-and-grab-your-sweetie fun.
4. UP - Rarely does going to see a film require tissues...at least for me. And I'm not a pretty crier, so I'm glad I had my sunglasses along. First UP destroyed me with the most weep-worthy scene since Bambi's mother died, and then made me laugh so hard at a bird and a dog that I'm still quoting the film. (I apologize to everyone I've tortured with my Dug impressions since May.) Gorgeous animation, excellent writing and a Doberman with a squeaky voice. Pixar has outdone themselves and I can't wait to see what they do next.
3. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - Absolutely the best of Tarantino's lot, and happily, deliciously, unapologetically violent. I found myself wanting to clap every time something quintessentially Quentin appeared on the screen. (But unlike the assholes with cell phones and tuna sandwiches that unfailingly sit next to me at movies, I'm not that rude.) With amazing performances from Mélanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt's joyfully ridiculous accent and the final scene in the movie theater, which in my humble opinion, is one of the coolest sequences ever, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS left me as satisfied as a giant bowl of cheese and noodles.
2. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE - The best of the franchise. And six movies in, that's saying something. David Yates pulled some great performances out of the kids, (Rupert Grint looks like he's well on his way to a long comedic career.) Even knowing the ending, I was on the edge of my seat. And lets face it, deep down, most of us really want to be wizards and cheer at a Quidditch match. Gryffindor Forever!
1. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN - OK. I'm kidding. I hated it. And most of you totally disagree with me, if the box office numbers and the lack of brand new Michael Bay jokes are to be believed. I guess no one minds abandoned plot lines, magical bandages that appear out of nowhere...
But I do have something strange on my “best of summer” list. WATCHMEN. No, I'm serious this time. I'm not talking about the one I saw in the theater. I gave that a 6/10, as all of you who sent me hate mail know. I mean WATCHMEN: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT which is finally out on DVD and Blu-ray. If that version had been released in theaters (with a warning to pee before the film) I would have given it an 8.5/10. I know Zack Snyder had to cut it down, but what they left out covered almost all of my complaints. Hollis Mason's death not only connected the beginning Minute Men sequence to the rest of the film, but it was heartbreakingly beautiful. I would have taken back everything I said about Malin Ackerman's miscasting if they had left her performance intact. Mr. Snyder, if this is the film you wanted us to see, I hope the powers that be keep their damn dirty hands off your work forever more.
JimmyO's Top 5
5. IT MIGHT GET LOUD - You have three unique guitarist getting together to talk shop and play. There was something insanely entertaining about seeing Jack White, Jimmy Page and U2’s The Edge together. From the opening moments as Jack White puts together a bizarre contraption that makes for an electric guitar to the final collaboration between the three musicians, it was simply a wonderful movie going experience.
4. GRACE - Paul Solet’s debut feature explores many human frailties. From fears of childbirth to the lost connection of mother to child. While it may seem to be more of a dark drama, it certainly gets nasty as Jordan Ladd does anything and everything to keep her (undead?) baby safe. While this kind of horror may not work for everybody, it certainly worked for me. A gruesome yet beautiful chiller that jumped from a very limited theatrical run straight to DVD.
3. STAR TREK - J.J. Abrams reinvigorated the franchise with a fun story, a terrific cast and a whole lot of goodness that made for one of the most entertaining movies so far this year. While all the actors were quite good, it was Karl Urban who stole the show as Bones and rest of the crew kept the humor and thrills tight. Easily, the best in the franchise next to STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN.
2. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - Quentin Tarantino’s latest is packed full of entertainment. With Oscar-worthy performances from Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent, this is a thrilling flick. One that is as much about the beauty and the power of film as it is about the joy of a bunch of Jewish American soldiers “Killin’ Nazis”. I can’t wait to see it again. Propaganda? Maybe. Fun as hell? Absolutely!
1. UP - Still holding on to my top spot this year is the undeniably beautiful UP. An utterly powerful little film that is as much heartbreaking as it is funny. I hope that with the changes coming for the next Academy Awards, this finds a place as part of the Best Picture nominees. They don’t get much better than this.
Mike Sampson's Top 5
5. STAR TREK - Not being a Trekkie of any caliber before seeing this movie, I went in with my expectations tucked somewhere in my sneakers. I had never seen a single episode of any "Trek" series and only saw WRATH OF KHAN once a few years back. But guess what? It didn't matter. It could've been "Rainbow Brite" for all I care. The scary part? This was just the origin story. Just wait till Abrams and crew really get rolling.
4. DRAG ME TO HELL - I'm still baffled as to how this underperformed at the box-office. People always claim to want "real horror" and Sam Raimi delivers (and then some) and audiences stay home. Maybe this was just more of an October movie and shouldn't have been released in the summer. But that's not Raimi's fault. The movie was equal parts scary, funny, gross and shocking with a climax that left my jaw on the theater floor.
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - Originally not on my Top 5, the more I thought about BASTERDS, the more I realized I really did love it. It's ability to slowly build suspense and tension reminded me a lot of another summer war movie, THE HURT LOCKER, for which it's tied at 3rd on my list. While everyone is rightly praising Christoph Waltz (who is brilliant), let us not overlook Melanie Laurent who is equally as brilliant as the vengeful Shoshana. Their showdown over a strudel was pure genius.
3 (tie). THE HURT LOCKER - The smartest action movie of the summer went up against quite possibly the dumbest movie of the year (TRANSFORMERS 2) and failed at the box-office. Mainstream critics were pissed that younger audiences weren't going to the film. Forget about all that drama and just enjoy a film that gives new meaning to the cliche "on the edge of your seat."
2. DISTRICT 9 - The only film on this list that actually had me cheering in my seat. DISTRICT 9 reminds us that fun and smart aren't mutually exclusive properties for a movie. Yes you can be about something and still entertain the hell out of people in a genre movie. An ORIGINAL genre movie. No sequel, no remake, no book adaptation here. Amazing FX, great performances and the introduction of a great new director in Neill Blomkamp.
1. UP - The less said about my reaction to the first 10 minutes of UP, the better. Let's just say it was really dusty in that movie theater. After that tragically beautiful beginning, the movie settles into a lighter rhythm that just happens to be Pixar's funniest film to date. Combine that with some adventure, gorgeous visuals and more emotion than we get out of 95% of live action films and we get the very best film this summer.