Anthony Stokes picks his top five movies of the summer…
This has been a really rough summer. In the approaching months it looked like it could be the best summer of our generation. A new Iron Man movie to make up for the second one, a new Guillermo del Toro monster movie, and a new Superman movie amongst others. There were a few movies we would’ve been shocked if they turned out to be good (see R.I.P.D., The Lone Ranger and After Earth). However, I found that a majority of the big summer movies could’ve been summed up with “good, but not great”. Now, granted that’s still a really sizeable amount of good satisfying movies, but there wasn’t any definitive knockouts. Now that summer is very much over I thought I’d list the movies that made the biggest impression on me (spoilers to follow)…
Star Trek Into Darkness
I’m a set piece fiend. I love elaborate and intricate action scenes that take advantages of physics, location, and other elements to deliver something more inventive then your traditional action sequence. That said the Enterprise being destroyed while being pulled into Earth’ gravity is easily the highlight of the movie for me and as a matter of fact that’s right where I turn the movie off, because that begins what is a complete and utter rehash. But up until that point I truly loved this movie so much, it’s everything that I was anticipating while watching the trailers. It was a step ahead of most blockbusters in every aspect. It was gorgeous and even though Kirk being demoted from Captain was very redundant I still liked all the character work, and how swiftly it was moving. And even though his character wasn’t written very well, I enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as the villain and his chemistry with Chris Pine. The critic in me wants to say this is not far from being a guilty pleasure, but the child in me is simply entertained by the bright lights, even if Into Darkness didn’t have the most obvious and blatant failings. However, without those flaws and maybe a little more sci-fi added in, this easily could’ve been my favorite movie of the year.
Iron Man 3
I think this is a really under appreciated movie. Some viewers see the creative decisions in it as flaws and had they seen a few interviews from beforehand they might have appreciated it much more. What I love about Iron Man 3 is how distinctive it feels. This is a new animal, and I doubt we’ll get another superhero movie that cares so little for traditional story structure or trying to outdo previous installments. Shane Black is the king of playing with audiences expectations and here is no different, with him having the audience completely off guard the entire time. It’s a shame that people complain about how typical movies are and then when something comes along that’s got a new take on a character and a unique approach to storytelling it’s not understood. Not to say that there aren’t flaws, but they’re mostly in reaching to new heights. Robert Downey Jr. and friends are in fine form and it felt good to see these characters out of their elements and doing new things. I suggest anybody that was disappointing by this movie or lukewarm on it give it another viewing. This is Marvel’s most sophisticated movie, and it gets better with every viewing to help swallow the completely new tone that Black and Drew Pearce brought to this franchise.
This Is the End
Early in the reign of Judd Apatow, he had directed and produced a few movies that I didn’t see until months after they were released on the home market. I couldn’t relate to The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but when I caught Superbad it changed my life. When the credits started that when I first discovered my love for film. Since then the Apatow crew has been hit or miss, with all of the actors doing amazing projects, missed opportunities or straight-up bad movies. So when I saw the trailer for This Is the End I knew this would either be really good or really bad. But like a lot of great movies what originated as a cool idea, was fully fleshed out. The idea originally started as Jay Baruchel’s character trying to survive the apocalypse. So Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg decided to keep the premise the same except this time they added all of their friends from Apatow crew. Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, and all their other collaborators make cameos with Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, and James Franco becoming part of the principle cast.
From the trailer I thought it’d be a poorly executed movie with a great idea but with poor direction. What I got was this amazing little movie with all my favorite comedians playing themselves. And instead of them just sitting around making jokes, them trying to survive is actually a major part of the story, and this is actually a very competent horror comedy. And on that level it works. I’d put this up with the greats. If I had any complaints it’s that Jonah Hill and James Franco are Oscar nominated actors and due to the script they’re given nothing to do and are ultimately wasted. Jay Baruchel and Craig Robinson stepped up dramtically, and Danny McBride is easily my favorite villain of the year and still the best actor in this movie dramatic or comedic. I’m not going to spoil it, but this is Michael Cera’s best role since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and he really stands out amongst an array of great cameos. I’m glad I saw this and I hope there’s an unrated or extended edition because I couldn’t get enough of this movie.
If you ask me what’s the best film I’ve seen this year, this would be it. Dramatically powerful, extremely topical, and a star vehicle for Michael B. Jordan – somebody who I’ve always said will get Oscar recognition. Ryan Coogler turns Oscar Grant into a metaphor or a mirror for black men. I instantly related to Oscar as someone who makes mistakes but is ultimately a good person and is probably in a bad spot more for his circumstances than lack of character. And if you can’t relate on that level it’s a tremendous character study and day in the life movie, and Coogler directs this like an Aronofsky, continuously twisting the knife making the audience wince as the conclusion we all wish wasn’t coming inches forward. Hopefully this will be the Beasts of the Southern Wild of this year and will gain the attention it deserves, and at the very least make stars out of Coogler and Jordan who are two people to keep an eye on.
The World’s End
While Fruitvale Station is definitely the better film, I guess The World’s End is the better movie. Ever since I saw Scott Pilgrim I’ve been a huge Edgar Wright fan and I talk about how great he is every time I get a chance. To me he’s the best filmmaker working today, because of his understanding of the language of film and his comprehension of the basics of filmmaking. This movie came at the end of a disappointing summer and made it all worth it. Edgar Wright has outdone himself, by pulling back and delivering something that is new and familiar at the same time. I had a lot of trouble choosing either this or This Is the End. They’re actually not that different, both being about of group of guys versus the apocalypse. In all The World’s End was just clever enough to edge out This Is the End. It’s an achievement for everyone involved and I look forward to seeing what the Wright crew does next.
In a summer full of bloated budgets, sensory overload, and cluttered uncoordinated CGI, it was ultimately the smaller more intimate films that stood apart and left the most impression.
What are your favourite movies of the summer? Let us know int he comments below…
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.