Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer Movie Recap

This weekend sees Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master', one of the most anticipated films of the year coming from one of the most celebrated american auteurs of the past years, hit theaters across the US. Such a highbrow premiere can, in my mind, only signal one thing: we are entering the prestige movie season and so, summer is officially over. But before we say goodbye for good, let's take a look at what we saw, enjoyed, despised and learned at our local screens during the hottest months of the year.

The Biggest Smash

Summer started out with bang, thanks to Joss Whedon and Marvel Entertainment's highly awaited 'The Avengers'. It proved not only that Marvel's crazy plan of releasing movies building up to an ultimate team-up could work, but it also became one of the biggest hits of all time. Currently the third highest grossing movie of all-time in the US (after Avatar and Titanic), it became the absolute number one hit of the summer. In other words, 'The Avengers' practically won the summer (if such a thing is possible).

'The Avengers' was such a huge hit that came out so early in the year that nearly everything else that came out after it underperformed, making this -despite 'The Avengers' huge income- one of the lowest-grossing summers in recent memory. It didn't help that the movies that came out around its release like 'Dark Shadows', 'Men in Black III', 'Snow White and the Huntsman' and 'Battleship' (which I haven't seen, but I've heard terrible things about it), were all forgettable at best.

'The Avengers' was not only a huge popular hit, but it was also a really good movie. Definitely the most fun I've had all summer. Joss Whedon made a surprisingly character-driven and well-written movie that packed all of the explosive spectacle and outrageous fun that we want in our summer entertainment. I wouldn't hesitate to call it one of the finest summer movies ever. It embraced its comic-book roots in such a complete fashion that it made more earnest movies like 'Prometheus' and 'The Dark Knight Rises' feel pretentious and silly by comparison.

The Saddest Summer

Summer was also marked by the terrible Aurora Massacre that took place during a midnight screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises'. I didn't write anything about it at the time because I didn't quite know what to make of it. To me, as well as for many movielovers, it was as if someone had come into my house and shoot my family. Many that have manifested their opinion about the manner have said this, but I utterly agree that to me the movies feel like home, a place where you go to escape your life's troubles, to connect with art and entertainment that stays with you in some form or another for the rest of your life. That some twisted mind made a dangerous place out of what for many was considered a safe haven is really a tragedy.

Don't You Like to Laugh?

A trend of particular interest to me was that we didn't have that many successful summer comedies this year. The biggest comedy of the summer was Seth McFarland's 'Ted', which I haven't seen and have heard both good and bad things about, but that certainly didn't make such a high pop-culture splash as 'The Hangover' or 'Bridesmaids' made in seasons past.

What I did watch in the comedy department were all duds. 'Dark Shadows' had a few funny gags , but was incredibly bad plotted. 'The Dictator' also had some funny bids, but was mostly forgettable. I didn't watch 'The Campaign' or 'To Rome with Love', but all these movies underperformed at the box-office and certainly didn't light the critical world on fire either. Thankfully, I found my dose of summer comedy in my beloved itunes-premiering 'Bachelorette', a movie that has spawned very divisive comments, but that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish (my review).

Little Movies, Big Screens 

While the traditional summer fare was mostly disappointing, I actually found a lot of very good movies in more independent productions. Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom' became somewhat of an independent hit; a very sweet movie, probably one of the directors' best. I was also mesmerized by Sundance and Cannes sensation 'Beasts of the Southern Wild', one of the most original and emotionally powerful movies I've seen so far this year. Even though the movie has only grossed 10 million dollars, there's already talk of it getting mayor Oscar nominations, and  it would deserve some recognition.

I also enjoyed 'Safety Not Guaranteed', another really sweet movie featuring 'Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass as a man who claims to have built a time-machine. And let's not forget french film 'Farewell, My Queen' starring Lea Seydoux and with Diane Kruger playing Marie Antoinette during the first days of the french revolution. Neither should we forget Craig Zobel's 'Compliance', which proved a very interesting movie.

Everywhere, Superlatives

The biggest surprise of the summer for me has to be 'Paranorman'. I expected a good, funny movie but what I got was much, much more than I could have hoped for. If you want some more thoughts on it, you can read my review. An honorable mention goes to 'Hope Springs' which turned out to be a much better and much interesting movie than you could have guessed based on its advertising.

The disappointments of the summer were mainly 'Brave', which had beautiful animation, but was a surprisingly by-the-numbers, simplistic and boring movie (especially disappointing coming from such an imaginative studio as Pixar), 'Prometheus', which was a pretentious mess, all style, no substance and 'The Dark Knight Rises' which thanks to time and repeated viewings shows how much clunkier it is than its two predecessors.

Finally, if I had to pick the best five movies I saw this summer I would go with (in no particular order): 'The Avengers', 'Beasts of the Southern Wild', 'Moonrise Kingdom', 'Paranorman' and 'Bachelorette'.

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