Summer movie recap
The summer break is over, and you can hear that steady beat of freshmen marching to their first college classes. The new school year brings change. Wohl Center as we know it is gone, and Bear Grylls owns a restaurant on the South 40.
But let’s not forget where we came from! It’s still technically summer, and there are still tons of summer movies on my mind. So follow me as I take a trip down memory lane, all the way back to May 2009, when the Summer Movie Season began.
There were good times. There were bad times. But even in the worst of times (ahem, “The Proposal”), I sat through every single movie.
4 1/2 stars
In many ways, “Star Trek” caught me by surprise. Despite the fact that it was directed by J.J. Abrams, despite the fact that the trailer was, in a word, “epic,” and despite the fact that I included it in my Summer Movie Preview, it still caught me off guard. Blame it on bad instincts or blame it on an Episode I, II and III hangover—my expectations were low.
But then I actually saw “Star Trek.” And I saw that Chris Pine had the goods to play the cocky Kirk, that Zachary Quinto turned out to be the logical actor to play the rational Spock and that Abrams made the screen shimmer. And all of a sudden, “Star Trek” was the movie of the summer…and it was only May! With brilliant pacing, jokes that brought the house down and authentic drama, “Star Trek” was a perfect space opera and a summer movie masterpiece.
Every Pixar movie has a broad message: “Don’t grow up,” said “Toy Story.” “Anyone can cook,” said “Ratatouille.” And yet, the animation studio keeps their broad messages subtle, surrounding allegories with great plots.
“Up” is no different. I think it says worlds that whenever anyone talked about “Up,” they mentioned the goofy bird, little Russell or the funny dogs, and not the film’s unspoken message: “You don’t have to travel the world to live a fulfilling life.” And appropriately, now that the summer is over, any mention of “Up” first reminds me of an image that’s as silent as the movie’s meaning: thousands of balloons holding up a floating house over the edge of a cliff.
You’ve probably heard this one before: A fiancé, a ladies’ man, a devoted boyfriend and the village idiot go to Vegas in hunt of a massive bachelor party. The sun comes up, and the fiancé is missing.
That’s it, right? Joke over? Ba-dum-chh? Not so fast!
At first glance, “The Hangover” appeared to be a one-joke wonder, but as the film clipped along, you saw that the hangover-induced memory loss transformed into the perfect setup for the summer’s most frenetic punchline. The jokes screamed by like technicolor bullets. Some called it random, but most didn’t care. “The Hangover” wasn’t “good for a dumb comedy.” It was a good comedy with occasional dumb moments and a side-splitting ending.
Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Mediocrity, thy name is “Pelham.” John Travolta tried his darnedest to keep this remake of a subway hijacking movie humming along, but the “super cool” editing and direction made the film into a sloshy two hours. Denzel Washington looked dopey in his thick glasses and high-waisted pants, and every attempt at political satire was overwrought and forced. The plot was hyper-conventional, and the movie’s twist might as well have been revealed in the opening minutes. Ironically, it seems that my interest in “Pelham” was derailed—sorry—because the plot got too cozy with the set track.
I saw “The Proposal” with four girls and one guy. Two of the girls liked it; the rest of us didn’t. It was five minutes in when the other guy began to vocalize his hate for the movie. “I don’t like it,” he whispered. “This is so stupid. We have to get out of here. I don’t like it.” You can’t blame him. “The Proposal” threw the kitchen sink of romantic comedy clichés at the viewers, from the wacky family to Sandra Bullock. The one time we, the haters, laughed was when the grandma had a heart attack.
Away We Go
When you think of the phrase “Away we go,” images of exclamations, ships embarking and historic journeys cross the mind. But in “Away We Go,” the very opposite happened. The movie started with Burt (John Krasinski) discovering that Verona (Maya Rudolph) is pregnant because she tasted different—and they’re off with a whimper, wandering aimlessly through the mellow towns, looking for a place to start their family. The execution was sometimes excessively cute, but the depressing atmosphere evened things out, and every performance was memorable.
The Hurt Locker
Director Kathryn Bigelow turned “The Hurt Locker” into an intense ride. The bomb-heavy story obviously intensified every situation, but a lesser director would have bungled the execution with a heavy hand or a flippant viewpoint. Bigelow let “The Hurt Locker” artfully blend the physical and psychological drama of war, in the process creating the war film viewers were craving. “The Hurt Locker” didn’t need any star power to make it the best movie of the year (so far).
(500) Days of Summer
“(500) Days of Summer” provided me with my happiest moment at the movies this year when Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) played house with Summer (Zooey Deschanel) in a model living room…and then a model kitchen…and then a model bedroom. But “(500) Days of Summer” was not all rainbows and sunshine, and it also provided me with my saddest moment at the movies this year. Later in the film, when the couple is on the outs, there was a scene in which Tom shared a moment with Summer at her party. It was a fleeting moment, but it was of enough substance to convince Tom that they might still have something left in the tank as a couple. But at the same time, you and I knew that they were never going to end up together. “(500) Days of Summer” was equal parts bliss and depression, and it had just enough tongue in cheek to get away with its predictable ending.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Action! Suspense! Awkward teenage romance! (“Your shoe is untied.”) If any of these exclamations caught your fancy, then “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” was the movie for you. Daniel Radcliffe normally steals the show just by the nature of his role, but “Half-Blood Prince” was the first “Harry Potter” where he actually deserves all the pedigree that comes with being “the boy who lived.” Radcliffe’s portrayal of Harry Potter finally does justice to Potter’s tragic roots, and surprisingly, Radcliffe, not Rupert Grint as Ron, keeps the jokes coming. And be warned: “Half-Blood Prince” was rated PG, but it may be the darkest film in the series.
“Brüno” was crude and unstoppable, a lambasting of everyone in the movie and everyone watching the movie. I think that’s why “Brüno” wasn’t the hit that “Borat” was; Sacha Baron Cohen assaulted us viewers by hyperbolizing all that makes us uncomfortable. I can’t really recall the film’s opening. Looking back on it, I think I was in some sort of shock. But after I shook it off, I ended up enjoying “Brüno” a great deal. I think the movie was more cohesive than “Borat” ever was, and from the midpoint on, “Brüno” is absolutely hilarious. Ultimately, “Brüno” achieved a polarized reaction from the audience; first we squirmed, and then hopefully we laughed.