Monday, September 9, 2013

The Best and Worst Films of the Summer

Mel’s Cine-Files: Summer Movies in Review

By Melissa Agar

Labor Day was last week, and for me, that means a lot of things. School started so I am back to work as a high school English teacher. It’s time to start thinking about pulling the sweaters out of storage. And the glut of summer blockbusters has come to an end as the studios make the transition from the big blockbusters to the Oscar bait that will litter the next couple months. Thanks to this gig reviewing movies, I’ve made more trips to the local multiplex this summer than I have in a long time. I’ve seen a lot of movies I normally would not have chosen to see on my own. I’ve seen some things that left me wondering why in the world I love movies as much as I do, but I’ve also seen quite a few really tremendous movies that restored my faith in the art form I love so much. It seems appropriate, then, to celebrate the end of the season by honoring five of the great films the summer offered as well as recognizing five that made summer 2013 such a mixed bag at the movies.


1.     Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen is back in the States and back to form with this inventive story of two sisters trying to piece their lives together in the wake of financial ruin and romantic failures. This film is sure to make some noise as awards season starts. I’ll be shocked if Cate Blanchett isn’t nominated for her terrific work as the titular character, but some awards love should also be thrown toward supporting actress Sally Hawkins as well as Allen’s terrific script. The film itself could get itself a nomination for Best Picture now that that category can be expanded up to 10 films.

2.     The Way Way Back – This coming of age comedy was a bittersweet tonic after weeks of gunfire and explosions. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s script makes a star of young Liam James as a young man who finds escape and acceptance working at a local water park. 

3.     Iron Man 3 – The summer got off to a bang with the final installment in the excellent Iron Man trilogy. Robert Downey, Jr., managed to balance Tony Stark’s swagger with some post-traumatic Avengers stress. Like The Avengers last summer, Iron Man 3 proved that a superhero movie could be funny, intelligent, and action packed without pandering to the lowest common denominator or becoming so mired in existential angst that the audience needs a little Prozac sprinkled into the tub of popcorn.

4.     The Heat – Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy team up to prove that buddy cop movies aren’t the exclusive property of men. McCarthy’s rough cop is the perfect foil for Bullock’s uptight FBI agent as they seek to bring down a drug lord. One of the biggest laugh out loud hits of the summer and further proof that women can be funny AND can open a movie without being tied to a male romantic interest. After the disappointment that was Identity Thief, this movie also proves that McCarthy’s brilliance in Bridesmaids was not just a fluke.

5.     This Is The End – James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and company engage in some self-deprecating mockery in this raunchy apocalypse comedy. Of all the films released this summer, this is the one that was recommended to me most often by my drama students, speaking to the film’s appeal. As I was putting this list together, I kept coming back to the shock and delight of watching Franco and his pals play exaggerated versions of themselves and marvel in the courage it took to lay all their perceived foibles out there for all to see and laugh at. It is also the summer movie I am most looking forward to seeing again on DVD.


1.      The Lone Ranger – I’m not sure what more to say about this bloated, dull adaptation of the old classic. Johnny Depp has become a parody of himself with his mumbling, face-painted Tonto, and Arnie Hammer has yet to prove that he can carry a lead. This is what happens when hubris is given an unlimited budget.

2.     R.I.P.D. – Déjà vu strikes in this lifeless tale of two afterlife detectives trying to track down and capture rogue souls before they destroy Earth. I really enjoyed this movie . . . when it involved aliens and was called Men in Black.

3.     White House Down – Another film I felt like I’d seen before, as Channing Tatum is the only person who can save President Jamie Foxx from merciless terrorists who have captured the White House. Yes, you read that right – PRESIDENT Jamie Foxx. Two hours of unrelenting violence plus fairly bland leads to a disappointing bomb for audiences.

4.     Grown Ups 2 – This is the winner of the Most Needless Sequel award (tied with Smurfs 2, which I haven’t actually seen because, well, I have SOME standards). Adam Sandler and crew move to their quiet hometown and spend two hours telling fart jokes and wandering around without any real discernible plot other than highlighting how much fun these guys all have together. This cast is a funny, talented crew that deserves much, much better.

5.     The preview for Machete Kills – Have you guys seen this one? From the opening seconds when the president of the United States is revealed to be Charlie Sheen to shots of Sofia Vergara shooting machine guns out of her breasts, my jaw nearly broke dropping to the floor. During one viewing of the preview, my theatre companion actually leaned over and asked if this was a real movie or if she was imagining it. I’m sure director Robert Rodriguez is going for the camp factor, but it looks like it’s trying too hard and that the camp will go straight over the audience’s heads. Of course, when October rolls around and this proves to be a hilarious romp, I’ll eat these words, but for now, it remains the preview I dreaded seeing every weekend.

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