Summer is winding down and so is a jam-packed movie season. As students prepare to go back to school and adults mourn dwindling vacation hours, it’s nice to get in one last trip to the theater before we return to the daily grind. But there’s so much to choose from! How can you know what’s worth the price of that pricey movie ticket? Maybe I can help.
My movie-goings haven’t been quite as frequent as I anticipated, but I did manage to see ten movies from May to July—some of which I even saw twice because they were that awesome. From the worst to the best, I’m going to give you a breakdown of what I’ve seen. Hopefully, this will help you decide on a worthy candidate for that last hurrah. Some of these I’ve done reviews for, some I haven’t. But here’s the skinny:
#10: The Hangover Part III
Synopsis: “When one of their own is kidnapped by an angry gangster, the Wolf Pack must track down Mr. Chow, who has escaped from prison and is on the lam.” –www.imdb.com
To Sum It Up: This one’s been out a while, but you can still catch it in discount theaters…if you want to waste money. The Hangover films are a prime example of a trilogy that never should have been a trilogy. The first one is still among my favorite comedies, but the second is extremely disappointing—basically an exact replica of the original film but with a different location and more gross-out scenes. While I do think the third film is a smidge better than the second in terms of originality, it’s by no means fantastic. The story and the characters feel worn out, and the humor is significantly darker—so much so that the film is rarely funny at all. I will give Part III points for bringing back some of the original characters (particularly baby “Carlos”), but overall, I declare this a dud. If you want to see it just to complete the trilogy, wait until it’s available at your library.
My Grade: D
#9: Man of Steel
Synopsis: “A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.” –www.imdb.com
To Sum It Up: Though it’s visually stunning and filled to the brim with intense fight scenes, Man of Steel just doesn’t measure up to the hype. It was supposed to be the DC superhero movie, filling the gap left by the Dark Knight trilogy. Instead, it’s a disjointed story with a lackluster script and little to no character development. I’m especially concerned about this because the same crew has signed up for a 2015 sequel, which will reportedly include Batman. I can deal with a bad Superman movie, but a bad Batman movie would break my heart. If you like superhero movies and big visual effects, Man of Steel might be worth your while to see in theaters. But maybe wait for it to go to the discount theater. This was actually my first review for this blog. Initially, I went a little easy on it, but upon further consideration…
My (New) Grade: C+
#8: Red 2
Synopsis: “Retired C.I.A. agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.” –www.imdb.com
To Sum It Up: It may be far down on this list, but Red 2 isn’t a bad film. In fact, if you liked Red, odds are you’ll like the sequel, too. But, as I said in my initial review, after experiencing the charm and humor of the first film, Red 2 just seems like it’s trying too hard to top it. Yes, it includes some cool additions to the cast (Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee, etc.), and, yes, there’s plenty of action and silliness and whatnot, but, in my opinion, the film lacks the originality that made the first one so entertaining. I didn’t laugh as hard, I wasn’t as impressed by the team’s over-the-hill awesomeness, and, frankly, I missed Morgan Freeman. Still, if you’re looking for a fun action flick, it’s not bad for a matinee.
My Grade: B-
#7: Now You See Me
Synopsis: “An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.” –www.imdb.com
To Sum It Up: If you go to the movie theater for pure, simple, stress-free entertainment, Now You See Me is a pretty good go-to film. Because ultimately, that is its goal: to entertain. As a film about magicians pulling off impressive bank heists, it has both a cool, Ocean’s Eleven vibe and the flashy pizzazz of a Vegas magic show. It’s a fun combination. The problem is the film moves at such a breakneck pace that there’s hardly any time to get to know the characters, which is a shame since this is arguably the most star-studded cast of the summer (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, etc.). Regardless, this film is still worth seeing. Its availability is probably limited since it’s been out since May, but check and see if it’s playing at your local discount theater!
My Grade: B
#6: Iron Man 3
Synopsis: “When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.” –www.imdb.com
To Sum It Up: Initially, I wasn’t sure how to feel after seeing the third installment of Iron Man. It adopts such a different tone from the other two films that it took me a while to decide whether or not I liked it. There’s a fair bit of action at the beginning, then a long stretch where Tony Stark is just…Tony Stark. Don’t get me wrong—Robert Downey Jr. has developed a very enjoyable character, but it’s strange to see a superhero movie where the superhero is out of costume almost the entire time. There’s also a big twist with the villain, and I’m still not sure if I liked it. Nonetheless, it’s a fitting end for the Iron Man series (if it is, in fact, the end), and the writing is a heck of a lot more clever than Man of Steel. If it’s not available at your discount theater yet, I think there are still limited showings in regular theaters. If you like superhero films, I say go check it out.
My Grade: B
#5: The Heat
Synopsis: “An uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord.” –www.imdb.com
To Sum It Up: When I saw The Heat, it vaguely of reminded me of another buddy-cop film, The Other Guys (starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg). Thankfully, The Heat is funnier. And less stupid. And it stars two awesome women, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. The plot may be fairly standard, and Bullock and McCarthy definitely play characters they’ve played in other movies, but it’s still a solid comedy. The two actresses are a riot, and they have undeniable chemistry. Just prepare yourself for some language and some inappropriate humor. Basically, if you liked Bridesmaids, this is a good choice for you. It’s definitely worth a trip to the theater.
My Grade: B
#4: Despicable Me 2
Synopsis: “Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, www.imdb.com.
To Sum It Up: The minions are back, and they’re better than ever. The little yellow guys steal the show in this Despicable Me sequel, which is arguably one of the best sequels of the summer. My only real qualm is that Gru, voiced by the fantastic Steve Carell, is not really very despicable this time around, which kind of betrays the original idea. Still, the overall story and the hilarious antics of the minions are enough to keep you thoroughly entertained. There’s even a glorious scene where the minions spoof a boy band hit. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly film to cap off the summer, this would be my top recommendation.
My Grade: B+
#3: The Conjuring
Synopsis: “Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.” –www.imdb.com.
To Sum It Up: This is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in a while. Great story, great characters, great tension. Unlike most horror films, The Conjuring rarely gives you time to catch your breath—it’s just scare after scare, and it’s fantastic. And it’s not gory scary. It’s just good, old-fashioned scary. Add in the fact that the characters are likeable and well-developed, and it becomes not just a good horror movie, but a good movie period. My one, minor issue with this film is that it wraps up too quickly and too neatly, but don’t let that deter you. This is director James Wan (Insidious, Saw) at his finest, and I highly recommend checking it out.
My Grade: A-
#2: This Is the End
Synopsis: “While attending a party at James Franco’s house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, and many other celebrities are faced with the apocalypse.” –www.imdb.com.
To Sum It Up: This Is the End has been the biggest, most pleasant surprise of my summer. Folks, this movie is hilarious. Very inappropriate, but very hilarious. There’s a reason I made a point to see it twice. It’s a truly unique, self-aware sci-fi comedy. The world ends, and various celebrities are holed up in James Franco’s house. Laughable chaos ensues. And the ending…well, you won’t ever forget the ending. The gross/immature humor can get a little tiresome at times, but for most people, it’s not enough to take away from the awesomeness. If you’re a fan of Superbad and Pineapple Express, go see this movie. Like, right now. It very well could become your new favorite.
My Grade: A-
#1: Star Trek Into Darkness
Synopsis: “After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.” –www.imdb.com.
To Sum It Up: Yes, the pinnacle of geeky summer films is the pinnacle of my summer film experience. Judge away. But, truly, Star Trek Into Darkness is wonderful. It builds on everything the 2009 film started, further developing relationships, making the action even bigger and better, and presenting one of the coolest villains ever, played by the fabulous Benedict Cumberbatch (see my post about Sherlock for further details of his awesomeness). I enjoyed everything about this film, and I believe that anyone who liked the first film—or really anyone who enjoys sci-fi—would love it, too. It’s still in discount theaters. I highly recommend you go see it. ASAP.
My Grade: A
That wraps it up! So what summer movies did you love/hate? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!