By Kenneth Shipp
I have to stress the word “best” when you read this list. There were 3 movies in the the honorable mention list that I enjoyed a bunch, but will probably not rewatch them because of weak plot development or various issues. Honestly, this entire summer threw me a curve ball.
It would be an understatement to say I was not surprised at the lackluster Age of Ultron. What was surprising was how much more I liked Ant-Man. I didn’t think it would be the comic book movie of the year, but after Ultron and the dud that was Fantastic Four, here we are. Paul Rudd was fantastic, Michael Pena and the rest of his heist crew were great additions that helped sell Rudd as the everyman thrust into this position. His wit and delivery are what kept this film together despite the loss of Edgar Wright and script rewrites. Evangeline Lily could have been given better development, her interaction with her father was pretty weak, not to mention another mopey and whiny villain. Even with those flaws, this is definitely a fun film that helps address a few future MCU items, but escapes the current Marvel problem of being a movie that exists purely to setup another movie, which is what Age of Ultron ultimately was.
To be sure, the constant theme of this summer has been surprises and Compton was no exception. While it was certainly meant as a biopic, the racial themes present here were a timely and relevant look at where America was in the late eighties and gives us a glimpse at how little or how greatly we come to erasing the divide of race. There were a few wild party scenes that I could have done without. This film was about getting the feel and period right, and they nailed that; not to mention the great casting throughout this film and possessed a humor that endeared you to the entire crew. It was great change of pace for a late summer movie.
The only non-surprise on this list is the Pixar knockout. It’s tied with Ex Machina for me as film of the year so far. I may change my tune once I watch Love and Mercy or the other slate of films coming up this fall, but this was a very solid and amazing addition to the Pixar library. They dealt with their most complex theme to date and pulled it off spectacularly. The only knock I have is because this film was so complex for a children’s film, it lacked some of the humor that usually accompanies the previous Pixar installments. Don’t get me wrong, this one was definitely funny, but it didn’t have the levity that is required to help deal with the subject matter as smoothly.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
Now back to more surprises! Wow, I did not expect this one to be any good and it defied those expectations wholeheartedly. It definitely wins in the visual department as one of the most striking films in the past few years. A great blend of CGI and practical effects created a new playground for Max and the other bandits tearing it up in the wasteland. This one felt very close to Road Warrior in story, where we met Max again in a different circumstance and how does he deal with it. It’s a formula that worked well and allowed them to shift the focus on other characters like the caravan of survivors in Road Warrior to the strong female leads in Fury Road. Charlize Theron steals the freaking show and has great moments that are unique because she’s strong in her own right. She’s not emulating a stereotypical male action hero and her impressive feats in the film are not simply painting a woman in a male place either. She is looking for her home, keeping her makeshift family together, while kicking tail all over the place and even saving Max multiple times. The plot in this one could have been fleshed out more, but what we received wasn’t dumb by any stretch and served to be the second best continuation of a series this summer….
… the first best being Rogue Nation. I liked Ghost Protocol, but I honestly only saw that one because the Dark Knight Rises first glimpse was in front of that IMAX premiere. But since I’d already paid for the ticket, of course I had to stay and watch it and was thoroughly impressed. With the change in hands to Christopher McQuarrie, I was worried that a fifth film entry wouldn’t match the resurgence that this series received from Abrams or Bird. But again, if the other entries were surprises, this one takes the cake. Tom Cruise still has it, but he’s not the star of this film by a long shot. Rebecca Ferguson takes over every scene she is in and pushes everyone else off to the side by large margins. The plot was very smart, incredibly slick and the action never let up. We never stayed in one place too long and our attention was glued for the most part. I can think of only one place towards the end where they almost lost me with a slight lull, and even that is a minor gripe. I laughed at their TV spots that kept attacking CGI stunts showing off their practical sets and sequences. It doesn’t disappoint in the slightest and even the CGI they used, weaved together nicely and wasn’t distracting at all. I’m not sure if the magic will last for MI:6, but they certainly gave us reason to believe it with this one.
Yeah, by now you should have noticed that the billion dollar juggernaut that is Jurassic World was snubbed by me. See, if I had written a review for that one it would have went like this:
“This film feels like it’s just pandering to my nostalgia for dinos and John Williams, which isn’t a bad idea, it just needs to be more than that. Indominus Rex has more bullcrap, seat of your pants plot devices than the sharks from Deep Blue Sea. Bryce Dallas Howard either needs to fire her agent for suggesting she take this film, or Colin Trevorrow can’t write female characters to save his job (Wait, they already greenlit a…I don’t care anymore). Chris Pratt is great, but we don’t have nearly enough of him and we don’t care about anyone else. Not to mention the fact that no one had to die if Howard’s character, who we are led to believe is one of the most OCD individuals ever would have just used her phone (which she was on a lot to start the film) and asked for a GPS lock on the rex….ridiculousness…7/10”
If I’ve offended your sensibilities, I do apologize, but I don’t care. It’s not that great of a film and after multiple re-watches, you may actually feel the same. As I said before, most of us at Union feel like Ultron was just a setup movie or placeholder for other properties which is the same problem that killed Iron Man 2. And the two comedy knockouts, Spy and Trainwreck are not exactly timeless. I don’t feel like they will have as much rewatchability like say the Skeleton Twins, a dark comedy that has enough substance and witty banter to have you in tears and also saddened by the relationship improving and deteriorating on screen. I love Schumer and McCarthy and they definitely owned it this summer, but I doubt I’ll be quick to re-watch those over and over again especially over the 5 above.
Before 2003, if I told you that Disney was going to make a decent movie based off a theme park ride, you would probably have stop reading this site. Fast forward to now, you would do the same thing and definitely be correct. This film had so much potential … that got asked in the form of a question, and we all know how bad Lindelof is at answering questions, let alone writing characters we actually care about the whole time. We spend so little time in the place that was hyped up over and over in the trailers that it’s very insulting. Clooney is fun in this film and Michael Giacchino’s score is on point, but other than that, the resolution to the big question of how do we fix the Earth will leave you pissed off and ready to give this film a piece of your mind.
The internet has thoroughly eviscerated this film and rightfully so. How do you mess up what could have been an awesome premise? Ignore the initial premise and throw in an actor who hasn’t exactly been on a career streak recently. I’m looking really hard at you Mr. Sandler. Since he’s gone super kid friendly, I’ve hated every minute of it. He hasn’t had a hit since Funny People back in 2009. I’m not saying go back to Billy Madison or Gilmore mode, but surely there’s a way to still find your comedic edge and not push out this load of garbage. Maybe a change of scenery, actor buddies perhaps? He’s been running with the same crew for a while and they look rather stagnant. I didn’t mean for this critique to become a Sandler bash, but it feels oddly appropriate, and gosh, just the rest of this film…ugh.
Is there a curse on Jai Courtney? I’m being dead serious. He may be a decent actor, but I’ll never know cause most of his films haven’t fared too well. I’m sure he affected Jack Reacher some how, I’m sure of it. Good Day to Die Hard, I’m sure he made Bruce Willis pick….hmm, okay, maybe this curse theory isn’t holding up as well as I thought. But regardless, the timeline which was already convoluted, becomes even muddier and down right pissed on for most of the film, the CGI was poorly used in many spots that quickly took me out of it, like the CGI Arnold vs Real but Old Arnold, or how about the Golden Gate bridge fight? Oh wait, how about the helicopter chase? I’m sure that was a real winner. I actually liked Arnold’s scenes with the new Sarah Connor and his lines were great, but there’s nothing else to this film. Not to mention that it doesn’t make a lick of sense or help advance the story in new, interesting or believable ways. I may be more upset that James Cameron actually gave this film a thumbs up.
I’m not sure how much more energy I can give towards describing this awfulness except for a few lines of quick rambling:
- Facial hair shouldn’t magically move all over the place.
- Neither should a woman’s wig keep changing color or size.
- Superheroes need time to discover and explore their powers, not 45 minutes shoehorned with the re-introduction of the villain and final battle wrap up.
- Way to screw up what could have been decent casting with Michael B. Jordan.
- And I’m done, we’ve literally destroyed this film here and here. I can’t chat more about this travesty, or I might have to watch Batman and Robin to get the bad taste out of my mouth…
- …and then watch The Dark Knight to get that slightly better, but still horrendous flavor expelled from the taste buds.
Dishonorable Mention– San Andreas, Minions, Vacation, and a crap ton of others
Did you notice I didn’t have a fifth worst film picked? Yeah, go wild and crazy, pick your own to go into that spot because I did not want to write reviews for these poor attempts for film making.
Do you disagree with the order of my list or think I missed one? Let us know in the comments below.