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Highlights of the Summer Movie Season

September 3, 2012

By John C.

The summer has come to a close and the season is destined to be remembered for Carly Rae Jepsen’s catchy pop song “Call Me Maybe” playing on the radio and a bunch of films both big and small that all found their place at the movie theatre.  Just like I noted before we were completely immersed in the summer season, their have been a lot of polar opposites in terms of movies that fit together because of their quality.

Let’s start small and work our way up.  There were plenty of independent gems that came late in the season, like Ruby Sparks and Robot & Frank, both ambitious little movies with plenty of big ideas. It’s unfortunate that nobody saw People Like Us, because the small studio film featured some of my favourite performances of the year.  Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pine delivered beautiful leading work in a moving and wonderfully written film that deserves to find a bigger audience on DVD.

There were also some small films that attracted an audience and became true under the radar hits.  A lot of people were talking about the beautifully made Beasts of the Southern Wild after it premiered at Sundance, and the conversations kept going throughout the summer.  The story of two preteens who runaway to be together in the 1960s, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom was a wonderful little film that came alive with great performances and the director’s trademark cinematography.  Also finding an audience early in the season was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a touching film with an excellent ensemble cast that provided a good alternative to the big summer films.  With a trio of awards worthy performances from Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell, the mature dramedy Hope Springs would make the perfect double bill with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

We were in the minority on enjoying Rock of Ages, but the big screen musical provided a thoroughly entertaining ride that had an awesome soundtrack of 1980s songs and a brilliant turn from Tom Cruise as a deranged rock star.  My favourite piece of musically themed entertainment had to be Katy Perry: Part of Me, a surprisingly engaging 3D documentary that presented the pop star as a person and made me admire her even more.  As for comedies, there was a lot of hilariously inappropriate stuff to laugh at in The Dictator, but the funniest movie of the summer just so happened to be Seth MacFarlane’s big screen debut, Ted.  The story of a man (Mark Wahlberg) who lives with his talking and drinking teddy bear, the adults only film delivered big laughs and a lot of heart.

There were also some good animated films that proved the medium isn’t just for kids.  DreamWorks delivered an entertaining big screen sugar rush with Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, a threequel filled with loveable characters and infectious amounts of manic energy.  Pixar continued their winning streak with Brave, a heartfelt story about the bond between a mother and daughter that was told with appealing characters and beautiful animation.  The breathtakingly animated stop motion film ParaNorman delivered a surprisingly deep and thoroughly entertaining thrill ride for older kids and adults.  Disney’s undeniably heartwarming The Odd Life of Timothy Green was the perfect alternative for family audiences looking for a good live action film.

The two best surprises of the summer came close to the beginning and right at the end.  I don’t think anybody expected much from Men in Black 3, but what we got was a fun and surprisingly moving threequel that breathed unexpected new life into the entertaining franchise.  After being pushed back to the second last week of August from an equally dead end January release date, Premium Rush seemed destined to fail and it did have a hard time lighting up the box office.  But it was also a heck of a lot more fun than anyone expected it to be, delivering exhilarating bike chases that didn’t waste a second of the running time and excellent performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon.

Superhero movies continued to be a big draw with audiences, providing some of the best and most financially successful movies of the summer.  With excellent performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man was a thrilling and emotionally engaging film that stood proudly alongside the superhero saga from the last decade.  Director Christopher Nolan closed out his legendary Batman saga in style with The Dark Knight Rises, a thrilling final chapter in what is destined to be remembered as one of the best trilogies of all time, showing the superhero as a symbol of hope against the darkness.

But the best summer movie was also the first and one that is guaranteed a spot among the best of the year.  When it was first announced that Marvel would be putting together several of their beloved superheroes into one film, I think everyone was curious to see how it would turn out.  But director Joss Whedon delivered something truly spectacular with The Avengers, an entertaining and smartly written film that fired on all cylinders with an excellent ensemble cast.  Audiences took to the film in a big way, delivering the biggest opening weekend of all time.  There were a lot of great movies this summer, but from beginning to end, The Avengers perfectly encapsulated exactly what blockbuster filming can and should be all about.

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