As summer has ended and school has started back up, Lindsey and I found ourselves looking back and realizing that we had been fortunate to see a lot of the summer blockbusters over the past few months. So given my film degree background, naturally, a summer blockbuster ranking was in order! We haven’t seen every summer flick, so this list isn’t exhaustive or definitive, but will do a good job to scratch the surface. Counting down to my favorite. And side note: if you haven’t yet been to the Coyote Drive-in in Fort Worth, we highly recommend it – two movies for the price of one can’t be beat! And all of September they’re doing a $5 ticket special – that’s two movies with your date for 10 bucks!
Honorable Mention: Fast & Furious 7
We didn’t ever see this one simply because I’ve never been a fan of the series, so I can’t speak to how it was. However the general consensus is that the film was really great and that Paul Walker was honored very well within the movie, so it gets an honorable mention.
9) Terminator Genisys
I didn’t ever really have the intention of seeing this film, but it was the second half of a double feature at the drive-in theater, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I went in with low expectations, so I wasn’t completely dissatisfied by the end of it. The story gets a little confusing if you don’t pay close attention, with can result in drawing you out of what’s happening to make sense of the time lines. The plot holes here are obviously left to be filled by later sequels, but when I leave the theater, I like to have most of my loose strings tied, so this was were I found myself not completely satisfied. Overall though, the visuals were very fun to watch, so I’ll give it that, but without any substance, it was dangerously close to being a just a darker Michael Bay film.
Conclusion: Explosive action wrapped around a confusing plot line, Schwarzenegger cashes in on himself.
8) The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
I really had high hopes for this one, especially with a director like Guy Richie at the wheel, but unfortunately, with a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think this will sadly drift down into the realm of 15-second-of-fame blockbusters that lasted for about a month before people moved on to the next best thing. It’s already happening. Which as I said is unfortunate, because along with all it had going for it, I loved the movie! Guy Richie once again shows off his wit and flair, this time with a genre and setting that’s delectable to spy fanboys everywhere. Knowing that I love James Bond, you could see where the draw was for me! The flair is fun, the dialogue is sharp and cutesy, and overall you feel like you’re watching a film that’s a bit smarter than you were expecting – possibly even too much for its own good at times. It has all the elements that you’d ask from a spy thriller – the setting and aesthetic are absolutely perfect, and the sequences are sharp, yet classic in their homage to the time period. But where it falls flat unfortunately is in the characters: we never get to connect with them. They’re not nearly rounded enough for what they seem to demand from the audience – I’m looking at you, Mr. Hammer. That said though, it’s still a brightly fun watch, especially for spy fanboys like myself or fans of the era. Alicia Vikander does a fantastic job in her role, arguably the best of the leading trio, and Henry Cavill’s wit and glamour are the quintessential elements that make The Man from Uncle as enjoyable as it is. Side note: this film is really just Henry Cavill’s second audition for the role of James Bond, and he nails it at every turn. If Superman isn’t the next 007, then I don’t know what’s wrong with the world.
Conclusion: Has everything you will want from a classic spy thriller set in the 60’s, Henry Cavill IS James Bond.
Despite the great reviews, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from Melissa McCarthy’s parody film. Up until then, I wasn’t really a huge fan of hers – I now stand corrected – and my experience of the comedy genre had been on a dry run as of late. So leaving the theater, I was happily surprised. There were many hilarious one liners, and Feig and McCarthy’s comedic timing is genius throughout the film. Every piece of it performs at 100%. Jason Statham is brilliant in his role, Jude Law and Rose Byrne play the characters perfectly, and Miranda Hart has a sequel, just as enjoyable and preposterous, waiting for her with McCarthy. I mean, everyone just performs magnificently, which only adds to a script that is already absolutely brilliant and hilarious! This is no doubt one of those comedies that people will be quoting long down the line.
Conclusion: The Melissa McCarthy Show is one I would watch every week!
6) The Avengers: Age of Ultron
If I were giving out ratings, I’d put Age of Ultron somewhere around a VERY good average. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it certainly wasn’t disappointing in any measure either. After 7 years, Kevin Feige and the people at Marvel have the blockbuster franchise down to a science and simply know how to take the money right out of our pockets in exchange for two hours of good solid entertainment. With an action sequence at every turn, Age of Ultron is highly entertaining and an overall very enjoyable ride! But with all that said, I rank it here in the middle, because unlike the films below, it doesn’t wow or go beyond it’s expectations. It does very well to continue the storyline within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which depending on your view of the new Hollywood franchise model, you’ll either love or hate, but it still feels like another cog in the line. Albeit a very well made and highly entertaining cog, with stunning graphics and a thrilling adventure. SPOILER ALERT: For the first time in the MCU to the best of my knowledge, we see one of our heroes (albeit a minor one) perish, which I appreciated from a cinematic standpoint – we can’t keep on with this unbreakable schtick forever (I know they’re superheroes, still). Sadly though, it felt like it wasn’t given as much attention as it deserved, though in as much story as Marvel has to get through in each of these installments, it’s understandable. Overall, I loved the film, so if you’re even a semi-Marvel fanboy, grab the popcorn and the drinks – you’ve found an solidly entertaining flick to watch.
Conclusion: When the Avengers assemble on screen, it’s always as entertaining as you’d expect, but if you’re expecting anything deeper than that, look elsewhere.
5) Inside Out
For a Pixar movie about your emotions, it’d be pretty pathetic if you didn’t go through a wave of them while watching it. Inside Out more than delivers though, and this isn’t something we have to worry about at all. Though the catalyst (homesickness from a cross-country move) for all these emotions felt by our main character is a little more surface level and less boundary pushing than I had thought it would be, the emotional journey we’re led through still cuts very deep. It’s no wonder this film is already being used by therapists to help kids deal with and identify their feelings. The movie is just smart in that regard, and the tools Pixar uses to connect psychological phenomenon to a level that a four year old could understand is simply brilliant. But the best part of the movie, you ask, which also happens to be somewhat of a spoiler since Pixar purposefully left it out of their marketing: Bing Bong. You know, the cotton-candy bodied, imaginary creature, who ends up giving us the heaviest feels of the entire movie (you’ll know it when you see it) – yeah that guy. Hands down the best.
Conclusion: If the last time you got the feels during an animated film was the ending to Toy Story 3, perhaps it’s time you go see Inside Out.
4) Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation
If you’re in the mood for just a good, clean fun of movie, this is where you need to be. Oh boy, it’s just so much fun! The car and motorcycle chase – even though the later is quick – is one of the most entertaining I’ve seen since the old Brosnan Bond flicks. It’s just insanely thrilling! And the whole film is too – it’s really just one perfectly orchestrated roller coaster of a ride. As expected in a sequel, Simon Pegg’s supporting character gets to drive the story a bit more than previous ones, which is enjoyable because who can’t love him. But the breakout player is Rebecca Ferguson, who stars opposite Cruise. Her performance it spectacular and 100% believable, even when you don’t know what to believe. Which is what makes Rogue Nation another box office hit for the franchise – it keeps you guessing and more than thrilled for two hours.
Conclusion: Tom Cruise (and friends) are still just as fun to watch as they were nearly two decades ago. Good, clean fun!
3) Ant Man
Ant Man was another film I was very delightfully surprised by, but mainly because of my low expectations for the genre. Where I was mostly delighted was in the film’s tact. It knew what it was doing, and it executed it almost perfectly. From lines like, “why don’t we call the Avengers” to the final battle to the death scene that takes place on a…toy train, the movie was refreshingly self-aware for a superhero flick. Paul Rudd absolutely nails his performance and will have earned his place among the Avengers when he eventually does team up with the team. Also a breakout, who I look forward to seeing much more of, is Michael Peña. Every time he’s on screen, he just works so well. Aside from Evangeline Lilly’s flat performance (we’ve all seen Lost, we know you can do better), the only thing rubbed me the wrong way was Rudd’s scene with the Falcon at the Avengers headquarters. As much fun as it was, it didn’t fit with the rest of the film in tone, and was clearly written in by Marvel execs for continuity within their universe. Other than though, the film is tack sharp, with a healthy balance between the humor and drama. When it’s funny, it’s hilarious, and when the action picks up, it’s highly entertaining!
Conclusion: Surprisingly amazing and tack sharp in its delivery and self-awareness, Paul Rudd earns his seat next to Downey and Evans.
2) Mad Max
I know, many people will be mad at me for not putting this at the top of my list, but it was a close tie! First of all, it goes without saying that Mad Max is a completely different film than any of the others listed here, maybe only similar to Terminator in it’s post-apocalyptic premise. That’s part of what makes it so great though, is it’s difference. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen before, and the imagination of George Miller is simply breathtaking. From colossal sized dust tornadoes to the sadistic steampunk-like aesthetic that permeates the film’s world, this universe that Miller crafts is so strangely beautiful. You don’t know whether to be turned off by the gruesomeness of it all, or enamored by its wonder. And of all the films listed here, Mad Max wins hands down for cinematography – as others have pointed out, all the action takes place in the center of the frame allowing for quick cuts. But the cinematography is just gorgeous, and brings to life the scenery all the more! Miller uses extraordinarily brilliant coloring to juxtapose the dry wasteland with the lost paradise that our characters traverse through mid-film. Aside from this and the greenery at the top of the Citadel, I don’t think we see anything outside of the yellow-red spectrum. Which is perfect, as it draws us all the more in to the hopelessness of Max’s world. And the story driven action is fabulous as well. With a perfect mix of rhythm throughout, Mad Max delivers a heart-pounding string of events, the end of which does not disappoint in any way. Finally, don’t get me started on the actors. With his face covered again for half the movie, but far less dialogue as Bane, Tom Hardy still conveys so much through his demeanor and grunts! And Charlize Theron. Charlize Theron is absolutely amazing! I don’t think I’ve seen a stronger, more soul crushing female lead character before. This is one woman I’m never messing with.
Conclusion: Breathtaking aesthetic from the scenery and cinematography, heart-pounding action, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy are a great duo!
1) Jurassic World
It may be controversial to list this as my number one pick, but deep down, you can’t go wrong with Chris Pratt and velociraptors. Despite the controversial stereotypes surrounding the film, I still absolutely loved it, and if you don’t love Chris Pratt even more after this, just give up, you never will. He’s done a great job of picking movies recently, so let’s hope that continues. Though it’s not without it’s flaws, what makes Jurassic World so great is its fresh 21st take on a classic story and that it still retains those nostalgic elements that you loved in the first place. The wonder and sense of childlike discovery you felt watching the original Jurassic Park is still present, while the danger and edge of your seat thrill ride is just as invigorating as before. A personal favorite moment: Margarita Guy (see below) and the reference to the catastrophes of the first film via someone’s shirt and then said shirt being regarded as “bad taste” was brilliant. This is how you do a reboot/sequel – bring in something new, but pay your respects to what came before, and Jurassic World does this beautifully in my opinion. My only complaint – aside from one character’s strangely graphic death, which I know not everyone agrees was odd – was that the finale seemed to cop out and follow in the footsteps of making the end bigger and badder as things started to escalate at too quick of a rate – one beyond which a Spielberg monster mystery film would allow for. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the action packed finale, but just wish that that part of the story could’ve been executed in a smarter fashion as the rest of the film was. The first 3/4ths of the movie felt, as it should, like a classic Spielberg monster flick, but the last part felt like the ending to Avengers: Age of the Idominus Rex. Overall though, Jurassic World is a spectactularly fun and entertaining thrill ride, and the 10 year old boy inside me, who first snuck a VHS tape out of his parent’s closet to watch the original, was VERY happy! It was like watching the first one all over again – in fact it’s nearly the same story arc. And that’s why I place here at the top – of all the film listed, it entertained me the most and is one I wouldn’t mind watching over again. And I’ll take dinosaurs over a dystopian future any day.
Conclusion: Relive your childhood through this beautifully nostalgic and classic monster movie, Chris Pratt is delightful as expected.