Monday, September 5, 2016

Surveying My Summer 2016 Movie Season

Happy Labor Day! While summer technically lasts for a few more weeks, the first weekend of September pretty much signals the end of Summer Season. Kids are heading back to school, stores are putting out their Halloween decorations, and everything is suddenly pumpkin-flavored. What's a better time to take stock of the new movies I saw this summer?

For the purposes of setting a limit, I'm considering April 15 as the start of the Summer Movie Season mostly because THREE films opened that day including one of this year's biggest blockbusters. I'm also including just movies that actually had a theatrical release this year, because I watch too many films. Let's take it month by month.


The third weekend of April started the season with a bang with Disney's live action adaptation of their beloved The Jungle Book keeping the bulk of the story intact while marveling audiences with incredible CGI work that other blockbuster films this year could achieve. Two smaller films also came out that weekend which I ended up seeing later (and really liking) in the summer on DVD. Sing Street is another musical tale from the wonderful mind of John Carney, a coming of age story full of wit and charm and music you can't stop humming. The other film, Green Room, is one of the last films done by the late Anton Yelchin and is also one of the tensest thrillers I've seen recently with a bunch of talented young actors and a scary turn from Patrick Stewart.

Films I wished I had seen: Keanu
Films I'll probably watch on Netflix: Elvis & Nixon, A Hologram for the King
Films I purposely skipped: The Huntsman: Winter's War, Mother's Day


May technically is the beginning of Summer Movie Season and like the past few years, it's all about Marvel. This year it's their Avengers-sized Captain America: Civil War that starts the season. I saw it opening weekend of course and enjoyed most of it, but like many of their films it seems I'm more primed to look ahead instead of savoring what's in front of me especially with their great introductions of Chad Bosewick as Black Panther and Tom Holland as the NEW Spider-Man. Two films in May which came after that have a good chance of making my Top Films of 2016. The first is Love & Friendship, an Austen adaptation with all the usual period trappings coupled with darkly comedic sensibilities headlined by a never-better Kate Beckinsale. The other film is The Nice Guys, the hilarious buddy-cop movie starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe we all didn't think we needed. Gosling should do more comedies. The last film I saw in theaters this month was X-Men: Apocalypse which I actually enjoyed slightly more than Captain America (I do love me some mutants), but while it's certainly an imperfect film I feel the series' rebooted films of late have been underappreciated. Finally, I saw High Rise on DVD, but other than Tom Hiddleston's almost-naked scene that happens early on, there's not much to recommend.

Film I wished I had seen: The Lobster
Films I'll probably watch on Netflix: Money Monster, Last Days in the Desert, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Weiner
Films I purposely skipped: The Angry Birds Movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass


And the summer slowdown begins. Didn't it seem like this year summer season was frontloaded of Must See in Theater Films? I only saw two movies in theater this month, both of which are sequels to films I highly enjoyed. The first is Now You See Me 2 which unfortunately fails to capture the magic of the first movie. It was still fun and some scenes were worth the price of admission, but not the follow-up I expected. Then there's Finding Dory, which also seems to rely too much on people's love of the first film, but to me it works perfectly. Dory is one of my favorite animated characters ever and exploring her past was exactly what I wanted. Tears flowed freely by the end. And that's it. I haven't even seen any June films on DVD yet (because they're not out yet?). There were a number of films I WANTED to see in theaters, but just didn't feel motivated enough to do so.

Film I wished I had seen: Popstars: Never Stop Never Stopping
Films I'll probably watch on Netflix: Me Before You, The Fits, Central Intelligence, The Neon Demon, The Shallows, Swiss Army Man
Films I purposely skipped: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, The Conjuring 2, Warcraft, Free State of Jones, Independence Day: Resurgence


The movies I saw this month all had a tinge of nostalgia to it. The first, and my favorite, was Ghostbuster starring the super talened quarter of Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. The remake of the 80s film has had A LOT of media and press about it which had nothing to do with the actual movie itself which, while not Paul Feig's best, was still great fun. The next film is Star Trek Beyond, which of course is based on the 60s sci-fi classic. I actually liked it a lot, certainly compared to its previous outing. Bittersweet to see Yelchin, but glad that he was in a film that looked like it was a hoot to make. Finally, I saw Jason Bourne, the latest film in a series that started back in 2002! I've been a big fan of this series, especially its first three films headlined by Matt Damon who is back for this latest one. But apart from the usual great action sequences, something was missing for me this time around. Maybe give the series a rest for a bit?

Film I wished I had seen: Captain Fantastic
Films I'll probably watch on Netflix: The BFG, The Secret Life of Pets, Cafe Society, Bad Moms, Indignation, Nerve
Films I purposely skipped: The Legend of Tarzan, The Purge: Election Year, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Ice Age: Collision Course


I was away on my Brazilian/Olympics vacation so it makes sense I didn't see that many new movies this month. But the month also was pretty dire in terms of options so I actually just caught up of the rest of the summer's fare either in theater or on DVD. I still did end up seeing two VERY different animated films in theaters. There's the outrageous and raunchy Sausage Party which probably could've been 30 minutes shorter so it doesn't outstay its welcome. In the other end of the spectrum is another gorgeous stop-animation film from Laika, Kubo and the Two Strings which I actually just saw this past weekend. Casting controversies aside, the film is a must-see with its breathtaking animation and a truly heartfelt story.

Film I wished I had seen: Florence Foster Jenkins
Films I'll probably watch on Netflix: Pete's Dragon, Hell or High Water, Morris from America, Don't Breathe, Hands of Stone, Southside with You
Films I purposely skipped: Suicide Squad, Nine Lives, Ben Hur, War Dogs, Mechanic: Resurrection

More random End-of-Summer honors!

BEST SUMMER FILM (that I saw): The Nice Guys
WORST SUMMER FILM (that I saw): High Rise
ACTING MVPS: Kate Beckinsale, Tom Bennett, Ryan Gosling, Anton Yelchin, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon
BEST VOICEOVERS: Idris Elba, Sigourney Weaver, Ellen Degeneres, Art Parkinson

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