The summer movie parade began with Furious 7 and stumbled into a crawl with Hitman: Agent 47. In between was one of the best summer movie seasons in years. As we all head back to school, here’s a final recap of the summer of 2015.
George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road was the unbeatable game changer, a muscular, down and dirty spectacle that had smarts as well as how-did-they-do-that-and-not-get-killed action sequences. On the quieter but no less brilliant side, the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy showcased extraordinary duel performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack and stands tall over most rock bios. While overlong but still needing more time to tell its story, Straight Outta Compton has some of the most electrifying scenes of the year. Like Love & Mercy, it tells an amazing story and provides yet another guarantee that Paul Giamatti will be up for Best Supporting Actor at Oscar time. There was also the compassionate, low key, Golden Years of Sherlock drama Mr. Holmes, starring the incredible Ian McKellen.
Jurassic World stomped over everything in its path, and why not? It was as seat-gripping as you’d hope. The sight of Chris Pratt riding a hog alongside his domesticated raptors is one of the great movie moments of the year. Then there’s Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation, in which Rebecca Ferguson’s terrific turn nearly upstaged Tom Cruise hanging outside a jet. I was happy to be wrong about Ant-Man, which overcame a troubled production to become one of the best Marvel movies. It’s arguable whether San Andreas or Furious 7 was the dumber B-movie but both served up giant popcorn-sized thrills.
Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck gave controversial comic Amy Schumer a solid vehicle but it was her co-stars (Bill Hader, Lebron James and John Cena) who really tore it up. Few were expecting actor-turned-writer/director Joel Edgerton’s film debut The Gift to be anything special. It found an appreciative audience with its subtle chills and focus on character.
Cameron Crowe’s Aloha became a punching bag for many, most of whom never saw it. Its big ambitions were cut short by overly judicious trimming in the editing room. Flaws and all, it has some golden scenes and was an earnest love letter to Hawaii. Irrational Man is Woody Allen’s little seen, tight and provocative thriller (it’d make a great double feature with The Gift). Kudos to the studio for keeping the film’s biggest twists out of the trailer.
While Pitch Perfect 2 found an appreciative audience, all it proved was, like Ted 2, some movies really don’t need a second chapter. Avengers: Age of Ultron made mountains of cash but is the most underwhelming entry to star Iron Man. Yet, the two most crushing let-downs came from Sci-Fi, as the well intentioned but underwhelming Tomorrowland and the rickety Terminator Genysis deservedly crashed after opening. While the former couldn’t live up to its poetic teaser trailer, the latter has the most absurdly, spoiler-heavy trailer of the year.
Pixels and Fantastic Four were rejected by their fan base but the foul, fecal-scented odor of the new Vacation is potent enough to make Roy Wally role in his grave. Give yourself a high five if you even remember that Hot Pursuit, Entourage and The Gallows were in theaters.
BRINGING THE SCARY
Insidious: Chapter 3 wasn’t the best in the series but the thick scares, eerie atmosphere and Lin Shaye made it worthwhile. On the other hand, there’s only one Poltergeist, and it’s not this year’s limp, cop-out remake.
GREAT ANIMATED FILMS
Shaun the Sheep Movie gave us another extension of Aardman Animation’s brilliance, while the engaging (if overrated) Inside Out scored big for Pixar. Whereas those films were art, Minions was merely a cartoon and nowhere near as heartfelt, funny or engaging as Despicable Me 2. A movie overflowing with Minions was just too much. Even during the summer, sometimes less is more.
Mad Max: Fury Road photo: Movieweb.com