Wow… did THAT suck!” So says Bill Murray in Scrooged, playing ill-tempered TV executive Frank Cross, after suffering through a series of bad promo spots. Most movie-goers who looked forward to this year’s crop of summer movies probably walked away feeling the same.
Not since the summer of 2004 has there been such a long parade of forgettable, disappointing, over-hyped letdowns (why the summer of 2004? Remember Catwoman? King Arthur? The Day After Tomorrow? Van Helsing?). The movie studios’ insistence on spending hundreds of millions of dollars on tent pole/franchise/can’t-miss/EVENT movies led to one stinker after another, many in no-frills 3-D that forced audiences to pay more than they should.
A few surprising gems stood out and sparkled on the pile of coal: who would’ve thought James Franco and a bunch of damn dirty apes would put on a better show than the folks at Pixar? Or that the new Woody Allen comedy Midnight in Paris would be a bigger hit and give us more laughs than The Change-Up?
At the top of the list is Brad Pitt’s epic drama, The Tree of Life, likely the best film of the year, though one of the season’s most contested and controversial art films. It had a brief run at Kaahumanu Center and divided audiences everywhere but even those who hated it will never forget it, which is more than you can say of nearly every other summer movie. Here’s a re-cap of the last four months at the movies…. and give yourself an honorary SPAM Musubi if you even remember Judy Moody and the Not So Bummer Summer, Monte Carlo or Priest.
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The Tree of Life will continue to thrill and baffle audiences, but what about the rest of the bunch? By far, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the best of the summer blockbusters, as it offered heart and awe inducing thrills (and, at $90 million, was one of the least expensive of the season). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was easily the best, most exciting, and emotionally engaging entry in the 10-year franchise. Another big surprise was Bridesmaids, by far the funniest movie on this list.
The rest of the best were pretty-good movies that were turbo charged by great performances. They were X-Men: First Class (Michael Fassbender), Crazy Stupid Love (Ryan Gosling), The Help (Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain) and Super 8 (Elle Fanning).
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Sometimes the bigger they are, the harder they fall flat and waste our two-hours and 20 bucks (30 if it’s in 3-D). The silly, clunky Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Thor looked dumb all along, but no one expected Cars 2 to be such a speed bump. Colin Farrells’ wonderful performance in Fright Night was wasted on an overblown horror remake that lacked the charm of the original (and wasn’t as scary as Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark).
Captain America was not only the corniest movie of the summer (if not the year) but ended with a brief trailer for The Avengers that was more exciting than what came before it. The joyless, no-nonsense Cowboys and Aliens was no fun and the only thing more desperate than Hangover wannabe The Change-Up was The Hangover Part II.
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Comic book fanboys had a rough summer, especially when Green Lantern turned out to be such a glowing green stink bomb. Horror fans cried enough-is-enough after Final Destination 5, and adults looking for laughs from the reliable Tom Hanks were met with the blander than bland Larry Crowne.
The very worst wasn’t Jim Carry’s always-pooping penguins but Michael Bay’s nearly three-hour Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the movie Megan Fox was lucky to be fired from. Bay’s loud, colossal cinematic fart is currently the top grossing movie of the summer and likely thrilled the same people that were bored by The Tree of Life. That’s sad.
Equally depressing was watching Neil Patrick Harris in The Smurfs, the kind of movie the actor would have felt forced to make, were he only known as the former Doogie Hauser. The multi-talented Harris deserves so much better… and so do you.