This past summer at the movie was filled with hits and misses, superheroes and comedians, wizards and apes. But what movies of the bunch really stood out? Below, I break down what I believe to be the ten best movies released this summer (in no particular order) out of about 25 that I got the chance to see, from big action blockbusters to independent gems. Click the links to read my full review of each film.
“X-Men: First Class”: This prequel to the previous “X-Men” films set during the Cold War does a fantastic job setting up the origins of the various heroes and villains of the “X-Men” universe in a way that newcomers to the franchise can follow while also providing some fun references for longtime fans. A talented cast headed by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender provide lots of humor and drama as the mutants try to develop their various abilities, and with some great action sequences to boot, “X-Men: First Class” is the best movie in the “X-Men” series so far.
“Super 8”: J.J. Abrams’ throwback to such Steven Spielberg classics as “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” may not replicate the sense of wonder that accompanied those earlier films, and perhaps even borrows too heavily from them. But this sci-fi thriller succeeds in both telling a suspenseful alien story and a dramatic coming-of-age story, thanks in part to a wonderful cast of youngsters.
“The Tree of Life”: Chances are if you, like me, have seen Terrence Malick’s drama “The Tree of Life”, you have no idea what it’s really about, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. But that’s okay. “The Tree of Life”, through its beautifully imagery of the origin of Earth and wonderfully acted scenes of a son coming to terms with his father, manages to move you without you really knowing why.
“Cars 2”: “Cars 2” has taken a lot of heat, and many are calling it Pixar’s first failure. But this animated movie, while not equal to such Pixar masterpieces as “Wall-E” or “Ratatouille”, is not only gorgeously animated, but a hilarious and thrilling spy movie parody that deserves more credit than it’s received.
“Midnight in Paris”: Woody Allen’s first hit in several years is a charming comedy about a novelist (Owen Wilson) in Paris with his distant fiancee, who every night at midnight is transported to the 1920s where he gets to hang out with his literary idols. This funny and sweet fairytale manages to avoid too many cliches while telling us to live life the way we desire to.
“Winnie the Pooh”: Age matters not when it comes to enjoying Disney’s new “Winnie the Pooh” film. Featuring beautiful hand-drawn animation, this movie takes the characters back to their literary roots while following them on an adventures filled with misunderstandings and slapstick gags that will make even the most heartless person laugh out loud.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”: The final installment of the “Harry Potter” series ends the story with a bang. Non-stop action and great special effects accompany the revelation and resolution of many of the series’ subplots, with an emotional ending that is bittersweet for those who have followed this franchise for the past ten years.
“Captain America: The First Avenger”: Featuring lots of humor and action, “Captain America”, a superhero flick set during WWII, is one of Marvel’s best movies since “Iron Man”. It not only features a nice underdog story, with the charming Chris Evans in the lead, but sets up Captain America’s role in the upcoming “Avengers” movie without turning the film into one long trailer for the latter.
“The Help”: When closely examining “The Help”, there are a lot of issues to be taken with the story. But regardless of its false representations of history, this drama set in 1960s Mississippi is a faithful adaptation of the best-selling novel that is funny, sad, and inspiring. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, who play two of the black maids working for uppity white families, deserve Oscar nominations for their powerful performances.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”: The story in this prequel to the “Planet of the Apes” franchise takes a back seat to the awe-inspiring special effects. However, it manages to neatly set up the origin story for future films, and Andy Serkis as the intelligent ape Caesar steals the show, providing one of the best and most unique performances of the summer with the wide range of emotions he is able to express in this CGI ape.
What were your favorite movies of this summer? Leave a comment below or email me letting us know.
Many of the movies mentioned above are still playing in theaters in the St. Louis area. Check out showtimes at the following St. Louis area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Granite City
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre
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