Summer is over, which means another season at the multiplex is in the can. This year we were treated to big summer blockbusters (and flops), small indie gems and a handful of sequels. Here’s a quick list of what worked and what didn’t at the movies this season.
Only God Forgives : Cut out the bullshit. This is exactly what writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn does. In this spiritual sequel to his 2011 flick “Drive,” you get all the Gosling, twice the brutality and such little dialogue that it forces you to absorb the masterful aesthetic. The snippets of dialogue that do surface throughout the film are mainly in Thai with English subtitles – same goes for the credits. It’s easy to forget you’re in a Danish production instead of an Asian film while Gosling’s character, Julian, sets out in the seedy underbelly of Bangkok nightlife seeking revenge on the man who murdered his brother. With a soundtrack reminiscent of “Drive” and artistic camera work, this unconventional approach is executed to a T.
The Worlds End: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright make a great team. With their previous films, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” giving us a fine taste of British humor, it seems that they’ve done it again with a great end to their unofficial “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy. Though they couldn’t have done it without a little help from their friends, as Nick Frost (a Wright/Pegg regular), Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Peter Page round out a riotous cast, all playing off each other to keep this good time rolling. The film centers around Pegg playing man-child Gary King, who convinces his high school chums to re-attempt a pub crawl from their youth. Once the boys get back to their old stomping grounds, all hell breaks loose in the form of robots, decapitations and beer. During a slow summer at the movies, “The Worlds End” arrives just in time for last call, reminding us all that sometimes all it takes is a fresh summer romp to cure that Monday morning hangover.
World War Z: It may not have been the zombie flick we wanted, but it was the zombie flick we needed. Sure, “28 Days Later” and “Dawn of the Dead” have their place in the post-apocalyptic film world, but one thing they didn’t have was a budget of $200 million right alongside its millions of zombies all trying to kill Brad Pitt. Big-budget action movies can go very wrong very quickly, but “World War Z” was a guilty pleasure worth indulging.
The East: It’s not too often that a relevant, original story surfaces in cinema, but indie writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer Brit Marling brought their Sundance hit to the silver screen via dumpster-diving, train-hopping and anarchist-living. Undercover operative Sarah, played by Marling, infiltrates a group of eco-terrorists from the bottom up. The political nature of this thriller isn’t what makes it – Batmanglij and Marling take you inside the minds of their characters, psychology outweighing all else for the better.
The Internship: Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn spent the summer crashing internships instead of weddings in this trainwreck some might call a comedy. As middle-aged men who somehow thought they had a promising career as watch salesmen, they lose their job as the iPhone makes their product obsolete. Seeking a more tech savvy existence as interns for Google, they fumble through almost every outdated reference you can imagine – from “Harry Potter” to “X-Men” – all while struggling to figure out the most basic video chat technology. It may have been a clever little comedy circa 2005, but this movie was outdated before it was even written.
Pacific Rim: Hyped up as one of the few summer blockbusters that wasn’t a sequel or a remake, “Pacific Rim” seemed like a promising sci-fi action flick. Hell, its over $380 million at the box office would back that up. The premise even smells like awesome; giant monsters rising from the ocean and giant robots battling them in attempt to save the planet…wait a second – that sounds exactly like Transformer-Zilla-Rangers. Throw in all the 3D CGI and Charlie Day you want, it can’t cover up the unoriginal.
Jobs: So apparently Ashton Kutcher is a prodigal tech-nut who ushered in an entire generation of computer products targeted towards the consumer, revolutionizing the way we use technology. Not buying it? Join the club. This misfire tried to show us the man behind Apple as he was, but had no idea how to show it. Kutcher is out of his depth along with director Joshua Michael Stern, who can’t bring the material to life. Steve Jobs was a complicated guy with a head as hard as stone. Here’s hoping that a better film about this interesting American figure comes along someday, preferably after “Two and a Half Men” is cancelled.
Planes: In the wake of the waning “Cars” franchise Disney decided to ditch Pixar with a spinoff about – you guessed it – cars with wings. As if rehashing one of their worst theatrical ideas wasn’t enough, they decided to take it up a notch by casting Dane Cook’s voice as a modest little crop dusting plane. The movie starts with some flying, there’s some talking, more flying, a part where the audience is supposed to sympathize with an airplane, more flying, then Dane “Dusty Crophopper” Cook finally overcomes his ironic fear of heights and wins a race against all odds.