The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: A retrospective look at the summer in film

The summer movie season has officially subsided and it’s hard to tell whether it was a successful one. We were given more sequels than we could count, a handful of Superhero flicks and an array of animated darlings from the big studios, yet both critically and financially, the summer faltered within mediocrity.
So, in order to help you remember the summer that was, here is what happened in the world of film.

The Good

Compared to that of 2010, the summer of 2011 produced more “good” movies than that of its predecessor by a wide margin. Yet, thinking back, none of those movies seemed to reach the same levels as that of Inception or Toy Story 3, two of the only really great films from one year ago.

Nonetheless, there were still some damn entertaining movies to be taken in this year. J.J. Abrams’ Spielbergian sci-fi romp Super 8 provided the public with the only original script not based off of a sequel, super-hero flick or already existing franchise to break the top 15 in box-office gross.

It was fun, it was terrifying and it produced some of the most legitimate child acting that we have seen in years. Marvel also had its hands full this summer with a number of projects, the most prominent of which was Captain America. It turned out to be quite a bit of fun, combining Indiana Jones-esque action adventure with the wit of more recent superhero successes.

The movie was really made by its ensemble cast of characters, most notable being Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci.

Of course, it was not all blockbusters that deserve the credit from the summer. Crazy Stupid Love was cheesy, a tad slow and at times, a typical romantic comedy, yet I loved it from start to finish. It plays off of the rom-com expectations and flips them to shock you and make you howl.

Then there was Woody Allen’s latest endeavor, Midnight in Paris which marked the first Allen movie I actually thoroughly enjoyed. It was cheeky and charming and not at all what was expected.

A surprise hit for me was also that of Horrible Bosses, a movie I wrote off immediately but walked out of thoroughly impressed. It was arguably the funniest movie of the last two years. And this category cannot be complete without adding Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. Controversial due to its rather complex nature, it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I would be hard pressed to find a more beautifully shot film by year end.

The Bad
Since it’s the summer, obviously there are going to be more than a few stinkers that accompany the gems.

Pixar’s contribution to the summer, Cars 2, was a very convoluted undertaking, involving too many flashing lights and colours. What would have actually made a pretty decent Bond script simply did not work with the inanimate objects that are the cars. Even though I enjoyed their other efforts of the summer, I was still not sold on Marvel’s Thor, believing it to be a terrible standalone film in which nothing happens but an introduction for audiences unfamiliar with the character. I suppose it’s forgivable because of their successes with the other characters but regardless, they stumbled with this one.

Disney’s fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, On Stranger Tides was rather beautiful to look at, but boring in almost every other way. Save for a terrifyingly well-done sequence involving mermaids, the movie suffered from not knowing which direction to head or who to focus on. The new character replacements for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly were absolutely not an improvement.

And then there was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Now, I will admit that it beat my expectations, as I believed it would be dreadful, which it wasn’t. It was actually decent. But it was no where near the level that some critics have made it out to be, and thus it finds itself in the “bad” category for my summer flicks.

The Ugly

There were actually a couple of major disappointments this summer for me, so despite not wanting to remember them, I can’t simply skip over them either. My most anticipated movie of the break was Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens, a film that turned out to be slower than most regular Westerns. What was supposed to be a badass romp through the trails of the old West featuring the complexities of modern science fiction turned out to be nothing more than a poorly paced, immediately forgotten tale of who-cares.

There was also the instance of DC Comics’ Green Lantern adaptation. Literally, from the opening sequences, the movie just does not know what it is doing. The plot makes very little sense and relied heavily on an opening narration that can’t even be saved by the always reliable, Oscar-winning Geoffrey Rush. The movie fails to create any sort of excitement over the character and is virtually ruined by the constant mess of villains emitting from every which way. Green Lantern is the prototype for a movie made to sell merchandise and nothing more.