by The Writers of Bad Shakespeare and Hamlet T. Wondercat
It’s been quite the Summer Movie Season. From the first weekend in May until Labor Day, Hollywood tries to cajole us inside, away from the beautiful weather, the sun, the beach, and spend it in dark theaters with the blockbuster-iest movies they can scrounge up. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. One thing is for certain: as long as they’re doing it, critics are going to declare the death of it. I guess I’m sort of one of them, but I’m really just a dude with a laptop who blogs about movies using his cat as a guide. And I love Summer Movie Season. It’s a sacred time for me, not because I dislike going outside and experience fun in the sun, but mostly because I like blockbuster movies, no matter how ridiculous the movie is.
How does this Summer Movie Season shape up to previous ones? I still think it was pretty good. Our Ghosts got busted. Our aliens got removed, sans Will Smith. We got our super heroics in two whole movies (which, fitting the narrative, means we’re getting too many.) We got our spies, we got our Presidents dating. Pets and fish talked, birds were angry (shudder) and Seth Rogen did Seth Rogen things. Which is good. Because he’s Seth Rogen.
After viewing 43 of the hundreds of movies that came out, Hamlet and I sat down to decide the best, the worst, and the just overall ridiculousness of the Summer Movie Season. Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re very proud to present… the Whisker Awards! Keep in mind that these were voted on by absolutely no one in categories I just now decided to make up. But I hope you enjoy as I talk about the best and worst movies I saw this summer, because Summer Movie Season is my favorite time of year.
Best Remake: Pete’s Dragon
It was the summer for remakes, or at least the narrative is that the remakes are the new hot thing despite the fact that remakes have been happening since the beginning of recorded entertainment. (William Shakespeare wrote about 37 remakes.) Pete’s Dragon was always a favorite of mine, a heartening story about an orphan who is adopted by a Dragon, then by real people. The remake manages to keep that heart, going so far as to even make the bad guys not that bad, just sort of misguided. The relationship between Pete and Elliot has to be rock solid, and though the magic of CGI and just the acting of a kid that didn’t feel a need to scream all of his lines. A late-movie summer that should have landed with a thud, this one was uplifting and enjoyable.
Enough Smarm. Let’s Snark.
MVP of the Summer: Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie may have gotten her start pretty much so Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill could lust after someone for a few minutes, but this summer she proved her versatility starring in two movies, and managing to be the best thing in both of them. First up, as Jane in The Legend of Tarzan she proved herself an almost action heroine, spending most of her damsel time finding new ways to escape, and outrunning a hungry, hungry hippo. Secondly, as Harley Quinn, in addition to spawning a million cosplay outfits and Halloween costumes, she was one of the few characters that got what the movie was about, keeping up the Harley Quinn Attitude for most of the film and being as vexing but likable as possible.
MVP of the Summer, The Critics Don’t Get it Edition: Will Smith
Did you know that Will Smith was in the first Independence Day? Did you? Did you? If for some reason you forgot his career defining role, then don’t sweat it, because the makers of the second Independence Day will make sure you remember, even if it means mentioning several times that Will Smith was in the first movie, or they show pictures of him, or there are brief moments where people have moments of silence trying to remember him.
But where Will Smith really comes into play comes with Suicide Squad. Did you know that the critics really hated this movie, and that by seeing it, you, personally, were the reason that all movies in Hollywood suck by critic’s standards? Yes, you. How dare you. During the critical meltdown analysis of why people kept Suicide Squad setting records (including records that didn’t matter when Suicide Squad set it, but were oddly important when Guardians of the Galaxy set them… hmmmm…) no one said the words “Will Smith” and maybe that this “Will Smith” is some kind of Box Office Draw, and has been for the past 20 years. Just a thought. Yes, DC Comics put out a movie. Yes we need to start the “Superheroes are dying” narrative. But maybe you work with the movie instead of just trying to blindly call out the flaws that you want to be there. The movie wasn’t great. Will Smith was.
Best Scene in a Movie: The Card Scene in Now You Seem Me 2
Now You See Me 2 was essentially the part of heist movies we don’t want to see, much in the same way Ocean’s 12 was, which is when the “good guys” manage to get away with robbing the bad guys. After’ bankrupting the evil millionaire, the Horsemen plus a new Horse-lady now have to put their robbing skills to new uses as they steal blah, blah, blah who cares they’re going to use magic to do it. With all of the twists, turns, and exposition, one scene stood out: the Card Scene. Having to steal a microchip from a heavily secured area, the Horsemen attach it to a card. While being searched, they flip it back and forth, hiding it and catching. It’s a tense scene that shows what made the first one so memorable, and why this one needed a little more of that, and a little less of Jesse Eisenberg complaining about not being the leader.
Funniest Joke in a Kid’s Movie: The Brooklyn Real Estate Joke in Secret Life of Pets
Secret Life of Pets starts out as a funny one-note joke where we see what happens when pets are left at home all day. Then there’s an adventure, because it’s a kid’s movie and sticking around the dog park making butt smelling jokes will get old even for them. Fortunately, the script remains witty as ever, but contains one line of dialogue about hipster real estate trends that had too many adults in my theater laughing. It was a perfect moment that reminded me that the movie was made for everyone.
Worst Third Act Collapse: Captain America: Civil War
The Third Act of Suicide Squad was pretty horrible. But a lot has been written about it, so much so that we’re ignoring a third act that was worst than that.
When DC Comics released Batman v. Superman earlier this year, it was a gift to Marvel Properties for the rest of the year. Really once that was released, Critics just had to watch a trailer for Captain America 3: Maybe We Should Stop Winking to the Audience When We Say “Avengers” then slap together a review that threw in Batman v. Superman a few times, mention how great Captain America was, and call it a day.
But that damn third act.
What happens when you have your big superhero fight and the superheroes you wanted to fight didn’t fight? You come up with a reason for them to fight again, character development be damned. And say what you will for the “Martha” moment in Batman v. Superman: At least the filmmakers didn’t decide slap in a character that hadn’t been mentioned for 12 movies to make their point. Bringing in Iron Man’s mother who is suddenly a driving force for him to take out Captain America was amazingly distracting. Not to mention the post-credits scene, which had Bucky going back under ice, proving Iron Man right. Anything after the exceptional Airport scene is a mess.
Civil War had some epic moments, but it was over when Iron Man decided that maybe fighting Captain America was wrong, and the two teamed up to stop the guy who had been trying to manipulate them and lucked out that major legislation was passed that put them on the wrong side of each other. But the movie poster showed Captain America with his Shield in Iron Man’s face, so we have to make sure the happens.
The Actor Who “Gets it” Award: Tyler Perry for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
The second movie in Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtle gritty reboot had a lot in it as it nodded heavily towards the 1980’s TV show that most people remember, and to find excuses to get Megan Fox to put on skimpier outfits. (Not that I’m complaining.) However, Tyler Perry was enjoying his role as Baxter Stockman, playing him off more like the cartoonish evil twin of Neil deGrasse Tyson. it was a hilarious moment in a movie that was finding itself during it’s grittier and angst-filled moments. (will they remain turtles? Will they not? Yes, they’re going to remain turtles.)
Best Movie That Could Have been a Cheap Jaws Remake, But Wasn’t: The Shallows
I didn’t expect much going into the Shallows, the Blake Lively survival movie where she puts up a fight against an evil shark that’s stalking her and her newfound animal friend Steven Seagull. But she put in an amazing performance and carries the movie in a way I don’t know that many actors or actresses could. Everything came together from the frustration of being so close to the shore but not being close enough to do anything about it to having to use your earrings as a cheap way to stop the bleeding, this was a survival movie that should have been relegated late at night for ridiculousness and mockery, but ended up being a pretty tight thriller.
Best Abs by a Former Vampire: Alexander Skarsgard in The Legend of Tarzan
Best Display of Technology On Screen: Nerve
People typing is never going to be interesting, unless someone writes a movie about an executive assistant who’s keyboard will explode if they type under 50 words per minute. However, Nerve manages to keep the plot going, even as during the parts when people aren’t walking across ladders or doing blindfolded motorcycle tricks, by keeping angles low to keep focus on the actors, and using bright colors and other tricks to keep people focused on action happening on the screen. More technology based movies could learn from this tiny sleeper movie that was actually pretty good.
Cutest Couple: The Rock and Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence
Really I think The Rock’s Bob Stone would be insulted if I didn’t take at least one moment to mention the two of them. The movie may not have had all high points, but in the end, it was the chemistry between the two that made the movie. Plus: Melissa McCarthy!
5. Kubo and the Two Strings
Beautifully rendered, compelling story, and a fight that ends with a reminder that if we try being nice to each other, maybe we’ll all win. The story of Kubo, a young boy who’s eye is stolen by the moon and has the power to tell stories with help of magic origami, this could have easily been just a quest movie where a talking monkey and a beetle man find the power of friendship. Instead we get a closer look at family, and what our stories mean to us. Really a triumph of why we go to the movies.
4. Swiss Army Man
Farting corpse with a magical penis is a lazy way to describe this movie, and too many people were describing it just like that. Swiss Army Man is the story of a young man who is lost, not only as he tries to figure out his life by by those around him. Yes, he befriends a magical farting corpse to whom he gives life advice, thereby figuring out his own life, but wrapped up in everything is a deep story of what we throw away, including people
3. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
It’s a shame more people didn’t see this hilarious movie starring Andy Samberg as Conner4Real, an egotistical pop star on the verge of destroying his career with his second album. This movie has what a lot of other comedies lack: it was actually funny. From the cameos that never felt gratuitous to the music that features hits like “Bin Laden Girl”, the movie tied together everything that we worship about the music industry today, and gleefully wonders why. This isn’t just a parody, it’s a long joke lovingly crafted by people who did their homework.
2. Star Trek Beyond
Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness were solid Star Trek films, but never got beyond the gritty reboots that they were. The first one was mired in making sure that it was setting up a new universe, so no one panic because it’s a new universe and all your old favorites exist in a world where the U.S.S. Kelvin wasn’t destroyed. The second one suffered from wanting desperately to keep Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan secret, long after every figured out that he was playing Khan. This one, under the direction of Justin Lin, got back to basics and was just fun. We had the crew splinted into teams, most importantly singling out Bones and Spock to annoy each other. There were stakes as the bad guy was a former Starfleet officer who gave away more nods to the previous series than anyone in the history of Star Trek. And yes, let’s face it, that ending (spoilers) where the bad guys are destroyed through the power of rock shouldn’t have worked. But it was the only movie I saw twice this summer, and both times I was on the edge of my seat at that scene, giant smile on my face as “Sabotage” destroyed a bunch of ships. Yes. The song.
And, the favorite movie of the summer is…
1. The Nice Guys
What would happen if the Big Lebowski played its mystery storyline straight? The Nice Guys. From Shane Black, who knows a few things about buddy comedies, comes this, a shaggy dog tale of two guys who get wrapped up in a mystery bigger than them. Ryan Gosling plays a handsome detective who will gladly rip off anyone as long as he’s paid, while Russell Crowe plays an overweight enforcer who just wants to do his job. The fact that both men play a version of their typecast roles while stretching a little makes this a fun mystery, especially as we get deeper in deaths. This movie just worked, the humor was never forced, the mystery was a genuine mystery, and the characters worked well together. To me, this is what a summer movie is: a light movie that never takes itself so seriously that it can’t have fun with a deep dark conspiracy involving sex, the auto industry, and a few missing people. Plus, no one got hurt right? Well, at least they didn’t suffer.