Labor Day weekend, movie wise this means the summer season has officially ended, even if there are still a few blockbusters to be seen. Over the weekend The Toronto Film Festival will kick up the award movie season, movies will slowly raise their IQ, with an obvious break for Halloween when they tend to plummet into the negatives. But let’s take a look at what the summer of 2011 had to offer.
Overall summer is the highest grossing times for movies. It is the time the studios bring out the big guns and release their 200 million dollar + movies. It is the time of superheroes, loud explosions, and gross amounts of CGI. It is also the time in which actors and filmmakers get the most exposure, so it is not uncommon to see a capable actor like Neil Patrick Harris in a movie like The Smurfs selling his soul.
Above all things, summer is the time of the year when money talks.
And yet, there are lots of smaller, independent movies released, which try to ride the wake of mass audiences. In summer, feel good comedies hailing from Indiewood are not uncommon, and we usually get a Woody Allen movie and other of the like.
This summer was not very different from the rest. It had a few welcoming surprises and it gave us an awe-inspiring conclusion to the Harry Potter franchise; this was certainly the first time the seventh sequel of a franchise turns out to be its high point. I doubt it will happen again. And it came with a few significant disappointments: Cowboys & Aliens, and Pixar’s first critical flop Cars-2. Unfortunately this summer was somewhat unstable for me, so I missed a few movies. But of the ones that I did see and reviewed here are the ones I would recommend the most. As I explained back in my spring review, this is not a strict top five, but just a good set movies of, which I’ll likely re-watch or get the DVD.
Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark – A spine chilling haunted house story brought to us by Guillermo del Toro and Troy Nixey. Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark gave us a startling view of tooth fairies. Who knew that white lie parents tell their kids could have such frightening implications. As usual Del Toro proves that humanity still has imagination, and if anything it got me super pumped for Pacific Rim.
Midnight in Paris – I cannot Fathom how Woody Allen can simply churn up a movie every year, they are usually good but mostly great. Midnight in Paris is a throwback to the classic Allen movies and a bit of a travel brochure through the art world of Paris. Allen discovered Europe a few years ago during Match Point (London) and Vicky Christina Barcelona (Barcelona), and overall the continent seems to fit his sensibilities.
Rise of The Planet of The Apes – Despite the oddly worded title Rise of The Planet of The Apes (or ROTPOTA for short) was this summer’s greatest surprise. Not many movies can get away with making a CGI non-human the main character; much less a movie that also has James Franco in its cast. But ROTPOTA did it. And it made us care about a CGI chimp more that half the summer movies make us care about their human characters.
Crazy Stupid Love - Such a rarity; a summer rom-com that actually bothers to make its characters feel real, and not cookie cut outs from a princess story transplanted into modern day.
Super 8 – Most likely this summers best. A throwback to the classic kid-on-a-bike movies of the Spielberg days, updated with a lot of lens flare by J.J. Abrams. The film encompasses what the summer blockbuster can be at its best: an original film, with a determined main character, and a great sense of adventure. When you see a movie like Super 8, you can understand why there once was a time when a summer blockbuster like Raiders of The Lost Ark could be nominated for best picture.
Finally I would like to give a special honorary mention to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, very few third acts tend to be good at all; this movie is basically a two-hour third act. And it is, for lack of a better term, wicked good! The road show version Part 1 followed by Part 2, (I faked it by watching P1 at home before going to P2 at the theaters right afterwards) was perhaps the cinematic event of the decade. I might be exaggerating a bit.
Nevertheless, you should not miss these movies.