Welcome to my world famous Summer’s Top Five! Before we get to our winners I’d like to briefly mention two films that sadly didn’t make the cut.
Top 5 Films of Summer Honorable Mention Iron Man 3 + The Hunt
Leaving these two off the list was devastating. It was like going to the pound and only being able to take one puppy. The other good ones just stare at you and your heart breaks and your relationship with the puppy you do have is always compared to an imaginary one with the puppies left behind. Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 was a blast! It was a fun, clear movie with a litany of awesome performances. On the other hand, there’s The Hunt, the Danish drama that rocked my soul. The slow burn of that movie was like holding a hand over a candle for hours on end. Mads Mikkelsen’s turn as the protagonist was an absolutely stunning piece of work. Unfortunately, I only get five, so here they are. If you disagree let’s talk in the comments.
5. Fast and Furious 6
HELL YEAH! This movie was awesome. There is no other word for it. Top to bottom awesome. It was dumb, silly fun, the best kind of fun. It was that party you show up to prepared to have an ok time but not expecting anything special and then suddenly your jumping naked into a kiddie pool full of chocolate pudding. Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fight people on an airplane! Vin Diesel drives a car out of an exploding airplane! Not to mention the scene when he launches himself from a car to catch Michelle Rodriguez and land on another car. Those are just the first three of limitless incredible moments that come to mind.
4. The Conjuring
I got spooked. I’m not gonna lie to you people. I was scared during this movie. Everything about it just oozed classic haunted house horror. The scares were perfectly built. The cinematography left me just the right amount of uneasy. The soundtracks sent shivers down my jaded spine (I had a VERY expensive procedure). All of those factors would put James Wan’s best work to date into my best of summer discussion, but it gets into the top five on the merit of its characters. I wasn’t just scared during the movie. I was worried. I wanted all of the characters to get out ok. I can’t explain how refreshing that is in an age where all horror movies seem actively to want most of the characters to die.
3. Blue Jasmine
This is less about the movie (though it was totally great) and more about one out of this world performance. By the end of the film, I figured Cate Blanchett was just going to walk off the screen and accept her Oscar in the theater. Striking a perfect balance of angst, regret, and contempt her portrayal of the highs and lows of Jasmine’s life was one of the most moving things I’ve seen all year; within the theater or in the real world. Enough cannot be said about her work, or the perfectly written character Woody Allen produced. Every single part of this film was spectacular, and it took an earth-shattering performance for Blanchett to emerge as the definitive best part.
2. Pacific Rim
Kaiju films (the Japanese ones with the giant monsters) have always held a special place in my heart. At their best, they are visually stunning tales of our species’ amazing ability to withstand massive odds and bounce back bent, but unbroken. Despite their positivity, these movies do not forget the negatives of humanity. The original Kaiju movies, and many of their later incarnations in both anime and live action are responses to the fear of nuclear destruction. The vast majority of Kaiju movies (including all of the best Godzillas aside from the original) involve terrifying beasts wreaking havoc from the skies; a clear allusion to the trauma incurred after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’d been following the production since the day it was announced. All of my friends insisted it couldn’t possibly be as good as I hoped. Well screw you friends, you were totally wrong! Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim maintains this general idea, but updates it for 21st century America. Instead of descending from above, the Kaiju in Pacific Rim emerge from beneath the ocean in a clear gesture at the dangers of climate change. Del Toro strikes an impeccable balance between the Kaiju films of the past, the crises of the present, and the possibilities of the future. It’s a film about hope and a damn good one. Plus it has giant monsters fighting giant robots. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so satisfied leaving a theater as I was after this movie. Destruction on a global scale has never looked so fun!
1. The Worlds End
Now this here film is an honest-to-god masterpiece. The ending comes as a total surprise until you’ve had a minute to digest and then it feels absolutely perfect. The pointedness of the ending is only possible because the rest of the movie is so well executed. I had the good fortune to catch this flick at the Alamo Drafthouse, so I was able to have a few while I watched Simon Pegg and Nick Frost down a town’s worth of both drinks and robots. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie explicate the positives and negatives of drinking as well as this. It’s only once you get past the booziness, however that you see the real meat of the movie. It’s a powerful tale of friendship and identity. Edgar Wright reminds all of us that your friends help make you who you are, but they aren’t the only factor. It’s definitely the most adult of the Three Flavors Cornettos, and it’s not quite my favorite (Hot Fuzz edges it by a hair), but it might be the most powerful. It’s clear that all three members of the team have grown a lot as artists since Shaun of the Dead, and I am very excited to see what happens next.
Thanks for reading through my silly list! I hope we can talk below. What are your Top 5 Films of Summer? If someone says Pain and Gain, and means it, they get a special prize! From me!