The Summer movie season is over. As such, the obligatory Summer wrap-up list must come out. A lot of movies graced moviegoers’ popcorn-greased faces this Summer, making it hard to whittle a list down to an even and psychologically-pleasing 10.
So, let’s start with some honorable mentions.
Jurassic World was divisive. Frankly, a movie with “Jurassic” at the start of its title will never live up to the sheer classic-ness of Jurassic Park. This said, there’s nothing wrong with having a fun action adventure movie revolving around dinosaurs. If you can wipe your mind clean of any reservations or comparisons to the original, it isn’t hard to have mindless fun watching this movie.
And, I mean, Bryce Dallas Howard is in heels the entire movie. Just think about that.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The other money-grabbing Summer movie. Perhaps I am just getting fatigued by the sheer number of superhero movies that are getting churned out of the Hollywood machine these days, but I found myself fading in and out of enjoyment with Avengers 2. Sure, top-notch action sequences are spectacles for the eyes. And yes, the additions of Scarlet Witch and Vision to the team were pretty cool. Hawkeye’s subplot was pretty engaging, too.
But, overall, this movie didn’t stick with me. Spectacle for spectacle’s sake sometimes just doesn’t cut it. If you love Marvel, it’s another action-packed addition. I just don’t know if I can stick it out for Civil War and a minimum of two more Avengers films.
I have similar issues with Ant-Man as I do with Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s another superhero movie. However, Ant-Man is different than the rest of Marvel’s oeuvre so far. It is a smaller (pun, apologies), more contained origin story with a lot of good comedy packed into it. Michael Pena and Paul Rudd make this movie very enjoyable to watch. It’s sad to think that Ant-Man won’t be contained for long, given his guaranteed addition to the Civil War roster.
You can read my full review of Ant-Man here.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
This one might have missed the cut just because I am not a fan of young adult movies. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a smart and quirky take on dramedy romances like The Fault in Our Stars. It falls flat for me when it transitions from being the anti-tearjerker YA movie to being a cavalcade of sad things thrown in your face for the last 20 minutes. The tonal shift is jarring to me, and it takes away from what was truly original and fun about the first two-thirds of the film.
You can read my full review of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl here.
Having seen this one recently, it is hard to place on a best-of list. I really enjoyed the child actors in this film, as well as Kevin Bacon and Shea Whigham for their gritty and scary performances. There are some scenes that go on for longer than they have to, which throws off the pacing of the film (which is otherwise great). But the sheer ferocity of Kevin Bacon’s performance alone warrants a viewing of Cop Car.
You can read my full review of Cop Car here.
I have some issues with Southpaw. It is a conventional boxing film, not bringing anything extraordinarily new to the sports movie genre. However, Jake Gyllenhaal brings another mesmerizing performance as Billy Hope, a down and out boxer who has to deal with a great tragedy in his life. If you like Jake Gyllenhall–which, if you don’t, go check out Nightcrawler–then you will find a lot to like in his performance in Southpaw.
Additionally, the boxing sequences are handled very well by director Antoine Fuqua and director of photography Mauro Fiore. The shots are visceral and stunning. And it doesn’t hurt to have anthemic music playing in the background throughout.
You can read my full review of Southpaw here.
The trouble I had at this point in the list was distinguishing between the two comedies Trainwreck and Spy. Both made me laugh hard. They are also both very different. Trainwreck has more issues, in my opinion. Certain scenes are wholly unnecessary. And, in the end, it is somewhat conventional. However, for a lot of the movie, it transcends some of the cliches of rom-coms.
Amy Schumer’s comedy works well as a feature length project. I like that the characters all have their quirks. I really enjoy Lebron James and John Cena working comedy chops I didn’t know they had. Clunky only in parts, Trainwreck is a quality romantic comedy.
You can read my full review of Trainwreck here.
Spy is laugh-out-loud funny. It might be my favorite performance from Melissa McCarthy. Beyond that, Jude Law and Jason Statham have hilarious performances. Every time Statham is on screen, there are guaranteed laughs. This and Other Space proves to me that Paul Feig is still on the top of his game.
7. Straight Outta Compton
I didn’t see this one coming. There is lot of young talent in this movie, and I wasn’t sure how they would perform. And they all came through. Straight Outta Compton is gripping. Seeing the members of N.W.A. bouncing off of each other in the studio is fun. Seeing the dark side of police enforcement in Compton and beyond is hard to watch in a way that is topically relevant. Perhaps these two spheres don’t mesh well when juxtaposed in the film, but that is an easily overlooked stumble. Aside from that and the movie being a tad overlong, Straight Outta Compton is an engaging biopic.
You can read my full review of Straight Outta Compton here.
6. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Another popcorn action movie. That’s what Summer movies are for. M:I-5 comes through strong as an exhilarating and brainless action movie. The movie is stunt work heaven. Hanging from planes. Motorcycle chases. Underwater stunts. It’s all incredible to see on the big screen. The Mission: Impossible series is the rare franchise that gets better as it progresses. This installment continues that trend swimmingly.
You can read my full review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation here.
5. The Gift
It might be the most frightening film of 2015. The Gift is eerie, haunting, disturbing. Pick your favorite adjective to praise a thriller, and it would fit for this movie. Joel Edgerton does a great job as screenwriter, director, and supporting actor. Jason Bateman steps away from comedy to play a man trapped in an impossible situation, and he does a surprisingly great job. Rebecca Hall also has a great performance as Bateman’s wife, caught in the middle of a web of deceit that is hard to untangle, even after the credits roll. It might be a straight horror film, but The Gift is downright scary.
You can read my full review of The Gift here.
4. The Wolfpack
I wasn’t able to catch the other critically acclaimed documentary of the Summer, Amy, but I loved The Wolfpack. It is a strange case study of familial isolation and cinephilia. It is a strange story weaved together with footage of a family of brothers experiencing the outside world essentially for the first time. Growing up rarely leaving the house–maybe a handful of times a year–these brothers were raised on film, spending their free time recreate movies in their small apartment. Somewhat bizarre and disturbing in premise, following these brothers is an engrossing experience.
You can read my full review of The Wolfpack here.
3. The End of the Tour
The End of the Tour isn’t what people think of when they think Summer movies. It isn’t a major blockbuster. It isn’t action or ensemble comedy. It’s essentially two men talking for an hour and 40 minutes. And it’s wonderful. Jason Segal disappears into the cryptic identity of late author David Foster Wallace. The film meditates on genius, happiness, and isolation in ways that can’t be found in many other films. It may be too small a movie for Segal to get award recognition come next year, but he should definitely be part of the conversation.
2. Inside Out
Pixar is still the king of animation. Inside Out isn’t necessarily funny throughout. It isn’t necessarily “for kids.” But, it has a lot of heart and substance. If kids can enjoy it, it does something that not many children’s movies try to do: teach them that it is all right to be sad. Growing up involves dealing with disappointment and drastic changes, and Inside Out does a good job addressing these issues through Pixar’s usual brand of charisma and eye-catching animation. And, the casting choices are spot on. The voice acting is wonderful, particularly from Phyllis Smith and Lewis Black.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
If Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was stunt work Heaven, Mad Max: Fury Road is practical effects Nirvana. Placed on a hyper-saturated desert backdrop, Mad Max is a non-stop thrill ride through Hell. The film’s opening explains it the best as the words are tattooed on Tom Hardy’s body: “High Octane.” Non-action fans can shun me, but there is a lot to love visually in Mad Max. This isn’t simply an action film. It is an experiment in cinema.
As always, thanks for reading!
What do you think? What were the best movie of Summer 2015? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)