Summer Cinema Wrap-Up

From Bats to Cats to Horses and More: There’s something for everyone this summer but we’ve narrowed down the ‘Hit and Misses’ of the summer so far.

By Spencer Althouse

If you’re looking to escape the summer’s heat and spend $13 for two hours of air conditioning, Dark Horse might be worth your time and money.  Other than that, I still don’t get it.

If writer-director Todd Solondz (Happiness) conspired to construct a film of unlikable characters and an incomprehensible plotline, he surely succeeded.  I fear, however, that this was not his initial intention.

This dark comedy stars Selma Blair and newcomer Jordan Gelber as two unfitting people who, out of self-pity and a fear of being single forever, force themselves to wed.  Any sign of a personal connection between the characters is lost due to mediocre performances by the cast, with the exception of Selma Blaire and onscreen father-in-law Christopher Walken.

If you’re looking for a true comedic experience at the cinema, skip Dark Horseand treat

“Moonrise Kingdom” Focus Features

yourself to the utterly refreshing Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s newest stroke of genius.  Out of laughter, cleverness, and – dare I say it – cuteness, this film will compel even the toughest of audiences to smile broadly like lunatics.  Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox) extracts award-winning performances from his all-star cast, which includes Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Bruce Willis, to name a few.

Moonrise Kingdom is on every serious film-blogger’s Oscar contenders list.  It is a genuinely smart movie about young love and the wanting to be free, which is masked by an equally impressive screenplay.  Simply put, Moonrise Kingdom is this must-see summer film of 2012.

The aesthetically pleasing Brave premiered in theaters with over $66 million back in June, making it the 13th consecutive Pixar film to debut at number one.  Though Brave shows typical Pixar success, it is certainly different from the company’s predecessors.

Brave chronicles the life of Merida, a young princess in 10th Century Scotland who goes against her kingdom’s – but more importantly her mother’s – decree to marry.  Deeming this situation unfair, Merida quickly abandons her family in search of something that will change her fate.  Ultimately, the film’s mother-daughter-relationship is tested when an accidental spell turns Merida’s mother into a bear, and the two must “Freaky Friday” their way out before the spell is permanent.

“A Cat In Paris”  GKIDS Films

Brave is a solid Pixar movie, but it’s nothing extraordinary.  Much more impressive is the hand-drawn French film A Cat in Paris.  This 2010 Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature is currently in limited release and focuses on a similar mother-daughter-bond to that of Brave’s.  Here, Zoe and mother Jeanne, a Parisian police detective, live with their cat, Dino.  After Dino sneaks off at night, everyone fittingly crosses paths with a cat burglar.  However, gangsters seek revenge on Jeannie, and the new cat/cat burglar duo must team up to save the day.

If awarded the opportunity, watch A Cat in Paris in French with the English subtitles; the dubbed American version takes away from the film’s beauty.  Ultimately, A Cat in Paris is more intriguing than Brave, but the latter is certainly more kid-friendly.

Fresh off his 2011 Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen is back – at least I hoped – with To Rome with Love.  The plot is both plain and ridiculous, and the writing is certainly not up to Woody’s usual par, but this star-studded cast does well with what they’re given.  Ultimately, however, we realize that Woody probably should have stayed in Paris.

One of the summer’s most anticipated documentaries is Marilyn in Manhattan, a biopic which uncovers the truth behind Marilyn Monroe’s secret move to New York.  Heartbreaking despair masks this legend of unmatched excellence as she tries to overcome divorce, societal pressures, and that “dumb blonde” stereotype.  If the topic of Marilyn Monroe interests you even the slightest, do yourself the favor of seeing this documentary.

If you’re looking for a performance to be called, with all our euphemisms and our tongues,

“The Deep Blue Sea” Music Box Films

simply brilliant, watch Academy Award® winner Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea.  Terence Davies (The House of Mirth) directs Weisz’s Oscar-worthy performance in this tale of love and lust.  The Academy would be senseless if they don’t consider Weisz a strong contender for Best Actress, as would you if you don’t catch her performance.

Also on track with the Oscars is last year’s nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Monsieur Lazhar, which is currently certified fresh with a rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I was originally on the fence with this one – as I have been for so long that there’s now a ridge on my behind – but these reviews are too stellar to ignore.

All virtual tomatoes aside, on my summer radar is The Words, a thriller starring Bradley Cooper as a troubled writer who gains fame by stealing another man’s work.  I don’t expect this moral mystery to surpass $50 million domestic – and I’m only being that generous due to Cooper’s physical presence in the film – but I am interested in seeing its other stars – Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Jeremy Irons, and randomly placed Dennis Quad – working together.

Quite the opposite of The Words is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, a film which will undoubtedly break a number of box office records this summer.  This film needs no introduction, and you’ll eventually see it no matter what I say.  Its booming screenplay, superb direction, and epic cast will leave you positively paralyzed and begging for more.

“The Dark Knight Rises”- photo courtesy of IMAX
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