Summer cinema competes for top spots

By Danny Marchant

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The summer is over, and with it, the summer movie season.

Though the summer of 2012 saw the release of highly-anticipated films like “Prometheus” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” the rest of the blockbuster season was comparatively low-key.

As usual there were threequels, sequels to rebooted prequels and Marvel movies. Excluding a few bright spots, 2012 was a disappointing summer for cinema.

However, there are a handful of the films that stood above the rest.

5. Prometheus

Ever since 1979, film fans have wanted Ridley Scott to return to the world of “Alien.”  The film “Prometheus” was off-and-on labeled as a prequel to the extraterrestrial franchise. Unfortunately for interested fans, the film suffered from 33 years of anticipation and hype. It asked lots of questions, but only answered half of one of them. It struggled through a bland script with lines delivered by bland actors.

But it featured some genuinely thrilling moments to match the infamous “chestburster scene” and stunning visuals. And most importantly, it featured Michael Fassbender, who once again stole a movie without appearing ungentlemanly.

4. Brave

Pixar really ought to knock it off at this point. The company is just too good.

If you ignore “Cars 2” (and you really should), the animation studio has churned out perfect or near-perfect films for almost 20 years. “Brave” was the company’s first to feature a female protagonist. The best part about “Brave” was how the main character, Princess Merida, never needed to look for a strapping young lad to help her, proving once and for all that there’s a way for a Disney Princess to win without having to get married.

3. The Avengers

This superhero film shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Every superhero in the world crammed into one movie where they have to fight aliens doesn’t exactly scream great filmmaking. One superhero is a Norse god, one is from the 1940s and another is Mark Ruffalo. It seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.

But “The Avengers” quickly became one of the best comic-book movies ever made. A lot of the credit can go to Joss Whedon, who embraced the absurdity, turning it into a positive quality rather than a negative one.

And Ruffalo succeeded where Eric Bana and Ed Norton failed: he made The Hulk incredible.

2. Moonrise Kingdom

It’s hard finding words to describe Wes Anderson’s masterpiece. Maybe because the words to adequately describe “Moonrise Kingdom” don’t exist.

It’s that good.

Like all of Anderson’s films, the movie featured an ensemble cast, a great score and enough eccentricity to light Paris.

But “Moonrise Kingdom” had something his other films didn’t. That “something” may have been Bruce Willis, but who knows? Whatever it was, it made “Moonrise Kingdom” his best film.

In a summer of aliens, vampires and superheroes, “Moonrise Kingdom” was a refreshing change of pace.

1. Men in Black 3

There can be no other choice for number one. It was the highly-awaited epic finale to one of modern cinema’s defining trilogies. Where would the summer of 2012 been without the thrilling conclusion to the “Men in Black” saga?

That is, of course, ridiculous.

Josh Brolin is great but there really is one choice for number one: “The Dark Knight Rises.”

(The real No.) 1. The Dark Knight Rises

Like “Prometheus,” Christopher Nolan’s film may have suffered from the hype. But unlike “Prometheus,” the film wasn’t disappointing. It brought Nolan’s Bat-Saga to a satisfying and moving end.

It had a fantastic villain in Tom Hardy’s Bane and didn’t force Anne Hathaway to say things like “purrfect.”

No, it wasn’t world-changing, even though some fan boys hoped it would be. The intensity with which some fans defended the movie against early negative reviews shows just how unrealistic these expectations were.

It’s just a movie. And “The Dark Knight Rises” happens to be one of the best movies of the year and the best movie of the summer.

Danny Marchant can be reached at [email protected]