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Summer Movie Recap

Scene | Wednesday, September 2, 2009


This summer’s “Up”, about a young boy and older man who go on an adventure together, was another hit for Disney and Pixar studios, known for releasing top-notch movies. Following in the vein of “Finding Nemo” and last summer’s “Wall-E,” “Up” is an animated children’s tale with a whole lot of grown-up heart. It proved to be a success at the box office, earning over $446 million worldwide, and received rave reviews from critics across the country. “Up” will surely be a nominee at this year’s Academy Awards, and should be a safe bet to win the best animated film category. It may even have a chance of sliding into the Best Picture nominees, which has been expanded to 10 movies.

Star Trek

J.J. Abrams, co-creator of “Alias” and “Lost”, put a much-beloved series back on the map this summer with “Star Trek.” Based on the original series from the 1960s, this revamped version reawakened the characters for a whole new generation. Although filled with tons of action and stunning special effects, Abrams succeeded in bringing the characters to the fore of this sci-fi epic. He paid homage to the original series by keeping the characters and their relationships intact, while giving the actors room to breathe and a chance to make these iconic figures their own. Abrams kept alive the jovial tone of the show while reimagining it for an audience searching for something different than the ’60s audience. The result was an impressive “Star Trek” that pleased old fans and newcomers alike. A sequel is already in the works.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In his recreation of J.K. Rowling’s sixth book in the Harry Potter series, director David Yates once again did an excellent job of replicating the feel of the much-loved Potter series, though to a lesser extent the content of the book (which would be nearly impossible in a two and a half hour movie). Some scenes have been removed, but the movie captured the light-hearted romances, classroom successes and Quidditch victories, until the darkness that pervades the Potter world infiltrates the castle walls and sets the stage for the final installment.

Public Enemies

An adaptation of Bryan Burrough’s non-fiction book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34,” this crime drama featured Johnny Depp as the notorious American bank robber John Dillinger and Christian Bale as the determined FBI agent Melvin Purvis who leads a man hunt to catch Dillinger. The film also captured the intriguing love affair between Dillinger and his girlfriend Billie Frechette, played by Marion Cotillard, who defends him until the very end. Overall, the movie was well-acted and includes something for everyone: romance, action, crime and drama, but the character of Dillinger could have been more deeply explored.

Paper Heart

This quirky cute “hybrid documentary” about the rumored but fictional relationship between Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera was a blend of non-fiction content, meaning real interviews from real people, and a fake storyline portrayed as a “mockumentary.” Charlyne Yi embarks on a quest across America to discover people’s various views on modern romance and whether true love really exists, and the responses she receives from friends, strangers, romance novelists and children are insightful and humorous at times. The film included hilarious cameos from Seth Rogen, Demetri Martin, Martin Starr and Paul Rust.

My Sister’s Keeper

Based on the best-selling novel by Jodi Picoult, the drama told the bittersweet tale of a young girl who sues her parents for medical emancipation when she is expected to donate a kidney to her older sister, who suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia. The movie was not simply a story of the young girl’s court case. Rather, it was the story of a family struggling to maintain the best situation for everyone during emotionally trying times. Abigail Breslin, Cameron Diaz, Sofia Vassilieva and Alec Baldwin all delivered breathtaking performances, but the movie unfortunately did not remain true to the book at all, which may disappoint many viewers.

The Ugly Truth

An odd composite of frat-like “bro” humor and romantic comedy, “The Ugly Truth” was typical battle of the sexes tale, equipped with steamy actors and racy laughs. But this film seemed more of a peace treaty than an all-out war. In Gerard Butler’s dreamy corner, there was the typical male humor, with endless sexual puns and physical gags, ranging from falling out of a tree to fights in pools of Jell-O. And under the sassy and adorable leadership of Katherine Heigl there was an undeniable female charm and coyness, stereotypically embodied in witty banter and cute, romantically-charged encounters. These two prototypical film elements collided as Heigl’s Abby Richter and Butler’s Mike Chadway take each other on. Uncouth, manly hilarity and cheesy female wit ultimately reconciled in an odd combination of opposites, just as the two leads find happily ever after in the most unlikely of places.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Alien robots are plaguing earth. Again. And while good and evil machines battle it out both off planet and in the earthly realm, who will fight for the survival of the human race? Why, Shia Labeouf and Megan Fox, of course. Though it’s difficult to say that Megan Fox contributes much to this effort outside of some slow-panting jogging and undeniable good looks, Labeouf once again becomes not only an emissary for the human race but also a key player in the struggle to save the world from evil alien robots. With fighting robots, a jogging Megan Fox, space travel and an intergalactic war, this summer blockbuster packed a uniquely intergalactic, poorly-scripted, crazy technological war punch that appeals to the three loves of nerds everywhere. Aliens. Talking, fighting robots. And hot female mechanics. And as Optimus Prime said, “I rise; you fall!” and that seems like just what happened in the box office battle this summer, too.

The Proposal

When was that moment audiences knew they were in love with Sandra Bullock? It is impossible to pick just one, but what sealed the deal and had crowds screaming “Yes!” to “The Proposal” was a scene involving the stiff editor-in-chief Margaret Tate (Bullock) losing all inhibition and doing an interpretive and slightly perverse dance to Lil Jon’s “Get Low” with her fake fiancé’s grandmother (Betty White) in the Alaskan woods. “The Proposal” was one of the summer’s most unique romantic comedies in that, though its storyline was clichéd as all good chick flicks are, its hilarious scenes were not. Audiences swooned over Ryan Reynolds and were charmed by Sandra Bullock’s transformation into a lovable character.

The Hangover

This is going to draw a lot of flak, but it must be said: “The Hangover” was the most overrated movie of the summer. Sure, the raunchy comedy remained steadfastly in the top three at box offices for four weekends and grossed over $419 million worldwide, but this can be largely attributed to the Warner Brothers’ all-out marketing barrage. Think about it – how many “Hangover” commercials were you forced to imbibe over the course of the summer? Which brings up one of the movie’s biggest downfalls: almost everything funny in the movie was given away in the previews. Besides that, it was plagued by poor writing and a predictable plot. The movie started off with a great premise, but much more could have been done with it. Case in point: the guy that they are looking for the entire movie has been sitting on the roof of the hotel all along. Seriously? Was that the best resolution they could come up with? Sparks of creativity showed, as in the scene when the hungover guys are first waking up (next time you watch, look around at all the random objects in the hotel suite), but they failed to catch fire.

Away We Go

One of the summer’s sweetest movies, “Away We Go” depicts the journey of one couple in search of home and happiness. Verona and Burt, expecting their first child, set out to find a place to call their own, along the way visiting with friends and family. Constantly challenged by other people’s definitions of love and parenthood, Verona and Burt discover that it is their definition that truly matters. The highlight of this movie was Verona and Burt’s unwavering love for one another, only accentuated by the crazy cast of characters they meet along the way.

G.I. Joe

Gentlemen, this is your movie.  After a long hard day of welding and a delicious dinner of medium rare steak, this is what will make you complete.  The effects were flawless, the action intense and the females in form-fitting body armor are not hard on the eyes.  Plus, Scarlet not only has the looks, she’s got brains.  All in all, a fantastic ride that required minimal cerebral involvement while delivering explosions, martial arts, guns and obligatory one-liners. “G.I. Joe” deserves two enthusiastic thumbs up: enter with mediocre expectations and be pleasantly surprised.

District 9

“District 9” took some serious risks for a major motion picture: science fiction, an unknown lead, and a highly political message. Amazingly, it succeeds with all three. Director Neill Blomkamp manages to create a mock documentary with the action of a Michael Bay film. All the while, the film works as a political commentary of apartheid Africa. As remarkable as these feats are, Sharlto Copley uses his first lead role to near guarantee himself an Oscar nod. “District 9” is a stunning, explosions-and-laser filled, intelligent film which delivers on the promise of serious science fiction.