Another Summer over, another pile of big Studio releases filling our multiplexes. As it has been for decades, June through to August marks one of the biggest and busiest times of the year for cinema folk. What better way to avoid the dreaded sunshine then to bask in the glow of a running projector in a huge dark auditorium, complete with air conditioning, a flagon of fizzy drink by your side and a huge, explosion filled crowdpleaser playing out upon the big screen.
But how has Summer 2016’s movie slate performed? What sucked? Which films surprised? How does Roland Emmerich keep getting work?! We aim to answer these questions and more, as we look at and break down the best, the worst, and the downright odd or disappointing movies of Summer ’16*.
*To count as a Summer Blockbuster, said-film must have been released in the UK between 1st June and the 31st August (duh!). Hence why you won’t see the likes of Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, TMNT: Out of the Shadows or Warcraft here, despite Studios referring to them as Summer Blockbusters.
Of course, all eyes were on Paul Feig’s oh-so controversial Ghostbusters reboot this season. The sheer amount of venomous scorn poured over the trailer earlier this year ensured the film be a big talking point upon release, but thankfully most of the crazed naysayers were proven wrong, as Ghostbusters revealed itself to be a fun and lively comedy in its own right. A few wonky effects aside, the spirit (and spirits!) of the original were all present, whilst the laughs were as plentiful as the slime and goo that covered its central heroes. A loving tribute to the original, it certainly made Bustin’ feel good all over again.
From one set of spooks to another, albeit much more frightening ones this time around – The Conjuring 2 was the standout pants-wetter this Summer. James Wan’s sequel to the 2013 modern classic revelled in scares of every variety, yet also packed in a surprising amount of emotional depth and a beating heart that made audiences actually cared about the main characters. How about that? Another modern classic!
Shane Black’s The Nice Guys proved to be a stylish yet seedy buddy crime-comedy, throwing together Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in an oddball mix of guns, glamour and mayhem, all tied up in a sumptuous period setting. The Lonely Island’s musical mockumentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping displayed their comedic chops for all to see, whilst Key & Peele’s Keanu put a neat and funny spin on last year’s action-standout John Wick.
For those uninterested in endless sequels and comedies, Nerve provided neat food for thought, spinning an original idea into a well-paced and involving techno-thriller. Its a very enjoyable indie movie that seems to have been quite a hit with audiences, so we’re chucking it in here.
And then we have Star Trek: Beyond, a very satisfying, enjoyable, fun, action-packed romp that serves as both a great slice of standalone sci-fi and a worthy tribute to fifty years of Trek. The ensemble cast, the script, the effects, the music and the brilliant direction of Justin Lin all coalesce into what could easily be one of the Summer’s most underrated cinematic servings. Boldly go and check it out!
Hey 90’s kids! Who wants a sequel to Independence Day?! No -one?! Really?!! Well, f**k it, because we’re a movie studio in desperate need of your nostalgia-fuelled cash, so here’s Jeff Goldblum fighting aliens except now he’s got grey hair and here’s Brent Spiner who got himself all dead in the last film but now he isn’t and here’s Judd Hirsch being Judd Hirsch because we couldn’t convince Will Smith to come back, but hey, we’ve got Judd Hirsch, who we all know was the stand-out character in the first Independence Day, right?!!
Guess what? We didn’t like Independence Day: Resurgence.
Gods of Egypt nearly didn’t get a UK release, so disappointing was its performance with both critics and audiences in the US. To be honest, we wish it hadn’t got a UK release at all! Poorly made, offensively cast and downright nonsensical, the whole messy affair feels like a cut-and-paste job someone made in Final Cut Pro using clips from Gladiator, 300 and countless other better movies. Hollywood, when we ask for original ideas, we do mean original, dammit!
Illumination Entertainment created the Minions. And they don’t want you to forget it! The Secret Life of Pets seems desperate to cling to the shirttails of the Despicable Me franchise, shoving Minions into every moment they can, including the studio logo that precedes the film. We’d forgive them for doing so if the film itself was anything other then a cheap Toy Story knock-off featuring animals instead of toys, but sadly it is what it is. If lowbrow slapstick, annoying characters and dated film references are your thing, then make sure to sit down to watch with a box of tissues by your side, because you won’t be able to control yourself!
Ice Age: Collision Course was utter crap. Let’s not dwell on it.
Jason Bourne was also back this Summer in, er, Jason Bourne. “We have ridden that horse as far as we can.” said star Matt Damon back in 2007, who clearly has some serious masochistic issues going on, since he’s now attempting to ride that dead horse just a few miles further despite it being, y’know, dead! A perfect example of a Studio green-lighting a film without a decent plot simply because they signed on the star and director who made the previous entires in the franchise so successful, this latest Bourne film doesn’t exactly come across as a Seabiscuit. If anything, it’s more of a Artax in The Neverending Story. Y’know. Dead!
And then there’s Suicide Squad, which really should not have ended up in this section! A talented action director, a decent and original idea, a good (if somewhat left-field) cast – Suicide Squad should have been DC’s saving grace, it’s ace in the hand. Instead, it shoots itself in the foot and head early on, veering tonally from the off, delivering awkward dialogue and stupid plotting with uncomfortably bad performances and no sense of real direction at all. Get a blacklight in here and you’ll find nervous Warner Bros Executives’ grubby little hands all over it! It’s actually heartbreaking.
And finally a section for the films not quite good enough nor bad enough for the previous sections. The Films that simply exist, if you will. And boy, if there’s a film this Summer that existed, then it would most certainly be Finding Dory, Pixar’s sequel to 2003’s beloved Finding Nemo. A sequel fans have waited 13 years for, that really didn’t seem worth the wait. Occasionally chucklesome and with moments of heart, it’s letdown by its minuscule plot, that really doesn’t go deep enough (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Now You See Me 2 was surprisingly more enjoyable then it’s 2013 predecessor, but then again that film was a confusing mess to begin with. So kudos to director Jon M. Chu for streamlining the perplexing set-up without losing any of the style or flair of the original (though the ‘real magic’ seen here doesn’t convince in the slightest). Elsewhere, we had The Legend of Tarzan, which was hardly legendary, but entertained in its own right and occasionally delivered some fun, despite a somewhat uncomfortable performance from Alexander Skarsgård as the titular apeman.
Ricky Gervais resurrected his greatest comedy creation in David Brent: Life on the Road, which wisely shoved in some real emotion and character building amongst the cringe-inducing moments. Without said-emotion, it would certainly be a real downer of a comedy, one best watched through hands as you groan at the sheer awkwardness poor Brent creates for himself.
And finally, the master of Summer Blockbusters, Steven Spielberg, delivering a credible if somewhat hampered adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic story The BFG. Needless to say, Mark Rylance is stunning as the title character and the look of the whole thing is sublime. But sadly the film stays too true to the short and sweet source material, resulting in a rushed and uninvolving climax. One draft away from perfection, which sadly lands it a spot in this section, as opposed to the top picks of the Summer.
What were your highs and lows at the Cinema this Summer? Comment below and let us know.
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