For me, there’s nothing better than sitting inside an air-conditioned movie theater on a hot summer day. Others flock to the beach while I flock to the concession line. It makes sense considering that most people go to the movies during the summer, especially this year. Universal expected “Jurassic World” to be a smash hit, but they weren’t expecting the numbers that it conjured up. In almost no time it has become the third highest-grossing film of all time, right behind “Titanic” and “Avatar.” If that isn’t a sign that people still love going to the movies, then I don’t know what is.
Typically the summer movie season starts in May, but with the major success of “Furious 7” in April, it seemed to start a little earlier this year. This will probably happen again when “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” comes out next March. No matter where it begins, this is the time of year when every major studio shows its hand with confidence that it will have the best movies of the summer. Then, for every “Avengers” and “Jurassic World,” small indie flicks such as “Dope” and “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” sneak in under the radar and if placed right, they become sleeper hits. Which ones made my list? Let’s find out.
Before I get into specifics, I would like to give a shout-out to the Somerville Theater in Somerville, Mass., and
silent film musician Jeff Rapsis for a truly incredible theater experience this summer. For one day only, the Somerville Theater had a special presentation of the 1925 silent film classic “The Big Parade” starring John Gilbert and Renee Adoree. It’s breathtaking on its own merits, but when you’re able to see a 90-year-old film on 35mm, that is something you never forget. The live score from Jeff Rapsis only enhanced what was already an amazing trip back in time. Now, onto the main event.
Here we go! I will be going backwards counting down from my number five pick to my number one. But they won’t be my favorites, they will instead be my worst of this past summer. Unfortunately there were many stinkers in the past three months, but these were the ones that got to me the most.
Dishonorable Mentions – “Vacation,” “Sinister 2,” “Aloha,” “Max” and “Poltergeist (2015).”
#5. “Hot Pursuit” – Coming off her Oscar nomination for “Wild,” Reese Witherspoon wasted whatever talented she had to humiliate herself on camera for an hour and a half. Neither her nor Sofia Vergara come out of this with any dignity. It’s a shame because these two can be great in the right roles. I saw this in an empty theater by myself, and you know a movie is bad when you can even make jokes at the screen.
#4. “Pixels” – Kevin James is the President of the United States and Adam Sandler is saving the world. That sentence alone should turn you off from what could have been a “Ghostbusters”-esque family film. Despite some cool designs on the retro games, nothing else works. None of the actors look like they want to be there. The added bit of misogyny only made things worse where one of the very few female characters has no dialogue and is only there to be used as a literal trophy. Thanks for that, Happy Madison Productions!
#3. “Hitman: Agent 47” – Now we’re in the long stretch, This is where we get into this summer’s laziest efforts, starting with “Hitman: Agent 47.” Fox somehow managed to reboot one of their own franchises, only to then make it worse than the film that preceded it. Take this as a hint as to what might be my #1. The effects are laughable, the acting is as blank as a block of wood and the product placement is unbelievable. A major action sequence is mainly there as an excuse to shove in all our faces that the Hitman is driving an Audi. It’s even shot like a car commercial too! Now it all makes sense how this got made.
#2. “The Gallows” – Horror films are my jam, I get excited whenever I see a trailer for one because even though it might look bad, there’s still some hope that it could be good. “The Gallows” had an amazing teaser, and low and behold, the teaser was the best scene in the movie. Everything else is pure, putrid garbage. My seat in that theater might need to be repaired due to me grasping it in anger throughout. The false jump scares, the harrowing characters and the lazy ending easily put it in my top five worst of this summer, possibly even my top ten worst of the year.
And now #1. “Fantastic Four” (2015) – I will continue to call it Fant4stic because that’s how the poster tells me to pronounce it. My expectations for F4 were already low, but I was not expecting this much of a trainwreck. This reboot was the result of Fox making a “Fantastic Four” movie, so they could hold onto the rights. Director Josh Trank may have been bullied by the studio, but that’s no excuse for his material to fall as flat as it did. They somehow got great actors such as Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, and they couldn’t even save this sinking ship. From now on, Fant4stic will be remembered as the epitome of cinematic laziness.
Now on a more positive note, my best theater experience of Summer 2015 was for “Magic Mike XXL” which I will defend as a good movie. I was the only male in the theater, which was filled with women from wall to wall, and they were eating this up big time. The movie was incredibly fun and if the women had been throwing $1 bills towards the screen, it would have been the best theater experience I’ve ever had. Regarding some other films this summer, here are some additional categories.
Most Disappointing: “Tomorrowland” and “Terminator: Genisys”
Guilty Pleasure: “San Andreas”
Good, not Great: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Jurassic World”
Now, to start the main event, I now present my favorite summer films of 2015.
Honorable Mentions: “Southpaw,” “Magic Mike XXL,” “Ant-Man,” “Minions” and “Insidious: Chapter 3.”
#5. “Straight Outta Compton” and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” – I don’t care if this is a tie, this is my list. I couldn’t afford to leave either of these two off my top five. They were both entertaining to watch for completely different reasons. You go to “Compton” to see a stylish and emotional story based on the 90s hip-hop group N.W.A. Then you go next door to “M:I” to watch Tom Cruise performing crazy stunts, one right after the other. Chances are they’re both still in theaters, if so, don’t miss out on the fun.
#4. Inside Out – Pixar is back and ready to play. I’ve been waiting for another animated film to touch both children and adults alike without succumbing to either demographic, and I got my wish. All of the vibrant colors truly bring Riley’s mind and imagination to life, as well as all the actors who provided voices to Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. Exploring what goes on inside our heads opens up a world of possibilities to explore this universe and I for one can’t wait to see what they do with it.
#3. The Gift – Joel Edgerton writes, acts and directs in one of the best stalker thrillers in over a decade. Don’t believe the misleading trailer, this is a dramatic thriller that preys on your fear of being watched and exploits it to an uncomfortable degree. At a certain point in the film, you have no idea who to trust or what to do, all culminating to the most shocking ending of any film this year. You’ll leave the movie feeling so disgusted, you won’t know what to do with yourself and, to that, I say bravo Joel Edgerton.
#2. Shaun the Sheep: The Movie – Why do I have this above “Inside Out”? The answer is simple, “Shaun the Sheep” is one of the best films I’ve seen this year so far. There is not one line of dialogue which only adds to my appreciation of the whimsical claymation. Aardman animation put together what is essentially a silent film, yet everybody will be able to latch onto the characters and what’s going on. I can’t think of a moment where I wasn’t smiling or laughing based on the visual gags alone.
And now #1. Mad Max: Fury Road – “Mad Max” is not only my favorite film of the summer, it’s my favorite film of 2015 thus far. Director George Miller is 70 years old and he managed to craft one of the best action films ever made. Yes, I firmly believe that. Watching “Mad Max” on the big screen gave me that sense of movie magic that I desperately needed. As with “Shaun the Sheep,” this film excels in visual storytelling, using dialogue only when absolutely necessary. For 120 minutes, “Mad Max” shows off its beautiful carnage with grace, elegance and adrenaline rushing through your veins. Oh what a lovely day indeed!
That’s it, my 2015 summer retrospective. There were many, many more that I was able to see in that three month period, but these were the films that I felt were worth talking about. If any of my best interest you, I urge you to seek them out and enjoy the ride for yourself.
Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org