Summer film reviews: We sit through bad movies so you don’t have to

Cory Johnson
Staff Writer

Ah, summer. The one season of the year when you’re encouraged to relax, take time off and go on adventures – though for some people, or most, these adventures stop short of state lines and end at the local movie theater.

The movie industry booms during the summer as major companies spare no expense in giving audiences the actions and comedies that personify the attitude of the season. But for all their expense, are most of these movies worth seeing?

While for many this time of year is characterized by the lack of classes and lazy days lounging around, for those who dabble in the cinema arts it’s a time of simultaneous dread and guilty pleasure as the movie making titans of the U.S. present their most dazzling, and laughable, work.

Summer movies boast the highest weekend ticket sales of any season, probably due to a lighter load at work and a need to entertain unoccupied kids.  While many film critics agree that summer movies rarely falter in their ability to dazzle audiences with paramount special effects, most will say that every other part of the movie is lacking in some way.

Not to say that all summer movies are awful – summers past have given “Toy Story 3,” “The Dark Knight” and “Star Trek” (2009) – but the majority of them fall at or below the average movie critic’s two-and-a-half-stars mark.

As this particular summer season comes to a close, and Byrd Theatre second screenings, Redbox rentals and Netflix queues beckon, use this rundown of 2011 summer cinema to see what’s worth the cash, or what should be put off until movie night at the University Student Commons.

Action

Since the “Spiderman” series began in 2002, the summer lineup has been filled with superhero movies, though sadly, this has not been a fashion that became better with age.

These movies, once considered to be a good and artful source of entertainment, are now seen as flashing light shows. They are filled with special effects fun and boundary settings, with sound mixing and editing typically at Oscar quality, but they lack the continuity in storytelling and stability of plot to make them worth a second viewing.

The only superhero movies released this season to positive reviews (from film critics, not just comic book enthusiasts) were “X-Men: First Class” and “Captain America.” Critics hailed “X-Men” for actually having a plot and characters you could connect with, while they regarded “Captain America” for being the only superhero movie that didn’t rely on the rippling pectorals of its leading man to keep people interested. The latter had enough heart and patriotism to make up for “Thor” and “The Green Lantern.”

Unless you have to see all the Marvel movies in order to enjoy “The Avengers” next year, or can’t show your face in public until you’ve seen the latest “Transformers” flick, APB has you covered this semester, spend your five dollars on better movies.

On the other end of the spectrum, “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2” did its job as a series finale very well and looked good while doing it. If you’ve grown up with Harry, Ron and Hermione (and many of you have), then this movie is a must-see (and re-see); if not, at least go to hear Alexandre Desplat perfectly choreograph his musical score with the beautifully rendered scenes of magic, mayhem and closure of this final installment of the Harry Potter film series.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is funny, family-friendly and better than some of its predecessors. A lot can be said for keeping Johnny Depp in one of the best roles of his career and adding Oscar-winner Penelope Cruz into the mix as Jack Sparrow and his crew voyage in search of the Fountain of Youth. This movie is a action movie in the same way that “Kung-Fu Panda 2” is a comedy; it seamlessly blurs the lines between the two to create a great film but somehow never loses sight of its purpose.

Comedy

This season belonged to the comedy, as most of the feature films released in this category were side-splittingly hilarious. At the top of this heap, the movie that stood out the most, the movie that kept its audiences rolling in the aisles and the movie that you probably thought was a chick flick: “Bridesmaids.”

Earning 3.5 of 4 stars from most critics, this movie features Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy deliver insanity as a wedding party that literally lose their s— on screen. Forget romantic comedies and forget funny supporting-character roles: These women steal the dude-centric movieverse from the mighty clutches of the Galifian-Rogen-Bergs and tell them, “Yeah, I just did,” as they deliver this Judd Apatow movie in a way that won’t soon be forgotten.

Second to “Bridesmaids” is the dope comedy, “Horrible Bosses.” This movie is not only funny but smart when it wants to be – but only when it wants to be. Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman and Charlie Day headline the movie, delivering great physical humor and gut-busting punch lines with masterful comedic timing. But the real stars are Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston. These two rob the promoted funnymen of the film and really make this movie the badass, raunchy, funny feast it was. It’s been too long since an audience could say, “Jennifer Aniston looks that good?” or “Since when did Kevin Spacey become a crazy person?” or “So that’s what cocaine does!”

Honorable mentions belong to:

“Crazy, Stupid, Love,” a comedic parallel movie (like “Valentine’s Day” but actually comedic) that follows actors Steve Carell, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as they try to figure out how love works when it’s failed you before. “Kung-Fu Panda 2” contains so much fun, so many layers and so many laughs that it’s surprising it wasn’t by Pixar.

What to avoid:

“The Hangover Part II” takes the copy-and-paste approach that “Rush Hour 2” did: Make the exact same movie that came out a year ago but in Asia. The movie is funny, no lies about that, but recycling a plot, story, idea or entire movie is something that most filmgoers frown upon, or at least, should.

“30 Minutes or Less” was good if you enjoy flimsy, convoluted, far too drawn-out plots combined with brilliant comedians/actors (Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg, respectively) who try their best to make an OK premise good. The established young comedian and Oscar nominee could not save this train wreck of a movie that raises the question, “Is a brothel really that big of a deal?”

“Bad Teacher” and “The Change-Up” are both as vapid as the trailers make them seem. While all the other flops are worth the $1.03 at a Redbox, I’d say save your money on these two. There’s nothing in these movies that you haven’t seen before – except maybe Ryan Reynolds with a shirt on.

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