Owen's summer movie roundup: Cutting through the spin, and what I loved (and hated)

summer2011-movies

Image Credit: Marie Wallace; Gemma La Mana; Dale Robinette; Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios; WETA

The summer movie season tends to be thought of as a big, vast, noisy, expensive parade — a monolith of fun. The movies, before they come out, have an aura of invincibility. Most of them have been designed to be rockets to the other side of the box-office rainbow, and each week, when another rocket or two (or three) gets launched, the grosses cast their own aura: “Look, up in the air! It’s a smash! It’s a winner! It’s Superhit!” The breathless ritual reporting of those weekend tallies reflects something much deeper than the fact that people are obsessed with Hollywood accounting. Those box office revenues — or, at least, this is our dream of them — go back to the numerological magic created when the original Star Wars broke all records to become a rocket to the moon. The brain-bending popularity of Star Wars was part of its meaning: Because it was such a transcendent hit, it was the club that literally everyone was in. And now, each week of the summer, people go to a movie in the hopes that they’ll be joining the biggest movie club on the block.

But each week, all those numbers, all that bigness, all those CGI effects that are now so commonplace it would be a misnomer to call them “special,” have a way of masquerading what a busy, quirky patchwork the contemporary summer movie season really has become. Counterprogramming — the release of smaller movies to play to an audience of adults that still wants to see something besides comic books — is now built into the summer-movie DNA. It’s become such a standard feature that no one even thinks twice about it. And what that means is that the image of the summer movie season is, in many ways, far less adventurous than the reality. In that spirit, I’d like to offer a few highly personalized and idiosyncratic observations about what transpired on our movie screens this summer, all as a way of seeing what went right, what went wrong, and what this summer can tell us about the state of Hollywood.

The thing that superhero movies now need: an injection of freakishness. Earlier this summer, I griped in the pages of EW about “superhero fatigue,” and I stand by the complaint, since superheroes, by definition, should feel special. When there’s a new one every week, it wears down the genre. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t like some of the comic-book movies that came out. Thor, as directed by Kenneth Branagh, had an elegant prankishness, and I enjoyed the way that Captain America went back to the cornball braveheart Boy Scout squareness of the character’s Superman-meets-Uncle Sam World War II roots. Yet I can’t say that either of those films took up much of an afterlife in my imagination. It’s telling, isn’t it, that the greatest comic-book movie ever made, the psycho noir The Dark Knight, had such a profoundly tormented, messed-up, maybe even half-crazy super-anti-hero at its center. And that, I think, is what our comic-book movies now need more of. That freakishness is drama, and on balance, it’s probably truer to the spirit of the old comics than an unvarying diet of wholesome studly kick-ass bravura. It’s true that the decent, if top-heavy, X-Men: First Class featured a whole roster of “misfit” super-geeks. But apart from Michael Fassbender’s darkly intense performance, the young actors in that movie looked about as alienated as the cast of Gossip Girl. Here’s hoping that next summer, movies like The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers know how to get their freak on.

The Tree of Life is an extraordinary movie. Should it have been a bigger hit? Terrence Malick’s beautiful, startling, pinpoint drama about a family in the 1950s, as filtered through the director’s cosmic-religioso meditation on the formation of the earth (a vision that, if you think about it, effortlessly reconciles evolution and God for our time), is the kind of movie the James Joyce of Dubliners might have made if only he’d had Brad Pitt and a handheld camera. To me, it was the most haunting movie of the summer — but it was also polarizing. Some people loved it; some walked out in a huff during the visionary prelude. When I learned that a movie as original as The Tree of Life was going to be released in prime summer time, on the last weekend of May, I thought: Brilliant! Put it out there! On the strength of the reviews, and on the back of Pitt’s justly acclaimed, deeper-than-he’s-ever-gone performance as a tough-love ’50s martinet dad with a heart of mystery, the movie seemed like it had every chance to work as superb counterprogramming. The secret of Malick as a filmmaker is that he is, deep down, an avidly conventional storyteller drawn to unconventional techniques. The movie was really no more “challenging” than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and if Pitt drove that gimmicky clunker to mega-hit status, then surely he could draw audiences to Malick’s most celebrated film since Days of Heaven.

But a funny thing happened on the way to The Tree of Life‘s modest, if not downright underwhelming, $12.6 million gross. The people at Fox Searchlight, the reigning studio specialty division, decided that the movie should be marketed as an art film: slowly, cautiously, and — just perhaps — self-defeatingly. Instead of using Pitt’s presence to ramp the picture up to mainstream gotta-see status, the way 2001: A Space Odyssey (which this movie sometimes recalls) became mainstream 43 years ago, they missed the opportunity. I realize the conventional wisdom is that The Tree of Life found the audience that it was meant to find, and that “ordinary” Americans “don’t want to see a movie like that.” But my point is that it’s exactly that kind of thinking that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I can’t help but wonder: What if, on that last weekend of May, The Tree of Life had opened on 3,000 screens? It might have been what Fox Searchlight never quite had the gusto to envision it as: an event.

The state of 3D: Does anyone really like it anymore? After writing a number of blog posts on the subject, I figured I’d take the summer off from 3D commentary. I didn’t even bother to mention it in most of my reviews of 3D movies. One could argue that that’s irresponsible for a critic. Really, though, how many times can you write the sentence, “The 3D isn’t just bad, it’s virtually non-existent; it would have been more or less the same movie in 2D,” without wearing out your readers and yourself? The 3D “revolution” is, of course, about to get a prestige shot in the arm, with the upcoming release of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin. I certainly hope the images in those movies blow us all away, but the reality that more or less everyone has now caught up to is that Avatar, the movie that was supposed to change our whole feeling about 3D, ended up raising the bar so high that it made run-of-the-mill 3D movies into even more of a darkened-image, who needs this? annoyance than they might otherwise have seemed. (Every time I put on those glasses and a 3D-as-marketing-ploy potboiler like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides starts rolling, I feel like I’ve been gypped and betrayed.) This year, audiences with pinched pocketbooks began to steer away from 3D. To me, the current attitude is perfectly captured by the trailer I just saw, at a weekend matinee, for Shark Night 3D. At the end of the trailer, one of those cheesy-imperious, low-voice-of-the-devil, 1970s-horror-style trailer narrators came on and intoned the words “Shark Night 3D!” Followed by the unintentionally hilarious “Also showing in 2D!” It was a de facto admission of defeat, and the audience roared. They knew, as the film’s producers apparently did as well, that being gouged is no added dimension of fun.

beginners

Image Credit: Andrew Tepper

The most delectable indie crossover hit of the season: Beginners. When a “little” movie that deserves to get out there truly gets out there, it’s reason to applaud. This one, starring Ewan McGregor as the most charming of commitmentphobes, who learns, near the end of his father’s life, that the father (Christopher Plummer) was gay and spent 44 years of marriage in the closet (even as he loved his wife deeply), reminded me of a certain kind of movie that thrived in the ’70s — the psychological comedy as tossed-off post-Godardian ramble, typified by Paul Mazursky’s Blume in Love (1973). In her EW review, Lisa wrote: “The movie darts, dreams, and sometimes seems to dance.” A perfect description of a movie that teeters, with delicacy, between unvoiceable pain and the kind of love that only blossoms with the years. Beginners is still playing, and so before it hits DVD and Netflix, you may still have the chance to relish Mike Mills’ visually airy, time-leap storytelling and the fantastic performances of McGregor, Plummer, and Mélanie Laurent.

The most dispiriting hit of the season: Bad Teacher. A one-joke, naughty-inept black comedy in which Cameron Diaz stars as the most dislikable character of the year (imagine one of the horrible bosses in Horrible Bosses…as the protagonist!) might seem to be a candidate for quick oblivion. But when the trailer is shot to make the movie look like a piece of wet-T-shirt exploitation, it’s no wonder that young men lined up in droves. A lot of them took their dates, too: Bad Teacher isn’t funny, but it’s just sneaky enough to prod girls into thinking that Diaz’ sexpot misanthrope might be a useful role model.

crazy-stupid-love

Image Credit: Ben Glass

Steve Carell has become a new version of the old Woody Allen. The core plot of the terrifically witty and light-fingered Crazy, Stupid, Love — recently separated man gets lessons in how to pick up women — bears a superficial resemblance to Will Smith’s Hitch, but the movie that really invented that gambit was Play It Again, Sam (1972), in which Woody Allen got tips and tales on seduction from Humphrey Bogart. The thing is, Carell now has the kind of everyman-neurotic vitality and cultural connection that Allen did 40 years ago. He’s astonishingly good at playing sheepish, lovelorn losers who still have it in them to become winners, and this is Carell’s fullest performance to date. He was overshadowed, to a degree, by the hilarious cocktail-stud nonchalance of Ryan Gosling (the rare totally serious actor who can be as romantic as he is fascinating), and the whole movie was treated by the press a bit derisively, as if a romantic comedy with this much verve and intelligence and sparkle is something to take for granted. It’s not.

Documentaries keep proving that reality is the ultimate counterprogramming. The highest grossing documentary of the year played to audiences all summer long: Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, with its murky, privileged visions of handheld cameras peering around stalagmites to show us the oldest cave paintings ever discovered. But it wasn’t only Herzog — this season, the terrific documentaries just kept on coming. Tabloid, Senna, Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, Page One: Inside the New York Times, Buck, The Interrupters, Magic Trip, If a Tree Falls, Life in a Day, Turtle: The Incredible Journey, El Bulli, Hey Boo, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop…the list goes on. Of course, the overwhelming majority of moviegoers will never have the opportunity to see these films in theaters, but the fact that they’re being made, and getting out there, and that they’ll have a life long after their theatrical run, is a testament to how deeply ingrained in our movie universe the wide-awake drama of nonfiction has become.

It came out a little too early to be a “summer movie,” but still… Bridesmaids, released May 13, is for me the comedy of the year. It had more laughs, more soul, and more indelible scenes, and it announced Kristen Wiig as a major Hollywood player. May she continue to co-write screenplays, and give performances, that are this madly inspired.

car-2

Image Credit: Disney/Pixar

Cars 2 is the first unadulterated Pixar misfire. One of the most astounding things about Pixar is the astonishing consistency of its track record. Not every one of the studio’s digitally animated features is great, but even the shaggier, more modest tyke-friendly ones — like, say, Monsters, Inc. — seem to know their just-wanna-have-fun limitations. But Cars 2 is a movie so stuffed with “fun” that it went right off the rails. What on earth was the gifted director-mogul John Lasseter thinking — that he wanted kids to come out of this movie was more ADD? Cars 2 is a marvelous-looking contraption, all micro-detailed Tokyo neon and metallic super-shine, but the movie is so damn busy that it never finds its soul. On top of that, the decision to put Larry the Cable Guy’s drawling, buck-toothed doofus rust-mobile Tow Mater front and center seemed based almost completely on the character’s popularity as a piece of tie-in merchandise. Letting this toy wag the dog is the most egregious mistake that Pixar ever made.

Can we please stop having double standards at the box office? It’s fine to say that a movie succeeded or failed, but the fun of the numbers is that they don’t lie — so why should they be subjected to post-game bias? When Thor opened at $66.5 Million, it was greeted with a perfectly respectful yawn, but the $54 million grossed by Rise of the Planet of the Apes was treated as some sort of expectation-smashing, rise-of-the-rebel-blockbuster surprise. To which I say, really? The latter movie had a bigger star than Thor did — in James Franco, and also in Andy Serkis, who still carries his Lord of the Rings karma. It also had as gorilla-size a pedigree as any comic-book franchise (just see the $180 million grossed by Tim Burton’s lousy Planet of the Apes remake back in 2001). The trouble with the “expectations” game is that it’s too often played by studio executives to spin the results of their labors. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is doing just fine, but to extol its success as if it had taken the marketplace by storm is to pretend that movies which the press liked a lot less (like, say, The Hangover Part II or Kung Fu Panda 2) were less word-of-mouth driven in their box-office glory.

super-8

Image Credit: Francois Duhamel

Fantasy is fine, but have we run out of monsters? The best thing about J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 was the way it re-created that breathless ’70s-Spielberg atmosphere of anticipation. It primed you with curiosity to see what those kids — equally primed — had uncovered. But when the answer to that mystery turned out to be yet another digital monster with scary humongous jaws, I kept thinking that it didn’t matter how intricately Abrams had worked out the plot, or how he’d even made the creature sympathetic. Bottom line: I’d basically seen that monster before. The same way that I’d seen the extraterrestrials in Cowboys & Aliens before. One way or another, they all looked like they’d come out of an Alien sequel from 20 years ago. Which leads me to wonder: Are there any more monsters left in our collective id? Because I’ve frankly grown weary of looking at this one.

It’s time for Jon Favreau to direct a small movie again. Speaking of Cowboys & Aliens, it’s getting easy to forget that Favreau started out as the co-star and co-writer of Swingers — and that when he directed Iron Man, he kept the action loose and human-scale, keyed to Robert Downey Jr.’s breezy verbal assault. But Favreau, fueled by his success, seems to have gotten addicted to bloat. It’s easy to see a link between the frazzled too-muchness of Iron Man 2 and the concept-by-numbers gizmoid deadness of Cowboys & Aliens. Does Favreau really want to direct F/X traffic for a living? Or does he want to go back to tapping his true gifts and making a movie that doesn’t reduce actors to objects?

The Help rewrote the end of summer by breaking all the rules. Every year, one serious drama, or maybe two, buoyed by the awards-season spotlight, breaks through and becomes a smash hit (the way that, say, The King’s Speech did last year). If it’s based on a highly popular novel, that can help, but only up to a point. Yet Disney, with complete confidence and skill, released The Help into the high silly season of early August, and audiences, God bless them, have turned out to see it like a movie they were hungry for. An ensemble drama about domestic race relations in the Deep South in the early ’60s, with a cast of wonderful actresses but scarcely a major star (the closest the movie has to that is the still-up-and-coming Emma Stone), The Help is everything a summer movie is not. Except that it’s now ruling so remarkably that it’s just about rewriting the rules of what a summer movie can be. We can only hope that next summer, those rules stay rewritten.

So what struck you most about the movies this summer — or about any one movie? What was your favorite? Your biggest disappointment? And what, if anything, about summer movies would you like to see change?

Follow Owen on Twitter: @OwenGleiberman

Comments (248 total) Add your comment
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  • JV

    For me, Super 8 and Bridesmaids made the summer great!

    • El Mexicano

      Super 8 was just a better version of Cloverfield, don’t get all the hoopla.

      • SJ

        Both Cloverfield and Super8 were awesome. Star Trek is my favorite summer movie of the past 5 years, and I never cared for the original series. I will watch anything JJ Abrams is behind.

      • Action Jackson

        Super 8 was the best movie of the summer and the only good one. The Help is just another white liberal trash where the blacks need the whites to save them.

      • Tego Livi

        I heard an interview with the director of Super 8 in which he talked about the fact that just about every imaginable scary outer space monster has been done. It might be interesting to explore other types of non-reptilian or non-humanoid creatures, but a cloud or blob is difficult to make viscerally frightening.

        As to The Help, I think a lot of its success has to do with the different publicity arenas they sought–I do know it was the first film I’ve ever seen promoted on the Home Shopping Network.

    • Jono

      Can’t believe there was no mention of the Harry Potter finale. I’ve liked the movies just fine til now, but that was a terrifying, and terrifically moving, film.

      • Karen

        I was really surprised that it wasn’t even mentioned. That has been one of the best movies I’ve seen all year, and its box-office success was so humongous! I also think ‘Horrible Bosses’ should have been mentioned a bit more.

        I also really liked ‘Bridesmaids’ a lot (and Chris O’dowd even more!). And I can’t wait till ‘Stupid, Crazy Love’, ‘Beginners’ and ‘The Help’ hit the movie theaters in Denmark :-)

      • Asha

        Totally disagree. With the exception of Snape’s Tale, the movie was fairly awful, rushed and focused on all the wrong places.

      • Seriously

        Yeah, Asha, how dare they focus on Harry as the main character instead of making a ten-hour movie focusing on all the third-tier characters like the purists wanted.

      • lol

        Hey Asha, tell that to the scores on major critic websites and overall fan reaction. If you ask me, the focus on Harry and his character development rather than a bunch of minor characters running around the castle dueling was what they should, and did, focus on.

      • Connor

        Asha, yeah, umm…no.

      • Soytu

        Posted on If Marvel Studios really want to etiablssh some we don’t need to bow to the pressures of big studios’ cred, they would greenlight a Ms. Marvel movie, get a known actress to play her and make it kick ass. Run with Reed’s I’m going to etiablssh myself as an A-lister rebirth of the character. Get it out the door before WB can move on Wonder Woman. Bring her into the Avengers movie (or sequel).Because other big studios are just going to point at Elektra and Catwoman and Super Ex-Girlfriend and tell you no.

    • LOL

      Owen loves crap.

      • LOL Loves Crap

        LOL loves Falling Skies….LOL

      • LOL

        I like Falling Skies. “Loves” is too strong.

    • deedith

      YES! I agree.

    • Mar

      Loved Super 8. But it was just E.T. on steriods.

    • chocolateislove

      Super 8 was good, but not something I’ll really remember. I almost forgot about it til the mention in this article.

    • Vic Nardozza

      Super 8 was lame, boring and derivative.

      • Bob

        Glad to see you’re use of the usual adjectives, especially derivative, when describing your dislike of a movie. Using ‘derivative’ is akin to using the worn-out ‘gravitas’ when describing an actor’s abilities.

      • AK

        Derivative? It was an homage. Wasn’t that kind of the point?

    • Cygnus

      I disagree on EW’s assessment of The Help. There were plenty of other dramas released this summer that had to compete with much stronger tent poles than a Conan or Spy Kids 4. They were out there, just didnt get the Good Housekeeping (aka Oprah’s) seal of approval. It was good timing, planning, and publicity, not necessarily a better movie. I havent seen another drama get as much marketing weeks in advance, as The Help did.

      • Puppatina

        What dramas would you recommend?

      • Jason

        Fast Five

    • Jean Guy Levesque

      It would be hard for Brad Pitt to open a film now with his face looking so old and weathered. He needs cosmetic surgery NOW. Vive la Quebec!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Dino Bravo

        Mange le merde

      • Wha’ever

        How dare you write such an idiotic comment and follow it up with “vive le Québec” !! Ne salis pas le nom de notre belle province, troud’cul !

      • Tego Livi

        Brad Pitt is popular, and talented, and relatively successful. But he’s never actually been a huge box office star. His movies are sometimes successful, sometimes not, but he doesn’t really have any huge blockbusters. That’s maybe partly because he is a little pickier than some, and goes for more middlebrow, middle-budget movies. Will Smith and Di Caprio are much bigger B.O. draws, though.

    • Justin Poppiti

      Overall, the slate of summer movies was one of the worst that I can remember.

      • Tego Livi

        I saw 2 movies this summer: Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher, and thoroughly enjoyed both. I can see how Bad Teacher might offend some, because it isn’t a traditional “good wins in the end” values movie. But it was very funny.

    • Brygida

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  • JV

    Still hoping to see The Tree of LIfe and Crazy Stupid Love in theaters.

    • Stacie

      I think reading this article just guilted me into seeing Tree of Life. If I fall asleep I’ll blame Owen.

      • Sean Elliot

        I knew it, Owen, and love you for it! You must have loved “The Tree of Life” even if it took all summer for you to say so. This brings me to my question not to Owen but to EW publishers: Why the hell did Lisa the crickety critic get the greenlight to review the film over Owen? Hell that a B+ review be chosen and not the Owen A-grade review which would have made a glowing impact? Lisa’s review: Limp and Lost. She woulda given “2001: A Space Odyssey” back in the day a B- probably. Something is wrong with the politics up there in EW offices, ahem panderers up there.

      • Brett

        Wow, do you overestimate the influence of critics. You think “Tree of Life” would have done better if a different critic had reviewed it in “EW”? Seriously? For that matter, Owen Gleiberman, you think “Tree of Life” would have done better if it had opened on 3,000 screens?

      • Leo

        I’d like to see it. I tend to agree with Owen’s film taste. Loved Beginners SO MUCH – it was talked about and promoted more in Canada, I think, which was to my advantage. I also thought Fassbender was the only standout in the action films of the summer. I discovered him after Owen’s suggestion about watching Fish Tank which was incredible. I agree that watching Steve Carell be sad and feeling lost shows his talent much more than in comedy.

    • Amy

      They are both definitely worth seeing. The Tree of Life certainly isn’t for everyone, and I think Owen is being a bit too optimistic about its appeal, but I thought it was interesting. If nothing else, you should see it (and try to sit through the whole thing) just to form your own opinion. Crazy, Stupid, Love was one of the best rom-coms I’ve seen in a long time.

  • jt

    There were just WAY too many movies released this summer. It was overkill. How could people possibly keep up with everything? I gave up. I figured they’d all be on dvd in a couple of months anyway, and I can see them a LOT cheaper without sitting with rude people and watching endless commercials.

    • Tego Livi

      Or you could skip most of them. You are under no obligation to watch a movie.

  • MWeyer

    Yeah, pretty underwhelming summer, too many misfires amid the blockbusters. Cars 2 wasn’t bad, just not up to Pixar’s usual standards, the first case of them phoning it in. I think the buzz about “Apes” being a hit is because expecations were low and it turned into a smart thriller audiences could respond to. That’s something we needed more of this year, hope 2012 improves.

  • AS

    The summer was a complete bomb. Not one great movie. The two best movies of the summer were The Trip and Beginners. The most interesting film of the summer was hands down The Tree of Life. Best documentary of the summer was the fantastic Buck. Here’s looking forward to a much more hopeful 2012. Now Christopher Nolan, there’s a guy who knows how to make an interesting, entertaining, thought-provoking summer blockbuster.

    • LOL

      This summer was a sea of crap.

      • LOL Loves Crap

        LOL thinks Fast Five is the best film of this century….LOL

      • LOL

        Wrong LOL, but nice to know you care.

      • LOL

        Fast Five was crap. I never said it was the best film. Actually it was the worst film. Hopefully they quit making anymore movies.

      • Jeff M.

        Bridesmaids was a great and funny movie. I was taken back when i saw it and i laughed all the way through this movie and LOL is a LOSER!

    • Necro

      Agree with your Nolan assessment. :)

      • Jayesh

        Dear Mindy,I just finished renadig your book To Wish Or Not To Wish and it was amazing! I had to pick a book for my culminating assignment for english class and when I stumbled upon your book I couldn’t stop renadig it! Anyways there were just a few questions I was hoping you could answer for me because I couldn’t find the information when I was looking around I hope you don’t mind 1.What year were you born?2.What is your nationality3.Whatr are the themes of the story? (I picked out the relationship factor, that she has with Teel, Timothy, and Amy and the responsibility that Erin has to learn to take for herself through the Master Plan but I need one more )I know you probably have a busy schedule but hopefully you will soon be able to squeeze in a quick email response to meThank you for your time and I hope I will get the chance to read your other stories Sincerely,Katarina

  • Jay

    Honestly, X-Men was the best superhero flick, and still one of my favorites of this summer. Crazy, Stupid, Love..I surprisingly enjoyed. The other two: Harry Potter, and Super 8.

    • MesoSoup

      Agreed! XMFC was the superhero movie of the summer, actually it was one of the best movies of the summer period. And please no more comic book movies like TDK, overhyped, overblown and just plain boring if you ask me… get rid of Nolan and give Batman to a director who keeps superheros super

      • Marph

        Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks TDK is ridiculously overpraised. Good acting and story, but took itself way too seriously and at least 30 min. too long.

        Just saw Captain America, very entertaining. Better than many of the recent superhero movies.

      • Justin Poppiti

        I am a proud American. Alas, there’s no way that Captain America is a better movie than the Dark Knight.

    • Capt. Obvious

      I was waiting for someone else to say it. I was expecting to hate X-Men: First Class, because of how awful the Wolverine vehicle and X-Men: United were. I was wrong. This was, easily, the best graphic novel film of the summer and, possibly, the best since The Dark Knight. Good call, sir!

  • Jason

    “[The Tree of Life] was really no more ‘challenging’ than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

    Um, yes, it was. Button had a straight-forward plot and narrative style; Tree was a nearly plot-less almost free-association of images and visual memories. It was wonderful– I agree. So are a lot of spellbinding, nebulous visionary movies (like Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, or von Trier’s Melancholia). Some of them even have big stars. None of the really dreamy ones are big hits, ever.

    • Incredulous

      Just as a head’s up, using ‘um’ in sentance doesn’t mean you’re correct.

      • Cate

        “sentence”

      • Jake

        Um, its spelled sentence.

    • Amy

      Yeah, it really was.

  • dawnomite

    Super 8 was the most fun for me (loved all those kids!) XMen was excellent for Fassbender alone. And The Help was the perfect end-of-summer treat.

  • Justin

    No mention of Bridesmaids or Super 8 and endless praise of the over-rated indulgent Tree of Life? Love you Gleib, but you’re out of touch. I love a good semi-indie as much as anyone (love Beginners) but Tree of Life is honestly one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of Lil’s tribute on Parks and Recreation. I’ve never seen since a nonsensical over-hyped, over indulgent piece of trash film, ever.

    • dlauthor

      He mentioned Bridesmaids and Super 8. What article were you reading?

    • Grubi

      Did you even read the article?

    • Vickie Williams

      Thank you for mentioning Beginners. I’ve been saying that it could be this year’s big surprise during Awards season. People who love it REALLY love it and I think as Awards season screenings and screeners amp up, it will get even more love. I hope so. It could be just wishful thinking. I did predict Winter’s Bones 4 major nominations in May of last year so I’m hoping I’m right this time too. More people need to see it.

      My favorite movie of the summer besides Beginners is the very funny and unassuming British alien invasion movie Attack The Block. It’s a fun, exciting, and original take on a well-worn genre and will become an enduring cult classic like Shaun of the Dead. Joe Cornish, like Mike Mills and Another Earth’s Mike Cahill, is a director to watch. Star John Boyega could be his generation’s Denzel Washington.

      I also loved The Guard, the already-mentioned Another Earth, and Monte Hellman’s Road to Nowhere. And Thor. Yes.

      • Ida Seenit

        I loved your choices, I would add that “Attack The Block” was even better than Super 8, did EW review it? Anyway the powerhouses of the Summer, X-men, Super 8, Captain America (over Thor), only because Tommy Lee Jones stole that movie with his one-liners, “Don’t look at me, I ain’t going to kiss you!” Also, Rise of The Planet of The Apes, The Help, great adaptation, and great performances from Viola Davis (Oscar) Octavia Spencer and Bryce Howard and my new favorite young actress, Emma Stone, Here’s a surprise the remake of “Fright Night” I think Colin Farrell may have found his new role, Comic Relief! The best comedy hands down this Summer “Bridesmaids” and not Kristen Wiig unless she made the call for the “Molly” actress to be scene stealer like Chris Dowd! That is all!!

      • Grubi

        EW did review Attack the Block, but they only gave it a B+. It deserved an A or A+. It was my favorite movie of the year so far.

  • jets

    X-Men First Class and Harry Potter 7 part 2.

  • Andrew

    I really liked “Thor,” “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “X-Men First Class,” “Super 8,” “Captain America,” “Crazy, Stupid Love,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and “The Help.” However, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ was BY FAR my favorite. I was mostly disappointed with “Green Lantern” and “Cars 2.” It’s not surprising that “Cars 2″ is Pixar’s second lowest-grossing film in the U.S. ahead of “A Bug’s Life.” (which was a much better film and should’ve grossed more than “Cars 2.”)

  • J.P.

    Like “Tansformes: Revenge of the Fallen” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was noting more than a film with zero plot and all action.

  • Carrie

    “Super 8″ was my personal favorite. I enjoyed “Bridesmaids” and “The Help”. “X-men” was pretty good and I enjoyed “Thor” more than I thought I would. I still haven’t seen “Captain America”, but I’ve heard good things about it. I’d also like to see “Crazy, Stupid Love” for the same reason and because it has such a great cast.

    • Angela

      Both of those are definitely worth seeing. Adored Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Captain America was great fun, not to mention the first superhero movie I really liked since Iron Man and The Dark Knight in 2008. Super 8 was also my personal #1.

  • Kurt

    THE TREE OF LIFE is my favorite movie of the year so far. If the studio wanted people to go see it, they should’ve shown one or two of the dinousaurs in the ads and commercials. Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and dinos. People would have been WTF? and ran out and seen it.

  • dlauthor

    How could one write an entire article about this summer’s films and ignore Harry Potter? I mean, it’s the biggest grosser of the summer, and probably the year, and brought a 10-year movie saga to a conclusion. At least a passing nod would have been good. Similarly, not to mention Midnight in Paris, in an article where you dub Carell the new Woody (not a bad comparison, that), seems a bit weird. It’s the great surprise of the summer, how Woody made a genuine breakthrough crowd-pleasing hit for the first time since, what, Annie Hall? Or ever?

    Favorite movies from this summer: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Harry Potter, Crazy Stupid Love, Attack the Block, Planet of the Apes, Midnight in Paris, Tree of Life, and Winnie the Pooh.

    • dlauthor

      Oh, and interesting that with all the dissection of superhero movies, Green Lantern just dropped off the radar entirely. That was probably the bomb of the summer.

      • Jose

        I think the biggest bomb was The Beaver, it costed $20 million and it didn’t even gross $1 million domestically!

      • dlauthor

        Fair, but the studio expected the Beaver not to do well, I think. As opposed to GL, which had tons of money poured into marketing, merchandising, and other promotions, which must have made its flameout hurt much, much more.

      • Jose

        Fair point on Green Lantern.

        As for the Beaver, that was supposed to be Gibson’s comeback films, and with the cast it had, I doubt the studio was expecting it to bomb like that.

      • MWeyer

        Actually, lookling like Conan might be the real bomb, 90 million budget and only 10 million opening.

    • Grubi

      Yeah, I found it very strange that he didn’t mention Harry Potter at all. Not to mention that for a lot of people, this movie signified the closing of a chapter in their lives. I mean it was a conclusion that people have been waiting years for.

      I don’t know if he completely forgot it, or if he just didn’t like it. If it is the former, that is just bad research. If its the latter, he should have given a reason for not liking it considering how well received it was by both critics and audiences.

      • Cat

        Well said!

      • mel

        harry potter sucks, that s why they dont mention that piece of crap

      • Grubi

        You are well in the minority Mel. It sounds to me like you are the piece of crap, not Harry Potter.

      • Connor

        Mel is always trolling, ignore that piece of ****.

    • Jeff R

      My thoughts exactly. HP was the biggest hit, and Midnight in Paris is Woody’s first hit in 20+ years and the perfect example of counter-programming. You can’t talk about the summer in cinema without discussing these two……..

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