Following the pattern that has been set this summer July 2016 was somewhat disappointing. We have only really had one genuinely good summer blockbuster which I shall get to in a minute. But everything else seemed to fall short of expectations from Spielberg’s competently made but fairly unremarkable ‘The BFG’ and the ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot managed to be neither great nor terrible which for any other movie would be enough but for one that attracted as much attention as Paul Feig’s movie then that seems incredibly anticlimactic. Let me just say that when ‘The Shallows’ is being adopted by audiences as one of the best movies of the summer you know you’re in trouble.
So for the most part we had to look to the indie circuit for hidden gems and luckily we found them this month. Whether by conventional or unconventional storytelling there was a lot to like but let’s not kid ourselves, this is summer and we want big blockbusters and we simply haven’t had any. By this time in 2015 we had already been amazed by ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘Inside Out’, ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’, ‘Ant-Man’, and we still had ‘Straight Outta Compton’ to look forward to as well. So far this year doesn’t look to be getting much better, especially with a certain film that I thought would save the summer may have ended up being the biggest let down of all (stay tuned for that another day). Now we have to look to ‘Suicide Squad’ to save us.
3: Star Trek Beyond
A wonderful celebration of the ‘Star Trek’ franchise just in time for its 50th anniversary and Justin Lin was able to steer the ship towards an entertaining and vibrant blockbuster. It perfectly captures the heart and soul of the original series, feeling more like an extended and higher budget episode of the original series at the same time. The action is fantastic, the screenplay may be somewhat simple in narrative but what it lacks in plotting it makes up for in character dynamics and is the first of the new movies to genuinely feel like an ensemble piece. That of course only makes it sadder that Anthon Yelchin can no longer be a part of that ensemble but this movie stands as a bittersweet end to his tragically short career. In a weak summer ‘Star Trek Beyond’ is a strong and entertaining entry.
2: Sing Street
A wonderful coming of age story that loves adolescence just as much as it loves music. It skirts expertly around any potential pitfalls and is so full of humour and heart that it seems almost impossible not to be smiling for the entirety of the film. It reflects the hopes and dreams of its characters and views music not just as an escape from their turbulent adolescence but as a pure form of emotional expression. The music itself is also able to reflect the development of each character and provoke an emotional response from the audience, as the band attempts to find its style and identify so do the teenagers. In his acting debut Ferdia Walsh Peelo is fantastic as is the entire supporting cast. It manages to be artistic as well as crowd pleasing.
1: Swiss Army Man
For all the complaints about a lack of originality in the film industry what we have here is something wholly and utterly unique that is completely unlike anything I have ever seen before. The Daniels’ tale of a farting corpse might just be my favourite movie of the year so far. It stands as a fantastic example of what can happen when creative minds are let free with no limitations and no constraints, when they are allowed to explore as many wondrous, bizarre and unusually poignant. It is an exercise in eccentricity just as much as it is a tale of existential beauty. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe are putting in some of their best performances here along with plentiful amounts of striking imagery that is as immature as it is intelligent. Love it or hate it, there is nothing else like it.
And the worst…
The Purge: Election Year
Otherwise known as ‘Hypocrisy: The Movie’. How this ridiculous premise got stretched into three movies is beyond me, or at least this premise in this format. While it could potentially work as a satire or dark comedy it acts as a cheap exploitation movie that does not subvert anything about its own existence. Instead it celebrates the violence it claims to be cautioning everyone against, it brutalises the violence selectively and as a result we get a tonally inconsistent, terribly acted, horrible structured and poorly directed movie that leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.