Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ranking the last five Summer Movie Seasons (from 2010-2014)

This is my fifth year covering movies at The Movie Guru's Blog and we're right in the thick of my fifth summer movie season as a critic. Summer is the time where we go to the multiplex to watch some of the year's biggest blockbusters in a variety of categories- big-budget action, horror, comedy, animation, romance, thriller, etc. The yearly movie calender is a perfect balance between blockbuster season and Oscar season and every year I admire it more and more. And with summer already off to a fast start thanks to the fantastic thrills of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I got to thinking- could we be headed into the greatest summer movie season of the decade so far? Mad Max: Fury Road is being called one of the greatest action films ever, Tomorrowland looks quite promising, Jurassic World and Terminator: Genisys will resurrect big franchises, Pixar is returning with Inside Out, and Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation simply looks incredible. With all that promise, I began thinking about our most recent summer seasons and where they might be ranked on a list. So with that said, here's is my ranking of the last five summer movie seasons, from 2010 to 2014.

#5- Summer 2010

The Hits

Iron Man 2
Toy Story 3
Despicable Me
The Other Guys

The Misses

Shrek Forever After
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
The Last Airbender
Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Karate Kid

Summer 2010 boasts two instant classic films- Toy Story 3 and Inception. Toy Story 3 is probably my favorite Pixar movie, a nostalgic, emotional roller-coaster of a film that is one of the few films that will actually straight-up make me sob. It's also a funny, fresh and smart sequel- something that is hard to find in Hollywood. Inception, on the other hand, is just one of my favorite movies in general. An original, massively engrossing blockbuster that can be dissected and debated forever, this film is still Christopher Nolan's crowning achievement, and since its release, every blockbuster in my mind is compared to Inception. And I've started to finally accept that we will never have such an incredible film in Hollywood again (Interstellar came close, but it missed out on the thriller beats that made Inception a pulse-pounding ride).

Despicable Me is also a very funny film, one that mixes heart and humor to great effect. It has spun off into a very successful franchise and is undoubtedly one of the best films of summer 2010. And as much as people hate Iron Man 2, it's better than you might remember. It's not a great film, but it works effectively as a mindless, popcorn-munching blockbuster. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg's The Other Guys is the final film that I would consider to be a 2010 "hit", as it perfectly combines their screen personas to create a funny action comedy.

But none of those great films can shield the fact that 2010 was a miserable year for summer movies. Man, this was a brutal summer. I consistently count the mindless, painfully scripted The Last Airbender as one of the worst films of all time and I stand by that 100%. Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, a movie that I saw when I had way too much time on my hands, could also fall into that category. Prince of Persia and The Sorcerer's Apprentice are both Disney films that fail to be more than a dull, mindless stream of action scenes and bad hairstyling and even though I own Prince of Persia, I have no interest in watching either film again.

Shrek Forever After was the final nail in the coffin of the Shrek franchise, as it was a weird entry into the series that continued to see a drop in box office receipts. And The Karate Kid was cool at the time for an eleven year old kid (my age in summer 2010), but when looking back on it, Jaden Smith was horrible and the film was an overlong bore.

SUMMARY: Ultimately, as much as I love Inception and Toy Story 3, summer 2010 was a pretty big bust.


#4- Summer 2012

The Hits

The Avengers
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Dark Knight Rises

The Misses

Snow White and the Huntsman
Ice Age: Continental Drift

Summer 2012 was dominated by two fantastic movies- The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Both of these movies captured the cultural zeitgeist in one way or another, with Avengers going on to be a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Both films were exceptionally entertaining and well done, but they practically sucked the energy out of the summer. There was nowhere for other films to go.

Prometheus and The Amazing Spider-Man were both hotly anticipated films, and they disappointed and succeeded in several different ways. Prometheus is a baffling film initially, but if you're able to dig deeper into it, you might be impressed by how effective it is. The Amazing Spider-Man tells its origin story well and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have impeccable chemistry, but it fails in the action department. It feels just so standard and Marc Webb really didn't know what to with the big budget scenes. And finally, Madagascar 3 was the animated hit of the summer, a big, bright and bold film that works as a fast and funny diversion.

As for the failures of the summer, Battleship is still one of the worst Michael Bay rip-offs in history. It's laughably bad and it was almost so awful that some started to believe it was a parody. I don't buy it. Snow White and the Huntsman was a box office hit, but another film that got sucked up in its own depressing vibe and tedious action beats. It looks great visually, but beyond that, it's a disaster. And finally, Ice Age: Continental Drift was a true fiasco, an animated film that was both unfunny and ridiculous in every way.

I can't mention summer 2012 without discussing the Aurora Colorado shooting and the deep impact it had on me as a person and a moviegoer. In a way that I never would have expected, the shooting deeply affected my psyche and put a dark cloud over both The Dark Knight Rises and the summer movie season on the whole. Seeing TDKR in a theater after the terrible things that happened in Aurora was a tough and frightening experience and there was an edge in the theater that had never been there before (I left my IMAX screening on opening day and went back to finish the film on the Sunday of its opening weekend). I didn't go to the movie theater for almost three months after the Aurora shooting. It shook me that deeply.

SUMMARY: In a summer marred by tragedy, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises succeeded in being culturally massive hits, while most films fell flat in their shadow.


#3- Summer 2014

The Hits

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Million Dollar Arm
X-Men: Days of Future Past
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Edge of Tomorrow
The Fault in Our Stars
22 Jump Street
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Expendables 3

The Indie Sensations

Life Itself

The Misses

How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Purge: Anarchy
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Let's Be Cops
Get On Up

The Disappointments

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Jersey Boys

2014 was a great summer for superhero movies, R-rated comedies and indie flicks. And that's about it. Summer 2014 was incredibly front-loaded, bringing us a series of great flicks in April, May and early June before petering out after Transformers: Age of Extinction. Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened the season in style, bringing us an entertaining and intense mix of paranoid spy thriller and Marvel movie. It still stands as one of Marvel's finest achievements and it's holds up great on re-watch.

X-Men: Days of Future Past was another promising superhero event for summer 2014, bringing us the climatic chapter in the X-Men story. In a world dominated by bigger universes and set ups for future films, Days of Future Past felt like the culmination of everything before it- an event film in the best sense of the word. Led by great performances and stunning action scenes, Days of Future Past stands as the best X-Men film in history. Finally, summer 2014's other superhero flick was Guardians of the Galaxy, which surprised a lot of people. I still count it as one of the most overrated films in the MCU, but it's a kooky retro action comedy that works on so many levels. And that soundtrack is fantastic.

R-rated comedies were also quite successful in 2014. I was one of the few fans of A Million Ways to Die in the West, and even though I recognize its flaws now, I still think that it's a hysterical movie. It's one of those guilty pleasure movies for me and I'm perfectly fine with that. 22 Jump Street was a movie that I expected not to enjoy, but I ended up loving. It's amazingly funny on so many levels and there are so many one-liners and scenes that I'll remember for a long time to come. But ultimately, Neighbors was the R-rated comedy that I enjoyed the most. It's a raunchy, gutsy film and it comes in at a compact 96 minutes. So many scenes work brilliantly and the party scenes are gloriously filmed.

Indie films and counter-programming also stood out in summer 2014, with several indies and Oscar players debuting during the summer frame. Chef works the best on re-watch and it's a film that I regret not putting on my Top 15 of 2014 list. It's a bright and sunny movie that simply makes my day better whenever I watch it. Boyhood was an incredible film, although it's one that I doubt I'll ever watch again. And Snowpiercer was a surprise in the best sense of the word- an intense, well made thriller with some social commentary and brilliant action scenes to boot. Life Itself was also an emotional and effective documentary that I'll remember for a long time.

Early June also saw two spectacular films debut in very different genres. Edge of Tomorrow was a film that the geek community really rallied behind and I did too. It perfectly mixed action, sci-fi thrills and humor and did it in an effective way. The Fault in Our Stars was the other early June hit and it was the biggest surprise of the summer for me- a smart and heartfelt teen cancer drama that worked.

But I think that there was a point in summer 2014 where everything just started to kinda fall apart. Transformers: Age of Extinction was a decent film, but it sucked a lot of the energy out of the summer and prevented any other blockbusters from becoming big hits. Sure, August had Guardians, but we also saw a lot of "meh" flicks like Into the Storm, Let's Be Cops and Hercules and straight-up bad films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Purge: Anarchy.

Other negative highlights include How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Maleficent. The former is just a dark, inconsequential and boring movie, while the latter is an atrociously hideous disaster. Neither were even remotely good.

The other struggle was that a lot of the films in summer 2014 simply came down with a resounding shrug from me. They weren't bad, but they just weren't very good either. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Jersey Boys, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, the aforementioned Hercules- all had their moments, but none reached greatness.

SUMMARY: Summer 2014 had a few films that reached greatness and was a spectacular year for indie movies, but thanks to a plethora of mediocre flicks and a few truly terrible ones, 2014 couldn't quite reach the heights of previous summers.


#2- Summer 2011

The Hits

Fast Five
X-Men: First Class
Super 8
Cars 2
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2
Captain America: The First Avenger
Attack the Block
Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The Misses

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Kung Fu Panda 2
Green Lantern
Cowboys and Aliens

2011 was a great summer for me, personally. It was when I started blogging, I became friends with a bunch of people that I'm still close with, and as the icing on the cake, the movies were fantastic. For many, summer 2011 started on April 29 when Fast Five hit theaters. It was both a bigger hit than anybody expected and a better movie, spinning off this new Fast and Furious franchise that has raked in billions worldwide. For me, it doesn't reach the heights of Fast and Furious 6, but Fast Five is still a thrilling ride.

Marvel also had a great summer, and I think that it was truly a critical summer for them. If Thor and Captain America don't connect with audiences, The Avengers might not work. But thankfully, both films were solid hits and good films. Thor isn't great, but it was a good way to kick off the summer at the time. Captain America is the single most underrated movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe- it's a charming, retro thrill ride that has a cartoony feel akin to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars.

Summer 2011 was a great one for prequels, as X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the Apes both powerfully resurrected two franchises. First Class is still one of the best X-Men movies, a Bond-esque action flick that continued to show off Matthew Vaughn's talents. Without Vaughn and this film's terrific cast (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne), we might not have ever gotten Days of Future Past or Apocalypse. The action, the setting, the music- everything with First Class is perfect. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was also a big surprise, as nobody expected this film to be remotely good. But thankfully, Rupert Wyatt and Andy Serkis managed to deliver an emotionally resonant and appropriately big scale blockbuster.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Cars 2 are two films that I really enjoy, despite the overall negative consensus. Cars 2 is a goofy, fun spy movie with a lot of fun action and a catchy spy theme. It's certainly one of Pixar's lesser efforts, but it's just so much fun. Dark of the Moon, on the other hand, is probably still one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. The final action scene in Chicago is a masterfully fluid set piece that lasts nearly an hour, with massively orchestrated Michael Bay destruction set on the largest scale possible.

But the two biggest successes of summer 2011 are still Super 8 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2. Deathly Hallows was the culmination of everything that Warner Bros. had been working at for eleven years and the result was one of the most emotional blockbusters of all time. It ended the franchise in effective fashion and it stands as one of the best Potter flicks. Meanwhile, Super 8 still stands as one of my favorite summer blockbusters and a movie that I will cherish and remember forever. It's the perfect mix of nostalgic Spielbergian charm and big scale modern blockbuster action. I can't even describe how enthralled I was by this movie and the space that it held in my imagination for years after first seeing it. If J.J. Abrams can do this for Star Wars, we're in for a treat.

Despite all of those great films, summer 2011 had its share of misses as well. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is undoubtedly the worst of the franchise, a dull and monotonous film that never got even close to the heights of the best of the series. Kung Fu Panda 2 was also a relatively disappointing sequel that tried to go darker and failed. I wouldn't say that it's a bad movie, but it certainly isn't good.

Green Lantern was the lone superhero misfire of the summer, a bizarre and misguided origin story that didn't work on any level. And Cowboys and Aliens was a mess. I applaud it still for being an original summer blockbuster in a Hollywood dominated by franchises, but it was still a terrible film.

SUMMARY- Despite the occasional misfire, summer 2011 was one of the most consistently impressive summer movie seasons in recent memory, with emotional, exciting and grand scale blockbusters that captured my imagination.


#1- Summer 2013

The Hits

Iron Man Three
Star Trek Into Darkness
Fast and Furious 6
Now You See Me
This is the End
World War Z
Despicable Me 2
Pacific Rim
The Conjuring
The World's End

The Misses

The Great Gastby
The Hangover Part III
Man of Steel
The Wolverine

If 2012 gave us a few great blockbusters, but not many good films on the whole, then 2013 is its alter ego. Every weekend in summer 2013 saw the debut of some new film and for the most part, the movies were good. Iron Man 3 kicked off the summer in impressive fashion, crafting a funny and interesting mystery thriller in the shadow of The AvengersIron Man 3 suffers from expository issues, way too much humor and a dumb PTSD subplot that goes nowhere, but it has some spectacular action scenes, a funny villain twist and is one of the more unique Marvel movies at its core.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a movie that grew on me. I was severely disappointed by it when I first watched, but then I watched on Blu-Ray. And then I watched it again. And again. Star Trek Into Darkness is unquestionably my favorite blockbuster of summer 2013 as it does a great job of combining superb character work, slick filmmaking and beautiful action to create a great experience. Fast and Furious 6 is the perfect companion piece to Star Trek- an intensely ridiculous and absurdly entertaining sequel that does everything that its predecessors did, but better. If Star Trek is the best blockbuster of the summer, then Fast and Furious 6 is the most entertaining one.

Now You See Me is a movie that really took me by surprise back when I first saw it, but looking at it now, I probably over-graded it. There's not enough there to make me want to watch it again, and even though it's good, it doesn't reach the memorable levels of greatness that I initially thought. This is the End is a film that I only saw recently, but I'm glad that I finally did. It's not as good as the summer's other apocalypse comedy, but it's like watching a big, raunchy inside joke come to life.

One of the biggest question marks of the summer was World War Z. A big $200 million zombie blockbuster that didn't exactly take the approach of a standard zombie flick sounded like a risky proposition, but it worked thanks to the mix of action and horror and Brad Pitt's down to Earth performance. Fourth of July weekend was dominated by Despicable Me 2, the slightly disappointing but still entertaining sequel to the 2010 breakout hit.

Two original sci-fi films were hotly anticipated going into summer 2013- Pacific Rim and Elysium. Both have their fans and their detractors, and I fall into the former category for both films. Pacific Rim is goofy and choppily paced, but man, it's a really fun ride. Elysium, on the other hand, is heavy-handed and obvious, but the action beats are extremely well-done and Matt Damon's Max is a likable hero.

Finally, the genre highlights of 2013 were The World's End and The Conjuring. The latter, James Wan's most successful horror film yet, was a surprise back in 2013, raking in tons of money and receiving mostly glowing reviews. I consider myself to be a fan and it's undoubtedly one of the most impressive horror movies in recent memory. And The World's End is simply one of my favorite films. A fast and funny action comedy, The World's End is everything I want in a movie and more. It capped off the summer season in spectacular fashion, even if it's not exactly a blockbuster like the other films on this list.

On the negative side of things, this wasn't a great summer for superhero movies. Man of Steel is still one of the most profoundly disappointing movies of the decade, a film that could have been so much but ended up being nothing more than a dull origin story with a bunch of ridiculous destruction thrown in. Some really love this movie, but I fell on the side of the haters. Same goes for The Wolverine. I personally found this poorly scripted Japan-set drama to be a misguided attempt to make Wolverine more human, and it resulted in a bunch of dumb villains and overcooked romance plots.

If not for Man of SteelThe Great Gatsby could have been considered the most disappointing movie of the summer. A flashy, but overlong adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, Baz Luhrmann's film brought the visuals, but forgot to make the performances compelling and the characters interesting. And the final film of the summer that amounted to nothing was The Hangover Part III. What's more to say about this one than that it put the final nail in this franchise's coffin.

SUMMARY: 2013 was a banner year for both big blockbusters and smaller genre films, with a good amount of sequels, original films and quirky breakouts all hitting theaters to create a diverse and entertaining summer slate.


So with that being said- where could summer 2015 end up? With a slate that includes some of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, I can definitely see this summer being incredible. We'll certainly find out at the end of this year, but for now, the definitive ranking stands as

#1- Summer 2013
#2- Summer 2011
#3- Summer 2014
#4- Summer 2012
#5- Summer 2010

Image Credits: Roger Ebert, Screen Crave, Apple Trailers, Roger Ebert, Telegraph, Chris Stuckmann, Geeks of Doom, Forbes, Neighbors Movie, Word Press, Screen Rant, Word Press, Star Trek Movie, Shifting Lanes, Wired, Screen Rant, Word Press, Edgar Wright Here, Joblo, Joblo

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