Summer Movie Smackdown
Which summer movies reigned supreme?
September 22, 2022
In the modern landscape of film, there is one problem which rises above all the rest: originality. For example, compare the highest grossing films of 2021 to those of 1985. Although it is clear sequels, remakes, and reboots have always had a place in the financial-driven cesspit that is Hollywood, there has never been a time they are more prevalent than the present. However, one director has consistently pumped out thought-provoking, original films over the past couple years: Jordan Peele. Peele has gone against the grain, and Nope, his most recent film, may be his most original yet.
Explaining Nope presents a challenge, as revealing too much about the plot may ruin the movie depending on the viewer. As a quick synopsis, Emerald and OJ Haywood, played by Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya, start to notice strange occurrences affecting animals and the night sky around their California horse ranch. Also, aliens may or may not be involved.
Although many may see it as a horror film, it isn’t particularly scary and it really isn’t trying to be. In fact, one of the best parts of the film is the variety in the genres it presents including thriller, comedy, science fiction, and mystery, and how it uses these genres to create an atmosphere so dense that you could swim through it.
As for the acting, Keke Palmer absolutely stole the show as a likable and enthusiastic sister to OJ, with the siblings playing off of each other incredibly well. Side characters, such as Ricky Park, an ex-sitcom actor played by Steven Yeun, and Antlers Holst, an wealthy yet depressed cinematographer played by Michael Wincott, also act as interesting and original side characters.
However, the most incredible part of the film is Jordan Peele’s vision and how it is executed; certain scenes in the film, particularly in the final act, are extremely exciting and generally entertaining. In other words, the experience Peele presents in the film is unique and something that you can’t quite understand without experiencing it yourself.
Overall, I would highly recommend Nope; it is exciting, fascinating, and generally enjoyable. Hopefully, more unique and risk-taking films are made in a similar style in the future.
Thor: Love and Thunder
Frankly, I’ve never been a huge Thor fan—Iron Man was witty and cool, Captain America had his strong moral righteousness, and Hulk had his green skin and spicy personality, but Thor was nothing more than an attractive guy with a hammer. That was until Thor: Ragnorak in 2017, in which director Taika Waititi took the tone of the film in a completely different direction, leaning further into comedy and science fiction absurdness. This movie brought life to the Thor franchise which hadn’t existed before. Many fans became excited for the sequel, which Waititi would also direct.
The sequel, Thor: Love and Thunder was released in theaters on July 8, 2022 and on Disney+ on September 8. The plot of the film centers on Gorr the God Butcher, played excellently by Christian Bale, a terrifying being with the sole purpose of killing all the gods in order to avenge his daughter’s death. Gorr becomes at odds with Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, and Korg, played by Watiti himself, and they all battle for the fate of the universe: standard Marvel fare.
Taika Waititi’s comedic tone persisted from Ragnorak, but the heart that came with it didn’t continue to quite the same extent. The performances are still enjoyable, but the humor doesn’t land quite as well and the characters are generally less likable and feel like bland caricatures of themselves compared to how they are written in other Marvel films.
Although many have criticized the visuals of the film, especially the occasionally shoddy visual effects, the film is generally pleasing to look at, with bright colors and fantastical locales. These visuals are highly reminiscent of Jack Kirby, a legendary comic book artist who was the primary designer for Thor himself. In fact, the way color is used in the film is noteworthy, acting as the main highlight of the film (no pun intended).Gorr being completely monochromatic, contrasting well with Thor’s blue lightning.
Overall, although the film is certainly entertaining, it has neither the humor nor the intricate writing of Thor: Ragnarok. And although it may not be the best Marvel film in the last few years, it is still exciting to see where Thor, and the rest of the characters, will be taken next.
Minions: The Rise of Gru
We all grew up watching the Despicable Me movies, and laughing at the mischievous Minions and their gibberish. Minions: The Rise of Gru continues this trend, acting as a hilarious, and fun-to-watch prequel to the other Despicable Me films, keeping me entertained the entire time.
The movie starts off by introducing the Vicious 6, a group of supervillains that 12 year-old Gru idolizes and wants to join. We see returning characters including Gru’s mom, Dr. Nefario, and Minions, Kevin, Stewart, and Bob, who are just as funny as ever. There are also some new characters introduced in the film.
One of the new characters is Otto, one of the Minions. Otto had the entire theater laughing with his determination to help Gru, even after all of the misadventures he goes through. However, Otto’s best moments are in his interactions with the other characters which add to how lovable and funny he is.
I really enjoyed watching the events in Gru’s preteen life that made him the person he is in the Despicable Me movies; he has really big goals and aspirations as a young kid, and we know that as he gets older, those goals and dreams never get smaller, eventually leading up to his plan to steal the moon.
The storyline was really fun to follow, and it was especially enjoyable seeing new, interesting villains and what their supervillain powers were, while seeing Gru compete with these much older villains, and still doing well!
On top of it all, the soundtrack was great. Songs by many 70s artists were featured, adding to the setting and timeline that it all took place. Likewise, the bright colors, patterns, clothing styles, and hair complimented the 70s look.
In all, the movie was incredibly funny, and its references and ties to the original Despicable Me movies were exciting to catch, topping off a very enjoyable experience of a movie.
Where the Crawdads Sing
Delia Owens’ 2018 novel Where The Crawdads Sing quickly became a New York Times bestseller, staying on the list since its release. A murder-mystery coming of age story that follows main character Kya Clark and her secluded life growing up in the South Carolina Marsh.
I’ll be honest, walking into the theater, I was a little worried. So many times, amazing books become disappointing movie adaptations. I didn’t know what to expect with the formatting of the movie, as the book hops around a lot from different years. However, I was really pleased with Where The Crawdads Sing in its entirety.
I was so impressed by the structure of the movie. The jumps between Kya as a kid and Kya as an adult were done really well and not confusing at all. The sets in the Marsh and in the small town of Barkley Cove were gorgeous, really on point with the 1950s and 60s style. Similarly, the actors who played the Where The Crawdads Sing characters were really great in portraying the emotions visible in the book.
Although the movie was really great, I wish that the director, Olivia Newman, would have incorporated the parts of the story with the poetry by Kya (using her Pen Name, Amanda Hamilton), as that was a big reveal in the end surrounding the death of Chase Andrews, as well as the poems that were spread out throughout the novel which gave hints on what the outcome would be.
Last but not least, the amazing Taylor Swift herself wrote, “Carolina,” an original song for the movie adaptation; like her music does so well, it told the story of Kya really well and was a great contribution to the film.
I would definitely recommend Where The Crawdads Sing to all interested in both a great read and an amazing movie rendition.
The Black Phone
If Stranger Things has taught us anything, it’s that the general population loves horror TV featuring teenagers in the 80s. Director Scott Derrickson saw this opportunity and wrote The Black Phone. This is the story of Finney Blake, a friendless boy who is kidnapped by the infamous ‘Grabber’ known for taking children and leaving black balloons at the scene of the abduction. Finney communicates with the ghosts of The Grabbers previous victims through the black rotary phone in the basement where he is held captive. He plans his escape while his psychic sister frantically searches for him, joined with police. This movie is 102 minutes of classic horror staples- jump scares, skin-crawling acting, and creative film methodology.
Cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz perfectly crafts the jump scares, keeping watchers on the edge of their seats with unsettling music and waiting just long enough to lull viewers into a sense of false security. Then, the shocker is quick, leaving everyone jolting out of their seats and cowering into their friends arms. Further, the entire movie feels like you’re about to be faced with an abrupt fright, creating an adrenaline filled watching experience.
Four time academy award nominee, Ethan Hawke, stars as The Grabber, alongside Mason Thames playing protagonist Finney. The two of them perfectly portray the intensely fearful power dynamic between the abducted and his abductor. As young as Thames is (only 15) he displays a miraculous emotional range and connects the viewers to Finney. Additionally, Hawke plays a psychopath alarmingly well. From the lilt he applies in his voice to the eerie body language and unpredictable behavior, Hawke portrays a horrifically demented man that is sure to haunt your nightmares.
Beyond this, producers continue to wow the audience with their creative cinematography. Scenes in which a high power is supposed to be present, they shoot from above, looking down on the character and showing their vulnerability. In the basement, the camera alternates between showing the protagonist’s viewpoint and a wider angle. This displays the dynamic between characters and setting, while also keeping a level of connection between the watcher and the character, something many horror films struggle to do. The Black Phone was a great movie that any and all thriller fans should watch.