Summer film lineup features duds, pleasant surprises

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This summer was quite a mixed bag, in terms of quality films. On one end of the spectrum, there were amazing movies that blew past all expectations and amazed everyone with just how good they were. On the far other end, there sits the ugly mistakes that came from various movie studios.

Compared with the past couple of years, the three main months of summer had a 40% increase of profits. Thanks to the record-breaking smash hit, Jurassic World, along with the successes of Avengers 2 and Ant-Man, this was a highly profitable season for movies.

The line-up doesn’t end there. The next couple months have some films with the potential to make big money, all culminating in what is sure to be the biggest hit in years, Star Wars Episode VII.

Sitting at the low end of the summer’s movie spectrum is the monumental disaster that is Fantastic Four. This movie is critically panned by everyone. We have recently learned that the film’s director, Josh Trank (best known as the director of Chronicle), was a massive problem on set, and the conspiracy is its own interesting little debacle. However, amongst all the amazing successes and losses, some incredible films were nudged to the background, despite being loved by all who saw them. The Gift and Dope both deserved more recognition from the public this summer.

The Gift was the directorial début for actor Joel Edgerton, who also stars as the main antagonist of the film. The Gift follows Simon and Robin, a couple who has recently moved to a new house in Los Angeles for Simon’s job. They encounter an old classmate of Simon’s, a polite yet odd man named Gordon. Throughout the film, Gordon gives the couple increasingly sinister gifts. As time goes, Robin and Simon’s relationship is strained by these gifts.

This is one of those films where it is really hard to truly dive into the plot without giving too much away. This, for me, makes the film all the better. The plot is simple, but full of tension and detailed character choices that all feel right. This is the best kind of horror film, where there’s no real blood or gore and little to no jump scares– just suspense and discomfort. There is a constant shadow of threat, yet you’re never entirely sure where it’s coming from. It’s a tightly wound clock that gets in your head right off the bad and won’t get out.

Dope follows Malcolm, a seventeen-year-old black kid living in the bad part of Los Angeles in present day. He considers himself a geek and is a massive fan of nineties hip-hop. He also has a punk rock band with his two best friends. Malcolm desperately wants to get into an Ivy League college and has the grades to accompany that dream. Yet, just as all teenagers, he wants to fit in just as much as he wants to succeed.

This film was magnificent and absolutely hilarious. It serves as an excellent counterpoint to coming-of-age films. Most coming-of-age films are about teenagers who have to start accepting responsibility and grow up a bit. On the contrary, Dope is about a teenager who is already responsible and ready for his life, but due to society’s standards for him, has to almost devolve and resort to what “he is supposed to be.” This film is a marvelous conversation starter and makes some great points, while still being a funny movie.

The summer movie season isn’t really over yet. On August 14th, Straight Outta Compton opened to good reviews and did well at the box office. On August 21st, the horror sequel Sinister 2 and American Ultra are opening. The month of August will end with the Zac Efron led film We Are Your Friends, directed by Max Joseph, who was the sidekick on MTV’s Catfish.

Compared to last year, this summer has been ridiculously impressive. The studios slated and released some incredible films this year, full of life and creativity. Personally, a top pick from myself for this summer is actually a tie between Pixar’s Inside Out and the indie film Me & Earl & the Dying Girl.

Go check out both if you get the chance and then start getting ready for the best time of the year: Oscar season.

Nicholas D'Alessandro

About Nicholas D'Alessandro

Nicholas D'Alessandro is a theatre major with an emphasis in directing and a minor in film at Rollins College. He is also the founder and director of independent film company, Lopsided Films. Nick loves all kinds of film and loves discussing them. This is his first year writing for The Sandspur.

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