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It wasn’t a half-bad summer at the movies. Damning with faint praise, I realize, but every summer that offers more than emptyheaded action flicks comes as a pleasant surprise.
Little films like “Moonrise Kingdom” charmed amid the blockbusters. Even those blockbusters were more than just an amalgamation of explosions and chases. “The Avengers” bubbled with laughs. “The Amazing Spider-Man” boasted some really fine acting and a star-making turn by Andrew Garfield. “The Dark Knight Rises” was dramatic and worthy final chapter in the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman trilogy.
Here are some highlights and lowlights among this summer’s cinema crop.
A dark “Dark Knight”: The movie was, of course, overshadowed by the awful theater shooting in Colorado. We’ll just say that it wrapped up the saga nicely and offered some grace notes along the way — a sly performance by Anne Hathaway as Cat Woman, a surprise reveal for the character played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. Biggest mistake: A dull villain in Bane.
Most accurate title: “The Amazing Spider-Man” was, in fact, amazing. Andrew Garfield showed himself to be a perfect choice for the title role. He was a simmering misfit as Peter Parker and a confident hero as Spider-Man. His chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy made theirs the sweetest romance of the season.
Most fun performance: Josh Brolin played a young Tommy Lee Jones to squinting, drawling, sardonic perfection in “Men in Black 3.”
Hey, look, it’s Stonington! Oh, yeah, and the movie’s not bad either: Pretty much everybody in the region wanted to see “Hope Springs” to find out: Would the scenes filmed in Stonington Borough turn up? How much would we actually see? The answers were: yes, and a good deal. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones do fine work, too, as a long-married couple who struggle to reignite their sexual spark.
Most pleasant surprise: A little indie called “Your Sister’s Sister” proved to be my favorite movie of the summer. I guess you’d categorize it as a romantic comedy, but it lacks all the cutesiness that term has come to signify. The plot sounds silly — guy sleeps with female best friend’s lesbian sister, even though he’s really in love with female best friend — but the oft-improvsied dialogue and rich performances by Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt make it shine. Check it out when it’s released on DVD.
The second most pleasant surprise: “Moonrise Kingdom,” Wes Anderson’s latest, was quirky but warm-hearted. The story of two 12-year-old outsiders in 1965 New England was largely filmed in Rhode Island, by the way.
Sorry, we did, in fact, stop believin’: “Rock of Ages” should have been a slamdunk. It should have been a fun, campy take on 1980s music. Instead, it was tepid and — biggest calamity of all — the director and performers didn’t find the humor in the script or the concept.
Biggest letdowns: So many “Alien” fans and just regular-old-movie fans were looking forward to Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus.” It was a big shrug of a movie, something you’d forget almost immediately. Same goes for Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love,” which was no “Midnight in Paris.”
What was your favorite — and least favorite — film this summer?