Every summer we are bombarded with big movies. The “summer blockbuster” is a concept we are all overly familiar with and it exists because historically, many of the most anticipated and successful movies have been released between May and August. 2016 was no exception, so let’s take a look back at some of the better movies from this past summer.
The Obligatory Superhero Movie to Kick Off the SummerEvery summer we get a minimum of one, if not many superhero films, at least since the resurgence of the comic book movie as we know it today with X-Men back in the summer of 2000. Many of these films have marked the beginning of the summer movie bonanza and for 2016 that honor went to another fun entry in the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – Captain America: Civil War.
Pulling influence from a popular conflict in the comics, this film saw Captain America (Chris Evans) butting heads and eventually coming to blows with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), with each man having a handful of fellow heroes supporting them. Civil War thus felt like an unofficial Avengers 3, as it was packed with a dozen superheroes, including the debut of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
It was certainly not the best the MCU has given us thus far but it was vastly superior in almost every way to this year’s earlier superhero mash-up from DC – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There was fun action, great character moments and an engaging story. Civil War ended up being the best superhero movie of the summer, as well as one of the best big-budget actioners with some fun clashes between the heroes.
The Surprise Hit
Of the many movies I saw this summer, one of the most well-made and enjoyable films was one I didn’t follow very closely and had no real expectations for. Shane Black, the man behind Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, returned to the buddy cop genre that he is known for with The Nice Guys. Taking place in 1977, the film follows Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a shady P.I. who milks cases from little old women to get as much money as possible while he barely does any work, and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), the tough and grizzled P.I. that has a penchant for hitting people and always following through on his cases.
March and Healy both stumble into the same case involving a dead porn star, arson, a girl on the run, experimental films and hired killers. This odd couple then has to work together, with some help from March’s inquisitive 13-year-old daughter, to get to the bottom of the case. There are a lot of moving pieces in the plot but in the end, they all come together to tell us what the hell is going on, though in my opinion, it was a tad bit more complicated than it had to be.
The Nice Guys is one of the best I’ve seen so far this year. It has some odd moments and there is a vague attempt to make this a “whodunnit” type of murder mystery. There just aren’t many peripheral characters, which makes it fairly obvious who is behind it all, but these are small grievances. This was a great buddy cop movie that felt unique amidst a summer full of superheroes and sequels.
Yet Another Pixar Success
Ever since the 1995 release of Toy Story, Pixar has been synonymous with high-quality animated films, but in recent years, the quality has faltered a bit and for me, their films are no longer all “must watches”, resulting in me skipping such offerings as Cars 2 and Monsters University. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to see their newest release this summer but thanks to a free private screening, I watched and was pleasantly surprised by Finding Dory.
This newest Pixar entry picks up a year after the events of Finding Nemo with Dory now living with Marlin and Nemo. One day she has a flashback of her parents and is determined to find them with help from her friends. Unfortunately, they become separated as Dory ends up in the Marine Life Institute she believes her parents are in, with Marlin and Nemo on the outside trying to get in to rescue Dory as she searches for her parents within the institute. While not as impactful or emotional (pun intended) as last summer’s Pixar hit Inside Out, Dory provided plenty of laughs, heart string tugging and fun moments.
The Sci-Fi Actioner
It feels like summer movies would be incomplete without a big budget action sci-fi flick with impressive special effects and explosions. And no, I am not talking about Independence Day: Resurgence, a movie I opted not to see in theaters. Marking the 50th anniversary of the original series, we received the newest Star Trek entry this year with Star Trek Beyond, which I did a full review of previously.
Beyond finds the crew of the USS Enterprise led to a planet where they are promptly ambushed and their ship destroyed. Stranded and separated from the rest of the crew, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and previous crash survivor Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) must work together to rescue Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and the rest of the surviving crew from the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) and then stop him from unleashing a deadly weapon upon the Federation.
While it might not have been exactly what the Trek-purists wanted, Beyond was incredibly fun and full of high-caliber action, amazing special effects and great chemistry amongst the crew, making this a summer blockbuster through and through. Add in the great character moments, on-point comic relief and solid performances from the entire cast and Beyond was easily one of the better big budget blockbusters of the summer.
The Outrageous Raunchy Comedy
It is fairly typical to get a comedy aimed at adults, though quality ones seem to be few and far between. This summer however, we received one of the most ridiculous, over-the-top, offensive and raunchy comedies I have ever seen. It pushed boundaries, aimed to offend just about every group of people, and yet it contained a loftier message than I thought possible. I am of course referring to Sausage Party.
Sausage Party follows grocery store food (and other products) and shows us that they are all living and have their own personalities, much like the toys in Toy Story. In this world, food looks forward to being chosen by the gods (i.e. people), whom they believe take them to a glorious afterlife, though that version of the afterlife differs from food to food. However, one of the hot dogs, Frank (Seth Rogen), learns the truth that all they receive is a grisly death when the gods consume them and now he is on a mission to inform his fellow grocery products, all the while avoiding the jacked up Douche (Nick Kroll) that is out to kill him and his love interest, the hot dog bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig).
The concept is absolutely ridiculous, as is the humor. Additionally, most of the foods/products represent certain stereotypes associated with them (the bagel is Jewish, the Douche is a douche, the taco is Mexican), and largely represent certain belief structures and populations in the real world, serving as a way to hold a mirror up to our society and show us how silly some of our hatred towards each other can be. It is simultaneously clever and offensive and for a movie that contains a massive and “graphic” food orgy, its moral is not too dissimilar from the earlier Zootopia, as it is about getting past our differences. I am not really a fan of Seth Rogen’s style of humor but this is still easily one of the most unique cinematic experiences I had this summer.
Overall, this summer had some ups and downs in film. Even though there were some disappointments, flops and a flood of sequels, it wasn’t all bad as there were still some quality movies that came out. We had a little something for everyone with the big superhero blockbuster, the sci-fi actioner, the buddy cop flick, the animated kid’s movie and the offensive comedy.
So instead of focusing on what didn’t work over the summer, how about we remember the good ones that came out and the great moments they gave us, such as the cute baby Dory, the USS Enterprise blasting “Sabotage” from the Beastie Boys, or Spider-Man’s triumphant debut in the MCU. It may not have been the biggest summer for movies but there was still a heck of a lot of fun to be had.
Andy Snyder is a writer and regular contributor for Happy Dragon Pictures. He loves video games, films from all over the world, screenwriting and kittens.