The Harbinger Online

Summer Roundup

The remaining summer blockbusters are finally making their way out of theaters as the fall movie season takes over, but the summer of 2009 won’t soon be forgotten in the minds of cinema lovers. With a very strong opening, a disappointing but high-grossing middle and positively fantastic ending, this was definitely one for the record books.

Star Scale  |Stay Home *| |Rental at Best **| |See It Soon ***| |Instant Classic****|

Star Trek – Like last year’s “Iron Man,” the “Star Trek” reboot blasted the summer off at warp speed, providing a pitch-perfect, sci-fi thrill ride with astounding visuals, clever humor, an articulate, well-crafted story, lovable characters and awesome action. Accessible to both newcomers and veteran trekkies alike, the best “Trek” yet walks the thin line of staying faithful to the series and appealing to the general public. This one will live long and prosper indeed.

***1/2 out of ****

Terminator Salvation – The critically scorned fourth entry into the “Terminator” series sure got a bad rep, but in my opinion those criticisms were absolutely undeserved. Most critics and some of the general public couldn’t seem to connect with this post-judgment day installation (which Arnie the Guvenator is decidedly absent from), yet I found it to be a worthy addition to the “Terminator” films, even if it does go in a new direction. Full of highly explosive action, well-done thrills and dazzling special effects, “Salvation” reinforces the series’s excellent reputation, and will hopefully receive rightful recognition in the home market.

*** out of ****

Drag Me To Hell – Successful comedic horror movies are few and far between, but “Drag Me To Hell” manages to provide nearly as many laughs as it does scares. Fans of low-budget, old school horror flicks are in for a treat with this one, which had me surprised and shaking one minute then laughing hysterically the next. While it gets a bit too over-the-top in the last act, nothing can take away from its absurd, delightfully self-indulgent entertainment value, making it one of the most fun horror movies in ages.

*** out of ****

Up – Pixar did it once again with their most recent masterpiece. More emotionally involving than the majority of live action dramas, “Up” brings out the child-like wonder and awe in viewers of all ages. Enchanting, beautiful, and 100 percent heartfelt, this is one of Pixar’s most genius pieces yet.

***1/2 out of ****

The Hangover – This bachelor party gone awry has already become a widely quoted piece in pop culture, and rightly so, as it’s the most consistently hilarious film since “Step Brothers” and the funniest movie of the year so far. I’m sure it’ll be syndicated endlessly on television within a couple years, achieving legendary status as one of those immortal gut-busters that everyone needs to have seen. As the highest-grossing R-rated comedy to date, “The Hangover” exemplifies raunchy entertainment at its finest.

***1/2 out of ****

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Before its release, the “Transformers” sequel topped my most anticipated list of this summer’s blockbusters. However, after seeing it, I was more than a little disappointed. Compared to the impressive first film, the action and special effects were even more mind-blowing, but the writing and dialogue got much worse. The weirdest part, however, is that despite not being a good movie and its critical failure, “Revenge of the Fallen” still managed to earn over $400 million dollars domestically, making it the 9th highest grossing film of all time in the U.S.

** out of ****

Public Enemies – As the hyped-up crime epic of the summer, and starring the ever-dependable Johnny Depp, my hopes were high for “Public Enemies,” but once again they weren’t met. Not to say this is a bad movie, because it was actually quite entertaining, with Depp giving another fully engaging, outstanding performance; it just could’ve been much better. Some intense shootouts and a well-told narrative are marred by the HD handheld camera cinematography, although “Public Enemies” is still a cops and robbers tale worth catching.

*** out of ****

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – The sixth installment in the magical “Harry Potter” films is appropriately darker than its forerunners, and one of the best in the series yet, but far too many important details were cut out. This leaves audiences who haven’t read the book somewhat perplexed, since lots of time that should’ve been spent on elaborating the meaning of certain plot points is instead spent on furthering trifling teen wizard romances. While this entry uses a tad too much of the “Twilight” young love formula, it does have a more mature “Empire Stikes Back”-like mood that absolutely manages to deliver the spellbinding thrills.

*** out of ****

The Hurt Locker – An action-thriller about an American bomb squad on the streets of Baghdad, “The Hurt Locker” is the most realistically visceral and exciting movie of the summer. No character is ever safe from death, so every shootout, chase sequence and especially each bomb defusing is edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. Films about the Iraq War haven’t been that great so far, but this is the first to successfully hit the mark dead on, and without a doubt the best dramatization of the war yet.

***1/2 out of ****

District 9 – Very little was known about “District 9″ prior to its release, but it unexpectedly turned out to be the surprise hit of the summer. An instant sci-fi classic, it begins as what seems like a real documentary and then transitions into a fascinating blockbuster actioner about half way through. With its astonishing special effects, creative sci-fi storytelling and stunning set pieces, “District 9″ is the best science fiction flick in quite some time.

***1/2 out of ****

Inglourious Basterds – My pick for best movie of the summer, “Inglourious Basterds” is Quentin Tarantino’s latest masterpiece, a war film unlike any other. With the feeling of a classic revenge western and the kind of audacity that would make even the Coen brothers blush, it should be illegal to ignore filmmaking this radical. To put it simply, “Basterds” is entertainment at its purest, and was the most fun to be had in the cinema all summer.

**** out of ****

If you haven’t seen either of them yet, there’s still time to catch the summer’s two best films, “Inglourious Basterds” and “District 9,” during their theatrical run. If you missed any of the rest of these, make sure to check them out when they arrive on DVD (except for “Transformers,” of course). In the meantime, the fall/winter movie season is bursting at the seams with potential knockouts, so head on over to your nearest cineplex and start watching.

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Alex Lamb

Alex Lamb joined Harbinger his freshman year and became East's resident film critic. He also worked his way up from being a videographer on the Harbinger Online during its rebirth in 2009 to the convergence editor his senior year. He graduated in 2012 and still writes movie reviews, only now at the University of Kansas, where he is double majoring in Film and Media Studies and Journalism. He plans to become a movie director. Read Full »

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