DVD Patrol: Our favorite summer movies of 2011

We come to the end of another magic time called “Summer Movie Season.” This is also the Toddster’s favorite time of year when Hollywood rolls out all of the top movies. It was pretty much a top notch season of a lot of hits and some misses. On this one, my team is back from a very busy summer, but they each found time to see a movie or two and I asked them to identify which one they liked the best.  Before we get started, I have to welcome the rookie to the team. Hello, Julian! I understand that not only does he like camping – and I mean a lot – he also likes movies too. So let’s see what Julian and the rest of the gang has. (The Toddster will throw his two cents in too.)

BRIAN GOLDEN

“Fright Night”

All right, it’s sad (and even a little pathetic), I know. And the only thing I can say in my defense is that it’s been an extremely busy summer for this particular Evening Sun staff writer.

I haven’t been to the movies this summer (gasp).

Which is why, when informed of this, our latest team-up with the Toddster, I had to pause for a moment. How does one go about writing on their favorite summer movie of 2011 when one hasn’t stepped foot in a movie theater?

Thankfully, our esteemed editor gave me permission to pick a summer blockbuster that I’d like to see and – hopefully – will have a chance to in the near future. My choice? Director Craig Gillespie’s remake of the 1985 horror-comedy classic “Fright Night.”

Typically, I’m not a big fan of Hollywood’s recent fascination with the “reboot” concept, and I don’t think I’m alone on this. And remakes of “The Karate Kid,” “Conan the Barbarian” and “Clash of the Titans” support my inherent dislike for the process. “Fright Night,” however (the original was a favorite of mine growing up), looks to be a heckuva lot of fun.

The premise – from what I’ve seen of the film’s trailer and read in reviews – seems about the same, for the most part. High school kid (Anton Yelchin) suspects his neighbor is a blood-sucking creature of the night, his fellow students (among others) start disappearing and, eventually, Jerry (the neighbor, a perfect fit for actor Colin Farrell) is discovered to be an actual vampire. The question is? Can Charley (Yelchin), with the aid of supposed vampire expert Peter Vincent (a nod to horror legends Vincent Price and Peter Cushing), portrayed by David Tennant, find a way to stop Jerry from sucking the city dry?

I’ll admit, when I first heard Gillespie was behind a reboot of “Fright Night,” I had my doubts. However, once the cast had been unveiled, I found myself just a tad curious. Farrell, in particular, seems to be in his element from what I’ve seen to date, and I can honestly say this is one reboot I’m looking forward to.

Now if I could only find the time to get to the theater. Until then, I suppose I’ll have to make a quick trip to the video store and see if I can perhaps run across a copy of the original.

MELISSA STAGNARO

“Crazy Stupid Love”

As I embarked on this latest Toddster team-up, I realized something rather disturbing. Based on what I’ve seen on the big screen this summer, I have the movie-going profile of a teenage boy. At last count I’d made it to four of the biggest block busters of the season: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II”; “Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides”; “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”; and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Three of which I saw in 3D. And don’t think for a second that I was dragged to any of them against my will. My love for all-things Harry Potter is well documented, as is my adoration for the action-adventure genre, particularly those filled with witty one-liners.



Despite my hearty enjoyment of all four of the aforementioned films, I was hard pressed to give any of them my nod for “best summer movie.” For a while there, I thought I’d need to resort to “eeny-meeny-miny-moe”-ing it. But I was saved from making such an arbitrary selection by my most recent movie-going experience.

I hadn’t really heard much about “Crazy Stupid Love” before my last trip to the theater. In fact, we only saw it because it’s start time best fit our schedule. Apparently, I’ve been living under a rock, because I don’t know how I missed chatter about this romantic comedy starring the always-hilarious Steve Carell, the fabulous Julianne Moore, super-sexy Ryan Gosling and a host of other talented actors like Emma Stone. There are also a few cameos (and more than cameos) by the likes of Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon and Josh Groban.

When nerdy forty-something Cal Weaver (Carell) learns his wife of 25 years (Moore) has been unfaithful, he wallows in despair until lady’s man Jacob Palmer (Gosling) takes him under his wing and remakes him in his own image. As you can imagine, hilarity ensues. The result is a laugh-out-loud comedy peppered with witty dialog and sometimes slap stick humor that reminds us true love is possible, soul mates do exist and that sometimes we don’t know what we are looking for until we find it. And in this movie, as in life, the greatest wisdom and insight sometimes comes from the most unexpected of sources.

Not only was “Crazy Stupid Love” the best movie I saw this summer, but it’s also going on my list of best movies of all time. It’s a great flick. Go see it. You’ll laugh so hard you cry, and leave with your faith in love, friendship and family restored.

JULIAN KAPPEL

“Super-8”

As I played through each of the movies I’d seen this summer, I realized this assignment might be tougher than I thought. It wasn’t because I hadn’t seen anything good. In fact, quite to the contrary I enjoyed almost all of the usual blockbusters whether it be superheroes, pirates, wizards or apes.

However, after some small debate in my mind, it hit me ... aliens. Well, one alien a.k.a. one sweet psychic, sub-terranean, super alien!

“Super-8,” which was written and directed by J.J. Abrams, known best for his work on “Lost,” “Cloverfield” and the “Star Trek” re-boot, and produced by Steven Spielberg will take you on an incredibly emotional journey from beginning to end.

The story centers around a group of pre-teens in 1979 who, while filming a movie at a nearby train station, witness a horrific collision which derails the train and releases a strange creature. Missing people, stolen electronics and strange holes in the ground both confuse and scare the occupants of the small nearby town. The Sheriff, and father of one of the pre-teens, attempts to calm the town but realizes other forces are at work when the army appears to investigate and evacuate the town.

 The story is told from the view of either Sheriff Jackson Lamb or his son Joe and follows the two as they each attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the strange train wreck. Besides the obvious sci-fi theme, there is also a heart-felt message of family, friendship and acceptance.

Honestly, this movie took me right back to the good old Steven Spielberg days. “E.T.,” “Close Encounters,” “Indiana Jones” and “Jurassic Park” each kept you on the edge of your seat with an amazing plot, thrilling moments that would stop your heart, terrifying moments that would re-start your heart and shock you off the edge of your seat, all with undertones that could make you cry your eyes out while smiling like a fool. “Super 8” was the same for me and that is why it is my Numero Uno pick for the summer of 2011.

JEFF GENUNG

“X-Men: First Class”

After the mess that was “X-Men III: The Last Stand,” well, I was ready for it to be their last stand. Hesistant as I was to dip back into that oeuvre, the previews for “First Class” looked enticing – and back to the “real” blue and yellow uniforms! The comic book geek in me intrigued, I was not disappointed in the theater when this summer blockbuster rolled around in June. I never thought anyone could top Patrick Stewart (my beloved Capt. Picard) as mutant leader Professor Charles Xavier, but James McAvoy takes the role and runs with it in this prequel to the X-Men series. Set in 1962, Xavier is just beginning to reach out to the genetic mutants who will one day make up his crime-fighting superhero team, including a surprising ally – Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), who eventually morphs into the evil nemesis Magneto, played so brilliantly by Ian McKellen in the earlier (or is it later?) films. Fassbender is a mesmerizing find here, and it’s fascinating to watch how his friendship – and philosophical differences – with Professor X evolve into the blood feud we know it will be. “First Class” has a stellar cast who all get a chance to shine – Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Bacon (that helmet looked uncomfortable) and my word, is that Betty Draper I see? January Jones, though other critics panned her, was appropriately icy (wonder where she learned that) as mutant Emma Frost. Reveling in its 60s vibe, with a tricked-out groovy sub and weaved-in Bay of Pigs plot, “X-Men: First Class” injects new energy into a tired franchise. Here’s hoping for a sequel – there are lots more mutants out there!

TODD CAMPBELL

“Thor”

I always say that the proof is in the pudding. OK, maybe I don’t always say that, but everyone knows I’m a sucker for a good superhero movie and they hit the home run with this one. We begin with the ancient city of Asgard ruled by the all powerful Odin (Anthony Hopkins) which has ruled the nine realms and has been at peace for many years. Something has reared its head and the ancient enemies of the Asgardians called the Frost Giants have invaded Odin’s castle to find a device that might tip the battle in their favor. Odin and his guards quickly send them packing but Odin’s son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), thinks they need to go after them to teach them the error of their ways. Odin tells Thor this would be a bad idea and it would spark another war. Thor doesn’t agree so he decides to go anyway with his allies Sif (Jaime Alexander), Loki (Tom Huddleston), and the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadonobu Asano, and Josh Dallas). The group goes into their enemies’ camp and is making some headway fighting the giants. 

As powerful as they are, the Giants start to overwhelm them and Odin has to step in ... this angers Odin and because of Thor’s rash actions, he strips him of his power and his ancient hammer, Mjolnir. Thor lands on Earth and is found by scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her group who are working on theories of other dimensions.They’re not sure what to make of him at first, but suffice to say the guy is not used to being in these surroundings. He’s taken to the hospital and he doesn’t exactly hit it off with the folks on Earth. Jane knows Thor is the key to her theories being right so she takes him with her and they try to help each other. Back home, Odin falls ill and needs to complete his annual sleepcycle called “The Odinsleep” which allows him to replenish his power.

Loki uses this as an oppertunity to claim the throne and to use another device called “The Destroyer” to Earth and finally kill Thor once and for all. Thor has had some time to get to know the people on Earth and has found them to be extremely kind and generous. The Destroyer arrives to kill him. He tries to plead for the Earth people, but it just destroys anything in its way. Will Thor be able to save them and find a way to get his power back?

Marvel Comics has been on a streak of late and by producing their own movies they don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves. The movies pretty much stick to the rule of thumb based on the story from the comics, with a hint or two of creative license thrown to make it work for the movie. Hemsworth has found the role that has made him a star. Portman was delightful and Huddleston as Loki was just plain good with the evilness he gives off. The rest of the cast and special effects were incredible as well. Director Kenneth Branaugh had the right combination of myth and legend that made this a great story. Thor returns next summer in “The Avengers” and is signed up for two more sequels. Can’t wait.

Two of these movies will be featured again in the next few weeks because they will be coming out on DVD. Also, more TV stuff will be coming to the Patrol and the new fall TV season is almost upon us too. The Toddster will be even busier, too. The crew will be back with another teamup as well very soon. Catch you next time!

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