Yes, that’s right, good films. Not those aiming for an Oscar-nomination, art house fare, movies that challenge you. We’re talking about fun summer films. Films for date night or family night or ones that the teenagers can see multiple times. Studios release a barrage of summer entertainment meant to please the biggest audience they can attract.
The genres that get a lot of summer releases are horror, action/comic book, animation and comedy. This summer has seen some great examples of crowd-pleasers in a few of those categories. One such film, “Thor: Love and Thunder,” plays at The Nugget this week.
Australian director and writer Taika Waititi continues his fresh approach to the superhero genre by subverting the traditional strong male hero (Chris Hemsworth’s Thor) as emotionally bereft and lovelorn. Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) returns as the new Thor. She is now wielding the hammer and saves the day. Will there be romance between the two?
There's a poignant prologue that sets up the new villain and gives Christian Bale an emotional arc to work with. The feisty Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) keeps the Thors from too much introspection. And to inject some much-needed lightness, there’s a little nudity and a hilarious turn by Russell Crowe (Zeus).
The first film Waititi directed, "Thor: Ragnarok," was more fun. This one has a little ethical complexity and creates new worlds. Waititi brings some comedic kick in his role as the sidekick Korg. It’s a Marvel film that aims to put a spin on superhero tropes, and it’s both entertaining and well-acted. “Thor: Love and Thunder” may not be a great film, but it’s a great summer movie.
I think we can all agree that “Top Gun: Maverick” was also an example of that great summer film. Perhaps “Bullet Train” starring Brad Pitt will be another thrill ride for this summer. I don’t think there’s been a breakout comedy film so far, and the animation category also hasn’t had a standout. It’s worth mentioning a few book adaptations, though not qualifying for the summer movie theme, are examples of good films and worth seeking out.
"Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris" (in theaters and available on Amazon and other streaming platforms) is a good British dramedy. Set in 1940s London, a cleaning lady decides to use her widow's pension on a life-changing splurge: a Christian Dior gown. Leslie Manville gives her character some emotional range, and the supporting characters are delightful. Jason Isaac (Archie) is a bit awkward in his portrayal of cad-about-town to heart-of-gold neighbor to admiring love interest.
British director Anthony Fabian doesn't sugarcoat the less-glamourous aspects of our character's life, but the film could use a judicious trim. There's too much time spent walking and talking and perhaps one less sideline character would’ve helped the pacing. Despite the focus on the garbage piled in the streets in Paris (worker's strike), the time spent in the Dior studio is the reason to see the film.
The best-selling novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” has been turned into a moving murder mystery. The cast is great, and the soundtrack and setting envelope you in this Southern Gothic tale. If you’re a fan of the book, your mind will fill-in more depth and nuance to the backstory and marsh setting than the film supplies. What could’ve been a serious misstep (awful old-age makeup) was rectified by director Olivia Newman. She cast older actors to play the leads for the final scenes. Sony Classics is giving the film a wide release in theaters but there will likely be a streaming option in a few weeks. Daisy Edgar-Jones gives a nuanced performance as Kya. She’s the reason to see the film.
Horror films did good business this summer. That’s a genre I steer clear of. I did venture (with much trepidation) to see “Nope.” Director Jordan Peele has taken the summer movie and given it a social commentary twist, but more on that when it screens here in Telluride.
Drinks with Films ratings: 2 pints of Asgardian beer in a massive manly mug out of 5 for “Thor: Love and Thunder”
2 ½ flutes of French champagne, while wearing your most stylish outfit out of 5 for “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”
2 ½ cups of homeopathic tea steeped from marsh nettles out of 5 for “Where the Crawdads Sing”