2022 Summer Movie Review Round-up

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

As the summer movie season draws to a close, it’s important to look back and reflect on the films that graced theaters and streaming services in the past months. Between Nicole Kidman ads, fighter jets, and weird European accents, the cinema was back in full force this summer! General audiences came out and showed that they still enjoy going out to a theater and watching a movie up on a huge screen. Therefore, let’s assess what came out from the good to the bad to the Elvis.

Great

“Nope”

Nothing else to say about this one outside of my earlier review. I love the score and love Keke Palmer’s performance.

“Cha Cha Real Smooth”

Cooper Raiff’s sophomore feature is a somewhat corny but very sincere coming-of-age movie about trying to exist and figure out life after college in your twenties. Every character is compassionate and really cares about the other people in their lives. It was genuinely refreshing to watch a movie that does not stray far away from that premise.

Apple TV+

“Bodies Bodies Bodies”

Ever the source of online discourse, “Bodies Bodies Bodies’ ‘ was a fun satire. Lee Pace is great. Rachel Sennott is going to be one of the most talented actors working in the next decade. Any movie that knows how to effectively use Connor O’Malley and Azealia Banks’ “212” is a win in my book.

“Hustle”

It’s so fun seeing a movie set in Philly, let alone also filmed on La Salle’s campus! Adam Sandler is great. Anthony Edwards is surprisingly a good comedic actor. Seeing a training montage in Philadelphia use the hills of Manayunk/Roxborough instead of the Art Museum steps was a fun creative choice and use of the city. Before I move on, I must mention how funny it was that the airport scenes were so obviously shot in the Wells Fargo Center.

Netflix

“Fire Island”

This movie is a good, funny, heartfelt “Pride and Prejudice” adaptation. What’s not to love? It has a great soundtrack and feels like a movie about LGBTQ+ people that was actually made and written by LGBTQ+ creatives. This film is an easy summer comfort watch.

Good

“Bullet Train”

“Bullet Train” was alright! It underutilized a lot of actors like Zazie Beetz and Logan Lerman. The action and humor are pretty good. I must say though, I would love to see Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry star opposite each other in a romcom.

Sony Pictures

“Thor: Love and Thunder”

Taika Waititi returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for another Thor movie after winning a screenplay Oscar for “Jojo Rabbit” in 2019 and delivers another solid entry into this franchise. This movie knows what it is: a perfectly unserious space rock opera. While offering up an unsurprisingly great Christian Bale performance, I somewhat wish Waititi had also given the script a few more passes. It’s not bad per se, but the magic and charm of “Thor: Ragnarok” does not feel replicated here.

“Top Gun: Maverick”

“Top Gun: Maverick” was a lot of fun to watch on a huge screen and a great start to the summer movie season on Memorial Day Weekend. It felt like a classic summer blockbuster made to please big crowds and it did exactly that. I personally am not a Tom Cruise fan, but he is undeniably likely the last bonafide action movie star in Hollywood. It’s a Top Gun movie, so it might as well be a two-hour ad for the American military. Suffice to say, Cruise and Scientology received a huge payday this summer with this movie, so the real winner of the Top Gun sequel was L. Ron Hubbard.

Paramount Pictures

“Lightyear”

It was alright. I don’t have any strong feelings about this movie. The time travel plot was confusing for me personally. I’m just happy that these types of movies make money so that Pixar can keep making things like “Soul” and “Luca.”

Meh

“Elvis”

Look, I’ll be honest. I’m pretty indifferent at best regarding Elvis. I like some of his songs, but I do not like him as a person at all. I had a fine time seeing this on opening day in a Dolby Cinema theater. I am pretty sure I was the only person in my theater under the age of 40. The old women in my row looked like they had a great time though, so I love that for them. This movie is sooooo long, almost unforgivably long. Baz Luhrmann’s directing is inventive and stylized and therefore made this movie very watchable. Austin Butler’s performance is good. Tom Hanks’ performance opposite him though is absolutely abysmal—quite possibly the worst performance of his career. I finally understand now where Chet gets it. Also, this movie romanticizes a 24-year-old Elvis grooming and marrying a 14-year-old child—incredibly disgusting and reprehensible.

“The Gray Man”

“The Gray Man” is Joe and Anthony Russo’s first summer action blockbuster since “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, but this movie honestly looks way too dull to have had $200 million spent on making it. I also wish they would stop using drone tracking shots. They look like GoPro YouTube videos. Much love to all involved.

Netflix

“Jurassic World Dominion”

I can’t give a fair review for this movie. I saw it in a 4D theater and was thrown around for almost the entire two- and half-hour runtime. I remember something about locusts? I thought it was supposed to be about dinosaurs.

Bad

“Men”

This movie was simply not good. Not even in the way that a bad movie could be fun to watch. This is my formal recommendation to not watch it.

Review: “Nope”

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Editor

Spoilers Ahead

I was seven years old the first time I was face-to-face with a bear. Dusk, Leetonia Road, Tioga County. My father and I were walking on a dirt road towards our car when we noticed a dark black figure moving ahead of us. Being a child, I was paralyzed by fear. I had never seen a bear before and standing a couple hundred feet away from one felt surreal. My father had always told me how black bears were much more scared of humans than the reverse. I knew not to run away — which would trigger a predatory instinct in this animal to chase me down. Instead, the bear would take three steps, and we would take three steps. This pattern would continue until it passed my father’s truck and into the woods. I was fine, but I would never forget the feeling of being so close to this wild animal that could tear me apart so easily. Jordan Peele’s “Nope” perfectly encapsulates that same feeling by exploring the experiences of dealing with a territorial predatory animal — in this case, a UFO.

Summertime Spectacle

Writing “Nope” during the pandemic — a time where people could not watch films in theaters — Peele intended for this movie to be seen on a large screen to be truly appreciated. It was filmed using IMAX cameras and carries the hallmarks of a classic summer blockbuster. The movie may be a visual spectacle, yet the concept of spectacle also thematically drives the film. The act of capturing a spectacle for the world to see — whether it be through a wind-up camera or space-themed live show — motivates each character for better or worse. Ricky “Jupe” Jupiter (Steven Yeun) attempts to commodify the presence of a UFO by showing it off to theme park guests and ultimately meets his end doing so. The protagonists — Emerald (Keke Palmer) and OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) put their lives on the line to get the perfect “Oprah” shot of the alien and reverse their financial woes. Cinematographer Anders Holst (Michael Wincott) knowingly sacrifices his life to get a close-up shot of this creature. The inclusion of a reporter from TMZ who only cares about rumors of this phenomenon also holds incredible importance pertaining to “spectacle.” TMZ is known for distastefully chasing attention-grabbing news and images by any means — consider its handling of Kobe Bryant’s death for example. 

Living Through a “Bad Miracle”

One central question that Peele offers is “What do you call a bad miracle?” It sounds simple, but there is no simple answer. This film intends to answer it by examining how one is forced to process a “bad miracle.” The characters of the film are faced with unspeakable horrors, and the trauma of that experience profoundly affects them. A coin spit out by the alien-being pierces Otis Haywood Sr.’s (Keith David) eye, killing him in front of OJ. This cloud of grief then hangs over the protagonists throughout the film and places them in a financial position where they need to profit off a video of the UFO. Also, Jupe witnessed the “Gordy’s Home” massacre in 1998 and is shown still experiencing trauma through flashbacks. This horrifying ordeal even causes him to include mementos of that day in his own private museum. The only means by which this character can live with his trauma is by turning it into a form of spectacle. Thus, using the UFO as a focal point of a theme park live show is the only way he can face this new “bad miracle.”

Spielbergian Influences

I had the chance to attend an IMAX screening of this film which included a live conversation between Peele and Palmer, and this filmmaker specifically cited Spielberg as one of the major influences for “Nope.” While comparisons to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Jaws” are obvious, examining the possible influence of “War of the Worlds” allows one to better understand what Peele achieves with “Nope.” An interesting parallel could compare Spielberg’s exploration of post-9/11 trauma in his 2005 adaptation of “War of the Worlds” with Peele’s examination of pandemic trauma in “Nope.” Both movies attempt to examine inconceivable horror and grief through the concept of aliens violently coming down to Earth. Spielberg in “War of the Worlds” encapsulates 9/11 trauma by conveying the sheer panic and terror people felt in response to their own helplessness. Peele capitalizes on the experiences of living through the COVID-19 pandemic—as he said in an interview with GQ—by writing about a “newfound fear from this trauma:” going outside.