Courtesy of A24

The Best, Worst and Most Surprising Movies of the Summer

1) What was the best movie you saw this summer? Lev Akabas: My second viewing of Avengers: Infinity War. Seriously, that movie is still the topic of a good chunk of my film-related conversations nearly three months after its release, and there’s rarely a dull moment in it, even on the rewatch. If I had to pick a favorite from the summer, though, it would be Bo Burnham’s wholesome Eighth Grade, which manages to depict how Generation Z adolescents hide behind their social media personalities without portraying its subjects judgmentally. Ashley Davila: While marketing for many action movies uses the term “epic” to describe every stunt and globe trotting adventure, few movies are deserving of the descriptor.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Mission: Impossible — Fallout Wrapup

I’ve often made what I now consider the mistake of lumping the Mission: Impossible movies in with franchises like Fast & Furious and Transformers — what I might call “guilty pleasures,” though the last couple Transformers haven’t even been pleasures — but that’s not a fair evaluation. I don’t feel guilty at all about loving Mission: Impossible — Fallout. It’s more John Wick than Skyscraper, which is to say it combines its breathtaking action sequences with, let’s say, consistently acceptable and somewhat believable storylines. Yes, MI6 has some issues, but an outstanding cast, iconic score and solid directing from Christopher McQuarrie turn what would have been a just a good stunt movie into a truly gripping action thriller. Fallout is absolutely worth seeing, if only to try and catch a glimpse of Tom Cruise’s humanity in that shot where he broke his ankle.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Ant-Man and the Wasp Aims Small but Hits Big

In superhero movies, saving the world has become the equivalent of drinking cough syrup: excruciating, repetitive, ultimately necessary and, dare I say, boring? On one hand, there is no better way to raise stakes or unify disparate groups of people; when the fate of the world is at risk, even major ideological differences can be pushed aside for the sake of ensuring survival. But if this trope is repeated too many times, that sense of urgency can quickly give way to leisure. When the stakes are repeatedly raised, the risks feel disingenuine and deceitful, because the on-screen peace and/or carnage we know will ultimately be reversed in the future. Peyton Reed was surely aware this fatigue as he directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s third film of 2018, Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Bites Off More Than It Can Chew

To appropriate Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) famous line from 1993’s Jurassic Park, Universal Studios’ executives were so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a sequel series to Steven Spielberg’s hit dino film that they never stopped to think about whether they should have. Yet in Hollywood, when there are more explanations for why a film bombs at the box office than why it exists in the first place, even a sacred fossil like the Jurassic Park franchise is not allowed a graceful passing. In 2015, the nostalgic yet predictable Jurassic World was released, and roaring into screens three years later is Fallen Kingdom. Thanks to director J.A. Bayona’s chilling oversight (if there was ever to be a horror movie with dinos to be made, this would be the one) and a fresh setting to ground the monstrous conflict (the saga has finally moved on from malfunctioning theme parks and their clueless supervisors), this sequel is a marked improvement over its predecessor. However, like its featured hybrid dinosaur the Indoraptor, Fallen Kingdom’s 128 minute runtime is unevenly split amongst the goals it sets out to achieve, and its attempts at complexity and multi-layering come off as convoluted.

Courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios

It’s Incredible Too

The Incredibles came out on November 5, 2004 — I was six. Since that date I have started and finished elementary, middle and high school and gone away to college. Last Thursday, though, I, in a theater full of adults, was six again with just one big, red letter “i.” I was Ego finally tasting Ratatouille’s titular dish. Every layer of maturity I thought would float me above the draw of a 14-year-old animated movie’s sequel was shattered the instant that iconic “da da DA da daaaah” filled the theater. I was nostalgically excited when Star Wars came back, but that excitement’s become the cause of fatigue.

Courtesy of LucasFilm

Solo: An Unnecessary Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story’s production was so troubled, it is a miracle that the film even got made. Announced in 2015 to lukewarm reception from fans who believed that any attempt at explaining the smuggler’s backstory would do injustice to the character’s enigma, Phil Lord and Chris Miller were announced as directors but were fired after filming nearly two-thirds of the movie, citing “creative differences” with Lucasfilm. Ron Howard was quickly brought on and, in under eleven months, re-shot almost 70 percent of the film and miraculously finished it in time for its May release date. Yet perhaps this unconventional path to the big screen is fitting for a character like Han Solo; a rebel before Jyn Erso could utter the word in Rogue One, he was never known to follow the rules and had a knack for getting himself into tight situations before escaping or finding success in the end. Sadly, despite Solo’s underdog status, it is never quite able to beat the odds stacked against it.

Sophie Zheng | Sun Sketch Artist

Avengers: Infinity War Roundtable

What was your favorite moment from the movie? Lev Akabas: Every single time that Thor called Rocket “Rabbit.” Also the ending. I know some may criticize it for taking the easy way out with a cliffhanger or exploiting cheap emotion, but it was also genuinely surprising. I’ve been consistently entertained by Marvel for the past ten years, but truly surprised? It’s been a while.

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johannson) prepare for battle in Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers: Infinity War Goes to Infinity… But Not Beyond

Though Marvel announced Avengers: Infinity War in October 2014, in many ways the title for the 19th installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a long time coming. Yes, the film is loosely based on Jim Starlin’s 1991 comic The Infinity Gauntlet (and its subsequent sequel The Infinity War) but even more so, the title is indicative of Marvel’s ongoing battle to tell cohesive and compelling crossover stories as its roster of heroes exponentially expands with each film. This conflict began back in 2008 when Nick Fury uttered to Tony Stark, “You’ve become a part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”

With Infinity War, you can tell that its directors, the Russo Brothers, are trying to live out Thanos’ goal by making this film “balanced as all things should be.” Yet in their egalitarian attempts to give every character and plot thread a chance in the spotlight, Infinity War both does too much and consequently not enough. In its best moments, it is able to pull off the impossible, drawing together different franchises for a smorgasbord of action, spectacle and adventure.

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The Sun’s Top 10 Superhero Movies of All Time

Avengers: Infinity War comes out in three days. I’ll say it again. Avengers: Infinity War comes out in three days. It’s a remarkable time to be alive, to see the culmination of a full decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies – one could argue the culmination of thousands of years of human civilization. It’s a perfect time for The Sun’s Arts and Entertainment section to count down our list of the top 10 superhero movies of all time in advance of what is surely the most highly anticipated comic book movie ever.

Courtesy of Amisk Ace Entertainment

Mind Game at Cornell Cinema: A Wild Ride

This week, I had the privilege of being invited by Cornell Cinema to preview the film Mind Game, which will be screening this Friday and Saturday. Mind Game is a Japanese movie from 2004, directed by Masaaki Yuasa and Kôji Morimoto. It’s received critical praise from festivals around the world, but has seen limited release to general viewers. Over the past couple years, though, it’s finally been filtering into theaters, so the chance to see it here at Cornell is truly a rare experience. And what an experience it is!