Greenberg at Green Hills: summer movies in review

Josh Hamburger

Now that Labor day has come and gone, classes are back in session and Commodore football continues to try their hardest to win some games, we can say that summer has officially closed, which means another blockbuster movie season is in the books. By way of introduction, my name is Jeff, and I’ll be your Vanderbilt Hustler film review correspondent this year, trekking down to Green Hills and the Belcourt so you don’t have to, letting you know which movies disappointed and which ones get two anchors down (that’s a good thing here). Without further ado, here’s summer 2016 in review:

Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)

The summer blockbuster season started off strong with Marvel’s thirteenth entry into their cinematic universe since Iron Man kicked it off back in 2008. Although Captain America is supposedly the main character in this one, Civil War feels like as much of an Avengers film as Age of Ultron (2015) did. Its double-digit ensemble cast becomes a bit cumbersome to manage at times, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo make up for it with great dialogue and climactic set pieces of the type we’ve come to expect from Marvel. The film attempts somewhat successfully to dabble in certain recent political debates, but on both this front and in terms of action it fails to live up to its predecessor Winter Soldier (2014).

Verdict: Anchor down for this one. It’s worth catching on FX in a few months.

The Nice Guys (May 20, 2016)

 I didn’t know what to expect from a Ryan Gosling-Russell Crowe comedic duo, but Shane Black’s buddy cop 70’s period piece ranks as one of my favorites of the year. Crowe and Gosling play like a modern day Abbott and Costello dropped into the world of LA Confidential as they attempt to solve an old fashioned murder mystery that is nothing like what it seems. Seriously, I never thought the guys from Drive and Gladiator could be so funny, but I laughed out loud throughout the movie.  Brought to life by incredible costume design and a perfect soundtrack, this is one you might not have heard of yet but definitely have to check out.

Verdict: Two anchors down. Get that On Demand rental and watch it as many times as you can in a 24 hour period.

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27, 2016)

After 2014’s Days of Future Past, I finally thought I had figured out how all the X-Men movies fit together. Apocalypse took that mental timeline and cut it into bits. Another comic series, this one has been around since 2000 and may finally be starting to buckle under its own weight, even with Hugh Jackman’s metal skeleton holding it up. With Jackman’s last one, Wolverine 3, set to debut next year, we may get one more breath of fresh air before the series has to take a serious look at itself. Some good character acting with less than stellar action.

Verdict: The anchor is touching the water on this one but it’s definitely not down. If you’re a fan go watch it. If not, you could probably pass.

Warcraft: The Beginning (June 10, 2016)

I had to do a double take when I looked this movie up again on IMDB, because when I saw it back in June it was just called “Warcraft”. The tacked on subtitle means that we’re set for a sequel, which can only mean more hasty character development and poor dialogue. I actually enjoyed this movie, but that might be because I watched it with two avid Warcraft fans, and I’m a sucker for fantasy. If you get the chance to dubiously stream it like I did, and if you like swordfights and magic spells, you might want to give it a try. Otherwise…

Verdict: Anchor up. Sail away from Azeroth and back to Nashville.

Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24, 2016)

I liked the original Independence Day (1996) as a kid. I remember watching the VHS on a large projector TV. I remember Will Smith punching an alien in the face and saying “Welcome to Earth.” I remember Bill Pullman giving the best speech of the ‘90s, an audio clip that this film’s producers used in the trailer for Resurgence to rope me into seeing the worst movie of the summer. Sure, the original was campy and might not hold up completely in 2016, but I can still watch it as a good piece of ‘90s schlock. But once director Roland Emmerich released the abysmal White House Down (2013), I should have known that he had devolved completely into hackneyed cliché. Jeff Goldbum, Brent Spiner, and Bill Pullman return in this movie so all is not lost, but they should really let this franchise go quietly into the night.

Verdict: Two anchors up. Sail away so your ship doesn’t get blown up by aliens.

Our Kind of Traitor (July 1, 2016)

Adapted from one of novelist John Le Carre’s more recent works, this spy flick sees Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Spectre) and Ewan McGregor (Star Wars, Trainspotting) travel to exotic locales and hang out with Russian mobsters as they rush to help Stellan Skarsgaard get his family to London. I was one for two with Le Carre material coming in. I hated Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011), and I loved The Night Manager (2016). This one fits somewhere in the middle. It has an intriguing story with good tension and slow paced thrills. It’s an import from Britain and you can definitely tell.

Verdict: Anchor Down. You’ll probably see this in a Red Box near you pretty soon, but it deserves better.

The Infiltrator (July 15, 2016)

The Departed meets Narcos meets Sicario in this drama by director Brad Furman. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle) shines as a U.S. Customs agent who goes into deep cover as a soldier in the US drug war against the Colombian cartels, but Benjamin Bratt steals the show as cartel higher-up Roberto Alcaíno. The chemistry between the two makes this film work, complete with solid performances by the supporting cast.

Verdict: Anchor Down for this one. Watch it on Thursday night if you’re too tired to head to Tin Roof.

Café Society (July 15, 2016)

Perhaps it’s because Woody Allen’s writing and directing appeals directly to my cultural identity. Perhaps it’s because I saw this film in Woodstock, New York, a town whose citizens could serve as stand-ins for the type of characters Allen puts in his movies. Regardless, this romantic comedy was one of my favorites of the summer. I actually both laughed and cried. Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Social Network) has one of his funniest roles yet, while Kristen Stewart (Twilight) has what might be described as a breakout performance. Steve Carell and Blake Lively round out the cast as Allen creates detailed and hilarious caricatures of life in Los Angeles and New York City.

Verdict: Two anchors down. This movie was probably at the Belcourt, which means it’ll probably be there again. Go see it.

Star Trek Beyond (July 22, 2016)

I saw this movie in the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater at the National Air and Space Museum in DC, so it was about as spacey as I could get while staying on Earth. This is the Star Trek movie I’ve been waiting for since 2009 when Chris Pine and his crew first went where no man has gone before. Beyond is the first of the new Trek movies to feel more like an extended episode of the show than a standard action movie. Director Justin Lin (Fast and Furious 7) takes over for JJ Abrams and doesn’t miss a beat in upping the action, upping the character relationships and most importantly upping the undercurrent of philosophical musing that characterized the original series.

Verdict: Two anchors down. This movie is still in theaters and you should go see it right away.

Jason Bourne (July 22, 2016)

“Comforting” is not a word I would normally associate with an action thriller, but when a franchise has taken such a long hiatus — it’s been 9 years since the last proper Bourne film — it feels good to see Matt Damon back at his old antics without skipping a beat. Everyone is a little older, and all the technology is a little fresher, but when that Moby song kicks in for the end credits, you know what you’ve just seen, and you ought to be satisfied. This movie does what it has to do: action and intrigue since 2002.

Verdict: Anchor Down. This is one more movie to tack onto those Thanksgiving action movie marathons on cable.

Suicide Squad (August 5, 2016)

Ah yes, finally we get to Suicide Squad. Watching this movie was like taking LSD at a My Chemical Romance concert: disjointed, loud, colorful and dark, but in that teen-angsty sort of way. It’s not as bad as your friends will say it is (they’re just jumping on the bandwagon), but it’s definitely not as good as it could have been. Will Smith does his best as Deadshot to keep the film moving in the right direction, but even he can’t stop me from cringing every time that woman from How to Get Away with Murder comes into frame. Also, they named a soldier in the movie Rick Flag. Are you kidding me?

Verdict: Anchor up. You can get the same aesthetic listening to Panic! At the Disco while visiting your local Hot Topic, and you wouldn’t have to shell out ten bucks to do it.

That’s a wrap for the summer. See you all next time.