Tuesday, July 10, 2012

10 Movies for a Hot Summer Night

For most of you reading this, summer no longer means the same sort of freedom it did when we were kids. It's no longer a three month long vacation, but at least it's a vacation from television. There are only really a handful of good shows on air over the summer. The rest are all either reruns or game shows that don't really require you to watch from start to finish. For all those nights when it's too hot out to be outside with friends, or you feel too lazy to catch up on those books you meant to read, here are ten movies you can enjoy even if your A/C isn't working. 

10. (500) Days of Summer
Just do be clear, I didn't put this movie on the list because it has "summer" in the title. It's on the list because summer is the time of year when we all kick back and make a point of enjoying all of the great things we love in life, and at its heart, that's what this movie is about. It just so happens to be told through a love story about a man who falls in love with the girl of his dreams and slowly has to deal with the realization that she doesn't quite feel the same way about him. Personally, I can't think of a movie that does as good a job as this does of capturing every aspect of what it's like to fall in love, ranging from the low points of trying to understand how somebody you love doesn't love you back, to the high points of wanting to dance in the street out of sheer joy.

9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
This list would have felt a bit incomplete without a western on it, so I decided on one of the fun ones, instead of the stone cold serious ones. It came down to this and Back to the Future Part III, with that film losing out only because it's best watched as the climax to the trilogy. Butch Cassidy is perhaps one of the all time greatest buddy movies ever made. Plot-wise, it's nothing too complex. After the law gets on their tail one too many times, Butch and Sundance decide to flee to Bolivia. What it lacks in plot development, it more than makes up for with comedy. I actually bought this movie a few years ago, having never seen it before, and then wondered how I went so long having not seen it.

8. Panic Room
This is one of those great thrillers that manages to pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock, without ripping him off. (Well, if it does rip off Hitchcock, director David Fincher didn't do it in any obvious way.) I love how the premise of this movie is so simple, yet it provides so much suspense without feeling drawn out. Jodie Foster plays a mom who buys a new house with her daughter that happens to have a panic room in it. (Yes, her daughter is played by Kristen Stewart, but this was before she annoyed us by starring in all of those damn Twilight movies.) On their first night in the house, burglars break in driving mother and daughter to hide in the panic room. Unfortunately, the thing they came to steal just happens to be in the panic room, leading the burglars to try everything they can to draw them out.

7. Adventureland
I swear it's just a coincidence that this movie also happens to star Kristen Stewart. In fact, lets not focus on that. Lets focus on the rest of the cast, which includes Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Then there's also the director, Greg Mottola, who also gave us Superbad as well as a few episodes of Arrested Development. The story centers around Jesse Eisenberg's character who just graduated from college to find that the only job he could land is at an amusement park. Odds are this film will make you feel a little nostalgic for that one summer you had where you were old enough to hit up bars with your friends, but young enough that you didn't have a real-world job yet.

6. The Brothers Bloom
If you're at all excited about the upcoming sci-fi flick, Looper, you should check out writer/director Rian Johnson's previous film, The Brothers Bloom. It's a con-artist movie, so not exactly the same genre as Looper, but it will give you a feel for his slightly quirky writing style. Oh, and it's also a pretty damn fun movie. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo play Bloom and Stephen, brothers who pull off elaborate con jobs where everybody ends up feeling like they got what they wanted. When Bloom decide he wants out, Stephen talks him into one last con that involves an eccentric heiress played by Rachel Weisz, which turns into an epic globe-spanning adventure. However the scene stealer of this movie is the brothers' silent partner/explosives expert, Bang Bang, played by Rinko Kikuchi, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Babel.

5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
I felt like a Wes Anderson movie belonged on here. I picked this one for the list because underlying this story of a father bonding with a son he never knew he had is a grand, albeit bizarre, sea adventure. This is probably the most ambitious out of all of Wes Anderson's movies because it mixes his usual dysfunctional family comedy/drama with plenty of special effects and a few big action scenes. It's sort of like a summer action movie for the art house crowd.

4. Rear Window
With the heat as unbearable as it's been this summer, it kind of makes one want to just stay indoors, even when you're not watching movies. Thus, it seems appropriate to include on this list a film about a man who has to stay indoors all summer because of a broken leg. This Hitchcock classic, starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, shows off the director's skill as he's able to tell stories about several characters who share the same New York City courtyard, even though the camera never leaves Jimmy Stewart's apartment. It's all from the point of view of Jimmy Stewart's character, who spies on his neighbors out of boredom, and of course since it's a Hitchcock movie, he begins to suspect one of them of murdering his wife.

3. Inside Man
Although he might not have thought of it that way, Inside Man was such a departure from the usual Spike Lee joint that the marketing for this film downplayed Lee's role as director of this film until after it was released and performed well at the box office. This film has a brilliant multi-layered plot that starts out with a bank heist that turns into a hostage situation, but as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that there is something more complicated than just a bank heist going on. Of course, being a Spike Lee movie, race relations is a subtext that runs throughout the movie, although oddly enough it's mainly used for comic relief to alleviate the tension.

2. City of God
This Brazilian film is quite possibly one of the greatest crime movies ever made, and if you haven't seen it yet, you have no idea what you're missing out on. It follows the story of two men who grow up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. One becomes a photographer, and the other becomes a gang leader. Ze, the one who becomes the gangster, is definitely one of the more vicious characters of cinema. Not only is he terrifying when we see him as an adult, but he's also genuinely psychopathic when we see him as a kid. Rocket, the photographer, ends up becoming involved with the gangs as he covers them for the newspapers, and begins to gain their trust. It's a gritty film, but it's also filled with moments of characters enjoying life even though they're at the bottom of the ladder. In other words, it's a film that will move you, but it's not something heavy that will bring you down.

1. Die Hard: With a Vengeance
There really did have to be one big budget blockbuster movie on this list. I know a lot of people have already placed Die Hard on their list of movies to watch every Christmas, and I put the blizzard themed Die Hard 2 on my list of movies to watch in a snow storm. It only seemed right that there be a place for Die Hard: With a Vengeance on this list. Yes, it essentially just rehashes the same premise as the original Die Hard, except it takes place across a city instead of a skyscraper, but it's packaged in a way that it feels different enough. Probably because in this one we have Jeremy Irons leading John McClane around town chasing after riddles and clues. For the record, it does always bother me that they don't explain the water jug puzzle in its entirety. I know the solution, but since they skip past a few steps in the puzzle, every time I finish watching the movie, I end up reworking that puzzle just to remind myself what the solution is. 

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