In all honesty, no one will ever remember 2015 as a particularly noteworthy or breakthrough summer for movies. Sure, Jurassic World became the highest grossing movie globally ever, and females managed to break into the world of blockbusters, from Mad Max: Fury Road to Inside Out to Pitch Perfect 2. For every one of those movies, however, there was an equally as misogynistic one (I’m looking at you Entourage). This summer also saw the disastrous Fantastic Four reboot and yet another unwatchable Adam Sandler movie in Pixels—plus, whoever said we needed to continue the Terminator franchise was sadly mistaken. But every summer sees a few precious gems to save us from the maddening cycle of studio blockbusters. From coming-of-age stories to harrowing tales of life and death, this summer was no exception.
THE END OF THE TOUR
James Ponsoldt’s fourth feature, coming after 2013’s Sundance-hit The Spectacular Now proves the filmmaker has mastered the art of storytelling. The End of the Tour is based on the true account of Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky’s time spent interviewing David Foster Wallace during Wallace’s book tour for his breakout novel, Infinite Jest. Portraying Wallace is Jason Segel, the current frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor Oscar race. Segel’s nonchalant portrayal of Wallace is intriguing—the audience can’t help but be drawn to a character anyone would want to be best friends with, yet also be mesmerized by Wallace’s humbling intellect. New York Times critic A.O. Scott gave what can only be described as a rave review for The End of the Tour. “There will always be films about writers and writing, and this one is just about as good as it gets,” wrote Scott. If that doesn’t convince you, there’s also a great Mall of America cameo.
A harrowing take on fame and fortune, Amy looks inside the troubled life of singer Amy Winehouse. Most documentaries follow a similar pattern, with original content mixed in with sit-down interviews and archived footage. Amy deviates from this formula, using only footage from the time Amy was alive and overlaying the sounds of recorded interviews. In doing so, the audience gets a glimpse at the horrifying day-to-day life Winehouse faced, constantly surrounded by paparazzi, hoping to catch her doing drugs or stumbling drunk.
This Sundance darling has perhaps the most dynamic cast of the summer. From A$AP Rocky to Zoe Kravitz to Blake from Workaholics, Dope reminds its audience of how many people there are in the world that are way cooler than you. The story centers on Malcolm, a wholesome high school senior and SAT master living in a rough part of Los Angeles. He befriends a gangster (A$AP Rocky) one night, and winds up with a backpack full of drugs and a handgun. Albeit devoid of any substantial sociological perspective, the film’s strengths lie in its music-heavy background. Curated by the film’s executive producer Pharrell, the soundtrack is awesome, featuring songs from Public Enemy to Digital Underground.
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
The second coming-of-age film on this list, Me And Earl and the Dying Girl begins as a story we all can relate to; a high school boy, Greg, and his friend Earl obsess over movies and pop-culture while feeling outcasted from the rest of their adolescent society. The story turns when Greg is forced by his parents (played by Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) to befriend a girl in his class with leukemia. At face-value, Alfonso Gomez-Rajon’s film seems like a cheesy successor to last summer’s emotionally-manipulative The Fault in Our Stars, but manages to avoid this likely downfall through clever humor and smart, honest dialogue. Despite the ominous title, Greg (played by Thomas Mann) breaks the tension toward the beginning of the film when he narrates, “she survives … don’t freak out.” It’s also got a pretty great cast, from Connie Britton to Molly Shannon to the living legend Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman.
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
Okay, so you probably did see this movie. Winning the box office three weekends in a row, Straight Outta Compton is fiercely entertaining. Executive produced by NWA members themselves, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube’s partnership with Universal has been a surprise hit of the summer, mercifully beating out the big studio franchises (Fantastic Four) for the number one spot. (Ice Cube’s son plays his father in the movie, if you’re like me wondering how they got such an uncanny lookalike.) It’s not perfect, however, and has gotten a lot of flack for sugar-coating Dre’s domestic violence incidents and its overall antagonization of women. Also, why does Paul Giamatti play the same sleazy bad guy character in every movie?
HONOURABLE MENTION: TRAINWRECK
After this summer, who hasn’t heard of Amy Schumer? That picture of her on the back of a jetski with Jennifer Lawrence only cemented her hold as America’s next infatuation. Trainwreck, which she wrote and produced, is a refreshing take on the romantic comedy genre. She made Bill Hader a heartthrob, a seemingly impossible task, and showcased Lebron’s fantastic comedic talent. The best part about this movie? Tilda Swinton’s raging spray tan.
Featured Graphic by Francisco Ruela / Heights Editor