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Friday, August 28, 2009
  The 5 best movies of the summer
It’s the last weekend of summer, at least as far as movies go – there’s a couple of minor releases today, and I’ll be sure to check back in next week on the off chance that Halloween 2 knocks my proverbial socks off – so I figured I’d run down the five best movies I saw this summer. I should mention there’s a few films I didn’t get around to seeing this summer (I bizarrely managed to miss Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, but nothing I’ve heard about it suggests it would have made this list, though I may have to offer a mea culpa once I check it out on DVD, and I also never did see Brüno or Up). That said, here’s a list of the five best movies I saw this summer.

5. Star Trek – I’m really not a Star Trek fan, aside from a passing interest in The Next Generation when I was young, and in particular I never got into the original Kirk and Spock series. I get its appeal and I respect its place in pop culture, but it’s just not for me. So to say I was skeptical about J.J. Abrams’ revamp of the franchise is an understatement. I dug Abrams’ feature-film debut, Mission: Impossible 3, okay, but not enough to get excited about him helming a rebooted Star Trek. But Abrams’ stated preference for Star Wars growing up really lent his Trek a sense of fun that’s seemingly been absent from the franchise for a long time. I was surprised at what a blast I had watching Star Trek; the characters were great, the actors were pretty much perfect, and the action was awesome. An excellent summer blockbuster, and I’m on board for as many sequels as they want to crank out.

4. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – This summer’s real pleasant surprise for me was the adaptation of my beloved toy line/cartoon/comic series. Between the director (the guy who made Van Helsing!) and its cast (Marlon Wayans?!?!) and the apparent rushed nature of the production (it was assembled to beat the writers’ strike), I thought things looked dire for G.I. Joe. But my doubts proved unfounded, as The Rise of Cobra was a blast. It’s a great summer popcorn flick of the “turn your brain off” variety, similar to the first Transformers movie (you’ll notice the sequel is absent from this list); the action’s great and never lets up, most of the cast seems aware of what kind of movie they’re making (except for Channing Tatum in the lead as Duke, who was a stiff as a board), and the result is a good, old-fashioned sci-fi action movie about high-tech terrorists trying to take over the world. Hooray for summer!

3. The Hurt Locker – When I declared this the best movie of the summer at the beginning of this month, I obviously hadn’t seen the two remaining films on this list. But that doesn’t mean The Hurt Locker isn’t an amazing movie that everyone should see. Director Kathryn Bigelow, screenwriter Mark Boal and actors Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie prove you don’t need a big budget or a goofy high concept to make a crackerjack action picture. If entries number 1 and 2 weren’t such genuinely special movies, The Hurt Locker would be a lock for the top spot on this list.

2. Inglourious BasterdsI just raved about this one yesterday, so I won’t risk repeating myself beyond saying this movie is the culmination of everything we’ve seen from Quentin Tarantino up until this point. Just great stuff.

1. District 9 – It’s very rare that I get myself this excited about a movie before its release (and I really was dying to see this thing, to the point where I got irritated with all the ads about two weeks before it opened; I just wanted to see it already) and am not let down. But Neill Blomkamp’s mind-blowing announcement to the movie world that there’s a new genius filmmaker in the house actually went so far past my expectations that I still can’t believe it. And it’s even rarer that a movie I’m so blown away by – especially such a legitimately strange one like this one – is actually a big hit at the box office, but District 9 not only blew my geeky mind, it gave me renewed faith in movie-going humanity. Not only one of the best movies of the year, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

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