Summer can be a challenging time for moviegoers. You get all excited to see the next big event movie, something starring a muscled leading man and featuring lots of special effects and explosions, but then you leave the theatre feeling disappointed by the terrible plot line and laughable characters. You wish you’d spent the $30 you just dropped on two tickets and a bag of popcorn on something else. Never fear; there ARE some truly wonderful movies to be found this time of year. Here’s a few that are worth your time and money right now:
Pixar does it again! The animation wizards do not disappoint with their latest film, a heartwarming and hilarious romp through Parisian kitchens starring a little blue rat named Remy. Remy is no ordinary rat. He’s a gourmand. He eschews garbage and creates culinary delights formed from stolen spices and fresh herbs. When he accidentally ends up in the kitchen at Gusteau’s, a grand dame of Parisian cuisine, he witnesses a young apprentice chef destroying the house soup. Remy can’t help but correct the mistake, and soon afterward he and the awkward, talentless Linguini are making beautiful food together. This is a tale of friendship, ambition and acceptance. From beginning to end, you’ll care about these characters, delight in their passions and hope for their success. The animation is gorgeous, truly doing justice to the beautiful city of Paris and the energy of a French kitchen. This movie is exactly what a good summer movie should be: a visual spectacle featuring characters that will make you laugh and cause you to leave the theatre with a smile. It doesn’t get better than that.
Every now and then, a little movie comes along and steals your heart. That’s exactly what Once does, and it’s the surprising delight of the summer. Never heard of it? That’s because it was made for practically pennies, starring two musicians you’ve never heard of and shot entirely on location in Ireland. The film tells the story of a young guy and girl, both struggling, aspiring musicians in Dublin. The guy repairs vacuum cleaners by day and sings his heart out on Grafton Street at night. The girl works as a maid and struggles to raise her young daughter while stealing moments to practice piano in the back of a music shop. When these two meet, the chemistry is immediate. Soon, they are at work recording a demo and falling in love. The palpable attraction between the two is no joke; they became a couple in real life while shooting this film. Even more inspiring is the music they create: soaring, haunting melodies that permeate the movie, sending the viewer into a dreamlike state. It’s not quite like anything you’ve ever seen; it’s better. You will not be able to get this music or these people out of your head when you leave the theatre. This is a gem of a film, perhaps the seminal music film of a generation and certainly the most touching romance to grace the screen in years.
This is not a feel good movie. You’re not going to leave the theatre happy after seeing Sicko. However, Sicko is Michael Moore’s best and most effective documentary since Roger & Me and it shines a light on an important American issue that every last one of us should be concerned about. Obviously, Michael Moore is a polarizing figure in our world. Some people won’t go see his movies, just because he makes them. That’s their right, and I’m not trying to convince them otherwise. However, I think this movie is extremely important because it has the potential to jumpstart a national dialogue on the state of our ineffective healthcare system. Moore does not give himself as much screen time here as he has in previous films. I think that ultimately works for the movie and Sicko becomes more about the issues than the director. It’s still filled with Moore’s trademark bombastic stunts (like taking the ailing 9/11 workers to Cuba), but if you look beyond the bluster, there’s a lot of important information in this film. Sicko is a call to action, one that will have you thinking and talking about health care issues long after you leave the theatre. It is heady stuff for summer, but it’s about time the conversation was initiated.