ByEdward Agadjanian, writer at
Movie critic, Writer
Edward Agadjanian

2015's summer saw an amazing intake at the box office with Universal Studios leading the pack. So, Hollywood seems to be in good spirits, at least. Now, has the quality of these batch of movies exactly satisfied audiences as well? Herein, I've compiled a succinct list of the best summer offerings, as well as the worst. Keep in mind that I'm not solely considering the big tent-pole blockbusters (there was no specific definition to what a summer movie is, other than it being released in the season, as I was ranking these). Also, unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of the buzzed-about indies like Love & Mercy and The End of the Tour, but I'm really anxious to check them out soon. *Warning: mild spoilers ahead*

10) Trainwreck

In a time that was evidently lacking some good humor, Trainwreck definitely stood among the funniest treats. While it eventually becomes a predictable/uninspired rom-com and its main lead (Amy Schumer) isn't really the highlight, the journey is absolutely hilarious thanks to an otherwise impeccable cast. Seriously, who would've ever thought that John Cena and Lebron James could be such side-splitting scene-stealers?!

9) Paper Towns

A particularly pleasant surprise is this teen story--another adaptation from a John Green novel--which gives us a promising introduction to the beautiful and charismatic Cara Delevingne, as if she was destined for motion pictures. Of course, every other major character here also sparks a delightfully unique personality, which is really what caught me off-guard. I was expecting another sappy coming-of-age teen romance with stereotypically obnoxious teenagers. Instead, I got a warmly fun glimpse into something that reminded me what youth is all about; the film even features more serious themes like the ever-escaping grasp on this mysterious lovely creature you have set your innocent sights on throughout adolescence.

8) The Gift

The latest trend seems to be an actor's push towards becoming a director as well, hungry for that ultimate creative power. In reality, very few can pull it off, and among those few stands Joel Edgerton who has already impressed us on a thespian level. And with his directorial debut, he seeks to shock us and twist us until we're all tied up in this creepy thriller. With an incredibly gripping plot that explores the consequences of a haunted past, effective jump-scares, and exceptional performances all around, The Gift is the deserved indie hit of the summer (grossing nearly $34 million on a $5 million budget).

7) Mission: Impossible--Rogue Nation

There are the mindlessly explosive action movies, and then, there's Mission: Impossible. Before the guns start blazing and the motor bikes start flipping over, a carefully-constructed sequence precedes it. The pieces slowly fall into their positions as one event leads to another (and even one intense setpiece into another), and then the climax comes as this deserved reward: an ultimate culmination. And fueling all this intensity is an intriguing spy plot that's taking its own twists and turns in the meantime. With the limitless charm of Tom Cruise and a bright new star in Rebecca Ferguson, the latest Mission: Impossible is filled with frenetic energy and cinematic precision. The franchise shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

6) The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The spy genre is really firing on all cylinders this year because The Man From U.N.C.L.E. gives us another chance to marvel at such a profession. It takes the suaveness of a James Bond-type agent and incessantly ridicules him. Get ready for spy action that's mainly charged by scintillating witty humor. When you have an American and a Russian spy team up to prevent a totally maniacal scheme, you'll have to expect plenty of hilariously immature arguments and competitions to test each other's masculinity. It's so much fun, somehow turning two Hollywood leading men (Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer) who initially appeared to just be generic, brawny pretty boys into two highly amusing characters who keep trying to prove to everyone how tough they are but failing every time.

5) Jurassic World

It might not possess the most complex themes or the sharpest characters, but, regardless, nothing exemplifies bright summer fun quite like Dino amusement parks and aquariums where all kinds of entertaining action transpire. You got pterodactyls snatching crowds, a hybrid T-Rex, and militarily-trained velociraptors. Of course, our new lovable adventurer, Chris Pratt, is another exciting addition to a franchise that seemed to be losing steam a decade ago but is now back on track after a long hiatus (grossing $1.6 billion so far). Hollywood has been giving us too many superheroes and not enough dinosaurs; we're clearly craving for more!

4) Spy

Now, we've finally arrived at the funniest movie of the summer, and when I say "funny," I genuinely mean "utterly uproarious." A comedy that can totally overturn my opinion on Melissa McCarthy is fairly remarkable in my book. She plays a timid agent who assists spies from her computer, but at one point, the agency sends her on an actual assignment, and so she's forced to imitate the typical traits of a spy but only continues to humiliate herself. Eventually, she evolves and begins to understand the toughness and grit needed to fully intimidate in this part, but it all comes out with over-the-top execution. "[This hand] is going in your mouth and [this hand] is going up your ass and they're going to meet in the f__king middle and play your heart like a f__king accordion!" Brilliant lines like this sent me rolling with laughter. Or consider an earlier scene where she accidentally causes a brutal death, followed by her blade slipping out of her hands and into the corpse's chest, and then she ends up vomiting on this same body because she can't bear the sight of gore--one of the most disrespectful deaths I've ever laid my eyes on; it's so hilariously messed up.

3) Inside Out

That thematic complexity and those sharp characters I previously mentioned are all present in Inside Out. Whereas Disney has been mailing it in with their recent wholly juvenile, jejune films, Pixar realizes that an animated film for both children and adults is a smart idea. As a matter of fact, Inside Out is so profound and witty that I'm not even sure how the 8-year-olds, seated in the theater, could possibly comprehend it. It's perhaps thanks to the breathtakingly colorful visuals and fun characters that they were still glued to their seats. Personified emotions having their own adventure inside a little girl's mind--now that's a sweet, unique premise. The film masterfully shits between the troubles in little Riley's life as a maturing adolescent and then an intensive look into her feelings by zooming inside her head. How would "Anger" respond to the particular predicament Riley's currently in , and how would "Sadness?" The movie certainly needs to be seen at least twice to connect every action in reality with its representation inside the girl's psychology {a silly purple imaginary friend inside representing Riley's (fading) youth, for instance}. This is an emotional roller-coaster and, undoubtedly, the smartest summer offering.

2) The Look of Silence

Ladies and gentlemen, the second best movie of the summer is a documentary whether you like the genre or not. A sequel to 2013's disturbing revelation, The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence follows an Indonesian named Adi Rukun whose brother was savagely slaughtered back in the mid-1960's during the Indonesian genocide. The film is less visually graphic than its predecessor, but the interviewee's vivid descriptions still materialize the nauseating barbarism of those days in your imagination. And so--set in a modern Indonesia--Adi visits one home after the other and actually confronts the insanely sick men who were responsible for those travesties, and guess what? They're still in power. The sheer danger that Adi's in builds so much tension throughout. This powerless citizen showed his face to these authorities, and one of these days--after being offended and enraged with his frank questions--they might bust through his door and behead his family. Moreover, those hauntingly tranquil shots of beautifully peaceful rivers that once flowed the blood of a thousand corpses is just one of those things that can't leave your mind long afterwards.

1) Mad Max: Fury Road

Finally, we come to my favorite film of the summer--a film that actually took me a second viewing to truly appreciate. Though it unfortunately lacks an intricate story, chances are you'll never see action this exhilarating and shot with such psychotic style (by the genius vision of director, George Miller). Before you insert that blu-ray, remember that all the ridiculous intensity you'll see on-screen was really concocted in the Australian desert with actual vehicles and skillful (Cirque du Soleil) stuntmen. Spiked trucks are rolling over as Max and his enemies hang off of poles that're built into these moving behemoths, barely scraping their faces against the hard dirt at high speeds. The hard-hitting, pulsating score kicks in; the drivers are screaming with ferocity and absolutely no fear of death; and a wild dust storm eventually encompasses all of them as the epic intensity continues to amp up a notch. I've rarely felt so adrenalized; Mad Max: Fury Road hits the gas pedal as soon as it starts, continually revving up to the maximum velocity.

The Big Stinkers (In No Particular Order):

So, for the first half of this piece, I came out as appreciative and quite satisfied with this summer's content. However, I don't want to make it seem like it was this absolutely awesome season for cinema, because in between every one of those quality pictures was a pile of forgettable and/or humiliating hogwash. (Get ready for furious rants.) Here are some notable examples:

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

While I'm not surprised by the lazy Marvel formula used for every single one of their films, my frustration and disdain is only intensifying. Every time, the studio's executives claim that this next entry is going to be darker and bolder--balancing a more elaborate storyline and exceptionally interweaving all of the characters' arcs--it turns out to be a lie and we get the exact same (lighthearted, hollow) Hollywood product. There are, of course, no major character deaths; there's no genuine heart; and there especially aren't any creative action sequences. Thankfully, people have finally started to take notice, and by this point, mostly everyone has forgotten about this commercial fluff. At the end of the day, it looks like that script full of (cheesy) quips and one-liners was all in vain; no one's quoting this thing.

Terminator: Genisys

There's nothing to say here other than an exclamation of just how dreadful and embarrassing this waste of a sequel is. Emilia Clarke--a great actress on Game of Thrones--is terribly unconvincing in this role as a sturdy badass. Jai Courtney portrays yet another bland protagonist who we frankly don't care about. John Connor's whole arc is painfully obvious from a mile away (even though it was imprudently spoiled in the trailers anyway). Most importantly, the action is disjointed and messy, and I'm pretty sure I've already seen 95% of the same plot in three other Terminator installments.


Nowadays, it's cool to hate on Entourage. I'm proud to call myself a big fan of the show though. Where people see shallow debauchery, I see rollicking satire of Hollywood. Where people see bad acting, I see comically farcical characters whose interactions with one another are wonderfully entertaining. And, of course, Jeremy Piven can't be ignored with his stellar, immersed performance as an uncouth talent agent. Well...the movie is awful on the other hand. There's no humor to be found; maybe it's because the jokes have worn out by now or because there's simply no cleverness in any of it. Essentially, the cast and crew have gotten lazy and decided to shoot a 90-minute movie with a plethora of celebrities and sex. That's all it is.


Speaking of humorless comedies, though Vacation has at least one more effective comedic scene than Entourage, everything before and everything afterwards is awkwardly executed and tritely constructed. It's a tamer raunchy movie that arrived about ten years after the style was actually considered fresh and new. Honestly, the only thing I remember from this movie is the Chris Hemsworth cameo--yes, he's 10x funnier than the rest of the cast, and he's not even a comedian. Ouch...

Dark Places

This one is an adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel--the author who also wrote the novel, Gone Girl. Wow, this should be really good too, right? Nope, not in the slightest. It's far from a David Fincher/Gillian Flynn collaboration. Even if the movie's star is Charlize Theron herself, it all seemed to be shot on a very, very tight budget. While the story is definitely engrossing, the director evidently had a difficult time translating it to the big screen. With twists and turns that could've made for a taut thriller, it ends up feeling a lot like a (generic) Lifetime special. All Theron had to do was play a disgruntled woman throughout the entire movie; perhaps the character had enough complexity, but Theron sure didn't handle the emotional complexity very well. The acting, the music, and the cinematography are all subpar.

Fantastic Four

What could've been an interesting origin story that restored people's faith in the Fantastic Four franchise ended up as another flop in the series. Tonally, it's all over the place. Narratively, it's all over the place. Acting-wise? Look, there is zero consistency in this film. There sure are some cool sequences that turned a superhero story into utter horror--psychological struggles with gaining superpowers--but that's before they scrap the tone, give up, and give us a cliched superhero finale where you have no idea what's going on, and the actors are suddenly delivering cringe-worthy lines with nonexistent enthusiasm. This is an exemplar of a disastrous production that's patently reflected in the final product.

Anyway, let me know what you all think? Did you strongly disagree with me on some (probably)? Or did you agree with everything here (hopefully)? And be sure to join more movie discussions at


What was your favorite movie of the summer?!


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