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The best movies of summer 2011

Photo: Associated Press/Universal Pictures

Summer can be trying times for the average moviegoer’s satisfaction index. With so many big-budgeted productions lined up so closely together, all of them vying for the coveted blockbuster status no less, there seem to be much hype and anticipation but little pay off in the end. It’s been the trend for as long as anyone can remember. Typical summer fares include movies that literally blow things up in the big screen, the occasional R-rated comedy that exists solely because Judd Apatow needs to be outdone, and apparently endlessly emulated while in that process, and the millionth rom-com, that pits two attractive leads in the platitudinous will-they-won’t-they predicament.

There is little substance scattered in between these films. But, of course, all hope is never lost because sometimes the big-budgeted CGI galore is as wittily engaging as it is stunning to look at, sometimes Judd Apatow makes a film and puts the goons trying to imitate him to shame, sometimes the rom-com is more about how funny a love story can be instead of what Hollywood stars are being relied upon to bring throngs of their fans to the theatres. Here, I present to you a list of the best movies I saw this past summer in no particular order:

“Submarine”

“Submarine” follows the antics of Oliver Tate, a fifteen-year-old teenager, who is far too clever for his own good. Among Oliver’s many occupations are monitoring the health of his parents’ distancing marriage and going out with the local pyromaniac, Jordana – having just got a little clue as to what entails in this quirky coming-of-age dramedy, it shouldn’t now be hard for you to imagine “Submarine” as the sweet infusion of the great supply of comedic genius and just the right dosage of adolescent angst that it is. Based on author Joe Dunthorne’s novel of the same name, this witty film from across the pond boasts of slick and precise direction by Richard Ayoade of “The IT Crowd” fame, and a wonderfully soulful original soundtrack by Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner. Clearly, there are many joys to be derived from this one.

“Bridesmaids”

Kristin Wiig was starting to get just a tad bit annoying with her stale SNL shticks, but being the responsible entertainer that she is, Wiig did the right thing by collaborating with Judd Apatow and co-writing and starring in “Bridesmaids”. Here’s a movie that has been inaccurately dubbed as “the female hangover” by media outlets all summer, and I say inaccurately because “Bridesmaids” is so much more than inebriated adults acting irresponsibly for the sake of shocking audiences into uncontrollable bouts of laughter. It does showcase a decent amount of irresponsibility to trigger laughter – who knew watching bridesmaids go crazy could be this hilarious! – but what set “Bridesmaids” apart from the rest of the rated-R comedy clans was the misery of one very dejected Kristin Wiig. Wiig plays maid-of-honor, Annie, to Maya Rudolph’s bride. Her anxieties over seeing her best friend become smitten with the rich and posh Helen, played by Rose Byrne, gradually escalates throughout the course of the film. There is a fairly substantial story behind all the jokes here and Wiig certainly brought her best game to the big screen.

“Midnight In Paris”

“Midnight in Paris” is, simply put, a gem. It is as enchanting as it is engaging. Set against the beautiful backdrop of Paris at all times of day and night, this ensemble comedy is hardly even a comedy. It is, however, the sort of rare film that you cannot watch without grinning like an idiot throughout. Owen Wilson and Corey Stoll give memorable performances that accentuate Allen’s charming approach to both writing and directing. For fear of spoiling what may very well be one of the most delightful stories ever filmed, I shall refrain from commenting on the plot. Let’s just say that Woody Allen may get a lot of things wrong, but he also gets many more right.

“Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” (English Title: “Won’t Get Life Back Again”)

Bollywood is notorious for producing mindless, over the top and for your entertainment-only musicals. As somebody who grew up with an excessive amount of exposure to Hindi films, I have witnessed the evolution of the contemporary metropolitan Bollywood cinema over the years, and “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” really feels like the film that is going to cement this genre as one that has arrived in India to stay. ZNMD intertwines the stories of three college best friends who reunite for a bachelor trip to Spain. The film employs beautiful sceneries and a very warm final message that should be welcomed by all. The greatest achievement for sophomore director Zoya Akhtar could be considered the perfect balance the film manages to strike between being a Bollywood film and a film that is very forward both in thought and execution.

“X-Men: First Class”

“X-Men: First Class” was lauded by fans and critics alike for a lot of reasons. The story itself of the origin of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr’s friendship was a great story to have been told on the big screen as the conflicting dynamic between Professor Xavier and Magneto has always been one of the most revisited themes in the comic books. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender did fantastic jobs playing off of each other and really bringing out the little nuances in their characters. The retro art direction and costumes definitely helped set the tone straight for this prequel and in between the eye-popping special effects and the stylishly choreographed fight sequences, there was plenty of wit, good acting and engaging storytelling going around to make this X-Men film work beautifully.

Honorary mentions go to The Tree of Life, Super 8 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

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