The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

Newsletter Signup

Get our news delivered straight to your inbox every week.

* indicates required

6 stupendous summer cinema selections

6+stupendous+summer+cinema+selections
Rian Hughes

It may be ironic that one of summer vacation’s defining experiences is settling into a dark, air-conditioned room far from sunshine and the great outdoors. However, every successful summer break needs its stupendous summer blockbusters. From spy sequels to Spider-Men, Barbies to bombs and lost loves to found families, here are six flicks you might have missed in cinemas this summer.

 

  1. “Asteroid City”

Wes Anderson returns to his impeccably designed dollhouses with “Asteroid City,” his most personable movie in years. “City” centers around craters and creators, joining together two storylines in a blend of black-and-white and color photography. In the color sequences, Anderson employs a star-studded ensemble, including Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman and Tom Hanks, to tell a tale from beyond the stars. An alien has landed at the 1955 Junior Stargazer Convention, and the small town of Asteroid City must decide how to respond. 

The color plot in “Asteroid City” heavily features Anderson’s trademark blend of wistfulness and whimsicality. The story strikes a delicate balance between the earnestness of its young cast, the Junior Stargazers, and the jaded emotions of their older parents. Johansson and Schwartzman particularly excel as a famous actress and a widowed photographer who connect through melancholic conversations out of their hotel windows. Meanwhile, their children find themselves falling in love over their mutual interest in outer space and feeling out of place. Anderson explores two kinds of falling in love with “Asteroid City,” and that part of the film falls into a similar niche as his “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

In the black-and-white segments of the film, however, Anderson pulls back the curtain. It’s revealed that the color “Asteroid City” is a television adaptation of a fictional play, and the film’s black-and-white segments follow the creative process of the artists behind the production. If the technicolor “Asteroid City” is Anderson returning to themes tackled in previous films, the black-and-white segments are explaining why. The whole thing is laboriously layered and a little self-conscious, yet Anderson makes the meta magical.

 

  1. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”

This movie’s mission, should you choose to accept it, is to thrill you. Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s latest installment in the long-running spy franchise proves that Mission: Impossible is, impossibly, only getting better as it goes along. In “Dead Reckoning,” they accomplish that by taking the blockbusters back to the beginning while bringing the stakes to higher places than ever before.

The cinematic language of “Dead Reckoning” is steeped in references to the first “Mission: Impossible.” Cruise’s Ethan Hunt was racing through a fog-filled city in 1996 and he’s back there in 2023. Likewise, the first film climaxes with a hand-to-hand battle atop a moving train, and “Dead Reckoning” wraps up in a similar fashion. These references to the source material are a welcome reminder of the franchise’s roots seven movies in while serving a deeper thematic purpose. While the settings and situations may feel familiar, the stunts and stakes have only gotten gnarlier. “Dead Reckoning” feels like Cruise asking us to look back and admire how far Ethan Hunt has come while building towards the next impossible place he might go.

 

  1. “Past Lives”

Cuffing season is quickly approaching, but it’s trailing behind the most romantic movie of the year. “Past Lives” is writer-director Celine Song’s debut film, a fact difficult to believe based on its beautiful composition and masterful script. The story is simple, but poignant: a South Korean woman, played by Greta Lee, reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, played by Teo Yoo, 24 years after leaving Seoul for the States. The script alternates between Korean and English as Lee’s character, Nora, attempts to reconcile her new life with her American husband, played by John Magaro, with the life she left behind in Korea with Yoo’s character, Hae Sung.

The film is aching, quiet and perfect for a romantic night in. Look for the subtle color shifts in the cinematography and little cues that betray the characters’ true feelings. Don’t look away when you and your date inevitably tear up.

 

  1. “Oppenheimer”

Christopher Nolan used entirely practical effects to simulate an atomic explosion on-screen in “Oppenheimer.” If that doesn’t blow your mind, his incredible commitment to authenticity didn’t stop with the bomb. “Oppenheimer,” even at three hours of dense, talky drama, is an immersive world of scientific discovery, existential paranoia and male ego from a bygone era. With the aid of Cillian Murphy’s incredible performance as J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, Nolan pulls his audience back in time.

However, there’s nonetheless something entirely contemporary about the film. Seeing the most famous faces of modern Hollywood, whether it be Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr. or Matt Damon, thrust back into the annals of history is an eerie experience. Watching important historical figures, who look just like today’s movie stars, wrestle with the moral dilemmas of the 1940s and ‘50s makes those moral dilemmas feel all the more relevant to 2023. In fact, the most effective thing about Nolan’s decision to tell this story is that we all know how it ends. There’s an undercurrent of horror and anxiety to watching Murphy’s Oppenheimer assemble his team of scientists. Even though the film is thrilling and engrossing, it’s impossible to forget the terrifying nuclear climate of the last 80 years these men are creating. When we cheer for a scientific breakthrough in the film, we cheer for the real-life destruction it led to. That fusion between entertainment and involvement creates the moral fission that powers the film.

 

  1. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

This is an amazing Spider-Man. As the sequel to the Oscar-winning “Into the Spider-Verse” and a cliffhanger part one to next year’s “Beyond the Spider-Verse,” the second installment in Sony’s animated Spider-Man trilogy had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, it’s not only a spectacular accomplishment in its own right, but it’s better than the first one across the board.

While the first “Spider-Verse” brought characters from different universes into Miles Morales’ world, “Across the Spider-Verse” sends Miles Morales into theirs. The creative team took that opportunity to grant each universe its own distinctive look and animation style. However, despite the risk of becoming muddled or incoherent, these diverse elements come together to realize an animated experience unlike any other. The zine-style hodge-podge of Daniel Kaluuya’s Spider-Punk looks perfectly normal next to the watercolor hues of Hailee Steinfeld’s Spider-Gwen, and the rough lines of Oscar Isaac’s Spider-Man 2099 merge seamlessly against the clean pop art of Shameik Moore’s Miles. 

The film exudes color and creativity. It’s funnier than the first while remaining as emotional. The villain of this film, The Spot, turns on the dime from laughable to menacing. The soundtrack is undeniable. And the focus on Spider-Man, as a character, pop culture icon and beloved superhero, is crystal clear. The first film was celebrated in 2018 as the best Spider-Man story to date. “Across the Spider-Verse” not only takes that title, but also ranks as one of the best movies of the year, full stop.

 

  1. “Barbie”

Filled with heart, heft  and more pink hues than you can count, “Barbie” is the summer blockbuster of the year. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling shine as Barbie and Ken. Robbie gives Barbie a blend of infectious enthusiasm and naïve intelligence that makes her undeniable to root for, while Gosling plays Ken with himbo obliviousness and raw heart. Robbie’s Barbie is the perfect heroine, while Gosling’s Ken is the tragically flawed antagonist.

If that sounds Shakespearean, it’s only a testament to how good “Barbie” really is. The characters aren’t empty dolls moving marketing across the screen. Like a child’s imagination gives their toys a completely realized world, Greta Gerwig granted her characters real personalities and real emotions. The stakes of the film are inherently silly, but the movie plays it all out with self-aware self-respect. Audiences can expect to be tearing up one moment and then cracking up a moment later. Gerwig, Robbie, Gosling and the rest of their incredible supporting cast are there to walk –– or, rather, rollerblade –– you through it.

View Comments (6)
Donate to The Appalachian
$1271
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

We hope you appreciate this article! Before you move on, our student staff wanted to ask if you would consider supporting The Appalachian's award-winning journalism. We are celebrating our 90th anniversary of The Appalachian in 2024!

We receive funding from the university, which helps us to compensate our students for the work they do for The Appalachian. However, the bulk of our operational expenses — from printing and website hosting to training and entering our work into competitions — is dependent upon advertising revenue and donations. We cannot exist without the financial and educational support of our fellow departments on campus, our local and regional businesses, and donations of money and time from alumni, parents, subscribers and friends.

Our journalism is produced to serve the public interest, both on campus and within the community. From anywhere in the world, readers can access our paywall-free journalism, through our website, through our email newsletter, and through our social media channels. Our supporters help to keep us editorially independent, user-friendly, and accessible to everyone.

If you can, please consider supporting us with a financial gift from $10. We appreciate your consideration and support of student journalism at Appalachian State University. If you prefer to make a tax-deductible donation, or if you would prefer to make a recurring monthly gift, please give to The Appalachian Student News Fund through the university here: https://securelb.imodules.com/s/1727/cg20/form.aspx?sid=1727&gid=2&pgid=392&cid=1011&dids=418.15&bledit=1&sort=1.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Pruett Norris, Multimedia Editor
Pruett Norris (he/him) is a senior double majoring in English with a concentration in Film Studies and Electronic Media/Broadcasting. This is his second year with The Appalachian.
Rian Hughes, Associate Graphics Editor
Donate to The Appalachian
$1271
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (6)

All The Appalachian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    Joe DanAug 18, 2023 at 8:22 pm

    We should take a collection for these kind of reviews! I certainly feel edified and entertained and fomoed for only seeing about half of the ones written about! Well done, young critic!

    Reply
  • J

    JuneAug 17, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    What a stupendous read!! Love love loved the article, can’t wait to read (and watch) more!

    Reply
  • K

    Katharine ZamarraAug 17, 2023 at 8:40 am

    “Stupendous” reviews! I’d love to read more of your thoughts on Oppenheimer and Barbie in particular. I appreciate your balance of blockbuster and art house reviews.

    Reply
  • A

    AidanAug 16, 2023 at 11:30 pm

    Convinced me to broaden my movie horizons!

    Reply
  • L

    LauraAug 16, 2023 at 9:09 pm

    Great reviews! Thanks !!

    Reply
  • L

    LauraAug 16, 2023 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks for the reviews! Reading this makes me want to go see Past Lives all the more if only to watch for the changing light.

    Reply