9 top summer movie moments of 2012

The summer’s movie releases were a mixed bag, as always. But there were moments that we’ll carry with us long after the air turns cold with the rush of Oscar contenders. Our favorite summer scenes of 2012 included young love gyrating to a French pop song, a male stripper applying for a small-business loan, and a spaceship crash landing on top of Charlize Theron. Of course, that might not have been her favorite moment. . .

20th Century Fox, Kerry Brown via AP
Charlize Theron, left, and Idris Elba in a scene from "Prometheus."

Squashing Charlize Theron

The movie didn’t work. I, at least, don’t know why anyone did anything in this movie. Except for having sex with Idris Elba. That I get. But Ridley Scott is a director creative enough to fashion a question mark into a coat hanger or an earring. So I wound up watching “Prometheus” twice. There was much to behold – the sight, say, of Noomi Rapace giving herself a Caesarean. But what I most fondly remember is a scene in which a detonated spacecraft the size of Gillette Stadium almost gently makes contact with Charlize Theron. Up to this point, she was prime Faye Dunaway, obsessed with her own coldness and ruthless efficiency. Michael Fassbender plays the android, but Theron dares us to think there might be another. The encounter with the ship has her running for her life, and when there’s nowhere else to go, she looks up and, with only inconvenience in her voice, says, “No, no, no. . .” It’s oddly moving – this heavenly, highly organized creature forgot to pencil in a moment for hell to break loose.


Ron Phillips/Warner Brothers
Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

What color is your parachute?


I wasn’t all that excited about “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’d thought “The Dark Knight” went on far too long; and as electric as Heath Ledger’s Joker had been, he threw the movie out of whack. But my favorite 16-year-old was eager to see it, and if I went to a press screening he could come along and see it before his friends did. So, all right, I agreed to go. Well, there’s that bit just after the beginning, where Tom Hardy gets put on a plane and . . . if you’ve seen the movie, you know. If you haven’t, I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice it to say that once a certain large parachute had finished opening, I sort-of gasped, sort-of whispered to said 16-year-old, “I think that’s the greatest action sequence I’ve ever seen.” “I know,” he said. Six weeks later, I’m still not sure it isn’t.

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Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight Pictures
Paul Dano as Calvin and Zoe Kazan as Ruby.

Manic pixie this!

He’s a brilliant, blocked young novelist. She’s the manic pixie dream girl he invented. And in “Ruby Sparks,” what begins as a wry romantic comedy hits a deep, dark high when Calvin, played by the sensitive man-boy Paul Dano, proves he can stop Ruby (Zoe Kazan) from leaving him. Sitting down to type, he literally jerks her around: She speaks French, strips, crawls and barks like a dog; exhausted, she shouts, “You’re a genius! You’re a genius!” Ah, there we go. A scene that packs a writer’s narcissism, a lover’s projections and desire to control, sheer human fear, and a slap at Hollywood’s scripting of female roles into a bomb that detonates like that is a very good scene.


David Lanzenberg/Sony Pictures Classics
Rashida Jones in “Celeste and Jesse Forever.”

Ranch dressing, sweat, and tears

Almost always when a woman needs to drown her sorrows after a dramatic onscreen breakup she reaches for two things: alcohol and chocolate. There’s some of that in “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” but I fell in love with this movie when Type-A control-freak Celeste (Rashida Jones) goes on a series of benders fueled by ranch dressing and running. The running follows a bad date, which follows bad news from her ex, which results in a head-clearing sprint of 13.6 miles (but who’s counting?) that leaves her sweaty and doubled over and back in charge, she’d like to think. But we know she’s never more than a moment away from some backyard barbecue that will find her sloppy drunk and armed with a large bottle of ranch dressing, ready to douse everything within reach: salad, pile of burgers, her entire romantic past. The ranch dressing will also turn into raunch dressing when it meets up with an ear of baby corn in an uncomfortable wedding scene late in the film. “Celeste and Jesse” makes all of those moments seem plausible. In fact, if you’re a Type-A woman, you’d almost swear you wrote them.



Claudette Barius/Warner Brothers Pictures
Channing Tatum as a male stripper in “Magic Mike.’’

A stripper walks into a bank. . .

There are many unforgettable moments in Steven Soderbergh’s stripper movie, “Magic Mike,” but the most ludicrous (and therefore delicious) features a fully clothed Mike in a Tampa bank begging for a small business loan so that he can live his dream and start a furniture company. First, Magic Mike, your furniture prototypes are just horrid, especially that coffee table in your apartment. Second, you’re a stripper with no declarable income and bad credit. Yet you’re mad at the bank for rejecting your loan application? What did you expect would happen? Here’s hoping that “Magic Mike 2” features Channing Tatum doing the worm, perhaps shirtless, into a community college classroom where he can learn how to better manage his finances.


Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures
From left: Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo in “Marvel’s The Avengers,”

Superheroes circle the wagons

There was a lot to like about the way that writer-director Joss Whedon brought “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” (and Marvel’s, certainly) to the screen in “Marvel’s The Avengers,” from the character balance to the film’s surprising humor. Robert Downey Jr.’s wisecracking was one thing, but who’d have thought they could go to the “Hulk smash” comedy well so many times? Still, the best moment in the movie was one that Whedon clearly choreographed for the fans: the climactic battle’s circle-the-wagons shot, in which we finally see the group standing back to back (to back) against villainous Loki’s alien hordes. For some, that was probably just one more self-consciously showy camera move this summer. But for longtime “Avengers” readers who never thought they’d see the day? Chills.


Strand Releasing
A scene from “Ballplayer: Pelotero.”

An offer they couldn’t refuse?


Major League Baseball has come under fire for lots of things — its handling of rampant PED use; it obsessive quest for TV ratings; the expansion of wild card slots. But no indictment was more searing than the family of then-16 year old Dominican star Miguel Sano referring to MLB as “a mafia” in the documentary “Ballplayer: Pelotero” (produced, incidentally, by Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine). The documentary exposed questionable practices on all sides related to player signings in the Dominican Republic, but it was the capturing of the Sano family’s frustration and pointed criticism that walloped the film’s home run.


Focus Features
Newcomers Kara Hayward as Suzy and Jared Gilman as Sam in “Moonrise Kingdom.”

Sam and Suzy dance on a beach

Great first loves seem destined to spring to life during the freewheeling, insouciant days of summer, when the hours stretch on forever and heady daydreams collide with a restless adolescent yearning for new experiences. In Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” a pair of disaffected 12-year-old outcasts fall for each other and plot a secret rendezvous. Trekking across their New England coastal island, they seek refuge in an idyllic, secluded cove. There, the two young dreamers set up a beach camp, cook a meal, dance to a French pop song, dive into the crystal blue water, and share a kiss. But that little magical Shangri-La is soon to be crushed by frantic authority figures in hot pursuit. When the runaways are discovered, the world-weary adult faces betray not just anger and relief but a wistful melancholy for the lost dreams and adventures of their own faded youth.


Darren Michaels/Focus Features
From left: Keira Knightley, Gillian Jacobs, T.J. Miller, and Steve Carell in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”

Wasted end of days and end of nights

Combining the rom-com and apocalypse genres, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” seemed more smash-up collision than successful mash-up. But, as that asteroid spun its way toward earth, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley stumbled into some funny material. In one road-trip scene, they enter a TGI Friday’s-like eatery, where the staff, high on weed, ecstasy, and mudslides, are jonesing to include them in their orgy. “Do you want to know the specials?” asks the waitress (Gillian Jacobs). “Because these guys are getting really creative.” A conga line passes, and before long, she’s locking lips with Knightley. “This is really our family,” says the very lit host (T.J. Miller). It’s proof that Norm did know best: Given a warning of armageddon, we’d probably flock to where everyone knows our name, and stay wasted until the end of time.