For the most part, this summer’s movie releases were forgettable, and in some cases, downright painful (I’m looking at you, “After Earth”). So it was refreshing when ”The Way Way Back” managed to brake the monotony, giving audiences an original coming-of-age tale.
There are no flashy special effects or intricate plot twists, but “The Way Way Back” has a simple, clever charm that makes it enjoyable all the same. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s script is authentic and sincere – it’s not hard to believe the two won an Oscar for their screenplay for “The Descendants” just two years ago. The entire cast turns in solid performances, though Sam Rockwell as the protagonist’s charismatic, if somewhat wayward, mentor steals the show. On top of it all, most of ”The Way Way Back” is set at a water park. What more can you ask from a summer movie? (Claire Nowak)
Honorable Mention: Based on a supposedly-true, but definitely-terrifying story, “The Conjuring” brings genuine thrills, making it one of the best horror movies in years. (Claire Nowak)
This June, Queens of the Stone Age released its sixth studio album “…Like Clockwork,” the band’s first in six years. Though frontman Josh Homme is the band’s sole remaining original member, the new album ticks along with all gears in place, and possibly a few improvements. Homme assembled an all-star lineup with appearances from Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and the legendary Sir. Elton John himself.
Two of the album’s standout songs are the riff-heavy “I Sat by the Ocean” and the bravado-filled “Smooth Sailing,” making the new release one of the strongest rock albums of the year. True to its title, “…Like Clockwork” helped tick away the time all summer long. (Brian Keogh)
Honorable Mention: Valerie June has one of the most striking voices I’ve heard in years. It’s soulfoul, but folky; sharp, but relaxed; totally new, but steeped in a history of music history. This summer it was as if June apeared from nowhere, taking the folk scene by storm, but if her first album, “Pushin’ Against A Stone,” is any indication, she’ll be a favorite for summers to come.(Erin Heffernan)
There’s so much talent on “Orange is the New Black”, it almost makes me mad. The show follows a privileged woman, with the appropriately WASPy name, Piper Chapman, who lands herself in women’s prision. One moment the show makes you laugh to tears with memorable lines like “I threw pie for you!” from Piper’s want-to-be prison wife, to causing real tears as bonds form between characters whose lives have not gone the way they’d planned, but who nonetheless find comfort in an often dehumanizing place. Best of all, the show manages to address issues of privilege without coming off preachy or condescending. As one character yells at the clueless protagonist, “this isn’t the (expletive) Help!” (Erin Heffernan)
Honorable Mention: HBO’s “Game of Thrones” third season ended this summer, breaking our hearts and killing (SPOILER) many of our favorite characters. We’ll have a hard time waiting for the rest of the story, but at least “spring is coming.” (Brian Keogh)