The 2013 Summer Movie Round Up

White House Down Channing Tatum Jamie Fox

Movie fans are going to have fun recounting the highs and lows of the movies from the summer of 2013. Actually it probably won’t be that much fun since the ‘lows’ far out weigh any ‘highs’.

It was a pretty dismal summer. Honestly, the most fun I had was reading the scathing reviews every week of the latest big weekend release.

There were no shortage of duds. I wonder how soon after many of those who plunked down their money to see some of these turkeys regretted their decision. It’s a good thing Hollywood doesn’t have a money-back-guarantee of their product for consumers.

I saw a handful of films this summer. Actually it was more than I had planned to. Some I had zero interest in, but I just happened to find myself sitting in the theater thanks to a movie theater employed colleague with offers of if I’d like to check out ‘so-and-so’ tonight. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have seen even half these flicks. And if I had paid to see most of these I would have felt really burnt!

Ironically the one film I was anticipating the most this summer, Man of Steel I never saw. I think the general lukewarm reaction to it cooled my enthusiasm and I just never bothered.

So before these movies drift out of my head and they become a blur of a memory I thought I’d recount what I saw this past summer and my quick reaction to them. Most I have no desire to ever watch again. At least the bar for the summer of 2014 movies has been lowered enough that next summer can’t possibly be as disappointing. Or can it?

Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 Don Cheadle Marvel

For the first fifteen minutes I was there with this movie. Robert Downey’s Tony Stark lays down a challenge to the mysterious, sinister villain The Mandorin (Ben Kingsley). Very quickly Stark’s mansion gets destroyed along with all his Iron Man armor. Barely surviving and now unconscious his one remaining suit takes him to Tennessee and that’s the point where the film lost me.

From then on it’s an Iron Man movie without Iron Man. Mandarian is wasted, Stark gets to trade barbs with a kid, who I’m tempted to call ‘The Jake Lloyd of the Marvel Universe’. Stark’s anxiety attacks and haunting dreams that started out as severe and dark are played for laughs (“Don’t say New York!”…..”New York”…..”Ahhhh you said it!”).

Guy Pearce is a boring villain. Don Cheadle has nothing to do. Gwyneth Paltrow is popping up, I don’t remember much of what she was doing until the big supposed thrilling climax. The film plays as if it were on remote control, like most of the iron man suits, with no clear story it wants to tell and drifts towards a strange resolution. I didn’t care for it at all.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness Chris Pine Benedict Cumberbatch

J.J. Abrams’ followup to his re-ignition of the Star Trek franchise isn’t as good as his first time at bat, but it’s entertaining enough to have made me enjoy it at the time. Afterwards I realized I’m really not all that anxious to watch it again.

I hadn’t considered it before, but some of the Trek fans were right. Abrams spent a whole movie revamping the Star Trek universe and wiping away the detailed history that would box them in to tell new, fresh stories and go in new directions with these characters.

Now he was able to start with a fresh palette. And what does he do for the second film? He brings back the most memorable and iconic of Star Trek villains and emulates the series most popular film. And none of the tweaks were as exciting as it was done the first time. Perhaps it would have better to create their own mythology and introduce new characters into this revamped universe.

Still Benedict Cumberbatch was cool as ‘John Harrison’. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto continue to be a fun pair to watch. And there were some decent action scenes and effects.

Another thing is you can see Zoe Saldana is becoming an almost equal time co-star alongside Pine and Quinto not allowing the rest of the crew time to have their own moments. They faded into the background much more this second time around. Same with my feelings about this Trek movie which the more time passes, the more I forget about it.

World War Z

World War Z Brad Pitt zombie movie

A big zombie movie on an epic scale. The trailers for it were telling the truth. Those big special effect shots of armies of zombies climbing walls, running through the streets and humans running for cover were the big selling point to the movie and they were impressive. The setpieces Brad Pitt is thrust in to were certainly fun to watch. Plus, the movie had a nice tightly confined final climax in a maze of corridors.

I liked the more athletic, speedy zombies the film had and the group dynamics that they used to achieve their objectives – attacking humans.

Aside from that the humans onscreen don’t leave as much of an impact. Aside from Brad Pitt the rest of the non-infected cast are there simply to look worried, run around or relay expository dialogue and are just waiting for Pitt to come to their rescue.

Did anyone really care about his family waiting on that ship for the entire time? There are a few characters that stand out, an Israeli soldier, David Morse, but they’re too few in such a large scale movie. I would have liked it a bit more with some more memorable characters, but still World War Z delivered the goods in terms of large-scale zombie attacks.

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger Johnny Depp Armie Hammer 2013

There’s really no reason to talk anymore about this. I already expressed my feelings about this movie after having watched it. There was some great potential for Disney and the filmmakers to do something special with it, but they didn’t. Armie Hammer’s title character not only gets poked fun at, but actually becomes a joke throughout the film.

The Lone Ranger never gets a chance to shine and show us why he was known as this special western hero that thrilled millions of fans. He literally gets dragged through horse crap and gets pushed to the side. And when he does become the great western gunslinger that supposedly inspires stories to be told for generations afterwards, I was left thinking, “How did that happen???”

It was little surprise the bulk of screentime and energy is spent on Johnny Depp’s showy Tonto and special effect sequences that offer very little excitement.

It was a botched opportunity to reintroduce the Ranger to a whole new generation of moviegoers. They could have tried to make a western adventure that thrilled an audience who are skeptical of the idea of stodgy old cowboy movies.

Instead it immediately became one of the most notorious examples of how a big-budget Hollywood movie could go so wrong. Plus, the movie is way too long for its own good.

Even now thinking back on it I can’t remember what took up so much of that time onscreen. The only thing it did was make spending so much money on a western unlikely to ever happen again. And sadly for Lone Ranger fans made their hero synonymous with yet another box office bomb!

The Heat

The Heat Sandra Bullock Melissa McCarthy 2013

I was anticipating at best a so-so female cop/buddy movie that could be saved by the chemistry between stars Sandra Bullock and Mellisa McCarthy. And you know what – that’s exactly what I got.

Actually I got a bit more since it was better than just ‘so-so’. As with most cop/buddy movies the story is nothing special and in this case it’s no different. Big, scary druglord needs to be taken down and our two heroes are just the gals to do it. Those two ladies actually not only save the good citizens of Boston, but also this movie.

The whole movie hinges on whether Bullock and McCarthy generate sparks together onscreen and they do. The Heat follows the movie playbook of the cop/buddy genre – they meet, they hate each other, they’re forced to work together, they both bring something different to the table, they start to like each other, they save the day. It’s the standard formula and fortunately both actresses make the ride enjoyable.

They’re funny and play well off each other. McCarthy has some very funny lines and Bullock does her by-the-book Fed she’s done before and has now perfected. It’s certainly not a great comedy, but I have to admit I was much more entertained by it than I thought I’d be.

White House Down

White House Down Channing Tatum Jamie Foxx 2013

I was in no way planning on ever watching this….ever! I’m not even sure how it happened, but I did end up sitting through Roland Emmerich’s White House takedown flick starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx as the Prez. And yep, it was very stupid.

It is exactly what you think it would be. It pretty much follows the Die Hard-blueprint note for note. Tatum even manages to get down to his John McClane undershirt. Bad guys kill lots of soldiers and secret agents, takeover the White House then hold a pack of tourists hostage, one of which is Tatum’s daughter. Go figure. They look for the Prez and Tatum in vents and hidden passageways. Shocking. Explosions, gunfire and some real, heavy duty ridiculous action scenes fill up the rest of the time.

Maybe audiences are finally getting burnt out on this whole ‘Die Hard’-knockoff film genre, since White House Down was not the big hit it was expected to be. I hope now we can put the Die Hard thing to rest and have someone come up with a fresh and new type of action film.

The Wolverine

The Wolverine 2013 Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman tries to rinse the bitter taste of disappointment everyone felt with X-Men Origins: Wolverine back in 2009. And The Wolverine manages that, but didn’t leave me with as tasty breath as I would have hoped.

A powerful CEO in Tokyo is dying and wants to bid adieu to Wolverine who saved his life decades ago. While there Wolvy gets an offer to end his immortality hell and ends up protecting the CEO’s granddaughter from gangsters.

It’s not the most exciting superhero story. In fact I thought the movie really dragged through most of the middle. The seemingly simple story felt overly-complicated, had some head scratching plot holes and didn’t offer up any real surprises.

The saving grace was some ok fight scenes (wish there was more and better staged). I had been worried about that bullet train sequence first time seeing it in the trailer, while still pretty silly, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

A few interesting characters that make a connection with Jackman’s immortal ronin and have some nice quiet scenes with him. And of course Jackman as Wolverine. Here his character has a more compelling past and issues he’s tormented by throughout this story than anything in Origins, but sadly it doesn’t amount to much in the end. I didn’t think it was fantastic, but just adequate.

Actually the more I think about the movie the less I like it. In fact I think the short tease in the end credits for X-Men: Days of Future Past got me more excited than anything in the film itself.

By the way is the self-operation scene becoming a staple in movies nowadays? During that one scene in The Wolverine I just kept thinking to myself of the similarity to that one scene in Prometheus. It was a good scene, but is this going to become a trend of intense, gory moments in movies now?

So I guess I would say my favorite movie I saw this summer would be The Heat. I never expected to say that. So what’s was your favorite and least favorite movie of the summer that you ended up seeing. What was the biggest disappointment, surprise or the one you felt really angry having paid to see?

Thinking back through all the films over this past summer I can’t recall even one that really had audiences excited by. Maybe the fall plate of movies will be more satisfying. We can only hope.

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5 Responses

  1. spaceodds says:

    I can safely say that summer 2013 was the worst summer for film in a long long time. Quite frankly most of the blockbusters this year were just plain awful. Iron Man 3 was terrible, and has reaffirmed my belief in only watching Iron Man when he's teamed up with The Avengers. Star Trek was decent, and entertaining but quite frankly its not a film I would see again. The Heat was AWFUL!! And Man of Steel was so disappointing. The worst film I've seen this summer was probably This Is The End, I hated this film. The jokes weren't funny, the actors were terrible, and the ego on display made me sick. Quite frankly this is one of the worst films I've seen this year.

    I haven't seen World War Z (will give it a rental), nor have I seen Wolverine because I'm not much of an X-Men fan. And also because after Wolverine's last solo outing, I wasn't that keen. I also haven't seen White House Down since its being released in the U.K. this Friday (09/06) and I too have no intention of seeing the film.

    For me the best mainstream film I saw this summer was The World's End, which I found hilarious, touching, and very enjoyable. Sadly it hasn't done very well at the U.K box office, not as well as Shaun of The Dead at Hot Fuzz did back in 2004 and 2007 respectively

    The only bona fide summer blockbuster that stood out, for me, was Elysium. It was a pretty decent film that I would have no qualms about seeing again.

    However the best film I've seen this summer was an art house film, and it was Only God Forgives. It has been ages since I've seen a film that has really divided opinion like this film has. Here in the U.K. the film has either received glowing five star reviews, or scathing one star reviews, there is no middle ground when it comes to this film. I personally loved this film, the craftsmanship on display was fantastic and the symbolism hinted throughout the film challenged the viewer. The supporting actors, namely Kristen Scott Thomas, and the Thai actor who plays Gosling's 'antagonist' are superb. This is not a film for everyone and some will find it off putting due to the surrealism and the violence (There was one scene I couldn't watch because of the violence) But overall I would say that so far Only God Forgives is my favorite film of 2013.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Don't believe what you hear about The World's End. It's a crappy movie that left me scratching my head as to how it has garnered 90% at Rottentomatoes. Whenever I have seen the critics and moviegoers agree I have never been disappointed. This movie is the first. I would be very interested to get your take on it. Not that I want to force you to the movies AGAIN! It will be out on video soon enough. It ends (get the pun!) an awful summer of movies (I did like Man of Steel, World War Z and The Wolverine).

  3. Capt Nemo says:

    I went back to your post in about the upcoming summer films. And I must say reading this now, I am not surprised.

    Your June post had less optimism about the future than the suicide ward in a mental hospital. So now that summer has played out, you can see that your fears were not unfounded.

    I remember back in 1997 when the news was posting stories about what a great year Hollywood was having. The Matrix, Titanic, Good Will Hunting and others were showing a revitalized energy in Tinsel Town. But now, I don't remember when Hollywood truly had a great year.

    How long will this slump last? Or can it get worse?

  4. Numinous says:

    I didn't see anything at the cinema this summer. I grew up watching the original brace of summer movies ('Jaws', Star Wars', Indy, 'ET' etc. Mostly I watch films on DVD from 1930's to early 1990's. Says a lot doesn't it!

  5. Heiner says:

    My favourite Blockbusters are not mentioned here: PACIFIC RIM and MAN OF STEEL.

    While both not perfect, they delivered what they promised. PR was generic, but the fights and the monsters where jawdropping. And a modern version of JET JAGUAR vs. MEGALON was something my inner child always wanted to see.

    MAN OF STEEL was epic and I don't get all the disappointment. Henry Cavill made me forget Christopher Reeve. The modernization of the Krypton-mythology was interesting, the fights unpreceded on screen. Yes, it was a little bit much: Epic as the Nolan- and Donner-movies and fast-moving as Abrams' Trek at the same time. And the relationship between Lois and Clark wasn't really fleshed out. But whereas INTO DARKNESS and IM 3 have been merely entertainment, MOS had some redeeming qualities. Yes, the charme of the Reeve-age is gone. But after SUPERMAN RETURNS something fresh was needed.

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