Well, this summer in movies has been a disappointment. J.J. Abrams directed a mess of a film that couldn’t keep its gob shut about the perfunctory twist it was pretending to hide. Zack Snyder applied his modern Woo directing sensibilities to the world’s most child friendly superhero that, as marvelous an effort as it was, still couldn’t save that film from its own terrible writing and mischaracterization. Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer created an adaptation of a once iconic American mythic western hero that was neither needed nor requested by any particular niche of audiences and that turned out to be one of the biggest disasters in the history of film-making. Ryan Reynolds has proven that as good of an actor as he is, he can’t seem to shake that Green Lantern flu. And the vast majority of blockbusters have been forgettable mini-vacations to otherwise talented actors even if they weren’t all that bad.
But indeed there were some bright spots. And now, I give you the Best Six of the Summer.
With this surprisingly excellent – if slightly undercut by your knowledge of the events of Monsters Inc. – prequel, Pixar Studios shows that it’s still got it. Is it as good as the first? Not by a long shot. But it’s great to see Mike and Sully back again playing strikingly different characters than the ones you know from the original film. Deliberately eschewing fan nods and obsessive tiresome tie-ins, Monsters University opts to tell its own classically Pixar story of a boy’s adventure to college. Considering that the last great film Pixar came out with was three years ago, this one is a breath of fresh air and absolutely worth your time.
Read the review here
As bad as this summer is, it certainly hasn’t failed in the horror department. Is it a plot you’ve seen before? You most definitely have, but this film is well-shot, masterfully crafted, superbly effective, and every dime is on the screen. And it’s a ton of fun. If you like horror and/or want a movie to take a date to, The Conjuring should suit you just fine. And if you don’t, you might like this one anyway.
A quality sci-fi film based off of a fresh idea for a dystopian future suffocated by class disparity and entropic immigration law that smartly eschewed going the preachy message route and instead stepped forward as a hard-edged action film with good character complexity, fun gunplay, killer CGI and effects, and one of the best villainous performances by Sharlto Copley in a summer that – though ultimately bad – still gave us Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Michael Shannon, and Benedict Cumberbatch for bad guys. Is it as good as District 9? Of course not, but there are few movies of late that are capable of living up to the excellence of Director Neill Blomkamp’s debut. But even if his follow-up doesn’t compare, it’s still damn good on its own right.
This Is The End
Every year usually gives a dozen or so comedies, most of which end up being terrible, but there’s almost always one that shines through as a bright spot, reminding us why we love paying money to go see a movie in a multiplex when we’d laugh just as hard watching it at home instead. This Is The End is that film – the Galaxy Quest, The Big Lebowski, Superbad, Ted, etc of 2013 and the second film this year to feature a premise not deserving of prejudice (the first one being Spring Breakers). With the core cast playing their exaggerated movie/TV persona, heavy improv work, and Michael Cera on drugs, This Is The End is this summer’s comedy genre must see.
Iron Man 3
While I’m technically not in the minority of critics who loved this film, it sure feels like that sometimes. But yes – whether you’re destined to love it or hate it – Iron Man 3, i.e. Marvel’s first solo hero venture following the smash hit that was The Avengers and next big step in the franchise marking the beginning of Phase II is a great film and I adamantly stand by the score of 9.2 that I gave it.
The controversies and criticisms surrounding this film have been all over the place and while I could write a broad defense here, I’m going to choose not to and go with this instead. When all is said and done, I love the film for three reasons. The first is that it’s a film that makes the audience’s big preconceived question going into the film about how Tony Stark is coping with his bruised ego and myriad of near-death experiences in The Avengers the central premise of the film, giving us a taste of what he’s going through without making him look pathetic and then using the Mandarin’s terrorist/anarchist/ultranationalist antics to shake up the country but more importantly the character into an arc of rejuvenation similarly to but less sluggish than The Dark Knight Rises. The second is the fact that it’s a Shane Black movie first and a Marvel Iron Man installment second – giving it an identity beyond the cinematic universe that the film is automatically confined to. As a film, Iron Man 3 doesn’t quite feel so relegated even if it is. And the last reason is because of the big twist. Yeah, I loved it and I don’t care that it betrays a key piece of source material because it made the film more interesting.
So yes, I loved Iron Man 3.
This summer may not be everyone’s favorite, but as far as I’m concerned, this movie is the savior. Pacific Rim is the mother of all blockbusters and a testament to just how much fun a cinematic experience be when filmmakers stop over-thinking their stories and remember why they got into the business of film-making in the first place. The plot of Pacific Rim may be simple, but it actually carries more substance by itself than most other movies that inflate themselves with unnecessary exposition, meaningless twists, hyper-convolution, and sequel obsession. Yes, friends – you can make an interesting, thoughtful, and intellectual movie from a premise involving giant robots beating the crap out of giant monsters.
You see a movie like this and you just have to wonder where modern film-making all went wrong. When did adult audiences become self-conscious about enjoying the same things that kids do? When did filmmakers forget what made blockbusters fun? Where are the ID4s, the Star Wars, the E.T.s, the Spider-Mans, the LOTRs, and James Bonds of modern cinema? These are nice things we used to get from audacious filmmakers who understood that cartoons aren’t inherently demeaning and that simplicity wasn’t the same thing as banality. Guillermo del Toro sure remembers a time like that. And there’s nothing like a masterpiece like Pacific Rim to remind us all of why we love going to the movies. By all accounts, this film shouldn’t be groundbreaking. It should just be another masterfully crafted robot/monster fist fight. But in an era where dark, grim, gritty, and cynical bitterness attracts people because a solo standout like The Dark Knight came about from such a pool, an era where geek culture is appreciated but simultaneously scorned by so many people for being itself, Pacific Rim doesn’t just feel like a breath of fresh air. It feels like a sign from God.
So yes; Pacific Rim is by far the best film of the summer and a strong contender for the best film of 2013.
Fast & Furious 6
The rest of the Fast & Furious franchise is iffy on the whole even if I did overall enjoy Fast Five, but Furious 6 excels on a whole ‘nother level. Seriously, this movie rocks. And stay through the credits.
Read the review here
(you can read my review here)