Although summer officially ends on September 21, for movie fans, summer ends Labor Day. Hollywood blockbusters fade from the multiplex screens and the focus turns towards more serious fare that will be competing for year-end awards. But before moving, we here at Cinema Sentries, along with some friends, wanted to take a moment and look back at the highlights and disappointments from the summer.
Gordon S. Miller’s Picks
If it hadn’t debuted in April and missed our arbitrary starting point by a week, Jeff Nichols’ Mud would have gone wire to wire. It’ll certainly be on my year-end list. By the end of May, Furious Six just beat out Iron Man 3. By the end of July, Pacific Rim slightly edged ahead, earning a few points for originality, even if the script was underwhelming. By the end of summer, my choice for favorite was obvious. My most despised had no competition. Coincidentally, both films share an actor.
The World’s End – Edgar Wright’s film begins as a charming British independent drama about old friends growing up and growing apart. It then takes a turn into science fiction/action film reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Unlike most modern comedies, there’s a thoughtful story with a point of view being told rather than a bunch of funny scenes connected together. It’s a perfect blend of action, comedy, and drama.
Star Trek Into Darkness – This poorly written stinker put a stranglehold on the designation upon its release in mid-May and nothing was able to usurp it. I found myself constantly aggrvated throughout because of the complete lack of logic in the story, the pointless and misguided rehash of Wrath of Khan, and the ugly, unappealing visuals, to name three and I could name more. I’ll give J.J. Abrams that he can direct action as there are many well-executed sequences, but he lacks an ability to deal with story and characters.
Matt Paprocki’s Picks
Iron Man 3 – Marvel maintains peak performance as Robert Downey Jr. again steps into the iconic, laser firing red suit to stop a madman… except not? Comic loyalists will be taken aback by a twist and there’s no doubt Tony Stark is a strategic simpleton, yet Iron Man 3 is bloated, explosion-loaded entertainment as only Disney could fund it. Marvel properties remain in capable hands, and Downey’s kid-bashing smack talk remains representative of casting genius.
Pacific Rim – With alluring visual effects and standout 3D implementation, director Guillermo Del Toro cinematically punches other giant monster movies in their metaphorical faces. Outstanding sense of scale and dazzling worldwide digital sightseeing anchor a narrative losing itself in goofy side characters, but its Asian influences are proudly respected, bolstered by insane dedication to computer generated craft. A world without Kaiju isn’t a world after all
This Is The End – Anyone under the belief today’s Hollywood stars are full of themselves can cast aside perceptions as James Franco, Seth Rogen, and others subject each other to one self demeaning, simulated masturbation act after another. Los Angeles is swallowed by the Biblical apocalypse, which refuses to stop a drunken, overcrowded party at Franco’s fine art covered estate. Free of barriers, This Is The End proves riotous even as it injects unexpected cameos late in its running time.
Elysium – Matt Damon fends off Republican policies by shooting flying Roombas in this pitiful science fiction parable. Regardless of personal political leanings, Elysium is dire in its construction and so forced in its martyrdom as to wash any meaningful purpose. Neill Blomkamp casts aside learned subtly from District 9, embarrassing the anti-capitalism/wealth distribution crowd much like Atlas Shrugged‘s adaptations approached conservative ideals.
Bio: Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can follow Matt’s body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
Jeremy Kinney’s Picks
Whenever I hear somebody say that a certain year was terrible for film, I always inform them that they’re not looking hard enough. In the case of Summer 2013, Hollywood has failed us. Honestly, I don’t think there are that many terrible films. It’s just that very few of them were memorable. At least not coming from the major studios. I liked Star Trek Into Darkness, but I couldn’t in good faith tell you it was a particularly good movie. Here are my bright spots of the summer that keeps me from proclaiming the death of cinema.
Iron Man 3 – Summer started off right. Iron Man 3 is everything I wanted it to be. What I wanted was a Shane Black movie. This is very much a Shane Black film. The dialogue is crisp and fast. He proves that we’re there for character and gives Tony Stark plenty to do where he’s not in the suit that is just as thrilling as when he is. He, along with Marvel, also did something that no other studio picture did. They surprised us. A certain twist you never saw coming. Hardcore fans of the comics probably threw their hands in the air. All I threw were fits of laughter and joy. As far as comic books coming to life, the final two action scenes are as good as it gets. I was in geek Heaven.
Before Midnight – You can’t really talk about this film without getting specific and I don’t want to spoil anything for you who haven’t had the time to catch up. What I can say is the journey we go on with Celine and Jesse is just as rich and powerful as what has come before. Forget your Star Wars or The Lord Of The Rings; Linklater has crafted the perfect modern trilogy. It would be a shame not to see Jesse and Celine again in nine years, but as long as I have these films, everything is going to be okay.
A Band Called Death – Two years, two films about under appreciated musicians from the Motor City in the ’70s who are only getting their due now. A Band Called Death is a joyous celebration of music and family. The story of three brothers who played rock and roll in an era and place where rock and roll was being replaced with disco. I can’t in good faith call it “punk rock” as the movies marketing wants you to believe, they’re just too talented. But rock and roll it certainly is and it’s blistering at that. The story of the Hackney brothers deserves to be told. Loud.
The Bling Ring – The true story of celebrity obsessed teenage burglars has no appeal to me. So why is it my favorite film of the year so far? Sophia Coppola’s films have always had a sense of detachment that works for me. I shouldn’t be able to relate to these obnoxious vapid teenagers, but Coppola hooks us with Marc, a kid who finally feels like a part of a community. I understand his friendship with Rebecca. Even when she starts to do horrible things, I know why Marc follows her into the trenches. The cast is uniformly excellent. Katie Chang is a major find and we’ll be seeing more of her in the future I’m sure. Emma Watson again takes a minor role and steals every scene she’s in. Coppola’s direction is as good as she’s ever been, doing work with her camera that never calls attention to itself but is also very specific. She once again proves she’s got excellent taste in music.
Furious Six – The fifth sequel to a franchise I had no interest in until its last entry. I only watched the previous film for the addition of Dwayne Johnson. I’ve since caught up with the whole series and was none too impressed with the first couple of entries. It’s only when Justin Lin came along that things started to get interesting. Over the course of four films, Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan have a created an incredibly silly mythology that works. With the fifth entry, they basically threw out idea of what a Fast and Furious movie was and went balls to the wall action. And boy is it fun. Sure, the dialogue is often not the best and plotlines for certain characters make no sense and are left hanging. But guys, they got a tank! Lin crafts big insane action scenes with gusto. Unlike this new trend of shaky cinematography, Lin doesn’t need that to make you feel a part of the action. His choreography and geography of a scene are perfect. You know where everybody is and what they’re doing at all times. There’s some story here, but it’s not why I’m there. I get it, family. Now please destroy everything in sight with cool dudes, beautiful ladies, and hot cars. As far as studio films go, this is my favorite film of the summer.
As I said above, I don’t think there were that many terrible films this summer. Just a lot of mediocre ones. Do I really need to tell you Grown Ups 2 is trash? That R.I.P.D. is the bane of studio filmmaking in this age? No, I don’t. I knew what I was getting with those films and they delivered on that promise. Instead I’d rater focus on two movies that disappointed me. So much so, I find them to be the biggest crimes of the summer.
Man of Steel – My most anticipated film of 2013 won’t make my year-end list. That breaks my heart. Especially considering how much the film does right. The cast is excellent. The scope is huge. The fisticuffs lacking from Superman Returns are here in full force. It’s as good as Superman has ever looked on the big screen. So what went wrong? In one word, Goyer. Sure, Nolan helped with story, so some blame must be laid at his feet as well. Snyder too. But the heavy lifting is all Goyer and Goyer doesn’t understand Superman at all. I’m not going to get into specifics, but suffice to say there are multiple times in the story where I couldn’t believe what I just saw. A moment towards the end made me audibly sigh it let me down so much. I love Superman. I know I’m going to watch this movie 100 more times before I die, just because it’s Superman. I saw it three times in the theater despite my complaints. But I’ll be disappointed every time, no matter how much I try to fool myself.
Kick-Ass 2 – I loved Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic so much I’m not going to tell you how many times I saw it in the theater due to embarrassment. Double digits. I have very little love for Millar’s comic, but I like the ideas he has. Vaughn elevated the material. Gave it a real heart and soul. And the man can craft one hell of an action scene. I had the same reservations with the sequel in comic form as I did the first, but I assured myself it was under Vaughn’s control, so we were in good hands. I was so very wrong.
Jeff Wadlow’s script feels like someone who loved Kick-Ass but didn’t understand it apart from swear words and gross-out humor. He does manage to get the characters right. This is where Dave, Mindy, and Chris would be now. Though I’m not going to ask how Dave is in high school still with Hit Girl now, considering she was 10 in the first film. Suspension of disbelief. The emotional core between Dave and Mindy really works.
Too bad it’s surrounded by some of the worst action scenes you’ll see directed this year. When I think of Kick-Ass, I think of that hallway scene and how we followed Hit Girl down it know exactly how everything worked. That attention to detail is not on display here. The cinematography is the worst of the shaky-cam trend. There’s a sequence with a van that has all the elements of a great action scene, but the camera work is so poor, you never really feel a part of it. The vulgarity of the first film is here, but it always goes one step to far and just ends up being gross. Wadlow wrote and directed, so I have to put most of the blame on him. But Vaughn’s production company made the film. He was involved and that disappoints me more than I can I say.
Bio: Follow Jeremy Kinney on Twitter at your own peril @fakeshemp.
Feel feel to agree or disagree in the comments and let us know what we overlooked.