Summer Movie Wrap-Up (2013)

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The 2013 summer movie season has concluded, and no one could be happier then movie critics. This summer more than ever, it seemed like critics just couldn’t handle the explosions season this year. It was almost a shock to see a movie above 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. Speaking for myself, the stuff I was looking forward to met or exceeded expectations, despite a couple disappointments. But we’ll get into all of it soon enough as we take one last look at Captain Kirk, Jay Gatsby, General Zod, Zombies, and James Franco in The 2013 Summer Movie Wrap-Up!

TOP 5 MOVIES OF THE SUMMER:

5. Only God Forgives:

No one saw this and it barely got a release, but it did come out this summer. I’m surprised this couldn’t get more theater openings as Only God Forgives reunites director Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling of Drive fame. Drive didn’t exactly smash things up at the box office, but it does have a passionate following. While the film has many flaws, when it hits, it hits hard. Gosling is great as always, playing the role of a Bangkok smuggler named Julian who’s brother is killed for his brutal crimes. But the real show stopper was Kristin Scott Thomas who is pure evil as Julian’s mom. Aside from Thomas, the lighting and look of this film is also mesmerizing. If you hate this movie, I totally get it, but for me, what can I say…it worked.

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4. The Wolverine:

There have been six X-Men-based movies, and I would put this third behind X-Men: First Class and X2. There are a few wasted secondary characters and the second act is a bit slow, but it’s Hugh Jackman who acts his ass off despite this being his sixth portrayal of the character. The first act of The Wolverine is gorgeous, and I wish the whole film could have been Logan wandering around the woods with long hair hanging out with bears, and beating up assholes at bars. But alas, we have to go to Japan. While the film never reaches the heights it does in the first act, I like the way it progresses, and really dug the third act. Oh, and the mid credits teaser kicks the shit out of all other Marvel teasers combined.

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3. Star Trek Into Darkness:

While a tad worse than it’s predecessor, this beautifully continues what I loved about that 2009 film. Great acting, great character development between Kirk and Spock, great villain, and exhilarating action. The Star Trek purists can hem and haw all they want, but this was a pure blast start to finish. I can’t wait to see where this franchise goes next, with or without J.J. Abrams.

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2. The Great Gatsby:

If you were to ask me before May 10th, 2013 whether this would be #2 on my best of summer list, I would have said “Oh, so they got a different director.” I’ve got to hand it to Baz Luhrmann though, because he captured the power of that novel perfectly. While there are little segments here and there that are too Luhrmanny (the car scenes), he put an emphasis on character that completely took me by surprise. Behind all the glamour, glitz, and parties (which truly are grand), Luhrmann puts the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy at the forefront, and that’s the true soul of the story. Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, and most everyone else knocks it out of the park. If it weren’t for Tobey Maguire, this could have been the best movie of the summer, and maybe all of 2013. Thanks, Tobey.

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1. Man Of Steel:

We’ll get to the critic and fan reaction of the film later on, but for now I just want to recap why I love this movie so much. Much like The Dark Knight trilogy, Man Of Steel takes the superhero genre and turns it on its head. This isn’t a kid’s movie with quippy little one-liners. Man Of Steel is a gritty, epic, and powerfully acted film where the main character is forced to make choices that aren’t exactly easy, and have actual consequences. In a movie about a baby who flies to Earth from another planet and can fly, it seemed real. This film has been criticized for the destruction feeling too real. It’s been criticized for not being any fun. I see these as positives. It’s not The Avengers, and it’s not supposed to be. Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David Goyer gave us something with real genuine emotion, and I only wish more superhero movies would take note.

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Now that we’ve covered some of the top films of the summer, let’s take a look at some of the other highlights, both good and bad.

Biggest Surprise: This Is The End
I wasn’t even going to see this, but after countless prodding and arm twisting, I finally submitted and saw This Is The End…and liked it. I got genuine gut laughs, especially in the first act. I didn’t know Michael Cera could actually be funny. The only reason this didn’t make my top five though is because after the actual apocalypse happens, it steadily loses steam. Also, I’m not a Seth Rogen fan, and even in this he was still the weak link. I’m just never going to find this guy funny…sorry.

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Most Overrated: The World’s End
Alright, let’s all calm down. I don’t hate this movie. I think it’s okay, but has serious flaws. The first act is solid – good camaraderie among the actors, solid chuckles, and an especially good performance from Simon Pegg. Once it gets into the whole robot/sci-fi deal, that’s when the movie starts to run out of gas. How many times do we need to see these guys go to a bar and kill robots? It’s the same formula for an hour! The repetition is just endless. The end also goes completely off the rails where the cleverness just felt forced. I understand the Edgar Wright fan base is passionate, but this just isn’t a strong film, I’m sorry.

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Most Underrated: Kick-Ass 2
Had Matthew Vaughn directed this, it could have been as good as the original, but director Jeff Wadlow was still able to meld together the different genres that makes the first one so endearing. It’s certainly more superheroey, but most of the time that’s a strength of the film. I love the formation of the villains, the acting is solid all around, and Jim Carrey is fantastic as Col. Stars and Stripes, albeit a smaller role than I expected. I’m really into this universe and hope a third one can get made.

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Most Disappointing: Elysium
The first fifteen minutes were great. The rest of the film…honestly, I don’t remember anything. This was a massive let down.

Best Performance of the Summer: Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Kal-El (Man Of Steel)
This was a really tough call between Cavill and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby, and I could see myself changing my mind when I do my end of the year wrap-up. I went with Cavill though because I felt he did so much with little dialogue. But the scene that really puts him over the edge is his dramatic scream at the end, and those are always hard to pull off. Cavill is brilliant, and might be the biggest reason why Man Of Steel is as good as it is.

Worst Performance of the Summer: Bill Paxton as Earl (2 Guns)
-I almost went with Tobey Maguire in The Great Gatsby, but that wouldn’t be fair. Paxton was just really annoying in this movie, I don’t know what else to say.

The “I Hate Critics” Award: Man Of Steel

*Man Of Steel Spoilers Ahead

We’ve all had times where we really enjoy a particular film that nobody else likes, and vice versa. Everybody has the right to their own opinion, which makes movie debate fun. If you don’t like Man Of Steel for movie reasons, then okay. What infuriated me with the Man Of Steel criticism though is that so many critics wrote negative reviews not based on the movie itself, but were upset they didn’t get the Superman they wanted. This is complete and utter garbage. Yeah, this wasn’t the Christopher Reeve’s Superman. GET OVER IT! Judge this film for what it is. Judge it for this take on Superman, and not what you wanted. And it wasn’t just critics. Many Superman comic book writers were so upset that Superman allowed so much destruction, and didn’t seem to care about any of the humans dying. First of all, this isn’t your take on Superman. This was Zack Snyder and company’s take on Superman, so again – they are criticizing the characterization of Superman they’ve known from past iterations and not the movie itself. And furthermore, he didn’t care about humans? Yeah, that’s why he destroys any chance Krypton has of surviving so that the human race can live on…right, he didn’t care. As far as the whole Superman not saving people thing goes, which seems to be the primary reason many hate this film, what did you want the guy to do in this situation? All he can do is fight General Zod. If he can’t beat Zod, the entire human race is doomed. How much saving can he really do when he’s being attacked by another super human? Imagine if you were being attacked by a giant wild dog…how much control over your body would you have? If he went and saved someone, Zod would have flown away and just killed ten more. I just wish people would really sit down and think about films before making the blind assessment of, “Oh, Superman wouldn’t do that.” The last criticism I’ll address is Superman killing Zod. “Superman would never kill. This movie is bull shit.” There was nothing else Superman could have done. And this is what I mean about a superhero movie having real consequences. If this was The Avengers, the Hulk would have run in and comically saved Superman from making this difficult decision. I love this moment because it painfully depicts the burden of being a superhero…he’s devastated by this decision. Okay, back to the summer movie wrap-up. Man Of Steel rant over.

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Best Jay Gatsby Suit: The White Suit with Gold Tie
As much as I loved the pink suit he wears towards the end, the white with gold tie he wears to Nick’s house as he waits for Daisy I felt was the better option. Maybe we can get the E! Fashion Police to weigh in on this?

The Movie That Irritated Me The Most: Iron Man 3
Here’s my summary of Iron Man 3: (SPOILERS)

-Tony Stark one-liners
-Let’s tease post traumatic stress, but we can’t go too far because it’s a kid’s movie
-Gimmick plot twist
-More Tony Stark one-liners
-A bunch of robots fight at the end while Guy Pearce breathes fire
-I’m giving up being Iron Man, but I am Iron Man
-The End

The Thing Everybody Hated, But I Liked: “KAAAAAAAAAAAAHHNNNN!” (Star Trek Into Darkness):

*Star Trek Into Darkness Spoilers

I can’t really blame a die hard Trek fan freaking out about this, however…I thought J.J. Abrams and the writing team built to this moment beautifully. I’m of course talking about the scene towards the end that basically emulates Spock’s death from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, but reversed with Kirk’s death instead in Star Trek Into Darkness. I felt this moment was earned, and continued to build on Spock and Kirk’s relationship, which is the strongest element to this new series. And I know I’m about to get a phaser to the head, but Chris Pine & Zachary Quinto > (greater than) William Shatner & Leonard Nimoy. I’m not saying the scene overall was better in this version, but I thought the dialogue tweaks were powerful, and for whatever reason, this moment just felt right. Also, yelling “Kahn” was certainly no easy feat to pull off…but Quinto sold it.

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Why Doesn’t This Movie Get The “Come On, It’s Just Dumb Fun” Excuse Too: White House Down
Another thing that pissed me off about critics this year is how hard they judged films like Man Of Steel and The Great Gatsby, yet movies like Fast & Furious 6, Pacific Rim, and World War Z get the “Oh, well these were supposed to be dumb, so it’s okay.” Okay, so why was White House Down panned? It’s the same thing – just dumb fun, yet it got blasted. Is it because people like Guillermo del Toro, Vin Diesel, and Brad Pitt, but hate Roland Emmerich? I don’t know the answer, it just feels like inconsistent reviewing all around.

The Humbling Award: Will Smith (After Earth):
The reason I didn’t completely detest this movie like everybody else is because I still thought Will Smith was good in it. This guy is a great actor, but he’s just not making smart decisions right now. I really hope After Earth’s opening weekend is a wake-up call for Smith, and he’ll stop trying to force his kid into movies, and just make another great film himself.

The Worst Movie Of The Summer: World War Z

*Note: I did not see The Lone Ranger, Fast & Furious 6, The Smurfs 2, or Getaway

I’m convinced the only reason people enjoyed World War Z is because many were expecting an absolute crap-fest, so when it wasn’t entirely that, it seemed better than it actually was. There is no soul to this movie whatsoever. The action is lazy, and so is the acting. World War Z is the type of movie that sits on the couch eating doritos and can’t reach the remote to change the station and just says, “Fine, I guess I’ll watch Two and a Half Men reruns.”

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.