Playing Catch-Up: Summer 2013 Micro-reviews

We’ve hit the end of August which means that the summer blockbuster season is finally coming to an end. It has been a summer filled with blockbusters upon blockbusters upon flops and explostions. In an upcoming post, I’m going to give a report card to the 2013 summer blockbuster season that starts in May and ends in June.

This post serves as a bit of a catch up on reviews I didn’t get around to this summer due to  EF5 tornadoes, a new job, moving into a new place, and just an overload of movies hitting theaters week to week. This meant that I had to pick and choose and sometimes movies I really wanted to review got passed on because I simply didn’t have the time. I give my brief over-riding thoughts and then a score for each movie on the list. Hopefully it’s a fun read that will keep you up to speed on how I’ve felt about this year’s summer season.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Verdict: Star Trek Into Darkness was a super fun and lightning fast return to the world and characters J.J. Abrams reinvented in 2009’s Star Trek. The returning cast is never better with Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Chris Pine’s Kirk relationship feeling even more enjoyable than before. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the infamous and iconic villain Khan, and snatches up nearly every scene in which he graces the screen. While the movie had some commentary on just war and the politics of it all, the movie moved so quick that it was mostly glossed over which left this movie feeling more like a ride than a truly thought provoking experience(something Star Trek is classically known for). While I enjoyed the winks, nods, and tributes to Wrath of Khan, the movie felt as if it was trying too much to celebrate the classic as opposed to telling it’s own story. In the end, Star Trek Into Darkness was an incredible ride into space that I won’t soon forget even if it doesn’t live up to its fullest potential.

Overall Score: 8.0

This Is The End

This Is The End

Verdict: This Is the End may be a bunch of buddies getting together to make a movie about the end of the world, but this movie actually has some really fun ideas, a cast with excellent chemistry, and humor that is the definition of on the nose. It may not be deep and it may be juvenile, but the movie is actually very clever in the way it has the entire cast making fun of themselves, their friends, and the state of actors in Hollywood in general. While the crude humor may have been a bit too much for my taste at times(Danny McBride’s masturbation jokes got old fast), I could help but enjoy all of the celebrity cameos and meta humor the movie employed on each of the actors own personal lives. It’s nice to know that these actors know how to laugh at each other despite their ego-driven celebrity status. This is the rare comedy I consider buying and watching over and over again.

Overall Score: 9.0

Monsters University

Monsters University

Verdict: I was as skeptical as everyone else when a Monsters Inc. prequel was announced and I’m glad to say that my skepticism was misplaced. After the missteps of Cars 2 and Brave, it’s nice to see that Pixar can still return to form and deliver the magical experience that all of us movie buffs know and love. The movie has Pixar’s stamp of quality with breathtaking animation, a great cast of memorable characters, and a story that is infinitely relatable and actually had some surprising twists by the third act. While the movie may not be one of the studio’s “grade-A” productions, I still found myself enjoying it more than the original at times which is mostly thanks to the way Mike was written in this movie. I was never a fan of that character in the first movie, but going forward from here, I’m a Mike fan through and through. As expected, there were moments that I may have become emotional and glossy eyed in the best animated movie so far this year.

Overall Score: 8.5

World War Z

World War Z Movie image

Verdict: World War Z was a movie that had “doom” spelled all over it because of some highly publicized on set problems that included a total run time of 70 minutes with an incomplete ending. I was prepared for the worst going into this movie, and what I got was actually a really enjoyable zombie movie that had a scope bigger than any we’ve ever seen before in the genre. These may not be your classic Romero zombies, but the threat feels very real and terrifying and Brad Pitt’s quest really does seem pressing. While I enjoyed the movie and the re-written ending(compliments of Damon Lindelof), it definitely had some issues, particularity concerning a subplot that takes place on a boat. The pacing in this movie wasn’t great either with some scenarios playing out almost too quickly, even for a movie. It wasn’t perfect, but World War Z delivered some solid and passable summer entertainment.

Overall Score: 7.0

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

Verdict: If World War Z was an example of a troubled production proven wrong, The Lone Ranger was the example that’s issues were proven correct. The movie was shut down during production because of a ballooning budget, but somehow the movie still ended up costing Disney over $250 million to produce. This movie is brought to us by the team that made the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy and boy does this feel like it has all of the problems of the Pirates sequels. The movie is entirely too long, full of pointless and uninteresting subplots, characters, and an awkward sort of bookend to the whole story. Johnny Depp’s Tonto  was mostly enjoyable had the most interesting story out of any of the characters which left the “lead” in the dust. It was bloated, lacked focus, and piled on characters that simply didn’t belong in the movie. All of the problems aside, the set pieces involving the trains in this movie were incredible and nothing short spectacular. No matter how many problems I had with the film, I can’t deny that I wasn’t swept away in the last thirty minutes of the movie.

Overall Score: 4.5

Grown Ups 2

Film Review Grown Ups 2

Verdict: Unlike This Is the End which also starred a bunch of friends making a movie together, Grown Ups 2 does not have an interesting story to tell. In fact, aside from a couple of fun little scenes in the beginning and end of the movie, it looked like the cast had no idea what they were doing. My guess is that Sandler and gang enjoyed the money they made off of their vacation with the first “Grown-Ups” that they decided that they didn’t need a script, or story, or any type of plotting. It’s worse than pulling teeth to see these once hilarious and reputable actors hit the money grubbing rock bottom. I mean worse than Jack and Jill rock bottom. To twist the knife even deeper, this movie out grossed the spectacular piece of summer cinema “Pacific Rim” on its opening weekend.

Overall Score: 1.5….the .5 is for a couple of laughs it got out of me

RIPD

RIPD

Verdict: RIPD was a mess just waiting to happen. It may have a couple of great leads that have perfect chemistry with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds, but ultimately this movie just doesn’t come together in anyway that is enjoyable. It’s predictable, filled  with horrible CGI,  and composed of a script flimsier than Reynold’s current box office track record. It’s rough. It’s a bad movie when not even the Bacon….excuse me Kevin Bacon can up the quality. The movie is engaging enough to stay moderately entertaining, but when it was over I couldn’t help but wonder if I should have just rewatched Men in Black instead.

Overall Score: 3.5

The Conjuring

The Conjuring

Verdict: Before The Conjuring, nobody would have ever thought that a low budget horror movie could come out in July and take the box office by storm. The Conjuring delivered a breath of fresh air that this summer desperately needed by mid-July by delivering one of the best horror movies I have seen in years. James Wan has perfected his techniques in horror with The Conjuring by using the most subtle and innocent of sounds and most creative camera angles to build tension and intensity in even the simplest of scenes. He understands what makes us scared and uses our own imaginations and expectations against us to deliver some truly devious horror. In many ways this movie is hearkening back the golden era of horror classics in the seventies by sticking to a classical aesthetic while also employing some of those old school tricks. The Conjuring was not flawless, but delivered what may be my finest movie going experience of the summer.

Overall Score: 9.0

The Wolverine

The Wolverine

Verdict: I’m a huge Superman fan so in many ways I thought that the pinnacle of superhero movies this summer would land in June, but The Wolverine delivered the movie I believe I’ll be revisiting far more often. I’ve already seen the movie three times, and each time I’m convinced more and more that it may be my favorite movie of the season. It’s not flawless and perhaps Man of Steel is the better movie, but I loved the very intimate angle the movie was taking on its titular character. Unlike the Marvel produced movies that are crossing over in every way imaginable, The Wolverine is focused on being its’s own movie with its own story to tell despite existing in a larger universe of movies. The final twenty to thirty minutes of this movie may devolve into a typical comic book movie, but the rest of the film is more concerned with telling this story in the best way possible by avoiding many of the genre tropes we’ve come to expect. Hugh Jackman proves yet again that he can play this role in his sleep with his most in depth take on the character yet. I can’t deny it, I loved The Wolverine, flaws and all.

Overall Score: 9.0

2 Guns

2 Guns(2)

Verdict: Two Guns was a fun little action movie that lacked much creativity or drive, but more than made up for it thanks to the chemistry between the two leads, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. I can’t complain about the beautiful screen presence of Paula Patton either. It’s not a great movie, and I think it could be argued it’s not a good one either, but it was fun and enjoyable. Aside from the mostly generic and even semi-predictable story it delivered exactly what you’d want…except for a satisfying ending. The movie decides to cop out in the last twenty minutes or so by ensuring that no matter how messy the story had gotten, nobody would care by the time the movie was over. All in all, it’s enjoyable if a bit forgettable. Hopefully the duo can re-team on a movie that is better suited for their talent.

Overall Score: 6.0

jOBS

jobs

Verdict: Jobs is the first attempted biopic to tell the world who Steve Jobs really was. Despite looking shockingly like a young Steve Jobs, Ashton Kutcher doesn’t really deliver a believable character so much as he delivers the idea of who Jobs was. It’s an odd distinction, but Steve never felt fully human as much as he seemed a bit mythologized by the script and performance. The movie wants to have things both ways with Jobs by making him both a legend and a monster sometimes shifting between the two from scene to scene. When the credits rolled I couldn’t help but ask what exactly the movie was trying to state about the visionary that was Jobs one way or the other.The movie also began with a pet peeve of mine…it opened with a scene that never tied into anything else that happened to the character for the rest of the movie rendering it pointless. That’s a no-no in my book! Lastly, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the whole production felt like a glorified made for TV movie. It wasn’t all bad as the film left me a bit inspired and curious, but let’s hope the Aaron Sorkin Jobs biopic can actually give us real insight into who this guy was and what drove him to change the world.

Overall Score: 5.5

The World’s End

The World's End

Verdict: The World’s End was the second movie about a group of friends partying through the end of the world this summer, but it couldn’t have felt more different. This movie complete’s Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto trilogy” that began with Shaun of the Dead and was followed by Hot Fuzz. While The World’s End may not be my favorite of the three, it still delivered one heck of a trip to the movies. It’s odd British sensibilities mixed with the ridiculous Invasion of the Bodies Snatcher-esque plot points made for a truly one of a kind experience. The best part about the movie is that while being a sci-fi comedy, it still has it’s moments of drama and depth. These characters each have their own struggles they must confront which leads to some surprisingly emotional moments from nearly every one of the main characters. I may not have been a fan of the epilogue, but I still thought The World’s End was theperfect way to bookend a summer filled with superhero movies, big budget spectacle, and heartless fanfare.

Overall Score: 8.5

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