Summer Movies 2013: Best, Worst, and Most Surprising

Posted on August 26, 2013 at 8:00 am

It seems like just days ago that I posted my discussion of what to expect from the summer movies of 2013.  There was no real smash hit and there were a couple of massive flops (though likely to make enough money outside the US to break even.)

Let’s see how they stacked up.

Superheroes:  Nothing was as exciting as “The Avengers.”  This year ranged from the pretty good (“Iron Man III”) to the so-so (“Wolverine” and “Man of Steel”).

Sequels: “Red 2” and “Kick-Ass 2” were far below the originals.  Both went overboard with the violence to attempt distract audiences from the lack of attention to story and character, and the result was hollow and unsatisfying.   “Despicable Me 2” and “Star Trek: Into Darkness” were also not as good as the originals. They were enjoyable but not memorable.

Monsters, Chases, Explosions, and the End of the World:  Nothing really clicked in this category.  The biggest disappointment was “After Earth,” a massive misfire that failed in every category.  This was a movie that asked us to believe that humans with access to fabulous technology that included spacesuits that change color and holographic communications devices had developed nothing to fight the blind, fear-sniffing monsters that constantly attacked them beyond the Bronze Age-weaponry of a spear.  It was painful to watch.  “The Lone Ranger” was almost as bad.  There were a couple of nifty train chases, separated by a long, dull, weird movie with two heroes, one too bland and one too strange.  I liked “Pacific Rim,” about as good a giant robots facing giant monsters movie as anyone could hope for.  I even enjoyed “White House Down,” the second blow-up-the-White-House movie of the year.  But neither made much of an impression.  “Elysium” was excellent but didn’t get a lot of love from audiences.

Middle school books to movies: “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” and “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” pleased fans of the books but not much more than that.

Animation:   Nothing this summer came close to the level of “Toy Story 3” or even “Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted” or “Brave.”  “Monsters University” was another sequel that never matched the first one, with a weird ending that seemed anti-school.  “Planes” should have stayed, as originally planned, as a DVD release.  “Turbo” and “Epic” were pleasant but not much more.

Indies: There were no breakout hits like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” but it was the small independent films that were the summer’s most refreshing and captivating surprises.  If you have not seen “The Spectacular Now,” “The Kings of Summer,” “Short Term 12,” “20 Feet from Stardom,” “The Way Way Back,” “Fruitvale Station,” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” add them to your Netflix queue right now.

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Summer Movie Preview: 2013

Posted on April 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Summer movies are just too big to stay within the calendar months of the season this year. Officially, summer does not begin until June. At the box office, it begins this week, with the first of the year’s guaranteed blockbusters, “Iron Man 3” starring Robert Downey, Jr., People Magazine’s current “most beautiful woman in the world” cover girl Gwyneth Paltrow, and Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin.

After that, the next 16 weeks are going to be filled with superheroes, sequels, wild comedies, chases and explosions, animated family films, and indie darlings.

And there’s one great big drama: Baz Luhrman’s “The Great Gatsby,” the third version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic jazz age story — but the first time in 3D.


Here’s a quick look at what’s coming up:man of steel quad


Iron Man 3” Director Shane Black takes over from Jon Favreau and new cast members include Paul Bettany, Guy Pearce, and Rebecca Hall. “Wolverine” Hugh Jackman returns as the adamantine-bladed X-Men star, this time fighting yakuzas and ninjas in Japan.

Man of Steel” British actor Henry Cavill gets to wear the blue tights and red cape of Krypton-survivor turned superhero in this reboot from Zach Snyder, co-starring Amy Adams as Lois Lane and born-to-play-a- supervillain Michael Shannon as General Zod. Watch for Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as George and Martha Kent.


Star Trek Into Darkness” “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch is the bad guy this time as the crew of the Starship Enterprise has to cope with some complex choices in the middle of the action. “Fast & Furious 6” Justin Lin, who made #5 one of the biggest jolts of cinematic adrenalin, returns — and so does Michelle Rodriguez, even though her character was killed off in an earlier episode.

bruce-willis-helen-mirren-red-2-trailer-character-posters“Red 2” The Retired Extremely Dangerous spies are back, directed by “Galaxy Quest’s” Dean Parisot. Joining the cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Kick-Ass 2” Jim Carrey joins the cast of would-be superheroes as Colonel Stars-and-Stripes when they take on the revenge-filled fury of the Red Mist.“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” The next generation of Greek gods undertake a quest for the golden fleece and a fight against the forces of evil.

300: Rise of an Empire” Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes” comes to the screen, with Themistokles defending at sea against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

Monsters, Chases, Explosions, and the End of the World:

Elysium_PosterWhite House Down” For the third time this year (and the second time for “Independence Day’s” Roland Emmerich), the White House gets attacked, and this time it’s a cop played by Channing Tatum who has to save the day (and his daughter). James Woods and Maggie Gyllenhaal play Secret Service agents, and Jamie Foxx is President.

After Earth” Will Smith and his son Jaden team up for the first time since “The Pursuit of Happyness” in a story about a return to the post-end-of-the-world third rock from the sun, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

World War Z” Brad Pitt. Zombies.

Pacific Rim” Aliens. Giant robots. Directed by fanboy-favorite Guillermo del Toro.

The Lone Ranger” Winkelveii-portrayer Armie Hammer plays the title role, but the one to keep your eye on here is Johnny Depp, reuniting with his “Pirates” director Gore Verbinski to play Tonto.

Elysium” Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in this after-the-end-of-the-world movie, directed by “District 9’s” Neill Blomkamp.

2 Guns” Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg play law enforcement officers investigating each other — until they discover they have been framed and have to work together. A strong supporting cast include’s Washington’s “Deja Vu” co-star Paula Patton, as well as James Marsden, Bill Paxton, and Edward James Olmos.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” Lily Collins stars as Clary Fray from the popular fantasy series by Cassandra Clare about the demon-fighting Shadowhunters. The cast also features CCH Pounder and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Animated Family Movies:

epic” A human girl is shrunk down to the size of an insect in this small-scale adventure from the “Ice Age” folks, with voices by Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Jason Sudeikis, Beyoncé, Chris O’Dowd, Colin Farrell, and Christoph Waltz.

monsters universityMonsters University” If there’s a sure bet this summer, this prequel to Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” is it. We’ll get to see how Sully and Mike learned everything they know about scaring in a movie that will have everyone in the family wanting to go to college. Steve Buscemi, Billy Crystal and John Goodman return, joined by new voices Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, John Krasinski, Alfred Molina, Sean Hays, and Charlie Day.

“Planes” This summer’s big release from Disney feels a bit “Cars”-ish — Dane Cook, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, and Brad Garrett lend their voices to this story of a crop-dusting plane who wants to race.

“Turbo” Another racing underdog story — this one is about a garden snail who gets the power of speed and wants to compete in a car race. Voice talent includes Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hadar, Paul Giamatti, Richard Jenkins, and Maya Rudolph.

“Despicable Me 2” Did you think Gru and the girls were going to live happily ever after? Not quite. Gru (Steve Carrell) is recruited to fight a super-villain in this sequel — we don’t know much more than that, but prepare for lots of minions.

Wild comedies:

Peebles” Funny man Craig Robinson has his first romantic lead as a man who meets the “chocolate Kennedy” family of the girl he loves (“Scandal’s” Kerry Washington) in this Tyler Perry-produced comedy written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism, with an all-star cast that includes Diahanne Carroll, David Alan Grier, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Melvin Van Peebles.

The Heat” “Bridesmaids'” director Paul Feig re-teams with Melissa McCarthy in this female buddy-cop story featuring reliable funny men Marlon Wayans, Tony Hale, and Taran Killam.This-Is-The-End-Rogen-Franco-Hill

This is the End” A comedic take on this year’s popular end-of-the-world theme, this one stars frequent co-stars and off-screen pals Jonah Hill, James Franco, Paul, Rudd, Jason Segal, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Danny McBride, and Seth Rogen, joined by Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and Rihanna.

The Internship” Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson re-team in a recession comedy, but the real star of the movie is Google, the employer of the title’s highly competitive entry-level positions.

“The Girl Most Likely” The writer-directors of “American Splendor” direct Kristin Wiig in this story of a playwright struggling after success, co-starring Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, and “Glee’s” Darren Criss.

Hangover 3” The Wolf Pack is back.

Indie Darlings:Frances Ha” Indie queen Greta Gerwig stars in the typical indie story — a young woman trying to find herself. With “Squid and the Whale’s” Noah Baumbach writing (with Gerwig) and directing, it is definitely worth a look.

Before Midnight” The third chapter (fourth if you count the segment of “Waking Life”) following “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” shows us what happened to Jesse and Celine.

The East” A former FBI agent now working at a private security firm goes undercover in an activist group plotting some extreme “jams” to expose corporate misbehavior finds herself reconsidering which side she wants to be on. Co-screenwriter Britt Marling stars with Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Jason Ritter, and Patricia Clarkson. austenlandposter

“The Kings of Summer” Three teenage boys run away from home to live in the woods in this smart and endearing story, with terrific performances by newcomer Nick Robinson and the always-reliable Megan Mullally, Alison Brie, and Nick Offerman.

Much Ado About Nothing” Joss Whedon called his friends to come over to his house for a couple of weeks to make a stylish, black and white modern-day version of Shakespeare’s most rollicking love story.

The Way, Way Back” This Sundance favorite written by the guys behind “The Descendants” is the story of a boy dragged to his mother’s boyfriend’s beach house. The boyfriend (Steve Carrell) is a bully, but the boy is befriended by a water park manager (Sam Rockwell).

The Spectacular Now” Advance word is that the stars of this story of a party boy who is challenged by a girl are on the brink of a major break-through. Learn those names now: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley.

Austenland” Have you ever dreamed of living in a Jane Austen novel? In this movie, an Austen-like theme park gives fans the chance at a fantasy regency romance, starring Keri Russell.

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