Friday, July 05, 2013

Summing Up The 2013 Summer Movies Season So Far

I’ve decided to take most of July off from writing about movies to finish a book project, largely because my mind has been over cluttered with debris from all the ginormous destruction on the big screen I’ve experienced so far this summer. 

But I’ve seen much worse summer fare in seasons past so I’m not going to go on a rant about the money-making mechanisms of Hollywood or the glut of superhero comic book movies. No, I’m just gonna clean out my notebook by summing up some films in current release, including a certain cowboy and indian centered blockbuster wannabe that just opened, so I can move on. So here goes:


(Dir. Gore Verbinski)

The majority of critics are bashing Verbinski’s update of the iconic Western character (it’s at 23% on the Rotten Tomatometer), and it’s already been deemed a flop, but I actually thought it was a not bad blockbuster wannabe. It’s way too long, and Johnny Depp as Tonto too often dominates the screen with his typical shifty eyed mannerisms (sometimes under pancakes of unconvincing old man make-up), but Armie Hammer does a decent job as a gallant doofus of a hero, and the story winds back on itself in a very entertaining way. It's Verbinski’s expected over-the-top action thrill-ride all the way, but I went along with it, perhaps just because it wasn’t another PIRATES movie, and it wasn’t in 3D, but either way I don’t mind being in the minority.

(Dir. Joss Whedon)

Considered the antithesis of his superhero smash last summer, THE AVENGERS, Whedon’s small budget black and white modern day Shakespeare adaptation is a breezy delight that my wife and I quite enjoyed one recent evening at the Colony Theater in Raleigh. The exquisitely fluffy film is basically a filmed party at Whedon’s house in Los Angeles over 12 days, with veterans of the directors TV shows such as Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Reed Diamond, and Clark Gregg spouting out the original text of Shakespeare’s 16th century play. If you can get into the rhythms of the old timey language, it’s a fun time, if not, then maybe the Bard isn’t for you.

(Dir. Dan Scanlon) 

This Pixar prequel, #1 at the box office right now, is fun, and just funny enough to make it not matter that it’s a pretty unnecessary project. Billy Crystal and John Goodman return to voice the one-eyed green monster Mike, and his big blue furry friend Sully in this charming coming-of-age story about their days at the School For Scaring. Amusing plot similarities to the recent Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy THE INTERNSHIP are noted by friend and fellow film writer, Will Fonvielle, who attended the screening with me, in his dead on review which you should read here at his movie blog, Filmvielle.

(Dir. Richard Linklater) 

The best film of the summer has no CGI, no explosions, no high octane action at all. It just mostly features married couple (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) walking and talking through Greecian ruins as they take stock of their relationship. It’s the third in Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy’s sweet series about love, life, and talking these subjects to death. Read my review here.

(Dirs. Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg)

The most hilarious film of the summer has a crew of graduates from Apatow Academy finding the funny in facing the apocalypse which hits Los Angeles during a wild party at James Franco’s house. Rogen and Franco along with Jay Barachel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride, all playing exaggerated versions of themselves, litter the extremely crude, profane, and insanely graphic (there’s a 60-foot Satan with a swinging penis, you see) with wall-to-fall big laughs. Read my review.

(Dir. Roland Emmerich) 

I had more with this than I did with THE LONE RANGER, but audiences seem to be rejecting this because of its all too familiar DIE HARD formula. Which is understandable, what with OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, you know? But I enjoyed seeing Channing Tatum, of course in a wife-beater, and Jamie Foxx as an Obama-ish President tackle White House action set-pieces with great gusto, and it made me laugh more than the cop comedy that's been out-grossing it, in more ways than one, since it opened. I'm talking about:

THE HEAT (Dir. Paul Feig)

Some film folks have called attention to the fact that this is the one of the few female fronted major releases this summer, and that it may be the first female buddy cop movie ever (I guess the Cagney and Lacey TV movie doesn't count), but it's a mediocre movie barely worth a matinee price.

There can't help but be some big laughs provided by the immense comic energy of Melissa McCarthy, but Sandra Bollock is bland, many scenes are clunky - especially when it comes to the silly underwritten sitcom fodder or McCarthy's bickering family, which includes Michael Rappaport and Jane Curtain - and a great number of lines fall flat. However, since it seems to be striking a chord with movie-goers (it's #2 at the box office at the time of this writing), maybe I'm too burned out by blockbuster bombardment to recognize its brilliance.

And the rest:

MAN OF STEEL (Dir. Zack Snyder) Read my underwhelmed review of the new Superman reboot here.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (Dir. J.J. Abrams) Likewise.

WORLD WAR Z (Dir. Marc Forster) Ditto.

THE INTERNSHIP (Dir. Shawn Levy) Uh huh.

Okay, so that's my summer so far sum-up.. Like I said before I’m taking some time off from reviewing movies this month and will be skipping some upcoming screenings in the weeks ahead, so there will be fewer posts, and the weekly feature New Releases On Blu Ray & DVD will be on hold until August.

More later…