Well moviegoers, it is August, which translates to: “it’s time to get ready to go back to school” a.k.a “summer’s over.” Astronomically, fall begins on September 22nd, but it is pretty easy to tell that summer is winding down and the the calendar days until school’s first term is getting closer and closer. Especially for me since I start graduate school in a few weeks. Anyway, let’s take a look back at a memorable season of summer flicks featuring monsters, heroes, aliens, zombies and the far and few between. If I was asked to describe this year’s crop of summer motion-pictures compared to year’s past, I would say I expected better from the films released between late May to July’s twilight. Let’s breakdown the best and the worst.
The surprise of the summer: “Fruitvale Station.”
The story of Oscar Grant is one to see in “Fruitvale Station
All of these big-budget, stylized and larger-than-life named movies completely overshadowed this gem, which could end up making rounds during Awards Season in 2014. Ryan Coogler’s docudrama about the last day of Bay-Area resident Oscar Grant, starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer is one of the best films of the year and the sleeper of the summer. “Fruitvale Station” is a must-see movie.
The biggest disappointment of the summer: the super-hero films of the summer.
Summer 2012 was highlighted by two of the most profitable and iconic super-hero themed films in history: “Marvel’s The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” Apparently, those movies were hard acts to follow. “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel” and “The Wolverine” were all highly anticipated adventures and there is no denying that they scored big at the box office, but unfortunately they didn’t live up to their respective hypes. All three films were nothing better than average at best. The genre has seen better than what the class of 2013 had to offer audiences. Speaking of super-hero films of summer 2013…
The best super-hero film of summer 2013: “Man of Steel.”
“Man of Steel” soars above its competition
Zack Snyder’s bold approach to his Superman origin story may not be in the same class as Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy but it was the best super-hero feature of the year so far. The feature was the most faithful to the origin story in the comic lore as possible as the details of Kal-El’s arrival on Earth led to the inevitable battle between Henry Cavill’s Superman and Michael Shannon’s General Zod. The cast was good, the direction was decent, the story was solid but somewhere along the line, this movie was just underwhelming. I really hope the sequel can pack more punch though.
The worst super-hero film of summer 2013: “Iron Man 3.”
I wish I go so far as say “disappointing” but I can’t be merciful here. Shane Black’s sequel to Jon Favreau’s installments was very disappointing. The beginning of Phase 2 of the Avengers Initiative was an adaptation of the Extremis storyline, where Tony Stark is up against a foe more dangerous than anyone he has ever faced: a terrorist calling himself, “The Mandarin.” Unfortunately, Shane Black altered the story to the point where it just feels so unfaithful to the original films and comics and the only saving grace was Robert Downey Jr. “Iron Man 3” missed the mark completely.
Best visual effects: “Pacific Rim”
Guillermo Del Toro’s completely original sci-fi robots vs. monsters extravaganza boasts Academy Award caliber visual effects. “Pacific Rim” is set a few years into the future where giant inter-dimensional creatures called Kaiju wreak havoc on mankind and humanity’s only line of defense is the Jaeger Program: two psychically connected pilots operate a 25 ft tall giant fighting robot. The film also features a well-developed an imaginative story, solid performances from Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day and Ron Pearlman.
Best animated film of the summer: “Turbo”
The underdog story about a snail-turned-speed demon is the most computer-generated animated fun I’ve had at the movies all summer. Unlike “Despicable Me 2,” and “Monsters University,” “Turbo” is an original idea with that special it factor that really gets the audience into the story and rooting for the characters. The parallel plots between Ryan Reynolds’ Turbo and Michael Peña’s Tito is as equally fascinating as the concept of a snail racing in the Indy 500.
The best motion picture of the summer: “Fruitvale Station”
In terms of overall structure, entertainment value and impact, Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” stands above the rest. I highly encourage movie fans to venture out and see this extraordinary movie.
The worst motion picture of the summer: “The Lone Ranger”
Forgive me Johnny Depp for I am a big fan but this adventure from you and “Pirates of the Caribbean” director Gore Verbinski, just didn’t put the “wild” into The Wild West. Overall, this adventure starring Depp and Arnie Hammer was boring from start to finish and completely left its audience in the dust.
Final summary: This year’s crop of summer blockbusters was completely lackluster compared to year’s past. I always keep my expectations for a film high but overall, almost every movie I was looking forward to seeing this summer completely fell beneath the bar. Sure, there were a few exceptions but honestly, this year was dry in terms of excitement.
Fortunately, the year is about to experience a better class of film. The final months of the calendar year is typically when the elite class of films arrive in theaters for consideration for Awards Season. I’m really looking forward to what the industry has to offer when it comes to year’s end but unlike the summer blockbusters of 2013, I don’t want to end up disappointed.