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summer movies 2013

The summer movie season is halfway through and I’ve already seen almost everything I wanted.  If I were a full-time movie critic in love with my own voice, I might say that this bodes ill for the quality and prospects of the film industry.  Well.  I do love my voice, but I’m more inclined to see it as an accomplishment on my behalf.  (How many mothers of three do you know that can boast such a tally?)

Here are my brief responses, in chronological order, to a mostly enjoyable run so far (and yes, there will be spoilers – some major):

Iron Man 3
I went into this one with a self-imposed distraction; I was worried about Jon Favreau’s absence as director.  Jon Favreau is in many ways responsible for the rousing success of Marvel’s Phase I, which culminated fantastically with The Avengers.  His winking, irreverent yet mythos-centric take on Iron Man began a pop cultural shift toward geek media’s acceptance in the mainstream.  Would newbie Shane Black be able to carry the torch?

Happily (pun only somewhat intended), he did just fine.  There was a marked difference in tone, but it was perfectly congruent with Tony’s inevitable PTSD from that little near-death experience he had at the end of The Avengers.  I would have liked more exposition on how Tony overcame said emotional crisis, but that was a small issue.  And nothing that went wrong in the movie could spoil it for me after Tony’s heroics during the missile attack; that image will never leave my mind.

The whole cast was excellent, the effects top notch, and I nearly cried twice so yeah, I say see it.  Remember to stay for the stinger (how does any Marvel movie-goer not know this by now?), and if nothing else compels you, go see Ben Kingsley’s turn as the Mandarin.  You are NOT ready for the awesomeness.

The Great Gatsby
I understand this makes me a cretin and a traitor to the literary profession, but I do not care for The Great Gatsby the novel.  As an exposition of the many facets of life in the 1920s, it is honest and revealing.  However, a memoir on the craft and profession of a dishwasher could also be honest and revealing, but that would not inherently make it interesting or relatable.  Drunkenness and adultery are not romantic to me, so I am automatically turned off by this story.

The story still alienates me, and I am no fan of Tobey Maguire outside of Spider-Man.  Yet I’ll see almost anything with Leonardo DiCaprio since Blood Diamond, and he does a great job with the character of Jay Gatsby.  Isla Fisher is also excellent, but the main reasons to see this movie are inorganic: namely, the sets, music, and parties.  They’re pure eye / ear candy from beginning to end.

All in all, I am glad that I went, but I will not be rushing out for the DVD.

Star Trek: Into Darkness
It is with much relief and profound gratification that I finally announce to the world here and now (and I warned you that there would be spoilers; this is the grandest of them all): I WAS RIGHT!!!

Way back when the trailers were first coming out for this movie and I saw the recreated shot of Spock’s and Kirk’s hands touching through glass, I knew.  I called my three closest movie-going allies and predicted that J.J. Abrams and co. were going to switch the ending from The Wrath of Khan and make Kirk the martyr.  And I was SOOOO right.  It feels good.  Yep, it feels good.

Even beyond all my rightness, there is so much about this movie to love.  Klingons!  Tribbles!  Scotty to the rescue!  And most of all, never let it be understated, Benedict Cumberbatch!  True, the writing in this one felt slightly more rushed than the first, but the story itself was just as good or better.  This has been by far my favorite of the season.

Man of Steel
This one should have been my favorite. 
After all, Superman is my favorite hero.  Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner were born to be his dads.  Amy Adams has created the first Lois Lane that I could even remotely like.  And Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan are a dream team for rebooting this franchise and bringing it relevance in today’s culture.  It should have been perfect.

And yet.

Problem number one: Man of Steel fell victim to action sequences that do nothing but blow stuff up and tear it down.  Fully two-thirds of the action in this film is simply impressive feats of strength and resilience that mean nothing and go nowhere.  I hate that in movies.  Action sequences should be part of the story and should develop the characters in some way (see, once again, The Avengers).

Problem number two (and much more disturbing): He killed Zod.  My Superman killed Zod.  Okay, if we want to extend some grace, it’s true that Superman did eventually kill a villain – but it nearly broke him.  He was devastated.  I know they were just trying to give him more edge, but it was too much too soon.

Much more positively: This movie had the most diverse audience of any I’ve seen this year, or maybe ever.  Everyone was represented there.  It was so refreshing.  Everyone loves Superman…which is why I hope they will let him be a little more him in the next chapter.

What have you seen this summer?  Likes and dislikes, please!

Coming next entry:  Monsters University, Despicable Me 2, The Lone Ranger, The Wolverine, and (hopefully!) Much Ado About Nothing

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