Talking Nerdy: Summer movie wrap-up

The beginning of the new school year signals the ending of another summer—and what better way to celebrate another summer of fireworks, boating, and other adventurous activities than by talking about the times we spent $10 to sit in an air-conditioned room for 90 minutes in front of a giant TV. Over this summer I saw about 20 movies. I feel this gives me at least a general sense of the kind of summer of movies we had, and, overall, it wasn’t very good, critically or financially speaking. Between “The Lone Ranger” flopping and everyone’s ability to not remember that movies like “R.I.P.D.” or “White House Down” ever existed, this summer in particular was a drought of forgettable and ultimately mediocre film.However, through the “Grown Up 2” and “Planes” films, there were a few standouts that only seem better given their competition. So, without further ado, my top five best movies of the summer of 2013.

#5: “Iron Man 3” Complaints and nitpicks about this movie’s few plot holes, as glaring as they might be, can’t get rid of the fact this is the best written “Iron Man” yet, possibly the best written Marvel movie, period. Robert Downey Jr.’s continued fantastic performance of Tony Stark carries IM3’s darkly humorous script and the general restraint of the film’s action sequences allow the characters to take center stage, instead of the visual effects. Director Shane Black makes a wonderful spiritual successor to his fantastic “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” both in tone and quality. Given that this was one of the few movies this summer that wasn’t a disappointment in some way, many of you have probably already seen it. But if you haven’t, definitely check it out. #4: “The Conjuring” Good horror films are hard to come by and good horror directors even harder, but director James Wan has finally won me over as a guy who knows his stuff. Outside of the usual third-act jitters many horror movies suffer from, “The Conjuring” ranks as one of the most solidly made horror film since last years’ “Sinister.” Despite being shot beautifully and casted perfectly, where the movie really shines is in its ambient sound design and attention to period detail, making the movie feel far more authentic than it claims to be. For those looking for a scare leading up to “Insidious 2” (also directed by Wan), be sure to see this one.

#3: “Blue Jasmine” Woody Allen’s newest film landed quietly this summer amid the many flops, and, while not one of his best, it still served as a strong entry in his late career. The story concerns a woman going through a mental breakdown after her marriage to a wealthy man goes south when he’s arrested for embezzling and she loses everything. Forced to move back in with her adopted sister that she left behind when she married into money, the film follows her attempts to get her life back in order while she negatively impacts the lives of those around her. It’s more low-key, but has a wonderful performance by Cate Blanchett as one of the most contemptible people you may ever meet, and showcases Allen’s natural talent as a writer/director.

#2: “Pacific Rim” And this is where I call shame. Shame on all of you who did not go to see this movie. Even through my jaded and rather cynical attitudes toward most major releases, there is no other movie this summer that tapped into my id more than “Pacific Rim.” I can tell you right now it’s not all that well written. It’s not a movie with something to say. It doesn’t even really have that strong of performances, despite having both Idris Elba and Ron Perlman. But the movie doesn’t care and it isn’t trying for any of those things. What it wants to do is have impossibly large machines fight impossibly large monsters, and, in this regard, it succeeds in spades. Whereas the “Transformer” movies were horribly directed and had writing that actively insulted my intelligence, “Pacific Rim” throws all its eggs into the fights and keeps everything else at an acceptable level, letting the little things keep you interested in between the battles of walking skyscrapers. That fact that this movie flopped makes me a little sad.

#1: “The World’s End” Not to be confused with the also quite good “This is the End,” “The World’s End” is the third film from the trio behind “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” While “The World’s End” may end up being the weakest of the three in my mind, it lives up proudly to its predecessors. Though there aren’t as many laughs to be had, the heart is still there and may be even more prominent. In particular, Nick Frost strays from his usual man-child characters to play the most upstanding member of the group to great effect. Given the film’s subject material, it dips into darker places than the previous films, but still ranks as one of the funniest movies I have seen in years. Those looking for the funniest trilogy of movies in the last decade, look no further than these three movies.


Graphic by Joe Fraser.

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