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Summer blockbusters: know which films were hot or not

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the titular character in "The Great Gatsby." (Photo Credit Warner Bros. Entertainment)
Leonardo DiCaprio plays the titular character in “The Great Gatsby.” (Photo Credit Warner Bros. Entertainment)

For Hollywood, the summer months are the time to push the biggest movies into theaters. With kids out of school and families out on vacation, studios release their blockbusters hoping to draw in the more available crowd. While summer 2013 was no different in terms of quantity, this year movies quality dipped due to an overreliance on sequels and franchising, while original stories thrived.

 

“Man of Steel” (2.5/5 stars)

As a pure visual experience, “Man of Steel” is almost a masterpiece. Zack Snyder found a unique looking, washed out visual style that allows the film to transition from an alien planet to rural Kansas perfectly. Unfortunately, all this visual flair is wrapped around a nonsensical script that not only goes against Superman as a character, but actually detracts from core aspects of the character in favor of mindless action.

The story is a coming of age story for Superman (Henry Cavill) who struggles to come to terms with being an outsider. When his identity, and his planet come under attack thanks to Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and Kryptonian General Zod (Michael Shannon), Superman must decide his destiny, and subsequently the fate of two races.

Cavill and Shannon are phenomenal in their roles, but the script gives them little to work with. The film spends too much time raising moral quandaries about the value of life, only to completely throw everything away in favor of overdrawn fight scenes. While these scenes are fun, they completely disrupt the tone of the film and pull the audience away from the characters. “Man of Steel” may have its moments of brilliance, but they are lost thanks to characters we simply cannot care about.

“Pacific Rim” (4/5 stars)

Despite being one of Hollywood’s best directors, Guillermo Del Toro has never made a summer blockbuster. His films usually build a deep, expansive world that move at a methodical pace. “Pacific Rim” is Del Toro’s attempt at a summer blockbuster, and while the film has a great sense of scale and excitement, the film is a little too silly for its own good.

After a seven-year war with aliens from another dimension, Earth is at risk of being overrun. General Pentacost (Idris Elba) brings retired Jaegar pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) back to link with rookie pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) for a last ditch effort against the alien Kaiju.

The film promises giant robots fighting giant monsters, and it delivers. The last hour of the film is non-stop thrill rides that are a visual delight. Although the bulk of the film consists of these fights, the rest of the film is a tonal disaster. “Pacific Rim” tries a little too hard to be a serious film, but when characters are throwing out sci-fi terms like “mental drift” and “the purge” the film just comes off as a joke. Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman do not help as painfully bad comic relief characters. 

Still, you would not opt to watch Pacific Rim because you were looking for a great story. It is a film that knows exactly what it wants to do, and does nothing less, making it one of the summer’s best.

“The Great Gatsby” (2/5 stars)

Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” is much like the parties the titular character throws, visual flair being provided by someone who clearly has disdain for those who are in attendance.

Based off the popular novel, Gatsby is viewed from the perspective of Nick Carraway (Tobey Mcguire), as he allured into a life of luxury by Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio, who absolutely owns the role of Gatsby), a con man with questionable standards who wishes to reclaim his lost love Daisy (Carey Mulligan).

Luhrmann is known for highlighting the past through modern culture – here comparing the jazz era of the 1920s with modern day hip-hop – but this detracts from the film. He is so busy showcasing this comparison that actually watching the film is a mess. His cinematography is sloppy, directed most of the actors poorly, and relies too much on common gateway interface. For a movie based around the decadent lifestyle of the 1920s, Gatsby is surely not fun to watch.

“The World’s End” (4.5/5 stars)

Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have a habit of challenging film genres clichés with each of their collaborations. “Shaun of the Dead” against horror, “Hot Fuzz” for action, and now “The World’s End” for sci-fi. Luckily, World’s End not only succeeds in doing this, but also is their best film to date.

A group of high-school friends, led by Gary King (Simon Pegg) all go out to try and completely the golden mile, a 12-pub trek they failed to complete in high school. Gary, who has failed to grow-up since high school, fails to accept that his friends are not only successful in life, but have grown up from his childish antics. Their friendships are pushed to limits, especially Andy’s (Nick Frost), but they have to work together when they learn aliens have invaded their hometown.

The film is not as quotable as their previous works, but it has great characters that bring a lot of heart to the film. This comes from Pegg and Frost, who both breath new life into their careers by essentially switching the roles that made them. Pegg gives his best performance here, with him having to reach some pretty dark places for the part.  These characters roll off each other well, and keep the momentum moving until the credits role. It is not just a great comedy, or a sci-fi film, but just a refreshingly fun movie.

“World War Z” (3/5 stars)

As a novel, “World War Z” worked because it gave a personal look at how multiple characters would react during the zombie apocalypse.  As a movie, “World War Z” captures the excitement of being in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, but does not have any of the charm of the book.

Director Marc Forster wastes no time getting the film started. Within minutes, Gerry (Brad Pitt), an ex-United Nations serviceman, and his family are caught the initial zombie outbreak. Eventually they get put on a military vessel, but in order to secure his family’s safety, Gerry must travel the world to search for the origin of the zombie virus.

It is strange to see Brad Pitt in a zombie movie, but for the most part he gives a good performance. He seems to fit right in with the high-tension scenes that make up most of the movie. Unfortunately, these scenes mean nothing thanks to an ending that comes out of nowhere and does not make sense within context of the film.

“World War Z” has moments of pure brilliance, but like the zombies in the movie it eventually becomes a mindless husk of the film it started as.

 

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