“The Best Summer Movies of 2013” – by Delon Villanueva

“The Best Summer Movies of 2013” 

by Delon Villanueva

              That’s right, guys. The summer movie season is coming to a close, and I have to say, this has probably been the most I’ve been to the theater during the summer…ever. As an 18-year-old incoming college freshman with a driver’s license, you can do a lot with your time during the summer. So, of course, I chose to spend my time at the cinema. To put it in even more positive light, I thought that this was one of those summers where there was something to check out almost every week (not that it’s grade-A quality every week…but it’ll do).

Yes, summer 2012 brought out some big guns: The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises. Though aside from those highly anticipated blockbusters, summer 2012 as a whole was rather mediocre. Summer 2013, on the other hand, had more variety to offer. If you don’t believe me, check out these movies I saw this past season:

Iron Man 3

The Great Gatsby

Star Trek Into Darkness

The Hangover Part III

Fast and Furious 6

Before Midnight

After Earth

This is the End

Man of Steel

Monsters University

The Way, Way Back

Fruitvale Station

Pacific Rim

The Conjuring

The To Do List

The Spectacular Now

We’re the Millers

Kick-Ass 2

Drinking Buddies

The World’s End

And here are some movies from this season that I still want to check out:

Frances Ha

The Kings of Summer

Much Ado About Nothing

The Bling Ring

Only God Forgives

The Wolverine

Blue Jasmine

Elysium

You’re Next

Short Term 12

I think it’s safe to say that there was plenty to see this summer, and possibly too much, as it shows in the box office results. Some movies made it big, while others flopped hard. But I’m not here to talk box office. I’m here to talk about my favorite movies of summer 2013. Not every movie I was looking forward to met my expectations, of course, but the ones that did really hit it out of the park. Here we go, in no particular order (okay, in order of when they were released)…

Before Midnight: I watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset for the first time this summer, and I can easily say they’re already some of my favorite movies. Director Richard Linklater has created one of the most honest, realistic romances I’ve ever seen on screen. He sets up two young lovers in Before Sunrise and lets them mature in Before Sunset. Though in Before Midnight, the final film in what is now a trilogy (unless they make another one…which they probably shouldn’t), Linklater takes the themes of the first two films and applies them to aging, nostalgia, family, and the overbearing presence of modern relationships over traditional ones. This is pretty much the best I can do to explain the film without spoiling the plot, though. If you haven’t yet, please see Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and then see Before Midnight, definitely the most emotional of the three, as soon as you can. Expect to see this somewhere in my top list by the end of the year.

This is the End: If you’ve been following my reviews and articles, you probably already know about how much I love Judd Apatow and the troupe of actors that constantly show up in his productions. Although Apatow isn’t associated with This is the End, it features all the best parts of his films: the raunchiness, the insane improvisation, and the perfect balance between immature comedy and all the heart underneath it. Everyone in the main cast (James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride) gets their moment to shine, and their chemistry is brilliant. As bonkers as this movie is, you can tell that Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writer-directors of This is the End, made many risks and put a lot of love into this comedy, and that’s really all I ask for from them.

Monsters University: Sure, the reviews have been overall lukewarm for this movie, and I get it. Pixar used to deliver literally amazing films every single year, and I don’t think Monsters University reaches that high level. Also, after Cars 2 and Brave, it was uncertain of what to expect out of a Monsters Inc. prequel, so I was glad to be pleasantly surprised. Instead of being a shameless cash grab, Monsters University tells a touching coming-of-age story. With Mike as the main character this time around, we really get to learn more about the green eyeball from Monsters Inc., but the character doesn’t follow a predictable underdog tale. Although the movie obviously has a hopeful ending (this is a prequel, remember that), Monsters University is actually a realistic depiction of a young man coming to terms with where he belongs in the real world and the personal shortcomings he never acknowledged all his life. Yes, this is what I got out of a G-rated family film about cartoony monsters that go to college.

The Way, Way Back: Aside from Monsters University, most modern coming-of-age stories aren’t really able to change up the genre. Like, where else can you go with it? At this point, it all depends on how well written and directed these familiar stories are. The Way, Way Back is written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar-winning writers of The Descendants, and it shows. Faxon and Rash create such an entertaining universe in the small beach community the film takes place in. Not only do the kids in the movie feel authentic (especially the main role of Duncan), but the adults do, too. Sam Rockwell is hilariously awesome in this film as the man-child manager of the local water park.  He’s easily one of my favorite movie characters of this year. The characters are vibrantly diverse and the story is instantly relatable. This is the very definition of a feel-good movie.

Fruitvale Station: I was a bit worried this would be blatant award season bait by creating a manipulative sob story that paints Oscar Grant as this perfect man, which would only lead to a predictably thematic social justice film. Though Fruitvale Station is much more than that. To put it simply, it’s a movie about a man who wants to change, while living in a world that is always working against him. The twist? You already know his fate from the beginning, and from there comes some seriously powerful storytelling. Writer-director Ryan Coogler is fresh out of film school and is only 27 years old, yet here he showcases way more genuine narrative skills than the average working filmmaker today. Fruitvale Station is only the beginning for Coogler, and I hope he only goes up from here. This is another film you should look out for on my top list of the year.

Pacific Rim: I’ll begin with something I didn’t like about the movie. I definitely feel that there is untapped potential in where the story could go, because once the film ended, I wanted to see more immediately. Although Pacific Rim didn’t necessarily meet my ridiculously high expectations (it was my most anticipated of the summer), for what it was, I still love it, and it’s one of the best theater experiences I’ve had in a while. I know that director Guillermo del Toro is capable of making a movie like this way deeper on the surface, but he’s still able to call out the inner eight-year-old in all of us. It’s the kind of nostalgic feeling that got me into making movies in the first place. From the wonderfully choreographed fight scenes to the colorfully detailed universe, Pacific Rim is a movie I can’t wait to revisit. Again. I mean, I already saw it both in regular and IMAX theaters. Now I must see it in the biggest IMAX in the nation, if not the world.

The Spectacular Now: Yes, this is the season of great coming-of-age movies. With The Way, Way Back being a lighthearted comedy, The Spectacular Now is a raw and authentic teen drama. The film is about an unconventional young romance (popular guy + shy girl) that doesn’t play to all the usual beats. Miles Teller is charming and full of depth as Sutter Keely, the life of the party who tries to fly through his senior year of high school by living in the now, but he also must deal with the inner demons of alcoholism. Shailene Woodley is also great as Aimee, an introverted but sweet girl that Sutter falls for, much to his surprise. Now, this isn’t simply just a romance story, as the consequences of these teens’ actions are very, very real, as shown in the final moments of the film. The movie gracefully takes its time to develop the relationship between Sutter and Aimee, so that once the breaking points hit, they hit hard. Director James Ponsoldt and (500) Days of Summer screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber approach the material of The Spectacular Now with such beauty and realism, which is something very akin to the works of John Hughes. Enough said.

The World’s End: Much like how I feel about Judd Apatow, I am such a huge Edgar Wright fanboy. I’m absolutely in love with his signature directorial style (zoom-in cuts, cleverly written foreshadowing, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sight gags, etc.) and Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are some of my all-time favorite movies. The expectations were high going into The World’s End, and it didn’t disappoint. This madcap science fiction satire perfectly closes the Cornetto Trilogy, dealing with the topics of growing up and moving on. Of course, knowing Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg, it’s done in a very odd but hilarious way. The World’s End is the boldest (commercial) movie I’ve seen this year so far, willing to go places you wouldn’t expect. It’s also the darkest and emotionally impacting of the Cornetto Trilogy films, as the movie ends with a great sense of closure to the trilogy. Not that this is the end for Wright, Pegg, and Nick Frost. Wright is working on Ant-Man, and there will surely be plenty more collaborations between the trio in the future. Though for now, I need to see The World’s End again, like a dozen more times, just to catch every joke. Be on the lookout for this film on my end-of-the-year list!

So, there you go. Those were my picks for my favorite movies this summer. What were yours? Did I forget to mention one of your favorite movies? Did you not like my list? Let me know! It’s been another great summer for movies, and the rest of the year is looking good, too. Though I’ll get more into those movies later…

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