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Looking Back on the Summer of 2013

September 2, 2013

By John Corrado

The Spectacular Now PosterThe summer of 2013 has officially come to a close, and some of the movies that we got over the last few months will be remembered for dividing critics and audiences alike.  This was a summer that didn’t always deliver hits, but the big and small standouts that we got were stellar.

September is upon us after several months with Robin Thicke’s ubiquitous single “Blurred Lines” providing the soundtrack and spending a dozen weeks atop the charts, and now it’s time to take a look back at the movies we have gotten over the last few months.

The season kicked off on May 3rd with the release of Iron Man 3, which remains one of my favourite blockbusters of the summer and the highest grossing movie of the year with over a billion dollars worldwide.  The superhero trend continued with Man of Steel in June, a pretty good film that got a somewhat mixed response, but has performed amazingly well at the box office.  Although The Wolverine offered something different from many comic book adaptations, the film delivered stylish superhero entertainment set against the backdrop of Japan.

The franchise entry Fast & Furious 6 was not only hugely profitable, but also tons of fun, attracting the best reviews of the series.  Another box office winner with a built in fanbase was Star Trek Into Darkness, an effortlessly cool sequel from J.J. Abrams.  Science fiction also found immense success with Guillermo del Toro’s exhilarating and beautifully constructed Pacific Rim, which provided an experience of pure joy.  Although that film was all about successfully “cancelling the apocalypse,” the end of days were played for character driven comedy in This is the End, an entertaining look at friendship with a cast of hilarious actors all playing themselves.

There were a lot of films that I enjoyed throughout the season, even at times when critics and audiences didn’t agree.  Although the film received scrutiny in some circles, I thought Elysium was another solidly crafted piece of sci-fi entertainment from Neill Blomkamp.  For what it’s worth, I even enjoyed the much derided The Hangover Part III, which was a satisfying close to the comedic trilogy.  For me, The Lone Ranger provided the very definition of a fun and incredibly entertaining popcorn movie, but the majority of critics disagreed and the film became an epic failure at the box office.

The struggle for big movies to perform at the box office became a bit of a trend throughout the season, with disappointing films like After Earth, White House Down and the little seen R.I.P.D. failing to become profitable.  But this was also a summer that saw the inspiring financial success of Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a powerful historical drama carried by excellent performances from Forest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey that just came off its third straight win at the box office.  Another intriguing success story came only a week after Iron Man 3, when Baz Luhrmann turned F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece The Great Gatsby into a glitzy summer blockbuster.

Although the pretty good Turbo and the just okay Epic under performed at the box office, the popular sequel Despicable Me 2 quickly become one of the highest grossing movies of the year, proving once again just how profitable a family film can become in the crowded summer market.  Even the thoroughly mediocre Pixar spinoff Planes did decent business for Disney.  But the best of this year’s animated films was easily Monsters University.  The first prequel from Pixar became another bona fide box office winner for the studio, and is also one of the most satisfying movies of the year.

The smaller films also provided some of the biggest highlights, with Richard Linklater’s trilogy closer Before Midnight remaining one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year.  Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley were both outstanding in the bittersweet teen romance The Spectacular Now.  The coming of age dramedy The Way, Way Back, the strong performance of Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, and the excellent work of Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch in Prince Avalanche were also worthy parts of the conversation.  Many of these small gems even found an audience at the box office.

The summer movie season culminated with the release of The World’s End, the latest gloriously entertaining mix of genres from director Edgar Wright.  The film also delivered a heartfelt message about the dangers of living in the past, ending the summer on the perfect note both in terms of entertainment and metaphor.  As we move on and gear up for TIFF to start on Thursday, we can expect another roller coaster ride of movies throughout the fall season.

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