Counting down the best summer movies of 2013


Fast 6Wow, it was a long summer at the movie theater. That’s not a commentary on the movies themselves, necessarily. It’s a mere fact that it is difficult to watch most of the movies in a summer movie season. We think the over / under that Scott set at the beginning of the summer was 11 movies. I had doubts at times as I was shuttling off to see 10 p.m. movies some nights after the kids had gone to bed if I was going to make it through the season. I missed a few movies like The Hangover 3 and The Lone Ranger, but it doesn’t sound like I missed all that much. Anyway, Brian and I did it and it’s over. Now, some stats.

I watched 17 movies in the theater. The total running time (not including the endless minutes of commercials and trailers) was 1,986 minutes. That’s just over 33 hours of time spent sitting on my butt, usually by myself, in a movie theater this summer. The average was 116.82 minutes per movie or about one hour and 57 minutes per film. But those are just the stats. How do I rank them now that it’s all said and done? From worst to first, here we go!

[Check out all the episodes of the Summer Movie Podcast with Brian Spaeth]

17. After Earth – I had a lot of fun watching this movie because Brian and I saw it together. We laughed through much of it and the conversation on the walk to the parking lot made it all worth it.  Still, easily and obviously the worst movie I saw all summer. The weird accents, strange plot choices and cheesy flying scenes did it in. I can’t recommend it at all.

Podcast: After Earth starring Will Smith is “Completely unengaging on every level.” – Brian Spaeth

16. Epic – Epic was a kids cartoon movie by the makers of Ice Age and Rio. The story about a hidden race of micro-sized forest dwellers who live in the trees at a different vibration from humans was a good one. The execution was a bit lackluster despite it looking really great.

15. The Wolverine – I love X-Men movies. I love the trilogy and I love the prequel. I didn’t love this odd movie that featured Wolverine as a side character to a Japanese family story line.

Podcast: Brian Spaeth on the PD layoffs, 2 Guns, Indians attendance, The Wolverine and much more – WFNY Podcast – 2013-08-08

RIPD14. R.I.P.D. – Here come the watchable movies that deserve run on TNT but shouldn’t cost you money in the theater! R.I.P.D. was derivative and a bit directionless, but it was totally watchable. You’ll love it on TNT when you have some time to kill, but you’ll be happy you didn’t pay full price to sit in the theater to see it.

Podcast: Brian finds Ryan Reynolds adorable, RIPD below average – WFNY Podcast – 2013-07-23

13. Kick-Ass 2 – The final movie of the summer turned out to be a little too dark for the tone that the original film set. I’m not a prude. I enjoy some violent movies and have a special place in my heart for revenge flicks, but this was supposed to be more fun than dark. It turned out to be kind of disturbing in spots due to the tonal schizophrenia.

Podcast: Breaking Bad, Kick-Ass 2, Ben Affleck as Batman and ranking Summer 2013 with Brian Spaeth – WFNY Podcast – 2013-08-27

12. The Internship – Is there anything that screams watchable cable movie than Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson? This movie also doubles as an infomercial for Google. I laughed at this movie and it had a bit of heart, but it isn’t memorable like Wedding Crashers. Think Black Sheep instead of Tommy Boy.

Podcast: The Internship, Shane Carruth, Upstream Color, Primer and other movies with Brian Spaeth

Dicaprio-Gatsby11. The Great Gatsby – I knew better than to trust Baz Luhrman. I knew that when I turned off Moulin Rouge the minute I heard the bastardization of Smells Like Teen Spirit come through in a cheesy Broadway-ified medley a few minutes into the film. Gatsby was far better than that, of course. Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan guaranteed that. Still, I’m left with the lasting memories of Jay-Z songs being shoehorned into the middle of what should have been a stylized period piece.

Podcast: Summer Movies – The Great Gatsby starring Vin Diesel? – Star Trek coming up!

10. Despicable Me 2 – Not as good as the first one, but really a lot of fun. I know better than to trust my own instincts on kids movies. My son Ben’s attention and enjoyment of this movie really tells the tale. You know just how funny Steve Carell is when his mere voicing of a character can draw laughs out of an audience.

9. Fast 6 – This movie was far better than I thought it was going to be. I struggled to get through the back catalog of “Fast” movies in order to prepare to watch this movie. In the end, while it isn’t high quality cinema, this was one of the best movie-going experiences of the summer for me. It was a completely packed audience and they couldn’t have enjoyed every cheesy moment more if they tried. In terms of setting expectations and delivering, Fast 6 was about as perfect as it could be.

Podcast: Summer movies with Brian Spaeth – Furious 6, Hangover 3

WWZ8. World War Z – This wasn’t nearly as good as I hoped it would be, but my hopes were way high. What we got from Brad Pitt was ultimately a very different take on the zombie movie genre. It spent a lot of time acting like an outbreak movie as much as it did acting like a zombie movie. I think it will get better over time.

Podcast: World War Z starring Brad Pitt was good, yet unremarkable

7. Man of Steel – This is the only movie of the summer that I watched twice. The first time I saw it, I was really tired and it was late at night. I also think I was too rigid in my view of what the movie had to be. By the time I saw this movie a second time, I’d lightened up a bit, was less tired, and allowed Zach Snyder to mold his own Super Man story. I enjoyed it a lot more. Great action and perfect CGI gave us a really great version of the physical world of Super Man even if Snyder took some liberties with the back-story and character.

Podcast: Man of Steel disappointing but doesn’t sink the franchise completely

6. Elysium – This movie was heavy-handed in its message, but ultimately I liked the two versions of the world built in the film. Matt Damon was predictably good and overcame a really weird performance by Jodi Foster.

Podcast: Brian Spaeth talks bronies, deli meats and Elysium starring Matt Damon – WFNY Podcast – 2013-08-13

5. Star Trek – I honestly can’t remember much about this movie right now. That’s not a cop out either. I remember feeling the same way about the first film from 2009. I remember liking the movie and having good thoughts about it even as I couldn’t remember a lot of specifics. My take-away from this film was that I just had a lot of fun, the CGI was perfect, and I feel really good about JJ Abrams taking on Star Wars for Disney.

Podcast: Star Trek Into Darkness chat with Brian Spaeth, Martin Rickman and my wife

IM3Poster4. Iron Man 3 – Iron Man 3 ended up delivering the most evil villain of the summer with The Mandarin played by Ben Kingsley. Sure, Iron Man 3 had some strange plot twists that didn’t make total sense. Yes, it tried to hard to be everything to everyone with love stories and even turning Tony Stark into a weird mentor to a younger kid. It was also a bit too long, if I’m being perfectly honest, but none of it mattered. Iron Man works because Robert Downey Jr. is so great as Tony Stark. The action is perfectly executed and for as many people who seem to hate Gwyneth Paltrow, she makes movies better. I will definitely see this one again at home.

Podcast: Iron Man 3 – Despite a few small gripes, Robert Downey Jr. and company deliver

3. Pacific Rim – In a lot of ways Pacific Rim is like Fast 6. Pacific Rim defied its overly serious marketing and established itself as a movie that didn’t take itself too seriously. It was a movie about giant robots vs. giant monsters and provided just enough other plot elements around those things to deliver perfectly.

Podcast: Pacific Rim is a fun movie that was marketed too seriously

2. Monsters University – Pixar rarely fails. This might be an artificially high ranking, but I don’t think so. This was the first theater movie experience for my son and me. We watched it in 3d and laughed our way through the whole thing. John Goodman and Billy Crystal deliver belly laughs as cartoon characters somehow. And at the same time, they managed to create a sequel (prequel, really) that doesn’t hurt the franchise. This one won’t ever rise to Toy Story proportions, but really a near-perfect family film that takes cues from the original Monsters Inc. and also Revenge of the Nerds. It worked.

Podcast: My 3 year old helps me review Monsters University in 5 minutes

1. This is the End – Seth Rogen absolutely killed it with this movie. He, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride parodied themselves and the lives of all their friends. Every worst idea you ever had about young Hollywood stars is played out and exaggerated including one of the funniest and most surprising performances you’ll ever see by actors like Michael Cera and Emma Watson. This movie looked great, was hysterical, had surprisingly good action and didn’t torture its audience with a bloated running time. It was the most fun I had in any movie this summer and I think will also be the movie from this year that has the most legs as a movie that people will quote and watch in the future.

Podcast: This is the End shows that Seth Rogen is still cool

This is the End Poster

There you have it. This isn’t totally comprehensive. These are just the movies I saw. (Sorry White House Down.)

What did you think of my rankings and reviews? What unbelievably great movie did I miss?

[Check out all the episodes of the Summer Movie Podcast with Brian Spaeth]

  • Paul Marsh

    Not sure if either are considered “summer movies” since they just came out, but “The Way Way Back” and “The World’s End” are can’t miss movies IMO. “The Way Way Back” is a better version of Adventureland from a few years ago with a stronger cast and great performances from Steve Carrell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell. “The World’s End” is the final in a three movie series from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shawn of the Dead & Hot Fuzz) and as strong as those two were, this is the best one of the three. Really funny.

  • Craig Lyndall

    Brian and I were both saying on the podcast last night that we both really want to see The World’s End. It didn’t hit our original list, but seeing the trailer a number of times got me psyched to see it.

  • mgbode

    you watched alot of movies.

    best kid/family movie of the summer though was “Turbo” IMO. surprisingly fantastic and they did a much better job with the underdog racing role than “Planes.”

    best movie I saw that is not on your list: “Now You See Me” which took the current magician movie fad angle and made it more like an action/spy movie.

    favorite movie of the summer: “Iron Man 3” – great story development though the ending was a little disappointing for where they could have taken things.

  • Garry_Owen

    I know it has nothing to do with sports, but thanks for this. I think I’ve seen 2 movies in the theater in the last 2 years, but I definitely like to know what’s worth putting on the Netflix list. Not that I’ll ever get to them, but it’s still nice to know.

    Since you were running down the stats, though, I’d love to know how much these 17 movies cost you – and why didn’t you spend that money at Progressive Field????????????

  • Harv 21

    Saw “The World’s End” last weekend and loved it (don’t give up 25 minutes in – it’s really 2 movies). There is some clearly improvised hilarious stuff riffing against cartoonishly violent slapstick. I thought it worked real well. But wifey thought it was beyond stupid, and while son liked it he was annoyed that at times dad was the only one in the theater chuckling (he’s that age),

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Oh no he didn’t!!!!

  • Craig Lyndall

    I know you were kidding or at least partly kidding I’m guessing. My family has season tix to the Tribe and I think I’ve been to five games so far, including three with my son.

    The thing about these movies is that I could see them at odd times by myself. I really was frequently heading to the theater solo at 10 PM for a lot of these. Mondays at my local Chagrin Cinema had a $6 special. When I was watching them in 3d I think I paid $9 or $10.

  • Garry_Owen

    Totally kidding. Just trying to subversively reignite the “Indians Attendance” discussion. I know you’re doing your part.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Pee Wee Herman liked to take in late night movies solo as well or at least that’s what mgbode told me.

  • Garry_Owen

    “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” are two of the main “go to” movies for my wife and me when we need a laugh. We can’t wait to see “The World’s End.”

  • Craig Lyndall

    Double plus 1 (it’s funny because it’s not true. Well not about me anyway.)

  • thenoclist

    Films you missed:
    Fruitvale Station
    The Way, Way Back
    The Spectacular Now
    Kings of Summer
    In a World…
    Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
    The Hunt
    The World’s End
    The Act of Killing
    Blue Jasmine
    Only God Forgives

  • deesh

    Wait, didn’t they make a movie with the main character (name escapes me, plays Shaun) having to lose weight?

    Or am I losing my mind?

  • Harv 21

    I wanna see “In a World …”, most def. The premise sounds right up my quirky alley.

  • Mike Brenkus

    I just watched The World’s End this past weekend. Up until an hour before the show, I thought I was going to see the funny movie w/Seth Rogan (the names are similar!!). My compadres quickly corrected me, and I watched part of the trailer on my phone. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because I have yet to see Shawn of the Dead AND Hot Fuzz (sorry, don’t kill me), but I haven’t laughed out loud in a theater that much in a long time. The ending was terrible imo, but didn’t take away from the fact that it was a hilarious film. Can’t wait to watch SotD and Hot Fuzz.

    Thanks for the roundup. I want to see Elysium but heard it was a steaming pile of dog poo. Now that you’ve said you liked it, I’m going to try to see it while it’s still in theaters.

  • Harv 21

    yeah, the end was funky but one of those movies where you get that laugh momentum going and can’t stop. The actors were clearly having a blast. Also liked that they made a British movie and didn’t water down the dialogue and references to please everyone. Somehow made it funnier.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Craig if by some miracle the day should ever arise where a Cleveland team still residing in the Cleveland corporation limits wins a professional sporting championship I think the next day WFNY should become TITE (This Is The End).

  • Craig Lyndall

    I will see most of those films this year, but many of them didn’t fit the “Hollywood Summer” vibe we were going for. We specifically wanted to hit the GINORMOUS budget summer flicks. Very nice list though. Really looking forward to Kings of Summer, The Way, Way Back, Fruitvale and The Act of Killing.

  • thenoclist

    The Way, Way Back might be my favorite film of the year so far.

  • Garry_Owen

    “Run, Fat Boy, Run.” Also a great movie. Simon Pegg is one of our favorites.