Summer 2013: The Classic Examples

For the second part of my summer movie extravaganza, where I've broken down this summers movie releases into several different categories so as to better digest the onslaught of films that will be making there way to the multiplexes soon, I have decided to go with those classic examples of what make the summer movie season all that it is and all that it has become. You could lump a good number of the films from yesterday's Headliners piece into this category as well as what will be coming tomorrow, but these are the prime examples that feature a fair amount of both original and familiar properties. There were certainly a few other sequels that could have been included and we will discuss those later in the article as well, but for now let us make our way around to the five films included in this category. Each of them holds a good bit of anticipation though I'd be lying if I didn't say my interest in at least one of these wasn't purely based on how much of a cash grab it might turn out to be. Regardless, if you missed the first part of this series yesterday definitely go back and catch up, but what I am doing this year for your reading pleasure is instead of delivering a simple top ten list I've divided the summer of 2013 into eight categories and will be posting one each day for the next week. I hope you find the one that suits your motion picture tastes the best and discover five exciting films you'll be especially ecstatic about.

The Classic Examples

Clockwise from top: 300: Rise of an Empire, White House Down, After Earth, Fast & Furious 6, Elysium.
While there are plenty of action flicks hitting the theaters this summer that is not the decisive factor that was necessary to land on this particular list. No, what I was looking for here was the element of escapism, that pure entertainment value that will cross all boundaries and become appealing to any audience member that steps in the door with their popcorn and sits down to enjoy an experience that will take them out of their world and their problems and just allow them to, well, escape for two hours. The first film I've placed here is likely the one that will test this idea the most as it may not be as easily accessible as the rest of the films on the list, but it would easily make my personal top five most anticipated films of the summer. In the summer of 2009 director Neill Blomkamp made his debut with the science fiction/social commentary film that looked liek a documentary on the war titled District 9. I loved that film and I loved the style with which Blomkamp worked and was able to create an authentic world out of what could have easily been a laughable experiment. The director now has a blockbuster sized budget and movie stars to work with and has concocted Elysium. The first trailer for the film premiered only a week or so ago and while much of the plot is shrouded in secrecy it is clear the director has put his budget to good use as the visuals look stunning and with as versatile an actor as Matt Damon in the lead it is hard to imagine this going wrong. Elysium is one of a few rather large scale and original science fiction films opening this year. Just this past weekend saw Tom Cruise in Oblivion and in November we will see the adaptation of Orson Scott Cards Enders Game, but there is also a film that fits comfotably into this genre opening two months before Blomkamp's follow-up to his break-out hit and it is helmed by a director looking to redeem himself.

I don't know if we should expect a twist ending or not, but my gut is telling me M. Night Shyamalan will keep those little tricks he became famous for to a minimum in his latest, After Earth. Based on a story idea from Will Smith and crafted into a script by Shyamalan and Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) the film not only serves as a shot at redemption for Shyamalan but also as another starring vehicle for the father/son team of Smith and Jaden who proved he could headline his own summer tentpole a few years ago with The karate Kid. Though that film was aided by the fact it was surrounded by several flops and had mass appeal in terms of being a film the whole family could see while not being animated and toting a familiar name, the momentum is still there and with papa Smith showing up in this one it is destined to at least cross the $40 million mark opening weekend. How good the actual film will be is up for full debate though. Shyamalan has more than proved he can make good movies, his first three are all solid if not close to being perfect examples of their genre (Unbreakable transcending those boundaries) and while his work has suffered in the latter half of his career as its existed so far this is a fair chance to show what made people call him "The Next Spielberg" over ten years ago. If he is going to return to form and make a thrilling B-movie this will be the time as he doesn't have just his name resting on the title, but a star so big the studio doesn't even have to associate his name with the project. This will naturally be for the best as far as box office reception goes but I am increasingly more interested to see how the critical reception is. After Earth is one of the great mysteries of Summer '13 and though I'd pretty much watch Will Smith in anything, I'm especially hopeful this allows him to get his groove back as a Summer staple as well as renewing some faith in Shyamalan as well.

The final original property in this section might not seem completely fresh as just over a month ago now a similarly-themed film came out and did pretty good business while delivering full on 90's action thrills. Though White House Down has a more seasoned director when it comes to big, bombastic, disaster movies and a much heftier budget ($70 million vs. $150 million) not mention Channing Tatum being a more bankable star than Gerard Butler. While the success of Olympus Has Fallen may or may not affect the outcome of Roland Emmerich's latest, but from the outset I've definitely had more interest in this film as the actors here seem more appealing in not just lead roles of Tatum and Jamie Foxx hot off the heels of Django Unchained portraying the President, but the supporting cast is full of solid character actors including Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins, and Jason Clarke. The presence of these actors not only add a degree of credibility to the project but also a bit more of a serious tone that is present in the first teaser trailer. There are several small differences between this and the Antoine Fuqua actioner, but the biggest difference seems to be that the threat is coming from within the United States rather than an outside threat. This, for me, naturally increases the level of intrigue and mystery around the plot, but more than this the film looks to have an edge to it while first and foremost realizing what type of movie it is and delivering those thrills and pure entertainment factors. I'm not a huge fan of Emmerich as I usually find his films cheesy and somewhat laughable, but this looks to be more in the vein of the darker super hero films minus the cape and cowl and as much of a cliche or default mode as that is becoming I hope it rings true here with this material and this director.

While I'm extremely excited to see what these three original stories have to offer and maybe more so in terms of something to say than simple entertainment value, it seems the final two films on this list have been created solely for that purpose. There is nothing wrong with that every now and then especially in the case of Fast & Furious 6 as the latest installment of the fast car franchise once again brings the whole team back together for some crazy stunts and hand to hand combat. While Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Ludacris, Tyrese, and The Rock are all returning the latest installment also enlists Luke Evans (Immortals, The Hobbit) as the baddie and Gina Carano (Haywire) as a fellow agent to The Rock's Hobb's. Michelle Rodriguez will also be returning after being thought to have died in the fourth film, Fast & Furious. This seems to be the crux of the story this time around and though I never was a huge fan of the original film I've grown to love the world they've created for these characters and am anxious to see it play out this summer and next, especially after the amount of fun Fast Five was, as James Wan (Insidious, Saw) has already been tapped to direct part seven.

A sequel I'm less anxious for and still unsure as to what the final product might turn out to be like as we have yet to see a trailer is the follow-up to Zack Snyder's 2007 surprise hit 300, 300: Rise of an Empire. Though I very much enjoyed Snyder's film if not for its simplistic story but its visual flair this sequel all but seems unnecessary. Snyder is only producing this time around as I suspect his time has been completely consumed with Man of Steel and Noam Murro (Smart People) has taken over to tell a story that takes place in many different locations over an extended period of time. There isn't much known about the film other than Sullivan Stapleton (Animal Kingdom) stars as Themistocles, a Greek general who battles against the invading Persian army still led by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) who has his own general this time, Artemisia (Eva Green). The few stills we've seen of the film show the same visual style as its predecessor, but will that be enough for fans to fork over 3D and IMAX ticket prices for a sequel that features predominantly new cast members and a story that will have little tie-in to the original? Time will tell, though I battled with myself whether to place this or Red 2 on the list as I enjoyed the latter film a lot, but don't feel there was really that much of a demand for another one. Given that the 300 sequel will garner more attention it made the list; though if Bruce Willis and his gang deliver a film that is half as good as I expect 300: Rise of an Empire to be, I'll be happy to admit my mistake come August.

Check back tomorrow for The Franchise Hopefuls...        

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