Elysium has the beginning of some good sci-fi ideas and a forceful social relevance that it squanders thanks to the writer-director's inability to put anything but stupid violence and deus ex machina absurdity in the last third of this failed movie.
The Wolverine has a (small, world-weary) heart and a willingness to serve both character and the curious corners of superhero comics. If you want pure, bludgeoning bombast, go find one of those robot/armor/space alien movies. This is a fun, thoughtful little adventure that wants nothing more than to tell you a cool story with superheroes, ghosts and ninjas.
The Conjuring is a decent, if uninspired, spooker, but it's a quiet mess of a story. You'd probably want more from your theater-going experience, but if old-fashioned Amityville/Exorcist horror is your thing, this is in the flavor of that. And what film with Vera Farmiga isn't worth a look?
Fantastic cast doing marvelous work, admirably and honestly directed, and not a space ship or giant rock-em-sock-em robot in sight. This film deserves a better audience than it's likely to get in blockbuster season. If anything, it's the exact antidote to Hollywood's addiction to no-impact cartoon violence, and a piece of work that should be remembered at Oscar time. Don't wait until then to see it.
I've hated some movies this summer for betraying their source material to deliver a generic but cutting-edge action movie. There's nothing cutting-edge about this failed comedy-adventure that embarrasses everyone connected with it, not just the titular hero.
The Heat is lukewarm at best (he said, going for the obvious.) The film is long, the plot is weak, and the emotional connection all but nonexistent, but there is a fair number of laughs. I root for this film to succeed, if only so that more female-led movies can come out of the Hollywood testosterone zone.
World War Z is a pretty good movie; it starts incredibly strong and just barely holds itself together through to the end. A tribute to the power of narrative momentum. Also, Marc Forster knows how to cut a tense action scene.
On the Pixar scale, this breakneck comedy is below the Toy Story films and epics like Nemo and Up. I'd put it on a par with A Bug's Life, the Incredibles, and its predecessor, Monsters Inc. Inventive, fun, but not as magical and jaw-dropping as, say, Wall-E. Yet infinitely better than every other shiny gewgaw Hollywood will dangle in front of your eyes this year.
Another bleak war movie thrust upon a fun franchise, Man of Steel has a well-cast (but criminally underwritten) Superman and Lois Lane and some interesting twists on the legend--but ultimately fails as a Superman film. It briefly pretends to have a heart, but it doesn't, and thus misses much of what makes Superman fly.
Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing does Shakespeare proud, in an intimate production that's at once low-key and grand. A highlight of 2013 whether you're a fan of the extended Whedonverse (represented thoroughly by this versatile cast), a Shakespeare lover, or just someone who likes damned fine movies with craft, comedy and passion.
After Earth feels like a simplistic lecture on life from someone of no intellectual acumen. You almost like it when you see that it's trying to be inspirational and about a family healing/reconnecting. Then you notice how poorly it's all executed, and you remember that you don't like it. Upside: Only 100 minutes!
There was probably no winning with this movie. Couldn't repeat an improbable setup for a third time, apparently couldn't come up with a premise that wasn't overly dark, overly violent, and just much less funny than the earlier installments. And couldn't resist cashing in one more time, anyway.
J.J. Abrams' second Star Trek film is more coherent than the first and every bit as compulsively likable. He still has an amazing cast, and he gives them all moments to shine. The film lags elsewhere, squandering villains and underselling Kirk's character arc, but Abrams shines with moments that briefly capture the spirit of the original series.
The third Iron Man movie is a lackluster effort that hammers maybe three good ideas into the ground for more than two hours. If you're a fan, you'll ... I can't say you'll be "satisfied," or "you'll have a good time," but you probably won't come out angry--unless you paid extra for the worthless 3D. But why don't you expect more?
A deservedly saintly presentation of the Jackie Robinson story occasionally wields narrative as a blunt instrument, just to make sure no one misses Robinson's struggles and dignity. A fine cast and a laid back style that feels as retro as the period setting help craft a film that's a likable history lesson.