Friday, January 03, 2014

8 movies I didn't care for in 2013

Counting down the 2013 movies I saw, from worst to best:

38. Gangster Squad

I wanted another L.A. Confidential or The Untouchables, but Gangster Squad is a cliché-ridden mess that can't decide if it's serious and brutal or a tongue-in-cheek lark.

37. Battle of the Year

My standards for dance movies are pretty darn low. For the most part, I just want some great dancing and a somewhat believable reason for people to be doing it. Battle of the Year has neither of those things. Not even Sawyer could save it.

36. After Earth

Better than The Happening; not quite as good as The Last Airbender. M. Night Shyamalan continues to struggle to make a movie worthy of his once considerable talent. He's especially hampered this time by a script that directly opposes his traditional themes. I'd love to see a straightforward Shyamalan sci-fi movie that talks about fear and how to conquer it, but this isn't it.

35. Olympus Has Fallen

Some decent action, but mostly unbelievable nonsense.

34. A Good Day to Die Hard

If the main character wasn't named John McClane, this would be a totally generic, forgettable, Bruce Willis action thriller. I don't know if that would make it better or worse; my point is that this is Die Hard in name only. How the mighty have fallen.

33. Now You See Me

Great idea with an even better cast, but too many twists and fakey magic make it a dud. When your movie is about stage magicians, you need to work extra hard to make their act look believable and real. Obvious CG tricks don't cut it.

32. Star Trek Into Darkness

The beauty of the 2009 Star Trek movie was that it reset the Trekiverse and made it possible to tell any story with no regard for previous continuity. So the first thing they do is remake Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It's an entertaining remake, but not worthy of either the film it's remaking or the one it's a sequel to.

31. Man of Steel

In some ways, this is the Superman film I've been waiting for. I love the way it treats Lois Lane, for instance, and the Krypton stuff is amazing. But it's too dark and cynical and in love with destruction. It's far more interested in showing suffering than in exploring how its main character battles it.


Siskoid said...

Saw Trek and Man of Steel, and yeah, you're right on the money. Neither was made by people who understand their respective franchise's strengths.

Paxton said...

You and I could do a podcast just talking about this list.

Gangster Squad - I took it as tongue in cheek cheesy from the beginning so it worked for me. Especially based on the trailer, I never would have expected LA Confidential.

Olympus Has Fallen - I loved it. Great action, great performances. You'll probably like White House Down if you didn't like this. But I like both movies.

Die Hard 4 - This is not a Die Hard sequel. It's a movie that has a guy named John McClane. No relation.

Now You See Me - I loved it. Great performances. Was the script a little too smart for itself? Yes. But it was a fun ride.

I can't disagree with you about Star Trek. Still enjoyable, but it frustrates me that they have a brand new universe to play in and they keep anchoring themselves to the previous franchise. Cumberbatch should have just been one of Kahn's men, aka John Harriman. Then at the end, you see he's back in his stasis tube and NEXT to him you see the name plate that reads: K. N. Singh. And remove Spock saying "KAAAAAAAAHN!" Immediately the movie is 50% better.

Mostly agree with you on Man of Steel. I loved the movie but the last 30-45min could have been seriously cut. Zod should have been sucked back into the Phantom Zone with everyone else.

Another great list.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Now You See Me is a tough film to catergorize. I was entertained in the moment, but because it relies on the big reveal at the end I can't rightly say how much rewatch value it has. You either buy it, or you don't, and I'm afraid I didn't much buy it either.

I'm also on par with you about Into Darkness. I wasn't so much angry as I was disappointed that they were treading the Khan path again, especially since they already did that same "villain after revenge" plot in "Star Trek Nemesis" and even the previous Trek reboot had a similar premise to Wrath of Khan just with Spock in the role of the pursued hero.

Kal said...

I wait all year for these bullet reviews. Often you scare me away, rightly so, from films I need to avoid like After Earth. I did love Man of Steel. As close to a great Superman movie as has ever been attempted.

Siskoid said...

The series also makes me wonder how many 2013 releases I've seen, and the answer is much lower than 38!

Try 12:
American Hustle
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Kill 'em All
Blind Detective
The Wolverine
Thor: The Dark World
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Man of Steel
Star Trek Into Darkness
Before Midnight

Of course, I hope to see more as the Oscar worthies start coming to a theater near me (or get released on DVD).

Simply Annie said...

I didn't see most of the movies listed. I did see Into Darkness though and I viewed it with a slightly different perspective. It's been decades since I've seen any of the originals so that did not play into my reactions. I also saw it without knowing anything about it, so I was shocked to learn that Cumberbatch was Kahn but I let go of my feelings about that and went with it.

The one movie I saw this year that I almost wish I could un-see is Red 2. I can only ask, "why?" They changed the essence of the main characters, threw into too many key characters and the plot went in too many directions at once. I know there weren't dozens of villains but my mind keeps insisting that there were.

Me - aka Constant Lurker

Michael May said...

Pax: We SHOULD do a podcast on the movies of 2013. Or any movies you want to talk about. I'm always game. :)

Siskoid: What did you think of Wolf of Wall Street? I've kind of made up my mind to skip it, but could be convinced the other way.

Annette! (Do you prefer Annie now?) So great to hear from you! I clicked your profile link and love the idea behind your blog. Very cool. I'm gonna have to try your hot chocolate tip, 'cause clumps are always a problem for me.

I wish I could have avoided the behind-the-scenes conversation behind Star Trek, because I'm sure that the back-and-forth is-he-Khan-or-isn't-he wore on me and made me more frustrated than I should have been.

Siskoid said...

My complete review from That Week in Geek:

Went to see Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street on Christmas day and thought it was a hilarious black comedy. What a way to finish the Goodfellas/Casino triptych! The first person narration is more cheeky than usual, Leonardo does some great slapstick work, and I'm always game for some POV gags (what the character sees as opposed to what really happened and such). It IS a Scorsese film, so it goes on for a bit. The three hours go by fairly quickly, but around the Wolf's second divorce scene, I felt like I'd been shotgunning a whole season of some HBO program. Not boring, but could certainly have been nipped and tucked without losing anything crucial. And obviously, it's about American decadence, which has somehow become controversial because some people out there are afraid people will come out of this movie wanting to become like the Wolf and his cohorts, completely missing the point that this was an indictment of such behavior. Did Goodfellas make you want to go into the mob? Same thing, really. But there are two kinds of people - those who get that this is anti-drug, anti-crime and anti-amoral capitalism; and those who want to be what's pictured on screen. That can't be helped. After all, it's based on a true story, and the people represented in the film started out with just such ambitions. Controversial? Pff. It's not even the most controversial Scorsese film I watched this week! (And maybe even the least controversial film, period, if I include nerd rage as proper controversy.)

Michael May said...

It sounds to me like the "controversy" is coming from people who aren't willing to think critically about the ambiguity.

It's the same kind of thing as Zero Dark Thirty where people got so caught up in the torture and whether or not the film "endorsed" it. What I like about that film is that the movie neither endorsed nor condemned torture, but forced viewers to wrestle with the issue themselves.

I imagine that's the same kind of thing Scorsese's doing with Wolf of Wall Street. Here's this debauched lifestyle, now what do you think about it? Having conversations about that is valuable. Condemning the movie for raising the question isn't.

Siskoid said...


But then a lot of people prefer, expect or can't envisage anything other than, movies as a passive experience.

Michael May said...

What's disappointing to me is that the "controversy" seems to be coming mostly from so-called critics. By definition, a critic is someone who's supposed to think about art on a deeper level.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I'm not even sure I get the appeal of "Wolf of Wall Street". When I saw the trailer all I thought was "What?! Rich people doing stupid, irresponsible things! Now don't that just beat all!"

For three hours, I need a little something more than that.

Michael May said...

It's not my cup of tea either, but someone compared it to the kid who gets caught smoking and his dad forces him to smoke the whole pack. He gets so sick that he never wants to smoke again.

If Wolf of Wall Street has that effect on someone, I'm glad it exists, even though - as Siskoid points out - it won't deter everyone.

Siskoid said...

Obviously, there's a story here, a rise and a fall, it's not, as the trailer would have it, a series of set pieces about men behaving badly. And a true story at that.

Think of Goodfellas and the rise and fall of a gangster who survives to tell his story. That's exactly what Wolf is, except it's about white collar crime and plays as a black comedy. If that appeals to you in any way, the film is quite entertaining.

Michael May said...

Not that this will affect my desire to see it (I expect I will when it hits VOD), but one of the points that seems to be bothering some folks is that there isn't a clear fall for the main character. Is that inaccurate?

I don't mind the spoiler, but anyone reading beyond this comment should beware since I'm clearly asking for one. :)

Siskoid said...

If they think that's not a clear fall, I don't know what movie they were watching.

Michael May said...

Your description of the movie sounds much more interesting than the others I've read. I definitely want to catch it now.


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