2013 was not a great year personally or professionally for me- and I shall pause so you can laugh at the word ‘professionally’, as if I get paid for reviewing. Well, smartasses, I actually DO get paid…justinpennies so TAKE THAT detractors!
Actually, I primarily refer to my legitimate job, which threw at me lying managers, incompetent higher-ups and a shift change that through my entire lifestyle down the toilet- along with any desire to excel at my job. Lacking energy, I cut down written reviews, releasing 2 or 3 a week. “Critiquing the Critics” was put on indefinite hiatus, with a vague promise of a return in 2013. “Kickass of Awesome” somehow managed to remain in obscurity even though my review of “Ip Man: The Legend is Born” turned out to be one of my most popular reviews of all time. I suffered health problems, my family suffered health problems, my car suffered health problems, my computer suffered health problems, but when I took a few days off at work I got a shitstorm of shit by a manager- who proceeded to take a few days off himself a few weeks later. Eh, I suppose I should look at the bright side of things. I recovered. Furthermore, my passion for screenwriting reignited. I have found a resolve to finish my script, make it awesome and this time: SEND IT TO AGENTS instead of letting it party with the other unused scripts on my computer. If I don’t sell it by the end of 2014, I will probably kill myself…by watching “Terror Toons”- although that might be a fate worse than death.
Yet even though it was a hard year, nothing was THAT bad. At the absolute least, 2013 was better to me than the films of 2009 were. I started this website in 2007, when I reviewed “Rush Hour 3” while it was still in theaters. Every year, I’ve made a personal list about what my favorite and least favorite flicks of the year were. 2013 was the FIRST year I hated more moves (1.5 stars and under) than the amount I loved (3.5 stars or higher). There are a lot of awful movies released on a yearly basis, but most of them don’t sneak their way into theaters. In 2012, I panned 5 theatrical releases. In 2011, I panned four theatrical releases. In 2013, I panned TWELVE theatrical releases and I haven’t even seen many of the more maligned films of the year. I’ll either write up a page surrounding that, or I’ll produce a video. But an army of crappy flicks wasn’t the only issue, most of the films I was really anticipating ended up disappointing me. “Pacific Rim”, “Man of Steel”, “Thor 2” and “Iron Man 3” (which admittedly got better upon second viewing) produced big bulges in my pants and left me with a serious case of blue balls. They weren’t bad, but I had serious expectations. On the flip side, I hear the Oscar bait circuit did really well. It’s just too bad I won’t see the majority of these more high brow films until they are released on DVD- after I do this list. I will also concede that I enjoyed the best movies of this year more than the best of 2009…although in many cases, I did feel I was being too generous. Anyway, remember that this is my list of FAVORITE films of 2013. I am not saying they’re the top of the class, I am merely playing favoritism with these students. So enjoy!
Runnerups: There are five films that I thought were above just being ‘good’, but fell short of being ‘great’. Action fans definitely need to check out “Olympus has Fallen”, a badass actioner that would’ve made a better “Die Hard 5” than the actual “A Good Day to Die Hard”. I would also recommend they view “The Last Stand”, one of the best paced flicks of 2013. Both films had their share of flaws, but were still highly enjoyable. Michael Bay surprised me with “Pain and Gain”, a demented comedy that’s very bold. It runs a bit too long, but when it works, I was laughing and cringing. “Captain Phillips” actually probably deserves to be on the final list, but it was too good for its own good (epic writing, Blake). It did such a great job at creating a claustrophobic mood that my own claustrophobia began to take effect and I wanted off the boat and out of the theater. Yes, it remained off the list for PURELY personal reasons. “Now You See Me” was a very fun, energetic and often clever flick…but much like the magicians in the film, it uses slight of hand trickery to convince us it’s great. I saw through the con, but that didn’t make the experience any less enjoyable. But while good, none of these films were great.
THE ‘WEAK APPLAUSE’ LIST
10) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug– While the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is held in high regard, only “The Fellowship of the Ring” stood a chance at making any of my ‘top’ lists…until now. While this flick suffers from many of the same problems that plagued “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, I really dug the change of pace- and by change of pace, I mean “FASTER” pace. It never slows down to build atmosphere or character, it just wants to give the audience a good time and that’s what happened. As always, the visual effects and spectacle on display were amazing too. You’ll either appreciate it for what it was trying to do or you won’t, but I had a blast.
9) This is the End– Despite having a large roster of famous movie-comedians on display, each of their individual output has been uneven at best. I’ve never found half of these guys to be funny. But together, comedic gold was created. Even though much of it was ad-libbed, which usually isn’t as ideal as it sounds, I almost always laughed. Even more importantly, guys whom I’ve never cared for before were winning me over. Everyone had quite a bit to do, so none of these comedians are wasted. “This is the End” is a good example of a film utilizing the best of its talent. Also, awesome cameos!
8) Gravity– Uh oh, Oscar bait dare intrude on my list reserved for classic gems like “Dead Sushi”? GET OFF MY LAWN! Okay, even though many viewers will raise an eye brow- Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson- style for placing it so low, I was stunned at how stunning this was (more great writing!). The visual effects were mind boggling, the action sequences were terrifying and the feeling of isolation (claustrophobia, go away!) was maddening. The only reason it didn’t place higher was that it slowed down too much for too long. Pacing is an artform in itself and “Gravity” disrupted its own flow. Still, it’s a truly awesome experience and I’m glad I took a chance and ventured into theater-land to behold this gem. If I was an objective man, “Gravity” would place much higher, but this is my FAVORITE list. I cannot emphasize that enough.
7) Prisoners– MORE OSCAR BAIT! I said in my video review that while I thought “Prisoners” was better than “Gravity”, the latter would have a lasting impression. “Prisoners” was a dark, unsettling, dramatic thriller that got under my skin in all the right ways. It’s ‘Hollywood’ enough to be entertaining, but not to the point where I could predict what would happen. But the powerhouse performances drive the majority of the suspense and since the actors were amazing (Hugh Jackman gave me brown pants), the suspense was too. If I had children, I would hug them. But since I don’t, I shall hug my old Godzilla toys- because I’m sure I would go through the same experiences if they were stolen. “Where is Anguirus!” (wacks with hammer). But as good as this is, “Gravity” is the more memorable experience, so take that as you will.
6) The World’s End– Another riot from the guys who brought us “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”. Once again, it’s not just a comedy. It can be intense, engaging, dramatic…but it’s usually just f@cking funny. After a lot of thought, I decided this was the best comedy of 2013 because it had so much to love about it- endearing characters, good twists and a compelling story. But the reason it didn’t place higher was the ending didn’t work as well as the rest of it. But still, my belly certainly ached after this viewing. Unfortunately, while everyone seems to have liked this, it didn’t earn the acclaim of its predecessors. I might agree, but I would say it’s at least in their league- if it’s not as remarkable.
5) The Lords of Salem: Rob Zombie is the kind of director you either love or hate, which sums up my feelings towards most of his films. “The Lords of Salem” is no different- you’ll either think it’s a flawed masterpiece or an interesting abomination. For me, I think I appreciated how different it was. For all it’s imperfections, it did usually crawl under my skin and turn my flesh inside out. The narrative slowly descends into madness along with its protagonist, leading to a bizarre, nonsensical but fascinating 3rd act. It freaked me out, but just as I loved it there is a good chance you shall loathe it.
4) Star Trek Into Darkness: I’ve never been a huge Star Trek fan and from what I hear, Trekkers seem to frown upon these reboots. I have started to view the original series, so I can see why, as the show was slow paced in building atmosphere and ideas, being completely science fiction. The (new) movies are purely spectacle based, using science fiction as the setting, not the genre. But for me, the plot was so damn riveting that I couldn’t help but love this. I loved the dynamics between the heroes, how they would sometimes have to make dangerous alliances in order to combat a (currently) greater foe. The twists and turns are plentiful and the cast is so endearing in their roles. This was just a really fun movie and I consider it to be an improvement over its predecessor…even if there are some silly plot holes. But hey, this is 2013 and we must take what we can get.
3) Elysium: Neil Blomkamp is a talented enough filmmaker to warrant keeping an eye on, but I thought “District 9” was a confused, overrated mess which was only watchable due Blomkamp’s ambitions. “Elysium” presents everything that film did, but did in a more focused, intriguing way (in my opinion). It was an awesome action-thriller filled with amazing set designs and flawless special effects. This is my favorite kind of spectacle, as every frame seems meticulously detailed and the thematic material never gets in the way of the action- or vice versa. Even though critics and general audiences felt it was a step down from Blomkamp’s predecessor, I thought it was a superb science fiction action-thriller.
2) The Conjuring: I just want to begin this by saying I can’t stand the modern day trend of ghost flicks. I’m convinced every filmmaker who has made one conspired to recycle the same script over and over, being sure to change the gimmicks and characters names so there won’t be any legal ramifications, because deep down they are all the same movie. “The Conjuring” takes those clichés and either deliberately averts them, cleverly acknowledges them or downright ignores them. It also offered a stronger human story and scares which managed to work their magic on me. It’s probably the best of its ilk, but remember that ‘fear’ is a very subjective thing, so don’t expect to have the same reaction.
1) Jurassic Park IMAX in 3D: Do you know why I think 2013 sucks? Even moreso than the slew of disappointments and the legions of bad flicks is the lack of films I deem to be truly great. “Jurassic Park 3D” was the only film THIS ENTIRE f@cking year which earned a 4 star rating- and it’s not even a real 2013 movie. I saw this on IMAX and while this did draw some attention to a few hilarious gaffs (why is a hand grabbing the Raptor’s ass?), I was still amazed at how awesome the special effects were. This film juggles its various tones masterfully, often being funny, scary, adventurous and exciting at various intervals. The actors had a blast in their roles and I found myself caring for even the minor characters. It is certainly one of my favorite films of all time….but it saddens me that it stomped on every other 2013 movie by such a large margin. If you would like to read my written review, here it is, but keep in mind it’s an oldie.
In the end, this year was so weak in my eyes that I couldn’t even bring myself to make this a “Top 12 List” like I usually do. All we can do as a movie audience is pray that 2014 turns out to be a much better year.