My Year in Film: 2013

Once again, I’ve put together a roundup of all the movies I saw last year. I exceeded my goal of seeing one movie per month and mostly liked everything I saw.

I note that because, unlike the killjoy, jaded critics, I still find going to the movie theater a magical experience.

Also, I think it goes without saying, but there are spoilers.

Warm Bodies 

I believe this was the first movie I saw in 2013. I’m sure a lot of people have had enough of zombies, but I really enjoyed it.

Yes, it’s essentially Zombie Romantic Comedy, but Nicholas Hoult was great–even when handling stunted zombie dialogue. Rob Corddry was also pretty good in a supporting role.

I guess the one thing I didn’t get were the Boneys. They are skeletal zombies that have lost any trace of humanity. See, the normal zombies move pretty slowly, but the Boneys, who supposedly are a step beyond the zombies, move at a clip comparable to an NFL running back.

What? How do they move at all without any remaining muscle mass?

Yeah, yeah, suspension of disbelief…

The Place Beyond the Pines

Boy did I get hornswaggled when I went to see The Place Beyond the Pines. The trailers and the commercials really played up Ryan Gosling’s carny anti-hero character. It seemed to me as if it were being sold as Drive on two wheels.

Admittedly, that would have been awesome, except *Spoiler* his character dies a third of the way through the goddamn movie. Honestly, they could have rolled credits after Bradley Cooper’s character shot him, and I would have been perfectly content.
Oh, yeah, Bradley Cooper is it. Like me, you might forget that going into the movie because he was in the trailers and commercials for all of 20 seconds.

 This movie also does something that I love.

The first part of the movie is set in the near past, but without explicitly saying it does. I gathered that it takes place in the late 80s. The cut of the jeans and the amount of un-ironic windbreakers tipped me off at first but repeated references to Hall and Oates sealed the deal.

All snark aside, I actually enjoyed it.

Evil Dead

Generally, if I take the effort to go out and see a movie, I’m going to like it. Evil Dead was an exception, though. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to like it. I really did.

I think I’m too close to the original. I’m a big fan Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, and I guess I liked the combination of horror and goofy slapstick in the original.

The reboot had nice homages to the original that I was happy to see, like the Michigan State sweatshirt (Campbell and Raimi are from Michigan) and the Oldsmobile Delta 88. It suffered, in my unprofessional opinion, from just going too crazy.

It’s something a lot of current horror films do. Essentially, “Hey, maybe if we just make it bat shit insane we’ll shock people into liking it!” It was just off-putting to me.

Also, get off my lawn.

Iron Man 3

I wondered how Iron Man 3 would compare to the previous entries in the series with the departure of director Jon Favreau. After all, Favreau took Iron Man–a character with less fans than Spider-Man or the X-Men–and turned him into a gigantic hit.

I had high hopes since Shane Black, the new director, wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I certainly enjoyed myself. I mean, who doesn’t like RDJ quipping? But it didn’t blow me away like the first one, and Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer from Iron Man 2) made a more compelling villain than Guy Pearce.

I was pretty excited to see Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin because who better? The way he was used was disappointing, but I guess it was better than an evil Asian stereotype?

Overall, it’s a perfectly fun super hero movie.

Star Trek Into Darkness

This is another sequel that I enjoyed but not quite as much as the original. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie.

It’s a very solid action adventure, and, I have to say, the movie is gorgeous visually. I was especially taken in by the opening scene on an alien planet (even if it cribs the first scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Benedict Cumberbatch, as Khan, easily turned in the best performance. He had a cold, calculated aura that recalled actors such as Anthony Hopkins and Alan Rickman.

The interactions between Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Karl Urban’s Bones were fun to watch, as well.

Also, I’m not quite sure why Alice Eve had to appear in her underwear for no reason? Maybe fitness classes are a pre requisite for a doctorate in the future?

This Is the End 

I saw this with my brother and my mom. Pro tip: Don’t see This Is the End with your mom.

It was great to see how self-aware Rogen and crew are, and they were hilarious to boot.

I don’t think I laughed harder all year than the scene where James Franco confronts Danny McBride about a JO session involving a particular magazine.

This Is the End also gives The Watchmen a run for its money in the category of giant CGI dong.

Pacific Rim

This movie was just fun. I always enjoy the imagination of Guillermo Del Toro and was happy to see him get a chance at a big-budget summer blockbuster.

Here’s the thing, I saw a lot of people trying to find a deeper meaning and make more of Pacific Rim than it was. Come on, it’s a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters!

Just be thankful we got a movie about giant robots that wasn’t directed by Michael Bay.

The Conjuring 

Usually, I don’t like horror movies. Not because I get too scared to watch them, but because I think most of them set the bar too low.

You either get weird torture porn like Saw or Hostel or you get a poorly plotted mess with garbage dialogue and a not-so-shocking reveal at the end.

Oh, you can go straight to hell. No seriously, go back where you came from.

I was quite impressed by The Conjuring, though. It relied on tension rather than gore or “gotcha!” scares. It also furthered my hatred of creepy ventriloquist dummies and dolls.

If you ever try to bring one into my home, you’ll be getting throat punched post-haste. Possibly throat ripped if I’m in a MacGruber mood.

Elysium 

I loved Neil Blomkamp’s first movie, District 9, so I was interested to see what he would do with Elysium. 

So far, Blomkamp’s movies have been allegories for things happening (or which have happened) in the real world. District 9 was about apartheid. Elysium was a pretty on-the-nose stand in for immigration and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. 

I swear that’s a gun from Borderlands.

Sharlto Copely was great per usual, and Matt Damon did the best he could with what he had to work with. Jodie Foster on the other hand…I don’t know if her character was supposed to be that cold and detached or if she just wanted a paycheck.

Also, there was some weird choices in the dialogue of the little girl in the movie. Out of nowhere, she just starts telling Matt Damon’s character a fable about animals helping each other. It was like Forest Whitaker’s monologue about the scorpion and the frog in the Crying Game, you know, only terrible.

The World’s End 

Boy, there sure were a lot of end of the world movies not made by Roland Emmerich this year (thankfully). The bookend to the Cornetto trilogy is more than a schlocky science fiction movie, though.

It’s mostly about growing up (or refusing to in the case of Simon Pegg’s character) and suddenly feeling alienated by what had been so familiar.

I  liked how the movie handled Pegg’s character, Gary King. Often, movies treat a middle-aged man-child who refuses to let go of the past as somehow cool. He’s got no job, no prospects, but he’s livin’ by his own rules, man! However, King is, rightfully, depicted as a sad case of arrested development.

I think it’s also important to note that Edgar Wright shot some really amazing action sequences. After watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, I knew he had that ability, but World’s End really brought it to fruition.

It also gets my vote for best soundtrack of the year. I was way more psyched than I should have been to hear a Teenage Fan Club song in a movie.

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favorite actors, so I’m not surprised that I really liked Don Jon. Besides starring in the movie, he also wrote and directed. Considering the strain of taking on all three roles, it’s amazing how well it turned out.

Don Jon examines how modern media has affected the ways in which men and women interact. Gordon-Levitt’s Jon is addicted to Internet porn and just straight loves cranking it. As a result, none of the women in his everyday life, including Scarlett Johansson’s Barbara, live up to his fantasies.

Barbara, on the other hand, has been brainwashed by Hollywood rom-coms and prizes grand gestures and happily ever after endings. I thought Scar Jo was great, but Tony Danza, as Jon’s filthy father, was my favorite.

I also appreciate it for keeping up the cool guy driving a classic muscle car trope. I mean, a ’67 Camaro has to be as prevalent as the Honda Accord if movies are to be believed.

12 Years a Slave

Holy shit.

This is hands down one of the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen. Chiwetel Ejiofor played Solomon Northup with a passion and emotional urgency I’ve rarely seen on film. Michael Fassbender’s performance as a drunk, lustful plantation owner was also engrossing, if a bit revolting.

Let me tell you, seeing this movie was an experience. I watched it in the South at a theater outside of Charlotte.

By the end, people were openly weeping–sniffling and sobs echoing throughout the theater. To evoke that sort of emotion, I think it would a crime if Ejiofor doesn’t win the Oscar for best actor.

Additionally, I think this should be required viewing for any peckerwood still flying the rebel flag.

Ender’s Game

Apparently, a lot of people have read the book on which this movie is basedI haven’t, and I don’t really intend to read it. Going in, the only things I knew about it were that it involves kids and the book was written by a noted homophobe.

As far as I could tell, it was basically Starship Troopers. I mean, right? I can’t be the only one who thought that.

Other than that, I really didn’t have an opinion on it one way or the other. It was the cinematic equivalent to rice–filler.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 

I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it improved on The Hunger Games, and Jennifer Lawrence was great per usual. According to The Onion, a way cuter boy could have played Peeta, but I actually find Josh Hutcherson very personable.

Also, I get it. You want J Law to be your BFF.

After reading the book, I was interested to see how the arena would be shot. I thought director Francis Lawrence delivered on something that could have been very messy.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Oh dear.

The great thing about the Lord of the Rings trilogy is that it condensed thousands of long-winded pages into three movies. The terrible thing about the The Hobbit is that it stretches out a relatively short children’s book into three three-hour movies.

You know, just like J.R.R. Tolkein would have wanted.

You know what else was great about the Lord of the Rings trilogy? The Orcs’ practical makeup and armor. They were the very definition of bad ass. However, in The Hobbit movies they switched to CGI Orcs. Note to studio execs and directors: IN MOST CASES, CGI IS NOTICEABLY FAKE AND JUST TAKE THE TIME AND EFFORT TO USE PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

Bilbo not believing the Orcs.

However, if you’re into CGI Orcs getting decapitated, this movie was probably your jam. Seriously, Peter Jackson was looking for any excuse to mutilate some Goblins. Nowhere was that more evident than the when the Dwarves and Bilbo escaped the Wood-elves.

If you’ve read the book, you know they escape down a river in some empty booze barrels. It’s like they wanted to work a Rube Goldberg machine and a car chase into the movie but realized it was set in a fantasy world. You know what they did then? They said screw it and did it anyway.

Barrels are coming out of the water and knocking over Orcs over like bowling pins; elves are slipping and sliding down the river; all of it ends in a lot of Orcs being slaughtered (but in fun ways!). It’s like the studio execs already have plans drawn up for a theme park ride based on the scene.

To be fair, it’s an entertaining movie if you didn’t go to see a movie based on The Hobbit.

American Hustle

One thing you should know about me and movies is that I love heists and schemes. Needless to say, I was in from the get-go with American Hustle. 

I heard a lot of people saying it should have been called Acting: The Movie or Hair Piece, but I loved it all. There was a lot of talent on the screen (Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner), but, unlike some other people, it never felt like too much to me.

At this point, I think people just expect Bale and Lawrence to be great–and they were. Bale blended into his role seamlessly, and Lawrence seemed born to play her funny, nut job character. However, I think Renner’s performance was underrated, especially considering the performers surrounding him.

Additionally, I was a little surprised but delighted to see Louis CK.

I’ve heard some people say that director David O. Russell will now receive acclaim no matter what he does, that he has a blank check. While there might be some truth to that, it’s hard to argue with his last three outings: The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. I think people also forgot he’s the director of one of the best and most unusual war movies ever made, Three Kings.

In the style of the Coen Brothers, I hope he continues picking peculiar projects and working with a select group of actors.

Starting with The Fighter, you can already start to see the through lines. Christian Bale and Amy Adams were in it and American Hustle. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper were in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Robert De Niro also appeared in both movies, albeit a much smaller role in the latter.

I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Movies I wanted to see in 2013 but didn’t:

Nebraska

This type of intimate indie is the sort of thing that’s right up my alley. By all accounts, Bruce Dern and Will Forte turn in incredible performances.

Unfortunately, it was hard to find a theater playing it where I live.

Her

Pretty much everything I said about Nebraska goes for Her.

I thought it was a very interesting concept, considering how attached everyone’s become to technology.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio being charming, scandal, Scorsese directing…why wouldn’t you want to see this? I actually could have seen this before the end of the year, but it came down to this or American Hustle. 

I’m content with my decision.

Dallas Buyers Club

Man, Matthew McConaughey is no joke of late–you might say he’s have a McConaissance…

Don’t worry, I’ll show myself out.

Prisoners

I don’t think this movie got as much play as it should have. I heard it was a really tense thrill and that the cinematography was great.

Out of the Furnace 

I don’t remember where I read it, but some outlet online made the point that there aren’t that many blue-collar action movies or thrillers being made anymore. Out of the Furnace looked to be a return to those types of stories.

If a movie involves Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Casey Affleck and Forest Whitaker, it probably won’t suck completely.

There you have it ladies and gentleman.

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