Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Year in Movies - 2013 Edition

With 2013 officially in the books, it’s time for my third annual year in movies review. This year, I managed to watch sixty-nine movies. Yes, that’s six-nine and even I find it hard to believe since I also have a full-time job, a wife, a toddler, and a PlayStation 3. Guess which of those things has rarely been turned on since my kid was born (wait, don’t guess). Aside from the pre-release screenings I go to on weeknights, I mostly take advantage of nap time. Obviously, my kid naps a lot, but so does my wife. That leaves me with a couple of hours on each weekend day to sneak in a streaming flick or hit the local theater for a matinee. And, in addition to watching those movies and writing about most of them, I spent more time this year reading other reviews and movie articles, including the reader comments. While the reader comments were as expected, I was elated to find that the main stream reviewers lived up to nearly every stereotype you’ve ever heard about film snobs.

Every year, we hear the same things being said about the movie industry – too many sequels and remakes, no new ideas, fewer people going to theaters, movies are worse than ever before, etc. This year, we even heard filmmakers Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Steven Soderbergh singing doomsday songs about the demise of the tentpole (otherwise known as the very expensive movie) and Hollywood, while complaining that it is getting increasingly difficult to make smaller budgeted movies. You can see the self-serving nature of such a statement, especially considering Spielberg and Lucas don’t acknowledge the fact that they are arguably the two men most responsible for creating the tentpole in the first place. To top it off, Lucas makes claims that movies are “…going to cost you $50, maybe $100, maybe $150.” This, in turn, led to Spielberg predicting that, in the future, seeing a movie will cost a different amount depending on the production cost of the movie. All of these predictions are fun and entertaining, but vastly exaggerated (if you want to read more of those men’s singing, click here and here).

For one thing, 2013 set a new record for box office receipts somewhere north of $10.9 billion, besting 2012’s record. While it’s true that total ticket sales have been in a slight decline since 2003, people seem to have no issue burning their money in the form of 3-D surcharges to keep the profits rolling in. Variable or hyper inflated admission costs are only going to hurt that profit because it’s all based on quantity of ticket sales. In other words, theaters and studios are doing everything they can to keep admission prices down to prevent a further decline in ticket sales. And, of course they’re going to keep churning out the tentpoles since they are easily the most profitable (by total profit, not as compared to cost). Here are the top ten grossing (worldwide) films of 2013 and their budgets (from Wikipedia):

Iron Man 3 - $200 million
Despicable Me 2 - $76 million
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - $130-$140 million
Fast & Furious 6 - $160 million
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - $225 million
Monsters University - $200 million
Man of Steel - $225 million
Gravity - $100 million
Frozen - $150 million
Thor: The Dark World - $170 million

If we’re defining a tentpole as anything with a budget of $100 million or more, nine of the top ten movies were tentpoles (if marketing budgets are tossed in, it’s ten out of ten), and all of them netted a minimum of $400 million. Where Spielberg’s saying a failure of maybe six tentpoles will shift the paradigm, he’s wrong because he’s neglecting the absurd amount of money the successes bring in. Disney’s Iron Man 3 grossed over $1.2 billion (that’s B-illion), more than making up for Disney’s The Lone Ranger fiasco (which actually only finished $15 million shy of recuperating its $275 million price tag). Throw in the profits from Frozen and Thor 2 and you can see why Spielberg’s statement is simply ludicrous and why Disney won’t even sweat failures like The Lone Ranger or John Carter (in case you were wondering, John Carter actually finished $8 million above its $275 million budget). In fact, with the upcoming new Star Wars movies, the only concern the folks at Disney have is what denomination of bill they want to swim through in their personal Scrooge McDuck vaults.

But, that didn’t stop the critics from decrying 2013 as the year the tentpoles fell. 2013 saw twenty-eight movies with a $100+ million budget and only The Lone Ranger, 47 Ronin (still in theaters, but effectively dead), R.I.P.D., and Ender’s Game failed to make back their production budgets, for a total loss of about $259 million. Again, Iron Man 3 - $1.2 billion; Scrooge McDuck vaults.

Getting back to the other annual complaints, sequels and no fresh ideas have been the norm in Hollywood for almost the entirety of Hollywood’s existence. Mark Hughes does a good job of making this point in a column for Forbes and I’m not really interested in having that discussion considering the box office receipts only strengthen the idea that people don’t actually want fresh ideas. What I do want to discuss is the subject of quality. Hughes briefly touches on the subject of quality, writing that the quality of movies has never been higher. He states “I’d make my usual point that if we pick any previous era of cinema, and select the best year of films from that era — for example, perhaps 1939 or a year from the beloved 1970s era — we’d be hard pressed to find a dozen films that we could seriously call valid contenders for Best Picture at the Oscars, let alone 15 to 20 such contenders. In the modern era of film, however, it’s not hard to find more than a dozen strong contenders and usually 20 or more contenders including some dark horse candidates.” Forget about the fact that there are far more movies being released now than thirty or more years ago (hundreds, in fact; making it statistically obvious there would be more contenders), qualifying his statement with how many could contend for the Best Picture Oscar is purely subjective and film snobbery at its snobbiest. As I wrote last year, the Best Picture has no quantifiable criteria other than release date, so how do we know if a movie is really Best Picture material? It essentially boils down to one man’s toilet being another man’s art.

He continues “Likewise, pick the worst films of any prior beloved era of cinema, and compare them to modern examples of the worst films released in theaters. At the very least, modern examples will pretty consistently demonstrate a level of basic competence at technical skills — editing, lighting, sound — superior to the worst films of prior eras.” Here, he’s mentioning film components that are at least comparable, but, again, completely subjective. It’s the same problem as comparing sports figures from different eras in that techniques and technology change the way the game is played. Isn’t it likely that the worst movies of any era were showing basic competence at technical skills relative to that era? Other than Plan 9 From Outer Space, that is? Did Hughes not see After Earth?

And, what about story, character development, and screenwriting in general? Those things are far more important qualities of films since the whole point of a movie is to tell a story. From that standpoint, the quality of this year’s best and worst films was far more disparate than last year’s and there were far more terrible movies this year than last. My worst five from last year are nowhere near the same circle of hell that shat out this year’s worst films. It even felt like there were fewer truly great movies, though that might just be a hangover effect from last year’s crop.

But, if you need further proof that this is a down year, look at the movies predicted to be in contention by Grantland’s Mark Harris:

• 12 Years a Slave
• American Hustle
• August: Osage County
• The Butler
• Captain Phillips
• Fruitvale Station
• Gravity
• Her
• Inside Llewyn Davis
• Nebraska
• Saving Mr. Banks
• The Wolf of Wall Street


He even includes ten more dark horse movies, if you will:

• All is Lost
• Before Midnight
• Blue is the Warmest Color
• Blue Jasmine
• The Book Thief
• Dallas Buyers Club
• Enough Said
• Philomena
• Prisoners
• Rush


For film snobs, this list is like eating a cake made of rainbows and ecstasy, but for everyone else it’s evidence that there wasn’t a truly remarkable mainstream movie released this year – at least not one remarkable enough to break through the Great Wall of Snob (you have to go back to 2010’s Inception for the last occurrence of that). I don’t begrudge Harris or Hughes their idea of quality, but I do begrudge the idea that that list of movies represents the best of the year. I’m not going to advocate for Iron Man 3 or Pacific Rim (even though both of those movies were well crafted and wildly entertaining), but how does a list of twenty-two best-of-year movies not include Catching Fire or World War Z? I realize that that list represents the typical list of nominees we see nearly every year, but doesn’t it say something that not even an animated film made his list? I know his column was aiming to predict what would be nominated, not necessarily what should be nominated, but nowhere does he talk about any movies that are being flat out ignored. Here’s a direct quote from Harris’ piece: “But 2013 has proven to be atypical, with such an extraordinarily deep roster of contenders that even an observer as unhyperbolic as the New York Times's A.O. Scott has justly called it ‘a year of superabundant quality’.” Again, I don’t want to begrudge taste in movies (okay, I actually do), but as his number ten best of the year, Scott has a six-way tie between The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Bling Ring, Spring Breakers, Pain and Gain, and American Hustle. Besides the fact that American Hustle is several orders of magnitude better than at least four of those movies, on what planet is Spring Breakers a better film than Catching Fire? Or Captain Phillips? Or Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters? (Full disclosure: I didn’t actually see Spring Breakers, but everything I read and every preview I saw screamed STAY AWAY!) Even Scott’s fifteen runners up failed to include movies outside of the typical film festival/art-house/Scorsese/indie snob factory. You know it’s a weak year in movies when the films snobs don’t even acknowledge the good “popcorn” flicks, but continue to tell everyone how great this year’s slate of movies was.

I picked on a couple of reviewers here, as well as in my review of Gravity (picked on is a gentle way of putting it), but this snobbishness really has to stop. It got to the point where I couldn’t even read certain reviewers (though they did make for some great fodder before I quit reading) because the snobbery was so thick. At the very least, they should acknowledge that any movie that rakes in more than a billion dollars deserves a passing mention, if not full-blown defenses. The good news is that there are a lot of other reviewers out there who think like me and are hoping that, one day, film snobs will start acknowledging that some popcorn flicks are actually extremely good movies and that lists like those above (as well as the actual award nominations) are completely irrelevant without them. I just hope it happens before tickets cost $50, $100, or $150 dollars. Ha ha.


My Top 5
I will continue to ridicule anyone who has a top ten list of movies until they can prove they’ve seen at least 100 movies. As I said earlier, I saw 69 and did consider bumping this up to seven, but decided it was more fun to leave it at five.
Warm Bodies – Easily the best romantic comedy of the year, if not the millennium. It’s charming. It’s funny. It’s clever. It has zombies. That’s right – someone figured out how to make a chick-flick that guys would be interested in, while retelling Romeo and Juliet to hook the ladies.
World War Z – The best thriller of the year (yes, there were two movies that were actual thrillers and not just full of it), including a climax that is one of the best executed sequences you will ever see in film. Oh yeah, and zombies.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – My vote for the best movie of the year. Like The Avengers last year, Catching Fire had an obscene amount of hype to live up to and goes above and beyond. Jennifer Lawrence is as convincing as ever as Katniss and makes it impossible for readers of the book to picture her as anyone but.
Now You See Me – I really wish I had seen this movie when it was in the theater because it would have broken up the string of bad movies we were in during the fall. It was very reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven, delivering a showy heist that doesn’t slow down until the credits roll. The best thing about it is how, like its subject matter (magicians), it keeps you guessing with a lot of misdirection, drawing you in throughout the entire film.
Europa Report – Easily the best space movie of the year, it’s far more gripping than the critic’s darling, Gravity. If you like science fiction and space stuff, you should definitely carve out an hour and a half for this film.

You Almost Made It
The gap between these next five and my top five was far closer than in previous years. The differentiator is that I was simply more entertained by the top 5 than these, which is saying something.
The Call – I am not much of a fan of Halle Berry, but she put out her best performance in this film (I know she won an Oscar; whatever). Abigail Breslin was arguably better. It had a been a long time since I saw a truly tense thriller and would have been in my top five if it wasn’t the second best thriller of the year.
American Hustle – An endless parade of trailers touting the acting and all but awarding Oscars almost guaranteed this movie was a letdown. Fortunately, it was one of the rare times when the acting really was as great as advertised. If this movie has a flaw, it’s with the clichés thrown in for the sake of Hollywood, even though the story the movie was based on was outrageous enough.
Dark Skies – A very good creepy alien movie that Keri Russell shines in. The tension stays high throughout its entirety and J.K. Simmons delivers a new idea on aliens that will cause the more paranoid viewers to lose some sleep.
Knife Fight – I didn’t realize how much I missed shows like The West Wing until I watched Knife Fight. Good acting, not too serious, but not too silly. It’s a great satire (are satires even made anymore?!) exposing one of the nastier elements of politics – how politicians treat each other and what they’ll do to hide their weaknesses.
The Way, Way Back – Sam Rockwell continues to be the most underrated actor on the planet and makes this film the best indie of the year. It also features Steve Carrell playing against his normal character as the film’s dick of an antagonist. If that’s not enough to convince you to see it, then nothing will.

Surprisingly Decent
This is the first of two categories where expectations play a big part in my opinion of the film. I had low or guarded expectations going into them and was pleasantly surprised at the end. All of them were movies that I probably would have blasted had I had high expectations going in, but none of them had enough problems for me to dislike them.
2 Guns – Come on, admit it. Did you really think a movie with that title, starring Mark Wahlberg, would be anything better than whatever is in the bottom of Oscar the Grouch’s trash can? Me either.
Dead Man Down – Another career redeeming performance by Colin Farrell, following last year’s excellent Seven Psychopaths. Again, dumb title, but competent movie. I will no longer underestimate Farrell. On the flip side, Terrence Howard is going in the opposite direction and seems destined to Tyler Perry movies if he doesn’t pick up his game soon.
The Host – A lot of people did not like this movie, but I think that has far more to do with the Twilight series than The Host and people being generally sick of Stephanie Meyer’s work turned to film. I had low expectations due to listening to the audio book as read by the worst reader in the history of language and found the film much more entertaining and interesting. If not for my expectations, this film would have ended up as a movie for me.
We’re the Millers – Jason Sudeikis landed on my radar two years ago in Horrible Bosses, where I said he needed to deliver one more good performance for me to believe there was still one person on Saturday Night Live who wasn’t a blight on comedy. Well, he’s officially off my shit list, teaming up with Jennifer Aniston again to deliver another very good comedy.
Safe Haven – Maybe it was because I saw way too many action movies, but this movie was a pleasant surprise and a very good break from explosions right when I needed it. It’s the first Nicholas Sparks movie I’ve seen and I expected it to be much heavier on the romance. Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel worked well together and there’s even a nice surprise at the end.
It’s a Disaster – I love finding little gems that most people didn’t even hear about. As one of three movies featuring a group of people dealing with the apocalypse, this one delivers a dark comedy that’s far more interested in the group of people than in showing us the details of the apocalypse.
Welcome to the Punch – A British thriller featuring Mark Strong and James McAvoy that got zero publicity. I didn’t really have expectations other than Mark Strong and James McAvoy are always good. The movie is decent, but a little weak as far as tying its opening scene to the rest of the film. Considering it wasn’t even released in the U.S., you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.
Pain and Gain – The film itself was kind of all over the place and, at times, felt like a knockoff of the far superior Very Bad Things, but the story was interesting, especially since it was based on a true event. I don’t know how much of what the movie depicted was made up, but it’s worth one watch.

Movies for Me
Make fun of me all you want for these films; I won’t even argue with you. In fact, I could make strong cases against all of them, but they are films that I just like for no real reason, personal reasons, or because they had giant monsters fighting giant robots.
Beautiful Creatures – When the movie came out on DVD, I watched it again with some friends and it was far more hokey than the first time around. I still liked the story and the characters, but I couldn’t understand why I liked it so much the first time around.
Oblivion – A much better film than most people give it credit for, it was arguably the best science-fiction film of the year. Well, except for…
Pacific Rim – I really wanted to put this movie in the top 5 (not kidding), but the intended audience was far too narrow to justify it. Suffice it to say, I wanted to see giant robots fight giant monsters and the movie delivered perfectly.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – Stop laughing.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone – Seriously, stop laughing.
Ender’s Game – Too many people I know were disappointed in this film to justify placing it in the top 5 or next top 5. I thought it was very good given the time constraints and am sorry that more people didn’t give it a chance.
John Dies at the End – This movie reminded a lot of goofy movies like Idle Hands and Hot Tub Time Machine – movies that appear to be stupid on the surface, but are actually fairly-well put together movies. The only thing about this movie I didn’t understand was the title. John doesn’t die at the end, so what does the title mean? Actually, maybe I don’t want to know. Let’s move on.

Meh…
None of these movies were bad, though a couple of them are wildly overrated. None of them spoke to me in any way, but maybe they spoke to you.
The Great Gatsby – How many more times is this book going to be made into film? And when is Baz Luhrmann going to stop chasing shiny things around?
Gravity – Winner of ‘most overrated movie of the year’ award. It was a decent film, but by the way it was talked about you’d think that Sandra Bullock was saved by Lawrence of Arabia and Rosebud while watching Atlanta burn.
Snitch – Wait, we’re still fighting a drug war? And we’re still casting Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a., The Rock, in multiple movies a year?
A Haunted House – Another Wayans brother’s spoof that fails to inspire more than a couple giggles. It wasn’t terrible, but seemed like just the next off the Wayans’ assembly line and might as well have been called Scary Movie: A Haunted House. Much like the writers on Saturday Night Live, the Wayans’ drag gags out far too long, but remind us that fart jokes never get old.
Phantom – As generic a submarine movie as you could possibly think, David Duchovny and Ed Harris headline a movie best described as what would happen if Crimson Tide had sex with The Hunt for Red October and the only the recessive traits were passed on.
Much Ado About Nothing – A lot of people out there love Shakespeare, but I am not one of them. If it weren’t for Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion, I never would have watched this movie. There is nothing wrong with the film, other than being in black and white for no apparent reason, but the title pretty much sums it up.
The Heat – While not as unwatchable as Melissa McCarthy’s Identity Thief, The Heat is an incredibly boring and unfunny movie and I’m saying that as someone who watched the film during a fourteen hour flight. It was basically the opposite of entertaining.

We’re Really Only in it for the Money
Better known as ‘popcorn flicks,’ these are the movies that are uninspired and tend to be big-budget, CGI-heavy, money-makers, sequels, or remakes. All of them were very short on story, incredibly redundant, and included some elements that bordered on absurd, even for them. Oh yeah, and all of them are very obviously there for the sole purpose of generating large amounts of cash with no risk attached.
Kick-Ass 2 – A very weak sequel with a tired hook. We get it; teenagers cuss. Would it have been too much to ask for them to diverge from the standard action movie formula?
Evil Dead – Nobody remakes cult-favorite slasher flicks because they have something interesting to say. But if you like blood, you’ll love this movie.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – This time, I didn’t read the book right before watching the movie, so I don’t know how much of the book they shredded. The movie was okay, but not worth skipping the book for.
Jack the Giant Slayer – Another CGI heavy attempt at recreating a fairy tale with a bloated budget. It was actually mildly better than most critics said it was, but was ruined by a writer catering to the dumbest children out there by including giants farting, burping, eating freshly picked boogers, and having a mentally disabled second head. I made up exactly none of that.
The Hangover Part III – Though I didn’t see part 2, I’m sure that part 3 of this completely unnecessary trilogy was better. Of course, based on what everyone told me, that’s not saying much.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Another Young Adult (YA) book series that Hollywood is hoping to cash in on. It had some promise until the things happening in the film kept piling up with no explanation at all. I am all for YA books being turned into films, but they could at least try writing scripts that make some sense.

We Decided We Weren’t Just in it for the Money
This is a new category this year and all of these movies were extremely good sequels. Yeah, they all definitely exist first and foremost to make money, but they are all very competent and extremely entertaining flicks rather than tired retreads or redundant messes.
Thor: The Dark World – Unlike its predecessor, this one had a plot and was far more coherent. Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston were given more to do and the film benefited.
Iron Man 3 – A lot of people think this one was the best of the franchise, but they’re wrong. It had far too much contradiction with its own universe to be considered that good and the change in directors was obvious in the way the action scenes rolled out. But, yeah, it was still a good movie.
RED 2 – This one seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of other sequels that never should have been made, but deftly avoided the mistakes of those other sequels.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Peter Jackson and the studios deserve a lot flack for bloating a short, light novel into eight hours of film, but they also deserve some credit for creating Smaug and hiring Benedict Cumberbatch to play him. Smaug alone makes this movie worth watching.
The Wolverine – The other movie that almost made my top 5 a top 7, it was a vast improvement over Wolverine’s last feature film. If not for a head-scratching ending (not the end-credits scene), I probably would have done it.
Star Trek Into Darkness – The biggest complaint about this film is that it was a remake of The Wrath of Kahn. So, what? With the franchise reboot, doesn’t it make perfect sense that the second film would feature Kahn? And, it was a very good remake at that and Cumberbatch (yes, that Cumberbatch) was the highlight as Kahn. If they remake The Voyage Home, then we’ll have a problem.

The Letdowns
The second category where expectations are key. This time around, I had high expectations (foolishly) and walked out of the theater (or away from my DVD player) grumbling. It’s their own damn fault though, mostly by just being plain lazy on some fronts, especially story.
Man of Steel – Easily this year’s winner of most disappointing movie, but it also led to the best and funniest review I read all year. Trust me; just read it.
42 – If you don’t know anything about Jackie Robinson, you would find this movie very interesting. I did, so it wasn’t.
Oz the Great and Powerful – I’d love to see a do-over on this film because Oz is a great world to visit. This movie was far too concerned with paying homage to the original Wizard of Oz and it showed. But that girl made of China sure was cool.
Elysium – Jodie Foster single-handedly put this movie in this category. Otherwise, it was a pretty good follow-up for Neill Blomkamp after the extremely good District 9.
The Purge – The idea of a night where all crime is legal has an amazing amount of potential. Why the writers decided to take the lazy road is anyone’s guess. So, was the decision to cast Ethan Hawke in the lead.
The Lone Ranger – This movie wasn’t nearly as bad as folks made it out to be. It was simply as generic as possible and exactly what you would expect from a Disney movie trying as hard as possible not to offend anyone. The letdown came in the form of it being this year’s 4th of July release. Whoops.
White House Down – This film was perfectly entertaining and the way the White House was taken was far more believable than the stupidity depicted in Olympus Has Fallen. But then, the last twenty minutes happened where the film took a crazy left turn into suddenly not giving a shit. While my expectations for this movie were very low, it’s a letdown because of that last twenty minutes. Oh well.

A Waste of Time
At least ‘The Letdowns’ contained some entertainment quality. These films were all very boring, not the least bit entertaining, and lacked any plot beyond the initial premise. They are the very definition of “two hours of your life you will never get back.”
Stand Up Guys – One of a few movies featuring old guys trying to be hip or stay relevant and a big reason why I avoided seeing Last Vegas.
47 Ronin – I really wanted to like this movie, but it felt like nobody involved in its making was committed beyond collecting a paycheck. It also felt too much like a rehash of The Last Samurai, which wasn’t the best of films either.
Broken City – A convoluted mess of a film attempting to provide commentary on corruption and the plight of “little guy” that ends up just being dull and predictable. Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg seemed to have no real direction and Catherine Zeta-Jones was there too.
Bullet to the Head – Remember when Sylvester Stallone used to do fun action romps with comedic relief (Tango & Cash and Demolition Man, to name two)? He used to appear to be having fun in his films. Now, he just mumbles his way monotonally through dull, tedious action vehicles hoping we won’t notice how desperate he is to stay relevant. At least in The Expendables 2, the rest of the cast overshadowed him and made that movie fun. In Bullet to the Head, he moves from one blood-soaked killing to the next without ever changing his facial expression.
The Internship – At some point, somebody in Hollywood needs to tell Vince Vaughn no. His track record since Wedding Crashers is a what’s what of crappy comedies and The Internship continues that streak, with the additional bonus of Vaughn doubling as screenwriter and story writer. I’d like to say his films can’t get worse, but I haven’t seen Delivery Man.
Zero Dark Thirty – I know this movie was officially a 2012 film, but I saw an advanced screening in January. That being said, it taught us absolutely nothing about the hunt for Bin Laden that we didn’t already know and was easily an hour too long for what it did show.

Not the Worst, But You Sure Tried Hard
In most other years, these movies would have been in the bottom five. They are all really bad movies, but nowhere close to the level of stink emanating from the bottom of the barrel.
Gangster Squad – This was one of the first releases of the year and was a good appetizer for the shitty main courses to come. It’ll be awhile before Josh Brolin and Sean Penn can wash the stench off from this one.
You’re Next – This movie’s facebook page actually responded to my review post. How desperate must a studio or filmmaker be to convince people to like their movie when they are arguing with the likes of me? You made a bad movie, accept it and move on.
Getaway – Ethan Hawke led two movies this year? I’m not sure I even knew he was still alive. After watching this film, I’m still not sure.
Side Effects – This film had no clue what it was supposed to be and tried way too hard to be clever. That’s why they released it in February. Maybe that’s why Soderbergh was so spun up in his speech.
This is the End – Wesley Morris of Grantland had this movie as his 9th best (favorite) movie of the year. As pompous as Morris often comes across, I was shocked to find a movie like this on his best list. Even more shocking is that he would pick a movie that is the fourth best apocalypse comedy of the year (out of four) and one that is essentially I giant penis. How did Morris win a Pulitzer?
The Last Stand – If not for a lot of unintentional comedy, this movie would have been much worse. Schwarzenegger doesn’t want to give up action hero status, but he needs to realize he is better in a supporting role, ala The Expendables 2. Maybe if the villain wasn’t such a cartoon character, the movie would have only been ‘meh.’
Movie 43 – I really hope that all of the good actors and actresses who appeared in this movie donated all of their paychecks to charity. I can handle dick and fart jokes, but two hours of non-stop toilet humor is just pathetic. The film is not clever in any kind of way; it’s just one gross-out gag after another and every single vignette (the movie is a string of them) involves genitalia, ass holes, poop, or all of the above. By the time the movie is done, you will feel like you followed Andy Dufresne through the river of shit.

Pooping on the Silver Screen
As much as I’d like to be able to whittle this down to the worst five, but each of these movies has a case as the worst movie of the last decade. Sure, I could probably convince myself that at least one of them had a single redeeming quality, but why would I want to. We’re talking awfulness at levels not seen since BattleField Earth or The Last Airbender and that should be celebrated, not made excuses for.
Identity Thief – I made it through 32 minutes before I couldn’t stand it any longer. This movie was supposed to be a comedy and there wasn’t a single joke or funny action during that entire 32 minutes. What’s funny about a woman stealing a man’s identity to buy things, then have the man almost get fired because she ripped off some drug dealers? I can’t imagine what could possess a person to sit through its entirety. The beauty of watching a movie at home is that it’s much easier to turn it off than walk out of a theater.
R.I.P.D. – It’s hard to see Ryan Reynolds ever getting the lead in an action movie again after this and The Green Lantern. Like quarterbacks and coaches, he’ll take the blame for something that was far less his fault than most of the team surrounding him. Bad CGI, terrible acting, horrible writing, and scenes that you can’t unsee added up to a movie that people wisely stayed away from.
After Earth – The nepotism involving a certain son of Will Smith was well-documented. The involvement of M. Night Shyamalan was not. Easily the worst movie of Will Smith’s career and he did Wild, Wild West. Just, wow.
Olympus Has Fallen – I get that Hollywood has never pays much attention to reality, but this movie was less believable than Pacific Rim. Seriously, there is a better chance that giant alien monsters will crawl out of a wormhole in the ocean than there is of North Koreans attacking D.C. and capturing the White House the way they did in this film. And the film only got dumber and less believable from there.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation – Speaking of North Koreans, they made a cameo in this film as a completely inept military force depicted solely for the purpose of giving screen time to Channing Tatum. Ninjas have a sword fight on the side of a cliff. My head hurts.
A Good Day to Die Hard – In Russia? Really? Are we done yet? Just…no.

As usual, as the calendar flips to a new year, I’m renewing my hope that the writers try a little harder and that everyone in the Academy retires to give way to a new generation of folks that recognize that film has changed in the last twenty years. I’m also hoping that the mainstream critics pull the stick out of their collective asses and start acknowledging that movies are also for people besides those who studied them in a classroom. Finally, thanks to everyone who read my reviews this year. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

2 comments:

  1. You didn't do 12 years a slave and I'm supposed to take this seriously how...?

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  2. First, thanks for reading. Second, take it as seriously as you want. I don't have a press pass to see free movies, so when I spend my money on a movie, I skew toward action movies because they are more worth it to me to see on the big screen. There are plenty of other movies I didn't see and plenty of movies I did see that the film snobs ignore and abhor. At least with me, you don't get the same boring, dry top movie lists that every film snob dribbles out every year.

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