Sunday, January 5, 2014

My 2013 in film

Now that we're a good five days into 2014, I thought I'd share with you some thoughts on some of the films I saw, specifically the ones in theaters. Keep in mind, I don't get out to the movies much to be honest and what I do go see…well you'll see what I'm really into as we go along. So let's get started.

Iron Man 3:

First of all, I must say, shame on the marketing people…and that's something I'm going to say more than once on this list. When I saw the trailers for Iron Man 3, I thought we were in store for Marvel's version of The Dark Knight. And that was not the case at all. That does not mean this made it a bad movie. Far from it, it's in fact quite consistent with the rest of the Marvel franchise. It's action-packed, funny and, above all else, fun and entertaining. The performances are of course excellent, especially from Ben Kingsley. True,  I was a little disappointed by the twist ending at first but the film still managed to entertain. It actually surprises me how many people give this movie crap for its twist even going as far to say that Iron Man 2 was a better movie. Um….no. Just…no. Overall, an entertaining flick.

Man of Steel:

Oh dear. First of all, let me say, if you liked this movie, that's totally fine. Heck, I have good friends who enjoyed it. That being said….I didn't enjoy it. I feel that the website, "Honest Trailers", put it best when they said, "God forbid a Superman movie be any fun for anyone." And that's the problem with this movie, it wasn't fun. The tone is almost consistently grim throughout. I don't claim to be an expert on superheroes as the most I know from them is the movies but the last time I checked, Superman is supposed to be uplifting, yes? The movie is also not helped by the excessive use of shaky cam. I don't mind the consistent use of handheld cameras if it's done well. One of my favorite miniseries, Bleak House from 2005, uses handheld cameras throughout. But there is a scene at the beginning of the movie's prologue on Krypton (which, to be fair, is a pretty cool sequence albeit one so long it felt like the end of another much better movie) where Russell Crowe as Jor-El, the father of Superman, is in front of the council. We start with a wide shot and the camera is shaking. And that was the moment in the theater, where I realized that was how the rest of the movie was going to be shot.

It's also a very derivative movie in that it hits a lot of the plot points from the first two Christopher Reeve movies. It's still an origin story, there's still Krypton, a similar fate befalls a character who appears in Superman and Man of Steel. And just for good measure, our main villain is Zod! To be fair, Michael Shannon is good as Zod. Hell, all the actors do well in their respective roles. But the script gives them so little to work with and it is such a downer of a movie to sit through. Needless to say, I am not looking forward to the Batman vs. Superman movie. I love me a good superhero movie….trouble is, this wasn't a good superhero movie.

Despicable Me 2:

Ah, now this was the pick-me-up I needed after Man of Steel. I'm quite a fan of the first Despicable Me but was honestly skeptical when I heard there would be a second one. Would they overdo the Minions, would the script be a rehash of the first one, in short, would it fall victim to sequelitis? And surprisingly, it did not. The movie doesn't try to one-up itself by being this big bloated epic. Far from it, it actually manages to take a storyline that we as audience members have seen before but still manage to be really funny and heartwarming. The Minions are still as funny as ever, Gru and the girls are a lot of fun. Surprisingly, I wasn't crazy about Kristen Wiig's character. But all in all, it set out to entertain and that's exactly what happened.

The World's End

Ah, finally, a movie that wasn't a sequel or a reboot. For those who don't know, Hot Fuzz is one of my absolute favorite comedies of all time. And yes, I have finally seen Shaun of the Dead. So I was quite looking forward to this movie when it came out. And it did not disappoint. This is the final film in Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's "Three Flavours Cornetto" trilogy. And seeing this film, I understand why it's considered a trilogy in terms of filmmaking as opposed to story structure. All three films have the same story structure, variations on jokes and even share the very clever styles of editing. And to top it all off, all three films are funny as all hell. The performances are of course great, particularly from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and special mention must be made of Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine. My one complaint is that the movie ends on a bit of a downer, but not nearly as bad as Man of Steel. Either way, it's a very funny film that deserves repeat viewings along with its two predecessors. It also deserves being on my DVD shelf….so why the hell do I only have Hot Fuzz? Christ, what's wrong with me?

Next movie.


I actually thought this movie was a lot of fun, I don't know why it got so many….GOTCHA!!!!! I didn't even see this movie!

Moving on.

Thor: The Dark World

Now I know there are people out there who don't like certain movies from the Marvelverse for various reasons but honestly, I think that outside of Iron Man 2, this particular franchise has been nothing if not consistent in providing its audience with a fun two hours at the theater. And just like Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World was no exception. I really enjoyed the first Thor movie and was looking forward to this movie. Was it the greatest movie ever? No. But it was an entertaining watch. And, yes, Tom Hiddleston is amazing as Loki. And that's really all I have to say about this one. Well, there is one more thing….this sequel, I like it. ANOTHER!!!!!


When I heard that Robert Lopez was going to write the music and that Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff and Santino Fontana would be involved with this movie, I got excited.

And then came this teaser.

And that was when a lot of us went "Uh oh" in our heads for fear that this movie might be…well….bad.

Up until the above trailer I posted was released, it seemed like the advertisers were set on promoting the humor of Frozen. And while Frozen is a very funny film, it's also a very heartfelt one. So again, shame on you, marketing! In many ways, Frozen a departure from the typical Disney mold. Romance isn't a huge factor, defeating a dastardly villain isn't the main focus. It's a movie about family more than anything else. And the songs! Oh! My! Goodness! I enjoyed the songs in Tangled and thought The Princess and The Frog had one of the best villain songs to come out of a Disney movie while still having an enjoyable song score by Randy Newman (yes, I know all the jokes that were made about him but dammit, I liked these songs). Frozen has the best songs to come out of a Disney film, period. And the way the film is edited and shot during these numbers, all I could think was, "These are the kinds of shots and editing I wanted out of Les Miserables last year."  The animation is gorgeous, the voice actors are all great, it's just a really fantastic movie that managed to prove a lot of people, including myself, wrong.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

No question about it, this was the movie of 2013 I was the most hyped for pretty much from the moment that the An Unexpected Journey ended. But before I go into the movie itself, I have to share a bit about what happened when I went to see it.

Because there was a misunderstanding and Moviefone's iPhone app doesn't specify the format that these movies are being shown in, I found myself arriving for not just a 3-D showing….but the 48 fps format as well. And boy, was it distracting. I'm sorry but 48 fps is a terrible way to view movies! It looks like it was shot in some kind of high frequency videotape as opposed to film, digital or no. I could not get into the movie to save my life. Around the halfway point, I'd pretty much made a resolve to go back and see the movie again in the regular format just to see if it would make a difference.

And boy did it!

I enjoyed An Unexpected Journey immensely while still understanding people's hang ups about it. That being said, The Desolation of Smaug is easily a major improvement over the film. For a start, stuff actually happens. True, we got to see a lot of the mini-adventures in the first movie but this one hits the ground running and we finally arrive at the point of the story we've been waiting for, that point being Smaug himself. And….he's fantastic. The effects on this giant behemoth of a lizard are a sight to behold, Benedict Cumberbatch's performance is nothing short of terrifying….and then the movie decides to give its audience blue balls. I won't say where if you haven't seen it already but the film ends with one of the most frustrating cliffhangers ever! And that was the moment that confirmed in my head the biggest reservation I've had about The Hobbit.


That being said, I still look forward to the last movie…or as I'm gonna start calling it, "the rest of this damn movie". These last two movies have been a fun if somewhat frustrating ride and any return visit to Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth is always welcome!

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Shortest story in the world, it's Ron Burgundy, it's still funny. Has the barest semblance of a plot and it doesn't matter in the slightest. Moving on.

American Hustle

After all the blockbusters and animated films and whatnot, I thought I'd broaden my horizons a bit with two movies that I would normally wait and see until they were OnDemand.

I don't quite know what it was that drew me to American Hustle. All I knew was that it was getting good buzz and that I like Christian Bale. The good news is, the movie is pretty damn good. It manages to be both funny and the tiniest bit heartbreaking as well. But what I really can't praise enough in this movie are the performances, particularly Christian Bale who disappears into this role and Jennifer Lawrence who I've never seen in anything up until now. I was a little distracted by some other things going on in my head when I saw this movie so I look forward to a repeat viewing especially of those two actors in particular.

and now we come to the final movie of 2013 I saw in theaters but first a shout out to Digital Theatre's screening of the 2013 revival of Merrily We Roll Along. I love that there are people out there trying to bring theater to the masses whether it's Digital Theatre or National Theatre Live (now if only they could do a few more screenings in Randolph). The production was beautiful and the performances were amazing, But now let's talk about…

The Wolf of Wall Street

This was 3 straight hours of basically every conceivable form of social, moral and physical depravity that you can show onscreen….and I enjoyed the everliving crap out of it! That said, it was also the most embarrassing moviegoing experience because….I took my mother to this movie! And she did not enjoy watching every conceivable form of social, moral and physical depravity that you can show onscreen for 3 straight hours. But thankfully, the movie is a damn good one. I don't know how much of this story is true and wouldn't at all be surprised if the real Jordan Belfort has…um….a tendency to exaggerate but if it did turn out to be true, I wouldn't doubt it for a second. This movie is a lot of things. It is funny. It is heartbreaking. It is brutal. It is excessive. It is horrifying. It is uncomfortable. It is sensationalistic. It is also a good half hour too long. I swear this movie had more fakeout endings than The Return of the King. Just when I thought the movie would be wrapping up, it kept going. But nevertheless, it is a great movie. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill especially are fantastic. And I tell ya what, I'm never going to Benihana again. I don't care whose birthday it is.

And those were my moviegoing experiences of 2013. Hope you enjoyed reading and hopefully I'll be back with something sooner rather than later.


1 comment: