Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hindsight: A 2013 Cinematic Retrospective

Apparently I didn't see as many films in 2013 as I did in 2012, so I suppose I can claim that as a small victory. Yeah, take that Hollywood, your billion-dollar coffers ended up about sixty dollars less than they were the year before. That would generally mean I couldn't do quite as expansive a gaze as I might otherwise would have, but let's not permit reality to get in the way of a good article and begin with my "Main 5 films you might have expected me to see but I didn't."

Main 5 Films You might have Expected Me to See but I Didn't
5. Kick Ass 2: I read the original comic, saw the original film, film wasn't as good as the comic (quelle surprise). Was I going to bother reading the sequel comic? No way, Mark Millar's one of those boring writers these days who took the wrong lesson from Watchmen and thinks that it's cool and edgy to have superheroes swear and molest each other. Why would I see the film?
"What's all the hubbub, bub?"

4. The Wolverine: The first Wolverine-only film (and no I don't mean X-Men 1) was pretty crap, especially if you're the kind of person who cares that they messed up Deadpool (I am not one of those people). Before it got taken down, I watched the post-credits sequence from this new one with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen setting up X-Men: Days of Future Past, but there was no way I was going to watch the whole film. Life's just too short.

3. Pacific Rim: If I want to see giant CGI robots fighting giant CGI dinosaurs - oh wait, I have absolutely no interest in seeing that.

2. The Great Gatsby: I very much like the book, as you'd expect, but I couldn't be arsed seeing some over-the-top Baz Luhrmann extravaganza with a modern soundtrack. C'mon, Gatsby in 3D? Fitzgerald's original novel was about the superificality of interbellum culture. It seems kind of blinkered to adapt it as a flashy one hundred million dollar film.

"I'm always around."
1. Man of Steel: I was originally optimistic about a Snyder-directed, Nolan-produced Superman film, but then I saw The Dark Knight Rises and I realised that if there was anything I wanted less than any more of the Nolan treatment on Batman, it was the Nolan treatment on Superman. I'll probably catch it on DVD one day but at the time I didn't have anywhere near sufficient motivation to bother with typical Hollywood dark, angsty crap, especially applied to Superman of all people. Maybe it's a good film, but somehow I doubt it.

Main 1 Film I didn't see which also has a very easy to parody name
"The Secret Life of Walter Shitty"
Yeah, I know it's based on a short story, but still, it was all too perfect given that anyone could see about five seconds of the trailer for this and know that it would be a disaster. No offence to Ben Stiller, but he can piss off. 

Middle 5 Films of 2013:
These are five films I happened to see in 2013, none of which really seriously impressed me, but none of which are going to go into the "bottom three" either.

Gangster Squad: Yeah, this is a 2013 film. I was surprised too, given how long ago it feels like it has been since I saw it. Was it a particularly good film? Not especially. Was it a particularly bad film? By no means. You know what I went into Gangster Squad expecting? A film about a bunch of guys in suits and fedoras in the 1940s gunning down gangsters with tommy guns. You know what I got? Exactly that. Yeah, it could have been better, but I enjoyed it well enough, and the brain-to-burger-patty gag was kind of funny.

Mama: Written by Neil Cross, who wrote some of 2013's episodes of New Who, this was an okay horror film that kind of turned into borderline fantasy by the end. Featuring some decent moments of tension and some pretty disturbing imagery concerning two little girls being raised in an isolated cabin by a ghost, it probably gave the resident spook a bit too much attention at the end, lessening some of the creature's impact. Also the psychologist goes off to the haunted cabin by himself, which is pretty cliché.

The World's End: I don't know what it was, but this film just didn't do it for me. It wasn't funny enough. Yes, it had a certain bite that the previous films arguably didn't have, but frankly I just didn't find the parody to be sufficiently effective or noteworthy and as a general rule I don't think the premise lent itself to comedy that well. Hot Fuzz is still the best of these films by a mile, and I think I would probably prefer Shaun of the Dead to this one as well.

Thor: The Dark World: I have a bit of a soft spot for the original Thor so I was relatively optimistic about this one, and I think it's a decent if not especially memorable instalment. It probably sells itself a bit too shamelessly to the fandom's obsession with Loki and the proper villain, Malekith, is a waste of Christopher Eccleston in a silly role. I thought the ending was far stronger than the opening, when the film basically turned into an action comedy with portals. I didn't like Selvig going crazy but for some reason Darcy really did it for me in this one. I thought Frigga's murder was forced angst but I really enjoyed Chris Evans' cameo as Loki-as-Cap. How does Chris O'Dowd manage to get into everything?

Black with twinkly bits.
Gravity: There was a lot of buzz around this film. I guess it looks nice, but other than the effects it's fairly insubstantial and the scenario is absurdly contrived. Sandra Bullock puts in a perfectly adequate performance in the lead role but the film sorely misses George Clooney after his character is killed off at the end of the first act, which I'm sure was a largely conscious decision to enhance our sense of isolation and despair with the dour Ryan. The film has a decent amount of tension but there's not much to say in terms of story and character, and in my opinion impressive effects do not an impressive film make, especially when they're all cooked up in a computer anyway.

Bottom 3 Films of 2013
These are the three films I saw in 2013 that I was disappointed by or I consider to have wasted my time. The last instalment gets my award for worst film of 2013.

Where does his nose go?
Iron Man 3: This isn't a terrible film but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as everyone else seems to. I feel like I'm expected to relate to Tony Stark's problems, but I don't. He's rich, he has loads of armoured suits and he's dating Gwyneth Paltrow. Sure, he had to fly through a space hole in The Avengers carrying a nuclear missile, but so what? Why was that so traumatic? The main villain, Killian, is boring, Iron Man spends ages hanging around with a little kid, and the finale is a typical "spend the CGI budget" anaesthetic disaster of Stark jumping in and out of flying suits that never appeared before or since. Unlike some people, I didn't care about the twist regarding the Mandarin, but I would still have taken events in a different direction. I actually liked the menace of Ben Kingsley's character's performances and, if played straight, I think the character could have been a far superior alternative to Guy Pearce breathing fire. The film could also, I feel, have taken a more apocalyptic tone as in the Mandarin's broadcasts, which were what I found most compelling about the film. Seriously, how long does he spend out of the suit? I might need to rewatch this but I wasn't impressed.
Smaug with his gold.

Okay, I rewatched it. It's better than I remembered but it's still not great.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: I've already reviewed this in exhaustive detail here. Put simply, it's too long, it's boring, it plays a really weird game with the source material, it doesn't live up even to the other films, there's too much CGI, it's still too unfocused from the title character and it feels incredibly schizophrenic, as if it can't decide if it's a serious or comedic film. It's crap.

And thus my award for worst film of 2013 goes to:

"Just Khan? Nothing else?"
Star Trek Into Darkness: Like the previous film, my review of this film provides, I think, sufficient detail. To sum it up, however, this is a boring, lowbrow, CGI-ridden action film puppeteering the long-dead corpse of a franchise that used to have some kind of satirical or reflective purpose but is now nothing more than brainless, crass exploitation. The script is mediocre, the performances are all uninspiring and it tries to score points by blatantly ripping stuff off from the vastly, stratospherically superior The Wrath of Khan. It's the utterly worst, most abysmal, sleazily corporate forced-geek-nostalgia garbage I can imagine for an audience that prefers to be told what to enjoy and be interested in than actually make their own decisions. This is junk cinema that represents everything that is wrong with modern Hollywood and modern Western pop culture in general.

Top Film of 2013
I did not enjoy drawing this.
So with that out of the way, there's only one option left for my top film of 2013, and it's more earned that spot by a process of elimination than anything else because I honestly didn't even like it that much. I just can't think of another film it'd be worth giving this spot to, except maybe Thor: The Dark World, and I definitely didn't enjoy that to a huge extent so what choice do I have?

The Conjuring: Yep, it's a horror film by James Wan starring Patrick Wilson. It was spooky with a nice sense of tension and in my opinion effectively set up the notion of a haunted location in a way that didn't seem too predictable. Making a scenario featuring a large family and consequently large cast still give a frustrating sense of isolation and abandonment work was quite impressive in my view and the relative complexity of the plot worked in its favour, along with a healthy dose of 1970s atmosphere which served to keep things interesting. I'll be curious to see the sequel.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.