Monday, January 13, 2014

A Reel Opinion: The Best & Worst Films of 2013, Part 1


The Year in Film 2013 was overall a very good year. Despite an underperforming summer season (more on that in Part 2), the year finished very strong with some memorable efforts. Unfortunately, 2013 still churned out some stinkers which either did not live up to expectations or were just flat out bad ideas with even worse execution. This Blogger was sober enough to avoid critically drubbed disasters and obvious turds such as THE GREAT GATSBY, THE HOST, PARANOIA, THE INTERNSHIP, R.I.P.D, or anything involving Tyler Perry or Adam Sandler. The following ten films are the ones which should have, or could have been equal or better than their collective parts…but came in woefully under.

It’s difficult to be too harsh on Rob Zombie’s creepy horror flick THE LORDS OF SALEM when the effort was so earnest. Zombie was clearly channeling his inner Kubrick with spooky sequences that would have been right at home in THE SHINING. But in the end it felt like he was making a film just for himself, which left the film very inaccessible to everyone else.

An earnest effort is also present in PRISONERS; with its well-rounded cast, beautiful cinematography, and decent plotline. However the film was sunk by awful dialogue, over-the-top acting, hack-job editing, and pacing that was slower than a nun in January. All that made for a very unpleasant and lifeless experience at the theatre.

Lifeless is a word that can also be applied to Sir Ridley Scott’s THE COUNSELOR, along with the words plot-less, smart-less, joy-less, and clue-less. There was literally nothing to latch onto and not even the stellar cast seemed to know what was going on.

The second installment of the G.I. JOE franchise, subtitled RETALIATION, was a frustrating film because the characters, vehicles, and set pieces looked like they belonged in a G.I. JOE film, but twerp-face director Jon M. Chu had no idea what to do with them, other than to place them in a story which made absolutely no sense even for a movie based on a toy line.

The meat of this year’s Worst is a gaggle of saggy and balding over-the-hill action stars still clinging to their past glory. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s THE LAST STAND would have worked fine as a zany comedy from the 1980’s…if this were 1980. Meanwhile, Bruce Willis continues his new found career as the most boring person in the world in RED 2, which was another pile of nonsense despite the strong cast. The once bankable Will Smith brought his son (who can’t act) into the steaming turd which was M. Night Shymalama-ding-dong’s AFTER EARTH, which was about as fun as watching someone else play Space Invaders. Not to be left out, Sylvester Stallone spent nearly the whole of BULLET TO THE HEAD driving around in the goddamn car, which was the least of his problems as he had no character to play and nothing to do anyway. Bruce Willis wasn’t done torpedoing his career by showing up in the shitfest which was the unasked for and unneeded fifth DIE HARD film, which lacked any sort of character or basic storytelling technique, and somehow made gunplay and explosions boring on film.

In 2008, this Blogger named director Ruben Fleischer’s ZOMBIELAND one of the very best of that year. In 2013, Fleischer and a host of past Oscar winners and nominees assembled together to stink up theatres in the horrible GANGSTER SQUAD. The approach to the film seemed to be very confused; Fleischer and his cast seemingly couldn’t decide if they were making a parody or a serious drama, and the result was a cartoonish melodramatic mess. The film never got past the many clich├ęs of old gangster films and latched onto them; Ryan Gosling did nothing more than stand around with his crooked goddamn hat and dangling cigarette, Nick Nolte grumbled and mumbled his way around, Josh Brolin barely even showed up, and Sean Penn brought more cheese to the plate than Mighty Mouse could lift. The story was by-the-numbers and horribly predictable, which made for a very dull time at the theatre. No amount of talent was squandered or embarrassed more in 2013 than in GANGSTER SQUAD.

Worst Films of 2013
 
1.       GANGSTER SQUAD
2.       A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
3.       BULLET TO THE HEAD
4.       AFTER EARTH
5.       RED 2
6.       THE LAST STAND
7.       G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
8.       THE COUNSELOR
9.       PRISONERS
10.   THE LORDS OF SALEM

 *

Wednesday: Part 2 rounds up the Best of 2013.




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