2013: The Year in Movies, Part 1

By on January 10, 2014
Gravity imdb.com

Well, it’s officially 2014, and that can only mean one thing: out with the old and in with the new. Join me, if you please, in one last unpacking of the year in cinema. Keep in mind, this being Alabama, some movies have not screened here as of yet (notably “Her,” “Inside Llweyn Davis,” “August: Osage County” and “Lone Survivor”) and as one man, I can only see so many movies in a given year on top of school and my television reviewing (insert gratuitous plug for some of my other work here), so cut me some slack. Be sure to check out Part Two for a break down by category!

Gravity imdb.com

Gravity imdb.com

Best All-Around Movies That I Saw

In this order: “Gravity,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Prisoners,” “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “American Hustle,” “The Way Way Back,” “Don Jon,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

“Gravity” just plain stuck with me, long after I saw it, and I’m not even a sci-fi guy. Maybe that’s why it stuck with me: it’s not really a sci-fi movie. But the experience is immersive, and the debates the film started afterward were fun, making it sort of like a less-confusing “Inception.” Also, Sandra Bullock has never been better.

“Wolf” surprised me because I don’t typically like movies about raging d-bags, and this definitely was. Of course, with Scorsese at the helm, you know you’re in good hands, so I stand corrected: this was easily one of the most riveting films of the year.

I fully expected “American Hustle” to be one of the best, and it is, but it wasn’t quite as good as I hoped, either. See it for the ladies, the clothes, the hair and the soundtrack, but know that it’s all surface and no real substance. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun, though.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire imdb.com

Hunger Games: Catching Fire imdb.com

The rest of them stuck with me long after seeing them, and my reasons for picking them are mostly as follows: “Banks”- it made me cry, and brought me back to my childhood, in a good way; “Prisoners”- because I felt like I’d been sucker-punched by the end of it; “Place”- because it was the best kind of ambitious, and the best kind of subtle; “Back”- the best-written coming-of-age comedy/drama of the year; “Don Jon”- best rom-com of the year, and one of the most guy-friendly ever; “HG:CF”- because Katniss rules, but you add Johanna (as played by the superlative Jena Malone) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a franchise worth watching- bonus points for adding Natalie Dormer (“Game of Thrones”) to the mix of the next two; “Hobbit”- because I’m just a big old geek at heart, and this was such a marked improvement over the first installment.

Bubbling Under: “Captain Phillips,” “Rush,” “Stoker,” “The Conjuring,” “Spring Breakers,” “The East,” “Insidious: Chapter 2,” “OZ the Great & Powerful,” “John Dies at the End,” and “Machete Kills.”

Movies Critics Liked But I Hated

“Out of the Furnace” -far and away the biggest disappointment of the year, “The Place Beyond the Pines” is what this movie is trying to be but gotten right.

“The Great Gatsby” -see previous comment about movies about d-bags: the only thing worse? A freaking musical about them. So, naturally, DiCaprio’s in both.

“World War Z” -because a movie in which you never see zombies eat anyone, barely see them taken out, and has less violence than a general episode of “The Walking Dead” is not a zombie movie!

“Evil Dead” -I saw one too many reviews trumpeting how this got the humor of the original right- it’s not funny, and it’s not remotely scary, either- though the FX was suitably gory, so there’s that. At least it had Bruce Campbell at the very end, so it wasn’t a total loss. (But Jane Levy still rules!)

“Now You See Me” -completely ruined what was an otherwise enjoyable movie with that ridiculous ending. A magical carousel? What the what?

But I believe in playing fair, so here’s…

OZ the Great & Powerful imdb.com

OZ the Great & Powerful imdb.com

Movies I Liked But Critics Hated

“Oz The Great & Powerful” -got mixed reviews, but I loved it, and the 3D was amongst the best I saw all year- on the plus side, it did well enough to warrant another installment, so there’s that.

“Beautiful Creatures” -what can I say? I like witches; bonus points for making it a Southern Gothic.

“Machete Kills” -did exactly what it was supposed to do, critics be damned; bonus points for giving Amber Heard a good role, finally.

“Kick-Ass 2” -because watching Chloë Grace Moretz kick ass never gets old, and yes, that includes “Carrie,” albeit to a much lesser extent.

“Ender’s Game” -loved the book in high school, thought they did it justice.

“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” -the kind of old-school, family-friendly fantasy film they don’t make enough of anymore.

“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” -good cast, great imaginative effects, kind of underrated.

“The Host” -because I love the director, Andrew Niccol; actress Saoirse Ronan, and because I don’t think I’ve ever said anything nice about Stephenie Meyer until this movie came out.

“Riddick” -big dopey fun of the sort they rarely make anymore, and a marked improvement over the last one.

“Jack the Giant Slayer” -slight but fun, with a good cast and some funny moments.

“The Lone Ranger” –I’m not a western guy, but this was not as bad as they say, even if it should have been shorter- and cheaper. The “John Carter” of this year, in that sense. Good thing Disney owns the rights to Marvel and “Star Wars” movies now.

Worst Movies of the Year

R.I.P.D. imdb.com

R.I.P.D. imdb.com

In no particular order:

“R.I.P.D.” -what happens when you combine “Men in Black” with “Ghostbusters”? – Nothing good. The title could also be the epitaph for Ryan Reynolds’ career if he does a few more movies like this. But hey, at least he gets to wake up next to Blake Lively.

“Movie 43” -proof that even big names can’t save crap from itself.

“Identity Thief” -ditto.

“The Fifth Estate” -or, how to screw up a genuinely-interesting story, despite perfect casting and decent cinematography.

“Admission” -or, how to screw up a rom-com with comedic royalty.

“Runner Runner” -or, proof that Ben Affleck should stick to directing- jury’s still out on JT.

“World War Z” -the answer to the question when is a zombie movie not a zombie movie? When it’s this travesty.

“The Family” -when you’ve got a scene with Robert De Niro as a mobster commenting on his own movie (“Goodfellas”) and it’s still not funny, you’ve got a problem.

“After Earth” -the “one” in “one too many” sci-fi movies in a given year.

“Jobs” -Ashton Kutcher? Really, Hollywood?

“Scary Movie 5” -when even Anna Farris declines the invitation, it’s time to pack it in.

“Delivery Man/The Internship” -strikes one and two for Vince Vaughn- choose your next one wisely, my friend.

Best Movies You (Probably) Didn’t See

Spring Breakers imdb.com

Spring Breakers imdb.com

“Spring Breakers” -career-best from “Kids” provocateur Harmony Korine; beautifully shot and scored to perfectly capture that Spring Break vibe.

“Nebraska” -if you haven’t heard about it yet, you will come awards season.

“Fruitville Station” –ditto.

“The Iceman” -brilliant look at a hit-man, with an ace cast, based on a true story- why does no one talk about this one?

“The East” -great, eco-terrorist-themed follow-up to “The Sound of My Voice” by the same team, with bigger stars.

“John Dies at the End” -quirky, genius cult film from the director of “Phantasm” and “Bubba Ho-Tep.”

“A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” -the “WTF did I just watch?” film equivalent of “What Does the Fox Say?”- I’m still not sure what to make of it, or if I actually liked it, but it’s worth seeing for the cast alone.

“Stoker” -ditto, but more expectedly weird, as it’s from the director of the original “Oldboy.”

“To Do List” -best trashy teen comedy of the year, with the mistress of snark, Aubrey Plaza.

You're Next imdb.com

You’re Next imdb.com

“You’re Next” -fab deconstruction of home invasion movies from Alabama’s own Adam Wingard.

“The Lifeguard” -nice character study with Kristen Bell as a boozing, pot-smoking, jailbait-pursuing head case.

“Drinking Buddies” -a romantic comedy/drama for high-end beer drinkers- looking at you, Joseph Baker!

“It’s a Disaster” -what “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” should have been.

“Violet & Daisy” -starts off as a “Pulp Fiction” wanna-be for cool chicks- think “Ghost World,” with murder- then nicely turns into a fitting epitaph for the late James Gandolfini.

“The Look of Love” -another brilliant biopic offering from Steve Coogan, plus some seriously attractive women.

“Tiger Eyes” -what if they finally made a Judy Blume adaptation and nobody came? Time to rectify that, fans unite!

“Aftershock” -natural disaster-as-horror flick co-written by Eli “Hostel” Roth, worth it for the ending alone.

Movies I Really Wanted to See But Didn’t

Frozen imdb.com

Frozen imdb.com

“Frozen” -because no one would see it with me, and nothing says creepy like a single guy by himself at a Disney Princess movie.

“Blue is the Warmest Color” -because nothing says creepy like a single guy by himself at a lesbian-themed movie; maybe next year Disney will combine the two!

“Dallas Buyers Club” -because Christmas time + AIDS = depressing time at the movies.

“The Book Thief” -because Christmas time + Nazis = depressing time at the movies, so naturally, I watched “Sound of Music Live” instead (J/K, I hate musicals).

“12 Years a Slave” – because Xmas time+ slavery = white (Christmas) guilt.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” -good cast, but I just couldn’t be sure; might see it yet.

“Blue Jasmine” -because I have mixed feelings about Woody Allen- but not about Cate Blanchett and Louis C.K., so I’ll probably see it eventually.

“Before Midnight” -loved the first two, really kicking myself over missing this one.

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” -surprisingly little buzz about this one, given the circumstances, but will see it nonetheless because, you know, Idris Elba is awesome in everything.

“Frances Ha” -love Greta Gerwig, just never got around to it.

“Romeo & Juliet” -love Hailee Steinfeld, it just seemed unnecessary.

“Much Ado About Nothing” -love Joss Whedon, ditto.

“The Counselor” -great cast & director, but from what I hear, I dodged a bullet on that one.

“The Spectacular Now” -stuck around in theaters here for a surprisingly long time, just was never in the mood.

“The Butler” -great cast, screenwriter, just never got around to it.

Join me for Part Two, which can be found here!

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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