2013: The Year in Movies, Part 2

By on January 11, 2014
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Rather than doing the same old same old “Best of the Year” list as I did here, in this list, I’m going to break it down for you by category. And now, without further ado…the best- and worst- of the year!

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The Conjuring- imdb.com

Best Horror Flick

This was horror’s year, finally! In a banner year, no less than three films out of the four highest-grossing profit-to-budget films of 2013 were horror movies. What’s more, two (“Insidious: Chapter 2” and “The Conjuring”) were from the same director: James Wan, who also co-created the highly-profitable “Saw” franchise. The other (“The Purge”) was from producer Jason Blum, who also does the “Paranormal Activity” films, the latest of which is currently racking up box office dollars as we speak, after some much-needed retooling of the franchise when the fourth installment proved to be a bit of a clunker- not that it stopped the film from making a truckload of cash.

Mind you, profitability doesn’t necessarily mean that a film’s good- but it did in this case. “The Conjuring” was an instant classic that combined the best elements of horror movie classics in one slam bang roller coaster ride with a first-rate cast, while the second “Insidious” dovetailed perfectly and in a highly-original fashion with the first one, rewarding multiple viewings of both films. Expect more of both, as well as a second “Purge.”

Carrie- imdb.com

Carrie- imdb.com

Runners-up: “Oldboy” (not traditional horror, but horrific nonetheless), “We Are What We Are” (another solid remake), “V/H/S/ 2” (a marked improvement over the last one- especially that short film about the cult); “Warm Bodies” (a zom-rom-com that was completely endearing and fun, and, I might add, gorier- and better- than “World War Z” and still PG-13); “Aftershock” (Mother Nature’s wrath as a horror movie); “Mama” (great up until the ending, which I have mixed feelings about, but didn’t quite ruin the film for me); “The Lords of Salem” (flawed but interesting, and almost restrained by Rob Zombie standards- not that that’s saying much, admittedly); and “Kiss of the Damned” (a spot-on, sexy tribute to 70s-era vampire flicks- “Twilight” fans need not apply).

About the closest I could come to worst was “Carrie,” which was unnecessary and didn’t add much to the original, save updating it for a new generation and expanding it a little. Still, even that was pretty watchable, thanks to the cast. I’m sure there are plenty of direct-to-video/streaming horror flicks that I missed that suck, though.Let me know what to avoid (or catch) below in the comments section!

Best Superhero Flick

Unless you count Katniss as a superhero (which she so is, but still, not comics-based) then the best by far is “Iron Man 3,” which was lots of fun. Runner-up is “Man of Steel,” although that could have been more fun than it was. Still, much better than the last “Superman” movie, so points for effort.

Worst Superhero Flick

Gotta be “Thor: The Dark World.” The end was fun, but the film spent way too much time on Asgard. When even Kat Dennings’ famed snark can’t save you, you know you’re in trouble. Better luck next installment. Runner-up is “The Wolverine,” which was better than the first one, but needed more to offer than an added qualifier to the title. Perhaps they should stick to the “X-Men” movies.

Star Trek Into Darkness imdb.com

Star Trek Into Darkness imdb.com

Best Sci-Fi Flick

I’m going to go with “Star Trek Into Darkness,” by a hair, but “Elysium” was almost as good. Mind you, this is if you don’t count “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” or “Gravity,” which was a character study disguised as a sci-fi flick. Also enjoyable were the incredibly underrated “Pacific Rim” (sci-fi by way of “Godzilla,” “Avatar” and Lovecraft), “Ender’s Game” (Y/A sci-fi), “Dark Skies” (sci-fi horror), “The World’s End” (sci-fi comedy, what “The Watch” should have been), and “This is the End” (sci-fi as an excuse for celebrity in-jokes and ad-libbing).

Worst Sci-Fi Flick

“After Earth,” the answer to: “What would you have if they made a Will Smith summer blockbuster and nobody came?” The real problem was that it really isn’t a Will Smith flick, it’s a Jaden one, with Will in a supporting role, and no one wants to see that. What’s next? “Whip my Hair: The Movie”? Stop trying to foist your kids on us, Smiths!

Runner-up: “Now You See Me” for that wacked-out ending. There was no real hint that this was a sci-fi/fantasy until the end, and it did not improve the movie in retrospect, any more than the big twist of who the mastermind was did. As if one needed another reason to be wary of magicians.

The Heat imdb.com

The Heat imdb.com

Best Comedy

“The Heat”: After the wretched “Identity Thief,” I was beginning to wonder if star Melissa McCarthy was a flash-in-the-pan, but then came her winning turn on “SNL” and her even funnier role as a gloriously foul-mouthed cop in this film, and all was forgiven.

Runners-up: “The Way Way Back” (more of a dramatic-comedy, but still pretty funny); “We’re the Millers” (What’s this? A watchable Jennifer Anniston flick? You don’t say!); “The To Do List” (“Parks & Rec”-star Aubrey Plaza brings the funny, with this sex-crazed teen comedy with a great supporting cast) “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” (the guiltiest of pleasures- the strip club scene and beauty pageant scenes are alone worth the price of admission); and “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (silly, and too-long-in-the-making, but worth it for Meagan Good and the big battle at the end).

Worst Comedy

Gotta be “Movie 43”- the “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” of wasted talent. Runners-up: “The Hangover III” (best than the last one, but it’s definitely time to hang…it up); “Scary Movie 5” (ugh) and any other horror-themed “comedy” (i.e. “A Haunted House”); “Admission” (wanted to like this one so much because of the cast, but just couldn’t); “The Family” (ditto); “Girl Most Likely” (more ineffectual than bad) and anything with Vince Vaughn and/or Owen Wilson (time to get a new agent, boys).

Best Documentary

“Sound City,” a loving tribute by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl to the studio where Nirvana recorded “Nevermind,” as well as where classic acts like Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young and many more recorded some of their best. A must for classic rock fans.

Best Soundtrack or Score to a Meh Film

“The Great Gatsby,” which boasted Jack White, Florence + the Machine, Lana Del Rey, and Beyoncé covering Amy Winehouse, among others. In terms of scores, “Paranoia” boasted one by EDM wizard Junkie XL that was the best thing in the film that wasn’t Amber Heard (stiff competition, that), and “The Fifth Estate” featured fine work from Carter Burwell.

Most Surprisingly Good

Who’d have thought Michael Bay had a decent film in him? And yet, “Pain & Gain” was genuinely engaging, endearing, and yes, funny and well-acted. And based on a true story, to boot. Go figure. I also really enjoyed “Rush,” though I could give less of a crap about car racing.

Best Sequel

Insidious: Chapter 2 imdb.com

Insidious: Chapter 2 imdb.com

I’m going to go with “Insidious: Chapter 2,” which was brilliantly-conceived to perfectly tie-in with the original beautifully. Also good were “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Iron Man 3,” “Kick-Ass 2,” “RED 2,” and “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”

Worst Sequel

Tough call, but I’m going to go with “Thor: The Dark World,” as I was more genuinely disappointed in that one, whereas I wasn’t at all surprised that the likes of “The Hangover III,” “Scary Movie 5,” “The Smurfs 2″ and “Grown Ups 2” sucked. Oh, and enough with the “Die Hard” movies, Bruce.

Best Remake

“Oldboy”- He might have gotten rid of the infamous squid scene (though there’s a nod to it), but director Spike Lee got everything else oh-so-right, which of course means, the end result was oh-so-wrong-it-was-right. Bonus points for keeping the ending intact while putting a slight spin on it, and for Elizabeth Olsen’s-um- formidable talent (s).

Most Mediocre

I’m going to go with “The Bling Ring.” When the freaking Lifetime network has beaten you to the punch, it’s time to rethink your movie, even if it has the awesome Emma Watson in it. Dishonorable mentions: “Side Effects,” “The Call,” “Epic,” “Getaway,” “Paranoia,” “About Time.”

Skeeviest Movie of the Year

Gotta be “Spring Breakers,” with an assist from “Lovelace,” though at least that had a dark moral to the story and a clever structure. Perhaps not un-coincidentally, both featured…James Franco. (In the latter, he was Hugh Hefner!)

Runner-up: “Oldboy,” at least in retrospect. (You’ll just have to see for yourself.)

Worst Example of Burying the Lead

“Star Trek Into Darkness”: Loved the movie, but even J.J. Abrams admitted it was a mistake to hide the fact that the main villain, as played by the everywhere-at-once Benedict Cumberbatch, was, in fact (spoiler), all-time great “Star Trek” baddie Khan.

The “Didn’t We Just See This Movie?” Award

For “White House Down,” which followed “Olympus Has Fallen” by mere months and basically had the same plot.

The “Got Away with Murder” Award

For “Escape from Tomorrow,” which was shot guerilla-style on Disneyland property and whose director managed to evade getting sued…yet.

James Franco, Spring Breakers imdb.com

James Franco, Spring Breakers imdb.com

Most Underrated Year

I never thought I’d say this, but James Franco was great in everything I saw him in this year, and there was plenty: “Oz the Great & Powerful,” “Spring Breakers,” “This is The End,” “The Iceman,” “About Cherry,” “Lovelace,” plus a guest-starring bit on “The Mindy Project” and the riotous “Roast” on Comedy Central, which proves he can take a joke. He may have blown it on the Oscars, but he rebounded nicely.

Most Ubiquitous of the Year

With apologies to James Franco, who we’re used to being a workhorse, that would be Benedict Cumberbatch, whose name I didn’t even know going into the year, but was in so many movies and shows I saw I couldn’t help but notice him- and that name. On television he was “Sherlock,” and also cropped up on “The Simpsons” (doing the voice of Alan Rickman, no less!), and in the movies, his voice was in both “Hobbit” movies to date, plus he had featured roles in “12 Years a Slave,” “August: Osage County,” played Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate” and the legendary Khan in “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Take a break, Holmes- you’re making even Franco look like a slacker. Oh wait- he sort of is. Carry on, Englebert Humpersnatch. Or whatever.

Well, that about does it for 2013. Hope you enjoyed my lists, and feel free to comment below!

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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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