Friday, January 3, 2014

Greats, Hates and Failed Escapades

The year of “so-so”, that was 2013. 
With only a few real standout films and the usual horrible, horrible duds, the rest were just average. If cinema takings are down, the film studios only have themselves to blame. The scripts have been the problem and you can’t help wondering why some of the cable network AMC writers, who bring us amazing gems like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men”, can’t write for Hollywood, too. It’s also interesting to note that three of the eleven most bankable people in Hollywood (Brad Pitt, Will Smith and Johnny Depp) starred in three of my “worst” films, which happened to also bomb at the box office. So, a star does not guarantee a film’s success.
This year there was one absolute standout film. Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” had people talking everywhere. It needed to be seen in the cinema and on IMAX if possible. The extremely realistic space scenes required an extension of the technology of filmmaking, and it had many of us almost believing they had found a way to film in space. 
The Marvel franchise continued on strongly with “Iron Man 3” (this year’s box office highest performer) following on linearly from 2012’s top box office earner “The Avengers”. Later in the year “Thor 2: The Dark World” followed on nicely with the next chapter of the series. It’s clear from the teasers embedded in the closing credits of Thor that these Marvel films are going to continue on for years or at least until they stop making loads of money. 

This is also the first year we have experienced life without any “Twilight films”. There have been a few contenders put up but no takers so far except for “Hunger Games” but it hasn’t reached the same level of hysteria as the vampire/werewolf/human love triangle.
What is amazing is that you can always count on the tried and true talents to still deliver great entertainment. We’re talking about Woody Allen with “Blue Jasmine,” Ben Stiller with “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks and Leonardo Di Caprio in “The Great Gatsby”.
Here’s my 2013 greats and hates:


“Gravity”- A wild, exhilarating ride in which you won’t breathe until the credits come up. Bravo.
“Blue Jasmine” – Cate Blanchett is divine, and Woody Allen’s wry observation of human nature is again spot on.
“12 Years a Slave” – True life drama that will tear at your heart. My pick as the big winner during the awards season.
“Captain Phillips” – A terrifying, gritty story with Tom Hanks at the top of his game.
“Saving Mr. Banks” – Emma Thompson just eats up the role of Mary Poppins’ belligerent author. What a story!
“West of Memphis” – The finest documentary this year, and its proof that fact is stranger than fiction
“The Great Gatsby” – some loved it; some hated it. It was big, bold and beautiful.
“Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” – Funniest comedy this year with the man of the moment, Steve Coogan.
“Thor 2: The Dark World" – There’s a bare chested Thor scene. It’s in top ten just for that, and the juicy Loki scenes.
“Secret Life of Walter Mitty” – Whimsical, wonderful and the most charming film this year.
“Frozen” – And I’ve snuck a number eleven in because I just saw it again and was reminded how wonderful it is. It really is the most beautiful animation this year and classic Disney, and I love Disney.


“The Counsellor”– A boring, arrogantly indulgent film. Easily the worst thing I’ve seen this year. After watching Cameron Diaz interact with a Ferrari, I need counselling.
“Night Train to Lisbon” – A dead-end train to nowhere interesting. It’s appalling in every aspect, from script, to acting, to story. Do not get on.
“Safe Haven” – Am I allowed to call a very popular romance woeful and ridiculous? Why yes I will.
“A Good Day to Die Hard” – How on earth did they come up with this terrible, unbelievable script? Leave “Die Hard” alone if this is the best you got.
“The Host” – Cashing in on Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” success with a poorly scripted science fiction mess was not a good idea.
“The Call” – This was meant to be a drama but our audience laughed through most of the 2nd half.  The script never got passed the dial tone.
“After Earth” – Will Smith misguided vehicle for his son. “Inept” is the best word to describe this ridiculous, poorly acted, plot-hole riddled mess.
“The Lone Ranger” – Could have been good, should have been good, but in the end it was just a dumb idea. Johnny Depp can’t pull off feathers and white face paint.
“Runner Runner” – Ben Affleck what the heck? After last year’s fantastic “Argo”, you follow up with this lame drama. Still don’t understand the title.
“Diana” – Embarrassing grab for dollars from Diana fans. Naomi Watts with a bad hairdo plus speculative, limp love story = fail.