Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2013 in review: or, better late than never, part I

Yes, I do know it's the end of March.  (Yes, I also know it's been a long time since I updated at all.)  I could make excusesmostly bad ones, I'm afraidor I could get on with it.  In a real out of character moment, I now opt for the latter.

These are the hundred films I watched in from 2013.  Each is followed by my further thoughts, in the case of films I have reviewedall linked, for your convenienceor, in the case of films which I saw but shamefully failed to formally review, they are followed by slightly longer capsule reviews.  For surprise's sake, and to shorten this post at least a little, I have redacted the names of my favorite ten of 2013, as well as their inverse, the worst ten movies to be shat out upon on unwitting world last year.  They will all be revealed in the coming hours in separate posts of their own.  To keep you guessing, and in part out of my delusion that you care, I have however left their grades unhidden.

Whatever!  On with what turned out to be a largely mediocre show.  To paraphrase David Byrne, isn't it the same as it ever was?

(What's that, dear heart?  Oh, yes, it's a bit longit is eighty fucking movies' worth.)


1.  ????? (10/10)
2.  ????? (10/10)
3.  ????? (10/10)
4.  ????? (10/10)
5.  ????? (10/10)
6.  ????? (10/10)
7.  ????? (9/10)
8.  ????? (9/10)
9.  ????? (9/10)
10.  ????? (8/10)


11.  OBLIVION (8/10)
This movie is genuinely tied for tenth place.  But what can I do?  If I have to give one film the edge, it has to be the one with the more original, more innovative material.  (Spoiler: it's the Evil Dead remake.)

12.  WOULD YOU RATHER (8/10)
Recommended for all those who'd like to see how the other half tortures their victims.

13.  THE WAY, WAY BACK (8/10)
The Spectacular what now?  The way it was heading I would have had no choice but to offer the excellent coming-of-age comedy The Way, Way Back a solid A, but the first genuinely romantic handjob sequence in film history somehow got lost on the cutting room floor.  Nevertheless, Sam Rockwell again proves that he is one of our greatest resources and should be nationalized for the good of the People.  And that last shotmaybe I cried, maybe I didn't.  That's personal.

So it wasn't Best Picture material.  I never thought it was in the first place.  But is it fine Coen nonetheless?  You bet.

15.  TRANCE 8/10
Spellbound wishes it were Trance.  I suppose that's probably not the highest possible compliment, but, anyway, I liked it.

The Croods was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and Monsters wasn't.  That's called "moral bankruptcy" where I come from.

This film's got courage: Monsters University is the story of a dream that was hopeless from jump street and it doesn't even lie about it, instead contextualizing the life-destroying collapse of a dream within the safe, ultimately uplifting confines of a family comedy (that also serves as a passable college comedy, complete with allusions to binge drinking!  although Sully, thankfully, fails to date rape anyone).  It's not unpleasing to the adult palate, but it may be the most crucial movie your children could ever see.

I have not watched the first one.  Was that important?
17.  MANIAC (8/10)
I'm now afraid to rewatch Maniac; not because it's scary, but because I'm worried it won't remain such a bracing and hilarious dark comedy when I'm expecting it to be one.  (Turns out these goobers thought they were making a slasher with a serious statement, and so did a lot of the people who watched it.  The mind truly boggles.)

18.  ESCAPE PLAN (8/10)
It's almost a shame so many genuinely great movies came along, because I'd have relished putting this in my Top Ten.  All of you, however, should still all be flogged, for not going to see this in the absolute fucking droves it deserved.

Two hours of the funniest shit you'll ever see.  (The film runs three.)

20. JOHN DIES AT THE END: (7/10)
Carpenteresque and even more playful about it than the Master of Weird almost ever was, I sure hope this counts as a 2013 picture, because otherwise I've got 99 and that is not a round number.

The bigger issue with the lesbian sex in this movie is that it looks ridiculous.  But motorboat my ass if this romance didn't make me tear up a little.  OK, a lot.

22.  PHANTOM (7/10)
It's the mid-1960s and Ed Harris is a Soviet submarine captain with darkness in his past, and David Duchovny is a KGB man with an even bigger secret.  The result: a perfectly good undersea thriller that was marginalized and ignored for no good God damned reason.

High tension, a real sense of claustrophobia not felt since Das Boot, phantasmogoric imagery, and the deep Cold War backdrop combine to make a highly effective movie here.  And not only were Harris and blog favorite William Fichtner (as his XO) in top form, Phantom proved Duchovny still exists.  I'm as surprised as anyone.

And an even better film might have been made by someone who wasn't an insane reactionary, but a worse film may have been made by a less incorrigible stylist.  So it's a real wash.

24.  BLACKFISH (7/10)
Save the whales, nuke the whales, whatever.  Either has got to better than doing this.

25.  MAN OF STEEL (7/10)
They just let greatness slip right through their clutched fingers on this one, didn't they?  The more distance I get from it, the more I can only remember the unbelievably shitty parts.  But I supposedly really liked this, didn't I?  Jesus.

26.  GANGSTER SQUAD (7/10)
It's the late 1940s and Josh Brolin is a good cop with a penchant for ultra-violence and a hard-on for fighting crime.  The result: a perfectly good action noir that was marginalized and ignored for no great God damned reason, but I admit for reasons slightly better than poor Phantom was.

I'd love to see the original cut, with the theater massacre that was deleted in deference to a vaguely, not-really similar real life event with no connection whatsoever to Gangster Squad.  Thanks a lot, Hollywood cowards.  Anyway: if you liked The Untouchables, why wouldn't you like this?  They are almost literally the same film.  OK, maybe plagiarism is a good reason.

27.  +1 (7/10)
Thought-provoking and weird, this is exactly how I like my science fiction; well, except I also like it to be a bit smarter and higher-budgeted.  I saw better CGI flames in Super Mario 64.

Sinister DMT trips?  Personally, I prefer adrenochrome.  But to each Hunter his own, and, fuck it, I marginally underrated this scarily enjoyable, enjoyably scary, semi-gem of a horror flick.

29.  THOR: THE DARK WORLD: (6/10)
I wish this had been directed and designed better so that it could enter my Top Ten.  Not to spoil any more surprises about it, but, really, there's nothing I'd like better than to suck Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's dicks just a little bit more.

30.  YOU'RE NEXT (6/10)
I still say, as fun as it was, the ending was a tremendously wasted opportunity.

31.  NEW WORLD (6/10)
Enjoyable South Korean-style violence and Min-sik Choi aside, there is something about this movie that feels a little too emotionally flat for it to be such an and-the-kitchen-sink ripoff of The Departed (and with, theoretically, an even cooler ending).  But it is possible that I simply ask for too much.

32.  FROZEN (6/10)
OK, here's my plan to make billion dollars: let's sing the best song a Disney musical, maybe any musical, has belted out since The Little Mermaid, then do absolutely nothing with the heretofore central character who sang it.  What the fuck do you mean, that's a stupid plan?

I've reflected on my conflicted reaction to Frozen for many months now.  At length, I've become convinced that there is a draft of Frozen's script where Olaf is a personality fragment from Elsa's fracturing psyche, which she has subconsciously animated in order to reconnect with her sister, and at the end of the picture, the fragment is reabsorbed and Olaf's eyes roll back lifelessly in his skull-less head, and the bastard melts, relieving us of the pain of watching him.

This wouldn't make him remotely less aesthetically abhorrent, but it would, in classic two-birds-one-stone fashion, at least begin to address the pair of egregious flaws that almost cripple Frozen, namely that its primary character isn't, and that the snowman is a crime against God.

33.  ENOUGH SAID (6/10)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a massage therapist, begins a relationship with James Gandolfini, a fatbody slob, but accidentally acquires his ex-wife, Catherine Keener, a bitch, as her client.  The latter woman's war stories poison the relationship, but can they still find a way to love each other?  Tune in and find out, I guess.

This is a tender romance between middle-aged folks who find it hard to love and even harder to trust their own feelings, and it's as reasonably real and touching as it is (sorry to say) pretty low impact entertainment.  But I liked it.

34. THE LAST STAND (6/10)
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a small town sheriff whose home on the Mexican border becomes the egress point for a drug kingpin who's mobilized a small army to extract him from the States.  When one of his deputies dies, he, his fellow cops, and the heavily armed civilian volunteers they've joined forces with prepare for a last stand to stop the crime lord before he reaches freedom; and Yuri Orlov profits.

The highlight of the film is, undoubtedly, the climactic car chase in a corn field (between a namechecked Corvette ZR1 and Chekov's illegally parked Camaro SS, commandeered in the third act by Schwarzenegger) that is weird and inventive and could have gone even further, taking its cues from submarine cinema of all things, but ultimately doesn't go far enough and is thus slightly unsatisfying as a partly wasted opportunity.

Either it took me a long time to understand what this movie was going for, or it took a long time to decide on its tone, but in the end it's a rather fun, rather goofy actioner that serves as a substantial blow for our 2d Amendment rights and a pretty effective ad for General Motors.  There is fantastic use of The Last Stand's R rating for violence, as well, no doubt the result of the I Saw the Devil director's prediliction for most enjoyable gore.

35.  RUSH (6/10)
Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth are racecar drivers.  They race and dislike each other, but grow to respect one another's talent.  Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Pretensions to the majesty of the John Frankenheimer classic Grand Prix are dashed when the true story requires that Bruhl's Niki Lauda, like some kind of sane and rational human being, actually refuse to race his Formula 1 car at 200mph in preposterously dangerous conditions, and as a result he does not have the decency to die.

In a movie that is all about the fierce ideological competition between Lauda's meticulous, scientific approach to the craft of racing and the recklessness of speedster-bimbo James Hunt, removing one of our deuteragonists from the equation in a misplaced fealty to history and self-sabotaging accuracy to its characters, and during the very climax of the film, is just about damned near unforgivable.  What I'm saying is, he neededI needed himto crash through that rail, and have a dummy representing his corpse get launched at escape velocity off a bridge, and to splatter at the bottom.  Preferably his wife would cry and cry, and his rival would stand on the track after the race has long since finished, and reflect upon the sacrifice and pointlessness of it all.

Rush presents some fine, fine cinematography, however, giving us reds and oranges so rich and supple they feel almost burnt into the film, evoking the 70s in its aesthetic just as brilliantly as the film's normalized alcoholism and casual unprotected sex do for its narrative.

36.  UPSTREAM COLOR (6/10)
A science fiction romance involving mind control worms?  I never expected anyone to remake Cronenberg's Shivers, but Shane Carruth decided to have that be his sophomore feature.

Mystery and confusion reign supreme throughout Color.  While it actually works, if somewhat uncleanly, on a purely SFnal level, that romance needed something, just a little something, more.  And it makes all the difference in the world.

This is Carruth's first movie since the first-try masterpiece that was 2004's Primer, but it feels like it was shot the next day.  The disaggregated visual and narrative style is immediately familiar to anyone who's seen that movie, and, in fact, it may be even beyond Primer in terms of what Carruth chooses to include and not to include in terms of dialogue and revelation.

Indeed, the techniques that worked in a totally cerebral flick about time travel force an uncomfortable and undesired distance in what is, foremost, a love story about impossibly damaged human beings.  Color tends toward moments rather than scenes, and while many viewers were borne emotionally fully by the undeniable craft, all these moments without any connective tissue between them failed to resonate with me, despite how the hypercompetence of all the film's individual elements suggested they so very much should.  I did not weep uncontrollably; nor, I'm afraid, at all.  And that makes Upstream Color a qualified failure on my terms, even as it remains a cinematic accomplishment on its own, and a film well worth watching regardless.

The most jarring moment in Liberace and Scott Thorson's stormy pseudo-marriage/semi-permanent prostitution arrangement is undeniably when Liberace cajoles his young concubine into getting plastic surgery to look more like him.  That's why the most bizarre aspect of Behind the Candelabra is that the rest of their relationship is so comparatively normal.

Not that it is exactly healthy, mind you, but it's entirely what you would expect would happen when a pretty young thing enters into a half-transactional, half-emotional, very long-term relationship with a flamboyant millionaire entertainment star, regardless of each one's gender or sexual preference.  Delete that piece of true life derangement, even if it is too preposterous to ignore, and Candelabra becomes simply the story of a romance that was doomed to fail, and, for that, not devoid of a few sniffles.

But maybe some of those sniffles are because this is Soderbergh's directorial exit (though I'll believe that when he's dead), and there's nothing to it really, other than two of the year's better performances and some of its very best production and costume designwhich are, of course, no mean things for a film to have, and great production and costume design in a film about Liberace is bound to mean something special indeed.

Still, if the final minutes Soderbergh ever commits to film are to be those of Candelabra's last, best sequence, as Scott Thorson remembers his late lover as he never really was, playing one last show before floating up on invisible wires to stage heaven... well, there are no regrets.

(Shame, then, that this fantastic, almost metafictional ending is thus followed by a few title cards with superfluous information about Liberace and Thorson that deflate the transcendent moments that just came before, but hey!  That's life.)

38.  THE LORDS OF SALEM (6/10)
One would expect, and reasonably so, that a film made by Rob Zombie about a satanic record would involve a tad more actual satanic music.  Your expectations would go unmet.  The Lords of Salem is a lot like Suspiria, if Suspiria featured only about three or four minutes of Goblin spread out over the whole picture.  And, in fairness, if Suspiria was a bit more coherent, and a lot better-acted.  But anyway: if it's never once terrifying, Lords is admittedly always mesmerizing.

39.  WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (6/10)
This remake of a Mexican film I never saw wound up being a legitimately disturbing horror picture.  Of course, that's baked in: it is, after all, about a devoutly Christian family of cannibals.  That's not a spoiler, incidentally, when the very trailer features a scene of a doctor looking up "kuru" in a medical encyclopedia.  Well, unless you're rather stupid.  We Are What We Are features nice gore, decent religious satire, and few surprises.

40.  RIDDICK (6/10)
Finally, an R-rated demi-classic for the unaccompanied minor in all of us.

41.  FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (6/10)
Though committing all of the same sins as the previous installment, namely using CGI to turn one of the more grounded action franchises still going into a cartoonish wonderland where inertia doesn't exist, lunar gravity has replaced its terrestrial counterpart, and runways are as long as they damned well need to be, it does happily scale back a little on the immersion-shattering implausibilities of Fast 5.  And Vin Diesel's human torpedo was surely worth the price of admission.

42.  THE HUNT (6/10)
C'mon, Mads, just fucking eat somebody already!

43.  BLUE JASMINE (6/10)
Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for Woody Allen's middling cartoon about a woman losing her shit, which is mostly memorable for revealing that Allen no longer has any idea about how offices, computers, or the economy function whatsoever.  But it is enjoyable on its merits.

44.  THE WOLVERINE (6/10)
This unnecessarily complicated, unnecessarily PG-13, and unnecessarily CGI-filled movie was a solid ending away from an A, and the prize of being the best superhero film of 2013.  So it goes.

A redneck idiot gets AIDS because he thinks straight people don't have CCR5 receptors.  Rather non-intuitively, HIV grants him the superior logistical skills never apparent in his private life, and he uses them for good, and to overcome his profound homophobia.  It's perfectly fine.  Some people lost some weight for their roles; did they win Oscars for it?

No cookie for guessing right, mind you.

46.  THE CONJURING (6/10)
Scary enough for an hour and a half.  No more.

47.  LEVIATHAN (6/10)
A documentary about a day's work on fishing boat with few words and less narrative, Leviathan is something of a zen-like, easy-going entertainment in the Koyaniqaatsi, industrial porno vein, if, that is, you've got the stomach for decapitated fish and for more camera movement than is ever justified.

The first thirty minutes are long takes from cameras appended to the crew members and they made me a little nauseous.  After that point, most of the footage is from cameras attached to objects as stationary as you can find on a boatthe frame still moves, a lot, but it is thankfully no longer subject to the arbitrary, sickening movements of POV shots from someone's collar or boot.

While much of the film impresses upon you the numbing routine of the job, there is also a great deal of breathtaking, beautifully grotesque imagery of humanity's predatory relationship with the natural world: hacking the fins off stingrays; blood draining out the sluices on the deck and back into the ocean; the omnipresent, Birds-like specter of hungry seagulls following the boat around; and the view from beneath the water when the men throw starfish overboard along with the rest of the organic trash, playing like nothing so much as a gory version of the stargate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I liked it, because I'm sophisticated.

48.  MAMA: (6/10)
Entertaining little horror movie, ostensibly about a ghost and the children it has become attached to.  More pointedly, it's about Jessica Chastain being put upon by everyone in her life and pressured to raise two kids that just appeared one day, whom her boyfriend (their uncle) wants to keep but who are of no relation or particular meaning to her, and who are also haunted by a jealous ghoul.  On the other hand, she is 35 years old and her life still seems to revolve largely around playing in her shitty local scene rock band.  It is as Dr. Evil once sagely said: there is nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster.

I enjoyed the ending quite a bit, which splits the difference exactly between happily ever after and true balls.

49.  BLANCANIEVES (6/10)
Another neo-silent film in the same vein as The Artist, but not nearly as good.  This one tells the story of Snow White, a girl whose mother dies and whose bullfighter father is crippled on the same day, and not too long afterwards has the hooks put into him by an evil stepmother, whowait, bullfighting?  Well, it's Spanish.

Blancanieves is pretty decent, although the payoff of the stepmother's final depredation is simply not there in the way it is in Disney's Snow White or even ...And the Huntsman; on the other hand, the decision to take a more tragic turn at the end is credited.

But handheld?  In a silent film?  Fuck you.

Now, I abhorred the cinematography of Captain Phillips, but other than the whole "filmmaking" aspect of this film, it's pretty great.  With that in mind, let me present to you a few facts.

Jared Leto doesn't eat for a few weeks and portrays the broadest possible drag queen stereotype you can conceive of: wins an Academy Award.

Barkhad Abdi doesn't eat for his whole life and conjures a terrifying yet terrifyingly human evocation of the Somali pirate in an iconic, indelible performance: does not win, goes bankrupt, and might actually starve to death.

The Academy votes 12 Years a Slave Best Picture: no way is Hollywood profoundly institutionally racist, because this here movie about black people won an Oscar, you see?

(P.S.: they are also racist against Tom Hanks.)

51.  NEBRASKA (6/10)
One day, your dad is going to die.  Maybe you should give him a call and tell him you love him.  Unless you don't.  If that's the case, just let him rot, in the prison of his own flesh.

52.  ALL IS LOST (6/10)
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!  The first half of this movie is frustrating!

53.  WORLD WAR Z (5/10)
I still only drink store-brand cola, so you can tell Pepsi it didn't work.
54.  I’M SO EXCITED! (5/10)
Ha ha!  Rape!  Padding!  One of the most disappointing films of 2013!

55.  DON JON (5/10)
For all the many, many missteps Joseph Gordon-Levitt made with his directorial debut, Frances Ha made me appreciate this particular portrait of the Millennial as an aging man a lot more than I did at the time.

56.  KICK-ASS 2 (5/10)
A pale imitation of its forebear, but not completely devoid of the same blunt charm of the Matthew Vaughn classic.

57.  INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (5/10)
A weird blend of horror and supernatural adventure that is not without its charms, charms which are predominately embodied by Patrick Wilson, whom this series will no longer be about, so there goes Insidious 3.

There is no doubt in my mind that Joe Dante would have done it better.  Tenfold.

58.  TO THE WONDER (5/10)
To the Wonder is distancing and embracing all at once, an askance collection of glances at the moments between the birth, evolution, and collapse of a relationship, and it is worth watching... once.  Maybe.  In a year that also gave us Her, The Great Gatsby, and even Spring Breakers, it's pretty emphatically not the best romance of 2013.  (In the year of Leviathan and Upstream Color, it's not the best collection of random pretty shit, either.)

Indeed, in any year, it's not that likely to be the best use of anyone's time, not the viewer's, and especially not Olga Kurylenko's or Ben Affleck's or Rachel McAdams'.  I'd certainly add Terence Malick to that list, but, to quote a character from a more conventionally entertaining turn by Affleck this year, "What're you gonna do?"

59.  THE PURGE (5/10)
Niccolesque to the nth degree, it lets you down in the end, but you cannot deny the strength of its class warrior premise and that so wonderfully deranged first act.

60.  WHITE HOUSE DOWN (5/10)
It had its moments.  8,220 of them, in fact, which was about 1,500 too many.

61.  IRON MAN 3 (5/10)
Just like the Iron Man suits themselves, this franchise has become eminently disposable; some would argue that happened with Iron Man 2, but that one came together in the end.  Iron Man 3 is the opposite: its first section is that of a pretty rad movie; its second that of an intensely lame one.  I think those who have seen it will be able to identify the turning point.

Apropos of nothing, do you remember that part in Die Hard where Hans Gruber is checking the detonators, runs smack into John McClane, and Alan Rickman puts on his awful Midwestern accent and starts mewling about how he got away from the terrorists, fooling McClane into thinking he's a regular guy?  Wasn't that part great?  Wouldn't it be really terrible if that didn't go anywhere?

However, credit where it's due: that part where Tony Stark called a ten year old latchkey kid a pussy for missing his father was wonderful.

62.  THE EAST (5/10)
Corporate counter-intelligence versus hippies.  Complications arise when private security operative Brit Marling realizes she wants to bone smelly leftist Stellan Alexander Skarsgard.  (Oh, but wouldn't that have been more interesting?)  It has its charms, and Ellen Page is in it and I like to see Ellen Page, but The East is so simply serviceable that it often forgets to be anything else at all.

63.  PACIFIC RIM (5/10)
There are times I feel like I was too hard on Pacific Rim, because my brain only wants to remember the good parts.  But then I remember that there is, after all, a great hole in my memory, gouged out by the middle hour of Pacific Rim, which was one of the most boring, pointless, tedious and stupid things 2013 had to offer.  And you know what?  Del Toro's kaiju still suck no matter how many times I reevaluate them.

64.  PRISONERS (4/10)
Nearly enjoyable and nearly thought-provoking, turns out the main thought Prisoners provokes is "why?" and the main enjoyment to be pulled from it is picking apart its goofs.

Almost worth watching for the opening scene in Kansas, which is a lot of fun; and for the occasional moment where the movie doesn't seem like it's just filling running time with vague ideas that it doesn't care to explore.  Sure, Franco is excellent, as he usually is, but he's cut adrift once he arrives in the CGI fever dream that's been named after his character for unclear reasons.

I did appreciate the hell out of one visual touch, where tears (water) left deep cuts on Mila Kunis' witch face (spoiler? hardly).  Nice job, there, Raimi.  For your next trick, explain how their own sweat doesn't reduce them to a pile of smoking goo within minutes.  Other than that and a few colorful bits, it's not worthwhile in the slightest; and the part where Oz shuts down a nascent song and dance number is almost as insulting to this cash-in's classic, musical forebear as The Lone Ranger's pathological hatred of its own source material was.  But at least Oz's face is never literally dragged through shit here.

66.  THE ACT OF KILLING (4/10)
A documentary about the participants in the 1965 genocide of commies and Chinese and other folks in Indoensia subsequent to the military coup.  I think the point Josh Oppenheimer is trying to make is that death squads are bad.  The point I actually received was that our side needs death squads too, otherwise our side just gets killed and the winners go on to make shitty art films at the behest of the documentarian who is exploiting them, and the tragedy they caused, for his own careerist purposes.

It's also a little slow.

67.  WORLD'S END (4/10)
Barely funny and deeply unmoving, the best thing about World's End is that it highlights the strengths of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  This lesson is hardly worth two hours of your time, of course.

68.  AFTER EARTH (4/10)
Now that Jaden Smith has been taken into foster care, we can hope that he'll get the support andyesthe love that he's needed for so long.  Be strong, Jaden.  Be strong.

69.  ELYSIUM (4/10)
The fact that Jodie Foster's Space Accent wasn't even this year's worst is, frankly, numbing.  But: a head did explode, and that counts for something in my book.

70.  NOW YOU SEE ME (4/10)
I don't even wanna talk about it.  There was a brief period when I liked this movie.  It was the period between finishing watching it and thinking about it, for a grand total of about five minutes, over the course of the twenty-four period subsequent to me watching it.  Then it dawned on me it's one of the dumbest things I'd ever seen.

A film that could have been something if it had had a script before they shot it.

72.  STOKER (4/10)
Every element is in place for a masterpiece: Park Chan-wook, Chung Chung-hoon, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Clint Mansell.  What happened?  Here's what happened: Wentworth Miller wrote the tepidest damned thing you'll ever see that still features a plot revolving around incest and serial murder.

73.  47 RONIN (4/10)
OK, yeah, but the costumes really are quite lovely.

74.  RUNNER RUNNER (4/10)
The best thing about the rote thriller Runner Runner is that I get to rank its soulless hackwork above American Hustle.  And with honesty, too.  Because it was substantially better soulless hackwork, even with Justin Timberlake again flailing around upon the screen in abject terror, as if he fears the camera might steal his soul.

The best decision the Academy collectively made this year was to deny American Hustle every award it was nominated for.  The worst decision was to nominate it for anything in the first place.

I've been told that the reference in the title for my review of Only God Forgives is obscure.  It's from Serenity, for God's sake.  Joss Whedon?  Maybe you've heard of him.  Anyway, this movie is gorgeous garbage, and otherwise notable principally for how hilariously Ryan Goslingesque Ryan Gosling can really be.  That, and Cliff Martinez doing his thing far, far more competently than Nicholas Winding Refn is doing his.

77.  THE LONE RANGER (4/10)
I'm still waiting for the ninety-minute cut that didn't make me want to tear my face off with boredom and aggravation.  This film remains mainly good for fifteen-years-too-late Airheads reference jokes.

78.  THE CROODS (4/10)
A caveperson family is evicted from their hollow in the living rock by an earthquake; they are guided to a new home by a more advanced human.  Tearing out whole sections of Clan of the Cave Bear, the central conflict is, of course, between the world's most absurd conservatism and its most stupidly optimistic radicalism.

The Croods is basically trash, not helped by the fact that the character designs are unappealing and that, you know, there were real animals that existed a couple million years ago, and they were pretty cool, whereas this film features increasingly ridiculous alien monsters that muster little interest, even visually.  Whoever was in charge of the backgrounds, however, which are gorgeous, needs to spend his or her time on much better projects.  Otherwise, The Croods is most notable for creating a set-piece where Nic Cage shouting the immortal line, "HAND ME THAT ACTING STICK!", sort of makes sense in context.

The demidivine bastard children of Greek deities train at Not Hogwarts in the magical arts, and get into scrapes.  In Sea of Monsters, the particular scrape involves, for at least the third Goddamned time in the past half decade, releasing the Titans.  (Recall, if you haven't killed those neurons with alcohol or other forms of palliative care, Wrath of the Titans and the execrable Tarsem pseudo-film, Immortalsthough not, and not really that oddly, Clash of the Titans 2010.)  It makes me wonder if people are even aware there are any other stories that can be told with with the Greek gods.  Because, for one thing, it's not even an actual myth!  Although I guess the Gigantomachy is close enough.

Anyway, Sea of Monsters is memorable, such as it is, for two things only.  The first is the visualization of the enormous form of Charybdis, beginning as an array of jagged angles penetrating the top of ocean waves, confused by our heroes for the circling fins of sharks, before it sucks the very sea into its maw and reveals the inescapable destiny of all who venture too close.  The second is that the female lead is racist against Cyclopes, to the extent that you realize that if she were talking about, say, black people, this movie would be a horrifying portrait of casual bigotry and probably rated R.

Of course, by "female lead" I mean Annabeth (I looked it up on Wikipedia).  If you were to hold that the actual female lead was Ares' daughter, and you would not be too wrong for doing so, then the most memorable aspect of her character is that she is an infinite cunt.

It also rips off the crazy taxi scenes from Scrooged, and it makes me angry that I even have to utter the name of that classic in a paragraph about Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.  This is far more words than I once imagined I could possibly write about what is, with but one exception, the most startlingly mediocre film of 2013.

I don't know why the Giants' leader has two heads.  I don't how their dumb society functions.  I don't know how they build furniture when their trees are regular sized.  I damned sure don't know how they failed to rip off the Star Wars character dynamic between the three leads, since by merely trying, and boy do they, they should have been fully 90% of the way there.  They get maybe 10 to 15.

Finally, I don't know who thought it was a good idea to shelve a movie for fifteen years, given the enormous technological changes that have occurred in the last decade and a half, but they really ought towait, this movie was not made in 1998?  Good Lord.

81.  GETAWAY (3/10)
I wanted to see real cars hit other real cars so much I could've fooled myself into liking it, and if it had been merely bad, I probably would have.

82.  CARRIE (3/10)
How dare you try to remake De Palma in his prime?  Just who do you think you are?  Prometheus?

83.  THE FAMILY (3/10)
Tommy Lee Jones won't be around forever, yet we waste our brief time together with him in this world, and on things like this.

I said, in regards to Thor 2, that enthusiasm for a franchise can paper over a great many sins.  Well, perhaps it can run the other way, for if there's a franchise that I have nothing but unbridled antipathy for, it is not Twilight, nor Transformers, but The Hunger Games.

However, two things did give me genuine joy in this movie, which is in fact infinitely many more than its predecessor, despite what simple algebra would suggest.  The first thing was the vastly superior cinematography that permitted me to appreciate that monarch butterfly dress, which I will happily concede marks the single best costuming decision of 2013.  The second thing was the surprise appearance by Jena Malone, amounting to little more than an extended cameo, but who in perhaps five minutes creates a character that is more relatable, more interesting, and more undeniably alive than Jennifer Lawrence's blank, mannequin-like anti-acting did in five hours' worth of her own shitty series.

But here's a gold star: at the rate they're improving, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 2 will be the finest film ever made.

85.  ENDER'S GAME (3/10)
Like its source material, this movie derogates air war, and as such cannot be condoned.  It's also more than a tad boring, features nonsensical character and plot denouements, and rips off Babylon 5's Shadows wholesale for its alien design.  At least the last problem is original to the movie, but it's still pretty shameful.

86.  UPSIDE DOWN (3/10)
The dullest romance and the dullest fantasy about the two dullest humanoid beings who ever existed on any planet, rendered in a dull, dull, dull blue and gray palette.  The neat effects and pieces of production design deployed in envisioning their two worlds, each upside down to the other, and the script's smidgen of lazy class war allegory that never goes anywhere at all really do not make it any better.

87.  BYZANTIUM (3/10)
In this movie, a young woman's short story about vampires is interpreted as a sign of a trouble at home, and leads to the intervention of social services.  This movie takes place in 2013.  This movie is preposterously stupid.

It's also a vampire movie that never uses the word "vampire," which is annoying.  Worse, it is at least as dull and whiny as the Twilight movies that it so wishes it weren't, but remains, very much a kindred to.  Let's not mince words, too: Eclipse and both Breaking Dawns are actually markedly better than this utterly lame exercise in genre frustration, and even New Moon and the original Twilight are at least funny in their egregious brokenness.  Byzantium is, simply put, simply boring.  The only elevating factor here is that Byzantium does feature some significantly cool gore effects, and a few moments of striking imagery, but the latter is a case of too little, and the former one of far, far too late.

I often wonder if the extra twenty minutes cut for the American release could possibly make The Grandmaster flow with the grace of some of its kung fu sequences, but then I remember that there was only about forty minutes of watchable footage in this movie in its shortened version.  So somehow, I doubt it.

Incidentally, did you know that Japan invaded China in the 1930s?  NO REALLY IT HAPPENED.

89.  DARK SKIES (3/10)
I was far too lenient on this profoundly idiotic film, but in my defense, that's only because it did manage to freak me out with its pretty terrifying rendition of the iconic Grays.  It's not a good horror movie on any scale, but it can be effective, and that's something, at least.

But note how I say "iconic Grays"?  That means we don't need J.K. Simmons to explain them to us; nor should Dark Skies' ludicrously, hilariously ignorant characters.  But here we are.

The more I thought about Walter Mitty's secret life, the angrier I became at this callow, stupid, and fundamentally empty movie.  It is almost exactly what I mean when I use the term "a film of absence"; its only redeeming feature is its stylish cinematography, that, once prompted, I finally realized looks distressingly like every credit card commercial ever made.  Although its arbitrary protagonist might, Mitty never grows its beard.  If you've managed to avoid it thus far, continue on your righteous path, and till the Lord calls you, brother.


91.  ????? (2/10)
92.  ????? (2/10)
93.  ????? (2/10)
94.  ????? (2/10)
95.  ????? (2/10)
96.  ????? (2/10)
97.  ????? (1/10)
98.  ????? (1/10)
99.  ????? (1/10)
100.  ????? (0/10)

Who will live?  Who will die?  Find out next time, if your heart can stand the truth of grave-robbers from outer space!

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