2013 In Film List: 63-42

When I finished the previous blog post in this series it went from 94 to 61, AKA the bottom third or so of the list of movies I’d seen in 2013. Usually I’d just continue on with the next group here, but as you can see by the title, I’m jumping back in time a bit to number 62. I’m still following up with the next best film after White House Down, the last entry in the previous section, but I’ve either remembered (Computer Chess, The Lords of Salem, You’re Next) or watched (All is Lost, Ender’s Game) some more movies since then. I’ve put those films into their slots and will start off this particular post with any films that should have been in the previous section and would have been if I’d not been so forgetful (the two new ones are better than White House Down, as is You’re Next, if that means anything to you, so they’ll just appear later on as they’re supposed to). I’ll keep them there until I’ve posted the final part of this series, after which I’ll go through and correct everything so they’ll be in the right place and such (they are now, but these two will be kept here for posterity). Sorry for the complications. Enjoy.

94. The Lords of Salem

I’ve never liked a Rob Zombie movie, and this mishmash of witch stories doesn’t do much to help his case with me. Watch season 3 of American Horror Story instead, at least that one has good actors doing silly things, as opposed to the bad performances on display here.

87. Computer Chess

There is, I guess, a fine line between experimental art films shot on a small budget and bad movies. This one seems to straddle that line, because if you go to my review by clicking the title you’ll see several people defending it. I don’t get it. Amateurish to the point of annoyance. There’s little of interest here.

Ok, and with that we’re caught up with the films that should have been in the previous post. Now it’s time to continue with the movies that are better than White House Down. Remember, each linked title will take you to the review I did when I watched the film, if you want more detail, and the movies I saw in theaters will have an asterisk next to their name.

63. Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett is really, really good at playing both sides of Jasmine, the everything’s going great, just marvel at my amazing party-throwing skills Jasmine and the my life has gone to hell and nobody really likes me because I’m pretending it hasn’t Jasmine. It’s really impressive, I’m just still not sure what purpose it has. As a showcase it is outstanding, as a satisfying or thought provoking narrative, it’s decidedly less so.

62. John Dies at the End

A lot of crazy things happen in this movie and that’s usually enough to get me through. I really liked this adaptation, it’s just that the memories of the even crazier things the book does (especially in the last third which would have required a much bigger budget than this film had {and used quite well}) clouded my viewing experience. Nothing the movie comes up with to fill in the gaps are quite as satisfying as the ideas already present in the book. But it’s a solid cult movie that’s both fun and gross.

61. Despicable Me 2

Probably should have just been called The Minion Movie. They’re even better here than the were in the first and given how much is placed on them, the whole movie might have fallen apart if they weren’t handled with such care and humor. It’s very funny.

60. Beyond the Hills

I really liked a lot of elements here. It’s a horror movie which takes itself very seriously. Those horror elements are really scary because we’re never quite sure if there’s something more going on here. And the relationship between the two girls is deep and thoughtful. But the movie is overlong and lacking in tension for much of it. A 90 minute  cut which focused on the horror bits would have been wonderful. As is it’s a bloated mess with interesting pieces.

59. Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

What gods did I anger to get two punk-based documentaries with critical acclaim this year? But, more than A Band Called Death, this doc goes into areas I find more interesting than just the music. As we get closer and closer to Russia’s big moment at Sochi this movie which exposes some of the ridiculous policies the country has takes on more and more importance. It’s a good primer to the archaic laws and weird story which took up so many news cycles recently.

58. It’s a Disaster

Yet another end of the world comedy (and not the last on this list, either!), this one is much smaller in scale than This is the End but no less funny for it. Mainly, the couples gathered for their monthly brunch bicker about things as the end of the world happens around them. They engage in very few actual apocalyptic activities. It’s funny and a little touching.

57. Behind the Candelabra

With a behind the scenes story that rivals the one we all got to see on HBO, Behind the Candelabra was always going to be a fascinating watch. And it is, especially given the strong performances by Matt Damon and Michael Douglas and Rob Lowe’s horror mask of a face. Of course it’s a Soderbergh movie, so it’s pretty and it moves well. The drama works, too, but it never really rises above the norm.

56. August: Osage County

Speaking of strong performances… here’s a whole group of actors that are all really good. Based on a stage play, you can feel the claustrophobia build and build. It’s too bad the climactic dinner scene comes about 1/3rd of the way through, leaving the rest of the drama to play out a little limply in comparison.

55. Dear Mr. Watterson

I’m as big a fan of Calvin and Hobbes as the next guy, if not bigger, but this doc doesn’t (can’t, maybe) go beyond the general things you might glean from a wikipedia page. There’s some nice stuff about the things fans create to show how big fans they are, but the lack of Watterson involvement necessarily restricts this from being a truly great film.

54. Ender’s Game

Adaptations necessarily change things from their sources to fit time or film’s different needs and moods. It’s a fact any reader must deal with. And so, if adaptations must happen, let them happen like this one, which elides some of the intricacies of the source novel for a breakneck pace and some nifty action scenes. While nothing will top Gravity’s weightlessness any time soon, the zero-g games here feel nicely loose. The characterizations are bigger but not necessarily badder. Heh, sorry. It’s good, is what I’m saying, and even I was surprised by that.

53. Warm Bodies *

I usually like my horror films to be scary, but this take on the zomromcom genre that Shaun of the Dead invented is pretty nice, if not ever anything other than slightly creepy. It’s Romeo and Juliet, but nobody says wherefore or anything. Sometimes people get eaten, which I think was missing from the original play. All elements work to create a really pleasant little film.

52. Stories We Tell

I’m not sure why I didn’t like this as much as everybody else seems to have. A documentary that pushes the envelope of what we’ll accept as truth and lies in a medium which promises the former, it should have really gotten me all hot and bothered, cinematically speaking. Instead I only appreciated, never fell in love with this playful and truly felt (if not told) story.

51. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

I never saw the drama that was made about the enigmatic founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, because I felt this doc got into enough depth for me to feel everything i wanted to feel about the man and his mission to free the world of state secrets. Of course, just that simplification of his raison d’être would be enough to have him or his defenders cry foul. The biggest tell of this fascinating film is how vain Assange is, even if his aim is pure it’s muddled by a cloudy vision surrounding him and the way he comports himself. Useful not only as an info dump but also as a portrait of a flawed human being.

50. Iron Man 3 *

Boy, that twist really angered some comic fans, eh? I thought it was kind of brilliant, totally subverting our expectations for a really funny scene. The rest of the film didn’t do a whole lot for me, though it’s better than about half of the other Avenger films. Shane Black’s trademark dark wit shone through the Marvel style nicely and hopefully it will lead him to work sooner than 8 years from now.

49. The East

An indie eco-thriller which focuses more on the dynamics within the “terror” group than it does on the terror itself, The East is a perfectly well made movie that does nothing to stir or rattle anything.

48. V/H/S/2

I was majorly disappointed in the first V/H/S movie and its casual misogyny combined with its lack of scares. This mostly corrects both problems. Each short has at least something to recommend it, be it the clever zombie with attached GoPro or the doggy cam view of an alien invasion, but the real treasure lies in the middle. A long (given the rest of the shorts) faux documentary about a cult in Indonesia which turns scary as hell, “Safe Haven” is anything but. If then next V/H/S is better than this one to the same degree that this was from the first, we’ll have a horror classic on our hands.

47. Trance *

Created as an outlet as Danny Boyle was pulling together the London Olympics opening ceremony, Trance doesn’t quite reach his highest highs. It does feature his crazy style and constant kineticism plus some fun performances and awesome shots in an otherwise super silly story.

46. Enough Said

As of right now this sits on the good side of the halfway point in this list. I feel like that’s, ahem, Enough Said.

45. Dallas Buyers Club

We’ll get to American Hustle soon enough, but for now let’s hold up Matthew McConaughey as an example of what one should do when they must change their body for a role and hope it doesn’t fall on Christian Bale’s deaf ears. McConaughey goes further than just losing the weight, he inhabits the Texan pride and never say die attitude that feels so right in the role. Leto’s good, too. There are, as always, distorted facts and shaped narratives. But who cares, we’re at the movies!

44. All is Lost

I resorted to yelling at Robert Redford in my original review, hoping he’d emote or something to show that he’s more than a guidebook-reading nobody out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that was a bit harsh, but still, my problem has remained one week removed. Loved the ending, didn’t get worked up over the rest. Stoicism is nice, it’s just not right for this film.

43. Star Trek Into Darkness *

Though it shuns the ever popular colon in the middle, it doesn’t throw out what has already been proven to work so well. The Cumberbatch is great, as are the rest of the crew. Slick, solid action rounds everything out into a very nice movie which doesn’t surprise like the first film did but feels instead like a really great sequel (which it is).

42. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues *

There’s no way this movie could have been as good as Anchorman, right? And it isn’t, though it is often funny and admirably zany. Like Despicable Me 2, it might have gone off course by giving Carell too much to do, but it doesn’t. He’s great and matched well with Kristin Wiig.

Alright, that’s all for today. We’re over halfway through this massive list and the movies just get better and better. Tune in soon for part 3. Leave a comment if you’ve got something to say.

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