Tag: Oz: The Great and Powerful

2013 in Film List: 99-64

I’ve caught up sufficiently with the movies of 2013, so it’s time to make a list. A giant list, giant-er than I’ve ever done at this point and of this type, eclipsing last year’s effort by quite a few. So it’s time to tell you what I watched that came out in 2013 (with a few 2012 releases that didn’t get any release to speak of until last year). Since there are 94 movies on this list and this first blog post is going to take up fully 1/3rd of those titles, I’m going to be a little bit more brief when discussing the movies I didn’t love as compared to the movies towards the top of this list. As I did with the discoveries list, I’ll link each title to my original review on Letterboxd (when available), so you can double your readings and see what star ratings I’ve given to the films. Any movie I saw in theaters has a nice asterisk next to it’s name. Ok, on with the show.

99. Escape from Tomorrow

Though the film got a lot of buzz for its guerrilla production inside the boundaries of the usually-heavily-protected Disney World compound, the movie itself doesn’t match the exciting behind-the-scenes story. Super amateur film making and acting weigh down a really dumb story. Just nothing good from this.

98. The ABCs of Death

It’s a lot to cram 26 shorts into two hours. That’ll make anything seem like a slog, even if the shorts were even kinda good. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here, and the film feels like an eternity save for one or two good segments.

97. Spring Breakers

This will appear at the top of a lot of people’s lists. Those people are crazy. My full review goes into more detail, but suffice to say that the style might match the substance, I just hated both. Only Franco’s crazy performance did a darn thing for me.

96. The Purge

Take a fascinating premise and do next to nothing with it and you’ve got The Purge. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that Ethan Hawke will appear again much, much later in this list, but here he doesn’t do anything of note. Nobody does. A total waste.

95. 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.

94. Now You See Me

Like The Prestige, but super dumb. It may look kinda pretty, but there’s nothing going on at the surface, much less underneath it. So many good people doing so little good work.

93. Sharknado

Unlike the other bad movies on this list, I at least had a good time watching this one with friends. Sharks and tornadoes! It’s so bad, though.

92. The Hangover Part III

The further I’ve gotten from this the less I’ve cared about it. I guess he kills a giraffe, and that’s funny, right? Can this be over now? Trilogy ender of 2013 number one is a big old failure.

91. The Last Stand

The Governor returned to acting in a big way this year with movies that capitalized on his aging body and still pretty good comedic timing. The action scenes are appropriately over the top, but little else provides anything of import.

90. Prisoners

And now more people will be angry at me. I just didn’t get the hype here. Some people were outraged that Prisoners received only one Oscar nomination (for cinematography, its most outstanding element). I don’t understand it. It’s so overbearing and mostly artless. Proficient is as far as I’ll go in praising it. Faint and damning is how I talk about the mighty Prisoners. Everybody here could do with watching The Hunt.

89. Elysium

I never wrote a review of Elysium, I think because I was so disappointed with the whole experience. I really liked District 9, so much so that I put it on my top 100 for a year. But this is just really bad, full of dumb action and dumber dialogue. And what the heck was Jodie Foster doing? What was that accent? What was this movie trying to say?

88. 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.

87. Oblivion

If things happened in this movie I’ve completely forgotten them. Tom Cruise was there, I’m sure, and I think he was surrounded by pretty desiccated ruins, but if any incident was contained therein they’re long gone. The definition of dull.

86. Insidious: Chapter 2

I liked the first one. A lot, actually, even the crazy stuff at the end. Here the craziness starts at the beginning and never quits. It’s not scary and not funny and not clever and not anything. If this is what I have to pay for movies like The Conjuring to exist, I guess I’ll abide, but sometimes it’s hard.

85. Carrie

It’s the same movie as the original for the most part. Then the blood falls and things get nutty. It’s kind of fun there, especially this film’s version of the hand coming out of the ground, but mostly it’s just kind of meaningless for fans of the de Palma version (in which camp I proudly pitch my tent).

84. Jack the Giant Slayer *

How many more of these will we have to endure? And endure is the perfect word for a movie which has few jokes and fewer moments of fun action. What has happened to Bryan Singer, and can he correct it in time for Days of Future Past?

83. Mama *

This one got in just under the Jessica Chastain wire, eh? Must have been filmed before Zero Dark Thirty, or at least before she knew it’d be great. She still does great work, even in this mostly silly horror film. There are frightening moments, which is a first for this list so far. That’s something.

82. Escape Plan

It’s super dumb. But at least it has Arnold and Sly hitting people. The big reveal is really silly, too, so it all feels like a joke. On the audience.

81. Oz the Great and Powerful *

It’s telling, maybe, that the remake of Sam Raimi’s most seminal work from this year is way, way better than this, his “original” take on the Oz universe. I love the Oz universe. I don’t love James Franco phoning it in or Mila Kunis screeching as Raimi likes his women to do. The world is fun, the movie mostly isn’t.

80. Pain & Gain *

Yet another AMERICAN DREAM movie. This one is at least fun, and on purpose, too. I’ll never tire of The Rock’s comedic roles, and Marky Mark does great work as a pumped up version of his own image. It’s too long, though, as Michael Bay often does. Silly, but at least it knows it.

79. A Band Called Death

The first of a few music documentaries on this list is probably so low because I don’t really care for their style of music (punk, basically) and the social context wasn’t quite as fleshed out as it might have been. But listening to punk songs for an hour and a half is enough to drive anybody crazy.

78. Fast & Furious 6 *

Nowhere near as good as the fifth film in the series, but with enough potential and promise that I was excited to see the seventh. With star Paul Walker’s death, though, who know’s what’ll come next? It’ll probably have something to do with family, I can tell you that.

77. Man of Steel *

Here’s the cutoff, folks, between movies that are mostly bad and movies that are mostly good. Man of Steel is 50/50, with some of the wackier elements showing a fun side while all the heavy lifting an origin story has to do weighing it down. Some of the action is pretty dumb, but other parts are great. Nothing, though, beats the church scene, with Supes sitting in front of a very Kryptonian looking Jesus behind him in stained glass.

76. The Counselor *

What a year for headscratching performances! I don’t know what’s worse, Jodie Foster in Elysium or Cameron Diaz in this film, with a semi-Barbadian dialect. Michael Fassbender is here, and he’s really good. Cameron Diaz has sex with the windshield of a car. What else?

75. 20 Feet from Stardom

Here’s a music doc where I mostly like the music! Rejoice! Backup singers could be a fascinating subject and they sometimes achieve that here, especially with the Gimme Shelter sequence and the Sweet Home Alabama implications. But mostly it skirts any really interesting ideas for more stories of people who almost made it with little time for questioning the why.

74. The Heat

It was a good year for comedies, with even this lowest entry getting a number of big laughs from me. I don’t get the Bullock hate, but I do get the McCarthy love. She’s great.

73. Searching for Sugar Man

I think this counts towards 2013. If not, please ignore. It might be fun to revisit this with Inside Llewyn Davis on the mind, though the locations aren’t exactly the same. It’s fine, but nothing super special.

72. Riddick

Riddick’s a bad dude. He’s lethal and mean and, in this film, has a cute alien dog. Unlike Chronicles, this movie feels a lot more like Pitch Black, lacking the crazy world-building of the second entry and upping the violent outbursts. Too bad everybody else in the film is so uninteresting.

71. Room 237

A consideration of theories about and surrounding The Shining. Some of these guys are nuts, seeing penises everywhere and being convinced that it’s Kubrick’s confession for faking the moon landing. The theories are interesting, but not for as long as the film lasts. More interesting is the discussion one could have about the role of an artist in the work of a film, and what role we as audience members must play in the whole thing.

70. World War Z

A not-so-great adaptation of a spectacular book, World War Z is a decent movie if considered on its own merits. There are plenty of great, tense scenes and Brad Pitt is pretty good. The ending is kinda dumb but the new-ish take on zombies is enough to overcome differences between this and the book if you’re willing to let it.

69. Blackfish

Probably the most popular doc of the year, this one doesn’t do much you don’t already expect it to do going in. That’s fine, but it makes for a less thrilling or compelling document, and an even less potent argument, since it brings little new to the table. The home videos of the attacks are breathtaking, though, and the film wisely lets them play out, for the most part.

68. Hell Baby

I’d heard of this movie for what seemed like forever listening to podcasts that featured the various cast members. I was excited to watch it and it lives up to the funny pedigree that these people bring along to the party. Though it makes fun of horror tropes, it never tries to be scary. Keegan Michael Key does great work, rivaling his impressive run in season three of Key and Peele.

67. This is the End *

Very funny, too long. That’s the two piece criticism so often leveled at the crew behind and in front of the camera here, and it still fits. The high concept is a good one, with everybody playing horrible versions of themselves in an apocalypse, and the script delivers clever nods to other horror films. It’s best when it does it’s own thing, including last 10 minutes or so of the movie.

66. Clear History

A nice, if decidedly unmemorable little comedy. The best jokes come from the crazy ideas the disheveled inventor comes up with, and, of course, Michael Keaton.

65. Monsters University *

I was never big into Monsters Inc., and the prospect of a sequel wasn’t terribly exciting, but I was delighted to find a delight at the cinema in it. It’s really nice, a warm film that has some solid jokes and a playful take on the college comedy genre. Where’s Boo?

64. White House Down

I watched a lot of The West Wing this year. Nobody ever drove around it in an SUV with a rocket launcher, unless I missed an episode somewhere. It’s possible. The movie is super silly and super fun. Channing Tatum is a real talent, able to sell the sweet and the badass moments and throwing quips out like its nothing. It’s devoid of anything deep or meaningful, but it is a really entertaining film.

Ok, we’ve barreled through the low quality third of this gigantic list. Time for you to yell at me for Spring Breakers and Prisoners. I can take it. Tune in again soon for the next section, which will probably feature fewer films in one go. Gotta drag this out as long as possible.

The Movies of 2013 so far

Like everything I do, this is about a month late. However, it’s ready, I’m ready, you’re ready. Let’s do it.

27. Oblivion

Kind of a mess. A beautiful, stark mess. And not the good, Messterpiece kind of a mess. Just horribleness. Convoluted, boring, and dumb. Pretty visuals can’t save the lack of any real emotion or interesting narrative. Even Tom Cruise’s unequivocal movie star nature can’t save this hunk of junk. Time to leave it to the aliens or robots or cans of gray-brown paint that we were fighting in the war here.

26. Spring Breakers

I get it, everybody. I totally understand what Harmony Korine was doing here. So let’s not say that’s the reason for the low grade. Hey, spring break probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! Maybe drugs and violence are bad! I get it, thanks.

But the real crime here isn’t the obvious nature of the film, it’s the intense boringness. That might seem like an oxymoron but it really is an apt description. Everything is so there, so on the nose, so in your face, so over the top, so bright and colorful and yet so very uninteresting. It looks nice, I guess. There were pretty pictures to attempt to distract me as the same dialogue gets played over and over again. They mostly didn’t work. In fact, only two scenes put a smile on my face, one in which James Franco shows off all of his stuff, the other in which he and the girls sing a Brittney Spears song while dancing with guns and stuff, mixed in with a montage of them hijacking a party much like the multitude they attended earlier in the film. It was kind of a funny juxtaposition. And it looked pretty, again. If you thought this movie wasn’t for you, you’re probably right. If you thought this movie was for you, you’re probably right, too. It is trying some different things, it’s just that they’re all so dumb.

25. The Last Stand

Some crazy action. Nothing more, nothing less.

24. Jack the Giant Slayer

Could have been awesome. Was just ok. Ewan McGregor gets almost nothing to do, which is a shame. Needed more humor. Too serious.

23. Mama

Jessica Chastain is always good. Jamie Lannister goes into a coma halfway through. There are scary bits. The end is silly.

22. Oz: The Great and Powerful

Despite a boring James Franco and Sam Raimi’s penchant for women screeching, a surprisingly fun movie. Also, it lasts too long. Everybody not named James Franco or Mila Kunis does good work. Unfortunately, they form the dramatic core of the film. SCREECH!

21. Pain & Gain

Goes on for about half an hour too long. The middle didn’t need to be there. All three of the goofballs at the center of the film are very funny.

20. A Band Called Death

Punk music isn’t one of my favorite genres. I like my music to sound nice and generally not assault me. But whatever, because like most music docs A Band Called Death goes perhaps a little too far in praising the focus of the film. Death consisted of three brothers from Detroit who were making punk music two years before The Ramones. Also, they’re black. Between the proto-punk sound, the color of their skin, and the name of the band they never broke through into any real success. One of the brothers left the band and that was that. Death ended. That brother died years later and then, years after that, Death was discovered thanks to collectors and the internet. The kids of one of the brothers form a kind of neo-Death and perform the Death songs live to a clamoring audience. Death reunites and goes on tour and everybody is happy. It’s pretty standard stuff. Interesting enough but not groundbreaking. It feels like a long 90 minutes, with the history of the band taking up a full half of that running time. I found the discovery process more exciting and seeing how the surviving brothers react to the dead brother’s premonition of the band’s discovery coming true was perhaps the best part of the film. There’s not much going on by way of cool moviemaking either. Searching for Sugar Man is a very similar film but at least that one has the cool music videos interspersed throughout all the talking heads. There’s also the brothers’ enthusiasm to consider. Both seem to be very outgoing and gregarious and their passion is clear and infectious. Maybe fans of the music might find more to this film. For me it was merely good, not great.

19. Fast & Furious 6

I really liked Fast 5. It was big dumb fun. There were funny jokes and even funnier over-the-top action scenes. This is not that movie. The jokes weren’t as funny (and the word “joke” is stretching it a bit), the action was more incomprehensible, and the talky bits were less interesting than Fast 5. If all but one of your car action scenes are going to be at night you really should invest in cars that have different colors or something. It was all a bunch of lights shaking around the screen. I know they can do daylight scenes, I saw them in the last movie. And Lin could learn a thing or two from Sodaberg and how he shot the action scenes in Haywire. I’m sure these guys can pull off the punching parts, lets see it happen. I’m usually a shaky cam apologist but this just didn’t work. There’s a lot of talk about family and it’s fine, it’s just kinda silly at this point. It’s like these guys are a bunch of cultists who are indoctrinated to love, serve, and protect the family. I guess Vin Diesel would be the head of the cult, and every new member would be bathed in motor oil or muscle juice. Still, it’s mostly fun, just not as much fun as the previous entry. The end promises something big for Fast 7, though, so I’ll be there.

18. Man of Steel

A lot of flying and punching combined with Jesus imagery and chins. It’s not nearly as Snyder-y as it needed to be in order to be great. There are moments, including the opening scene and one where Zod goes inside Supe’s head. Some well thought out visuals there but it’s mostly kinda boring looking. Also, there’s not much that happens for a 2.5 hour movie. I’m tired of origin stories, though this one does a good job of chopping it up and giving it to us piecemeal. All the acting is fine to good. Michael Shannon could have had more to do as the one before whom we should kneel. And, like everybody else has said, way too much destruction in the last act (though it looks pretty good).

17. This Is the End

This movie is at once right up my alley and not really my cup of tea. While I love a lot of apocalyptic horror, I haven’t been enamored of the Apatow comedies. Only Superbad is really horrible (of the films I’ve seen) but none of their movies have even come close to a top whatever list of mine. So I approached this film with apprehension. Luckily, taking one of the biggest criticisms aimed at this group of actors is turned delightfully on its head when nearly everybody in the film plays a version of themselves. It’s a movie of cameos short (Michael Cera is maybe the funniest part of the film) and long (the six “friends” at the core of the film). The conceit of the film is the question, “What would happen if the apocalypse was a real thing and the only people left behind were a bunch of self-centered jerks who all just happened to be actors?” Even better, the movie does a good job of probing some semi-deep ideas about how actors think of themselves and what it takes to be a good friend. This is all couched in some genuinely funny setpieces ranging from genital humor to other genital humor. But seriously, there are quite a few funny scenes and the chemistry between everybody on screen is undeniable. Also undeniable: this being a first time directorial job for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. They do some wacky fun things and like Evil Dead and The Cabin in the Woods, I’m impressed that they went as far as they did in terms of insanity-level, but they also show a few signs of not having everything figured out yet. It’s a good but not great movie lifted by the cast and conceit more than amazing directorial work. Oh, also the last five minutes are pretty awesome.

16. We Steel Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

Anybody who has spent more than a minute or two on the internet or in front of a TV with the news on in the last few weeks probably knows about the big privacy scandals happening in the US right now. It’s clear we are living in an age of information and right now that information means leaks. This film endeavors to tell the whole story of WikiLeaks, the internet safe haven for people who want to release information that has been hidden from the public. But, similar to how Overnight chronicled how the ego of one man got in the way of his own dreams, the most interesting parts of this documentary are about the men behind the leaks, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

Read the rest here: benefitsofaclassicaleducation.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/we-steal-secrets-the-story-of-wikileaks/

15. Monsters University

What hath Pixar wrought? A prequel? 12 years after the first film? Breaking up perhaps the biggest strength of Monsters Inc.? Coming hot on the heels of Cars 2 and the princess movie Brave? This must be the end of the once impeachable studio.

Or it’s, you know, a pretty fun little movie. Adorable, even. It’s still something of a marvel that a world based on monsters that scare little kids for power isn’t actually a scary thing. In the full light of day these monsters are mostly cute. Furry, slimy, you name it, it’s here. The story is a little weak, mostly just a reason to have conflict between the soon-to-be best friends. Sound familiar? Pixar goes back to their first story with the Woody/Buzz relationship transposed onto Mike and Sully here. It works but it isn’t as much fun as watching them as friends rather than rivals. Throw in a few new characters (one, which has two extremely long legs on either side of its head, is nearly constantly hilarious) and you’ve got yourself something to do for an hour and a half. These characters are still strong, but it misses that crucial force of awesome that is Boo. Nothing here is as chaotic or cute as Boo. Still, it’s a good time and technically quite impressive.

14. John Dies at the End

Misses a lot of fun if extraneous stuff from the books. Because of that it’s a little less weird than it could/should have been. Which is saying something, because it’s plenty strange.

13. Behind the Candelabra

Sodaberg does his thing. He’s never made an uninteresting movie that I’ve seen. This is more or less straightforward, certainly not as out there as something like The Limey. Douglas does the best work I’ve seen him do and Damon is typically good. The Sodaberg touches are there in the plastic surgery scenes and the strangely comedic tone in the first third. It’s in the end that he pulls out at least some of the stops. I liked it. I could do without seeing another drugged out scene for a few years, though. Not as good nor as fun as Side Effects, but a worthy addition to his body of work. Let’s just hope it’s not the last.

12. Warm Bodies

Alternate title: Romeo and Juliet and Zombies. Funny and surprisingly touching, just not at all scary.

11. V/H/S/2

I’ve always thought that the found footage genre had a lot of potential. As long as each new film tries something different in either the narrative or technical realm (or both!), I’m all in. Last year’s V/H/S was a bit of a mess with too many pacing problems and too much people being idiots or evil in a dumb way. The only segment of the found footage horror anthology that really worked for me was the last. Still, I was anticipating the next entry in the series in hopes that they’d learn the lessons from the previous installment.

And lo! They did! This time around there’s still a dumb framing story but at least I didn’t loathe the people in it. Other than that framing story there are only 4 shorts here and it takes only 95 minutes to get through all of it. This alleviates much of the pacing problems from the previous movie. Also helpful: almost all the segments are really good. Most combine a clever conceit (a zombie mounted GoPro, a digital camera eye implant that acts suspiciously like the one in that Jessica Alba movie, a doc crew gets more than they bargained for when investigating a cult, and a doggy cam captures an alien invasion force) with surprisingly strong stories and scares. The digital eye thing was the only one that I didn’t really care for. It’s the first in the movie and pretty quick, so no worries. Both the zombie and cult shorts escalate in really fun and sometimes terrifying ways. The former has a bit of fun with the different zombie kill methods while the latter goes maybe half a step too far with the ending, but I really loved everything up to that. Maybe the best was the last, a sleepover turned scramble from really scary aliens. That one really uses the low camera angle to great effect, along with some spectacular lighting and sound use. There was still a little bit of squeemishness for me regarding the women of the film, but, again, way way less than the first film managed. A fantastic improvement to the series, I look forward to the next installment.

10. Trance

Could have used more Boyle-style weirdness. It gets there towards the end (one shot especially), but for much of it there is too much (relative) boring camera work. Still a better version of mind games than Inception.

9. Star Trek Into Darkness

Too much fun to care about the iffy script. The action is fun, the design is great, and the characters are still really great to hang out with for two hours. All the actors are doing good work, Chris Pine and BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH(!) in particular. Yeah, the story is kinda silly and the stakes all but disappear with one crucial mistake in the script but who cares? There will probably be a better summer movie this year and maybe one or two that might be more fun and they might even have better scripts. I’ll still enjoy going back to this on blu.

8. Sightseers

Really funny. The darkest comedy outside NBC’s Hannibal this year. Does everything God Bless America should have done (being funny and not annoying at the top of the list there).

7. Iron Man 3

Better than the second film. Not as good as The Avengers or the first Iron Man (or Thor). Does enough fun things to cover over some problems in the script. Most importantly, it lets Shane Black work again. 8 years since Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang!

6. The Blue Umbrella

Clever, gorgeous, cute. Maybe it’s time for Pixar to do an anthology movie.

5. Side Effects

If this is the last theatrical movie for Soderbergh he went out as he spent most of his career, making a really interesting, slightly silly, technically proficient movie. Twists and turns keep the interest level high and Jude Law continues to be great.

4. Stoker

Weird seems to be the go-to mode for Chan-wook Park. Whether it’s his internt-beloved Oldboy or his much better vampire-melodrama-comedy Thirst or this, his first English language movie. He’s always right on that edge between me buying completely into his films and throwing my hands up and walking away. Thankfully this one falls a little closer to the Thirst side of things in which everything is over the top and still restrained. It makes me feel like he was sitting behind the camera with a little sly smile on his face. There’s a bunch of weirdness in not only the characters and story but also the camera and sound work. Things just don’t feel right, nor should they given all the happenings of the film. A girl’s father dies mysteriously on her eighteenth birthday and at his funeral her uncle shows up for the first time in her life and moves himself in with her and her mother. Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode are all excellent as the girl, mother, and uncle respectively. Mia can hear things normal people can’t, so the soundtrack is full of little things that would get left out of the mix in normal films (spiders walking, hairs getting brushed, the scraping of glasses on the table at dinner). And then there’s the actual drama of the movie, the dashing and charismatic uncle slowly seducing both women and unraveling his true nature. It’s a movie that grows into itself. At first you’re watching, confused as to why the camera is acting so strangely and why these characters seem to all be weirdos. Then as things get revealed it all falls into place. The last act is among the best of the year so far as things go crazy. I like crazy. If you’re going to do something, do it all the way. Stoker goes all the way and maybe even farther. And that’s why I like it so much.

3. Upstream Color

I really don’t like Primer. Some of you know this. I hate how boring it is, and how little emotional content Shane Carruth deigned to give us. Fear not! In his second film, Upstream Color, he goes in the other direction and makes a movie that has little actual plot and much feeling and pathos. It’s a movie about connections and romance and pigs. Led by a very strong Amy Seimetz and let down a tiny by by Carruth’s own acting, it’s a movie that is certainly more assured than its predecessor, with a strong visual and aural style that does more than exist. They work together to enrich the experience of watching the film (and what an experience it is, totally mesmerizing) where Primer’s visuals followed its characters lead: straightforward and to the (dull) point. Everybody says its Malick does sci-fi. They ain’t wrong, for all the good and the little ill that implies.

2. Evil Dead

Yet another horror remake. Or reboot. Or reimagining. Re-something. This time I didn’t have much fondness for the original film(s) with their propensity to mistake loud noises for scares and near-complete lack of acting skill on display. This film takes what works about those, the premise and creativity with the camera, and adds in some great actors, a story with at least a little bit of depth, and buckets and buckets and buckets of blood. The cabin is now the location for a young girl’s cold turkey drug withdrawal for which her friends and estranged brother tag along. In the basement they find a book and, as they must, read it. Demons come, people die and get dismembered, not necessarily in that order. The drama of the first third is actually important to the rest of the movie, a rarity among horror films these days. The possession-as-addiction metaphor really works and makes the third act more than just over-the-top wackiness. Not that the over-the-top wackiness is bad. It’s great, actually, and launched the film up to my second favorite of the year so far. Crazy, good, crazy-good.

1. Pacific Rim

This movie needed to do one thing for it to be a success for me: I needed to have a big dumb smile on my face throughout most of the film. Well, Mission Accomplished. The creature design, the mecha design, the sets, the sounds, the props, the jokes, the Elba, the shoes. Everything is so right. It’s just so great to have a skilled director steering a movie like this. del Toro understands that movies like these are supposed to be fun. In a world where Superman is full of grays and seriousness Pacific Rim wears all of its colors on its sleeve and they’re all neons. It’s the most psychedelic movie since Speed Racer and Guillermo Navarro lights the heck out of the movie. So we’ve established that it looks great, how about the sound? That’s great, too. Roars and punches and crunches and metals. See this movie as loud and big as you can. The story does what it does. The central character is probably the least interesting part of the movie and once or twice they stray from the core of the film for a hair too long. Still, Idris Elba plays a fantastic old, worn down sheriff of an old west (well, Hong Kong) outpost with giant mechs at his disposal and Ron Pearlman makes the most out of a little part. Charlie Day’s enthusiastic monster nerd is basically just a younger, less accented del Toro, marveling at the creatures’ grandeur just like del Toro’s inner child would.

But those elements alone wouldn’t make me smile. No, it takes something more than looking and sounding and moving good. It takes that wonder, that special thing that only the movies can give you. Not since Jurassic Park has there been a wonder movie like this one. One fight in particular between two monsters and one robot is probably the best thing since sliced bread. Hell, unsliced bread. So big, so well shot, so wonderful.