Tag: The Purge

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.

Insanity Necessary: An argument for going all out

At the beginning of one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters we are treated to maybe the craziest thing anyone will see in theaters this year. Respected actors like Russel Crowe and Michael Shannon are dressed up in super-nuts outfits and barge in on a council meeting of people with silly hats to argue about eugenics. After a quick fight, Crowe jumps on the back of a giant four-winged beast and flies back to his house to witness the birth of his child, the first naturally born and conceived child on his home planet in ages. While all of this is happening, a battle rages outside among a planet that seems to be exploding at all times. It was crazy, it was weird, and I loved it. Man of Steel didn’t end up being a great movie, but it did succeed, at least early on, in doing what too few movies are brave enough to do: trying whole-heartedly to just do something.

All too often I have a moment of clarity while watching a movie. Most recently, The Purge came to a tipping point, a time when the narrative could go one way or another, and the movie’s success felt like it would live or die based on what the writer and director (the same person in this case but not always) decided would happen. In The Purge, a doorbell rings and the locked down family is brought into the moment, the beginning of the rest of the movie. The identity of that doorbell ringer will shape what kind of film the rest will play out as. Will it be a deeply cynical, biting social commentary where neighbors that smile in your face during the day turn into ruthless, jealous killers at night? Or will the ringer be revealed as just some guy, a less biting, less interesting choice which punts the potential of the film on third and one? Well, unfortunately, it’s the latter. The Purge goes from potentially great to boringly normal. Subpar, even, though that lies more on the lack of skill behind the camera than it does on the premise of the film. The Purge was never going to be a masterpiece given how poorly it was made, but it could have been a messterpiece, a movie which, as its most admirable quality, can claim that at least they were doing something. Trying something, giving it all they’ve got. I appreciate craziness, I appreciate insanity.

A few of my favorite messterpieces include Thirst, which melds uber-violent vampire things with wacky slapstick stuff and one of the silliest, most beautiful endings of the past decade, Synecdoche, New York, a movie that takes about a billion threads and tries to weave some of them into a truly emotional epic and mostly succeeds, and The Night of the Hunter, a mashup of a whole mess of techniques and styles that nonetheless congeals into a moving fairy-tale about growing up and being pure at heart. All of these movies are on my current top 100 list of all time, alongside other messterpeices like The Shining, Magnolia, and Brazil. None of these films lack ambition, though they might not quite reach what they’re grasping for. I will always give the edge to a movie that’s going for something with all of its heart over a movie that plays it safe with any kind of subject matter. This generally will reward genre movies as they often have a bit more leeway in terms of what they can go for and even more leeway as to what the audience will forgive. But serious dramas can go crazy with the best of them. The Lion in Winter doesn’t do a whole lot in the directorial department but the dialogue and the glee with which the actors say their lines is so delightfully over-the-top that I can’t help but fall under its spell of deceit and family politics. Punch-Drunk Love takes the patented Adam Sandler man-child and throws him into the real world where his immaturity helps him fall in love with a girl and endangers his life when a mattress salesman goes bananas at him. The Truman Show has a lot of logistical problems and plot-holes when you think about the situation for a while, but the power of the film and its crazy premise overpowers those nits and becomes something great. Again, all of these films are in my top 100 list. I just love a movie that aims high, even if it doesn’t reach its lofty target.

There are a few movies in my top 100 that are restrained, content to be the best that they can be. I’d put movies like Days of Heaven and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Raiders of the Lost Ark in that category, all of which might go all out for a scene but generally keep their ambitions close to their vests. It’s perfectly fine to do so. Last year Lincoln was one of my favorite films even though it was pretty much just a straight biography. But movies like The Cabin in the Woods and Cloud Atlas and Holy Motors occupy a greater amount of my thinking about last year’s films, and are the first titles that come to mind over the more staid films of the year. It’s something almost intangible, and I know that there are people out there that just prefer to have their movies be what they are and then be done. But why go to the cinema to see something you can outline in advance? What purpose do movies have if not to surprise us in their stories or their techniques or their ideas about life? Even today’s safest bets, superhero movies, are embracing the absurd. The opening of Man of Steel is just the most recent in a list of superhero films breaking out of the mold and becoming crazy. Thor: The Dark World had a trailer debut today and looks to capitalize on the biggest strength of the previous film, its sense of humor and high drama. Thor was peppered with Shakespearian dialogue and wacky outfits and canted angles and surreal sets. It’s the craziest of Marvel’s movie universe splinters and I can’t wait to see what happens next.