2014 is still pretty young, so I think that I still am justified with making an end of the year movie list. I didn’t get out to theaters as much this year, mostly because there wasn’t a whole lot that I wanted to see, but I did see a few films, so here are the films that I saw that came out in 2013. They are in descending order from the one I liked the most to the one I liked the least.
Gravity– There isn’t a whole lot about Gravity that I can say that hasn’t already been said. Out of all the movies I saw this year, this was the only one that left any real impact on me after I left the theaters. Although the story of Gravity is tense and exciting, the thing that really blew my mind about this film was how beautiful it was. The cinematography was wonderful and evoked both the grandeur and danger of space all at once. Every wide angle shot of space and the Earth was breathtaking and for once in my life I was glad that I saw a film in 3D. I really don’t know what more I can say about this film other then it was the best thing I saw in 2013 and I’m excited to see it again on big screen come January 17th.
Upstream Color- Well this is probably the strangest movie that I saw this year. Upstream Color is from up and coming director Shane Currath, who is know for making the dense and somewhat incomprehensible Primer. Primer is one of my favorite movies so I decided to check out Upstream Color. Compared to Primer, this movies is shot far more abstractly, giving you the sense that you are only getting impressions of the plot instead of the whole story. Fortunately that style works here. Upstream Color is like listening to music from Gyorgy Ligeti. It’s not about the component parts but the overall emotional impact. Viewers caught up in dissecting every single scene may find themselves frustrated but people who just let the emotion and the beauty of this film wash over them will find this movie to be thrilling, mind bending and inspiring.
Pacific Rim– Standing in stark contrast to the cerebral and emotionally moving Gravity stands Pacific Rim, the best dumb movie that you may have seen in a long time. Unfortunately a lot of people didn’t see this movie because of a general audience burnout for big dumb blockbusters. Those people really missed out. Pacific Rim was everything that I could hope for from a movie about giant robots punching giant aliens in the face. Coming across as a weird mixture of Transformers, Japanese anime and steampunk; Pacific Rim was a visually thrilling action movie that I really wish had existed when I was ten years old. Is it dumb? Yeah, probably. Is it awesome? Absolutely!
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire– I’ll admit it: I really did not want to like this movie coming into it. I didn’t really enjoy the last one and I’m getting kind of sick of adaptations of young adult novels. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to actually enjoy watching the newest installment of The Hunger Games. This film has a darker tone then the last movie and has a lot more sadness, betrayal, depression, torture, murder, blood, plotting, murder, doubt, loss, murder, executions, depression, and murder. These are positive changes. Although some of the subtleties of the plot will be lost on people who haven’t read the book and Katniss is still as boring as watching paint dry, Catching Fire is a well crafted action movie that really explores the full implications of its source material.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug– If I could sum up the newest installment of The Hobbit in one word it would probably be “meh”. There was nothing I really loved in this film but nothing I really hated (besides the ending. I think that Peter Jackson forgot that audiences should feel at least a little emotionally satisfied at the end of a film.) Really these movies suffer from overkill. The plot is so thick and packed that although some scenes are good, others are pointless and boring. With so much detail it all kind of averages everything out to just mediocrity. People just can’t seem to get as attached to these movies as they are to Lord of the Rings and don’t seem to know why. Is it because the movies are inferior to LOTR or is something else at play? (If you know, leave a comment on this webzone..)
Oblivion– I really wish more people had seen this movie. It wasn’t a great movie, but it was a decent movie. Oblivion was a smart, stylistic film that is part of a growing number of original story science fiction films that were released this year and will be released in the coming year. Sci-fi nerds will finally defeat comic book nerds! Although the script was a little scatterbrained and seemed to borrow something from every other science fiction film imaginable (I’m not kidding, I picked out similiarities between Oblivion and Blade Runner, Independence Day, Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Total Recall, War of the World just to name a few) it is well worth seeing at least once.
Iron Man 3– All I heard about this film before I saw it was: “The Mandarin.. It’s so dumb… Everybody was waiting for the Mandarin.. And they ruined it.” Thus, I was expecting to really not like this film when I saw it. In actuality though, I liked it. I do think that this is the weakest film in the Iron Man franchise, but it serves its purpose. Seeing Tony Stark out of the suit trying to figure things out was nice, and the infamous Mandarin reveal wasn’t really that bad. In fact I actually liked it. At least the writers were trying to do something new with the material. You have to respect a person for that.
World War Z– While watching World War Z I got the distinct impression that this movie was meant to be released a few years ago during the climax of the zombie hype. It seemed hopelessly outdated. That being said, World War Z was a decent film if overly formulaic. I liked seeing a big budget blockbuster stay so stark and gritty throughout the film and I was glad that the writers had the good sense to stick to their guns and only make a zombie movie. No tacked on love plot, no betrayal or anything else that would have inevitably sucked. I just wish that they had tried to make the movie unique from other zombie apocalypse movies and not serve us some reheated early Walking Dead plots with better special effects.
Star Trek Into Darkness– This was the most disappointing movie for me this year. I loved the 2009 Star Trek and was excited to see the sequel. At the time I wasn’t super well versed in Star Trek lore but I had seen The Wrath of Khan and liked it enough to hate this movie. Into Darkness stripped away all that was fun about original Star Trek and replaced it with moody characters that just mope around, mind numbing CGI action set pieces and lots more punching. Why are so many people punching each other in this movie? The best thing that came from this movie was that it made me want to watch more of the TV series so that I could see what good Star Trek actually looked like. Now in hindsight I can see that Into Darkness is nothing more than an action schlock-fest that just so happens to have the starship Enterprise in it.
Man of Steel– And now onto the worst movie of the year… There was a point about thirty minutes in to the climax of this movie where I just wanted to close my eyes and plug my ears and make it all go away.. And then it went on for another 45 minutes. Almost everything was wrong in this movie, from insisting that Superman is now an emotionally complex guy who mopes around to the action ending that went to an amount of excess that was just unbelievable. I don’t know what was going through the writer’s heads as they were working on this script. I don’t know if they actually thought that they were making a good movie.. I really want to ask them because I am still convinced that Man of Steel is at least to some extent some sort of sick joke.