Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Highlights (lionsroar)

Films watched for the first time and reviewed in 2013

Best Films of the year

In no particular order:

Okay, this was technically a 2012 release, but I didn’t see it until January. The same is true with Silver Linings Playbook. But we’re talking about the year we see a movie and reviewed it on the blog.

The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, Argo tells a historical event and while it takes some license with the facts, it does make a true story seem suspenseful. Going in, if you’ve ever heard of the Iran Hostage Crisis, you’d at least heard of the U.S. Embassy workers who escaped with the help of the Canadian Embassy in Tehran. While not 100 percent historically accurate (neither was Lincoln, another historical drama from 2012), it worked as a movie and that’s what’s important. I was on the edge of my seat even knowing the group makes it out successfully.

The obvious star of this movie is David O. Russell, who both wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. This is a quirky Romantic Comedy about two of the most broken people you’d never want to meet: Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a bipolar man obsessed with his ex-wife, and Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a policeman’s widow who drowned her sorrows with promiscuity.

Together the two help rebuild each other while preparing for a dance contest Tiffany has her heart set on participating in. While the goal they set is sort of the point equivalent to a participation ribbon, it is the fact that they make it there at all that is important. Jennifer Lawrence would deservedly win the Academy Award for Best Actress, but the cast, which also included Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker, makes for a very strong ensemble.

A man crazy about guns meets a lady sharpshooter who is a little crazy. Okay, this film from 1950 isn’t new, but I saw it for the first time this year and I fell in love. Now some of that has to do with Peggy Cummins, the Welsh-born actress who plays Laurie. She is great in the part and I’ve never seen a woman look sexier with a gun belt on. I don’t blame Bart (John Dall) for falling for her and doing whatever he can to keep her.

The story is a little slow to get going, but when it does the film is really worth watching. The film is famous for one sequence, a ten minute bank robbery shot in its entirety from the backseat of a car, but there is so much to love in this film. Given his love for Laurie, what Bart has to do at the end of the film makes it very powerful. Of all the movies I saw in 2013, this is one of the few I’d want to see again and again and would most highly recommend.

Biggest Film Disappointments of 2013

In no particular order:

The Die Hard franchise is one without a mastermind. There is no George Lucas or book series behind these films to guide it. The films sort of lurch along, some good, Die Hard, some not, Die Hard 2, some sort of in between, Die Hard with a Vengeance. The fourth film, Live Free or Die Hard finally seemed to get the franchise on the right track and picked up a couple of characters, a more mature Lucy Gennero (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Matt Farrell (Justin Long), a slacker/computer programmer and possible romantic interest for Lucy. If they made a sequel to Live Free, I’d been happy.

But, no, all that gets swept away in the fifth installment. This is a film designed to appeal to as many international markets as possible with Australian, Russian and German actors/actresses cast in prominent roles, including John’s son, Jack (Jai Courtney). Lucy is reduced to a cameo and the movie suffers. There is a yet another heist and a lot of action, but there is none of the humor that made the Die Hard films fun to watch. Even the catchphrase is mishandled. It makes you wonder if the franchise has run out of steam.

I will admit that I’m not a huge Superman fan. I saw the original movie with Christopher Reeve when it came out in 1978 and I went into that with high hopes and came away disappointed as well. But my biggest disappointment is the stupidity of the back story they give the Man of Steel. While they sort of improved on the Jor-El side of the story, they did a disservice to the Kent side. Why was Clark made to feel ashamed of saving other children’s lives? Why did his father Jonathan (Kevin Costner) sacrifice himself rather than let his son save him? They both seemed like stupid choices to me.

And this was not a reboot of the Superman story, rather a remake of the Superman film from 1978. General Zod is not an original character. He did not come along until 1961 in a franchise that has been around since 1938. In Hollywood’s attempt to retell and reboot, but bigger and flashier than the original, Superman’s battle with Zod not only levels Metropolis (like a gabillion dollars’ worth of damage and most likely hundreds or thousands of deaths), but that doesn’t make the movie any better.

Okay, I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but I have pretty much the same complaint with the second of the Star Trek movies that I had with Man of Steel. While I liked the film, it is basically a remake of Wrath of Khan (1982) rather than an all-new Star Trek adventure. Oh, there are a few twists and turns, but basically it’s an unneeded redo of one of the better original Star Trek movies. We don’t need to see movie stories again and again; especially since it’s going to be several years until we see a new Stark Trek movie. Remakes seldom tell the story better than the original and J.J. Abrams has a chance to take the crew of the Enterprise boldly go where the original series had never gone before, not retrace its footsteps. I’m hoping we don’t see some new remake of The Search for Spock (1984) whenever this series picks up again.

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