Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Zack Clopton's 2013 Film Retrospective
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with…
ZACK CLOPTON’S 2013 FILM RETROSPECTIVE!!!”
Normally, I open my year end retrospective with a look back at the major new stories of the past 12 months. Today, I don’t wanna’. We didn’t go to war with Syria, the government wasted lots of money spying on us, tragedy struck Boston, and Congress took two weeks off because agreeing on things is hard. Aside from that, 2013 was a year mostly defined by stupid people saying or doing stupid things.
Film Thoughts, meanwhile, had a more productive year. My Oscar coverage was more thorough then ever. The Bangers n’ Mash Show stuck to a sort-of regular schedule. The Halloween Horror-Fest left me satisfied. I only completed three Director Report Cards (four if Catch-Up Week counts), fewer then 2012’s six. However, I reviewed 61 films, more then 2012’s 58. For the first time in this blog’s six year history, I made strides towards making it worth reading more often.
Enough about me, what about the people who died? Roger Ebert’s death hit me the hardest, as his writing has been an inspiration for years. With Ray Harryhausen joining Forest Ackerman and Ray Bradbury in heaven, the first generation of monster kids are gone forever. I was never fans of James Gandolfini or Paul Walker but both died too young. We lost Lou Reed, Elmore Leonard, Karen Black, Billy Jack, Jonathan Winters, Miss Krabappel, Miss Peacock, Annette Funicello, Black Belt Jones, George Jones, Ed Lauter, Al Goldstein, Julie Harris, Peter O’Toole, Harry Reems, and the only Devo drummer that matters. It was a bad year to be a fan of awesome stuff.
As for the Year in Cinema, people who are paid to write about movies keep going on about what a great year 2013 was. Maybe it was. Maybe I haven’t seen the glitzy dramas, fascinating documentaries, and pretentious art-film wank-fests. From my end of the pool, with the horror films and superhero flicks, I was mostly disappointed. There was enough interesting stuff to form a solid top twenty but it seems many things I was excited for ended up being forgettable. I’m qualified to say as, aside from Spike Jonze’s “Her,” I saw everything I was looking forward too.
Below is THE LIST, short reviews of every new release I saw this year, a total of 77 films. By reading this, you’ll go on a journey through the year with me. Which films were good, which were bad, and which ones do I barely remember? Read on to find out!
Chan-wook Park adapts fine to English, lending his spellbinding visuals to this utterly engrossing gothic thriller. Mia Wasikowska makes an excellent strange girl and Matthew Goode is an unnervingly good psychopath. The plot twists and turns until you have no idea what’s coming next, all the while maintaining a disturbing air of oddness.
2. The World’s End
Denser and wackier then previous Pegg/Frost/Winter projects. Which isn’t a bad thing, as the movie is equally hilarious, action-packed, heartfelt, and character driven as the other two. Once again, the team sneaks life lessons in under ramped-up genre homages and uproarious humor. Pegg and Frost both give career-best performances. The end threw me for a bit of a loop though.
3. Zero Charisma
Not all nerds are terrible people but some are. This film is an uncompromising peak at the darkest corners of geek fandom. Scott, a brave performance from Sam Eidson, is a deeply unpleasant human being. It’s an incredible performance and one that explores the neurotic, insecure mindset in an honest way, no punches pulled. Seek out this scrappy indie.
4. Room 237
Is “The Shining” Kubrick confessing he faked the moonlanding? About the genocide of the Indians? The Holocaust? Everything in a Kubrick film has a purpose but some of these theories even give him too much credit. What this brilliant documentary shows is that people can look at the same film and come away with totally different impressions. It’s about the malleability of art.
Sandra Bullock, whom I hate, isn’t the star of this film. Rather, a series of incredibly thrilling action set-pieces are what drives the story. Alfonso Cuaron’s camera swirls around the character, effectively placing the audience in the cast’s shoes while continuously upping the tension.
By shooting the film largely in point-of-view shots, the filmmakers put you even further into the mind of a deranged person. The stylish direction, fantastic electronic score, and brutal, bloody attack scenes help but its Elijah Wood’s sensitive, thoughtful performance that makes this a truly captivating film and a worthy remake.
Neil Jordon, the man who started the romantic cinematic vampire fad, returns to end it, with this gory, beautifully photographed, deeply unglamorous bloodsucker flick. Buoyed by two captivating female leads, this unfolds like an engrossing novel, cutting back and forth between eras. The film earns its melancholic mood and wraps up on a touching, satisfying note.
THREE AND A HALF STARS:
8. We Are What We Are
After two overrated features, Jim Mickle comes into his own with this superior remake. A dark tale of family, the film is sustained by a foreboding Southern Gothic atmosphere and a committed cast, especially the two actresses playing the daughters. While the ending is a bit disappointing, relying more on gore then quiet tension, this remains an involving, fascinating horror-drama.
9. The Congress
Destined to be analyzed for years, the animated sequences in this are surreal, amazing, and nearly unique. Visually, it’s incredible. The concepts and themes are diverse, complicated, and presented in sometimes pretentious ways. The ending tries to tie up all this madness with an emotional coda that mostly succeeds. Harvey Kietal’s brief, live action role is some of his best acting in decades.
10. Pacific Rim
Rocket punches, mechs vs. kaiju, chain swords, countless references and Ron Perlman being a badass make this a fantastically entertaining nerd spectacle. The movie is actually too awesome, too soon. The ending is a let-down after the fantastic middle battle. The lead is also the least interesting character. Still, del Toro has birthed what is destined to be a true cult classic.
11. Only God Forgives
A hyper-violent tone poem on the nature of justice. The director distills “Drive” down to its best parts, creating a visually arresting exercise in style and captivating film experience. Humor even pokes through, with the inexplicable karaoke and Kristin Scott Thomas’ harpy performance. How much more monosyllabic can Ryan Gosling be? The answer is none. None more monosyllabic.
12. Bad Milo
Plays its absurd premise out to full comedic value. The lead is deadpan and relatable while the supporting cast features hilarious turns from Stephen Root and Peter Stromire. The titular Milo is surprisingly cute and likable for an ass-dwelling demon. The ending is weirdly sweet but completely sincere.
13. Escape Plan
A movie that understands the pleasures of solid structure, dramatic tension, and whip-like pacing. It also knows when to hand Arnold a giant machine gun. Arnie and Sly play off each other nicely while the surprisingly smart screenplay hooks the audience early. A fun throw-back to eighties action cheese that also functions as a perfectly entertaining stand-alone film.
14. Thor: The Dark World
Smartly, the “Thor” films continue to root their epic fantasy plots in humor and character interactions. The Whedon-esque dialogue and hilarious supporting cast make this a briskly entertaining film, along with the creative action and the gorgeous set design. The least interesting part of the film is its plot, a personality lacking villain, generic threat, and by-the-numbers story.
Disney should be commended for the female focused story, placing sisterly bonding over romance. Ana is lovably klutzy and Elsa’s dilemmas are rooted in real world adolescent fears. The CGI ice-scapes are gorgeous, the comic relief hilarious, and the adventure scenes assured. The songs are unusually weak, a few of the musical numbers stopping the plot cold. (Sorry.)
J.T. Petty has created a charmingly perverse horror-comedy. The cast, led by a hilariously vulgar Clancy Brown, lend an off-hand, sarcastic manner to the “paranormal experts vs. the end of the world” concept. The budget is too small to truly explore the scope, the documentary scenes are unwelcomed, and the ending is disappointingly typical. Still, fans will likely love this.
17. I Declare War
One of the best premises of the year, the film contrasts the petty conflicts of adolescence with melodramatic war movie clichés. The young cast is hugely talented and have fun with dialogue that ranges from mock-grizzled to circularly absurd. Sadly, the script can’t maintain that youthful energy, the movie slowly coming to a stop, instead of building in intensity.
18. Jug Face
Director Chad Crawford Kinkle creates a fully-formed world out of his backwoods setting. The premise is bizarre and not like anything else in horror genre. Lauren Ashley Carter carries the film nicely and the supporting cast is full of memorable faces. It’s a shame the director doesn’t have more confidence in his visual design and the script runs out of gusto at the end.
19. Violet & Daisy
Despite killing people for a living, Violet and Daisy are both innocents. The film is actually about their loss of innocence and belatedly coming into adulthood but not in the way you’d expect. Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan are both funny and heartfelt while James Gandolfini exudes warmness and maturity. Their performances root the dreamy, sometimes uncertain material.
20. You’re Next
Starts out playing horror clichés straight, slowly starts subverting them, before slipping into outright parody at the end. Sharni Vinson is a final girl that doesn’t wait for the last act to start kicking ass. While the characters and plot twist are hard to handle at first, the film’s impish side shows through in time, revealing this as a clever, smart-ass take on home invasion thrillers.
21. Jack the Giant Slayer
A sense of old fashion adventure elevates this above other fairy tale adapted would-be blockbusters. Nicholas Hoult is unexpectantly charming and has great chemistry with Elenor Tomlinson. The CGI giants are fun to look at and there’s some surprisingly exciting action, even if the movie’s last half falls flat and the plot is typical Hollywood screenwriting nonsense.
Not as good as the original. The first segment is a derivative if effective boo-show. The second goes successfully for dark comedy. The third is a gory, unsettling cult thriller while part four is an intense monster chase. The shaky-cam is heavier. “V/H/S” is probably the only modern horror franchise that tries to scare audiences, which is admirable, even if they don’t always make it.
23. American Mary
As a twisted comedy, a character study, or even a metaphor for women fighting through the work place, this works great. Whenever it has to function as a more conventional horror movie is when it falters. Katherine Isabelle is fantastic in the lead and holds your attention through the shaky middle chapter. The writers totally pulled the ending out of their asses though.
“Huldras” are a bit of obscure Norweigan mythology I rather like. Befitting its subject, this film is intentionally vague, generating a real sense of mystery and mysticism. The two characters have real world problems that are organically incorporated with the story. It’s a shame this is so short , so heavy on voiceover exposition, and peters off at the end..
25. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Far more entertaining then expected. The script is rightfully tongue-in-cheek, having fun with the ridiculously anachronistic weapons and dialogue. Each central cast member jokes around and hams it up, Jeremy Renner especially. The action is gleefully gory. The story is nonsense, of course, but this is still one of the more amusing horror/action hybrids of recent years.
26. John Dies at the End
Don Coscarelli was the perfect man to bring David Wong’s absurd images to the screen. He smartly condenses the novel, even if it means excising some hilarious, scary, weird stuff. The lead actors are well cast and the creature effects are extremely nasty. It’s not as good as the book but it is a worthy adaptation, perfectly capturing the tone, if not the story.
27. From Up on Poppy Hill
Quiet character study that captures the cast’s personalities, the time, and the place through nonintrusive observation. The romantic entanglement of the plot is less involving then the simple humor and conversations that pass between the characters. The animation is lovely even if this probably didn’t have to be animated.
28. This is the End
What should have been a masturbatory celebrity vanity project is instead a genuine genre mash-up that smartly skewers, not only the public personas of the involved stars, but the price of celebrity in our tabloid world. In addition to featuring some hilarious dialogue, dick/pot/gay panic jokes aplenty, and some brilliant horror parody.
29. The Conjuring
A better then average studio spook-show. James Wan continues to show a talent for viably creepy atmosphere and frequently plays slow-burns for all they’re worth. Disappointingly, like in previous efforts, this eventually falls back on overdone special effects and obvious story turns. Once again, Wan has almost made a great horror film. At least the doll is creepy as fuck.
30. Man of Steel
Gets it about 87% right. Cavill, Adams, and most of the supporting cast are perfect. The humanity and moral center of Superman is spot-on. The hand-to-hand fight scenes are exactly what comic fans have been waiting for. It’s a shame Zack Snyder’s shaky, manufactured “gritty” direction is so bad and his weak pacing causes the movie to drag before the awesome finale.
31. Star Trek Into Darkness
Filled to the brim with awesome action sequences, special effects, humor, a great cast, and even something resembling a message. The revelation about the villain is wholly unnecessary and some of the more blatant call-backs and imitations were problematic. The weak last act isn’t enough to ruin a hugely entertaining experience and solid addition to the series.
32. Monsters University
The laughs aren’t there at first and the college setting doesn’t lend itself to creative ideas. However, about half way through, you start to care about the characters and the movie becomes astonishingly sweet and funny, leading up to a surprisingly good ending with an unexpected message. Moreover, this is Pixar’s most visually beautiful film yet.
Swedish character study about a father haunted by a mare. The nightmare scenes are rather effectively creepy, making great use of sound design. The family drama proves involving, helped along by the naturalistic direction. The lead character is quite unlikable but Thomas Hedengran does his best. The ending is abrupt and comes about twenty minutes too late.
34. Dark Touch
Difficult to watch, this genre film addresses the real life horrors of child abuse. The performances, especially young Missy Keating, are commendable, as is the chilling atmosphere. Writer/director Marina de Van has had difficulty ending her films on satisfying notes before and this is no different. By the end, this disturbing horror picture disappears into undefined allegory.
35. Europa Report
There’s one chilling moment, a POV shot of an astronaut drifting through space, the ship growing smaller in the distance. The rest, an effective if derivative astronaut thriller, has a hard time living up to that scene. The production design and cast are solid. The found-footage angle is used well. I liked it better then “Sunshine” and “Mission to Mars” but would rank it below “Moon.”
I mostly liked this. The clever premise is executed interestingly. Yet there’s something awkward about how the mystery unfolds. Abigail Breslin is strong enough but seems unsure, not nailing the emotional highs. Vincenzo Natali’s direction is stylish but unusually crowded. Only Stephen McHattie’s sleazy performance is self-assured. The film falls just short of its promising start.
37. Magic Magic
Hypnotic and distressing. Juno Temple’s raw, emotionally barring performance is the reason to stick around. If the goal was to put the audience in the mind of someone experiencing a mental breakdown, it succeeds. Perhaps too well, as this is an unpleasant watch. It hurts the film that the supporting cast is so obnoxious, sometimes making this hard to watch for the wrong reasons.
38. The Lords of Salem
Rob Zombie dials back the gore and amps up the freaky imagery. Owing quite a bit to Polanski, the first half creates a genuinely unnerving atmosphere and has several good shocks, even if Sheri isn’t as strong an actress as the material needs. This eventually falls into plottless abstraction, which isn’t as effective even if Rob creates some honestly weird, memorable images.
39. The Last Stand
While it’s a bit slow to start and the Las Vegas subplot could have used some serious trimming, this is a satisfying shoot-em-up action flick. Enough of Ji Woon-Kim’s twisted humor and creative energy shins through. Arnold adapts to the old man persona extremely well. The primo supporting cast helps a great deal.
40. Machete Kills
Supremely silly but still massively entertaining. Rodriguez packs the script full of too many ideas, plotlines, and characters, as usual. The movie abandons faux-grindhouse for a goofy sci-fi riff fairly early. Still, you can’t undersell the simple joys of Danny Trejo decapitating lots of people, Sofia Vergara’s machine gun bra, or Mel Gibson riding around in a sand speeder.
41. My Amityville Horror
As a skeptic of the Amityville incident, I don’t see this as an expose on the infamous haunting. Instead, it’s a study of Daniel Lutz. He was clearly traumatized by something and hates his step-dad passionately. How much of his interview is performance or sincere confession is hard to read, lending ambiguity that makes this more interesting then it would have been otherwise.
42. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Smaug is really, really awesome, the best realized dragon to ever grace the screen. The rest of the movie? Eh. The additional subplots are cancerous, the structure is jumbled, the action is exaggerated, the direction is distracting, and the ending is non-existent. But that dragon. Man, he’s great.
43. The East
Most of what’s interesting about this comes from guessing where its lead characters’ loyalties lie. The ending falters by revealing that definitively. Brit Marling plays it too low-key, underselling the complexity. Luckily, the rest of the cast brings more intensity. The middle section, when the eco-terrorists are doing their thing, is when this best functions and generates some honest tension.
44. Kick-Ass 2
At first, there’s little balance between three unrelated plots. Half-way through, things pick up with two stand-out action scenes involving a lawn mower and a van. More comedic then the first, which makes the serious moments stick out further. Chloe does great again, Jim Carrey’s small role is appreciated, and McLovin makes a surprisingly vile villain. I’d see a(n unlikely) third one.
45. The Purge
The social commentary is muddled but I appreciate that they tried. “The Purge” is actually a siege picture, an action-ized version of “The Strangers,” filled with solid thrills, creepy images, decent shocks, and some entertaining action. The cast is good even if a few actors play it a little broad. A hopelessly awkward last act goes a long way towards distracting from the great middle section.
46. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
I miss the characters from the first movie, the cartoon-y tone, and found most of the new cast fairly bland. There’s too much shaky-cam action. Still, the ninja fight scenes are exciting and the villains are awesome. It’s a satisfying popcorn action flick despite the “realistic” tone.
As with “District 9,” Neill Blomkamp hitches obvious social commentary to a bloody, sci-fi action story. “Elysium” looks great, of course, and there are some fantastic ideas, some of them darkly funny. The action is never quite satisfying, even with Sharlto Copley’s great villain, and the story is highly predictable.
48. Hatchet III
Continues the “Hatchet” tradition of entertaining, campy gore-fests. Part 3 looks less cheap then the second and at least attempts some scares under the fake blood, body parts, and intestines. Caroline Williams has a great supporting role, which makes up for Danielle Harris’ cartoonish lead, Sid Haig’s silly cameo, and the sometimes overly clever, profanity-filled dialogue.
A pitch black comedy that’s so dry, you wonder how much of it is meant to be funny. Both lead performances are quite good, Alice Lowe especially, and you quickly get invested in this quirky couple who just happen to murder people. The laughs are few but loud. Ben Wheatley, as a director, definitely has a strong grasp on tone.
TWO AND A HALF STARS:
50. Despicable Me 2
You’ll laugh but will you remember why? The plot is meaningless and shifting the focus away from Gru’s relationship with the girls probably wasn’t a good idea. Even then, Kristen Wigg’s character brings a new energy, leading to the biggest laughs in the film. I have a low tolerance for the Minions’ antics and that makes up way too much of the runtime.
51. Revenge for Jolly!
Film-noir riff about a man seeking revenge for the murder of… His dog. The humor is sometimes lost amidst the dark tone and bloody violence. There’s something captivating about the stoned-out lead performances. The electronic score is surprisingly excellent. Just don’t expect an ending that wraps everything up neatly.
52. Hell Baby
As far as horror parodies go, this one had a low bar to clear. The excellent cast is underused, save Michael Ian Black’s cameo and a scene-stealing Keegan-Michael Key. A few gags are awesome, such as the baby hot potato and Riki Lindholm’s nude scene. Others, like a repeated visit to a sandwich shop, fall flat. Still, a handful of belly laughs are worth the price of a digital rental.
Chloe Moretz is miscast. She’s too strong to ever buy as a victim. Still, her performance is good, as is Julianne Moore’s. The CGI is overused but the prom scene is still thrilling. The direction is competent but the story follows the exact same outline as previous adaptations. While inoffensive, this one didn’t convince me that a second remake of “Carrie” was necessary.
54. Ginger & Rosa
Most coming-of-age stories follow a similar outline. The actors have to distinguish the material. Elle Fanning is too shallow before exploding in the much-better last act. The filmmaker doesn’t succeed in capturing the spirit of ‘60s Britain. (Casting the film with Americans doesn’t help.) A grown man sleeping with a teenage girl when he has Christina Hendricks at home seems unlikely.
55. The Wolverine
Focuses more on Wolverine as a character, which is interesting. Jackman does well and the cast is strong. The fight scenes are overly shaky or implausible, aside from an impressive one-on-one duel halfway through. The villain’s plot is unnecessarily convoluted and there are a few holes in the concept. Still, it makes for an intriguing take on the long in the tooth superhero franchise.
56. Escape from Tomorrow
Inevitably, the making-of story behind this is more interesting then the finished product. The hammered-home, unpleasant theme of sexual frustration doesn’t blend with the story of corporations engineering dreams and expectations. It goes on too long and gets self-indulgent before the end. Still, the filmmaker shows some twisted talent.
57. Touchy Feely
Seeing an emotionally constipated dentist get involved with the New Age scene is by far the most entertaining moment in this quiet indie. The cast is capable especially an underused Ellen Page who gets a heart-breaking monologue all to herself. It’s the abrupt script that is the main problem. Still, at only 88 minutes long, you can’t say your time’s been wasted.
58. The ABCs of Death
Anthologies are always uneven. An anthology involving 26 filmmakers is going to be especially uneven. The highs are very high, the lows are very low. “D,” “U,” and “T” are the best, while “W,” “P,” and “Z” are nearly unwatchable. There’s a lot of weirdness for weirdness’ sake and some boredom. It’s definitely too long. I liked more then I hated so it evens out, I suppose.
Is Larry Fessenden mocking trite horror clichés or playing them straight? The dead cell phone and found footage angle are held up as ridiculous. However, it seems we’re supposed to care about the bickering survivors and their escalating conflicts. A few plot turns are rather ridiculous while others are more cruelly creative. The giant fish is cool and the score is oddly memorable.
60. Berberian Sound Studio
An audio-visual mood piece about a sound designer slowly loosing his mind while working on a gory Italian horror film. As you’d expect, the sound design and music are great and sometimes deeply creepy. There’s some memorable images about. However, the story eventually falls into meandering experimentation. I’d probably like the fictional movie-within-the-movie more.
61. Bullet to the Head
Not Sly’s most inspired effort. The clichéd story and warehouse settings I’m okay with. I’m not okay with the lack of chemistry between the leads, awkward narration, and low energy. In the last act, when the focus shifts to shoot-em-up action and dude-on-dude brawling, things finally pick up. Probably not the return to form for Walter Hill we were hoping for.
62. Iron Man 3
Incredibly disappointing. Robert Downey Jr. is always a joy to watch, I loved the entire Tennessee subplot, and the action, effects, and stunts are uniformly strong. A plot-twist concerning the main villain derails the movie. The second half is a jumbled mess and the ending a complete let-down.
63. Texas Chainsaw 3D
Puts enough of a twist on the material to make up for the dumb script, bad acting, continuity errors, trite melodrama, and underwear model cast. The gore is well done, the 3D/CGI is not distracting, the lead actress is very hot, and there are some genuine themes of family and destiny.
64. Black Rock
Designed as a feminist take on “Deliverance,” this is hampered by Mark Duplass’ typically petty screenplay. The unlikable characters argue about relationship bullshit and make increasingly bad decisions, making the theme of sisterhood a bit hard to swallow. Once the action starts, this builds into an okay thriller with a decent finale and an unusually good score.
65. Frankenstein’s Army
If you like monsters, this one has got some crazy monsters for you. Shambling corpses outfitted with blades of all types, stiffly marching forward. The found-footage gimmick is implausible but does add some first-person intensity. The story is a thin collection of encounters, lacks motivation, and the characters are as swallow as can be. But, man, those monsters are awesome.
Similar to “Hostel” but with less hateful characters and an earthquake standing in for Slovakian torturers. Nicolas Lopez is a better director then Eli Roth, knows how to create real shocks, and has more on his mind then just gross-outs. This is an effective, if unambitious, thriller until a stupid plot twist and cruel ending squander any good will the film has built up.
67. The Last Exorcism Part II
Dropping the found footage angle and focusing on Ashley Belle was a great idea. Her performance is quite good and suggests a more straight film, focused on her trauma and recovery, could have been fascinating. Instead, it’s the only saving grace of a thudding studio horror film, filled with constant, intrusive jump-scares, pointless characters, and lazy structure.
68. Detention of the Dead
Adding zombies to “The Breakfast Club” is a cute idea. Despite a decent cast, the characters are intentionally exaggerated, which becomes a problem when the movie wants us to take them seriously. The story starts to spin its wheels halfway through, the audience’s interest, and patience for this goofy film, wearing thin before then.
69. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
After being shelved for seven years, the sun-washed, fake-grain, post-millennial visuals are instantly dated. This follows the slasher outline closely, with actually age-appropriate actors and minimal gore. It seems to be making a statement about male entitlement, at least until the point-negating twist ending. The cast is obnoxious but I liked the retro soundtrack.
70. Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine isn’t just wallowing in/criticizing the hedonism of youth. Casting former Disney starlets is obviously meant to comment on how the culture treats young women or how they see themselves. Yet the constant excess, like James Franco’s cartoonish performance, wares the audience down. When a film is so deliberately shallow, it’s hard to care about what happens.
71. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
The movie’s biggest problem is that it asks Charlie Sheen to feel shame, something he’s probably incapable of. The casual misogyny, thin characters, and general smugness is difficult to forgive. Roman Coppola successfully apes Wes Anderson’s style, with the retro soundtrack and meticulous set design. His next movie will probably be better.
72. Dracula 3D
All the ridiculous stuff we laughed at in the trailer is still there. The special effects are bafflingly awful. The script is a mess. The performances are woodened. Still, you get the impression that Dario was at least trying on this one. He was having fun. The movie is entertaining in spite of itself.
73. Evil Dead
Most disappointingly, this never tries to be scary, instead merely satisfied with being gross and gory. There are at least two decent attack scenes and the cast is okay. However, the script has many lazy, unlikable elements. It never feels like an “Evil Dead” film and seems to misunderstand what made the originals so great.
74. Come Out and Play
Nearly a shot-for-shot remake of obscure seventies thriller “Who Can Kill a Child?,” director Makinov can’t replicate the chilly atmosphere and disturbing tension of the original. Instead, he ramps up the gore, blares the sound design to deafening levels, and adds shaky direction. Oh, and some unearned pretensions. Skip this one and rent the original instead.
75. No One Lives
Ryuhei Kitamura’s direction is disappointingly bland. The deeply unlikable characters and laughable dialogue drags down what could have been an interesting crime/slasher hybrid. The extended, out-of-nowhere catfight midway through makes me wonder if this was suppose to be some over-the-top genre exercise but the rest of the movie is drearily routine.
ONE AND A HALF STARS:
76. The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse
After six years on the shelf, the CGI animation looks terrible. The extended delay doesn’t forgive the episodic pacing, the monotonic rock-guitar score, the terrible voice acting, or the ridiculous time jump a third of the way into the movie. Some of the action scenes are well-animated. It’s a shame that Justin Paul Ritter’s once promising career has turned into a non-starter.
Syfy forced me to acknowledge this by giving it a brief theatrical run. The most insulting part isn’t the charmless SFX, pitiful direction, sub-community theatre acting, or pathetic attempts at drama. Every character slaying sharks with ease and slinging awful one-liners hurt the most. Like all Asylum joints, this is also very boring, most of the runtime spent inside an unmoving truck.
I work all year towards my retrospective. 79 has been my average for a few years and, yes, I'm disappointed that I came up a few short. However, I think it's fair to say I still see more then the average film goer. I'm still in that weird grey zone between casual movie fan and actual film critic. Thus is the life of a movie nerd.
Now that we've close the book on 2013, come back tomorrow for my 2014 Film Preview! I've got Director Report Cards, podcast, Oscar coverage, all sorts of crazy stuff promised for next year. Until then, thanks for reading. I'll see you on the other side.