2013: The Skinny

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Hello my 3 readers! Or is it more than 3? Maybe more than 94 according to WordPress.

I got my “Yearly Report” this morning and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had over 2900 views this year! From 94 countries no less! I don’t know what brings you here, but I thank you for tuning in! I’ll do my best to make 2014 more productive for my “Skinny”.

Now, before we move forward with the list, I have to clarify one thing…I’ve been lying to you all year. Back in February, I compiled a list/review of every movie I have seen in movie theaters. Every Movie. From 1987 to 2012, 25 years of Cinema. Somewhere in the punch drunk hours of the night, as I wrote this list to end all lists, I lost count. I somehow missed a couple of years in the early 2000’s and my count was off by over 30 films. I sat down, and revamped those lists this week:

I made a point of putting numbers next to every single movie on the list. I then had to go back to every movie post made in 2013 and edit the…

The ###st film I have seen in theaters…

…tag that starts all of my recent reviews. Once that pain in the ass was over, I realized that my total tally jumped from 348 to 382! 2014 will be the year I hit 400. So cool. But that’s not why you are here.

This is it everyone! I have assembled my top ten films of the year as well as the absolute worst. Now, a disclaimer: I have not seen everything. I am not a professional reviewer, and am only able to see a small, very small, fraction of the major releases never mind every indie movie that is the darling of expensive film festivals. These are movies everyone has access to at the local cinema. There are several I WISH I had seen (Captain Phillips, 12 years a slave, Wolf of Wall Street) but I just did not have the chance. I am also not seeing as many bad movies as I once did. My crap filter has developed to the point where I can save myself a lot of aggravation. Of the 23 movies I saw in 2013, these are the notables.  Enjoy.

This was relatively easy as it was the FIRST movie I saw in 2013. Everything went up from here.

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Sweet Jesus, this movie is terrible. Sitting in the theater, I had an unmistakable moment of awareness this may be worse than Battlefield: Earth. I do not write those words lightly. Battlefield was the worst film of the “aughts“, and possibly of all time. At the very least, I could identify BF:E as a movie. This is a series of almost to not funny clips trying to be the next Kentucky Fried Movie. It fails miserably. For a detailed recounting of the horror that was Movie 43, check out my review.

Honorable Mention:

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This absolutely would have been the worst if not for the black hole that was movie 43. I am still not sure if it was a comedy. (review)

This year was also fairly easy to assemble. There were SO MANY “meh” movies that it practically made itself. I was actually a little scared that I could assemble ten films in this list, but we made it. In reverse order.

10

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I was amazed to see Tom Cruise make it back on a top 10 list, but he did. This surprisingly good scifi movie hit all the right notes for me. Pretty much Wall-E with clones instead of robots. (review)

9

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I was not expecting something this good on that cold April day, but Olympus delivered. Great action, good cast, and no cheese. A straight up action flick in the vein of Die Hard. (review)

8

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I was a bit surprised how low this one placed, but while good, I don’t think it measures up to the competition. It builds on the work in the first and advances the story forward. Wonderful casting and cutting edge effects and technology come together to give us a great adaptation of the novel. (review)

7

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The best version of the novel. It was a stylish take on my favorite book that was miles ahead of previous efforts. (review)

6

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The most fun in a movie theater this year, hands down. Seeing this in IMAX was the only way to see it. The biggest tragedy is that I will never see it on that scale again, meaning my one viewing was likely my only viewing. (review)

5

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Katniss does it again, while I loved the first film, this was incredibly improved. It amps up the danger and went in a direction I was not expecting. Not reading the novels was actually a tremendous advantage. (review)

4

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The best of the Cornetto trilogy. This was a terrific look at aging and the desire of some 40 somethings to recapture those lost years. Pegg gives one of his best performances in the midst of an Alien Invasion. (review)

3

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This was the epitome of the Superman I grew up with. It was the first serious take on a “Super” character. No cheese, no comedy, a serious movie. This turned off a lot of people who complained that it was “joyless”. They expect every comic movie to be Avengers where the jokes keep pace with the action, but that’s not what comics are. When you read a comic, the stories are serious. Superman isn’t funny, neither are those around him (save occasional Jimmy Olsen Turtle Boy). This was one of the best comic movies ever made because it did not screw around. Those Phantom Zone Penis Prison ships were an unfortunate choice though. Might have made #2 if not for that. (review 1 and review 2)

2

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Oh this was a tough one. I had this pegged for Numero Uno since I left the theater. Woody Allen back in top form. Cate Blanchett making a very strong play for Best Actress, and a great assortment of costars. This is the reason I see films, especially in the theater. It’s a whole different experience seeing Woody’s world on the big screen.  (review)

1

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Pulling out the late win is American Hustle. I had a tough time deciding between this and Blue Jasmine, but it was the strength of the actors that propelled this to the top. It looks at the late 70’s as it was often portrayed, seedy, run down, corrupt, but with style. I am not sure what Oscar love will find it’s way into the hands of David O. Russell, but there should be some. It’s still in theaters- go see it. (review)

and that, Ladies and Gents, is 2013. See you in the new year as I watch a few movies in January and prepare for the Oscar race!

American Hustle

The 382nd film I have seen in theaters…

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My sweet lord. This is the type of movie that reminds me why I see movies. Top 5 material. As always, the images are the property of Columbia Pictures/Sony/ any other companies involved in this. I make no money off this. hehe

The Plot

This is based, loosely, on the late 70’s ABSCAM investigation. The FBI created an entrapment scheme for Politicians to accept bribes and go after organized crime. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play Irving and Edith, 2 con artists that are forced by FBI man DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) to perform a scam involving a fictitious rich Arab. As DiMaso’s desire to make his mark gets stronger, they find themselves getting drawn deeper and deeper into a web of lies and even potential death as prominent Mobsters are lured in by the “honey pot”. Let me interject here with an admission- Amy Adams is adorable, so hot.

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Anyways, the plot comes to a head when the FBI lures several high ranking politicians into the web, catch them on tape taking bribes, making it clear that once this goes public, the scammers are as good as dead thanks to screwing over the Mob. Irving now tries to find a way for he and Edith to escape not only prosecution, but also getting whacked.

The Cast

This is the ensemble cast to end all ensemble casts. All are great on their own, but when combined they become magical.

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Christian Bale performs another transformation into Irving Weinberg, the Con man of all con men. Such a damn great performance. He vanishes into his roles like few other. Irving KNOWS how screwed he is, he just wants to get out of danger and live to see tomorrow. A survivor. Bale brings a terrific energy to this. Thanks to him, I am now familiar with how hairpieces work.

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Bradley Cooper is Agent DiMaso, and what a miserable bastard he is! Coke snorting, out of control and a wonder to watch. As the scam gets more involved he loses all control, intoxicated by the risk. Cooper does not get much of the pathos in this film, but he works with what he gets, and nails it. His scenes with Louis C.K. were a standout.

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This is an actress that has paid her dues and is reaping the rewards of years of dedication. Edith is a woman who has no reality. She does not know who she is, or who she wants to be, as long as it is somebody different. Somebody better. She’s got a good shot at Supporting Actress for this.

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Jeremy Renner. What range this actor is displaying lately. Here he plays the Mayor of Camden, NJ. Not a bad man, or corrupt, just a realist who wants to do right by his people. The FBI dangles the perfect bait in front of him and this good man gets suckered in. The tragedy of this story.

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Jennifer Lawrence probably won’t win an Oscar for this, but she’s got a shot! It is rather shocking how good she is, at such a young age. This was the performance of a very seasoned actress, not a youngster. I really think the best is yet to come from her. The next Meryl Streep.

Special shout out to Robert DeNiro who appears in an uncredited cameo.

The Skinny

GO SEE THIS. David O Russell has another major hit on his hands. It is just SO good. The writing was spot on, great dialogue, and an interesting story. The cinematography was energetic, and the music cues perfect, but its the cast that makes this amazing. I am making my best/worst list in 3 days. This is rocketing very high on that list. Come Oscar Sunday, this movie will likely shine.

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Best/Worst of 2013 is coming!

I’ve been keeping a tally all year and my first list shall soon be released!

Now, last year I did something different. I made my list for December 31st, and then made edits to the list as I knocked off a few late contenders that I did not have time to see before new years. As of right now I wish to see:

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Wolf of Wall Street

American Hustle

and Saving Mr Banks.

 

All of them Oscar Contenders. As there are only 4, and I will likely knock one or two off the list by Tuesday, I have decided that the December 31st list WILL BE the official, and final list.

Ok, housekeeping post for the one of my three readers who follow continuity has been accomplished.

Be on the lookout for a couple reviews! 🙂

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

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I admit, I’ve been dreading this moment. Matt Smith put his own stamp on The Doctor and may have actually surpassed Tennant in terms of importance to the lore of the series. The past 3 years have been IMPORTANT years for Doctor Who. After existing for 47 years, the 48th year was the year it finally broke through to America. Despite a 25+ year original run, it never became a major element of pop culture. In 2005 it returned with high production value and incredibly talented writers. Eccleston and Tennant made it something awesome, but it was Matt Smith that became America’s first Doctor. At the screening on the 50th Anniversary special last month, I was AMAZED at the number of young girls in the audience. I briefly thought that it was the sexy Matt Smith that was pulling them in, but when Capaldi made a brief appearance onscreen the girls went WILD! They are into the lore of this series, and all the awesome scifi that Doctor Who revels in.

The special itself was rather straightforward plotwise. The Doctor arrives on a planet with a small village named “Christmas”. The infamous “Crack in spacetime” reappears and asks the question: “Doctor Who?”. He then discovers that this world has a name- Trenzalore. The planet where the Doctor fights his greatest battle and is buried. This episode covers the approximately 1000 year battle of Trenzalore. The Doctor eventually defeats the enemies (mostly Daleks at the end) and after a touching final speech, regenerates into Peter Capaldi: The 13th Doctor!

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I was pleasantly surprised that they mentioned that The Doctor is only allowed 12 regenerations, and Smith is the last (Hartnell(original), Troughton (regen 1), Pertwee (2), Baker (3), Davidson (4), Baker (5), McCoy (6), McGann (7), Hurt (8), Eccleston (9), Tennant (10), Tennant’s quicke regen (11), Smith (12)). It is addressed and to be brief, the Time Lords recharge his regeneration battery. He has 12 more to go after Peter Capaldi.

It was a great send off, not as massive as Tennants, but more in line with Smith’s run. He is the “Raggedy Man”, the fairy tale Doctor. He lives longer than any other regeneration (approx 1300 years), and becomes, through the Trenzalore battle the most mythic. Now, this episode majorly rewrites the story as he does NOT die at Trenzalore. How this effects the timeline going forward should be interesting. Eventually the Doctor WILL die. Perhaps this is where he is buried in some distant future thousands, or millions of years in the future….or perhaps not. It’s Doctor Who after all.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

The 381st film I have seen in theaters…

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On Christmas Day, the wife and I ventured forth to the local cinema to witness the return of the greatest newsman in the history of the universe.

The Plot

A few years have passed since the original. Ron breaks up with Veronica and after a period of drunken depression finds himself a job as anchor of GNN, the first cable news network. Hilarity ensues. Yup, that’s all you get. I won’t spoil the jokes in this one.

The Cast

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You know them, you love them.

The Skinny

Not as good as the original (who thought it would or COULD be?). A few of the jokes misfire, and there is a tad too much Steve Carrell, but it works. This is a fitting entry in the series. The final fight scene is absolutely hilarious. See it!!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The 380th film I have seen in theaters…

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Last December, I had to drive 45 minutes north to find a theater that was playing “An Unexpected Journey” in HFR 3D. This year, I had to travel 1/4 of a mile. We attended the “Marathon” screening of Hobbit 1 followed by 2, both in HFR. It is worth every extra penny to see it in this fashion. Last Year, I had some adjusting to do in regards to this new 48 frames per second HFR projection. For comparison we also saw it in regular 2D in theaters followed by a few viewings at home on our 2D television. From the start of last week’s screening, the wife and I were shocked at how good the HFR looked. We had gotten used to seeing it on TV and it was really wonderful to see such depth on that giant screen. Once again, the motion blur (which can cause eye strain) was completely absent. The 3D trailers were straining my eyes but the Hobbit films were perfectly comfortable to watch. This needs to be the new standard for ALL 3D films.

As always, all images are the property of their owners, in this case MGM, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros and however many other studios or entities joined together to finance these behemoths.

The Plot

After escaping the White Orc in Chapter 1, our heroes make it to Mirkwood forest where they face spiders, elves, and more orc, on their journey towards Erebor, the lonely mountain. Gandalf has to leave the party at the entrance to the woods and spends the remainder of the film dealing with the rising threat in the old fortress of Dol Gugur where the evil Necromancer (whom Gandalf suspects is Sauron) is raising an army. The Necromancer captures him and sends his army on the march.

The Dwarves have some problems and are captured by the Wood Elves, escape and are chased by Legolas and Tauriel- a new female Elf creation for this film. They make it to Laketown and are welcomed by the people as heroes who will retake the mountain. They find their way to the Dwarf kingdom, Bilbo burgles his way into the treasure room and awakens Smaug the Dragon. After some fighting with the Dwarves, Smaug flies towards Laketown to get revenge upon them for assisting the Dwarven expedition.

The Cast

By and large, the terrific casting continues in this film. Trivia: Stephen Colbert has a cameo as the one eyed man in Laketown who knocks on the wall with a piece of wood.

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Martin Freeman’s Bilbo becomes almost secondary to this tale. Yes, he plays an important role in keeping the action moving and has a wonderful scene with Smaug, but this is almost more Thorin’s movie. What we do see however is a new Bilbo. He says at one point that “He has found his courage”. This is a throwaway line used to hide his discovery of The One Ring, but it really is true. In the first chapter it was Gandalf saving the Dwarves every other scene from certain death. Here that task falls to Bilbo. It is a testament to Freeman that he has navigated this character arc so wonderfully. I look forward to seeing it all flesh out next summer where (spoilers) Thorin casts him aside.

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Richard Armitage take center stage as he leads his band to the lonely mountain and is prepared to sacrifice all to see his people restored to their home. It is really a powerful performance. You can already see the seeds of Thorin’s downfall being sown with his desire for the Arkenstone.

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The wonderful Ian McKellan is little used here, but in all fairness, he doesn’t even appear in these chapters of the book. All of his scenes with the Necromancer, in fact the entire Necromancer storyline, were lifted from the Appendices of Lord of the Rings. McKellan does a wonderful job with what is given him- but sadly it is not much.

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Luke Evans enters the series as Bard of Laketown. He is a descendant of the last King of Dale, who failed to destroy Smaug. After smuggling the Dwarves into laketown, we discover that he is a rabble rouser and something of a renegade to the corrupt Master of the town. Upon discovering that the Dwarves intend to fullfill the prophecy of taking back the mountain he actually becomes an obstacle to their quest, fearing the danger of waking Smaug. Evans brings everything you could possibly want to this role. The scofflaw attitude mixed with incredible guilt over his family’s failure to save their Kingdom. Part three should give him plenty more moments to shine.

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Speaking of the Master of Laketown, his few scenes are marvelously played by Stephen Fry who absolutely NAILS it. Perfect casting.

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Returning here is Orlando Bloom as Legolas. He falls right back into it. He owns this character and he need do little other than fire an arrow to win over the crowd. A far tougher hill was climbed by Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, a low born elf whom Legolas is in love. His father knows they can never be together, as does she. There is a some hint that she is instead falling for Kili, the Dwarf. I wonder if she will buy the farm in #3 professing her love for the Dwarf, thereby reinforcing Legolas’ distrust of their kind. Anyways, she was fine in the role. She was a controversial character to the die hards, but it worked.

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Speaking of Legolas’s father, Lee Pace, unrecognizable, appears as Thranduil- King of the wood elves. MAN…is this guy a douche. Truly epic douchebaggery is tougher to act than you’d think, especially the smugly royal brand dealt by Pace. With a single glance you know all that needs to be known about this guy. Seriously, look at him. Total asshat. REALLY good acting.

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Finally we come to Benedict Cumberbatch. He plays dual roles in this film. He is the voice of Necromancer/Sauron, as well as the voice of Smaug. Smaug is the juicier role in this film, and he is wonderful. He is blessed with a magically deep voice that lends itself to roles like this. Combined with world class acting talent, Cumberbatch makes this role something special.

The Skinny

This film faced some plot problems, but I place absolutely no blame on the writers or Peter Jackson. The fault lies with Tolkien. The novel is a extremely serialized. Each chapter leads from one random adventure to the next. Being set in the middle of this episodic story, the film had no main narrative beginning or ending. It was one long bridge to the finale next year. Many are griping about this, but I think it is perfectly appropriate. Faced with the choice of creating a fake narrative arc on this film at the expense of being as faithful to the spirit of the tale, I am glad they chose the former. It is another visit to Middle-Earth with characters we all love. Images of our childhoods are being brought to life in a way never before possible thanks to our technology. These are damn good films, and I will be sorry to see this series end next Christmas.