CA!’s Best/Worst Films of 2013

Below are a few of the CA! gangs favorite and least favorite films of 2013 along with friend of the site and brilliant writer C. T. Murphy’s personal picks as well (visit his site here) This piece was originally planned to go up shortly after the year that is 2014 began but various hiccups and scheduling conflicts postponed it enough that it unfortunately slipped all of the way back until March. Sorry!

Counter Attacks Best / Worst Films of 2013


C. T. Murphy

Up until the Summer movie season last year, I was a minimum wage slave at a fairly busy corporate-owned movie theater outside Chicago. Though I had always enjoyed movies, having the opportunity to see the newest releases on their intended screens for free made me realize that I can really love them too. Whether it was early screenings, date nights, or after work shows with friends, I have managed to see the majority of major American cinema releases since I began that job in late 2012.

This post is about movies in 2013 though. There were several that I loved, many more that were forgettable, and a couple that I openly hated. Instead of a comprehensive list or a Top 10, I wanted to write about a few of those movie experiences that really stood out to me.

— The Good —

Don Jon:

Written by, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon could’ve been one of those movies that people only remember as a bit of movie trivia. Rare enough for a movie to have its director, writer, and star be the same person, even rarer is for the result to be good.

Don Jon was in fact great. JGL is a charming actor, and that shines brilliantly through his directorial debut. The story of a man who remains addicted to pornography despite getting laid nearly every night and despite landing a beautiful girlfriend played by Scarlett Johansson (who does an amazing job looking sexy as ever despite her thick New Jersey accent), Don Jon has more heart than your typical sex comedy.

In fact, I’d feel more comfortable calling it a funny drama than a romantic comedy. While it has its share of laughs, the movie is about finding a deeper connection with people, a connection that JGL’s character was missing. The pornography was just his surrogate.

Keep in mind, this movie is still raunchy. While sex is hardly the butt of the joke, the movie doesn’t shy away from depicting pornography in an often rapid-fire manner that reminded me of the indoctrination scenes from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. All the same, there is more to this movie than JGL’s charming smile and Scarlett Johansson’s gorgeous behind. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Wolverine:

Perhaps due to a real lack of expectation, The Wolverine was surprisingly good. While the first in the X-men trilogy showed promise, the second was rather dull, and third entry may be one of my worst movies of all time. Given how much I had come to dislike that series, I skipped X-men Origins: Wolverine entirely and almost skipped X-Men: First Class. First Class, while not great, showed promise so I came into The Wolverine (the series’s sixth installment) thinking it had a chance.

While I wasn’t blown away, I enjoyed the film. I would have preferred if Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler) had managed to stay on to direct, but the end result under James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Knight and Day) was a decent enough. Though I am no comic book reader, I am familiar with many of the more famous X-Men stories over the last few decades. One major exception are the stories of Wolverine’s time visiting Japan. For fans of the comics, I cannot tell you whether or not The Wolverine does justice to its source material.

I can tell you however that it is a fun action movie. The plot twist can be seen from a mile away, but that doesn’t hurt some rather decent action scenes. Though, adding ninjas always improves action scenes, so perhaps that is a cop-out. I still enjoy the plot since it kept to a rather simple theme of man’s eternal struggle with dying. Again, nothing new or amazing, but when compared to most of the other entries in the series, I believe The Wolverine is the real stand-out.

I think it is also important to note that The Wolverine single-handedly made me excited to see the next X-Men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Even if it has some serious acting talent involved and The Wolverine proved their may be life left in this plotline, Days of Future Past will most likely still disappoint me. Though, this may be our only attempt at going back into the past and preventing X-Men 3 from ever happening, which, in the absence of the invention of a real time machine, is an idea everyone can get behind.

— The Bad —

Out of the Furnace:

Impressively, most of the movies I managed to see in 2013 were okay to good. Few managed to really disappoint me. Even if I had a chance to see movies for free, I still managed to filter most of the bad ones out and avoid seeing them. Though, there is one exception. The singular hole in my good/bad movie filter is Christian Bale.

In other words, I went into Out of the Furnace starring Christian Bale thinking surely he would deliver me a good movie. In addition to his great acting, Willem Dafoe and Woody Harrelson also threw in their own talents (along with Forest Whitaker, Casey Affleck, and Zoe Saldana). The end result was a muddled, long, mess of a movie that bored me despite a revenge plot. I mean, seriously, how do you ruin a revenge plot starring Christian Bale?

You certainly don’t ruin it by having Woody Harrelson as your villain. While none of the actors were duds, only Harrelson managed to stand out. Despite a lackluster script and a direction that wanted to focus on puffs of smoke from old steel mills, Harrelson’s gruff demeanor managed to give the movie some life. If this was instead the ‘Woody Harrelson is an asshole for an hour and a half’ movie, then that might have worked. Instead, we just got more shots of impoverished, dilapidated small-town America. Fantastic!

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Jeff

Jeff enjoys watching films over most forms of entertainment and absolutely loves the horror genre. You can find his thoughts on that particular field by visiting his site, Serial Cinema, above.

— The Good —

The Conjuring:

I have always enjoyed films about a good haunting, Amityville horror and Poltergeist are both two of my favorites in the genre, so when a new film in the vain of such films was announced I was excited. What made it better was that it was actually a great movie. The Conjuring is tense, scary and really well acted. Easily one of the most fun theater experiences I have had in a very long time. I adored this film, easily the best horror film of the year.

Gravity:

This was an intense film. You get sucked into the movie and your always aware of your breathing. Sandra Bullock carries the film on her own and it is a gorgeous movie to behold. Truly an experience unlike any other.

American Hustle:

American Hustle is an actors movie. Every actor or actress plays their part with incredible precision. David O Russel has come out of no where to become one of my favorite directors since releasing Silver Linings Playbook (one of my all time favorites) Christian Bale transforms yet again to play a really entertaining character and the others involved all play their roles with perfection. American Hustle was easily my favorite movie of 2013.

— The Bad —

World War Z:

A Pg-13 Zombie movie? WHY!? World War Z was by no means the worst movie I saw in 2013 but it was certainly the most baffling.

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Chris

Chris is a contributing writer for Counter Attack and also a co-host on the geek podcast, CA! Radio. He is known as the one who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and also has an affinity with every MMO on the market.

— The Good —

Man of Steel:

I personally really liked this movie and its epic battles. I think Lois should have been picked better or written better but everybody else I liked a lot for their respective roles. I really enjoyed how they showed off Krypton and I loved the beginning of the movie where he’s just roaming trying to find a place in the world. This is the beginning of Clark Kent’s life and how and why he chooses the life he’s going to live, its going to be a little bumpy along the way, but it also leads to some greatness.

Frozen:

A very good movie. The actors, the animation and the story were done very well. Frozen is old Disney and new Disney coming together nicely and it surprised me like no other movie did in 2013. I even liked the singing parts, which can get old in other films if not handled correctly.

Gravity:

I have never really liked Sandra Bullock but no one can deny that she did a very good job in this movie. I didn’t care for the face shots, or maybe i just didn’t like how long they lasted but thats not on her but the director. Her acting was spot on for the role and opposite her George Clooney played a great part as well. They complimented each other very well and showed two sides of fear. The idea of being in space and how awesome and yet downright scary it can be was portrayed perfectly. Props to the movie studio and the team.

— The Bad —

The Purge:

This movie was just stupid and dumb. The acting was just bad and the whole premise of the movie was idiotic to me. The plot, the turn of events, even the ending just weren’t that great. And the kids were just..wrong. Maybe seeing all of these actors in different roles would show them off better, but here they all just sucked.

The only thing the Purge did for me was wish that it was purged from my brain. The premise of the movie was ok and leaving out some obvious thoughts maybe I can understand where its coming from. But The plot points and the acting were just sub par. The parents in the movie did an adequate job but I could have done without everybody else in the film. Bad writing, bad plot, and bad actors… in my opinion this movie shouldn’t have been made. The Metascore for this movie is 41/100 so apparently I’m not alone in this. I completely forgot I saw this movie until I saw it on a list of 2013 released films so I guess it did what the title promised.

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Chuck

Chuck is the main man behind all of Counter Attack and a lover of everything entertainment and geeky. Whether its playing games, watching films, reading comics, listening to music or fiddling with the latest tech on the market; Chuck is most likely drooling over it all and wishing he had the free time needed to experience all that the world has to offer.

— The Good —

The Wolf of Wall Street:

Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is a long, dirty, sleazy and repetitive look into the life of a Wall Street juggernaut and it is incredible. DiCaprio’s performance is terrific and carries the film, even if it went unrewarded once again. As Jordan Belfort (for which the movie is based) DiCaprio displays a range that he rarely gets to show. From Belfort’s younger naive days to his coke filled highs and broken despicable lows, with a bizarre but amazing paralyzed state in-between. The complaints leveled against The Wolf of Wall Street are both valid and not. The film is nothing more than a mouse wheel, just going in endless circles with no purpose, but that is the purpose. This is a story of excessive excess, a tale of the rise and fall without the inner search for a lesson or redemption. This is a perfect look into a person you should never wish to become and it is accompanied by brilliant performances and spectacle.

The Worlds End:

Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost once again team up for The Worlds End the final film in their Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy, following Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Each film from this trio is different from the last, hoping to parody and accomplish something the others didn’t tackle and The Worlds End may just be my favorite of the bunch. Worlds End is a smidge more serious and darker than the previous two films, even while featuring similar themes such as the end of the world and conspiracies. Where Worlds End succeeds is in its character exploration and by reversing the two leads, allowing Nick Frost to be the leading hero and making Pegg an unlikable but sympathetic character. The supporting cast do a good job with the little time they receive and as usual, the imagination of Wright is something special with the films highlight being a surprisingly great choreographed fight in a men’s restroom.

The Evil Dead:

Being an avid fan of the original Evil Dead trilogy (with Army of Darkness being one of my favorite adventure comedies) the idea of a remake/reboot to the series was met with less than stellar comments from myself. But after seeing early trailers (and the fact the first is my least favorite of the bunch) I found myself turning on the project, it could actually turn out decently! Now with 2013 behind us, The Evil Dead is one of the films that stays with me long after the fact. The premise is still simple, a group of kids go to a cabin in the woods and begin to have a very bad time, but the small bits of extra depth and character beats help to give the film some extra legs. However, it is the incredibly dark tone and graphic depictions of violence that make The Evil Dead the film that it is. Director Fede Alvarez doesn’t shy away from putting these kids through hell and then some, showing the slow decay of their will and mental stability in ways that Rated R films seem to be stepping away from. The Evil Dead 2013 has managed to be one of the few remakes/reboots that can actually stand tall with the original, if not beat it altogether.

This is the End:

The goofy and raunchy group of friends consisting of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride and more all return in this end of the world comedy that proved to be the funniest time at the theater for me in 2013. The apocalypse shouldn’t be this entertaining, but watching a group of egotistical actors argue over candy, masturbation, cannibalism and whether or not they are in the middle of the Rapture proved to be a winning combination and left me in stitches.

her:

Spike Jonze and his look into the complexity of relationships and human exploration is a riveting and depressing journey, one carried completely by the performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. Special note must go to those who created the style of the film, the future seen here is one that loves being retro and minimalist.

The Wolverine:

James Mangold had a tough assignment when he took over the reigns of directing The Wolverine. He had to erase peoples memories of the terrible X-Men Origins and allow you to care about the unbeatable Logan, a character that has been explored to death in previous X-Men films but yet was still somewhat one note. Hugh Jackman returned once again as the bladed hero and delivered his best performance to date, with the help of some of the best writing in the series. Even with a lousy ending, The Wolverine ranks as one of the best X films and if you see this, make sure it is through the Directors Cut version.

Frozen:

Disney went old-school to bring you one of their best animated films in recent memory. Just check my review if you need more.

Star Trek Into Darkness:

While the internet seems to hate Into Darkness, I found the film to be immensely entertaining and continued to make an otherwise niche franchise appeal to everyone. The cast continued to excel and while it does feature a tad too many callbacks to a certain film, Into Darkness still brought the action and comedy and left me anticipating the next entry.

The Lone Ranger:

From its first trailer I wanted nothing to do with The Lone Ranger. As someone who is sick of Johnny Depp being crazy and despised the Pirates films after the great first, Ranger seemed to have everything stacked against it. Then came the release and the terrible reception that seemed to prove my point, but then I rented it from Red Box. Ranger has its problems, a lead that is a bit too useless and goofy, an extremely long running time and an inconsistent tone – but regardless, it is actually a great adventure film! Depp and Hammer work well together and the humor actually made me laugh out loud while the action scenes are some of the best of last year. Do what I did and give Ranger a chance, it may just be one of the most underrated films of 2013.

Prisoners:

Denis Villeneuve explores what happens when a family loses a child and the hurricane of emotions one must contend with when its a possible kidnapping – and the prime suspect walks free. This is a thrilling film carried by two excellent performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, even if the writing leans a little too much on coincidence and shoddy police work.

— The Bad —

Oz The Great and Powerful:

I hated this film. Long, boring and just plain bad. The acting, story and special effects left me cringing and hoping that Joey King, the youngest and least known actress of the bunch, would kill the rest of the characters and show them what a real performance is. China Girl, you were the best part of this travesty and I hope you get better work.

 

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