Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Now here is my list of the films from 2013 that failed to impress me and in some cases, wish I had never even left the house:


The last time "The Great Gatsby" was made in to a film, it starred a miscast Robert Redford and Mia Farrow way back in 1974. That outcome was an uninspired, glacial affair and now Baz Luhrmann decided it was time to make a new version and put his own special spin on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Bloated, garish and underwhelming is what he seemed to have in mind. This simple love triangle involving lies and infidelity is buried under so much exhausting whirling and twirling camerawork (in 3D, no less) that the main intent appears to be to only induce a seizure. Although Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan make a slighter better Gatsby and Daisy, they both seem uncomfortable and out of their element.


The latest from Pedro Almodóvar, "I'm So Excited (Los Amantes Pasajeros)" is by far my biggest disappointment of last year. At first, I was so excited to see this because it appeared to be the Spanish director's return to his racy, comic work from early in his career but as the stale antics wore on, "I'm So Excited" simply grew insufferable. This painfully unfunny farce involves three over-the-top stewards trying to keep peace and calm while the plane is in danger of crashing. All I kept wishing is for the aircraft to finally smash in to a fiery ball to put everyone out of their misery.


When Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn previously teamed-up, the result was the riveting crime drama, "Drive". Now, the two have come together again but this time the outcome is far less than thrilling. "Only God Forgives" is another violent crime drama but this is more of a muddled nightmare with obscure dialogue and filled with ugly, demented characters. Set in Thailand, Gosling plays Julian, an American running a boxing club which also serves as front for a drug-dealing operation. After his brother rapes and murders a teen-aged prostitute, he's quickly caught by the police. The Lieutenant (Vithaya Pansringarm) allows the girl's father to kill the man but cuts off his arm as punishment for allowing his daughter to turn to that life. Julian tracks down the father but spares his life however his monster of a mother (Kristen Scott-Thomas) arrives and demands vengeance. After this unrelenting mess was over, all that kept running through my head was "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!!"


"The Counselor" started off with an incredible cast that features Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt, direction by the gifted Ridley Scott and an original screenplay by the acclaimed novelist, Cormac McCarthy so what could possibly go wrong? Try absolutely everything. This dud about an unnamed lawyer (Fassbender) who unwisely gets involved in a deal with a Mexican drug lord (Bardem) that quickly goes sour which threatens not only his life but that of his new fiance (Cruz). This baffling script is far too wordy and unfocused to work as a film. At least the actors seem to be enjoying themselves with Ms Diaz playing the most fascinating character as the sociopathic girlfriend of the drug lord who has a thing for wild cats and delivers the only real reason to see this disaster; an obscene moment with a car that is just too crazy to describe.


More of a major letdown than downright awful, "Man of Steel" brought Superman back to the silver screen after an eight year hiatus yet seemed ashamed to acknowledge who he is. Despite the perfectly cast, Henry Cavill as our hero, the film was too busy trying to appear hip and distance the character from his storied past while also struggling to make Superman still recognizable to fans. The film doesn't work in either case. This is the origin story we're all familiar with that takes full advantage of modern-day visual effects but lacks the heart and soul of the 1978-Christopher Reeve flick. The film is a star-studded affair with casting that works (Laurence Fishburne as Perry White and Michael Shannon as General Zod) and some that does not (a hammy Russell Crowe as Jor-El and sadly,  Amy Adams as Lois Lane). "Man of Steel" was a box-office hit so, there will most certainly be a sequel. There's a possibility that some of the problems can be fixed on the next one but I'm not holding my breath.


The premise of "Lee Daniels' The Butler" sounded so fascinating and in addition to an amazing cast attached, this project seemed like a sure-fire winner. However, in the hands of Lee Daniels, the fictionalized story of an actual White House butler who served five U.S. presidents lacks nuance and believable characters. The events in Cecil Gaines' (Forest Whitaker) life have been overly simplified as the film rushes through history placing characters improbably in the middle of the action. Mr. Whitaker is in fine form and it's great to see Oprah Winfrey back on the screen as Cecil's neglected wife but their efforts are squandered. There are brief stops with badly impersonated Presidents (Robin Williams (Eisenhower). Liev Schrieber (Johnson) and most particularly John Cusack as Nixon) and their families during their time in the White House that are painful to watch.


"Trance", a stylish thriller by Oscar winner, Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), distracts with breathtaking visuals that are wasted on a convoluted plot that will leave you frustrated and utterly confused. James McAvoy stars as an art dealer involved in the heist of a valuable painting but he's hit on the head and can't remember where he's hidden the artwork. The leader of the gang (Vincent Cassel) that helped with the robbery hires an attractive hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to dig in to the recesses of his mind to figure out where he's placed the stolen art. Highly implausible to the max, "Trance" wastes not only the time and energy of the talent but of the audience.


Every year, this final space is reserved for a lousy remake and that honor goes to "Carrie". This inferior version of the Stephen King novel features Chloë Grace Moretz as the sheltered teenager with something extra who went to the prom and only came home with a bucket of pig's blood. While the young actress is passable and age-appropriate, Moretz will not make you forget the indelible performance by Sissy Spacek who was twenty-seven when she made the original film. Director Kimberly Peirce is in way over her head as she struggles to make her own rendition but unable to find the right tone. The worst part is there's not a single frightening moment to be found with most attempts to be downright laughable. The only bright spot is Julianne Moore as Carrie's mother who displays all her amazing gifts yet unfortunately, cannot save this dreadful movie.