in Movies

The Good, The Bad, The Middling: Movies We Saw in 2013

Saving Mr. Banks, Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness, and more!

The Good

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching Fire was a terrific follow-up to last year’s The Hunger Games. Thanks to a different director and a bigger budget, this sequel fixed a lot of the problems I had with the first movie. The introduction of new characters like Johanna Mason, Finnick Odair, and Beetee Latier was welcomed, and Katniss Everdeen’s character arc was even more compelling than in The Hunger Games. All in all, this movie has me really looking forward to 2014’s Mockingjay.

Pacific Rim

Giant robots fighting giant monsters. Idris Elba giving an impassioned speech about canceling the apocalypse à la Bill Paxton’s epic monologue in Independence Day. A diverse, multi-ethnic cast that includes Rinko Kikuchi. And it’s directed by Guillermo Del Toro. What’s not to love?

Saving Mr. Banks

I had my reservations going into this movie because of its slight historical inaccuracies and subjective viewpoint. Produced by Disney, Saving Mr. Banks tells the behind-the-scenes story of the making of Mary Poppins. Author P.L. Travers was not a fan of the Disney adaptation of her Mary Poppins books up until the day she died, and the movie explores the conflict between Travers and Disney, who have an immediate clash of personalities upon their meeting. Despite my reservations, I ended up really enjoying Saving Mr. Banks. It was a fun, feel-good, and surprisingly sweet and emotional movie that I highly recommend to everyone.

The Bad

The Big Wedding

The Big Wedding is for people who enjoy racial stereotypes, white actors putting on brownface to pass as Latino, and Katherine Heigl movies. ‘Nuff said.

Escape from Tomorrow

The only thing going for Escape from Tomorrow, a low-budget psychological horror movie, is that director Randy Moore was able to shoot at the Disneyland theme park using guerrilla-style filmmaking – without getting permission from Disney, of course, a company that is notoriously very protective over its brand and has very low tolerance for copyright infringement. Once the novelty of that wears off, you realize that the behind-the-scenes story of this movie is probably much more interesting than the movie itself.

Man of Steel

Director Zack Snyder’s take on Superman was far too humorless and, consequently, much too bland and boring. There’s only so much pummeling and civilian causalities – from Superman, of all people – that I can take. This movie needed a little more lightheartedness and goofiness to take the edge off, especially from a character like Superman who’s supposed to be a little goofy and lighthearted. And what was up with Kevin Costner telling Clark Kent that it might be okay to let a bus full of children die just to stay under the radar? I’m not okay with that.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Anyone who’s read the Mortal Instrument books knows that it would have never translated well on screen. Not to mention the books themselves are pretty mediocre, with an unoriginal plot that borrows heavily from many different source materials like Harry Potter. (Except Harry Potter did it better.) Considering what it made at the box office, City of Bones will most likely not be getting a sequel – following in a long line of failed YA-to-movie adaptations that includes Beautiful Creatures.

Oz the Great and Powerful

Again, there’s not much going for this movie except for the CGI and special effects. I’d even go so far as to say that the talking monkey voiced by Zach Braff is the only worthwhile character in Oz the Great and Powerful. James Franco, who looks like he’s wandered off the set of Pineapple Express, is totally miscast as Oz. He’s not particularly likable or charming, not even towards the end when we’re expected to root for the guy because he’s supposedly had a change of heart. Mila Kunis is laughable as Theodora, and Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz are really under-served, unfortunately.

The Middling

The Butler

David Oyelowo gave one of the more underrated performances of the year in The Butler, a feel-good but also emotionally gut-wrenching movie that I greatly enjoyed in the moment. At the same time, The Butler was so chock full of stunt casting left and right (Mariah Carey, Robin Williams, James Marsden, John Cusack, and many more) that it detracted from the movie’s narrative. It suffers from a slight pacing issue, as well. Overall, I’d say it was a good but not great movie.

Star Trek Into Darkness

For all the hype leading up to Star Trek Into Darkness, it ended up being a pretty forgettable movie. The set pieces and action sequences were interesting enough, but when it comes down to it, Into Darkness didn’t exactly achieve anything new or exciting. In fact, many of the same themes and motifs from the first Star Trek movie were repeated in Into Darkness. Trekkies saw the major plot twist coming a mile away, and it even raised eyebrows from fans who called whitewashing on an ethnically South Asian character who had previously been portrayed by an actor of color.

White House Down

Of the two action movies involving the White House that came out this year, White House Down is far superior. It’s pretty mindless, fairly enjoyable entertainment. That said, there isn’t a whole lot of logic or critical thinking going on in this movie, so if that’s something that really bothers you, then White House Down is definitely going to get under your skin.

The Wolverine

The Wolverine is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, X-men Origins: Wolverine. The action is fun and exciting, the character-driven story line is very well-done, and there are some really interesting characters introduced in this movie. Unfortunately, The Wolverine suffers from a third act problem. The depiction of Asian people and culture is a little problematic, as well.

World War Z

Given all of its production issues, World War Z far exceeded my expectations. It was a fun, action-packed summer blockbuster that basically involved Brad Pitt traveling all over the world to find a cure for the zombie epidemic. Much like The Wolverine, however, World War Z had a very noticeable third act problem and major plot contrivances. Brad Pitt’s character isn’t particularly likable or relatable, either.