Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Rest of the Reviews

While I picked out my faves of the year in my last post, there were plenty of other flicks that I did write-ups on. Here's a rundown of the full-length movie reviews I did this year, with a small capsule accompanying each. Click through the individual links to get the full skinny:

A Good Day to Die Hard
At this stage of our cultural history, John McClane has become a movie icon the same way Dirty Harry, or Rocky Balboa, or Captain Kirk & Mr. Spock are icons. And like The Dead Pool, Rocky V, and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the Die Hard franchise's fifth go holds story and depth in a distant secondary position to the simple thrill of spending time with one of our favorite characters again. Yippee-ki...okay.
Oz the Great and Powerful
Oz is less a personal statement than it is a checklist of blockbuster "to-dos." It trades on the audience's long-entrenched familiarity with the original film's redolent imagery (re-imagined here in glorious high-def 3D) but relies on that familiarity to forgive the absence of little things like character and depth.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
What this sequel does so masterfully then isn't just to recapture and reflect the ineffable magic that made the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero franchise such an omnipresent cultural force and merchandising juggernaut in its prime 1980s heyday. Rather, it manages the more-impressive feat of doing so by building on that execrable first film rather than taking the least-resistance path of ignoring it and starting over from scratch.
Jurassic Park 3D
I tend to be wary of post-produced 3D, but seeing how skillfully it's deployed here, you'd think Spielberg composed his shots lo those many years ago with this add-on already in mind.
42
42 is made with obvious affection for the man whose story it lionizes, but it falls short thanks largely to its stolid determination to keep the real man forever at arm's length from the audience, largely remaining a stoic cipher from beginning to end.
Iron Man 3
The much-anticipated trilogy-capper is pulled in too many directions by a story that borders on incoherent, but it's bracketed by some truly spectactular action set pieces, and is held together by the sheer electromagnetism of star Robert Downey Jr.
The Great Gatsby
...feels less like a literate attempt to translate Fitzgerald to the screen than it does the moonshine-induced fever dream of a crazed wino who drifted to sleep with a crumpled copy of the book clutched to his chest.
Star Trek Into Darkness
...for anyone with any knowledge of or fondness for Trek pre-Abrams, Into Darkness is a decidedly mixed bag that strives mightily to achieve a resonance it hasn't earned.
Fast & Furious 6
This is the action hero mythology of this current generation the same way Die Hard and Lethal Weapon were for mine. As the latest entry of a long-running series, it excels at deepening the characters while also tying together multiple threads from previous films in a way that feels fulfilling even to a newbie like me.
After Earth
...makes me wonder why producer/star Smith and writer/director Shyamalan went to the trouble (and expense) of envisioning an entire otherworldly tableau when the result they were going to arrive at was so uninspired and ordinary
Man of Steel
...a true love letter to the World's Greatest Hero, and a bold start to his next great chapter.
World War Z
This is intended primarily as a full-charging summer entertainment that careens along at a pace too freewheeling to dwell on the broader implications of the scenario it presents. And while that approach is gripping in the moment, it's also too-quickly forgotten.
The Lone Ranger
At times loving homage, at times bold reinvention, and at times winking parody, it's nonetheless an altogether enjoyable summer entertainment that manages, in its own way, to hearken back to those thrilling days of yesteryear.
The Wolverine
...isn't necessarily the best there is, but what it does is nice enough.
Elysium
...benefits from Blomkamp's staunch determination to use his fantastical setting in service of a personal story with a human heart.
Thor: The Dark World
...buzzes through its prescribed paces efficiently, but rarely exceeds that efficiency.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
No beginning, no end, lots of middle. To that end, I suspect one's affinity for this installment will correlate directly with how much of a mark the preceding film made.

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