Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Movies: Cinematic Disappointments of 2013

(*Disappointments because I had higher expectations of these films due to their pedigrees.)


After the highs of District 9, that this unrelated science-fiction follow-up by Neill Blomkamp is solidly constructed and executed, but bland and emotionally unengaging is a letdown. It has a lot of magic presented as science fiction in it which is odd (those healing machines, for example). However, it's when it goes "full-retard" at the climax for an anime inspired showdown (including inexplicably located cherry blossom trees on hand) that it completely lost me. I was half expecting an Ewoks victory dance during the epilogue. Sophomore slump? Here's hoping Chappie will be better.


I like Spike Jonze's work. I like "low-fi" style science fiction (a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Never Let Me Go, etc.). Going in, I really wanted to like this. Sadly, I found myself looking at my watch frequently as the film progressed. Emo navel-gazing more often than not, this film was occasionally touching but mostly aggravating. On some level I was kind of annoyed that the "female lead" was contextually a product and a construct of the male lead (get out of your own head, Jonze). I did like Rooney Mara's character calling out Joaquim Phoenix's character on that very fact later in the film. Unfortunatley, for me the majority of the movie is mopey to the point of "who cares?" or better, "snap out of it!". The rose-and-orange production design and buttery cinematography started to wear thin after the first half hour, as well.

The two future video games shown were funny/nifty though.

Only God Forgives

Drive is one of my favourite films, so you'd think the reunion of director Nicolas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling would be an instant-win for me. Instead it's the prettiest stupid movie I've seen. It seems Refn took all the wrong lessons from Drive and expanded on them. For instance, lingering on a take to see if the actor lets something through that is real and interesting is a known technique -- here it feels like Refn is hanging Gosling out to dry (a dinner scene in particular is a collection of too-long reaction takes resulting in unintentional comedy). The karaoke scenes were pretty funny though. Also, I do like to quote Gosling's character from time to time, this delivery and when it takes place at the end of a prolonged scene is outstanding:

"Wanna fight?"

Only God Forgives might work as a comedy if it weren't continually nonsensical and boring.

World War Z

I've written about this back when the trailer debuted. Seeing the movie, I was dumbfounded for the first half hour as I waited for anything from the book to appear in the movie. They share a title...and nothing else. Other than zombies. Sort of. Literally nothing in the movie happens in the book, and vice versa. It's a shame really because the book has so much cinematic stuff in it that would've been great to see realized on screen (Yonkers! The canine unit! Japanese apartments! Indian ports! ARGH! I could go on and on).

The weird thing is that as a zombie action picture it's quite effective. If it were released as "Zombie Apocalypse" or somesuch I would have no problems with it. As an adaptation of the Max Brooks novel, it's a complete failure. It makes me wish that Leonardo DiCaprio's production company had won the bidding war against Brad Pitt's production company for the film rights to the book. Oh well.

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