02 January 2014

Looking Back on Looking Forward: The Final Critical Look at 2013's Most Anticipated Cultural Events

Two-Thousand and Thirteen brought us many things, and a year ago today we were highly anticipating a whole smorgasbord of great movies and television. While some of these turned out pretty great, many more were a big let down, but more than anything, our Big 2013 Moments were really full of meh. As we look back on looking forward today, let us remember how everything was kind of good.

#13: Oz the Great and Powerful (03/08)

We should know better. This looked pretty okay, and it turned out...pretty okay. It's not an aggravatingly stupid blockbuster (see: Jack the Giant Slayer [2013]), but it really didn't knock it out of the park either. It certainly looked pretty and had some pretty cool moments, especially its ending, which was real solid. Other than that this ain't reviving Oz. Or Sam Raimi's cultural adoration.

#12: Warm Bodies (02/01)

I was pleasantly surprised by this take on the ever growing star-crossed monster horror romantic comedy genre. Rob Corddry offers an unexpectedly good supporting turn here, and the film made us sympathize with zombies like we never believed we could. I'm not sure if we'll be talking about this ten years down the line, but for now, I'm happy with the call.

#11: Pain & Gain (04/26)

Michael Bay's best ever movie, a dark action comedy that scews real dark and cray all the time. Mark and the Rock have never been more ripped while the film actually rips apart expectations towards conquering the American dream and the true meaning of fitness. You need to be a little touched in the head to really enjoy this thing, but if you're on board, it's a trip.

#10: Star Trek into Darkness (05/17)

Here's our first major disappointment. See, there's really two movies here. The first is an intriguing, mysterious set-up with political undertones and unspeakable violence. The second is an inverse re-make of Wrath of Khan (1982) with softer balls and tons of uncomfortable 9/11 imagery. It's not great. Here and there this film found the energy of Abrams' first Star Trek (2009) that made the geekiest sci-fi franchise cool again (or for the first time?), but this is just another mindless tentpole begging for its scraps.

#9: Iron Man 3 (05/03)

Superhero villains forever upended in a film that's way more fun than it deserves to be. Every problem here stems from its forced collusion with The Avengers (2012), which points more to the fault of giant self-sustaining immortal franchises than anything in Shane Black's writing. Everything original here (yes in a threequel. Yes, using every technique Shane Black used 25 years ago) works and breathes some life into what could have been a damned stale Marvel cookie cutter film. Now if only Stark's fully articulated character arc could stick through The Avengers 2: Age of Who Cares (2015).

#8: The Wolverine (07/24)

When your last film is X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), there's not much room to go besides up. The second solo James Howlett flick ditched just about everything comfortable, including familiar characters, actors, and settings, and set out to tell a bold story from the Wolverine canon, essentially showing where these superhero films can go when there's a lot less pressure to be big and dominating. There were some problems with plot, acting, and just about everything else, but I dig the ground uncovered. More please.

#7: The Return of Community (02/07)

Here's an incredible let down. The Fourth "Gas Leak" season of Community was tepid at best, with a continual effort to try way to hard that feel short just about every damn time. It was nigh unbearable to suffer through the mangled tone from a Harmon-less world that couldn't find its footing between heartfelt, hilarious, and sappy. Season 5 actually premiered this evening, and delivered two episodes better than this whole sorry lot.

#6: Elysium (08/09)

With some pretty high hopes Blomkampt and Damon delivered a pretty fun late summer flick, even if its political subtext was pushed a little too heavy for it to be as subversive as District 9 (2009). Sharlto Copley probably delivered the villain of the year, but in general, we forgot about this film as soon as September hit. Actually, I totally forgot to place that facial reconstruction scene on our scenes of the year list. That's exactly what I'm talking about - a generally mediocre film overshadowed its variable really cool moments.

#5: Pacific Rim (07/12)

Here we saw some promises finally delivered. There were actually a good amount of big original movies this summer, although conceptually, many were pretty derivative of what's come before (Oblivion [2013] and Elysium may be the biggest offenders). Pacific Rim was more an entry into the underdone Kaiju genre than a total rip-off, even if it was full of clever homages. It was probably the funnest damn blockbuster of the whole year, even if Charlie Hunnam may join Taylor Kitsch and Garrett Hedlund as horrible stereotypical angsty white protagonists that I do not care about ever seeing in a movie again.

#4: The World's End (10/25)

And we even got it early - The World's End was so worth a very long wait after Hot Fuzz (2007) and blew our pretty high expectations out of the water. It was original, culturally significant, witty, engaging, and hilarious - the perfect late summer comedy riff. Anticipation delivered.

#3: This is The End (06/14)

I don't actually think we'll have an issue differentiating these two end-of-the-world comedies, because both were so good yet so different. The is The End reached the highest peaks of meta-comedy with humour as block as the demon cock that rapes Jonah Hill. Just picture him in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), he deserved it. I'm not sure I've ever laughed so hard in a movie theater, although I may have been the only one. Consistently rude, insane, and full of obscure Pineapple Express (2008) references, this was a perfect film for niche Apatow fans and a damn confident directorial debut from writing partners Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

#2: Anchorman: The Legend Continues (12/20)

I was never sure what to really expect out of this one. What they ended up churning out was this extremely silly but politically poignant 2013 answer to Network (1976), with more ridiculous cameos than any movie will ever have ever. Everything clicked, even the stuff that didn't quite work, and without a whiff of caring about the hype, this one knocked it out.

#1: The Hangover Part III (05/24)

I feel pretty ashamed that I listed this as #1. It was pretty torrid, all things considered, largely because they attempted the same basic formula without the well-used pretense. It makes sense that the best scenes in this flick were the shoudy Chang opening and the re-hash wedding credits aftermath scene. Debauchery is all this is good for, and in a year where so many other black comedies got it right (in addition to Pain & Gain and This is The End, see the aforementioned Wolf of Wall Street. Or even You're Next [2013]), it's even more pathetic that this got it so wrong.

Stay tuned for what we're looking at in 2014! Onward, Commander!

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