There were many promising films released this past year that unfortunately fell flat on their faces. This could be blamed on the marketing, sequalitis, the production, or poor direction. But anyway you look at, this list of 10 films left an empty place in my heart. What were once thought of as the most anticipated movies of 2013 sadly dissolved into something toxic. Read on to see the list of my biggest movie disappointments of 2013.
10) Gangster Squad (Ruben Fleischer)
You have Ruben Fleischer, a guy known for his fantastic directorial debut of Zombieland, along with an all-star cast consisting of Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Michael Peña, Anthony Mackie, and Emma Stone. So what the hell happened? Despite the reshoots in thoughtful consideration of those hurt by the Aurora, CO theater shootings, the movie still had many, many issues. There was terrible chemistry between Stone and Gosling, plot holes galore, Penn was a loon, the story was all over the place, and the tone and pacing were completely off. It was an overall mess. (Read my full review here)
9) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson)
How could you have the title character in less than 25 percent of your film? Secondary characters had more speaking time than Bilbo (Martin Freeman). What gives? Why did Peter Jackson decide to bench his main character and allow multiple plot threads to go every which way? We’ve got the dwarves and Thorin (Richard Armitage) looking to reclaim their homeland; Bard (Luke Evans) and Lake Town politics; a love triangle between Kili the dwarf (Aidan Turner) and two elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), all the while being watched by the shady Mirkwood King Elf (Lee Pace); some white Orc still out for revenge against Thorin for who knows what; and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) on a merry adventure to assure audiences that this is connected to an actually good trilogy of movies. The Desolation of Smaug is a nightmarish mish-mash of too-much-going-on syndrome with very little reward. The barrel scene is the only redeeming quality. I was OK with the first film, but this sequel has me worried that Peter Jackson was a one hit wonder. Or should we talk about The Lovely Bones?
8) The Counselor (Ridley Scott)
Here we’ve got another excellent cast (Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Cameron Diaz) following the direction of the great Ridley Scott (Gladiator; Blade Runner; Alien). What we received was a cheetah obsessed woman rubbing her naughty bits across a windshield. Literally. There isn’t much to enjoy amongst the overly long two hour run time. The performances are cold and distant from the overly convoluted story. There is a lot of dialogue that never feels like the conversations go anywhere or that our characters learn anything from them. The Counselor is a complete pain to endure with nothing of value other than a killer death scene at the end.
7) Elysium (Neill Blomkamp)
Neill! Why did you do me wrong? I had so much hope for you after the brilliantly spectacular District 9. You go from an Oscar Best Picture nomination to this muff garbage. What happened? Sure the cinematography and visual effects were great, but we know you’re a good storyteller. Did Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley have to be completely bonkers, lacking little-to-no character motivation? With Matt Damon as your leading man, did you have to give him nothing to work with? I’m depressed by this sophomore entry Mr. Blomkamp because I had so much hope for Elysium.
6) Kick-Ass 2 (Jeff Wadlow)
Kick-Ass 2 is the perfect example of a film suffering from sequalitis. Sure the first Kick-Ass left the doors wide open for a sequel, and I even welcomed the opportunity to revisit these characters, but Kick-Ass 2 tries way too hard to be bigger and more offensive than the first. And that wasn’t the point of it at all. Kick-Ass was actually one of my favorite movies of 2010, but here I think Mark Millar (the creator of the comic) and Wadlow (Cry Wolf; Never Back Down) missed what was so charming about the first. It’s rather heartbreaking to see such a well put together world crumble before your eyes. There was no heart in anything Kick-Ass or Hit Girl did, the story was shallow, and the tone was too cheery – it practically celebrated the violence. Surprisingly, Jim Carrey is the only saving grace of the film.
5) Trance (Danny Boyle)
Yet another waste of potential with a decent cast (James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel) and an incredible director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later; 127 Hours; Slumdog Millionaire). I think the subject matter had Boyle way over his head. The concept was interesting, but the execution and direction was very scatterbrained. Danny Boyle pictures are usually tight and easy to follow. Trance is a dizzying spectacle that over complicates itself again and again. For only 101 minutes long, by the time you hit the climax, you’ll be wishing you were hypnotized in thinking you were watching a better movie.
4) Insidious: Chapter 2 (James Wan)
With Insidious being a huge, surprise success in 2010, and The Conjuring ending up to be a wonderful piece of horror cinema this past year, Insidious: Chapter 2 was a subpar entry from writer/director James Wan. It was nice to see the Lambert family again (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson), along with Elise (Lin Shaye), Specs (Leigh Whannell), and Tucker (Angus Sampson), there were even some decent scares. But what fails Insidious: Chapter 2 is its overly ambitious story. Too many rules were unestablished that made the world of The Further an anything goes playground for the dead. You end up believing everything they throw on the screen because you just want to get to the end, which ultimately ruins the good will the first film developed.
3) Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams)
ABRAMSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whoopty doo, you sure fooled us keeping Benedict Cumberbatch’s role as Khan a secret, a secret everyone knew you were lying about. This rehash of a story thread from The Original Series is so void of any nuance the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek had. All of the jokes and the action practically mirrored its predecessor and the filmmakers did nothing to make us care about the characters we thought were going to change the game for the Star Trek universe. Where’s the ambition and the spark? Oh what’s that? We get Alice Eve in a scene in her underwear for no reason. Great job…
2) The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
It’s not like this movie is that bad. It’s OK. What really upsets me about The World’s End is the ridiculous hype the film built up before it even began production. Will Edgar Wright finish his Cornetto trilogy? Will he not? Cornetto this, Simon Pegg that. It was a bit overwhelming how much everyone wanted this movie. Don’t get me wrong, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are great movies, but I think the bar was set too high for this movie to reach. I think Wright executes every aspect of filmmaking with precision and craft, but the story for me was not as strong as Shaun or Fuzz. I haven’t even thought about it much since this past summer. I would like to revisit it, in hopes that it has a good shelf life, but it is not the great cap on the Cornetto trilogy that I had expected it to be.
1) Frozen (Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck)
And here we have the most disappointing movie of the year. Yes, it is Frozen. And no, I will not let it go. I went into Frozen very neutral after I had heard very so-so things coming out of the animation panel at D23 Expo this year. So I didn’t over hype the film for myself. Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled hold a special place in my heart, which could explain why I had such high hopes for this Walt Disney Animation Studios entry. To me, those films are far superior to anything Frozen tries to accomplish. They have better character development and back story, more colorful animation, convincing villains, and there seemed to be more time taken in development.
I will give credit to the songwriters though. The tunes are catchy and very well written, but for some reason they feel a bit off from the second rate characters and flimsy story. The animation is very beautiful; the snow is gorgeously animated. What I felt I saw was a rough draft of something great, everything seemed rushed. The villains were silly, Kristoff and Sven are practically a waste of space with little back story, and don’t even get me started with the damn trolls. Everyone loves Olaf for reasons I can’t explain. He has very little reason to be a main character and he isn’t even funny or enjoyable to watch.
And although the unconventional ending works in the film’s favor, it feels unearned for what little time we spend getting to know Anna and Elsa. Disney was on such a role with their last two computer animated features, which is why it hurts me to say that the studio has turned my heart ice cold with Frozen.
What movies did you see in 2013 that disappointed you? Let us know in the comments section below and tell us your stories of sadness and woe.
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