Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My 2013: The 5 Films That Surprised Me

In this look back, I'm focusing on 5 films that pleasantly surprised me this year.  These are films that for all intents and purposes looked bad from the trailers, had production problems, had people behind or in front of the camera I usually don't like...whatever the case may be...I was really surprised to find when these films came out, and I saw them on my own accord or was recommended them by a peer, and really enjoyed them and was pretty surprised that I'd qualify them as good/great/enjoyable.  And I'm well aware I just wrote the run-on sentence to end all run-on sentences just now.  I'm presenting them in no preferential order, just alphabetical.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Comedy sequels are a tough breed.  This movie was also almost ten years removed from the original.  That much of a gap usually hampers a sequel's integrity by feeling the need to reuse important devices as a crutch or sorts.  I was pretty down on this movie.  Go back to the White House Down episode of Out Now With Aaron & Abe and you'll see I wasn't thrilled with the trailer or the outlook on the film.  I also decided I could assume some plot points from the movie from that preview.  I was absolutely wrong.  I laughed my tail off at the film and also really enjoyed the story they presented.  The absurd and bizarre type of humor I love was on full display and never a dull moment in this 2 hour comedy.  While they did reuse some beats and gags in the film, they were done in a sense that they felt fresh, new or rewarding when they did happen.  I'm sorry Anchorman 2, I was incredibly wrong about you.  I found this film to be actually just as good as the first and I think I had more big laughs the first time viewing this one than I did the first time I saw the original.

Beautiful Creatures

I'm not a big fan of the Twilight series (I saw the first two and they just didn't work for me), but I'm not opposed to this rising genre of female escapist fantasies and young adult novels being adapted trying to capture and deliver what the intended audience is looking for.  I honestly think its a great thing, but just something that I'm not a part of the fanbase for. When I saw trailers for this one I chalked it up as one of those trying to cash in on Twilight's absence.  I was quite surprised and became very curious once Scott Mendelson and Aaron Neuwirth both raved about the film in February.  So, I took it upon myself to give it a shot.  And wow, this is actually a really good film and managed to stay in my prospective 'Top 10 Films Of 2013' list for most of the year.  I was really captivated in the world and mythology created in this movie, let alone great character actor work and two young leads I actually got very on board with.  A shame that it bombed and we won't see this series proceed any further.  It's one of the best films you missed this year, check it out and slap yourself for buying that A Good Day To Die Hard ticket on Valentine's Day weekend instead of checking this one out.

The Call

Yeah, we all laughed when we saw this trailer and noticed Halle Berry's wicked awful haircut.  Also, a WWE film?  That can't be any good (an untrue statement, check out Renny Harlin's 12 Rounds which is actually a solid 90s action throwback).  The trailer made the film look incredibly dumb and seem like the type of film that made you think Halle Berry had fallen off the deep end.  But, if you actually watched the film, you were in for a massive shock as you were sent on a riveting, engaging and edge of your seat thriller featuring a grand performance from Halle.  Its a bit pulpy, but that's some of the fun.  For 2/3 of this film, its a fantastic little abduction thriller that has you trying to guess, bite your nails and almost (i said almost) want to shout at the screen.  Sadly, this film takes a ridiculous spill for its final act, going to pulpy and incredibly juvenile to lead to the credits.  The end can be somewhat enjoyable in its own right, but its not very good in comparison to the 2/3 that came before.  It kind of shoots itself in the foot.  It did not, mind you, take away any of the good will earned early on.  If anything, the first 2 acts of the film more than earned the right to end however it chose.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of The Smaug

I make no secret that I was not a fan of the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last year.  My biggest joke was that the biggest shocking plot twist in the film was the "Edited By" credit at the end.  The first was an extremely stretched and bloated film that when the action and journey actually happened I was already checked out, not caring, my butt was sore from the theater seat and ready to go home.  I almost wasn't going to go see the rest of them in the theater I felt so worn out.  But, this is Lord Of The Rings, its best viewed when in a theater on the big screen.  And if I want to give the movies even lick of a chance, I had to.  I went in with my dukes up.  They weren't up very long.  Despite this film also being bloated and stretched thin, this time I found myself soaking it all up and enjoying it quite a bit.  Its not as good as the first 3 films by far, but there was enough here to remind you of some reasons why that trilogy was so great.  The dwarves were under control this time and I thought most of them brought forth some really good performances.  There are problems with overabundance of CG (CG Orcs suck btw, should have gone with the original physical performances and makeup, damnit!) and our lead character Bilbo is kind of pushed to the side, but it wasn't bothering me.  There were some grand action sequences.  I also was really taken with Evangeline Lilly's "made up for these movies" character Tauriel (Tauriel > Legolas, yo) and I found Luke Evans' Bard to be quite a great addition as well.  Its not a perfect film and its not even of the best LOTR films, but I had a lot of fun, never really felt the drag of the runtime and am now actually pretty excited for the third film!  

World War Z

The production was troubled with reshoots and rewrites.  The trailer looked pretty generic and like a unpersonal CG dump.  Were they even following the source material? Well, first off, aside from the title...forget the book.  I read the book, and yes, this movie had nothing to do with it.  As a movie, I was expecting this to be a complete wreck.  My thought was that all those "troubles" were going to be evident onscreen.  I didn't even see this one in the theater.  Whoops!  Turns out, this was a top rate chase-type epidemic thriller with zombies.  WWZ managed to do something I never expected; it got me to jump a few times and got my heart racing.  It also featured a lot of really good action set pieces, which is surprising considering Marc Forster was the director.  Does the movie have a lot of depth?  Is it rich in character?  Is it even great as a zombie movie?  I'm not sure and I can imagine we all have different opinions regarding the answers to those questions.  For me though, this movie really took off from the start and managed to engage me on its chase from the start.  I even liked some of the freaky looking crazy zombie movements.  As an exercise in being purely a suspense driven, "point A to point B in X amount of time" type of a thriller it worked for me.  And this movie wasn't even supposed to work at all.  And yeah, it really has nothing to do with the book...and in this case...I didn't mind.

That's it for today, be sure to check back here tomorrow morning for a Christmas present from Naptown Nerd!


Keep checking back to NAPTOWN NERD for more reflections back on the year in film that was 2013!!!

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