Saturday, 15 February 2014

2013 film countdown, finale

My top 5 non-2013 films of 2013 are all named after someone. There's the secret of success, folks! More fun stats at the bottom so as to avoid further countdown spoilers.

Pre-2013 films: top 5

5) The Godfather Part II

We start off with a film that is both a sequel and a prequel. Cop that, George Lucas.

Second in Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy, this continues the saga of the Corleone crime family after the events of the first film, and also shows us its beginnings. Al Pacino's Michael Corleone looks to expand his empire while flashbacks to the 1920s follows Robert de Niro's Vito Corleone surviving and thriving as an immigrant to New York.

Ahh, this is fantastic. It has the same beats as the first Godfather film, but what kept it interesting for me (apart from the great film making, which (spoilers!) I'll get more into later in the list) was the addition of the Vito Corleone flashback story. It brought a new dimension to the character in terms of portraying his meagre beginnings and his rise as a criminal leader. Similarly, Michael Corleone was further developed as a character, delving into what makes him tick and how his role in the family has consumed him.

4) Annie Hall

Another film featuring rough times in New York City. (Ha!)

Alvy Singer, played by director and co-writer Woody Allen, is a New York comedian who falls in and out of love with Diane Keaton's titular Annie Hall. This rom-com bounces back and forth and chronicles their relationship's ups and downs.

For me, it was Diane Keaton that made this film so good. I mean, it's a great film overall even without that--all fantastic are Allen's directing, the endlessly quirky script, the universal themes--but it's Keaton's irresistibly charming turn as Annie that is what made me fall in love with this classic.

One of the best romantic comedies of all time.

3) Searching for Sugar Man

A documentary about two South Africans and their quest to find out whatever happened to enigmatic 70s musician, Rodriguez.

I don't really want to say any more than that. This is one of those movies where the less you know the more you'll enjoy it; I came into this cold and think that contributed to me loving it so much. That said, I think it's a credit to the film makers that they told this so damn well that I'd watch this again even knowing the entire story. Which brings us to...
Yep, another documentary. Non-fiction is a blossoming love for me.

In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit broke in to the New York's World Trade Center and did a wire walk between its famed Twin Towers. This film is about that day.

Even though this is a documentary, you feel as if you're watching a thriller, worrying for the protagonists even though you know they'll win the day. That masterful storytelling is what makes this film truly great. In contrast to Searching For Sugar Man, you know straight away how this ends. You are told all of this early on in the movie. I mean, he's the main guy they interview for the documentary, it's based off the book he wrote about the event, and a photograph of the act serves as the poster and DVD cover. And yet you can't help but be on the edge of your seat for 90-odd minutes. It doesn't hurt that it's a great story, too.

Possibly the best documentary I've ever seen.
Oh hey, look, another film with Diane Keaton in it. Anyway, I guess you saw this coming.

The first and arguably best of the Godfather films, this introduces us to the Corleone crime family, headed by the ageing Don, Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando. His age as well as recent events involving rival families sees him transfer power to his sons, the short-tempered Sonny (James Caan) and the reluctant Michael (Al Pacino), who must take it upon themselves to resolve the disputes in their own ways.

Everything in this film is just about perfect. Directing? Check. Great, well-paced screenplay based on an intriguing struggle for power story. Photography: lush. Distinctive music--that main theme is unforgettable. And what a powerhouse cast, from whom I can't remember any bad performances. They really did a great job of bringing out a range of different characters, mostly from within the same family. I think the most interesting character development to watch was Michael and how he shies away from the family business but eventually gets pulled into the fold. One of Pacino's best roles.

Fantastic movie to end my list. And with that, I give you the kiss of death. Till next year!


  • All 5 films named after a person (4 men, 1 woman)
  • 3 films starring Diane Keaton
  • 2 documentaries (first time any of my top 5s, I think)
  • 2 films from the same series (another first)
  • A combined total of 15 Academy Award wins (Marlon Brando declined his Oscar for Best Actor in The Godfather as a protest against how American Indians were portrayed in Hollywood)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

2013 film countdown, part 7: two and a half mehs

The older films I saw this year were, for the most part, average at worst. I'd say only the last two on this list were films I disliked with any passion, so I'm literally figuratively scraping the bottom of the barrel here.

Pre-2013 films: bottom 5

5) Chloe

A woman (Julianne Moore) suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) on cheating on her and hires a prostitute (Amanda Seyfried) to spy on her.

A drama/quasi-thriller that is very predictable. It has some decent film-making but the plot just does not get very interested. By the second half of the film, you just want it to end already. It probably has more flaws, but that's its biggest crime.

And, really, watching a film starring Liam Neeson where doesn't threaten to hunt down and kill somebody is just an exercise in disappointment.

4) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

What if Abraham Lincoln was secretly a vampire hunter?

Cool concept, right? Except I don't think there was enough going on here to keep me interested the whole way through. I guess it falls into the trap of trying to be too clever and complex in its plot than it really needed to be. Timur Bekmambetov, known for visually stylish action, is kind of wasted here.

3) Snow White and the Huntsman

Speaking of visually stylish yet ultimately dull re-imaginings...

The twist here is that the huntsman sent to kill Snow White ends up saving her and becoming a hero of the story.

Which, I admit, was not hooking me in to begin with. I mean, the Snow White tale does not rate highly in my favourite fairy tales, so it was going to take a lot of convincing for me to like this film. I thought the pacing of the story was poor, and in all it went for at least half an hour too long. There are moments when you wish they'd just get on with the action. And despite the efforts to put a unique spin on a classic tale, the story just devolves into generic fantasy.

I think the visual effects, while a bit inconsistent in quality, looked great at its best. I will note that this movie's visual effects Oscar nomination was the only reason I even watched it, so I was being more critical than usual with that aspect. The acting was another one of the positives--there are some good actors in this, and none lay an egg (figuratively; although none lay one literally, either, not that I'd rule it out with this plot)--but it does nothing to save this from being a boring, sub-standard adventure.

2) Breathless (2012)

New York Herald Tribune! No wait, wrong Breathless.

After finding out her husband has stolen a large sum of money, a Texas housewife kills him in order to keep it all for herself. The problem is that she has to find it first before she gets caught.

I'm not sure I ever gave this film a chance, given it had the gall to use the name of a French New Wave classic. That said, it is a poorly-conceived thriller that enters farce territory with the amount of ridiculous twists it throws at the audience. I guess that was the whole point of it, but all it succeeds in doing with its attempt at cleverness is irritate rather than impress.

1) Goon

Oh boy, this was bad.

Seann William Scott, whose name contains one too many Ns, plays Doug Glatt, a nice but dimwitted bouncer with a talent for fighting. After getting into a fight in the stands during an ice hockey game, he quickly becomes the hero of team, being recruited in the role of enforcer.

I first heard about this film a few years ago when I was looking up info on Kevin Smith's Hit Somebody. That project, which eventually evolved into a miniseries, was similarly about a hockey player whose main skill was fighting. It's based off a great Warren Zevon song of the same name.

Since Hit Somebody kept getting pushed back due to funding issues, Goon overtook it and came out in 2011. Fast forward to the middle of 2013. Hit Somebody was still nowhere on the horizon, so I decided to check this one out. I was a bit unsure about how this would turn out but, unlike Breathless above, I wanted to like this movie because of how much I love hockey. I really tried to like it. But I just couldn't.

The story focuses on Doug's rise through the hockey enforcer ranks and the development of his romantic relationship with Eva, played by Alison Pill. The thing is, none of the story elements are told particularly well. It's meant to be a comedy but the humour is so basic that to call it juvenile would be to devalue those types of jokes and gags. To add to that, none of the characters are really very likeable, but the main character is perhaps the least likeable of all. He's portrayed as such an idiot that there's no sympathy at all for him when he's down on his luck.

I'm really not sure why this film was made. I guess the creators saw what Kevin Smith was doing and wanted to beat him to the punch (get it?). Now, I'm not saying that Kevin Smith came up with the idea of hockey violence in film because it has been done it in the past, a notable example being 1977's Slap Shot, and while I didn't totally love that film, it at least had a good sense of humour. And, I mean, c'mon, Paul Newman. Anyway, my point is, the problem here is not originality, but that the film is so sloppy in almost every respect. I will, however, give it credit for this: it makes you want to eject the disc and beat the crap out of it with a hockey stick.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

2013 film countdown, part 6: for a few movies more

I'll preface this post by noting that I saw a total of 100 films in 2013, which is a record for me. Not nearly as much as that crazy cat, Jez. His goal this year is to watch 365 films he hasn't seen before. I think I'll be saner and just try to exceed 100.

And now for some older films that I saw in 2013. Mostly, I have good things to say.

Pre-2013 films: highlights

Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy

Narrowly missing out on the top 10 were these classic spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name (even though he has a name in each of the films).

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly had the most complex plot, the best cinematography, easily the best soundtrack, and one of the greatest scenes I've seen in any film (the three-way stand-off). It is undoubtedly one of the most well-made films of all time. But here's the thing: I liked For a Few Dollars More better. I guess it was more fun. Who knows. Maybe if I re-watch them in a few years my feelings will change.

A Fistful of Dollars, being Leone's first foray into westerns, was clearly the weakest of the three, but it was still very enjoyable.


Famous for its (faked) single shot, this well-regarded Hitchcock film centres around two friends who are so confident they have pulled off the perfect crime (hah!) that they have a dinner party while the body is still in the room. Unfortunately for them, James Stewart also stars in the movie. Suckers.

Based on a play, this certainly felt like watching one on the screen (in a good way) and I would kind of like to see a stage production of it.

The Godfather Part III

All I knew about this one going into it was that it's set even further into the future of the Corleone family, and that it's nowhere near as universally liked as the first two films, to put it mildly. I guess my expectations were pretty low but I thought it was a really good film. Sure, it was not as good as the first two films in the series (Why aren't they listed in this post? Spoilers: they make my top five.) but I thought it was a fitting end to the trilogy, and had some nice call backs to Godfathers I and II.

The Expendables 2

Unlike the first Expendables film, which I thought tried too hard to have a complex, coherent plot (and failed), this one was just good, silly, unadulterated action movie joy.

Blood Simple

The directorial debut of the Coen brothers, back in the day when only Joel got the directing credit. This is a fairly slow moving crime thriller, almost Lynchian in its mood-setting. I didn't love it but it is worth a watch. Comparing this to their later films, you could see that the Coens were at this point already finding their own style of storytelling. There is the violence that you would expect from them, but the killers aren't quite as cold as in Fargo or No Country for Old Men.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Worth mentioning because of Marlon Brando, who does a good Marlon Brando impression.

Official 2012 World Series Film

Go Giants!

The Italian Job

I was somewhat disappointed in this one, probably because I'm too used to modern car chases. That said, I can't stay mad at it thanks to this classic scene.

Bull Durham

Again, another disappointment. It wasn't a terrible film but I just didn't think there was enough baseball. Sports is usually the primary reason I watch sports films, after all. To that extent, I enjoyed Major League more than this.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

2013 film countdown, part 5 (or, act 2, part 1): old school

First of all, a correction. Looking through my best and worst of 2013 list, I increasingly felt that I treated the bottom two films a little too harshly. Or, more to the point, I didn't think they deserved to be lower than the pile of crap that was The Counselor. So, I take it back. The Counselor was well and truly the worst film I saw last year.

And now back to good films. These are some of the best of the older films I saw in 2013. I saw lots of classics for the first time, and could probably make a top 15 or 20 list if I wanted to, but I take enough time writing a top 10 so I'll stick to that.

Pre-2013 films: #10-6

10) The Sting

Paul Newman. Robert Redford. The perfect crime.

Story-wise, that's all you really need to know to pull you in (or put you off). It's classic caper fare, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford playing confidence men who join forces to pull off a big take.

This was nominated for ten Academy Awards for the year it was released, taking out seven of them, and you can see why. It boasts some big acting talent, a great script (although I did find the ending a little telegraphed), and a whole lot of fun seeing the schemes of the two con men play out. Also, The Entertainer plays to the opening titles. I enjoyed this quite a bit.
Alfred Hitchcock. Grace Kelly. The perfect crime. Wait, I said that for the last one, didn't I? Speaking of criminal schemes...

A man hires someone to off his unfaithful wife for her money and concocts an elaborate way to do so. When things don't go right, the man improvises.

Firstly, I thought the character of the chief inspector was fantastic, and very British (the film being set in England). Secondly, Grace Kelly. I don't think I need to add any more to that one.

I felt this was the culmination of Hitchcock's obsession with ingenious ways to kill people that I noticed being explored in Shadow of a Doubt, and put to action in Rope and Strangers on a Train. Of course, as always, not everything goes to plan, wherein lies the intrigue of the film. The crime is very much different to the one in The Sting, but it's no less entertaining to watch unfold. It's a testament to the script and directing that it's suspenseful even though it is mostly dialogue and has minimal set changes. High-end stuff from Hitchcock.
The perfect crime. Again? Sigh. From the golden age of anime comes this sci-fi mystery classic.

Patlabor is an anime and manga franchise following the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicle Section 2 (SV2 for short) who pilot mecha/robots called Labors. This first film in the franchise from the late 1980s is set in the near-future (ok, it's set in 1999, but we never did get those giant robots in real life back then, sob) and the city's Labors suddenly start going out of control. SV2's division 2 must investigate the cause before things get much worse.

What I loved about this was its complex plot that was a good blend of police mystery and sci-fi. That and giant fucking robots, of course.
The perfect cri... oh goddammit. Anyway, this one is weird.

I'm not even sure what to say about this one. I mean, it's good. Very good. It's also disturbing. And weird. So fucking weird. But in a good way? I don't know.

So yeah, just go watch it.
Aha! Not the perfect crime this time! C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER! Somewhat appropriate to close out this post with another seven Oscar winner.

This classic biopic is a dramatisation of T.E. Lawrence's military career during World War I. It begins with Lawrence's death and subsequent funeral, at which people are asked if they knew the man. Nobody really has a clear answer. Flash back to his service in the Middle East. Lawrence is shown as charismatic yet often aloof without the right motivation and not content with his current post in Egypt. After some convincing of the right people, he gets sent to Arabia to parley with Britain's Arab allies. It's here that his true character comes out.

There's so much to love here. The epic adventure story, the character development, Peter O'Toole's breakthrough role--I don't know whether or not the real-life T.E. Lawrence was like the one portrayed in the film but it's a testament to O'Toole's skills as an actor that the character came off as so multi-layered--the gorgeous cinematography from the end to end. And that soundtrack! This was a film so confident in itself that it began with a sweeping overture before you even see the first frame. I'm so glad I managed to catch this in a theatre because, despite its length (the restoration clocks in at 227 minutes), it's a great cinematic experience.

Monday, 23 December 2013

2013 film countdown, part 4: the final countdown

Alright. This is it.

So good.

Oh, and I guess I should write about my top 5 films of 2013 as well.

2013 in film: top 5

5) Pacific Rim

Apparently, director Guillermo del Toro couldn't get a live action Neon Genesis movie going so he made his own giant robots vs. giant monsters flick instead.

The human race are in a desperate battle against Kaiju, monsters from a trans-dimensional rift in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Many years into the war, the last remaining Jaegers, giant human-controlled mecha, are corralled together in an effort to fight back against increasingly dangerous Kaiju.

I thought this was a real treat. It does exactly what it says on the tin. To see the giant robots (technically mecha, yes, but "giant robots" sounds better) do battle on the big screen without the stupid stylistic choices of a Michael Bay film was great. Specifically, when you've spent so much on fancy CG and special effects, it's nice to be able to actually see what's happening.

The dialogue and acting in this is not the best, but it does carry a certain charm, like action movies of old. Idris Elba is good as Stacker Pentecost, head honcho of the Jaeger program, and delivers the definitive cheesy line of the movie, "we're cancelling the apocalypse!"

For me, this was the biggest geek-out of the year. It may not be considered the pinnacle of film-making, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and fun is the name of the game.

4) Amour

From Michael Haneke comes the only foreign-language entry in my top 10, and perhaps the most depressing film of the year.

Georges and Anne are an old French couple, both retired music teachers. One day, Anne suffers a paralysing stroke and Georges has to take care of her. Anne is adamantly against going back to hospital and as her condition deteriorates she loses her will to live. While Anne is undergoing physical duress, the emotional strain on Georges and their relationship becomes increasingly palpable.

This is a heart-wrenching yet beautiful film about the power of love. Emmanuelle Riva is incredible in this and I feel she should have won the Academy Award for best actress (which went to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook). Though it appears uncharacteristically restrained from Haneke, there are many layers working here. For instance, while Anne is still well (or relatively well), we hear a lot of classical music, as it is an important part of their lives. As things progress, we hear less and less, and the silence in the couple's apartment becomes almost oppressive.

I almost wish I had put down all of my thoughts of this film in writing as soon as I saw it because it is one of those films that would be difficult to watch a second time due to its subject matter.

3) Stories We Tell

The highest-ranked documentary in my list this year is from actress/film-maker Sarah Polley and tells the tale of her family. Presenting differing takes on the same subject, Polley's mother, the film is also a study on how we tell stories based on truth, rumour, and memory, and how sometimes not everything is as it seems.

I thought this was a clever film and the way it handles the topic and the theme simultaneously makes for an entertaining and intriguing hour and a half. Despite a focus on different perspectives--complete, incomplete, reliable, unreliable, etc.-- this is a very personal story for the director, and it is very much her version of it. Which, perhaps, is why it works so well.

2) Gravity

In my first post, I made fun of 3D, CG, and IMAX. I take it back, just for this entry.

Sandra Bullock is Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first space mission while George Clooney is Matt Kowalsky, a veteran astronaut on his last. During a spacewalk, they are hit with disaster and must struggle to survive against the odds.

Bullock, I thought, put in some of her best work in this one. Clooney is, well, Clooney. Not that that's a bad thing. Apart from that, it does away with too much character development and is thrill after sci-fi thrill for most of its duration.

Despite me being, for the most part, anti-3D, this was one film I saw with those silly-looking polarised glasses and is, probably, the first movie whose use of 3D I felt was justified. Not only does it bring us closer to (and further from) the characters, it is also adds to the stunning beauty of the film. It has some of the best cinematography this year and does an excellent job of showcasing the Earth and humanity set against the vastness of space. There's this scene near the start where the gravity of the situation (ay? ay?) is accentuated by an extreme close up of one of the main characters as they literally hurtle through space for what seems like several minutes--one of the most terrifying edge-of-your-seat movie moments of the year. One of the next shots is an extreme long shot, as if to suggest that that character's plight, and that of humans in general, is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

The sound design and music are great, too, with many moments set in the silence of space, the astronauts (and, by extension, the audience) only hearing the noises within their suits and through their comms system. In space, nobody can hear you scream, etc. etc. The music ramps up ominously during particularly exciting sequences but lets the lack of sound do the work for the most part. It was one of those nice touches of science fact placed into a science fiction film.

Speaking of which, one of the more amusing reactions to the film was when Neil deGrasse Tyson ripped on Gravity's inconsistencies and followed up by highlighting some of its scientific merits.

Every year I see maybe a couple of movies that remind me just why I love going to the cinema so much. This year, Gravity was one of them.
This was another, and it is my favourite 2013 film (and favourite overall film) that I saw in 2013. It's also the only one I watched twice this year.

Shane Carruth brings us this enigmatic gem nine years after the release of Primer, his low-budget indie sci-fi classic (can I fit any more descriptives here?).

Kris struggles to piece her life back together after she wakes up to find she has lost weeks in her memory, her house is in a mess, and her belongings and money have been stolen. She meets Jeff, another lost soul, and together they begin to discover similarities to their stories.

Carruth continues to be tight on budget by hiring himself to play a Jeff while also providing the score. Seimetz, also an independent film-maker, is a talent to watch out for, and is excellent as Kris.

Much like Gravity, this is a visual and aural feast, never really relenting with what it presents to you. However, that's where the comparisons end. Unlike Gravity, its shots are short and mostly with a shallow depth of field. Furthermore, the ambient electronic soundtrack is atmospheric yet almost overwhelming at times. These contribute perfectly to the sense of disorientation that the characters are feeling.

Disorientation is something that this film does not lack in. Where Primer was (necessarily) temporally disjointed, Upstream Color is, mostly, narratively sequential. However, it creates that puzzle-like quality by bombarding you with scenes with minimal exposition. Much like the characters in the film, you are forced to figure out for yourself what exactly is happening, how things fit together. At its heart is a message about taking control when everything seems to be controlling you.

There's so much more to this film and I could go on and on about it, but it's best to see for yourself. It's hard to define. I guess you could call it a sci-fi film, but it's also a mystery, and a romance, a drama, a thriller. Ultimately, it's just a really well-made film that deserves attention.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

2013 film countdown, part 3: intermission

Before the big top 5 reveal, which I'm sure you are all very excited about, here are a few honourable (and dishonourable) mentions from 2013. It's a selection of films that didn't make my top 10 or bottom 5 but I wanted to quickly comment on them anyway for whatever reason. I've just realised that I should probably have done this post second instead of third, so I shall do that when it comes to my non-2013 films.

Speaking of which, I'd also like to note that what I mean by "2013" is that it was either a 2013 release, or a 2012 release that I saw at the movies in 2013, so there is a fair bit of overlap, especially when it comes to the Oscar-nominated ones.

2013 in film: highlights

Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen

Pretty cool piece Frankensteined together using scenes from many classic and obscure films in a way that tells a (necessarily generic) love story. A treat to watch for a lover of film, especially when a snippet comes up that you recognise.

Les Misérables

The film adaptation of the stage musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's French Revolution classic. Tom Hooper and crew do such a good job of translating this to the big screen that you wonder why it hadn't been done before. The highlight from this film for me, apart from the achievement as a whole, was Anne Hathaway's rendition of I Dreamed A Dream. Tears. In fact, I loved most of the performances, but it has to be said that Russell Crowe was the odd one out. I felt it could have been a better spectacle had they found a better singer to play Javert. It's kind of like when they got a Jonas brother to play Marius in the 25th anniversary concert and he just absolutely bombed it compared to everybody else. That said, it was a great movie regardless.

Django Unchained

Tarantino's entry into the Djangoverse, with Jamie Foxx as Django Freeman, a freed slave who seeks to rescue his wife from slavers. He also dons an amazing costume about halfway through the film. It's far from my favourite of Tarantino's, but it is an undeniably fun (and characteristically violent) flick. Christoph Waltz is really good in this but that was to be expected after his excellent turn in Inglourious Basterds.

Sound City

A documentary by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl about the eponymous Sound City recording studio that hosted many legendary musicians, including Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young. Probably a little bit too self-serving on Grohl's part for my liking (can't blame him, really), but the bits covering the history of this old music studio were very fascinating and worth the price of admission. Some of the new songs recorded are quite good, too.

Red Obsession

Russell Crowe makes the list again! This time he narrates a documentary about Bordeaux wines, what makes them so good, their rise in price and prestige, and the impact of the wine boom in China. Pretty interesting and is kind of analogous to all hobbies/products that become popular for varying reasons.

Man of Steel

While far from outstanding, I do have to say that this didn't suck. I guess I could even say I enjoyed it for the most part. Given the averageness of the previous Superman film, and Zack Snyder's history of style over substance, I came in with low expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't shit. I think the involvement of Christopher Nolan may have helped matters. Also, can I just say that Henry Cavill is ripped? Holy crap.

A Good Day to Die Hard

I heard from a couple of people that they watched this on a plane and it wasn't too bad for a plane movie (what does that even mean?) so I decided to watch it on a plane, too. And, well, it was kinda shit. One gets the feeling that Bruce Willis keeps agreeing to do Die Hard sequels just for the money. This is the worst in the series and I really do hope they stop flogging this dead horse. (Hmm, it's Christmas soon, so I guess it's time to re-watch the original (and best) Die Hard soon.)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

2013 film countdown, part 2: electric boogaloo

Time for some bad films. Here are the best of the worst of 2013.

2013 in film: bottom 5

5) The Act of Killing

We start off with a documentary that follows Indonesian death squad leaders as they recreate their mass killings on film.

It's an intriguing concept to see these hired killers go about their lives and bring to the screen re-enactments of some pretty gruesome acts, and it makes for some uncomfortable viewing. It's certainly very confronting and shocking at times. However, that is not the reason why it is in my bottom five.

Indeed, this movie could have ranked much higher because of the interesting subject matter and what it tries to do with it, but I felt it ultimately lets itself down because it was just not made very well. I found it lacked focus and needed some heavy editing. I watched the director's cut at the Sydney Film Festival, which I thought ran far too long and was all over the place.

Kudos to director Joshua Oppenheimer for taking on this project, but sadly the film falls flat.

4) Star Trek Into Darkness

A couple of points before I begin with this one. Firstly, I loved Star Trek and its spin-off series growing up (Deep Space Nine being my personal favourite of the TV shows, but I digress) and even enjoyed a few of the shittier films (not 5 though, never 5). Secondly, I liked the first of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films and appreciate what the reboot did for the franchise. However, I think Star Trek Into Darkness is a piece of crap.

Starfleet is hit with a terrorist act by rogue agent by the name of Commander Harrison. Kirk and crew go after him. Ok, I can dig it. There's this whole smoke and mirrors thing about who Harrison is and what his motives are. Spoilers: turns out he's Khan Noonien Singh, ultimate baddie from perennial favourite, The Wrath of Khan. Nice twist, right? But from here, I think Abrams and co. fuck it up. They continue the charade for a bit longer that Khan may be doing what he's doing for noble reasons, fighting corrupt actions by the Starfleet higher-ups. But eventually they reveal that he's the same bad guy that he was in the original series and films. He then goes on to be all menacing and stuff while Abrams shows off his Trek knowledge by pretty much copying scenes from The Wrath of Khan.

I mean, c'mon, do something original, guys. That's what a reboot is good for. Instead, everything that happens in this has pretty much happened before, and the reboot becomes just an expensive rehash.

Star Trek Into Darkness is just a mindless action film that does not entertain a great deal or offer anything new. After seeing this, I fear what Abrams will do when he gets his hands on the Star Wars franchise.

3) The Counselor

Dear oh dear. You'd think a film from the guy that made Alien and Blade Runner, written by the guy who wrote The Road, with a names like Fassbender, Cruz, Diaz, Bardem, and Pitt attached to it would be fantastic. The Counselor, unfortunately, is a complete mess.

Michael Fassbender is the titular lawyer that gets involved in drug trafficking and quickly finds himself in over his head. Penelope Cruz is his girlfriend, Brad Pitt is his business partner, Javier Bardem is...

Oh, who gives a shit.

Look, just don't see this film. It's a horrible train wreck. The plot is convoluted (what the fuck was the point of that scene with Cameron Diaz and the car?), the dialogue is unnecessarily vague, and it's just badly put together. Outside of Uwe Boll's notorious body of work, I can't remember a cast that's been wasted so thoroughly. It's such a shame that such a promising project on paper turned out to be so terrible.

Side-note: A bit weird that this is called The Counselor (one L) in some markets and The Counsellor (two Ls) in others. I guess it adds to the baffling quality of the film.

2) ParaNorman

Probably the most utterly forgettable film that I saw this year. I even had to look it up to remember what it was about.

IMDb says, "A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse." There you go.

I will point out that I watched this movie because it was nominated for the Oscar for best animated feature, which I guess is always a dangerous thing to do with so few solid candidates each year.

ParaNorman is guilty of being so uninteresting that you question why it was even made.


1) Sharknado

Sharks. Tornadoes. Sharknado. I think that was an actual line from one of the original trailers for the film. Pure genius.

I almost feel bad putting this at the top spot. Almost. Make no mistake, this is a bad film. It's laughably bad. And perhaps that is why it doesn't deserve the "worst movie" label, because some of the other films mentioned in this post were just plain bad (looking at you, Counselor). That said, it does deserve some recognition for its so-bad-it's-good worth-watching-once quality, and perhaps this is a fitting way to do it.

There's not really much to the plot at all, but here's the official trailer:

Some of the highlights of the movie are (spoilers ahead): a house, on top of a hill, somehow gets flooded, and then somehow gets filled with sharks, and then somehow EXPLODES from all the water; tornadoes--sorry, Sharknadoes--can apparently be diffused using bombs thrown down from helicopters; "we're going to need a bigger chopper"; excellent use of chainsaw; and the "twist" ending.

But really, the script is awful, the acting from the cast of washed up actors is awful, the laughable scenes are few and far between (you know it's bad when most of the good bits are in the trailer), and once you've seen it you don't ever want to watch it again, which makes it a bad film in my book.