Welcome back to my 2013 Year in Review series. We keep the pace quick as we push through another 25, not-quite-as-bad movies.
75. A Good Day to Die Hard
74. Ender’s Game
73. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
70. Side Effects
69. Jack the Giant-Slayer
68. The Croods
67. Man of Steel
66. The Butler
I’m a huge Bruce Willis fan.1 And yet, frankly, A Good Day to Die Hard left me exhausted. I’m okay with sequels, even if they do exist only to make more money for their star, which certainly feels like the pitch for this movie. There are even visible threads in the film that make it seem like they’ve considered a future without Willis as John McClane; Jai Courtney is featured as Jack McClane, and it sure seems like he’s being groomed to take over the franchise, much like Shia LaBeouf was with Indiana Jones. (Look how that turned out!) Despite Crystal Skull’s absurd romp with alien life, I actually find LaBeouf’s character far more likable a presence, and a much better match spiritually for his famous pop culture dad. Jack is one-dimensionally aggressive and doesn’t seem to grow at all, other than his tepid willingness to be acknowledged as Willis’ son near the end credits. Who wouldn’t want to be John McClane’s son? Come one! Digging into that even further, John McClane has always, as a hero, fought for his family, even if he’s not the best family man. You’d think Jack could see human, frail, and protective his father is. Though maybe that’s not possible anymore; in this film, we’ve drifted into John McClane, superhero. It seems like we’re destined to get another Die Hard but McClane Sr. has officially run out of family members in peril, and long ago ran out of interesting or sympathetic family members to save.
Much better than the whole of A Good Die to Die Hard was the trailer for Man of Steel. The trailer for Man of Steel was fantastic. Visionary. Moving. The movie was none of those things, which is incredible because everything from the trailer is in the film. It wasn’t deceptive marketing like Out of the Furnace’s lie of a trailer, but it did set certain unattainable expectations that were spectacularly not met. Henry Cavil does a decent job of playing our new Clark Kent and Amy Adams is actually wonderful as Lois Lane. But the script and Zach Snyder’s direction let them down in every way. Pieces of this movie were well done: an important scene where Pa Kent silently waves off his son, sacrificing himself so Clark can maintain his secret is one. But overall, the reckless destruction of towns and cities and the shocking final act - the seemingly avoidable killing of General Zod - proved one step too far into darkness for this Nolan-esque re-imagining of our iconic superhero, this Boy Scout and paragon of virtue.2 Indeed, the future looks as bleak as this film for DC Comics, as Charles and I have often brought up many times when discussing the success of their rival, Marvel.
65. Runner Runner
62. The Heat
61. Gangster Squad
60. Warm Bodies
I chose to speak on Gangster Squad because it really does epitomize this group of movies, none of which are flawless or particularly awful. They’re all perfectly average, perfectly flat and perfectly forgettable. Gangster Squad is a decent enough movie with solid performances from heavy-hitters like Ryan Gossling, Josh Brolin, and Emma Stone. None of them stick out as good or bad, just like this movie and this entire grouping. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t some appeal to me as a moviegoer in each of these films or that they don’t have audiences. Just that in my list of movies, if I hadn’t meticulously cataloged every movie I watched, I probably would have forgotten these existed when it came time to rank them.
59. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
56. August: Osage County
55. Despicable Me 2
54. 2 Guns
52. Kill Your Darlings
51. Spring Breakers
I know I stand pretty far apart with August: Osage County. Some of the performances were astounding, but they were often from characters I didn’t see enough of. Also, there was a lot of yelling. Probably too much yelling. I know this is a movie about a broken family being reunited by the death of the patriarch, and, within that setup, there’s grieving to be done, with several characters expressing this through shouting matches and put downs and earth-shattering reveals about surprising family history. But really, I feel like this was a average, often shrill film that didn’t truly merit the nominations it received.
So that’s it for this installment. Another 25 movies sealed into their rankings.
Despite my adoration for Willis, up until the release of a A Good Day to Die Hard, I’d only see Die Hard 2 in its entirety. Several of my friends rightfully berated me, and my girlfriend sat down to watch all of the series with me. She’s a good person.↩
One might even go as far as saying the iconic superhero and the symbol of justice.↩