The last of 2013 is upon us and I’ve been shoveling in just about as many films from the year as I can, building towards my awaiting best of/worst of lists and the second annual Silver Screen Riot Awards. At the theater, I closed out seeing the last films I would this year with Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, August: Osage County, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Reviews for all three to debut soon. Also check newly published reviews of Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, and American Hustle. At home though, I saw some of the worst, most unadulterated trash I’ve seen all year. Just pure garbage. But amongst the filth, I found a few hidden gems and finally watched some old classics. This might be the last installment of the year as the Holidays loom large and my time is going to be severely crunched.
THE CANYONS (2013)
In this utterly terribly film, Lindsay “Dead-Eyed” Logan and James “The Actual Pornstar” Deen have the chemistry of a brick and a rock. Beyond their impressively poor performer’s chops, the rest of the acting is atrocious, with each amazingly managing to be worse than the last. Paul Schrader‘s amateur porn-level direction seems like it’s trying to be different but it’s just confused and, there’s no tiptoeing around it, downright awful. Bret Easton Ellis, a reputable author dabbling for the first time in the script-writing business, loves to pen these drab, empty, trust-fund scumbags but the script here is either DOA or entirely misinterpreted by Schrader’s incompetent hand. The soulless LA landscape occupied by depraved, despicable people, who occasionally take their clothes off and bang (as if that’s any consolation for the horror that is watching this monstrosity) is signature Ellis but it lacks any irony, substituting tits for wit, meandering in his usual loose moral cesspool. Either way, he ought to probably stick to writing because there’s a reason this was rejected from both Sundance and SXSW for “quality issues”
THE HOST (2013)
Absent on entertainment, The Host makes Twilight look like an art film. With a script that makes fan fiction seem like Pulitzer material by comparison and features lines like “Kiss me like you want to get slapped,” it’s impossible to not scoff your way through this wildly ineffective disaster of a movie. Even if you took the grating voice-over work out (*shutters*) you’re still left with a film where absolutely nothing happens. Most certainly one of the worst movies of 2013 and probably up their amongst the worst movies of all time.
It’s almost amazing how flat this animated feature is. It’s got all the expensive looking animated design but Epic struggles to make you care about in the least bit about this retread story. Like Rio, the voice work is transparent and completely fails to make us forget the celebrity names behind the characters. Most importantly though, the film is boring, lazy, and just more “there” than anything. The whole good-vs.-evil conceit works fine so long as there’s something beneath them. Here, that’s just not the case. A couple of comic moments from Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd help to break up the monotony but the rest of the voice performers are straight out of the vanilla convention (Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson). I’m left wondering where the hell the name Epic came from as well since there is nothing the least bit epic about this epic failure.
An out-of-the-blue effort from deep English director Ben Wheatley, Sightseers is an untamed hologram of a vacation gone horribly wrong. Going into this blind is going to really boost your experience with it so I’m just try and skirt around any significant details. It’s easy to spot that the film was made on a paltry budget and a shame to see that it didn’t even make $50,000 dollars in US theaters but what can you expect from notoriously choosy American audiences (who would rather spend their money on Lone Ranger or another junky Hobbit flick). Although the project at first seems the work of amateurs, it really settles into its own and manages to be a fun, horrifying, thoughtful, and succinct experience.
IDENTITY THIEF (2013)
There’s hardly anything to say about this comedy entirely bereft of laughs. Identity Thief is nothing more than a totally forgettable clunker set on cruise control and left on the shoulders of the goodwill of its popular stars. Jason Bateman once again squanders his comic talent, playing a straight man to Melissa McCarthy‘s unpalatable identity thief. But rather than inject any genuine humor into the thing, all the “jokes” are culled from McCarthy letting loose a string of expletives or throwing karate chops at unexpected vocal chords. Beyond the pure laziness masquerading as humor, the third act dissolves into the saccharine melodrama that has no place in an R-rated comedy. All in all, what a waste of time.
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)
In the process of trying to acquaint myself with Tim Burton‘s early and much-beloved work, I’m discovering a man oozing with passion. His character and set designs are as gothic and home-grown as ever and there is undeniably heart living in this project. Furthermore, this is without a doubt a weird Johnny Depp character and yet he’s still more relatable than the slew of weird characters he’s played for the last ten years. Beyond the scars, makeup and scissored hands, he’s a gentle giant struggling with his pure-heartedness and society’s uneasy alliance with him; the Beast to Winona Ryder’s Belle. It’s a shame that Burton has since turned to cheap remakes and Depp to hackneyed characterization because these are two men who really seemed to understand each other and their audience.
JACKASS: BAD GRANDPA (2013)
Without the ADHD framework of bopping between segments where Johnny Knoxville and crew get charged by bulls, launched from buildings, or have their scrotums assaulted in the most heinous of ways, it’s a little harder for the Jackass crew to keep our attention. Bad Grandpa relies on sentimentality and a loose narrative structure to involve us beyond cringing reactions and uproariously laughter. And while seeing Knoxville rocking old man makeup as Irving and taking little Billy under his wing in this hidden camera comedy does show an inkling of emotional storytelling rarely present in Jackass’s finest work, the social commentary present in Bruno and Borat is largely absent here. It’s no surprise that the bits that’ll work your funny bone hardest mostly rely on the easy humor of sharts and male anatomy but seeing little Jackson Nicoll steal the show from Knoxville was definitely out of left field and a pleasant surprise.