December 27, 2013 – The beginning of the year started well, but towards the second half, my movie theater appearances slowed dramatically. Still, I took in an impressive 16 this year, which is less than the 24 from 2012. That had more to do with my lack of interest in most selections rather than my desire.
I’ve rated them from worst to first, but that doesn’t necessary mean the movies that appear higher on the list are bad. I simply avoided most of the rotten ones. Here are 16 through 9. Be sure to catch 8 through 1 on Monday.
16. We’re the Millers
I ventured out to see “We’re the Millers” despite all of the critical condemnation it had received. I imagined it as a big screen version of the Showtime series “Weeds”, only with Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston. What I didn’t realize is that it plays out like the “Weeds” of later seasons, when the show ran off track and lost the spark and imagination of its earlier episodes. The movie is unnecessarily crude and predictable, and the crudeness is what passes for laughs. It may be shocking, but it isn’t funny.
15. Oz the Great and Powerful
The previews of “Oz the Great and Powerful” thrilled me like no other because as a writer and reader, I love back-story. I also decided to fork up the extra bucks and see it in 3D since I never experienced it before, and it was a magnificent visual banquet. The story itself was flat and predictable. Aside from the visual, the only bright spot was Michelle Williams and her understated role as Glinda the Good Witch. Many other actors might have turned in a hammy performance because of the type of role it is, but Williams was soft and serenely bathed in light.
14. Zero Dark Thirty
“Zero Dark Thirty” is a military term for 30 minutes after midnight, when the Bid Laden raid happened in Pakistan. The graphic violence of the torture scenes in this movie, and the humiliation the Al Qaeda prisoners endured while under CIA watch made it difficult to take in, so Kathryn Bigelow, the film’s director, almost achieved the unthinkable. She made me feel sorry for them. I hope I ever have to deal with the CIA.
13. The English Teacher
the Indy comedy-drama “The English Teacher” staring Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear and Nathan Lane, premiered at the Tribeca festival. Moore plays the English teacher, fortysomething year old Linda Sinclair, whose humdrum life makes the likes of Dickens’ character Miss Havisham look exciting. Linda finally finds a purpose outside of the classroom when she helps former student Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) realize his dreams of becoming a playwright. But things get way out of hand when the two become romantically involved and the school wants to take out some questionable scenes in the play.
12. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Magicians don’t entertain me because there isn’t any magic involved, and I don’t like to be fooled. Yet, I enjoyed “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”, the comedy that tells the story of superstar magicians (Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi) working along the Las Vegas strip. The duo earned popularity and huge paychecks over the ten years they headlined, until one day their magic begins to look stale because of a new street magician (Jim Carrey) willing to go to extremes. Alan Arkin co-stars as an old-time magician who inspired Burt as a child, along with James Gandolfini as the owner of the hotel where they perform, and Olivia Wilde as the magician’s assistant.
11. Good Ol’ Freda
Imagine this. At the tender age of 17, you are offered the most coveted secretarial position in the world, which involves working for quartet of musicians known as the Beatles. That’s what happened to Freda Kelly, a timid teen from Liverpool who was thrown into the whirlwind of what would become Beatlemania in 1962. Kelly was a fan first, before the Beatles became famous, and before she accepted the position offered to her by Brian Epstein, whom she called Eppy. Ryan White’s lively documentary shines the spotlight on the behind the scenes star who breaks her silence after 50 years.
10. The Girl Most Likely
In “Girl Most Likely”, Wiig plays a down on her luck female who’s descending spiral forces her to move back in with her mother, and things get a lot worse before they get better. This formula works for Wiig because she’s a competent actress who plays this character type well, and is supported by the wonderful cast around her, namely Annette Bening and Matt Dillon, both in hilarious roles that add to the storyline. Perhaps the thing I like best about this formula is that Wiig is a woman of a certain age (she turns 40 next month), and she is still offered romantic, albeit quirky lead roles.
9. Sky Fall
The James Bond franchise celebrated its 50th anniversary on film, and chose “Skyfall” to imply that James is getting a bit long in the tooth and may be ready for retirement. Bond’s latest assignment doesn’t go as planned, agents around the world are exposed, the British agency MI6 is attacked, and their fearless leader M is forced to relocate the agency to a secret underground location. All of this leads the audience to believe that the super hero may be human after all. Daniel Craig’s Bond is charming as ever under the direction of Sam Mendes, and he manages to do what Bond does so well in the end.