I closed out 2013 with a December that consisted of 20 viewings. Of those 20 viewings, only 8 were “first viewings” and 3 were trips to the theater. It was a pretty mellow way to close out the year. It was actually the opposite of 2012’s stats, where I watched any and every thing that I could.
Stay tuned to the blog and podcast for a rundown of not only my year in movies but also Mike and Tiny’s year. For now, here’s my rundown of the highs and lows of December 2013.
Best First Viewing: The Way Way Back (2013)
There was a lot of hype surrounding this movie for me. I tried to see it in the theater over the summer but I never got around to it. Luckily, by the time I finally did see it, I had managed to avoid a lot of details and spoilers.
The movie immediately caught my attention from the opening scene where Steve Carell’s character Trent asks awkward teen Duncan (played perfectly by Liam James) to rate himself on a scale of 1-10. The scene establishes the tone of the movie better than most of the other movies I saw last year.
As for the movie itself, it’s a coming of age story that will strike a chord with anyone who carries the painful memories of an adolescence spent in crippling fear of your lack of identity.
Honorable Mention: Out of the Furnace (2013)
The movie isn’t the mystery thriller that the previews had me thinking it was. Instead, it was about how its protagonist handled being dealt a poor hand and whether or not he’d lose himself when faced with the possibility of losing everything else. The performances were outstanding and the writing was great. I was very impressed with this movie.
Worst First Viewing: The Hangover Part III (2013)
The marketing for The Hangover Part III pledged a return to the quality of the first movie, with the gang coming back to Vegas to conclude the trilogy. It was to the point where the trailer showed the three main characters entering Vegas while Bradley Cooper assured them it wouldn’t be like last time.
The trailer made it seem like The Hangover Part III took place primarily in Vegas but it wasn’t until about a solid hour into the movie that they arrived in Las Vegas. But at least the trailer was right. It wasn’t like last time (or the time before, by extension).
The Hangover Part III was similar to Fast & Furious in that the latter shifted the franchise from street racing action to heist movies whereas the former shifted The Hangover from comedy to unwatchable dreck.
The Hangover Part III was not funny in the slightest. Worse yet, the movie spends a solid 45 minutes on plot development that is so needlessly convoluted and boring that you’ll wish you were roofied and could forget the whole thing happened.
Dishonorable Mention: Admission (2013)
You can read my review here. In short, it felt like the movie expected me to empathize with a main character that wasn’t all that sympathetic. Paul Rudd and Nat Wolff weren’t used to their full potential. Wolff was underused while Rudd’s character felt undeveloped, leaving him to fill in the rest of the character with the “Paul Rudd persona” we otherwise love seeing.
The story was a predictable, feel-good plot with an ending message that’s hard to get behind when the character delivering it hasn’t earned your sympathy.
Biggest Surprise: Out of the Furnace (2013)
Like The Hangover Part III, the trailers for Out of the Furnace did a very big disservice to the final product. The trailers made me think it was going to be similar to Winter’s Bone (which was a good movie) but it defied my expectations and turned out to be a great, character-driven movie.
Biggest Letdown: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
I had really high hopes for Desolation of Smaug after being really pleased with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when I saw it in January. But the spectacular visual effects of Smaug really can’t make up for the disappointment I felt for the forced elf/dwarf love story and friend-zoned Legolas subplots. If Jackson had cut out the elves and given the screen time to concluding the Smaug story, I would have been much more satisfied.
Returning Favorite: (500) Days of Summer (2009)
It’s almost nauseating in its quirkiness but this is by far my favorite indie rom/com. The script, along with the performances and onscreen chemistry of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, really elevate this movie far past what it could have been. I’ve seen it several times and even read the script once.
My standout scene, at least this time around, was the split screen sequence of Tom going to Summer’s party after their break up. One side of the screen shows Tom’s expectations for the party and how he hopes it will reignite things between them. The other side is “reality” and show us how it doesn’t go well for him. The whole thing is set to Regina Spektor’s Hero and is a really fantastic sequence.
That does it for December and 2013 as a whole in terms of my month-by-month breakdowns. Check out the Movies I’ve Watched 2013 page of the site for everything movie related from last year and don’t forget to follow me around the internet with the links above.