The heist film is a tried and true formula for genre moviemaking. There’s no denying the simple pleasures of watching a team of “who’s who” stars work together to either steal their way to wealth and luxury…or perhaps get punished for it. Steve McQueen’s sprawling Chicago-set crime saga, Widows, follows in the footsteps of the classic heist films, the Heats and Dog Day Afternoons of the world, and forges its path with a mixture of social commentary and an examination of our obsessions with tales of teamwork and thievery.
The countdown continues…again!
It does not really matter if the fourth Transformers live-action movie is “good” or “bad.” It will be a 9+ $ figure global megahit all the while critics lambast the film and internet bloggers/forum prowlers get their metaphorical dung, tar & feathers ready to be thrown at Michael Bay for his alleged cinematic “crimes.” However something occurred to me as I was viewing Transformers 4 (subtitled: “Age of Extinction”), as I was rolling my eyes at the mid-film barrage of explosions with eerily-centered product placement logos, I noticed that the audience, mostly filled with neatly dressed & groomed professionals and hyperactive children, in the theater were all cheering. Despite nearly every worst instinct Michael Bay has as a filmmaker and storyteller being emphasized to obnoxious degrees in the nearly 3-hour long film, audiences were eating it up with huge grins on their faces. Some actually enjoyed the film, some enjoyed it for the pleasure of skewering it for their blogs and peer amusements and then there were others who were simply fascinated with what this film was trying to say. I fall into the latter category. Believe it or not, even the most mainstream studio-backed product is in some ways a work of art and every work of art makes a statement. While some far-reaching cinephiles have often taken the stance of Michael Bay’s films as satires on one subject or another, what is ultimately more fascinating is what the films say about the man behind them. Transformers: Age of Extinction may not be a “good” film or even a functional one but like many of Bay’s films it serves as a sort of Rorschach image peer into the mind of the filmmaker.
The film franchise based on Marvel Comics’ ‘X-Men’ comic mythology (which follows the exploits of “mutants” – people born with superpowers) are the last connections to the time when superhero movies were still a novelty and when lines like ‘What did you expect, yellow spandex?’ were eaten up by fans who were simply happy to see their favorite characters taken seriously by Hollywood. The aesthetic of early superhero films were clearly lifted mostly from The Matrix and Blade. The one thing nobody ever really talks about when revisiting the original X-trilogy is that none of the films are particularly good in purely cinematic terms and they are poor interpretations of the X-Men mythos. They do get a character or concept right on occasion (Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine), but in terms of interpreting the X-Men, they never seize the opportunity to tackle what has been a most interesting and pleasantly soap operatic serial storytelling (the comics being 50+ years ongoing). Four movies into the film franchise, with the critical & commercial flop, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, almost putting the series to whimper of a close, something remarkable happened: X-Men: First Class. The film was conceived as a soft reboot while also serving as a prequel to the previous films and it established a whole new tone and mission statement for the films going forward. First Class director Matthew Vaughn (L4yer Cake) embraced the freestyle camp and soap opera fun of the comics while allowing the mythology’s sense of social commentary to breathe and really come alive.After another fun brief one-off film focusing on the character of Wolverine (who has been the central character for every X-film prior to First Class), fan-favorite Bryan Singer, who directed the first 2 entries in the franchise and produced the rest is back at the helm. Singer has slowly gotten notoriety for not being reverent or respectful of the X-characters and mythology save for Wolverine but it seems many lessons were learned from the success of First Class as this film, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only a good movie, it’s Singer’s best X-Men movie, and the best X film to date.
Japanese animation (anime) is as versatile a medium for storytelling as comic books, film, live-action television and the like. Whereas much of western animation is predicated on broad family fare or comedies for older audiences, there’s a variety of content for any and all demographics that is more abundant in foreign, not only Japanese animated productions. A great thing about animation is its ability to portray concepts and worlds uninhibited by the limits of live action and textual mediums. Psycho-Pass is a 2013 22-episode series produced by Production IG (Ghost in the Shell, Blood+) and written & directed by prolific auteur Gen Urobuchi, who was responsible for such cult-classic anime productions such as Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero. Like his other works, Urobuchi is keen on transporting us to a new world to deal with many of the subjects we face in ours.
Maybe “best” is a bit much, but there was certainly a noticeable abundance of acclaimed films in 2013, and more so than others.
At the end of every year and the beginning of the next everyone from serious critics to the random passerby begins to form a “top list” of the movies they had seen. It is a celebration of the merits of the films we enjoy and a means of people to have fun comparing and contrasting each experience they had at the movies. It’s not so much that these lists are some deep evaluation, but rather an entertaining way to group the stuff we like. While MY list summarizes my thoughts on SOME of the best films of the year, I will indeed be going more in-depth on most of these as we head towards award season, and when “spoilers” generally won’t be an issue.
So here are 10 movies (in no particular order) that HELPED make the case for 2013 as a strong year for films: