REEL REVIEWS: From comic book heroes to really bad hair

Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale star in the period “hair” piece American Hustle, a likely Oscar contender for 2013. - Atlas Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale star in the period “hair” piece American Hustle, a likely Oscar contender for 2013.
— image credit: Atlas Entertainment

This last summer and fall brought us a lot of big budget blockbuster wannabes.

Iron Man 3 closed out the trilogy in acceptable fashion, the new Man of Steel smashed his way through the rebirth of the Superman franchise, Thor: the Dark World kept his brother Loki fresh in our minds and Wolverine just disappointed.

Coming out in 2014, the comic book movies continue: X-men: Days of Future Past, Captain America: the Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (clever title guys,) even another Transformers movie.

2013 was also a summer for space films.  Benedict Cumberbatch reprised Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness; the Smiths got philosophical in After Earth; Cruise bored us in Oblivion and Pacific Rim answered the question we’ve all been asking ourselves, “when will someone make Transformers vs. Godzilla?”

Elysium gave us a cool premise but then just turned into a loud action film. Ender’s Game was good; Riddick was not. Then there was Gravity, which is essentially a shipwreck tale captured in an amazingly realistic looking film. This is a film that will be taken seriously at the Oscars, if only for technical reasons.

Speaking of Ender’s Game, the trend of having films point out how we should feel guilty about human greed and corruption continue to be the flavour of the day: Catching Fire has its own catchphrase in reference to employed destitution in America, “The Hunger Games are real.”

Even comedies like This is the End, The World’s End and World War Z want us to think about the systems we have in place. What’s that? World War Z wasn’t a comedy? Well, you must not have seen it.

The Big Wedding was one of the worst movies of 2013. Movie 43 was a worse movie, but it was supposed to be bad, to a degree anyway. Paranormal Activity 4 might have not even deserved a score, but it can’t be measured by the standards set by the cast that stunk up The Big Wedding.

Last Vegas was another turkey ruined by too many cooks. Robert DeNiro was in both of them. Pretty soon you’re going to see him in the boxing ring with Sylvester Stallone. No we’re not kidding. Get ready for Grudge Match.

It was a pretty big summer for kids’ movies, but none of them were particularly awesome: Despicable Me 2, The Lone Ranger, Epic, Monster’s University, and Grown Ups 2. They were all fine, but nothing to write home about. They might make good stocking stuffers for the kiddies.

What’s that? Grown Ups 2 isn’t for kids? Well, you must not have seen it.

2014 will bring more of the same, along with some rebooted classics: Thomas the Tank Engine, Spy Kids 5, Rio 2, Annie, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Muppets: Most Wanted and the return of everyone’s favourite mutt Benji.

Surprising summer movies (that is to say, movies that surprised us by being good,) included Pain and Gain, The Conjuring, and About Time. But there were a lot more that weren’t as good as the hype. However, some of them will be mentioned come Oscar time, mostly due to the fact that 2013 was another short list of slim pickings: Rush, Ron Howards 1970s’ race car epic; Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks captains a freighter highjacked by Somali pirates; Prisoners, angry dad turns vigilante; perhaps too, 12 Years a Slave and The Butler.

Yet, most of the real contenders for the Oscars this year haven’t yet made it to Vernon. The winter should bring us some truly good movies. They are overdue. We are ready for them. Are you?

Peter Howe and Brian Taylor are film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C.


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