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A look back at 2013’s successes and flops

Date: 1/2/2014

By G. Michael Dobbs

My goal in 2013 was to bring attention to as many movies and television either released in theaters or home video that I could that were not candidates for much notice from mainstream reviewing outlets.

It’s easy to read about big splashy Hollywood productions, but there is a whole world of film beyond those movies.

The problems filmmakers have these days is not in the making of movies as advances in technologies have helped them to lower costs while increasing artistic options. The real difficulty is getting a film before consumers. The demise of the brick and mortar video store has made it increasingly difficult for the average movie fan to find the smaller films, the foreign productions and re-issues.

Netflix actually drops movies from its service because the licensing deals are at an end, which means it’s even more difficult for consumers to find movies.

As always, my biggest problem this past year with reviewing films is that I didn’t have enough time to see everything I wanted to see.

Big flops by one time great directors: “Passion” by Brian DePalma, “The Canyons,” by Paul Schrader and “Cosmopolis” by David Cronenberg all illustrated an apparent problem shared by directors past their prime: when in doubt exaggerate the tried and true hallmarks of your style in an effort to seem relevant. These three films all had potential but squandered satisfying storytelling for meaningless artistic conventions.

Some of the most welcomed events of the year: the release on Blu-ray of the 1924 version of “The Thief of Bagdad,” the classic fantasy starring the great Douglas Fairbanks. “The Damned,” a 1947 French film, was a revelation.

I need my three hours back: I’ve been told that “Cloud Atlas” was a great book, but as a film it was pretentious, confusing and borderline tasteless – haven’t we gone past the point of white actors playing Asians?

Great scares: Without a doubt one of the finest horror films I saw this year was “The Pact,” an original film that kept the blood to a minimum while maximizing the gooseflesh. “John Dies at The End” was another favorite and shows that director Don Coscarelli knows how to tell an off-killer story that works. “The Battery” proved there was new life in a tired genre: the zombie movie. The low-budget Irish science fiction film “Grabbers” was a lot of fun. “Byzantium” was a great new take on vampires

Oscar time: “The Place beyond the Pines” was a great drama with superb performances from a cast headed by Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. “Gravity” should earn some awards. “The Way Way Back” deftly mixed drama with comedy and was award worthy.

Overrated blockbuster: “Man of Steel” could have been a faster-moving and better picture of director Zack Snyder had a producer or editor to trim his story-telling excesses. I’m not looking forward to the sequel. “R.I.P.D” was simply a retread of “Men in Black.” Only Jeff Bridges was interesting in it.

May these filmmakers suffer something really unpleasant: The crew responsible for the remake of “The Lone Ranger,” a film that was so deeply, deeply insulting to this 20th century American myth.

Most pretentious film of the year: the adaptation of the classic beat novel “On the Road.” What a mess! “This is the End” was easily the most self-indulgent movie I saw.

A movie that was meant to be seen in theaters or on very big TVs: “Pacific Rim” was a wonderful homage to the Japanese giant monster films and looked great on the big screen.

Best drive-in film that was never screened at a drive-in: the off-the-wall horror war movie, “Frankenstein’s Army.”

A sequel that actually worked: “Red 2” was a lot of fun.

British crime thrillers that are worth your attention: “The Sweeney” and “Welcome to the Punch” were both solid police action films. Just turn on the subtitles to help with the accents.

Comedies that were actually funny: “The World’s End” was a great way to end the Simon-Pegg-Nick Frost-Edgar Wright collaborations. “We’re the Millers” stuck to being naughty, which in turn meant it was satisfyingly nice. “Last Vegas” was somewhat predictable but its cast made the film enjoyable.

My guiltiest pleasure that I saw but didn’t write about: “Machete Kills,” the sequel to “Machete,” which is actually a very clever, but non-politically correct, spoof of 1970s exploitation movies.