Synopsis: From January to December 2013, hundreds of movies opened on our screens. We saw everything from American Hustle to Zero Charisma, from the ridiculous — 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — to the sublime — 12 Years a Slave. The Reel Guys watched a lot of bad movies this year so you don’t have to and saw many great ones to recommend. But some of the good flicks slipped by without finding an audience. This week they revisit some movies you may have missed but should take a look at.
Richard: Mark, Pain and Gain seemed to me like it couldn’t lose. Starring Dwayne Johnson, who was recently named 2013’s biggest money-making star, Mark Wahlberg and directed by Michael “big bucks” Bay, it was the funny-but-true story about a trio of greedy dumb criminals who kidnap a rich guy. It plays like an episode of CSI: Miami performed by the Three Stooges and should have done boffo box office, but for some reason it didn’t. What did you like that slipped through the cracks?
Mark: I loved Pain and Gain, and if anyone told me one of the best movies of the year would be directed by schlockmeister Michael Bay, I would take it as a sign of the upcoming apocalypse. Another overlooked gem to me was Trance, Danny Boyle’s genre buster. Is it about an art heist? Mind control? Sexual obsession? Revenge? Best to ask James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson, both in fine form, and in the case of Dawson, I do mean — ahem — fine form.
RC: Also in fine form were the giant robots and sea monsters in Pacific Rim. I know they always say about Hollywood that “nobody knows anything,” that you never know what will be a hit, but I thought the combo of Guillermo Del Toro, colossal sea beasts with an appetite for destruction and humungous rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots was a winner. It’s a supersize geek freak out that transports you back in time to wherever you were when you were lucky enough to see your first Godzilla movie.
MB: Sorry, Richard, to me, actual rock-em, sock-em robots are more interesting, and are better actors. Another undiscovered gem for me was Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s Hitchcockian mindbender from early winter. Starting off as a condemnation of the pharmaceutical industry, it turns a lot of corners and becomes a thrilling cerebral murder mystery. And Jude Law, no longer acting with his looks, is magnificent.
RC: Warm Bodies was essentially one joke — the zombie as a metaphor for awkward teenage love — but it’s a pretty good one and well performed. Too bad more people didn’t see it. The movie doesn’t exactly make sense, particularly if you’re a zombie fan of either the Romero or Walking Dead schools, but no matter how fast and loose it plays with the established mythology of the undead it’s still a new twist on an old form.
MB: Warm Bodies reminded me of Ricky Gervais’ Ghost Town in mood and had the same limitations of premise. A foreign film I thought was brilliant was China’s A Touch Of Sin, which interwove four stories Pulp-Fiction style about the new economy in China and its victims, often ending in sad violent episodes. Brilliant Richard.