Monday, September 30, 2013

My Tops of 2013 - September

THE WORLD'S END was very funny and a fitting end to Edgar Wright's eccentric trilogy. The ending is very loopy though.

THE ICEMAN wastes fine performances by Michael Shannon and Chris Evans, thanks to its TV movie production.

PRISONERS was a good adult pulpy thriller. Why can't Hollywood turn out more of these?

GETAWAY is the perfect medicine of people who want to have headaches.

THE EAST was a standard lame drama about an undercover agent in a cult but Brit Marling was so bad as the lead.

IN A WORLD... was a rom-com that was actually funny and heartwarming. Plus, the focus on the voice acting industry was delightful.

Best Films of 2013

1. Pain & Gain

2. Spring Breakers

3. 20 Feet from Stardom

4. In a World...

5. Pacific Rim

6. The Croods

7. Now You See Me

8. Side Effects

9. The World's End

Worst Films of 2013

1. Grown Ups 2

2. After Earth

3. The Hangover: Part III

4. Man of Steel

5. Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

6. The Internship

7. Movie 43

8. Aftershock

9. Getaway

10. A Good Day to Die Hard

11. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

12. Jack the Giant Slayer

13. To the Wonder

14. The Host

15. The Big Wedding

16. Beautiful Creatures

17. A Haunted House

18. The Last Exorcism Part II

19. We're the Millers

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Brief Film Reviews - September 2013

Some more 2013 films that have hit video:

The Iceman

Oh look, another television film that has premiered on the big screen instead of a Sunday night slot. Following the life saga of Richard Kuklinski, a lowly porno editor turned mafia/rogue hitman, THE ICEMAN wastes a bountiful cast of talents with a script that should have been sent up the river. Director/co-writer Ariel Vromen just bounces all over the place, moving the plot at a fast enough clip just to showcase the main moments and leave out the details. He also never establishes an overall tone of the picture; Vromen depicts the violence as comically charming one minute, the next it is bleakly ruthless. You watch Kuklinski make his first orchestrated kill on a derelict homeless man but it loses its bite because we just saw him communicating with a moustache-sporting David Schwimmer. Except for the miscast Schwimmer and a few others (poor Winona Ryder still can't get a break), the acting is the sole saving element. Michael Shannon works through the rapid mood swings of the film to create a haunting tormentor and often relishes in the silence to exhibit the inner turmoil of the character. Ray Liotta gets to regain some of his evil spark again and Chris Evans is charismatic as a rival who operates out of a ice cream truck. With better hands in the creative team, this could have been a mighty crime drama.


The East

A field agent (Brit Marling) for a private investigation corporation goes undercover in order to be accepted into the titled group/cult, who all engage in vicious eco-terrorist activities. She's enraptured by the sexy head of the group (Alexander Skarsgård), her allegations begin to be questioned, she finally sees the evil side of her corporate boss (Patricia Clarkson), and she hits upon all of the other cliches of undercover dramas. You're pretty much better off watching STONE COLD, starring the pro football bust Brian Bosworth, because then you'll be sitting through an entertaining bad movie, instead on just a simple bad movie like THE EAST. It's well shot and has a few fine performances but it's ruined by the tedious, tripe work of its director/co-writer Zal Batmanglij. However, it is the lead/co-writer Marling who's at great fault. At first, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, thinking her performance would evolve once under the spell of the preppy, hippie terrorists. Unfortunately, her blank, flat, stilted, monotonous, lifeless, doll-like "acting" never changed. Marling can't handle being the main star of the picture, nor is she capable of handling any role beyond a waitress extra. Come to think of it, she'll just mumble her lines there too.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Everybody Loves Film Delays!

Major bad news for many Oscar watchers and those who write up seasonal overviews: several major films expected to compete for next year's awards have chosen to throw in the towel.

Foxcatcher and Grace of Monaco have both been delayed to an unspecific time in 2014. The former had its trailer leak out yesterday before it was quickly removed and its delay was made official. The latter film, which was designed to give its actress some easy nominations, will instead have to wait.

The worst news has been the rumors surrounding the highly anticipated The Wolf of Wall Street. It has been speculated that Martin Scorsese needs more time in the editing room, meaning no dancing DiCaprio for anyone this Christmas season.

Other than post-production problems, or the fact that they may actually suck, it seems all of them were pulled out due to the perceived expectations of other Oscar hopefuls, including next week's Gravity and the acclaim train that is 12 Years a Slave. A logical understanding, even though we are still getting ghastly swill like The Book Thief. Sometimes, a delay can benefit a release: The Great Gatsby was moved to this summer and though it drew mixed critical notices, the film was profitable with audiences and is expected to sweep up a few production awards.

Now, can someone prove to me that Jack Ryan is coming out?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Trailer Review - Need for Speed

Need for Speed
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Aaron Paul as a revenge sermon-spouting racer, Dominic Cooper as his evil(?), sleazy rival, and Imogen Poots as dead girl.

Scene Pop: I like it when the car goes boom. Honestly, nothing.

Briggs Breakdown: 6 wrecked cars, 2 head-on collisions, 1 punch, 1 kid running with gasoline (better not trip!), a shotgun blast to the rear window, and bad CGI car flipping.

Effective?: No. Too strange and somber for a racing flick.

Check it Out?: I don't think so. This is supposed to be an adaptation of the popular video game series, which has fallen into stale luster for some time, and they gear it as a darker version of The Cannonball Run.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Getaway - Review

Courtney Solomon is one of those individuals who is better overseeing movie production in an office. After majorly flaming out with DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, followed five years later with the truly forgettable horror film AN AMERICAN HAUNTING, he has stayed more behind the scenes by working on the short-lived but popular 8 Films to Die For film festival and his studio After Dark Films. Now, he's back in the main seat with GETAWAY, a film that will make you wish you were observing a paycheck-happy Jeremy Irons and bad fantasy elements. It's one of the first major movie releases with a sizable film budget ($18 million) to instinctively make its picture quality look more worse than an iPhone camera. Its story is stretched out and more redundant than an episode of a reality show. The editing was done by a cat walking repeatedly on a keyboard. It's completely unfit for human consumption.

The first warning sign is the location: Sofia, Bulgaria. Not to offend the country or those living there but no American viewer honestly cares about the hidden European nation save for cinephiles and bad movie lovers. The film kicks off by combining TAKEN with CRANK; a former race car driver (Ethan Hawke) walks into his trashed apartment, with his wife missing and a suspicious cellphone ringing on the table. The mysterious voice on the other end tells him that he has to do a job for him for one night or else his wife will be killed. All of his tasks depend on him being behind the wheel of a customized Shelby Mustang, which he steals right off the bat. After completing a few of them, he's accosted by a young punk (Selena Gomez), who says that the vehicle belongs to her. She is then forcibly inducted into the criminal proceedings and may serve as the only one capable of helping the unlucky driver out of this nightmare.

And right there you have the second warning: Selena Gomez as a gearhead/hacker. Acid Burn, she is certainly not. I did see the promising potential of Gomez with her turn in SPRING BREAKERS but here, the chipmunk-cheeked starlet is a monotone mess. Maybe it was the Bulgarian catering or her frequent script glances with what she had to convey but she brings nothing but guilty laughs and teeth-grinding irritation. Hawke can be bad at times, particularly his first couple of lines when tries to be cool, but he at least tries to make losing his wife feel like a grave threat to his sanity. Then, there's Jon Voight of all people as the bad guy. When filmmakers go the DIE HARD 3 route of having an evil voice-over, they hire someone with a distinctive accent in order to get the right sinister element. They don't hire a shameless actor with a history of questionable vocal deliveries. Solomon also wanted to remind the viewer of his bad movie past so he hired back fat Bruce Payne for a cameo.

Despite my negativity toward the actors, what were they expecting and able to do with such a dirt poor script? Gregg Maxwell Parker and Sean Finegan are so bad at characterization that the characters are legitimately listed as "The Girl", "The Voice", and "Distinguished Man". The action sequences are less of a plotted-out series of escalating turmoil than they are annoying mission parameters in a sandbox video game ("You have ten minutes to evade the cops"). Worst, it's so bare-bones than the dialogue and story beats keep repeating in a vicious circle. Here's what is on the mobius strip: "You are to do this!"; "I can't do that!"; "You must or your wife dies!"; "You can't do that, it's illegal and dangerous!"; "I must do it, girl, or else my wife dies!". The only thing they seemed to get right is the change in time on the car's GPS but that credit goes more to the visual tech department. Which brings up the problems surrounding and inside the car. The two idiots get away (ugh) with explaining off the small damage the car suffers throughout because it's "armored" but they keep neglecting to notice that Voight has complete eyes and ears all over the vehicle. So, when Hawke and Gomez pull a SPEED and create a video loop to fool him, Parker and Finegan forgot about the established live microphone built into the radio, the GPS that tracks their current location, plus all of the cameras that capture Gomez setting up for the loop recording.

Every single car chase starts and ends the same way: a vehicle suddenly intrudes out of nowhere with loud noises; there's a hundred or more split-second cuts all over the sides of the car; the camera zooms forward on Hawke's concerned face and Gomez' blank face; crash, bang, boom. Solomon and editor Ryan Dufrene need to head back to high school-level film school; by creating a multitude of jump cut sequences at claustrophobic levels, you aren't creating quick tempo changes in the action but frequent blurs of consciousness, especially when dealing with cars. There's a reason why NASCAR keeps the frame on the racing longer before cutting to a new shot and often from a far enough distance. The sole exception is an one-take, first person view of the Mustang speeding behind someone during the finale and even that delivers no thrills since it's just a straight line towards the barren city. If you do try to follow the chaotic vehicular violence, you'll realize that Hawke is killing off a lot of cops, possibly some innocents as well, and he's perfectly fine with it.

I mentioned CRANK earlier here which brings up a good point, that Neveldine/Taylor should have been hired to make this if Warner Bros wanted a cheap action film to dump in August. At least there the car insanity would make more sense and be creative. Solomon instead just makes another clear cut example of the degrading film quality of action movies this year.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Prisoners - Review

PRISONERS has suffered greatly from its big marketing push by Warner Bros and Alcon Entertainment. They have undermined its uniqueness and edge all for more recognition as Oscar bait. The film's poster can easily inform you of this ineptitude. It's lazily put together, focusing heavily on the two male leads staring blankly at something through the fog. There's an unnatural dagger-like cut between them, with a smaller image of Hugh Jackman holding his child on his shoulders, across from the vomit-enducing tagline "Every moment matters". Funny how this message doesn't show up in the final product, especially since Jackman spends more attention to his older son, even at the very beginning. Then you have the row of star names with an attached acclaim at their top, a facetious sign that their popularity with a gallery of film politicians determines the merits of their talent and this product.

The fact is that PRISONERS is far better than it is advertised. It was even surprising how well the visual craftsmanship is, with its preference to have the viewer walk in the shoes of its characters and follow the mystery with them. The film could have been just another MYSTIC RIVER clone, since the two are both crime flicks involving missing children and shattered parents, but it then slowly morphs into something you would see in pulp novels or a giallo film.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Dover family (headed by Jackman and Maria Bello) spend the holiday with their best friends, the Birches (headed by Terence Howard and Viola Davis). The two families both have a young daughter, who spend most of the time away from the prepping and dinner tables to their own devices. The girls venture out to walk back to the Dover residence, only to not return. The only possible clue for their disappearance is a dilapidated RV that the two were unwisely playing on during a previous walk outside with their older siblings. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), a young hotshot with a perfect clearance record, and the police capture the RV's owner during a possible escape. The suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is mentally handicapped and there is no evidence of the girls in his vehicle. The 48-hour holding window soon ends, allowing the man to leave the station, much to the chagrin of Mr. Dover, who assaults him and believes him to be the true kidnapper. While Loki continues the perilous search for the kids, which realistically gets dimmer every day they aren't found, Mr. Dover takes grueling matters into his own hands by taking Alex hostage and torturing him until he can tell him the truth.

This film is handled with expert talent and care by its director Denis Villeneuve. This is his first film since his international breakthrough feature INCENDIES and his first movie completely in English. Instead of catering to the studio expectations and the familiar formula American audiences expect with a thriller, he goes for something more European and less upbeat: The opening credits are entirely in black and white and silent, the soundtrack is minimalistic, and the mise en scene takes precedence. He has worked expertly with acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins (SKYFALL) to construct a CHINATOWN-like quality to the mystery; all of the clues are shown right in front of you but they will escape your thoughts because of the interest in other matters. When he's not giving you a hint, Deakins frames some amazing tableaus that accentuate the dreary plight. I would also congratulate the editing but it suffers from some fumbles towards the end, particularly two major sequences that end with an unusual fade out.

Though I mocked them slightly earlier, the cast do bring their A-game to the material. Jackman will obviously be the one who's singled out by others and certain to at least get a nomination for a Golden Globe. I don't think his turn was spectacular, he's a little too showy, but the charismatic actor does bring the haunting menace of a furious father who's also a militiaman packing away for a darker future. To contrast all of Jackman's shouting, Gyllenhaal undercuts his outer skin emotions to play a cynical but thinking detective. Of course, the main reason for that is because Gyllenhaal is to act as our eyes and ears but the capable actor is able to reach some more depth with Loki. His ruthless and tired demeanor come out more from his frequent eye twitching and sly smile. The most certain favorite and standout has to be Melissa Leo as Alex Jones's mousy aunt; the character actress gives the character a nice balance between loving care and quiet despair. The rest of the actors do a nice, fair job though I do feel bad that Bello spends the majority of her time solely in bed and covered in dry tears.

Though I admire the attractive construction of the film, the foundation still has too many red flags. Aaron Guzikowski's script is a pool of confusion and it sometimes spends too much time in the deep end, leaving many plot twists and red herrings to drown in bafflement. I don't need everything to be spoon fed; I like figuring out and discussing with others about the significance of the Catholic references and iconography or what's with the star tattoo on Gyllenhaal's neck. But once a book is introduced or the true motive for the kidnapping is muddled, I do need a helping hand, even if it means a longer running time than two and a half hours. Even with the problems with the mystery, there's still issues with some of the characters, namely the families and their actions. For instance, not only does Jackman hide Alex from the authorities but both Howard and Davis aid him. Once those two begin to question this violent drive to justice, they are shockingly dropped into the background for the rest of the story, thus seemingly getting away scot free. I know that Jackman's heinous actions against Alex are wrong but the Birches can't wipe away the blood on their hands.

The third act is a bit too puzzling to comprehend but the film does at least end with a great finish. The finale is the best test to determine how you would feel about the overall film when walking away from it. For myself, it's both a killer ending, in more ways than one, and wisely utilizes how a viewer operates when watching a film. Thanks to some of the preceding developments and clues, anything is possible.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Essential Film Hit List, Part 3: Endurance Run

A Clockwork Orange; Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom; I Spit on Your Grave; Funny Games; Baise-Moi; Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer; Fat Girl; Possession; Martyrs; Enter the Void; A Serbian Film.

Those are a select few films that I have sat and watched all of the way through. Having the audacity to showcase anything is an important part of film itself; some wish to go further, either to explore themes too taboo to stomach/talk about or to invoke pure sadism upon their audiences. Then, there are those who wish to highlight major bloodshed or the vicious destruction of human life usually for cheap popcorn thrills. And of course, sometimes the major endurance challenge for a film is its own failure at conveying its message or overcoming its shoddy construction.

NOTE: You can easily see by clicking on the "Essential Film Hit List" label below or to the side how long it has been since the last update. I admit that I have been lazy when doing this part; movies like The Passion of the Christ, United 93, and Fireproof were supposed to be featured here as well. However, the timing of the summer movie season and the fact that I was to watch a series of movies that were often depressing caused the massive delay. I'm just failing on my "make time" declaration. Anyway...

Death Wish made a mighty stink during the 1970's, as it largely advocates vigilantism and help lead to infamous real-life cases like the story of Bernhard Goetz. Not counting into fact the laughable stretching of the franchise into the 90's, with all succeeding entry having a budget limboing downward, the first film does hold up a bit well, more as a watchable action flick than as a serious drama of city turmoil. Charles Bronson plays Paul Kersey, a NY architect whose life turns upside down when his wife and daughter are raped by invading thugs (including a young Jeff Goldblum!), who then murder the former before fading back into the scummy streets. During a business vacation, he befriends a gun-happy Arizonan resident developer and begins to switch his liberal beliefs to conservative. Receiving a Colt Police Positive as a departing present from his client, he takes to the streets, snuffing out those that have plagued the city. Bronson was always a fine actor and you can see the evolving change of Kersey's demeanor, from a suited weakling to a hard-edge punisher. Not much else to say.

The Hurricane may seem like an odd choice for this selection (Truth be told: it was expiring on Netflix and I wanted to see before it was removed). However, it becomes perfectly clear at its climax: A Polynesian sailor named Terangi is set to marry the loveliest girl on an island in the South Pacific. As was custom at the time, both are being played by white actors (Jon Hall and Dorothy Lamour respectively). At one island stop, Terangi punches the hell out of a drunk racist, nearly killing the guy. He's sentenced to serve a moderate prison stay but because of his cultural lust for the sea, and the love of his life, the strong idiot keeps trying to escape and adding up more years. He finally breaks out after 16 years behind bars and heads back to his native land, all before a horrible storm is about to approach. Once we get to the hurricane sequence, the film turns from a adventurous drama into a horror show. Tons of water are spewed all over the sets, probably causing an untold number of injuries for the actors. A lot of people are viciously killed off, whether the ones roped to the trees or the ones in the crumbling church. And, all of this is shown without any music; just the terrifying noise of screams, wind, water, and a ringing church bell. This was one of the odd efforts by legendary Western director John Ford but he does make spectacle out of the shallow story. It's a laughably entertaining ride at the start before the harrowing finale sucks the air out of the room.

Well, I finally hit my first misfire. Elephant was the toast of the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Palme d'Or and Best Director for writer/director Gus Van Sant. I have a hard time seeing the so-called amazing praise because the uncomfortable film is so boring and misguided in all of the wrong ways. It shows the multiple viewpoints of several high-school students as they endure and suffer from a planned school shooting. The two gunmen are also focused heavily. Relishing on the disturbing history and visuals of the Columbine shooting, the film tries to make art from the staleness of the classrooms and the mumbled angst of the tortured young spirits. It also thinks it can pull off a Tarantino-esque approach to plot structure, as we get a bigger picture of all of the character intersections. None of these artistic touches matter because the movie falls apart so easily. All of the innocents aren't well developed enough for us to care about their plight or worse, they are unbearably flat and irritating (namely, the mean girls) that you wish for them to die, which is a horrible thought to have with this material. Some of the stories certainly don't matter; for instance, one person is introduced and then is quickly killed off. To fail the film ever more, the ending closes the plot on an ambiguous note, but not before a strange turn of events comes out of nowhere. It does have some good visuals and the third act is a bit terrifying but Van Sant clearly is not trying to make a compatible movie, let alone a coherent one. I gladly would watch Gerry anytime over this again.

Michael Haneke is a mixed blessing for myself; I've not always walked away pleasant with his wild work (Funny Games, Cache) but they are all so intriguing and artfully constructed. He's one of the few directors to expertly torture the viewer but make you think about the dark corners of humanity. The Seventh Continent was his first film and what a crashing breakthrough. Told in three acts, it follows an Austrian family possibly suffering a shared psychological breakdown. Their normal life of consumerism and modernity has chipped away at their souls: the child temporarily goes blind, a routine car wash causes the wife to spontaneously burst in tears, and they all keep observing a banner to vacation in Australia, even though the image has crashing waves on a beach that's next to a mountain range. The third act is when it all falls apart, as the family willing engages in the complete obliteration of their human lives, starting off with their possessions. This act is virtually wordless, except for a key moment that briefly wakes them up from their depressive stupor. Unnerving and emotionally draining, the movie is an amazing display of misanthropy and self-destruction.

One of the type of films I wanted to add to the Essential Film List was a "video nasty", a group of movies that were persecuted and banned in England during the 1980's VHS boom largely due to their violent content. A major film to be judged for obscenity, The House on the Edge of the Park was one of two listed films directed by Ruggero Deodato (the other being the infamous Cannibal Holocaust). The film certainly lived up to its distasteful nature; the opening scene has the main character stalking, raping, then killing a woman. To make it even more worst, the credits reveal that the two actors are married (!). Anyway, the rapist/murderer (David Hess in a role modeled after his work in The Last House on the Left) later meets up with his best friend. A couple with car trouble invite the two to their house party, where they are then treated as fools to the snooty amusement of the real guests. The two get fed up with it so they take their hosts hostage and begin to celebrate a night full of depravity. The movie is a true-blue exploitation, with horrific acts performed for the camera yet there is no excitement or enjoyment for the viewer, not even in a twisted dark sense. Hess and his buddy are truly disgusting while the rich guests are either too stupid or non-caring for their plight. The real deal-breaker for nearly all who chooses to watch it will be a sequence where a young female guest makes a surprise appearance and is then sexually humiliated and mutilated by Hess. If you make it to the end, you are treated to seeing an unbelievably horrendous twist ending and one of the worst death faces ever recorded by a movie camera.

The Passion of Joan of Arc has always been labeled as one of the greatest films ever made. It certainly is. A spirited adaptation of the actual trial and execution of the French teenager turned army leader, Carl Dreyer keeps his camera close on all of his subjects. From the devious judges to the saint herself, every spit, tear, and eye twitch is displayed. You can practically feel the breathing hit the camera lens. Humorously, Dreyer had extravagant sets built for the feature yet they are often obscured away by all of the close-ups. The film of course excels thanks to the bottomless emotional depth of actress Maria Falconetti. She is able to show both courage and dejection with just one good look. It took many extraordinary circumstances to receive this film in its original cut and due to the mighty efforts by many talented companies and musicians, the power of this film will continue to resonant.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Poster Review - September 2013

These three posters are surely memorable in one way or another:

Our first spotlight goes to the one everyone has been gushing over this week: the teaser for the newly named Transformers 4: Age of Extinction. It's kinda cool that the subtitle reveal came from this instead of some bland press release. What's been driving the overnight interest for the unnecessary third sequel is the clue within the poster. The unearthing of the logo from sand seems to confirm what has been rumored and backed by some snapshots of future Hasbro toys, that being that the Dinobots will be coming to the big screen. Cross your fingers that they don't suffer the same ruination as the Constructicons.

The next one is the biggest surprise for the fall. Escape from Tomorrow made major waves back at Sundance this year for being an independent film that was secretly filmed at Disney World. Many didn't expect the film to go any further, due to expected litigation from the House of Mouse, but instead it will reach theaters on October 11th. The surreal movie, further pushing its luck, now has an official poster that parodies the Mickey Mouse character logo on the old Disney shorts. Certainly an attention-grabber.

DEAR GOD. What a horrifying idea.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Trailer Review - Robocop

1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Joel Kinnaman is Alex Murphy/black-cladded Robocop, Gary Oldman as a bored scientist, Abbie Cornish as the whiny and bored Mrs. Murphy, Michael Keaton as the new OmniCorp chairman, Samuel L. Jackson as a TV host/political pundit(?), and a cameoing Jackie Earle Haley and Jay Baruchel.

Scene Pop: Nothing beyond the derisive decisions, such as the flip-top RoboHelmet and the light gun arcade-inspired shootout.

Briggs Breakdown: 1 officer down, 2 car explosions, 1 scientist choke, 2 robot kills, and a lot of Robo training.

Effective?: No. Not much action to entice the brain dead, not even with the fan service of ED-209.

Check it Out?: No. Wait for the reviews before dipping your toes. Why does it look so boring? There's no gore (PG-13 rating!), no violent death of Murphy (a car bomb? really?), and a distinct lack of humor. The only satirical element is how they play up the color swap of the RoboCop suit. My grave fears back in last October have seemingly come true and not even the delay to 2014 has produced anything worthwhile to behold.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Look at Fall 2013

It's that time once again, where the public shrugs their way through a new season of life before back-to-back holidays bring back the fun and festivities. It's when the Oscar-bait, family fantasies, and boffo popcorn material come out to take up the theater screens and to divvy up the spoils. It's also when a few interesting and challenging works are opened to provoke discussion and debate during the most wonderful time of the year.

I'm practically on my knees, awaiting for some mighty movies to come out this year and fill up the "Best" column. I'm one film away from completely filling the "Worst" section, and the last thing I want is more bad movies in this bad movie year.

Let's check out and go thoroughly through all of the offerings coming out in the last four months of 2013.

September 6 only has one nationwide release: Riddick, the third entry in a sci-fi franchise no one really cares about anymore except for its star Vin Diesel. Apparently, he made Universal produce another movie of his favorite character just so he can continue appearing in the Fast & Furious series. I don't have high hopes but that was my same initial reaction to last year's near equal Dredd, which ended up being a surprise cult hit. The film's plot seems to match up with its better predecessor Pitch Black, as the outlaw titled character has to contend with some mercenaries and alien creatures on a deserted planet. The other big release, but in smaller markets, is Salinger, the documentary about the mysterious writer of the American classic The Catcher in the Rye. It has been hyped up with a please-don't-spoil marketing campaign by the Weinstein Company, even though some have already proclaimed the surprises within it. Damn internet.

September 13 has two films but it is clear which one will end up atop the charts, that being the one suited for a Friday the 13th release. Insidious: Chapter 2 is the sequel to James Wan's popular 2011 movie and the second horror film he directed this year. More unexplained supernatural events continue to plague Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne's family. Like The Conjuring, it will draw a crowd. The other movie is The Family, the newest film from the once mega-popular Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element). The French auteur has spent most of his long career writing and producing, to some highly mixed results, and his last noteworthy directing efforts were the dumb Arthur & the Invisibles films. Here, he sadly regurgitates The Whole Nine Yards, as Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer try to hide their mafia past under the Witness Protection Program.

September 20 will feature two early, expected Oscar-nominated features. Prisoners has Hugh Jackman searching for the kidnapper/killer(?) of two girls, including his daughter, and believes that he can get his strange neighbor Paul Dano to confess to the crime. Some might think it sounds like another Mystic River but to myself it feels another forgettable dark drama like Reservation Road. The big possible game-changer is who's sitting in the director's chair: Denis Villeneuve (Incendies). NY and LA get to receive the first roll-out of Ron Howard's Rush, the racing drama headlined by Chris Hemsworth, which will expand across the US next week. I may scoff at Howard's talents but I am always a sucker for Formula One racing and its history, as evident by my high praise for the 2011 documentary Senna. The eye-roller of the weekend will be Battle of the Year, where Lost's Josh Holloway has to coach Josh Peck and forever-hated Chris Brown to compete in the titled dance contest. Certainly not a worthy competitor to the Step Up series. Ip Man: The Final Fight is yet another telling of the life of Ip Man and literally is coming off the heels of the release of The Grandmaster. Strangely only in indie circles, Enough Said is the latest from Nicole Holofcener and features one of the last performances from popular character actor James Gandolfini before his untimely death.

September 27, oh boy, delivers to us Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. The sequel to the mega vibrant and entertaining animated film has its characters return to the environmentally altered Swallow Falls, where the food leftovers have evolved into creatures, including sentient strawberries and screaming leeks. A new crew of directors and writers have replaced Phil Lord and Chris Miller, not to mention Terry Crews taking over Mr. T's role, so I hope they can continue the fun overall experience of the first one. The underdog is sure to be Baggage Claim, an African-American romantic comedy that I expect to have a good holdover in the coming weeks. The lovely Paula Patton plays a flight attendant searching for Mr. Right at every place her plane parks in. May not shock the world with its originality but it will probably be somewhat funny and a nice little treat. For the white boys looking for a bro rom-com, Don Jon will be up their alley. Triple-threat (Writer/Director/Star) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a porn-addicted douche who might try to change his lifestyle when Scarlett Johansson comes into his sights. I'm a fan for JGL but I haven't heard much raves about this back at Sundance. On the other hand, it does looks hilarious and I'm always a sucker for a film that features Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations". We Are What We Are is a strange remake of a Mexican horror flick and the even more strange Metallica: Through the Never is an IMAX exclusive, concert/punk film where Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) tries in vain to retrieve something while a decrepit metal band tries to stay relevant.

October 4 features the film currently ruling all over the Venice Film Festival. Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity has the terrifying endeavors of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as they try to survive in space after a spacewalk accident. My only concern with the space horror film (sound doesn't travel in space) seems to be corrected in the latest trailer, so this looks to be a real winner for audiences. Runner, Runner also comes out, the goofy crime thriller where a college student (Justin Timberlake) loses his money at online poker and tries to confront the site's owner (Ben Affleck). The first poster made me laugh and it doesn't look really interesting, not even with Timberlake as the lead. It could be a sleeper hit, considering it's from the guy who did The Lincoln Lawyer. Meanwhile, down in the dregs, there's the boring Christian film Grace Unplugged.

October 11 has the highly anticipated Captain Phillips, the oddly named thriller starring Tom Hanks and directed by shaky-cam enthusiast Paul Greengrass. One of the many based on a true stories that are sure to easily draw Oscar contention, this account of the much publicized 2009 Somalia pirate hijacking of an American freighter is intriguing and may be this year's version of Zero Dark Thirty. Though she slightly suffered from the massive failure of Paranoia, Amber Heard gets to shine with two other releases this weekend. She's one of the many participants in Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills, the sequel to a film that was expanded from a fake trailer, which was based on a recurring role for Danny Trejo in Rodriguez's films. The notably large and publicity-friendly cast (Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen under his real name) is the film's most important part but I really hope Rodriguez made a better script than Machete; the audience wants slapstick and gore, not more rambling discussions about illegal immigration. The second Heard feature is as the titled role in the limited release of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, a horror film which was made seven years ago(!). There's also Romeo and Juliet, another modern remake of the much abused Shakespeare property. It's only highlight may be Hailee Steinfield, the True Grit star who has a more important release coming later this season.

October 18 is the new release date for Carrie, the horror remake that was pushed back from early this year. Most peculiarly, this is the only major horror release by Hollywood for the Halloween season. Young star Chloë Grace Moretz will continue to grow her stardom when this finally comes out. Escape Plan surely will be another Schwarzenegger and/or Stallone film to fail unless it says Expendables at the top. Here, the two former action heavyweights make a movie version of TV's Prison Break. Despite these two Hollywood releases, all of the hype and critical notices will come from the art/indie markets. 12 Years a Slave is latest Steve McQueen film after his acclaimed/mocked 2011 film Shame. Michael Fassbender returns once again to team-up with McQueen but now he will be in the supporting cast. All of the limelight will be on underrated British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who stars as Solomon Northup, a real-life 1800's freeman from my neck of the woods, who was unwillingly sold into slavery and fought to live free once again. Universal praise has already been given both to the film and Ejiofor. Other than Ejiofor, many people are also looking at Benedict Cumberbatch's lead performance in The Fifth Estate as a top pick for Best Actor. Often noted as one of the redeeming elements of this year's Star Trek Into Darkness, the tall handsome Englishman plays another notable individual but in our modern times, the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. There's also the dark-horse favorite All Is Lost, J.C. Chandor's follow-up to his debut feature Margin Call. Though it stars Robert Redford and has a Cast Away-like premise, the film is an minimalist work, which will scare away and piss off anyone not accustomed to no talking.

October 25, the Friday before Halloween, has...Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa? Really? I've not partook in the Jackass franchise, since I'm not a big fan of candid-camera comedy, but this one is more like the mixed-bag works of Sacha Baron Cohen; Johnny Knoxville reprises an old-man character from the original MTV show, as he engages in obstructive public gags, including one at a child pageant. It will be the big weekend winner, similar to infamous outcome between Pacific Rim and Grown-Ups 2 back in July. The Pacific Rim in this scenario will be The Counselor, a thriller written for the screen by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road) and directed by Ridley Scott. The talent behind and in front of the camera (Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem) look enticing but I don't want to keep my hopes up for another Scott picture. I'll be looking more forward to the American release of Blue Is the Warmest Color, the Palm d'Or winner of this year's Cannes. It was given a NC-17 rating by the MPAA, because heavens to Betsy we see explicit sex.

November 1, oh boy, has a lot of questionable material. First, there's Ender's Game, the film adaptation of the young adult book that every child liked until they grew up and/or read the rest of the book series. That's because of the controversial history of the book's writer Orson Scott Card, who is a devout anti-gay activist and earlier this year sent out a press release for the public to mind his homophobic attitudes. I've never read the book, even after hearing about its juicy plot twist, and I don't want to give any money to Card. If I do take a chance to see it, I'll be like many other conflicted viewers and give double or triple the price of the movie ticket to a charity like GLADD. Then, there's Free Birds, one of the most bizarro stories ever for a feature-length animated film: two turkeys somehow use a time machine to go back and stop turkey from being served as the main course at the first celebration of Thanksgiving. History buffs have already been fuming up a storm with this one (i.e. turkey wasn't serve). Families desperate to leave the household may bring their kids to it but they will be better off watching some television holiday specials instead. Last Vegas is The Hangover for old folk. After the failure of Red 2 and the obscurity of Stand Up Guys this year, no one beyond the starving will seek it out. In limited release, before expanding next week, About Time is the other time machine film, but for those seeking a romantic comedy version of Next and The Butterfly Effect. Richard Curtis may have crafted some cute movies in the past but I'm not feeling it for this one. The best bet for the weekend is the slow burn run of Dallas Buyers Club. The film continues the hot streak for actor Matthew McConaughey and is expected to be the role that earns him an Oscar nom, thanks in part to his massive weight loss for it. McConaughey plays the real-life Ron Woodroof, a free-wheeling Texan cowboy who contracts AIDS during the 1980's epidemic and turns to smuggling in non-FDA-approved drugs from Mexico. Extreme actor Jared Leto, who also lost weight and plays a transgender prostitute, is also getting noticed.

November 8 is an one film show, that being Thor: The Dark World. Thor meets back up with his love Jane Porter before they are both sent back to Asgard to stop the latest threat to its world. The trailers and publicity have been good, thanks in large part to it matching the fantasy elements of Game of Thrones. No surprise there, given that it's being directed by Alan Taylor, a long-time television director who helmed several episodes of the HBO series, including the famous "Baelor". Recently, news came out that they were quickly shooting some additional scenes to beef up Tom Hiddleston's role as Loki, considering that the English actor has become one of the favorites with the public.

November 15 presents The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, adaptated by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), and starring the ever-lovable Leonardo DiCaprio. As presented in its trailer, this looks to be an insane, black comedy view of the tumultuous times of the 1980's yuppie movement and the New York Stock Exchange. It also looks to be added to my running favoritism of films this year that relish in debauchery and bad behavior. Next up is something more bizarre than time-traveling turkeys: a out-of-nowhere sequel to a 1999 film. The Best Man Holiday serves as a follow-up to the popular African-American rom-com and seems to be in the vein of Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married series. Hopefully it will be much, much better than director Malcolm D. Lee's other 2013 release Scary Movie 5. The third big release is The Book Thief, another young adult adaptation but this one is set in WWII Nazi Germany. Oh joy. It involves a precocious girl obviously stealing books and helps hide away a Jewish fugitive. I wonder if it will be filled with melancholy; possibly definite, considering Death was the narrator of the book. Judging from its early footage, it looks like one of the worst Oscar-friendly films to come out and has the same horrible qualities as The Reader.

November 22 certainly will be packed with long lines of people because its opening day for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It is, after all, the highly anticipated continuation of the only young adult book series currently to translate well to the screen. We will see if Francis Lawrence can take over the reins of Gary Ross. The other big film is Delivery Man, a remake of the French Canadian comedy hit Starbuck, which was released stateside earlier in the year. It re-tells the story of a bum who finds out that his past sperm donations led to the birth of 500+ children, many of whom are suing to reveal his real name, since he donated under a pseudonym. The original's writer/director Ken Scott returns and Steven Spielberg is producing but there's one big problem. Of all the people to replace Patrick Huard, they picked Vince Vaughn. There's a possibility he might deliver here (no pun intended) but we are also talking about the unbearable guy from The Internship. In limited theaters is Nebraska, the winner of Best Actor (Bruce Dern) at this year's Cannes. Will Forte and Dern try to spend father-son time in black and white, all under the gaze of Alexander Payne (The Descendants).

November 27 is the day before Thanksgiving, hence the large crowd of films trying to overtake the long second weekend run of Catching Fire. Thankfully, they all are for different markets. For families, Frozen is Walt Disney Animation's take on the fairy tale "The Snow Queen". A second trailer hasn't yet been released here after the one involving a snowman and a reindeer, even though appearances of its characters in recent video games (namely Disney Infinity) and a Japanese trailer cut have popped up. For the cult-heads and the adults, Spike Lee presents his long-awaited remake of Oldboy. Josh Brolin is now the one who's strangely kidnapped one night, held hostage for 20 years, only to then be released and finally able to find those who punished him. I do believe the infamous twists and turns will pop up once again, ready to scare and confuse a new set of hearts and minds. For the action junkies, there's another Jason Statham 2013 feature, Homefront. Co-written by Sly Stallone, the movie doesn't look to stand out and will probably be the lowest in attendance. For those who wish to skip the turkey and get to the presents, Black Nativity delivers a musical where a teen heads off to NYC to spend the holidays with his grandparents. It's kinda weird but at least it's a nice experiment. And, for the Oscar voters, Grace of Monaco has Nicole Kidman playing as Grace Kelly during her royalty reign. Excuse me while I yawn at another vanity picture about a former Hollywood beauty.

November 29 has one Friday film but only as a limited release. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is geared to be a more action-packed biopic of the life of the famous apartheid protestor and future leader of South Africa. The mighty Idris Elba assumes the hefty role.

December 6 has been deliberately left open for the previous two crowded weekends to stretch out some more. The only new wide release is Out of the Furnace, a redneck thriller where Christian Bale tries in vain to retrieve his brother from a hostile gang. It will probably win over critics more than audiences. The more interesting fare is the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, a 1960's exploration of a folk singer in the NY music scene.

December 13 is a bountiful collection of new releases. The audience favorite will be The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Sadly, even after nearly one full year, I haven't had the drive to see the first Hobbit, nor any more Peter Jackson/Tolkien works. Maybe I'll change my mind and finally give that 48 frames per second rate a try. The next audience favorite unfortunately will be Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, unless the continuing decline and acceptance of his films and brand also strikes this one out. Talk about a lump of coal. Meanwhile, NY and LA are treated to American Hustle, David O. Russell's latest movie; we will have to wait till Christmas to get a peek. Like last year's Argo, the movie is a based on true events story of con men working with the government, only this time they are after the mayor of New Jersey. It's filled with an all-stars lineup of his two previous films (Bale, Adams, Cooper, Lawrence, De Niro) while also adding in Jeremy Renner, Michael Peña, and Louis C.K. This weekend also has a limited run of the second Tom Hanks film this season, Saving Mr. Banks. This Disney-approved film re-tells the wining and dining Walt Disney (Hanks) had to do in order to get the film rights for Mary Poppins from its author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson). Looks cute but might be too saccharine.

December 18 has two Oscar hopefuls: one that is a traditional example to get a lot of nominations and the other that is an oddity and may at least earn a possible nom for screenwriting. The Monuments Men recounts the exploits a group of individuals had to really do in order to recover works of art from the grasps of Hitler. Looks promising but it could be another Leatherheads for director/star George Clooney. As for the oddball, Her is certainly a Spike Jonze work: a brokenhearted man falls in love with his new artificial operating system, voiced by Scarlet Johansson.

December 20 will have the return of Ron Burgundy and his Channel 4 news team in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Not much is known about the feature except that the main target of Ron's wrath will move from women in the newsroom to the 24-hour live coverage of cable television. If there's anyone who still wish to see the power of 3D or the money to burn paying for premiums, there's Walking with Dinosaurs, based on the famous BBC series. Foxcatcher is about the strange real-life murder tale of the death of an Olympic wrestler; unexpectedly, the murderer is to be played by Steve Carell. Dhoom 3 is the special Bollywood treat and The Past is given a shot for the Oscars after being a top draw at Cannes.

December 25, Christmas Day, brings a bunch of gifts but they all are questionable at best (where's the dark, violent rated R film?). The expected winner The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is clearly banking on Ben Stiller's appeal and his Night at the Museum past. However, the trailer is an eye-opening, delirious mystery and might scare away the kids unless they all suddenly desire to sit through Life of Pi. 47 Ronin is already the laughing stock of the group, as Keanu Reeves tries to ruin the famous Japanese story by giving it a Last Samurai spin. Not cool, Neo. August: Osage County is the adaptation of Tracey Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It might be good but it's already being overcome by the narrow public focus of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts at the top of the cast. Jack Ryan is the weirdest runt of the liter because a trailer still hasn't come out, despite being a big-time action film and the latest attempt to keep the Tom Clancy character alive with the public. Now, it seems the title has been altered to feature the subtitle Shadow One. What's going on within Paramount? Finally, Grudge Match has De Niro and Stallone fighting each other in the boxing ring. Get it? Because they both played famous boxers in movies! Ha, ha, no.

December 27 solely features Lone Survivor, a sad re-telling of a failed military operation. Mark Wahlberg leads a macho cast of Navy SEALs (Eric Bana, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster). It's directed by Peter Berg, who seems to be returning to the style he implemented for The Kingdom and trying his hardest to avoid another Battleship.

My Top Picks of Fall 2013

1. Gravity
2. 12 Years a Slave
3. The Wolf of Wall Street
4. Blue Is the Warmest Color
5. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
6. American Hustle
7. Thor: The Dark World
8. All Is Lost
9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
10. Captain Phillips

Of course, there are some films not mentioned here or included because I frankly have a hard time determining their release time frame. These films include the biopic Diana and that awful The Starving Games. Also, there is a possibility that any of the featured films will later be delayed.

I hope your movie experiences will be as good as mine, but probably less cynical.