Looking Back: Ethan Reflects on His 13 Most Anticipated Films of 2013
by Ethan Anderton
December 30, 2013
It's hard to believe that nearly one year ago, we were anticipating the release of films like Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Wolverine. Those summer blockbusters have come and gone (all three of them are available on Blu-Ray and DVD actually), and all three of them were in my 13 Most Anticipated Films of 2013. Now that I've seen all but one of the films on that list (because it was delayed to 2014), it's time to reflect on the movies I was excited about, and see if they delivered. For the most part, there were few disappointments, with one failure and another that lived up to my impossibly high hopes.
#13. Before Midnight
When the film was teased in 2012, my excitement for this third installment in the unlikely film series that began with Before Sunrise and continued with Before Sunset could not be quelled. And then when the film was added to the Sundance 2013 line-up, there was no denying it was my most anticipated film of the festival. However, with hopes that high, it was unlikely that the film would deliver. However, the stunning and raw performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who also co-wrote the script with director Richard Linklater) came through with flying colors. It's a triumph on all levels.
#12. The Monuments Men
Sadly, this film was pushed from the awards season release slot of December 18th back to a dismal February 2014 opening. Insiders say the delay is because of the time needed to finish special effects, and we're hoping it's not because the film from director George Clooney didn't turn out as well as we hoped. The film is undoubtedly still one of my more anticipated releases, and you'll see it pop up on my list of anticipated films for 2014 coming in the next few days.
#11. The Wolverine
Considering how terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine turned out to be, this next standalone film focusing on the adamantium-clad mutant played by Hugh Jackman didn't have to do much to outdo its predecessor. At the same time, the poor excuse for a spin-off also didn't inspire much hope that a film following just Wolverine would work again. But a move to Japan with some truly interesting supporting characters and a lack of stupid punchlines for Logan to spout turned this into a solid comic book chapter. It's still not as good as the first two X-Men films, but it's a nice gateway into next year's X-Men: Days of Future Past.
#10. Kick-Ass 2
With the addition of Jim Carrey, Donald Faison and John Leguizamo to the cast of this comic book sequel, we hoped Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) would have another great adventure, building on the raw violence and gritty storytelling that made the first film work so well. However, director Jeff Wadlow doesn't have the skills of Matthew Vaughn, and somehow made the action sequences boring and poorly directed. In addition, Carrey was wasted, and the film had no real emotional core, opting for pointless vulgarity without personality and making for a dud.
#9. The Wolf of Wall Street
The film is currently in contention for the top spot as my favorite film of the year. A delay from an initial November release date was worrisome, especially when the studio was forcing a shorter cut of a film that was rumored to initially run around 4 hours. Thankfully, director Martin Scorsese and his editor Thelma Schoonmaker were able to turn in a film that came in just under three hours, and it doesn't feel long in the least. With chaos and craziness that shows the absolutely ridiculous behind the scenes life of conniving Wall Street workers, Scorsese's latest film is relevant, hilarious, spectacular and infuriating all at once.
#8. This is The End / The World's End
This was a twofer since it seemed unfair to include one big apocalyptic comedy and not the other, and both films turned out to be comedic darlings. Edgar Wright delivered the conclusion to his Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy and it lived up to the standards fans wanted and desired, complete with awesome action and superb writing. Meanwhile, writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg made a fantastic directorial debut in a film that is certainly narcissistic, but not reprehensibly so, especially since all of the stars make fun of themselves in some form or another. Both films made it on my list of the Six Most Hilarious Comedies of 2013, so that's not bad at all.
#7. Pacific Rim
The return of Guillermo del Toro to the big screen was long overdue. And this big sci-fi blockbuster inspired by Japanese pop culture didn't deliver a film with as much substance as wildly entertaining action, but that didn't make it hard to enjoy. The special effects in this film are mesmerizing enough, but both the robot and creature design are stunning as well. Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi make a solid leading duo, and Idris Elba comes through, albeit a little more campy than we anticipated. And don't forget Ron Perlman and Charlie Day, setting up the meat of what will hopefully drive the hopeful sequel.
#6. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
It was pretty much impossible that this film was going to live up to the standards of fans who came to fall in love with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy over the past nine years, but since Adam McKay and Will Ferrell never gave up on trying to make the sequel happen, we weren't going to give up either. And while the comedy sequel doesn't match the comedy gold that the first film delivered, some truly brilliant satire about 24-hour cable news and unbelievably odd sequences make for a truly entertaining comedy that we'll still be quoting endlessly.
After waiting years to see this film get off the ground, director Alfonso Cuàron unveiled the best sci-fi film of the year. If it wasn't for some mistakes in science (pointed out by the beloved Neil deGrasse Tyson), this almost feels like sci-non-ficition. The lead performance by Sandra Bullock is impressive on its own, but when you start learning how the seamless shots came together to form this story that takes place almost entirely in space, her work is even more impressive. But what's truly mind-blowing is the stupendous visual effects that put audiences right in the middle of space.
#4. The Great Gatsby
Though the film hasn't had the legs to shake a stick at the awards race (unless it lands some technical nominations), this adaptation from director Baz Luhrmann is truly F. Scott Fitzgerald by way of Moulin Rouge. While many whined about the inclusion of modern music produced by Jay-Z and performed by the likes of Fergie, Lana Del Rey and more, it adds a unique flare to the film so that it doesn't feel like another typical period romance. Leonardo DiCaprio gave a career-defining performance in The Wolf of Wall Street, but his turn in this project shouldn't be ignored.
#3. Iron Man 3
Film franchises usually falter around their third installment, but with director Shane Black shaking things up with his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang star, the film was much better than the lackluster second chapter in the Iron Man series. The film managed to get bigger and better without sacrificing story, and it even tricked comic book fans by putting a cool twist on the arch nemesis Mandarin (played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley in more ways than one). The film effectively ends Robert Downey Jr.'s run as a standalone Iron Man, but still allows him to return in The Avengers: Age of Ultron and a third round with the superhero ensemble.
#2. Man of Steel
With producer Christopher Nolan helping director Zack Snyder, the trailers for this new reboot of The Big Blue Boy Scout were promising to say the least. The film felt as grounded as a story about an alien with superpowers coming to Earth to battle villains can be, and while that stayed true amongst the giant sci-fi action, there still seemed to be something missing. For all the effort there was to have a powerful emotional foundation for Superman, there didn't seem to be enough time to connect to his struggle. At the very least, Michael Shannon as General Zod made things interesting, and the climax (which somewhat controversially kills thousands) was quite the spectacle (for the first 10 minutes) and finally gave Superman the fight he deserved. We're hoping that the set up in this film pays off in the sequel with Batfleck.
#1. Star Trek Into Darkness
If there was ever the perfect example of a well-made, action-packed summer film that impressively hides the flaws that lie within the story, it's Star Trek Into Darkness. For all the leaps in logic and more (this article has a hilariously sarcastic breakdown of the events on screen), the great young crew led by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto still makes for some thoroughly entertaining sci-fi adventure. However, the sequel is still fairly hollow, lacking any real substance, and poorly utilizing an iconic villain and wasting a menacing performance from Benedict Cumberbatch that would have been better served in Star Wars: Episode VII.
That's it for my look back at the films I was most excited to see this year. And now that 2013 is just one day shy of coming to an end (our lists of the best films are coming soon), we're getting ready to look forward to 2014. A recent video highlighted some of the bigger releases hitting the big screen next year including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and other lengthy titled sequels. Sometime soon, I'll be tossing up my 14 Most Anticipated Films of 2014, assuring there's plenty to anticipate, even if the year 2015 looks to be bigger. Thoughts?