Published on January 9th, 2014 | by Dan Gvozden


10 Movies of 2013 That I Just Didn’t “Get”

The critical community is filled with voices of all makes and models.  Be it Dana Stevens, A.O. Scott, or Armond White; there is an opinion for every personality.  That’s why a service like Rotten Tomatoes, flaws and all, can be a great way to get a general consensus on what critics thought of a film overall.

Oftentimes, I will check out these diagnostics after I’ve completed my review of a film only to be surprised that I was on the opposite side of popular opinion.  Here is a list of ten films that received strong praise (these are ranked by Rotten Tomatoes score) that for some reason or another I just didn’t get:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (89%) 

catching-fire-katnissSure this film was good to look at with some decent action, but at the end of the day I still think that the series is complete and utter nonsense.  The narrative allows for no consistency in character, tone, or plotting and ends up a convoluted mess.  Every moment confuses the viewer, as they are left scrambling for what the consequences will be and what each character’s motivations are.  When asked why any of the scripts developments are occurring, the answer almost always is: Because.

Read my review here.

Frozen (89%)

FROZENFrozen is a film that feels both underdeveloped and overdeveloped at the same time.  I never felt like any of the elements ever fit together in any cohesive way and yet still felt like it hit every single familiar beat that Disney films have been hitting since Walt put his own head on ice.  Why does Elsa have ice powers?  Why are there trolls that are obsessed with makeovers living in the forest? Why should I care about a random snowman whose inclusion in the film is solely to sell plush toys?  What is up with the screenwriters’ obsessions with windows and doors?  I don’t know how to answer any of these questions, all I know is that Frozen is a narrative mess that also thinks it is way more clever than it actually is.

Computer Chess  (86%)

comp_chess_2I get it; this film is trying stylistically to be a time capsule of bad video work from the late 80’s while employing non-actors to pull of “realistic” mumblecore performances.  In that manner the film is a complete success, yet it is totally boring to watch, poorly acted, and visually ugly.  As accurate as the director’s vision might be, that alone doesn’t make the film fun to watch.  What’s more, the film features a multitude of subplots that never really contribute to the film as a whole.  Characters appear and disappear to never be seen again.  I’m not asking for every minor character to matter to the film’s core plot, I’m just asking that a film only waste so much of my time on things that aren’t essential.

This is the End (83%)

This-Is-The-End-Rogen-Franco-HilcblWhen are we going to stop accepting a series of skits as acceptable entertainment?  I remember when a film like Ghostbusters dared to be funny and to tell a story competently.  Sure, This is the End has some surprise commentary on Hollywood culture, but what do I care when there are no believable character interactions or motivations?  I worry that studios have forgotten that comedy comes from tragedy and I only feel tragedy when I care about something.  I clearly don’t care about a bunch of actors competing onscreen to say the next dumbest thing.  It is hard to say that a film is unfunny, comedy is so subjective, but This is the End and those of its kind (Stepbrothers for example) just don’t work for me.

The Place Beyond the Pines (82%) 

The-Place-Beyond-the-Pines-2The Place Beyond the Pines so wants to be an epic.  You can feel it reaching out, grasping for ideas and purpose.  Yet, just because it looks like an epic, is as long as an epic, and deals in themes that seem epic, doesn’t mean that the film is an epic.  After an intriguing but also inconsistent introduction, the film turns to less interesting storylines that are full of dramatic coincidence and contrivances that all lead to a big dumb ending that says practically nothing.  I would instruct director Derek Cianfrance to figure out what his core story is next time and just focus on that.  This film never needed three entirely separate plots to give it meaning.

Read my review here.

Prisoners (82%)

maxresdefaultPrisoners might be the silliest film of the year.  Just like The Place Beyond the Pines, it is beautifully shot and features a few solid performances, though I don’t consider Hugh Jackman’s to be one of them.  The film is immediately overwrought with dramatic pretense and characters weave in and out of the film with no narrative purpose.  Prisoners quickly expands beyond its core premise, questioning our interrogation techniques, and introduces multiple additional suspects, conspiracies, and psychopaths that are straight out of a pulpy comic.  After awhile, all of the screaming, maze etchings, and snakes begin to get comical and just a bit silly.  Pretty visuals cannot cover up Prisoners’s overwritten and nonsensical script.

Read my review here.

Iron Man Three (78%)

Iron-Man-3Iron Man Three does too much of everything, including undoing all the things that made Tony Stark an interesting film character.  The rules of his suit and personality are completely undone by the addition of his remote powered suits; suits whose powers are never fully explained and are inconsistently utilized.  Just the first half of the movie introduces the concepts of mind-controlled robots, fire-breaking soldiers, the Mandarin, AIM, Extremis, Iron Patriot, and the fact that Tony is suffering from PTSD.  All of these additions are introduced before the writers can properly lay the groundwork for their best ideas to take root.

Read my review here.

Pacific Rim (72%)

PACIFIC RIMI know that Pacific Rim is supposed to be just a film about robots punching monsters, but outside of that sense of scale nothing else works here.  At best Pacific Rim feels like a video game script from ten years ago, except that I didn’t get to play the game.  Worst of all are the performances of the actors.  There isn’t a single honest moment in the film and without honesty why should I care whether these people win or lose a fight?  If I wanted to see two things hit each other and not feel anything I’d slam my head up against the wall.  At least that way it’d be because I’d dulled my nervous system with a concussion.

Elysium (69%) 

Elysium-fightI cannot think of a greater disappointment in the world of film in 2013 than Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium.  The trailers sold the film as a science fiction take on the 99% movement with body horror, big action, and incredible visuals.  What we got instead was an incoherent mess with some of the most intellectually insulting moments of the year, with a final shot that had me furious enough to stand up to leave before the film ended.  That’s not even to mention the performances from Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley that are, in my opinion, the worst of the year.  I know this film isn’t loved, but how in the world is it agreed on by 69% of the critic community as being acceptable.

Listen to my discussion of the film here.

Ender’s Game (61%)


Ender’s Game sacrifices everything that makes movies enjoyable to watch.  It feels like it was directed by the SparkNotes summary of the book and a stopwatch.  Scenes race by with no emotional resonance or moments for its audience to even determine how they feel about what is going on onscreen.  When the big reveal comes at the end it means nothing and has absolutely no effect or meaning unless you’ve read the book.  Are we supposed to care about an alien force that we’ve never seen or seen the consequences of?  This film will also remind you of why Harrison Ford should have retired years ago and why I am so terrified of his probable inclusion in the new Star Wars films.

What films do you think were massively overrated this year?  What’d I miss in these films that everyone is so positive about?

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About the Author

Do you remember that dorky kid from elementary school who loved movies and comic books? Dan's him, but an adult... well in most senses of the word. All that matters is that he's an aficionado of all things pop culture and wants to share his interests with the world.

  • Alton

    While I disagree with you about Pacific Rim, I have to admit that Hunnman and Kazinsky’s performances were so bland and they look so generic that until they fought each other I thought that they were the same person.

  • Adriano Vazquez

    It sounds like your criteria for every film is the same. With the exception of Elysium which was just awful, everything else here has a certain element of merit. With Catching Fire it was improving on the very flawed original film and the source material it was adapting. Francis Lawrence, beyond all expectations, made me give a shit about the universe in a way that I never expected. If you are going to pick apart Frozen in that cynical way you might as well pick apart every disney film. And Brian’s right, OLOF IS AWESOME! There’s a lot to Computer Chess, just like holy motors, you can’t just judge it on a surface level. This is The End is much more coherent than you say and it actually has a lot of great foreshadowing and jokes that are just so original and hysterical. Disagree about the lack of great character interactions and story (especially with jay baruchel). With place beyond the pines and prisoners while I agree that their scripts have faults, there is no denying how much everything else is top notch in terms of their making. With iron man 3, yeah it’s a mess but it was still a fun time at the theater with some good action and comedy, and sometimes that can be enough. Enders game has flaws but it’s also a pretty bold and unique children’s film with a very unconventional message. Now with Pacific Rim and even White House Down to a lesser extent, if you pick apart its script like some imperfect piece meal than you might as well not enjoy entertainment ever. You can pick apart nolans scripts easily but we can forgive mostly because he sucks us in in some way. Pacific Rim and White House Down is what I want in my summer time entertainment, as films, they know their premise is silly yet they don’t insult our intelligence because it embraces what it is and isn’t ashamed of being itself. As a homosexual male I identify with that. Silly doesn’t have to mean stupid especially when they involve us in the fun. Each film whether good or bad, have to be looked at by itself with its own merits. If you look at everything with this filmmaking, directing, acting and screenwriting 101 expectation for everything then you can limit yourself in your taste if everything needs to be highbrow. Sometimes we need to embrace the three C’s, cheese, corn and camp in our movies when they are down well. It’s why GRAVITY is one of my ten favorite films of all time. Just my thoughts.

    • My criteria for every film is the same… that it provide a well-crafted entertainment experience. Whether that entertainment be through laughs, insight, empathy, thrills, etc. I never said these films are outright bad, but I think almost all of them are poorly told and unrefined products. They did nothing for me in terms of each of their individual goals.

      Gravity is also in my Top 10 films of the year. It is a very calibrated film that knows what its goals are and acoomplishes all of them. We cannot just give films a pass because they are “for kids” or are “light entertainment.” I can think of a ton of films that are “for kids” and are “light entertainment” that are very well made and told. I gave “Ghostbusters” as an example in this case, i could recommend last year’s “Wreck-it Ralph” as a great children’s film.

      • adriano vazquez

        I still think the one singular criteria can be limiting. I don’t ask for the same thing from all films. It’s hard to find the time as we get older to rewatch films, but I can’t help but feel a second viewing of some of these films will change your mind. Because a few of these are worth a long discussion

        • Many of these I’ve had long discussions about on Outside the Envelope. I doubt any rematches would change my opinions on these films. I think I just hold films a bit tighter to telling narratives than you do, which I envy. I don’t hold all films to the same criteria, I think you are misinterpreting my point. Though I’d be curious what films you are particularly championing… I think most of these are outright duds.

          • adriano vazquez

            Thinking about it, if I come off insulting or condescending I apologize, but I think for me I’m just more forgiving of films with faults when they really try something new and reach high in ambitions. Like place beyond the pines, Cloud Atlas is a better example, blue is the warmest color has those sex scenes which are problematic but in a way make the film more interesting to discuss. Inside Llewyn Davis is my favorite film of 2013 not just because it’s the coens kind of spiritual successor to A Serious Man (my favorite Coen brothers film) but also because it defied to follow convention in a way that made it something I haven’t stopped thinking about. The Master and The Tree of Life were my favorites of their respective years where even with their faults, still gave me the most unforgettable and unique movie watching experience of those years. Frozen I love not just because it’s about coming out, it also has some my favorite songs in Disney musicals in over a decade, but also because it took risks in its twist and also because the true love wasn’t with a guy, but between the two sisters,it’s a very feminist film. With Computer Chess its imperfections that people have problems with is actually something that I enjoy. Especially because I feel some of those are intentional. Pacific Rim is a film where i never cared about explanation or the details in the world in regards to concepts. The details I liked where the physicality of the world itself. It’s cheesy acting adds to the fun for me, the action scenes and special effects and the colors are great. It isn’t depressing and joyless like Man of Steel was for me. I like the fact that it was a film not about pondering whats right and what’s wrong or is the power a character contain good or bad, but about just dealing with the conflict at hand and working as a team. It’s an international conflict/cast and is not an insulting pro America type of summer action which is so rare nowadays. Just my thoughts. I’m a fan of your reviews and work and can’t wait for more in the future.

          • Don’t worry about it Adriano. We might disagree on somethings but you are one of my best supporters.

  • Adriano Vazquez

    Done well*

  • Kathleen Herrington

    I agree with much of what you’ve said here. I’ve seen most of these movies and frankly…. I wouldn’t buy any of them. This is coming from someone who loves movies and I buy a lot of them. Prisoners was just a disgusting film. It gave me the same feeling as Dexter, or any other show involving torture. I just can’t find enjoyment in them, though I know many people can. Frozen was adorable to see with children…. To a point. I usually get sucked into kids movies but Frozen bored me. I found the giggling children around me much more entertaining. Other movies you listed like White House down, Elysium and and pacific rim were boring and I found myself on my phone much of the time (at home, not the theater). I too did not see the point in them.

  • Kathleen Herrington

    Did you list White House down? I guess I read that in a comment…. Sorry. Doing this on my phone gets a bit mixed up….. Anyhoo…. I enjoy reading your stuff Dan! Did you write a review of the Hobbit movies? I imagine you did but I haven’t read it…. Those movies always get picked apart and hated on but I adored them and can watch them over and over.

    • I did write a review to the newest Hobbit movie and did a discussion of the first one. You can search from them on the site.

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