2013 was the year “hate-watching” became both a buzzword and a national pastime, so it makes sense that the Chronicle's most highly trafficked film review of the year was for a movie that critics and audiences alike had little love for. After the jump, we revisit our most clicked-on reviews.
“After Earth is an ambitious man-against-nature epic, although keep in mind that in science-fiction nature is always made-up construct and not real. This results in a sense of the deck being stacked and a diminishment of the heroics. The film is repetitive and not as suspenseful at it tries to be. Often gorgeous, sometimes fascinating, it is ultimately unwieldy and unsurprising. It fails as a Smith-family project.”
“Nichols yokes his hypermasculine stories – of blood feuds and gruff family men buckling under the stress of being a provider – to a soulful romanticism. With American independent film teeming with so many shaky-cam snarksters, what an electric riposte to the status quo is Nichols, whose films are classically constructed and deadly serious. In his short but potent career, he’s mastered a wide-vistaed eye for the epic and the elemental."
“As an example of one of the most rarefied genres of filmmaking – the two-character action-drama – Gravity stands above and apart from everything that’s come before.”
“The Pulitzer Prize-winning Cormac McCarthy, at 80, has penned an unsettling anti-noir with surrealist comic tinges. There’s nary a nighttime sequence in the whole film apart from one memorable moment of motorcycle carnage, but The Counselor nevertheless exudes a miasma of dirt-dry menace from its first scene.”
“Before Midnight surpasses the two previous films in this trilogy in terms of its intelligence, narrative design, and vivacity. It’s a grand accomplishment, and I feel greedy about wanting to see this film series continue.”
“Who but Baz Luhrmann is more obviously able to chronicle the riotous bender that was the Jazz Age – and its morning-light, scratchy-headed hangover, too? ... Luhrmann has always had a knack with the fever of passion, but here he only catches high fever’s empty gibberish.”
“Steven Soderbergh claims this is the last movie he intends to make – at least for a good, long while – so it’s nice that the filmmaker leaves us with this sterling example of his skills and talent.”
“Running almost two and a half hours, Pines is a melodrama, multigenerational epic, heist film, and motorcycle-fetish movie all rolled into one. Arguably, it’s a bit overambitious, but good God, look at Gosling!”
“Abrams’ space isn’t the final frontier: The landscape reads more like, “Haven’t we been here before?” Well, yes, but a whirligig doesn’t go anywhere, either, and it’s still fun to watch it spin.”
**Bonus round for the reader comment that most emphatically argued girls are dum-dums: “I don't think K.J. had the right amount of testosterone to do this film justice. Maybe she needs to eat some oysters or work out; I don't know. But your readers deserve better. You wouldn't send Mike Tyson to write a review of Sense and Sensibility. No more K.J. on blockbusters."
“Oh, but more often than not The Heat is just stupid-funny, which circles us back to Melissa McCarthy, motor-mouthing four-letter fury like an operatic aria. She sells Mullins as delightfully unhinged and fairly radiating with rage, and it’s irresistible.”
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