2013: My Year In Film - Matt Gammond

Blimey, what a year! Without a shadow of a doubt my most active 365 days in terms of cinema visits ever. Indeed, I forked out a small fortune in tickets to go and see some of the most hotly-anticipated movies of 2013, as well as some of the smaller flicks. Was it worth it? Of course! 

There were some absolutely brilliant films released last year (as well as some stinkers) and though I didn’t get to see all of them on the big screen, I caught up on most of the ones I missed with their home release.

So, I thought it’d be a good idea to run down exactly how my Year of Film panned out. There were amazing highs and vacuous lows, but that’s part of the enjoyment, surely? All I know is that my money was well spent.

Here’s what went down in 2013…

By December 31st I had seen 23 movies that qualify as a 2013 release in the UK, which mught not sound like much but it's more than I've seen in a single year before, and I don't have the luxury of free press screenings either. This hobby is expensive, man!

I went into 2013 with a lot of expectation; there were some big films on the horizon and I made it my mission to try and see them all. Sadly, it took a while for the cogs to get moving; my first few screenings were of some of the most mediocre movies of the whole year. Sigh.

January saw the release of Gangster Squad, The Last Stand and Quentin Tarantino’s eagerly-awaited and controversial Django Unchained. Where the violent Western is concerned, I managed to miss it totally at the cinema and only got to see it several months later when I got hold of the DVD. Whilst parts of it were incredibly enjoyable and typical of Tarantino, my love for it didn’t equal that of most people’s, with the obligatory cameo by the director towards the end signaling a point where it really should have ended, but it ploughed on for a lot longer. It’s a problem shared with a lot of his movies, but I was entertained regardless.

That's something that cannot be said for those other two films, both of which were were personal disappointments. My favourite movie genre is 'early/20th Century gangster' (very specific, I admit), so I was looking forward to Gangster Squad immensely. Unfortunately, it was completely average; lacking character development and any sort of intelligence. I won't be watching it again. Nor will I be watching Arnie's comeback flick for a second time; it was even sillier than even the dafest members of his extensive back catalogue. Count how many times you see a Chevrolet badge in that movie. Go on, I dare you.

I suppose it wasn’t a total disaster, but it was a waste of great potential, exactly like my sole February movie expenditure - A Good Day to Die Hard. Now, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Die Hard franchise so I had no real expectations going into the John McClane reunion tour, but even my emptied soul wasn’t prepared for just how dreadful this film was. Predictable, dumb, clichéd, morally ambiguous and restrained by the ratings board; the trailer promised so much but we were given high-calibre garbage. Time for the McClane family to retire methinks.

Still, it wasn’t the worst movie of the year (we’ll get to that soon) but I was given plenty of time to recover from that terrible waste of £6.30 thanks to a month-long gap in my movie calendar. It wasn’t until April that I was back at the cinema, this time to watch what was sure to be one of the year’s biggest movies, both commercially and critically - Iron Man 3. Marking the first of my many 3D IMAX experiences in 2013, this superhero threequel was a great way to kick off the blockbuster summer period. It was witty and crammed with action, and the 3D wasn’t bad either. I wonder if Tony Stark’s fandom will ever forgive them for that twist though...

Equally as amazing as that revelation was the fact that for the first time in my life I managed to bag free tickets to a pre-screening via a website that looked dodgy, but turned out to be legitimate (*wipes brow). Unfortunately, the joy of a free ticket and the general coolness of seeing a film early were tainted by the fact that it was Olympus Has Fallen - a Gerard Butler actionfart with no real purpose. It was partly entertaining... but mostly bloody stupid. The CGI was lame too. In fact, it was all pretty lame, and if you squint whilst watching it you might think you were watching a Die Hard movie. Ah crap, not that again! (Ed, Wireless mag actually went the screening and thought this was a great action movie for people..... well people who like action movies - Check us out on the front cover of the DVD!)

Moving on rapidly, I found myself plonked in May, a month all students love because it marks the start of their summer holiday. Well, if you’re on a course as empty as mine was it does. Yet again, there were a couple of movie releases that I’d been waiting a long time for and thankfully neither of them was a disappointment.

The Fast and Furious franchise holds a special place in my heart; I started getting interested in movies and cars around the time the first film was released, way back at the start of the Noughties (feeling old yet?). As such, I watched it on loop and continued to do so with the subsequent sequels, even if some of them were below par. The sixth entry was awesome, make no mistake. I loved it. As a piece of moviemaking it’s definitely not a seminal example of perfection, but it was great to watch with plenty of action, emotion, drama and humour. Of course, it takes on a degree of poignancy after leading man Paul Walker’s tragic death; I’m just glad he left us with something awesome to remember him by.

And whilst I’m trying to get the frog out of my throat, let me tell you about Star Trek Into Darkness. Even though its title is missing a colon (something which I still wince over) I thought this was a brilliant movie. Everything about it was great and made even better when viewed in 3D IMAX, an experience for which I am always prepared to pay a premium on. The scripting was bob on, the CGI was amazing and the acting was wonderful throughout. Hats off to Benedict Cumberbatch as the villainous John Harrison and Zachary Quint as Sheldon Coo- err I mean Spock. Both actors put in solid shifts, which is a lot more than can be said about the next movie on the list...

... After Earth. Not a great way to kick off the June section.

To be honest, it’s not even worth getting angry about this film because I knew it’d be dreadful and that my precious pennies would be shat all over. M. Night Shyamalan makes God awful movies for a living (seriously, does he do it on purpose?!) and this might just be his wankerpiece. It’s been many, many years since I’ve seen a film that has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Even so, was it the worst movie of the year? Unbelievably, no, we’ll get there shortly.

Before that though I must talk about my biggest disappointment of the year, and my biggest surprise of the year; hell, June was quite a diverse month in terms of quality it seems! Let’s kick off with the bad news first, eh?

Man. Of. Steel. What on Krypton was that all about?! It’s been hailed as “the way a Superman movie should be” by so many of my friends, but I found myself fending off tired eyelids. It dragged and dragged and dragged. At least the soundtrack was cool though; Hans Zimmer is so often the only bright spark in an angle-grinding explosion of despair. This marks the first time Christopher Nolan has let me down; I know he wasn’t in the director’s chair but his involvement was heavily advertised.

In the wake of that crushing blow to my Nolan fandom I was at least lifted into a state of pleasant surprise once film numero dos of June appeared in front of me. World War Z had its fair share of much-publicised production problems, so it was genuinely amazing that it was as good as it was. The debut trailer didn’t do much to fill anyone with confidence; it looked like a cheap CGI stunt for sure. But the finished product was incredibly enthralling, brimming with tension and containing some very impressive set pieces, even if it did all boil down to an intimate finale in a Welsh laboratory. I wonder if Brad Pitt had heard of Wales beforehand...

And lo, June came to pass and the UK’s weather continued to get hotter and hotter. But was I getting a tan? Hell no. Despite my best efforts to the contrary I was still locked inside watching movies. Three 2013 releases came my way that month and it’s here that we stumble upon the Holy Grail of Shittyness. Sharknado. Jesus, what a title... and if you’ve seen the poster you’ll know that’s even more absurd (read: better).
I know you’re supposed to take these films with a pinch of salt, but even so. It was just shite. Everything about it was terrible. Yes, this is the worst film of 2013. A lucky escape for Will Smith there.

A sci-fi crapfest of the highest order; is it wrong that I’m disappointed it wasn’t bad enough to be hilarious? As it turns out the idea of sharks in a tornado really isn’t that cool after 15 minutes, and it’s certainly no antidote to the apocalyptic acting and woeful special effects. It wasn’t quite bad enough to be truly funny and it certainly wasn’t good enough in any way, shape or form. Unlike Pacific Rim, which showed how to do a sci-fi movie the right way.

The only thing better than giant aliens is giant robots, right? Guillermo del Toro managed to cram both into his insanely awesome neon rumble showdown. If ever there was a film that was built for IMAX, this is it. It’s a very basic idea, but he injected a sense of intelligence into it. The scripting may have owed a debt to the B-movie universe, but everything else about it was top draw entertainment. It was just... fun. Fun for the sake of it. Remember the days when films could just be good, old, turn your brain off enjoyment without facing the wrath of the critics? Pacific Rim harkens back to that era. What a great movie.

And “great” is a word roughly half of the viewers would attribute to this next July flick – A Field in England. The other half would probably call it “codswallop” or any other of those words your gran likes to use.

It’s an incredibly surreal movie and like nothing I’ve seen before or since. Unique in its structure and cinematography, it also marked the first time a film has been released in cinemas, via download, on DVD/Blu-Ray and on television simultaneously. The future? Perhaps, we’ll have to see.

Incredibly divisive, some call it art whilst others call it pretentious tripe. I fell somewhere in the middle; it did seem like ego groping on the part of the director and felt overly complex, but it was nevertheless refreshing to break away from the tropes of billion dollar blockbusters.

And that’s something August didn’t really deliver, though it included the reincarnation of a member of that special box office club. Jurassic Park was back and was given the 3D IMAX treatment. I don’t really need to talk much about it; you already know how great it was back in 1993. It’s still as awesome as it was back in the day, as is Alan Partridge. Ah-hah!

Yes, the socially redundant radio DJ finally got his movie and it was a corker. Speaking as someone who doesn’t really ‘do’ comedies, I was howling with laughter throughout. A rightful nominee for my favourite film of the year, but not a winner. Alas.

Nor was Elysium, despite being awesome in its own right. Probably one of the most anticipated films of the year, we finally got to see Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to his breathtaking 2009 debut, District 9. And whilst it wasn’t as original or engaging as that gritty project, it got plenty of things right and deservedly holds its head up high amongst the year’s other top sci-fi blockbusters.

At this point we take on the role of the awkward husband. We pull up to the house, see that the mother-in-law is there, and make our quick getaway. That’s what September was for me; window-shopping for movies, but instead of hanging around I just left the month to ramble on. It didn’t get a penny out of me.

I had to wait until October for that, and once more a month delivered a triplet of movies for me to enjoy. The first of which was Machete Kills, the insane sequel to Machete that gave me some idea what it was like to down a cocaine/petrol cocktail. It was just silly, but somehow strangely titillating. And they’re making another sequel. It’s set in space. You don’t really need any more information than that.

And in the worst segue ever, guess what else was partially set in space? The new Thor film. Ooh! Great Odin’s raven! In a rare case of the sequel being better than the original, this movie was another pleasant surprise. It had a humourous relationship between the titular blonde demi-God and his weasel of a brother, and that was definitely the strongest hand it had to play. Not perfect, but several megatons better than it could have been. It’s not often I can say that about a superhero movie; Thor and Captain America’s first instalments were rubbish, as was Iron Man’s second film. Jus’ sayin’.

The real gold of October was lying in wait just off the coast of Somalia. And whilst it wasn’t picked as the site’s best film of the year, I’m proud to announce that Captain Phillips was my own personal favourite. Paul Greengrass brought his pulse-pounding docu-drama style filmmaking to the incredible true story of a brave captain who was kidnapped by pirates and held hostage in a life boat. A wonderful central performance from Tom Hanks and brave production decisions helped this movie stand out amongst the crowd. It avoided clichés at every turn and never once relinquished its grasp on your nuts.

And as October turned into November and the lure of Christmas got that little bit stronger, 2013 unleashed its triumphant dark horse upon the world. A film that is a total technical wonder, a critical darling in every regard and perhaps the most immersive movie experience you’re ever likely to have.

Gravity is a landmark achievement; it has set a new boundary for special effects and 3D implementation to which few films will ever reach. It had to be seen to be believed. It was incredible. So amazing and involving in fact that you probably wouldn’t notice the totally pants story and scripting. Who cares anyway? It was an exercise in technical wonder and it did everything it set out to do. The Oscar is beckoning.

An award which Cormac McCarthy has seen go to one of his movie adaptations (No Country For Old Men) but one that will most definitely give his debut screenplay outing a wide berth. It pains me to say it, but Ridley Scott’s stuck up dialogue hernia The Counsellor was a bit naff. It was cool and intelligent, but it felt a bit too much. It’s hard to explain. And it wasn’t nearly as violent as you might have hoped.


With that, I crept into December (my birth month and personal favourite 31 day period. Ooh rah!) with only one film on my mind - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.No, not “SMORG”, it’s “SMOWG”. Urgh, so many years of my life I’ve been lied to. Thank you for clearing that up, Peter Jackson.

Bilbo’s placeholder adventure wasn’t really any worse than the first one, but not any better either. Being the middle part of a trilogy is never easy. This film proves it. And despite it being the only movie I intended to see in December, I did end up watching 47 Ronin (albeit on the 4th of January this year). My silence on the matter tells you all you need to know about that particular experience.


And there you have it, the year came to an end in much the same way it started – with a pretty crap movie. Regardless, 2013 was a cracking year to be a film fan. There were the ups and downs that you’d expect and the odd pleasant surprise. There were letdowns and moments of intense pain, but for the most part I enjoyed all 12 months endlessly, and there’s the promise of even more quality to come in the next 12 months. I’m looking forward to it. Bring it on!

A belated happy new year to you all!

Matt Gammond