Machete Kills (2013)

I'm not sure what happened here. The first Machete was hella fun, and seemed to walk that narrow path between sincerity and satire, where they can magically coexist. Unfortunately the only thing this sequel can coexist with is a toilet.

Machete Kills is a mumbling, fumbling, badly made mess, constantly teetering on the edge of even looking like a proper film. It's so amateurish it often literally looks like it was shot in a garage. A small one. Add some The Asylum style homemade visual effects and substandard acting, and you'd be forgiven for thinking the film is merely an elaborate YouTube prank.

The barely coherent story takes the undeniably cool character established in the first film, and inserts him into a Mexican riff on Moonraker, but to be honest Rodriguez seems more focused on jamming every celebrity under the sun into the film, whether it makes sense or not. And the movie just goes on and on and on, it's almost unbearable. When we finally get to the end, it turns out that there is no end. Just a lame setup for a sequel.

Machete Kills also illustrates that Robert Rodriguez shouldn't shoot and edit his own movies, because he can't do either. The visual style here is unimaginative and dull. Full of awkward framings, stiff stagings, and a complete lack of rhythm in the editing.

At this point we can no longer forgive the extremely bad CGI, shoehorning every friend into the cast, or the lack of competent storytelling. Sorry Rodriquez, time to either pull yourself together and make an actual film again, or pick up a gardening tool instead.


Top 25 of 2013 (No actually Top 30)

Time for the list of the BEST cinematic experiences of 2013. Apparently it was a good year, because I could easily have done a top 50. I settled for a top 30, so without further rambling, here's a list of the 30 best films I saw last year.


30. The World's End

I was fully prepared to hate this with extreme prejudice, because I've had an ass-full of Simon Pegg & Co, but much to my surprise, I didn't. I went from "This is not so bad" to "I kinda like these guys, what the hell?" and ended up at "This was FUN! And GOOD!" Colour (!) me surprised! Just don't make me watch that shit-storm Paul again.

29. The Human Race

Watch out, we're heading into the tiny-horror-films-I-had-fun-with-and-feel-like-championing section. This one, apparently crowd-funded, concerns a very deadly race where a group of people are forced to compete or die. It's extremely bloody, it's got some very nasty moments, clever character interplay, and a few tricks up its sleeve along the way.

28. The Conjuring

In many ways The Conjuring is a very traditional film, but by golly it still worked. A good, old-fashioned horror movie, with some ice-cold chills that made me turn on all the lights. A rock-solid cast, gorgeous production design, I could go on. Can't wait to show this to friends and scare them to death.

27. Antisocial

This tiny horror film spins a tale from our fascination with social media, and concerns a terrible viral outbreak, as seen from the vantage point of a group of friends preparing for a New Year's Eve party. It gets progressively more nutty along the way, and even though the low budget is obvious at times, it holds up until the very end, which features one of the best WTF-moments in recent memory. Don't do iiiiiiiit! Nooooooo! Don't use the driiiiiiill!

26. Repeaters

Think Evil Groundhog Day, with youth offenders. But instead of coming off like a rip-off, this feels honest and fresh. We follow three inmates in a rehabilitation center who suddenly realize that they're reliving the same day over and over again. Is this a chance to redeem themselves, or go crazy and never have to suffer the consequences? Let's just say they chose different paths. Well-worth checking out! (But watch out, apparently some versions are not presented in the proper 2,35:1 widescreen aspect ratio.)

25. No One Lives

Can't say much about this. In my view, even the poster and DVD covers show too much (no, not the one I chose here). Suffice it to say, it's a slasher movie. There's a bunch of nasty killers. And if you watch it with a girl, she will crush every bone in your hand and burst your eardrums. Enjoy.

24. Tower Block

The residents in a condemned building come under fire from a sniper. With no help in sight the rapidly diminishing group of survivors must band together to outsmart this hidden foe. What are they putting in the water over there in the UK? They come up with some awesome shit! Including this brutal, shocking, and heartbreaking little thriller.

23. Flukt

Roar Uthaug, the Norwegian director of Fritt Vilt (2006), uses his country's majestic nature as the backdrop for this perfect little gem, as simple as it is effective. Set in 1363, the story simply deals with a young woman trying to escape the band of killers who slaughtered her family. Gorgeous images, a bombastic score, solid visual effects, and just so freakin' cool.

22. The Purge

I'm not sure why everybody hated The Purge with such vitriol. It was a cool little high-concept film. It didn't make any promises it couldn't keep, and the fact that the characters sometimes behaved like idiots didn't bother me. That was almost the point. Also, I love Ethan Hawke. Besides, y'all better watch and learn. This WILL be America in 30 years.

21. Despicable Me 2

I must admit I wasn't impressed the first time I saw this, but then I re-watched it with my buddy Dennis, and suddenly I enjoyed it a whole lot more. It doesn't measure up to the original, it doesn't have much of a story, or emotional impact, but it's still funny.

20. The Last Stand

If you thought his time as Governator had softened the old brute, you better think again. So the years have left their mark on good old Arnie's face, but he can still deliver those one-liners and his own sweet brand of justice, so who cares? The Last Stand was a return to form.

19. Sexy Evil Genius

It starts off a bit shaky, then picks up speed, and before you know it you're caught in Nikki's (Katee Sackhoff) web, much like every other character in the film. Most of the film is nothing more than a few people - Sackhoff, Michelle Trachtenberg, Seth Green, Harold Perrineau, and William Baldwin - sitting around a table trying to outsmart each other, and that's completely fine! You don't have to blow up the universe to rock my world.

18. Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise is a star. It's easy to forget that, because he's freakin' nuts. This thriller shows him from his best side, with a fantastic, cool setup, an intriguing story, and a pair of formidable villains. Unfortunately the finale is quite disappointing, but not enough to boot it from the list completely.

17. Oblivion

As luck would have it, we find another Tom Cruise film here. This one also has a few problems, but once you get used to them, you'll appreciate the film more and more. I know I did. Besides, ambitious science fiction films are few and far between. Add to that some flawless visual effects, and you've got a winner on your hands. With certain reservations.

16. Trance

Did it work all the way through? No. Was I still fascinated? Yup! Danny Boyle makes interesting movies, even if they don't always work. This mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma-impossible-puzzle-brain-teaser has so much cool stuff going for it that I have to surrender myself. I had to get past the first viewing to really enjoy it, though. Many others won't get that far.

And Rosario Dawson is nude. So there's that.

15. Wreck-It Ralph

Less funny than Despicable Me 2, but a more solid and heartfelt effort. This is a brilliant story, full of brilliant designs, and with some very effective voice-work from Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly. The dirty little secret of Wreck-It Ralph, seemingly a very boy-centric film, is that it's actually a princess film, it just takes a little while to get there. But regardless of gender, anyone can, and should, enjoy this animated gem.

14. Hitchcock

This is based on a true story, but the film makes no attempt to conceal the fact that you shouldn't take this too seriously. I didn't, so I had a blast! Anthony Hopkins clearly enjoys portraying Alfred Hitchcock, Helen Mirren is wonderful as his wife Alma, and with Scarlett Johansson's gorgeous ass playing Janet Leigh we've already got more than we bargained for. A wonderfully cheeky and entertaining romp.

13. John Dies at the End

What? What? WHAT?! No, what the hell? But I.... It's.... And you... but?! How can....? Ah screw it, I'm in!

(Read the full review here)

12. Phantom

I love submarine movies. I love Ed Harris. I miss David Duchovny. Despite a few flaws this gritty underwater thriller had me from moment one.

(Read the full review here)

11. Welcome to the Punch

It's SO good! It's so bloody good! Granted, this is little more than a theatrical representation of any random UK TV cop thriller, but the style and the commitment from the actors make all the difference. Plus, it's so gorgeous to look at! I'll watch James McAvoy and Mark Strong in anything, and Johnny Harris (of The Fades fame) is so bloody nasty here, it almost oozes from the screen. That title, however, I could do without.

10. The Impossible

It sounded like the worst Oscar-begging material ever, but The Impossible turned out to be a brutal, heartfelt, and surprisingly intimate story of survival. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are SO good, the effects are marvelous, and everything about the film just rings true. Not to be missed.

9. The Way Way Back

A sweet, tender coming-of-age film. Not much in this film relates to me on a personal level, and yet the emotional turmoil of our young hero is clear and present every step of the way. Part comedy, part drama, part romance, whatever genre the film touches base with it masters. And someone give Sam Rockwell a damn Oscar.

8. Evil Dead

It wasn't the best film experience of the year, but it was the most surprising. Although we all agreed that it could work on paper - taking what was essentially a big goof and turning it into something serious - we were all still surprised when the gambit payed off. What a brilliantly nasty little film!

7. Anna Karenina

Brilliantly inventive adaptation of the classic Tolstoy novel, which merges the cinema and the theater experience to mesmerizing effect. Keira Knightly and Aaron Taylor-Johnson creates sparks when they meet, and even thought the story doesn't have much effect on me, on an intellectual level, the characters and their plight came alive thanks to director Joe Wright's brilliant visuals.

6. Prisoners

A 2,5-hour movie about the search for a couple of missing children? Don't they deal with such a story in 40 minutes flat on every crime show on TV? They do, and Prisoners does take its time to tell the story, but it's immeasurably more rewarding to watch than the aforementioned TV shows. Not a minute too long.

5. World War Z

So what if third and second act should have switched places? So what if they re-shot 40 minutes of the end? At the end of the day I still had a blast with this big budget zombie film, which serves as a nice companion piece to a fun book, despite - or perhaps by virtue of - the fact that it completely ignores the original work. And Brad Pitt is dreamy.

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This touching coming-of-age story simply did everything right. Logan Lerman was perfection in the lead, and Emma Watson is heartbreakingly good.

(Read the full review here)

3. Gravity

I must admit that when I first saw Gravity I was a bit disappointed. The raving praises that came from the award circuit made promises the film couldn't keep.

Once the initial disappointment receded, the accomplishments of director Alfonso Cuarón came into focus. It IS a fantastic film. I stand by my original assessment - the story has little to no depth, and it's essentially a computer animated film - but it's still a visual treat and it's a kick-ass ride. I'm gonna re-watch this film so many times!

2. Stoker

By all accounts Stoker should not work, and from what I can gather from other 2013-wrap-up lists that was indeed the case for many. I had zero expectations, when I sat down to watch it and I'm sure that helped. Directed by Korean mastermind Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), with such visual flourish that it'll make you cry. Stoker is without a doubt the most beautifully shot film of 2013. Every frame is infused with visual intrigue, and yet the characters and the plot always keeps us at an arms length, clouded in an ethereal air of mystery. Perfection.

1. Parkland

I dare say that I'm a seasoned movie-watcher, so it's rare that I find a film that truly shocks me and makes me hold my breath. Parkland did. We all know the story about the assassination of JFK, the details about what happened on that day were new to me, however, the really shocking part was that this film made me feel the loss of JFK. It made me FEEL it. No film has done that before, not even watching the horrifying original Zapruder film had this effect on me.


And that's it! Now we can turn out attention to the Oscars. So, in two months time 2013 will finally be put to bed.

Bottom 25 of 2013

It's that time again. The time when I must publish my lists of the best and the worst film experiences of the past year.

Any list, but these in particular, represent a frozen moment in time, so don't hold me accountable to the exact order. I may feel differently about it already, but such is the nature of the beast.

The focus of these lists is the experience of watching the films. Expectations play into it, and intent is also taken into account, which is why Pacific Rim makes the list, and not Atlantic Rim, the no-budget knock-off.

Oh well, enough excuses, here we go, the worst films of 2013 were....


25. Room 237

Sometimes violence IS the solution, and a good ass-kicking is what the participants in this project need, and a lot less than they deserve.

(Read the full review here)

24. Kapringen

Deadly dull hijacking move, where nothing happens for 2 hours, while the characters constantly assure us that nothing will happen. Par for the course for Danish films, sure, but I had expected more.

23. Spring Breakers

Gorgeous bikini clad girls, drugs and drinking, vibrant colors, and party till dawn, what else could you ask for in a movie...?! Oh yeah, A FREAKIN* STORY. Director Harmony Korine's pervy, 90-minute, rambling non-movie looks like the work of a sexual predator, who got his hands on every video shot during spring break and cut it together in his basement using just one hand.

22. Pacific Rim

Like a wet dog Del Toro vigorously shakes off his geek cred, with this unimaginative cartoon about giant robots fighting giant monsters. The hilariously incompetent human race on display here deserves to be stomped on by giant monsters - or at the very least the screenwriters should suffer that fate. This film encapsulates everything that's wrong with Hollywood. A $200 million piece of garbage.

21. The Master

Stop it Paul Thomas Anderson! Just fucking stop it! You're not fooling anybody. Douchebag!

20. The Possession

Perhaps one day scientists will figure out why a reputable, director such as Ole Bornedal, decided to jump aboard this script, which everybody else must have turned down. If it was out of sheer desperation to get a US job, it seems counterproductive that he would make such an inferior product. If it was out of boredom, why did he make such a dull, unimaginative stinker? After the double jackpot of Vikaren and Kærlighed på film in 2007 the poor guy seems to have lost all his artistic integrity.

19. Frankenstein's Army

Badly made found-footage film with no story, just a handful of cool creature designs. This is what happens when the barrier to entry is lowered and anybody can suddenly make a movie.

18. Viceværten

This is a Danish movie about a janitor in an apartment complex, who finds a semi-nude girl in an empty apartment. He rapes her repeatedly, then falls in love with her, and discovers that she has healing powers. There's no point to the story, except that sex with a young randy girl is really cool. An unexpected lesson from a movie directed by a woman.

17. About Cherry

Hey guys, not to put too fine a point on it, but next time you tell a story about a young girl joining the sex industry as a porn actress, you might consider a version that doesn't seem to support the idea wholeheartedly, ignore every single emotional pitfall, and barely stopping short of providing contact information for the nearest porn agency at the end. Just a thought. Also, you really believe porn movies are made that way? Or is it just because you can't show the real thing?

16. Now You See Me

While it's not the worst film of the year, it's gotta be the most unintelligent. A 12-year-old wrote the story after watching his first magic show, and it went downhill from there. The filmmakers' intent and the actual end-result are so out of sync that this almost qualifies as one big continuity error. It's the Prometheus of the year! Need I say more?

15. RIPD

Nope.com! Yes, I'm bringing back a 5-year-old joke and yet I'm still not as uncool as the filmmakers behind RIPD, who bring us a remake of Men in Black, without realizing that's what they're doing. Although Ryan Reynolds tries desperately to add some honesty to the proceedings, he's fighting a losing battle against the script, the often terrible CGI effects, and Jeff Bridges, who appears to have lost the ability to speak, possible following a debilitating stroke, which also knocked out the script-picking center of his brain.

14. The To Do List

The movie has a few genuinely funny and sincere moments, unfortunately they're buried in an antiquated script, which has little to offer beyond tame vulgar moments, which all feel recycled. The young heroine's journey rings false, as does Aubrey Plaza's forced performance, while she struggles to portray an utterly unrealistic, inconsistent, and unbelievable character. Watch Easy A instead.

13. Olympus Has Fallen

This is an incompetent remake ripoff of Die Hard. It's that simple. Parts of the story, action sequences, characters, lines, sometimes whole scenes have been lifted directly from that classic action movie. The CGI effects are laughable, Gerard Butler utterly ineffective, and here's the kicker: Olympus Has Fallen is so bad it made two films fail.

12. Silent Hill: Revelation

Contender for the worst drop in quality from original movie to its sequel. Well, Superman IV (1987) probably still wins, but it's a tight race.

(Read the full review here)

11. This is the End

Piss-poor, self-indulgent and staggeringly unfunny meta-film about stupid, unlikeable Hollywood stars who try to survive the apocalypse. I wanted them all to die horrible, gruesome deaths every step of the way, especially Danny McBride. Unbearable to watch.

10. A Good Day to Die Hard

What the fuck happened?! Seriously, WHAT HAPPENED?! Look, Die Hard 1 and 2: Best movies like ever, right? Right! Die Hard 3: Surprisingly good, even with the change of setting. Die Hard 4: Good action movie, not really a Die Hard film, though. Die Hard 5? Not even an action movie! Barely a movie!

Dull direction, a script full of holes and gaps in logic, no sign of John McClane - Bruce Willis just plays some sort of perverted, joke version of the character now - and worst of all: No NEED for John McClane! You could cut him out of the story and it wouldn't make any difference! What are you DOING, people!?

9. The Man with the Iron Fists

For a few minutes during the opening credits this film will almost have you fooled, but then it begins for real. Musician RZA wrote and directed, and plays the titular character (which, hilariously, appears in its true form 15 minutes before the end of the film). The only problem with this triple-threat? He can't write, direct or act. No actually that's not the only problem... that's just the beginning of a multitude of problems that plague this amateur production. Stick to the drums or whatever the hell you play, Razzy.

8. Oz the Great and Powerful

As bad and as ugly as Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Says it all, doesn't it?

7. Jack the Giant Slayer

It's worse than The Phantom Menace. The CGI effects are ugly, the designs are ugly, and who the hell asked for a retelling of that story anyway?! Bryan Singer is on a fast track to becoming a joke. The bad kind you get in those crackers. You know, the ones where you say "Wait, IS this a joke? oh yeah, I guess it is. Not funny, though."

6. Paranoia

Why would you buy the rights to a perfectly fine pulp novel, and then change the whole thing, so that it makes NO sense?! Did the screenwriters read the novel?! Seriously. Have they ever heard of corporate espionage before? Have they ever been in a company meeting, or even seen one on TV? Have they met a real person and had a conversation in real life? This is almost science fiction, it's that far removed from reality and simple logic. Half-finished scenes and references to things we haven't seen also points to an attempt to save this in the editing. It was unsuccessful.

5. Alex Cross

Laughable attempt to turn the second most feminine guy in the world (No. 1 being Prince, former known as a musician) into an action star. Rob Cohen apparently can't direct any more, the script is less coherent that the crime stories I wrote in 5th grade, and the whole thing looks cheaper than cheap. It pains me so much to see the stunning Rachel Nichols in trash like this. She deserves better. Damn you all to hell Perry. Get back in the dress, big guy. We know you want to.

4. Cloud Atlas

This rambling science fiction epic is brought to us by the Wachowski sisters, whose primary agenda seems to be to show that it's okay to dress up as the opposite sex. Hey, go with whatever makes you happy, I say, but did you really have to force a 3-hour craptastic mess like this down our throats to get the point across? Why don't you just write a blog about it?

(Read the full review here)

3. After Earth

Shamalama Ding-dong follows up The Happening (worst film of 2008) and The Last Airbender (appearing in the 2010 worst of list as well) with this misguided case of nepotism, come religious barf bag/science-fiction bore. Which must count as the worst family decision of the year. Charisma vortex Jaden Smith adds acting to the list of things he can't do, but more surprisingly even Will Smith comes across as a dick. Do I need to point out the awful CGI as well? Almost a rule when it comes to most Hollywood blockbusters these days.

2. The Canyons

So bland, so flat, and so dull you won't believe it. On paper, it could work: A porn star making a mainstream appearance. An actress fallen from grace, who gets a second chance. A jaded director struggling to get his films financed. And an artistically ailing cult writer. Mix it all together in a low budget film full of sex and betrayal. Sounds good, right? Well, it isn't. This looks like an amateur film. Like everyone in front of and behind the camera is a complete novice. As for Lohan, she looks like a 50-year-old coke addict. This is a career-ending train-wreck.

1. Les Misérables

Les Misérables is pure, concentrated evil. A diabolical monstrosity capable of laying waste to entire planets. Director Tom Hooper's visually impaired style leads a frontal assault on the eyes, while the incompetent songs gleefully rape our ears from the flank. 157 minutes later it's all over, but you'll have ended it much sooner, perhaps choosing the method of tone-deaf Russell Crowe, hurling yourself off the nearest bridge just to make it stop.


And there you have it. Luckily 2013 also brought many, many good film-experiences. Stay tuned for those.