Last updated: December 24. 2013 1:17AM - 1661 Views
By Pete Croatto Weekender Correspondent

'Pain & Gain'
'Pain & Gain'
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1. “Last Vegas” — Dan Fogelman’s cozy belittlement of life’s serious moments continues. The writer made divorce and midlife ennui cute in the moronic “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Two years later with this condescending ode to living, he portrayed getting older with the tact and grace of a sitcom where the audience hollers whenever “doing it” gets mentioned and coos whenever the angry best friends finally embrace. His remake of “Rabbit Hole” should be a hoot.

2. “Pain & Gain” — This was Michael Bay’s chance to show he was more than the grand boob of the multiplex. He had access to a wonderful story of three rudderless scumbags seizing the American dream. He had a game cast of pros ranging from Mark Wahlberg to Peter Stormare. So what did he do? He made a grand insult for a bargain, infusing this juicy Florida noir with the same old epileptic imagery and meathead dramatics. Bravo.

3. “A Good Day to Die Hard” — I find it hard to recall a franchise that has veered so far from what initially made it great. John McClane used to be one of us, or who men wanted to be: brave, clever, funny. Now he’s Toby Keith with a machine gun: a pumped-up dolt spouting gibberish who is an American symbol for all the wrong reasons.

4. “Getaway” — Fitting that this came at the end of the exhausting summer movie season. This was Hollywood’s day off. There was not one aspect of this smash-‘em-up that reeked of effort, from the endless and artless car chases to the “Is it payday yet?” performances (Ethan Hawke as a tough guy! Selena Gomez as a tough-talking computer whiz!) to the “Why bother?” plot.

5. “Salinger” — Imagine if Bay directed a documentary about the reclusive author of “The Catcher in the Rye.” Get ready for lots of empty quotes from serious academics and Salinger (or an actor playing the troubled genius) feverishly typing on a stage bathed in atmospheric lighting.

6. “The Hangover Part III” — At some point, we all knew the Fratbot 5000 was going to crap out. By the way, any comedy franchise that casts Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, and Jeffrey Tambor at different points – and then barely uses them – can’t end soon enough.

7. “Lovelace” — I hate when movies insert a story device for cosmetics. In this biopic of 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried), we get the happy view of her rise to stardom followed by the little girl lost account. Neither does anything more than turn her into a movie-of-the-week cliché stuck in a narrative gimmick. A movie about porn can be many things. When it’s boring, that’s a huge failure.

8. “The Internship” — Someone needs to tell Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn that shtick means nothing if you are not funny. It’s becoming embarrassing. Also, the talented Rose Byrne is way beyond playing the busy businesswoman who reaches enlightenment after getting f—ked by the leading man. Every actress is.

9. “The English Teacher” — Probably not a good idea to have a mopey martyr with no backbone as your main character, even if she is played by the incomparable Julianne Moore.

10. “I Give It a Year” — Inappropriateness doesn’t add life to a romantic comedy; characters we care about do. If you overload on the first and skimp on the second, you get Dan Mazer’s blunder. It steams along blissfully unaware of just how obnoxious it is. You won’t be so lucky.

Dishonorable Mentions: “Don Jon,” “Now You See Me,” “Empire,” “At Any Price,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “August: Osage County.”

I’m more than a calzone filled with arsenic. Here’s some stuff that impressed me in 2013 (in no particular order): “Gravity,” “Short Term 12,” “The Spectacular Now,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Blackfish,” “What Maisie Knew,” “Spring Breakers,” “The Hunt,” “Before Midnight,” “Drinking Buddies,” “Frozen,” “Unfinished Song,” “Side Effects,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Spinning Plates,” “The Great Beauty,” and “Mother of George.”

Finally: RIP, Roger Ebert.

-For more cinematic musings, follow Pete on Twitter, @PeteCroatto.

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