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My least-favourite films of 2013

I’m still finalising my big ten and catching up with a few stragglers before the end of the year. Before then, the sad task of mulling over a handful of key disappointments and failures.

To the Wonder (dir. Terrence Malick)

I’m completely enamoured, sick with love for Malick’s work but off the back of one of his finest, Tree of Life, this just felt trite, empty and strangely soulless. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography stuns, but I felt this a rare ball-drop from Malick, oblique and insular in all the ways his earlier films weren’t with the frightening air of a film bordering on self-parody. Perhaps a better edit lay amongst the days of footage?

Les Misérables (dir. Tom Hooper)

Wow, what a mess. Tom Hooper’s direction sinks a terrific musical and squanders some good performances. The decision to shoot live audio was brave, and should be rightly praised for empowering the cast, but Hooper’s camerawork is baffling, maddening and lacks any form of finesse or nuance. Gaping holes of empty frame, an over-reliance on silly extreme close-ups and CG chopper shots cry out for a visual stylist capable of properly shooting the musical numbers. Les Mis on stage is too strong to deserve such a drunk, untrained captain at the helm.

Star Trek into Darkness (dir. JJ Abrams)

I wasn’t remotely surprised when fans at the annual Las Vegas Star Trek convention voted Into Darkness their least favourite entry in the twelve-film canon. It stinks of disappointment, squandering the goodwill of the tremendous 2009 reboot with nonsensical plotting, dodgy dialogue, and the terrible decision to cannibalise and replicate elements of the untouchable 1982 Wrath of Khan. Into Darkness’ failure is primarily conceptual, Abrams’ skill at handling cast chemistry and big action setpieces fighting, scene-for-scene, against the unfilmably shitty script he’s been handed.

A Good Day to Die Hard (dir. John Moore)

What the bloody hell are Fox Studios playing at? Pumping out a workable Die Hard sequel shouldn’t feel so laboured; the anguish and suffering of Willis, his fellow cast and filmmakers emanating from every scene as they stumble through one of the absolute low points of American action cinema. Boring, forgettable and inexplicably part of the same series as the original, this was a lethal missile straight to the heart of the franchise.

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