1Monsters University - 78% on Rotten Tomatoes
As much as I loved Monsters Inc., the decision to follow that up by showing us Mike and Sully's friendship origin story in Monsters University is somewhat baffling to me. As I mentioned in my review, I did enjoy this prequel, but I still have no idea why they would go this route when there is such fertile storytelling ground left to sow after Monsters Inc., when Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) realize that kids aren't as "dangerous" as they once thought. But no, they go back to these monsters' college days to show how they became Monsters Inc.'s top scarers and BFFs, through a highly convoluted story that takes several unnecessary steps. Sadly, Monsters Inc. confirms what Cars 2 and Brave hinted at: That Pixar's best days may be completely behind them.
2The Grandmaster - 74% on Rotten Tomatoes
I am a big fan of Hong Kong cinema, but one of the major Chinese filmmakers I am not quite acquainted with is Kar Wai Wong. After seeing the tedious and overly stylized "action" film The Grandmaster, I'm not sure I want to see much more from the director. The fight scenes didn't do much at all for me, but, also, we already have two fantastic versions of the this story with Ip Man and Ip Man 2, starring the incomparable Donnie Yen. True, this film does seem to take a different approach than those films (although the timelines seem to overlap), but this doesn't hold a candle to Ip Man and Ip Man 2, in terms of organic fight sequences and storytelling techniques. I was honestly struggling to stay awake in the theater, despite solid performances by Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang.
3Lee Daniels' the Butler - 73% on Rotten Tomatoes
While there are aspects of the previous films that I did enjoy, I thoroughly detested almost everything about Lee Daniels' the Butler, a film I originally thought would be right in my wheelhouse. I'm a huge fan of Forest Whitaker, and he does deliver a fine performance here, but this overly-sprawling true story adaptation makes it harder and harder to root for this White House butler as the film progresses, slowly, through the terms of eight different U.S. Presidents. Yes, the ensemble cast is impressive (except Oprah Winfrey...), but Danny Strong's script feels like it tries to inject the Forrest Gump formula into this true story, which results in an ultimately unsatisfactory viewing experience.
4Elysium - 69% on Rotten Tomatoes
Back in April, I attended a press event in L.A. where Elysium director Neill Blomkamp, producer Simon Kinberg and star Sharlto Copley showcased 10 minutes of footage, and held a Q&A session that got me incredibly excited for this sci-fi thriller. When it came time to see the full movie in August, it was easily the most disappointing theatrical experience for me all year. While the visuals are surely breathtaking, this story of an ailing Earthling (Matt Damon) trying to break into the elite space colony Elysium is much more mundane than I had imagined. Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley and Wagner Moura (whose eccentric performance should have gotten much more acclaim) perform admirably, but Jodie Foster, who plays one of the the Elysium leaders, delivers possibly the worst performance of her career. After a simply astonishing debut with 2009's District 9, it's probably safe to say that expectations were unrealistically high for Neill Blomkamp's follow-up, but I wasn't expecting to dislike it as much as I did.
5World War Z - 67% on Rotten Tomatoes
The 67% on RT does boggle the mind, but I was thoroughly shocked when this lame zombie thriller took in $540 million worldwide (from a whopping $190 million budget). I wasn't thoroughly excited for this adaptation of Max Brooks' novel to begin with, and the horror stories I heard from the troubled production did not help by any means. When it finally came time to check this out, I was thoroughly infuriated by this pile-on of ludicrous conflicts and the filmmakers' tendency to break the very rules they go to great lengths to establish ( to read my full review). Oddly enough, while I've seen other critics blast the third act, I thought this was one of the only good aspects of the film, but it was far too little/too late. With a sequel currently in development, hopefully the filmmakers can learn from the numerous mistakes made in the original.
Honorable Mention: Captain Phillips - 94% on Rotten Tomatoes
Like the esteemed Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, I've always had a soft spot for movies based on a true story, and the tale of Richard Phillips is one chocked full of cinematic potential. In 2009, Somali pirates hijacked Phillips' ship MV Maresk Alabama, the first time an American cargo liner was infiltrated in over 200 years, with Phillips sacrificing himself to save the lives of his crew members. With Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture - Drama, Tom Hanks (Best Actor), Barkhad Abdi (Best Supporting Actor) and director Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips will likely have its name called several times when the Oscar nominations are announced next month, although I don't think those accolades are fully deserved. While the performances by Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi are top-notch, this 134-minute slow burn definitely could use a few trims here and there. The thrilling conclusion does work, but the story trudges its way to the end, with Paul Greengrass' trademark shaky-cam that has no place in such a slow-paced story that struggled to hold my attention for the majority of the film.
That wraps it up for my most Overrated Movies of 2013. Stay tuned later this week for my Most Underrated Movies and Top 10 Movies of 2013. If you agree or disagree with my picks, let your voice be heard by hitting me up on Twitter (@GallagherMW).