Before we get to the final official review of 2013, let’s look back on the Best and Worst of the Year.
YEAR IN REVIEW
Overall, ’13 wasn’t a bad year for movies. Perhaps there were no classics, but the Movie Man awarded just one ‘3’ – very rare.
BEST OF THE YEAR
10. “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (7). It lacked the near-perfection novel adaptation of the first one, but it was still solid.
9. “Frozen” (7). Once it got going, it got good.
8. “Warm Bodies” (7). Lots of fun and a different take on the zombie bit.
7. “The Heat” (7). The funniest movie of the year.
6. “Prisoners” (8). The Movie Man normally hates revenge movies, but this one was super.
5. “Oblivion” (8). The Movie Man liked this film more than almost anyone else. The isolation feel and look won him over.
4. “Captain Phillips” (8). Great moviemaking and a wonder all the way through.
3. “The Croods” (8). Funny and got better as it went along, too.
2. “Despicable Me 2” (8). Really funny and with amazing 3-D.
1. “Gravity” (9). It was no contest for Best of Year this time around. This movie in 3-D was incredible.
Honorable mention (all 7’s): “Dark Skies;” “Oz, the Great and Powerful;” “Now You See Me;” “The Butler;” “Saving Mr. Banks.”
WORST OF THE YEAR
5. “Bad Grandpa” (5). Gave away most of its laughs in the trailer.
4. “RED 2” (5). Far inferior to the original (2010, a 7).
3. “Evil Dead” (4). An unnecessary remake of a classic that brought nothing new.
2. “GI Joe: Retaliation” (4). Proved why it was delayed so often – it stunk.
1. “A Good Day to Die Hard” (3). It’s a coincidence that Bruce Willis is in three of the worst of the year, but those other two (“RED 2” and “G.I. Joe”) were not nearly this bad.
Movies that were better than expected: “The Heat;” “The Family” (7); “Escape Plan” (7)
Movies that were worse than expected: “The Great Gatsby” (5); “Pacific Rim” (6)
Biggest bummer: “Monsters University” (5)
Movie the Movie Man can barely remember seeing: “Pain and Gain” (5).
Best scenes: The thing in the little boy’s room in “Dark Skies;” the cruel heckling scene in “42” (7); showing how the trick was done in “Now You See Me” (7); the tornado scene in “Man of Steel” (7); the karaoke in “The Heat;” the stinger (post credits scene) in “The Wolverine” (6); Loki turning into Captain America in “Thor: The Dark World” (6); Tom Hanks in the sick bay late in “Captain Phillips;” and the first 17 minutes (and most of them after that) of “Gravity.”
Now, back to “Mr. Banks.”
Walt Disney (Hanks) wants to fulfill a 20-year-old promise to his daughters and make a movie out of P.L. Travers’ book “Mary Poppins.”
But the author (Emma Thompson) puts seemingly impossible demands on every facet of the pre-production, including no singing and, especially, no animation.
Slowly, the reason for her tenacious hold on her creation is cracked by Hanks who says he can relate.
This movie might be the best acted of the year. While Hanks and Thompson are award-worthy, Paul Giamatti turns in a great small part as a driver. And the put-upon author of the screenplay (Bradley Whitford) and two songwriters (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) are also sensational.
The emotional scene late between Hanks and Thompson is a wonder on both ends. Hanks has all the words, and Thompson is superior in her silence.
And Thompson really shines – again, saying nothing – when she sees the movie at the premier.
Another special sequence comes when the songwriting duo finally succeed in making Thompson happy with a song, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”
It’s been a while since the Movie Man had pointed out a superior directing job, but John Lee Hancock’s movie is absolutely seamless.
The score is sensational, too. From the soundtrack recreating an era to actual Poppins tunes under construction by Novak and Schwartzman, every one is a perfect fit.
In flashbacks, Colin Ferrell is great as the alcoholic dad as is Annie Rose Buckley who plays his angelic daughter. Hancock wisely shows her in a close-ups whenever he can.
Thompson is reviled on the Disney lot for her constant negativity. But her driver, Giamatti, is constantly upbeat, and that begins to drive her crazy.
When he does his “the sun’s shining; it’s gonna be a great day” bit again, she asks him why he’s such a broken record about the California weather.
His answer creates the first crack in her icy facade.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
There are a few too many flashbacks to Travers’ youth. It gets established early (then often) that the little girl loves her daddy, but that he’s really not worth the devotion.
When “Mary Poppins” finally arrives – it’s Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffins) – in the distant Australian Outback where a sick Ferrell lies in bed and the house in total disarray, the movie veers away from her stern instruction, mostly.
(In the book, Poppins is much tougher than the happy [and wonderful] Julie Andrews in the Disney musical.)
Even with all the flashbacks and frequent interactions between Ferrell and daughter Buckley, it’s still not a 100 percent sell as to why Travers/Thompson is so insistent on keeping total control of her work.
“Saving Mr. Banks” is barely a PG it’s so inoffensive.
The Movie Man had higher hopes for the film, but it’s still solid. However, while it contains some chuckles, it’s far from a straight-up comedy.