The Guilty Pleasure Films of 2013

by PopMatters Staff

14 January 2014


5 - 1

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Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa

Director: Jeff Tremaine
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll


Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa

When you pay to see Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, you know what you’re getting into. This time around, Knoxville is 86-year-old Irving Zisman, a vulgar senior citizen who takes a road trip with his eight-year-old grandson, Billy. This sets the film up for a series of hilariously inappropriate encounters where Zisman wreaks havoc upon the lives of strangers and acts as a terrible influence in front of his grandson. In one scene, Zisman falls onto a wedding cake, and it’s so stupid, and so bad, but I couldn’t control myself. I laughed and laughed, and when I thought about that scene the next day, I laughed some more. Maybe this means that I, too, am a jackass, but given that the film grossed over $100 million worldwide, I have a feeling that I’m not the only one. Jon Lisi


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The Canyons

Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks


The Canyons
IFC Films

A flat-as-ever Bret Easton Ellis provided the screenplay for this gloriously all-over-the-place story about a trust-fund kid (porn-star James Deen) who’s dabbling in film producing when he’s not playing sadistic games with his girlfriend (Lindsay Lohan), who he’s pretty sure is having an affair. If you come to it with the right point of view, this is something of an exhausted masterpiece, director Paul Schrader’s grand statement on the end of cinema (all those inserted shots of boarded-up movie theaters) married with a tarty Less Than Zero scenario about soulless Hollywood dead-enders. Chris Barsanti


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The Counselor

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz


The Counselor
20th Century Fox

Ridley Scott’s The Counselor is no comedy, but as its bleak philosophy rolls on, it is difficult not to think of Woody Allen’s quote about “life [being] divided into the horrible and the miserable.” Tony Scott’s suicide occurred during the production of the film. While it isn’t possible to measure the specific effect(s) of that event on his brother’s execution of Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay, the film that resulted is one that features nary a high road.

Full of toxic substances, scenes, and characters, The Counselor is a film in which the vices of the world are seductive and all-consuming. Even an innocent character, Penélope Cruz’ “Laura”, is drawn into the maelstrom of the criminals surrounding her. The Counselor is a film that confirms the worst suspicions of the nature of humankind. It sees us as fallen, and fallen to forever be. Javier Bardem’s “Reiner” is complicit in the criminality but increasingly bemused by the insanity that fuels it. He doesn’t want to believe the degree to which the animal instinct exists in man. He’s a spectator, and we watch him, together wondering when chaos officially took over and questioning how we might escape it. Thomas Britt


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Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Cast: Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, John Heard


The Asylum

It’s unfortunate, really. Sharkando could have been Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus good, a brain-frying festival of cinematic atrocities force fed through a satiric sieve and given just enough CG polish to keep us from complaining. It could also have acknowledged its outright awfulness and just kept plugging away. Instead, it seems to want to have its kitschy cake and swallow it whole, too. Perhaps when it finally makes its way to DVD, excised blood and gore reinserted and intact, it will make more sense, either as a lark, a novelty, or a knowing lampoon. As it stands, Sharknado is decent but dumb, never wicked enough to have us winking along with it, never bonkers enough to have us offering up the whole “so bad, it’s good” ideal. Unlike The Room or Birdemic, it’s all attempt and very little follow through. Bill Gibron


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The Lone Ranger

Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner\, Tom Wilkinson, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Helena Bonham Carter


The Lone Ranger
Walt Disney Studios

Adapting a cumbersomely old-fashioned cowboys-and-Indians property into a post-colonial atonement for the crimes of Caucasian-American settlement of the West and into an action-packed summer popcorn flick was always going to be an ambitious folly of massive proportions. Throw in Johnny Depp in redface as a character synonymous with the unsettling “noble savage” archetype of Native Americans and you’re baiting disaster to take a swing at your kisser. The Lone Ranger nonetheless displays feverish creativity and self-reflexive intelligence in considerable amounts. It’s pretty fun at key moments (especially its train sequences) while also addressing (and redressing) some of the central myths fed into the cultural discourse by classic Hollywood Westerns. The critical and popular consensus suggested otherwise, but sometimes the consensus needs to be buried up to its neck in the desert and left to the scorpions. Ross Langager

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