Pacific Rim (2013)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Travis Beacham (story and screenplay), and Guillermo del Toro (screenplay)
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi
It would be easy to call Pacific Rim a dumb, over-the-top action movie on the same level as the Transformers series. But to brush it off so simply would be to ignore the fact that there is a difference between "simple characterization" and "lazy characterization," between "silly" and "stupid," between "embracing your inner child" and "being immature." Guillermo del Toro obviously knows the difference and realizes that just because you are playing with major archetypes doesn't mean you can ignore the details. Sure, the movie is big, loud and cheesy - but it is also obvious that a lot of time has been spent crafting these characters and creatures and del Toro had just as much fun making the film as anybody is having while watching.
Score: 6 / 10
The Conjuring (2013)
Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes (screenplay)
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor
Watching "The Conjuring" is almost depressing; on its own merits it is slightly above average, but the fact that 99% of horror that has come out in the past few years is truly bad makes it look like a masterpiece in comparison. It plays out exactly like you would expect a haunted house / exorcism mash-up would. But while it does nothing new, it hits almost every beat very well, flawlessly combining atmosphere and jump scares. Wan is very good about using misdirection in order to keep the scares fresh and seems to have an excellent sense of just how long he can draw out a tense moment before reaching the breaking point. Highly derivative but well executed with only a couple moments of unintended silliness (usually a major problem for me with horror).
Score: 5 / 10