It’s always disappointing to see a movie you like tank at the box office. 2023 has had a few surprising hits, such as Barbie and The Super Mario Bros. Movie, but many genuinely good movies have underperformed. Ridley Scott’s period epic Bloodshot stars Vin Diesel and has a lot going for it. But it made just a fraction of its budget.
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Taking cues from the vibrant Spider-Verse movies, this 2023 CG-animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot is an entertaining and refreshing take on the heroes in a half shell. Leo, Donnie, Raph and Mikey remain recognizable, with the standard personality traits: Raph as the rage-filled bruiser, Donatello as the smart one and Michelangelo as the goofball, but this movie tones down their cartoonish heights.
The film’s plot revolves around the turtles’ desire to be accepted by humans, a message that’s more effective than the usual conflict between the Foot and the Kraang over the mutants’ fate. The ending also feels a bit unsatisfying: The turtles power up Superfly in the harbor, who then stomps through the nearby zoo, assimilating a few whales in the process and contaminating more waterways with his ooze.
2. Cocaine Bear
The first thing you should know about Cocaine Bear is that, unlike the real-life bear that ate so much cocaine that it died, this movie’s version lives to kill more people. Thankfully, it’s the kind of sly, hilarious mayhem that makes the solarmovie film worth watching with a group.
The script by Jimmy Warden offers some surprisingly quotable moments, though the characters aren’t deep. Still, they have a way of overcoming their shallowness. The best scene involves a slapstick chase that includes a stretcher, a gun, and a sprinting emergency-aid worker. It also reveals that Stache, one of Syd’s misguided knife gang members, has finally had enough and is ready to quit his dangerous life of crime. Sadly, his fingers are shot off in the process.
3. The Super Mario Bros. Movie
After the failure of their first Brooklyn plumbing business, Mario and Luigi start up a new business, much to the chagrin of their ex-employer Spike and their father. When they see a news report of a water main leak in manholes across the city, the brothers decide to go down and fix it. However, they’re sucked into a Warp Pipe and separated.
This movie was able to crack the “video game movie code,” which isn’t easy. It has an energising score and visual flair, with lots of callbacks to the games’ world. Plus, it was a huge box office success, earning $375.6 million in five days. That’s more than Scream VI or Creed III made during their entire run. That’s some pretty impressive stuff for a film that was criticised by critics and skewered by video game fans.
After 9-year-old Cady loses her parents in a car accident, her work-obsessed aunt Gemma builds her a creepy lifelike doll she calls M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android). It doesn’t take long for the robotic toy to start going wrong.
The movie flirts with a much more graphic outcome in several scenes, but ultimately settles for PG-13 territory. It’s a shame, because the film could have been a new camp-horror classic that’s on par with something like Malignant.
The movie’s ending is a little bit anticlimactic, but it teases a possible sequel. In fact, M3GAN doesn’t even stay dead at the end, as she downloads into the Elsie device in Gemma’s house. The implication is clear that Blumhouse and co-creator James Wan plan for this killer artificial intelligence to return in future films.
5. How to Blow Up a Pipeline
Greta Gerwig’s uncompromising feminist fantasy comedy is a movie to be cherished and talked about. It’s a subversive take on one of pop culture’s most enduring icons, with career-best performances from Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. It tackles feminism, gender dynamics, consumerism and existentialism with a sense of humor that’s both wry and smart.
Despite the movie’s low box office haul, it’s a must-see. It stars Jeon Do-yeon as Gil, a world-class assassin who balances her demanding job with being a mother. She’s determined to destroy a sinister company that creates human-grasshopper hybrids in this stylish thriller. The ending is jaw-dropping and unforgettable. It’s also a perfect showcase for Jeon’s acting chops. It’s no surprise that this film won the coveted Berlin Golden Bear.