Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Movie Guru's Top Fifteen films of 2013

The moment we've all been waiting for has finally arrived. After twelve long, awesome months, we finally reached the end of 2013 a couple weeks ago. Now, I'm finally here with my top fifteen list of the year. Yes, that's right, I'm doing a top fifteen list this year. There were just so many films that I wanted to honor. Ten simply wouldn't do.

I saw a ton of movies this year, but there were still some that I didn't see. I haven't seen Her or Lone Survivor yet, nor have I seen Dallas Buyers Club or Nebraska. Here's a breakdown of what counts and what doesn't count for this list.

-Dallas Buyers Club and Nebraska are films that I hope to see in the near future, but they will not count on any top ten or fifteen lists since they opened in my area before December 31.

-Her and Lone Survivor will count as 2014 films since they opened in my area on January 10.

-And while Inside Llewyn Davis opened on January 10 in my area as well, I will be counting the film on this list since I've seen it.

So, I hope that clears everything up. I had hoped to get more films in, but it just became too much. Nonetheless, I saw a ton of films this year. Here is a full list

Oz, The Great and Powerful                                                                  
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone                                                          
Man of Steel
The Conjuring
G.I. Joe Retaliation                                                                                
World War Z
The Croods                                                                                          
Monsters University
Iron Man 3                                                                                            
Despicable Me 2
Room 237                                                                                            
 Pacific Rim
Upstream Color                                                                                    
The Way, Way Back
The Great Gatsby                                                                                  
The Wolverine
Star Trek Into Darkness                                                                        
Fast and Furious 6                                                                                
The World's End
Now You See Me                                                                                
Lee Daniels' The Butler
Warm Bodies                                                                                        
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2                                                    
Captain Phillips
Last Vegas                                                                                            
12 Years A Slave
Ender's Game                                                                                        
American Hustle
Thor: The Dark World                                                                          
Saving Mr. Banks
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire                                                          
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug                                                    
Grudge Match
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues                                                    
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Place Beyond The Pines                                                                  
Frances Ha

That brings me to a grand total of 46 movies this past year. That's a good total for the year. As I previously said, 2013 was the best year that I've covered as a film critic. There were so many impressive films. I mostly avoid the clunkers, so you won't see a ton of terrible films on the above list, but I did see some films that disappointed me. But when all was said and done, the following films were the ones that affected and stuck with me either for their emotional center, their craftsmanship or for their overall entertainment value. Here are my top fifteen films of 2013.


This fantastic horror feature almost didn't make my list. I had seen the film a couple more times since my initial viewing and I didn't necessarily feel like the film held up. However, the first time I saw this movie, I absolutely loved it. The Conjuring is a scary horror film. Director James Wan pumps frightening moment after frightening moment into the film. It really is a house of horrors. Despite its scariness, The Conjuring's best attribute is its setup. That is what sets The Conjuring apart from other horror fests. The film takes time to set up a compelling story and then hits you with the scary stuff. The 1970's period setting doesn't hurt the film either. All in all, The Conjuring is the single best horror film of the year and is sure to be a classic for many years in the future.


Elysium is certainly a step up for director Neill Blomkamp. His directorial debut, District 9, is a good film, but it's too gross for its own good and has a lack of drama and suspense. Elysium is a film that I loved initially. In my "A-" review, I called it one of the most "memorable films of the summer." It faded from my mind for a while, but after a second viewing, I really enjoyed it a lot. Elysium is a thrill ride from beginning to end and it has a character that you can really understand. There's some spectacular action in the film and Matt Damon gives a solid performance. Elysium isn't perfect, but it's an old-school, very entertaining thrill ride that has some smart, if obvious social commentary thrown in.


The Place Beyond the Pines is actually the film that I saw most recently off of this last. I finished Derek Cianfrance's crime epic last night after stopping in the middle at some point last week. After finishing it, I immediately knew that it belonged somewhere on this list. The Place Beyond the Pines is a film of raw emotion and it is such a pleasure to watch. Cianfrance tells three generational stories that flow beautifully. There's the story of Luke Gleason (Ryan Gosling), the story of Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) and the story of their children: Avery's son AJ (Emery Cohen) and Luke's son Jason (Dane Dehaan). Gosling is fantastic and so is Cooper, but the standout for me was DeHaan. He proves to be a spectacular actor in this film and his performance is emotional and outstanding. The Place Beyond The Pines is unique cinema that is incredibly grounded in real life. I thought that is truly fantastic.


Philomena is another film that is incredibly emotional. It is anchored by two incredible performances from Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and a script that provides an involving story that goes straight for the heart. Philomena is the story of the title character and she leads this film. She's the good, wholesome center of the film and she is why you care so much about the characters. The contrast between Philomena and Martin, the journalist, is very interesting and also entertaining. I found Philomena to be a powerful film and also one that most audiences will love. Philomena's also a film that takes unexpected turns at every corner and that made it even better. It's one of those films that everyone can enjoy and love.


Captain Phillips is the most thrilling movie of the year by a mile. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. It almost becomes too intense at one point, but Captain Phillips is still an good thrill for most of its runtime, not a bad one. Captain Phillips is another fantastic piece of filmmaking from director Paul Greengrass, who has built a career on intense, realistic thrillers. Captain Phillips is a non-stop thrill ride from the word go and even though there is a lag in the middle section, the film is still blisteringly intense. Captain Phillips also features a spectacular performance from Tom Hanks and a solid supporting turn from Barkhad Abdi. Captain Phillips is at its best during the final five minutes of the film. Those five minutes are spectacular and that scene is one of the year's best. If you haven't seen the film, you're in for a crazy, intense treat.


Fast and Furious 6 was the most memorable experience I had at a movie theater this past summer. I enjoyed every single minute of Fast and Furious 6 and walked out ecstatic. It truly felt like summer had arrived. Fast and Furious 6 is the best piece of pure action cinema to be released in 2013. It establishes that the Fast and Furious franchise is the one to beat for exceptionally entertaining action films. The sixth installment has so many memorable action scenes and car crashes that you can't keep up with it. And although people give the runway scene a hard time, it's still one of the best action sequences ever put on film. Sadly, the Fast and Furious family lost Paul Walker this past year, which puts the film franchise in jeopardy. However, that doesn't change my opinion of Fast 6, which is a superb action film.


Star Trek Into Darkness was not a film that I initially thought highly of. I gave it a "B" when it came out in May, saying in my review that the film was "very entertaining", but that "it doesn't live up to its predecessor." After viewing the film about four or five more times on Blu-Ray, I can assure you that I was wrong. Star Trek Into Darkness is a spectacular piece of sci-fi cinema that works on many levels. The characters are very entertaining and the action sequences are great. It's the glossy sci-fi companion to Fast 6 for summer action awesomeness. JJ Abrams directed another great film with Star Trek Into Darkness.


Frozen is Disney's best film in recent years and it solidifies that they're back on top of the animated world. Frozen is an old-fashioned Disney musical and it is utterly magical. The music, the story and the animation is perfect and I loved every minute of this film. Frozen is a great animated film and it also has some great messages thrown in there for good measure. In a year where animated films were mostly disappointments, Frozen stands above all of them.


Inside Llewyn Davis is another film that I watched very recently. Yet even in these last few days, Inside Llewyn Davis has stuck with me in a way that many films don't. There's something melancholy and haunting about the film. All of the potential that the main character has is wasted and it's tragic. Inside Llewyn Davis also has spectacular performances, great scenes and a fantastic soundtrack. This movie had me glued to the screen from beginning to end. That's not something that happens very often. Inside Llewyn Davis also ends perfectly in an odd sort of way. All of these things add up to one heck of a film. Inside Llewyn Davis is a uniquely fantastic film that I can't wait to enjoy over and over.


Prisoners is a film that I expected to like a lot, but it's not a film that I expected to love like I did. Prisoners is an exceptional old-school noir with a bit of a moral twist. The performances, the cinematography, the story: everything in this movie is pitch-perfect. The film is 153 minutes long, but you don't feel the runtime at all. I was utterly gripped by the film and the mystery had me glued to the small screen I was watching the film on. Jake Gyllenhaal deserves an Oscar nomination for this one and Hugh Jackman is great too. This is the closest that we got to a Christopher Nolan film this year with a twisty, complex plot and a slightly ambiguous ending. All in all, I loved Prisoners and it is absolutely one of the best films of the year.


12 Years A Slave has some of the best filmmaking of the year and it is simply gripping from beginning to end. The film is hard to watch, but I never thought that it was too brutal. 12 Years A Slave provides a realistic, harrowing view of slavery that is anchored by the single best performance of the year from Chiwetel Ejiofor. His performance needs to win the Oscar and he absolutely makes the film better. Also, director Steve McQueen adds wonders to the film with his directorial eye. I loved this film and it has stuck with me since the day that I saw it. Simply one of the best pictures of the year.


Gravity is not only one of the greatest technical achievements of the year. It is also one of the most breathtakingly cool pieces of filmmaking. Gravity starts with a noise that grows and grows until it crescendos with one of the coolest moments of the year. That's one of the defining moments of Gravity, a film that is absolutely amazing from start to finish. Gravity has so many different elements to it, but the most important element is the theme of rebirth. Gravity features the best female performance of the year from Sandra Bullock and spectacular special effects. Cuaron's direction is masterful and makes the film what it is. The ending of Gravity is also perfect. Pretty much everything in Gravity is perfect.


American Hustle is a bit of a mess at times, but it is absolutely amazing as well. I was so excited for this film and it did not disappoint. The story is amazing, the soundtrack is fantastic, but the performances and atmosphere are what sets American Hustle apart from the rest. Christian Bale is spectacular and Amy Adams is the heart and soul of the film. Jeremy Renner turns in a solid supporting turn, while Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are Oscar-worthy in supporting roles. The 1970's setting and soundtrack make this film flow from beginning to end. Director David O. Russell directs the film fast and furiously and his screenplay is witty and crazy. This is an absolutely fantastic film with great performances and a crazy screenplay. American Hustle is pure cinema. A stunning film.


The World's End is one of the funniest movies that I have ever seen. That's not hyperbole. That's a fact. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and friends have created a nostalgic, hilarious sci-fi journey that is spectacular from start to finish. Director Edgar Wright injects the film with so much wit, humor and energy that you can't help but love the film. The set up of this film is spectacular and the rest of the film is just as good. The World's End also benefits from a great performance from Pegg and good performances from the rest of the film. I've watched this film several times since my first viewing, and every time it seems to get better. The World's End really is one of the greatest achievements in recent comedy history. A true masterpiece.


I've debated about my #1 choice. The World's End and American Hustle are films that I love, but neither one can quite match my #1. Rush is an absolutely breathtaking film. The first scene is exhilarating and the rest of the film keeps up that momentum. Rush is made up of pure adrenaline and is not the best action film of the year, but it's also a spectacular character study. Rush features a great performance from Daniel Bruhl and a great star turn by Chris Hemsworth. Everything in Rush is incredibly entertaining and fascinating and it's an absolute pleasure to watch. Director Ron Howard created a thrilling, crazy movie that is a joy to watch and the racing world has never been this cool and thrilling on screen. I just can't wait to see this film again and again on Blu-Ray. Rush is simply the best film of the year.

This was one of the best years for film in a long time. Here's my message to 2014: do your best. It'll be hard to top this year, which had so many spectacular films. I also have a message to 2013. To quote Inside Llewyn Davis: "Au Revoir."

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