Sunday, February 02, 2014

Top 10 Movies of 2013

Before I get started, just wanted to say how sad I was to hear about Philip Seymour Hoffman passing away today.  A great actor.  Probably my faves of his would be Magnolia, The Master and Capote.

Finally, here they are ... my top 10 movies of 2013:

(10) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Though this is ranked lower in my list than the first Hunger Games was in last year's list, this is the better movie.  Darker, and with a more tangible sense of the loss of life, it's a worthy sequel.  I particularly liked Jena Malone and, sadly, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

(9) Now You See Me - This one surprised me a bit.  The commercials for the movie were interesting enough, but the movie was a bit deeper than they let on and the storyline more clever.  About a group of magicians recruited for a project by a mystery benefactor for a goal that is not as obvious as it may seem.  A great cast which includes Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman and Isla Fisher.

(8) Star Trek: Into Darkness - I think fans and critics are torn on this one.  Either giving director JJ Abrams credit for putting a twist on what is generally considered the best Star Trek movie (Wrath of Khan), or criticizing them for unoriginality for the same reason.  I believe it works because of who they chose in the role in question ... Benedict Cumberbatch.  Both charming and threatening, he is the heart of the movie.  I also liked how the relationship between Kirk and Spock was advanced.

(7) Ender's Game - I didn't want to like this.  I wasn't even sure I was going to go because of my deep disagreement with Orson Scott Card's personal politics.  But ultimately, the book and the movie stand on their own.  And Card had no involvement in the movie.  The filmmakers do a great job of distilling the main points of the book into a more manageable time frame.  And the young leads:  Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Abigail Breslin are well-cast.  The  training battle scenes are how I envisioned them when reading the book.

(6) The World's End - Brought to you by the makers and cast of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this movie is funny, irreverent, yet poignant.  Pub crawl, end of the world sci-fi, social commentary, and nostalgia trip all rolled up in one. Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman are both great.

(5) Sound City - Former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl made this documentary about the famous LA studio that produced many of the classic rock albums of the 70's, 80's, and 90's including Nirvana's Nevermind and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.  I wrote a bit more about it here.

(4) American Hustle - I just saw the movie this last weekend.  Very funny and evocative of many Scorcese movies, to whom director David O. Russell is often compared.  The acting is universally outstanding ... probably the best ensemble acting of any of the movies in this list.  I especially liked Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence.  She is a fireplug and hilarious.

(3) 12 Years a Slave - A hard watch.  Much like Schindler's List, this movie is not intended as a comfortable watch.  There are going to be moments that have you squirming.  Moments that have you convinced that the human race is not worth salvaging.  But also with moments of unlikely beauty.  Director Steve McQueen, and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, Serenity), Michael Fassbender  and Lupita Nyong'o are all deservedly Oscar worthy.

(2) Rush - I wrote fairly extensively about this here.  A movie about racing, but not really.  Rush is more about the things that motivate us in our lives.  Sometimes they are external, but often they are internal.

(1) The Wolf of Wall Street - 5 minutes into The Wolf of Wall Street and several older couples exited the theater.  Perhaps it was the frequent f-bombs.  Maybe it was the snorting of cocaine off of naked breasts.  But they apparently had enough.  Me and the 85 year old lady sitting next to me who howled with laughter throughout the movie couldn't get enough.  Like the best of Scorcese movies, you revel in the debauchery and almost root for the bad guys, yet you never lose sight of the fact that these are morality plays.  The movie is a metaphor for the financial gluttony of the 80's (and now) and the belief that there will be no negative consequences for wantonly fucking people over and elevating the accumulation of money above all else.  DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have never been better, and Australian newcomer Margot Robbie is fantastic.

Honorable Mention: A few indies:  Upstream Color, Prince Avalanche, Drinking Buddies, Side Effects and The Europa Report.  Some big budget films that were good ... just not quite good enough:  The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Gravity and Pacific Rim.


CyberKitten said...

I heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman's death a few hours ago. A tragic loss.

After thinking that the original Hunger Games was OK, then enjoying the book much more, I was surprised as just how good the second movie was. Looking forward to the next installments.

I avoided Into Darkness because I hated the first film so much. Still no intention of seeing it.

Really liked Enders Game. I remember liking the story very much when I read it ages ago. The film, although truncated in understandable ways, is a very good interpretation and works really well. All of the young leads are, as you say, outstanding.

Oh, and Pacific Rim? That was my favourite movie of 2013.... [lol]

dbackdad said...

I actually really liked Pacific Rim. I had no real criticisms of it. And I think I have a thing for Rinko Kikuchi (who doesn't?). lol.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: And I think I have a thing for Rinko Kikuchi (who doesn't?). lol.

Definitely! Very impressive.

William Stachour said...

I so agree about Philip Seymour Hoffman--what a loss.

I only saw about half your favorites, but liked many that you did. I wasn't a huge fan of the original Hunger Games, but liked this sequel much better. And like you, I was really torn about seeing Ender's Game. But I agree with your assessment: the story stands on its own merits. (If we had to like everything about our favorite creative artists, our pool would shrink considerably.) And I liked Star Trek.

Feel bad I didn't see 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, or the Wolf of Wall St. I'll see them eventually.

I'd love to see "Her" at some point as well. Waiting for video at this point!

dbackdad said...

I'd love to see Her ... and Inside Llewyn Davis. You saw that one, didn't you?

William Stachour said...

I did see Llewyn Davis, but didn't review. I just couldn't corral my thoughts enough to say anything coherent. Utterly beautiful to look at (despite it not being our man Roger Deakins), musically-evokative, great performances, a fun capturing of period. But I just found I couldn't sink my teeth in. The story is so random, starting and ending seemingly without significance. But I'm sure I'm missing something--being Coens and all. So my plan is to revisit when it's released on DVD and see then.

Saw American Hustle last night. Might attempt a review of that later today.