Andrew’s Top Ten Movies of 2013

While at times I did feel like this was a weak year for movies, I found it surprisingly difficult to put this top ten list together, simply because there were so many films I wanted to include. After giving it some thought I was finally able to whittle my list down to ten, but for those of you interested in the movies that didn’t quite make the cut, here are the honorable mentions in no particular order: Stoker, Saving Mr. Banks, Mud, The Bling Ring, Captain Phillips, Kings of Summer, Blue is the Warmest Color and Nebraska.

10. The Wolverine

While this may seem like a somewhat weird way to start off the list, I actually enjoyed this movie immensely. For me, it satisfied everything I was looking for in a nice self-contained action/superhero movie. The Japanese setting actually added a lot of character to the movie, and the film still showed some restraint in not completely drowning the movie in typical Japanese action film clichés. While the climax is, admittedly, somewhat problematic, it was still satisfied with the film as a whole.

9. Much Ado About Nothing

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While this movie does suffer from being a bit too cutesy at times, but I can pretty safely say it is one of, if not the best Shakespeare film ever made. Joss Whedon’s sense of humor matches perfectly with the play, and he is able to make a Shakespeare movie which doesn’t feel forced or clichéd, and is genuinely funny, something that has been tried and failed more than a few times. It is easy to blow this film off as cute and inconsequential, which it is, but it has more than enough charm to earn a spot on the list.

8. Blackfish

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It is rare that I am blown away by a documentary, but I have to give credit to Blackfish for doing just that. While there has been some controversy surrounding this movie, as it clearly takes aim at the beloved and well established company Sea World in a way that does seem very biased, I think the evidence in the movie speaks for itself. More than a film about the mistreatment of Killer Whales kept in captivity, Blackfish is an interesting look at the danger these animals present to their trainers, and the extremely preventable deaths and injuries caused by the animals that until now have been ignored by the public. It is powerful, and sometimes hard to watch, but is a documentary I feel like everyone should see.

7. Rush

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The only reason this movie didn’t end up higher on my list is that nothing about it was particularly unique or interesting. However, giving credit where credit is due, Rush is still a fantastic film.  It captures an intimate conflict between two larger than life figures risking their lives to claim superiority in a way that felt genuine and believable. Rush is an airtight movie, expertly handling climactic beats throughout the film and ending up as perhaps one of the most well rounded films of the year.

6. The Way Way Back

I am usually not one for feel good movies, but I have to say I was quite taken with The Way Way Back. It has a great cast and is a genuinely sweet and funny coming of age story. It is nice to see Steve Carell out of his comfort zone, playing the antagonistic boyfriend of the protagonist’s mother; however the real stand out for me was Sam Rockwell who once again proves he is a force to be reckoned with as a top comedic actor. Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar winning duo behind the script for The Descendants, this film was definitely a stand out in a year saturated with coming of age films.

5. American Hustle

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While in a lot of ways I felt like this should be my number one movie this year, there were a few glaring details that kept it lower. The way the film was put together felt awkward in a few places, and some of the scenes in the movie just didn’t seem to work well within the film as a whole, not to mention the ending which I thought was a little weak and very rushed. That being said, the performances in this movie are easily some of the best of the year. With an actor nominated in each of the four major acting categories for the Golden Globes, and likely for the Oscars when those nominations are released, American Hustle definitely has a lot to bring to the table. It’s stylish and fun, but it’s the characters and their relationships that really solidify this movie as one of the best of the year.

4. Wolf of Wall Street

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

A manic story of riches, corporate corruption, and missed chances for redemption, Wolf of Wall Street manages to be far from the typical cautionary tale about wealth. It is raunchy, perverse, even sickening at times, but boy is it a fun movie to watch. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic as Jordan Belfort, a man on a drug fueled rampage up the corporate Wall Street ladder. The film has a great sense of humor, and is one of the best “truth is stranger than fiction” movies I have seen in a long time. It’s an unbelievable story, and even manages to keep the viewer engaged throughout the monstrous 3 hour run time.

3. 12 Years a Slave

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My bet for Best Picture this year, 12 Years a Slave is nothing short of an incredible movie. What really makes this movie stand out is that it’s not just the movie about the horrors of slavery that seems to get made every few years, but also an incredible character driven story. All of the acting in the film is fantastic, the conflict between Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofer was extremely tense, and every single character in the film was well fleshed out and distinct, which is a nice change from the typical flat slave owner characters in similar movies. Expertly directed by Steve McQueen, I look forward to seeing his work in the future now that he is gaining mainstream recognition and success.

2. Place Beyond the Pines

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I knew this movie would end up high on my top ten list immediately after I walked out of the theater. Place Beyond the Pine comes in a close second for my favorite films this year, as I loved nearly everything about this movie. The setting, powerful performances and distinct three part narrative gives a profound amount of weight and importance to an intimate tale about family, father-son relationships, and consequences. The movie shifts effortlessly between protagonists and still manages to make the viewer care about all of them, as the film almost feels like three shorter films tied together by themes and shared characters. The third act of this film received some criticism as it is a bit bizarre, but I thought it fit perfectly and Dane DeHaan’s performance is in many ways what made the movie for me.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis

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Calling this movie a dark comedy would be an understatement, as it would be one of the most cynical movies I have seen if it wasn’t so damn funny. It is an interesting character study of Llewyn, a fledgling folk musician and a bit of a jerk, whose life starts out bad and gets progressively worse as the film goes on through a serious of misfortunes that befall Llewyn.  Despite its melancholy outlook, Inside Llewyn Davis offers a lot in terms of personality, style, and memorable moments and is my favorite film of 2013.

The Wolverine Review

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It would be an understatement to say that it’s been a phenomenal year for Marvel. With Iron Man 3 earning over 1.2 billion dollars, and Thor: The Dark World slated for an early November release, the folks over at Marvel are riding high. Perhaps it’s this financial security that’s allowed Marvel to take a slightly more edgy approach to their new X-Men film, titled simply The Wolverine. As the name would suggest, the film centers on a specific arc of one of the most popular X-Men, and adds a definitively strong title to the historically shaky film series.

Director James Mangold takes the helm of The Wolverine– his first Marvel production. With an incredibly mixed resume including hits like Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted as well as some real misses like Identity and Knight and Day, Mangold is admittedly an interesting choice to take on a summer blockbuster like this. Not only does he rise to the occasion, but he manages to take a franchise that has disappointed fans in the past with entries like X-Men Origins: Wolverine into new and interesting territory, choosing to keep the focus tight and centralized on one specific character. Based on a popular run in the comic book series, The Wolverine was written primarily by Christopher McQuarrie with the uncredited assistance of Mark Bomback and Scott Frank. This, to me, is interesting, because parts of the film seem to be very self-contained and stand effectively on their own, but other parts, specifically the ending, seem have the stench of committee design and compromise about them.

Hugh Jackman reprises his role from previous X-Men films as the beloved Wolverine. More than being the straight-talking, cynical badass du jour, however, the more narrow focus of the story allows for some interesting themes to be explored, such as mortality, family, and redemption. As the story mainly takes place in Japan, Jackman is virtually the film’s only caucasian actor. Most Japanese actors present in film, such as Tao Okamoto (Markio) and Rila Fukushima (Yukio), may be unknown to American audiences, though more illustrious actors such as Hiroyuki Sanada (Mr. Yoshida) also make an appearance.

Happily, Mangold knows how to handle his action sequences and is able to pull of some sensationally fun and impressive choreographed fight scenes incorporating both a pleasing, fluid, Eastern style of fighting which is contrasted interestingly with Wolverine’s more Western brawler style. Likewise, the asian aesthetic in a general sense is used to great effect, as it proves to be not only visually engaging, but adds an element of freshness and charisma that the film would have sorely missed otherwise.

In terms of character development and story, The Wolverine mixes things up in comparison to other summer blockbusters. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the character definitely lends itself well to one of the more human and flawed superheroes that we’ve seen in a long time, to say nothing of this summer. My reaction to the narrative, however, came in three distinct parts. First, I was completely onboard with the story, characters, action, and aesthetic as Wolverine was revealed to be hiding out in the Yukon and troubled by his past. Second, about halfway into the film, I was confused by an overly complicated plot as issues regarding ninja clans, inheritance, and auxiliary characters were all introduced in rapid succession. Finally, I was troubled towards the end as events and motivations proved to be downright incomprehensible. What I’m sure was intended to be a shocking final climax was, in realty, kind of nonsensical. It’s always dangerous to wait until the end of a movie to do something drastic with the story because people tend to remember the end of a film more clearly than they remember other parts. If the big reveal doesn’t work quite as well as the director intends it to, it’s very likely that the audience will walk away with a bad taste in their mouths, even if the rest of the film was essentially decent.

Be that as it may, The Wolverine is still a very well executed blockbuster that manages to keep the X-Men franchise fresh and interesting. With impressive action and an engaging aesthetic, there is certainly a lot to like. Although the story starts to bob and weave senselessly towards the end, there’s still plenty of good to take away from the film for an enjoyable experience.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Wolverine: Rampant Cinemania Episode 13

 

This Week: Albert Cantu, Andrew King, Gabriel Vogel, Joe Holley

Show Notes

The World’s End 0:43 – 3:22

Lay the Favorite 3:22 – 6:24

The Conjuring 6:24 – 8:36

R.I.P.D. 8:36 – 11:56

The Late Quartet 11:56 – 14:25

The Master 14:25 – 15:55

The Way Way Back 15:55 – 19:42

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 19:42 – 21:02

Hard Eight (Sydney) 21:02 – 23:30

The Wolverine 23:30 – 50:43

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Audible link: http://www.audibletrial.com/simplyfilm