Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Lots of top ten lists floating around the world wide web as of late – lots of words written to convey how some critics feel…  If you’ve followed my reviews over the years, just started in 2013 or this is your first time to visiting (welcome!)…  I like to keep things real simple – I’m sure you enjoy movies but don’t have a ton of time to spend reading ten paragraph reviews… 
Below you’ll find what I thought to be this year’s ten best plus a little extra on the side – because it was, indeed, a pretty solid year at the multiplex.
I also welcome all feedback as to why you might think I’m wrong (I’m not, but I welcome the feedback) – or even a pat on the back for the ones we may agree on…  Hoping next year can deliver a similar kind of quality!

1. The Way Way Back, 2. Short Term 12, 3. Dallas Buyers Club, 4. Enough Said, 5. The Spectacular Now, 6. Blue Jasmine, 7. Side Effects, 8. Saving Mr. Banks, 9. World War Z, 10. About Time, 11. 2 Guns, 12. Mud, 13. American Hustle, 14. 12 Years a Slave, 15. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, 16. Warm Bodies, 17. Nebraska, 18. August: Osage County, 19. In A World, 20. The Croods, 21. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 22. The Wolverine, 23. Philomena, 24. Prisoners and 25. Spring Breakers
Martin Scorsese movies are assured, measured, finely-tuned and focused.  They’re marathons of multi-layered, entertaining endurance.  What makes THE WOLF OF WALL STREET unique is that, for the first time and at 71 years of age, he’s decided to run 40-yard wind sprints for the better part of three hours…  It’s time to party with Marty – and in doing so, Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a powder keg performance – possibly the best of his career thus far.  Expect to love or hate this darkly comedic, cynically abrasive, maddeningly energetic and vulgarly narcissistic look at the financial center of the universe – it’s offensive, vulgar and populated by some of the slimiest humans you’re likely to cinematically meet this year.  The film itself is a Quaalude-infused, over-long orgy of obnoxiously linked delights.  It may sound like I’m knocking it but, good or bad, this movie’s stench will stick with ya’…  It’s a well-crafted, occasionally disjointed, bat sh*t crazy and unevenly layered tale of the intoxicating power of greed.  It’s most definitely not the white-collared GOODFELLAS some critics are claiming, but its over-the-top, out-of-control and very hard to forget…

This decidedly methodical, melodramatic and equally ambitious feature is a lineal mood-piece featuring three movies for the price of one. All filled with award-worthy performances – the stories focus on fathers and their sons, selflessness vs. selfishness, legacies and consequences and the breaking and mending of bonds… With all of its heavy themes and at just under two and half hours, PINES could understandably prove taxing for many – it makes for a daunting sit. But with equal parts intimacy, brutality, disparity, violence and grace it remains a rivetingly complex piece of cinema that’s sure to linger in your mind and throw a shroud of parental stress over fathers and fathers-to-be…  As a farther of sons myself, THIS is what a horror movie feels like.

A sharp, manic and gleefully self-indulgent, pre-apocalyptic, pub crawl comedy that served as a nightcap to an otherwise mediocre year of comedy. Masterfully blending heartfelt maturity with juvenile hijinks, this expertly crafted flick delivers an energetically zany, nostalgically offbeat and skillfully twisted tale of friendship, growing-up, addiction and planetary homogenization. THE WORLD’S END is a beer-goggled, barhopping, body-invasion blast from beginning to the bloody world’s end…

Disney dazzles once again (for the third time in a row; along with TANGLED and WRECK-IT RALPH) with this gorgeously animated musical comedy based loosely on The Ice Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. Boasting an extremely talented cast, a beautifully envisioned 3D world, masterfully executed Broadway-like showtunes and a contemporarily hip self-awareness, this fun and festive cinematic adventure is a soon-to-be classic!  The story is simple and the villains a bit thin, but it’s efficiently paced and accessible to the masses (yes, my boys couldn’t stop raving about how ‘awesome’ the princess movie was…). One of the most vibrantly delightful joys of 2013, FROZEN’s fiery charm is sure to warm the hearts of your entire family!

A Hollywood movie high mark for 2013 and a testament to the power of character-driven, popcorn munching, edge-of-your-seat cinema, this Formula One Racing movie fires on all cylinders! It’s an enthusiastically assembled sports drama that delves in to the brash, blunt and bat-out-of-hell world of blistering raceway rivalries – and it’s crafted with a tremendous amount of wit, wisdom, compassion and high speed, hairpin turn action! Expertly directed, deftly written and exceptionally acted by both Hemsworth and Brühl (the latter of which should seriously be considered for a Best Supporting Actor nomination) this is a movie that thrusts forward from start to checkered flag finish. Exciting, intriguing and accessible, this slick racecar flick may be fueled by adrenaline, but it’s powered by two great performances and tons of energizing spirit… Rightfully placed in the limelight, RUSH is one of the year’s best!

A bitterly bleak and confidently melancholy ode to restlessness, grief, heartbreak, tragedy, stubbornness, vulnerability, longing and the ever-revolving-sometimes-never-evolving artistic process. You’ll easily struggle to find redeeming qualities or even kind of like the main character – he’s a thorny one who never seems to get out of his own way or the ways of others – he truly enters almost every seen like a wrecking ball. And that’s part of his charm – in a deliberately Coen-esque kind of way… The craftsmanship on display here is outstanding. Great acting, layered characters, lush cinematography, intelligent writing and a folksy soundtrack that sounds like a warm blanket feels. Plus, there’s a ton of depth and enough subtle oddities to qualify this as another Coen Brothers classic! Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of this early 60’s, Greenwich Village, subdued, hipster-like music scene (assuming many might feel the same way here)– but as time passed my admiration grew… It really is folkin’ great!

This riveting biopic thriller – exploring the events of the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. cargo ship by Somali pirates – serves as a master class in the art of superb filmmaking. It’s an intelligently gripping procedural drama that explores the worlds of disparity, vulnerability, fortitude, globalization, human nature and the fight for self preservation. Even if you're aware of how this story pans out, director Paul Greengrass (UNITED 93, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY/ULTIMATUM) is at the helm and there to ensure you'll be witness to a confident whirligig of frenzied action and desperate emotion – so much so in fact, you may find yourself second guessing what you already know to be true… Oh, and Tom Hanks, as probably excepted, delivers another brilliant performance – this time forged of stoicism, calmness, shock, fear and a whoooooole lot of uncertainty. This mesmerizing CAPTAIN is sure to command your full attention!

Director Richard Linkletter has crafted a mesmerizingly poignant, eighteen-years-in-the-making finish to his MIDNIGHT trilogy – three movies I was recently introduced to and can easily say stand as one of the greatest series of three films ever made.  It’s an insightful, often heartbreakingly horrifying journey between a couple and their perceptions on love, marriage, children, responsibility, loss and the true meaning of commitment.  It may be tough to watch sometimes because much of the depth rings true – or at least feels so real that you hope it never happens to you.  Hawke and Delpy have both grown in to the adults we see before us and infuse their dialogue and actions with assuredly lived-in depth.  This character study on the power of communication and good intentions is a masterfully intelligent, charmingly powerful and wincingly funny piece of storytelling.  You MUST watch the first two installments to appreciate the weight and heart of this powerful third.

2. HER
When Harry Met Siri…  This brilliant melancholic romantic comedy (melan-rom-com) is a soulful, off-the-wall journey about the longing for intimate connection – be it human…or your desk top computer’s operating system (?!).  Director Spike Jonze has ambitiously created a beautifully envisioned, not-too-distant future that feels eerily familiar and teems with the hustle-and-bustle of humans and their personal devices, a future where almost all connectivity is lost.  Phoenix and Johansson both give award worthy performances and, along with the intelligent writing, mesmerizing music and lush cinematography, help make believable this goofily good-natured premise.  HER is a gently genuine, emotionally resonant and poetically optimistic look at the state of modern human relationships and how many of us, even today, could use a reboot.  Unplug and enjoy one of the best 2013 has to offer…
APOLLO 13 meets CASTAWAY by way of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in simple concept; light years beyond anything you could possibly imagine by visual design. GRAVITY is a wholly immersive, groundbreaking cinematic experience and the sole, one-word argument for letting 3D technology linger for as long as it has… In one fell, 91-minute swoop, director Alfonso Cuarón delivers a taught, relentless, spiritual, breathtaking, thrilling, nerve-wracking and intensely white-knuckled edge-of-your-seat space epic that demands your attention and commands your emotions. It’s an expertly crafted production from top to bottom and includes audacious direction, a hypnotic score, mesmerizing cinematography, pulsating action, stunning visuals and a soon-to-be Oscar nominated performance from Sandra Bullock (you can bank on it; as well as other nominations for Best Picture, Director, Editing, Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Cinematography and Visual Effects). If you can handle the sheer intensity of this event movie, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy it every bit as much as I did… Simply put, it makes going to the movies fun and exciting. Taking the art and science of filmmaking to glorious new heights, GRAVITY is easily the most exciting movie-going experience I’ve had in the past few years! So yeah, I guess you could say that I’m down with GRAVITY!

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