Guest Article from Josh the Movie Squabbler
In his previous two guest articles, Josh reviewed Hollywoods Obscure Gems and Hollywoods 5 Worst Movies. Today our very own Movie Squabbler wraps up this trio of guest posts, by reviewing the Top 10 Best Movies of 2013.
BEST MOVIES OF 2013
10. Now You See Me
A surprisingly effective thriller set in the world of magic with a fast, twisty script and a well-rounded cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and the hardest working man in showbiz Morgan Freeman. Magic is a hard thing to pull off in movies as we know the camera can trick us in any way but the complexity of the heists and the constant guessing of who is the mastermind helped make this a big hit here and abroad.
9. Blue Jasmine
Woody Allen’s late career resurgence continues with Blue Jasmine, a dramedy whose plot is a mix of Tennessee Williams and Bernie Madoff’s fictionalized story. Cate Blanchett gives a captivating performance as a woman falling apart after her rich husband is exposed as a fraud and she must move in with her poor sister who she has shunned for years.
This movie is a pretty intense drama but with a lot of comic undertones and very little of the outrageous humor Woody is famous for. There are surprising supporting turns by Andrew Dice Clay and Louis CK which proves that Woody can basically get a good performance from any living person.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers return after a brief hiatus following their massive hit True Grit with a very intimate and personal movie with limited commercial appeal but surprisingly effective. It follows Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer in early 1960’s New York who is talented but way too good at self-sabotage to break through to the big leagues. He couch surfs with friends and family just long enough to turn them against him but his songs and passion keep them in his circle.
The movie has the Coen’s patented black comedy and a bit of a structural twist that demonstrates their un-matched talent at this kind of storytelling. Carey Mulligan gives another strong performance as a woman caught in Llewyn’s web but the real star is Oscar Isaac, a character actor with real breakout potential, who must make us love and hate Llewyn all while convincing us of his musical talent.
7. World War Z
WWZ is a thrilling zombie action extravaganza that moves at such a breakneck pace, it will be a couple days before you realize just how ridiculous it all was. But that doesn’t make it any less fun. The zombies here run and swarm at full speed turning whole cities into undead hordes in minutes and creating giant action sequences that go toe to toe with all other summer movie blockbusters.
How Brad Pitt is qualified to save us all or how he gets in contact with the 3 or 4 right people around the world who can help him and then escape just before everyone else is killed is a mystery. But as long as he and his family live, we are rooting for him all the way. Despite the rampant stories of production troubles on this movie, it does not feel like a movie with huge story problems and I’m sure we’ll see some sequels before very long.
6. This Is The End
This is the End was probably one of the riskiest movies of the year – it’s a raunchy sci-fi comedy and the stars of the movie all play hyper obnoxious versions of themselves. Sci-Fi comedies are incredibly tough especially when they go for comedy first (see The Watch or Evolution) and the stars are played by Judd Apatow’s immature brat pack – Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, etc…
However, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s over the top R-rated script and constant sly winks to the obnoxious real life personalities of actors make this a hilarious summer comedy in the vein of Pineapple Express & Superbad. These guys spend most of their time hiding from the apocalypse by arguing about masturbation and Milky Way candy bars, and shooting ridiculous sequels to their mediocre movies.
The movie gets a little too silly one they introduce the apocalyptic demons but the jokes are fast and funny throughout and you’ll want to see it a couple more times to remember all the great lines.
5. 12 Years a Slave
This brutal and harrowing tale is probably the most vivid portrayal of slavery ever put on screen. Following the true story of a free Northern black man named Solomon Northup who was abducted and sold into slavery, we get to see these horrors from the eyes of an educated man as he shifts from a sympathetic owner to a brutal owner of property.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor I have always admired, gives a towering Award-worthy performance in the lead and Michael Fassbender is scary and horrible as the monster who tries to break Solomon’s spirit. This may be a movie you will not want to watch again but it is one that will keep you enraged and emotional for 2 hours.
4. Captain Phillips
Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Movies, United 93) delivers a white knuckle true life thriller about the hijacking of a US freighter by Somali pirates and the hostage situation surrounding the title character.
Tom Hanks gives another fully formed everyman performance with a few standout sequences that remind us why he is one of America’s treasures. This is a very tough movie to make since everyone knows the ending and there is actually very little action but Greengrass is such an expert filmmaker that he makes the rewarding climax and comedown a welcome relief from the constant tension he has created for the previous 2 hours.
3. Star Trek Into Darkness
JJ Abrams has done it again, making another thrilling and faithful movie for Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike. This time, he does not need to establish the world and build the chemistry between all his characters, so he can just get on with the non-stop action and beaming up, down and all-around of people. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a Hall of Fame villain performance in a great homage to a legendary Star Trek baddie.
Abrams and team know how to move the story at a breakneck pace while still servicing the story lines and Trek lore. There is still a lot more life in this franchise as they set up some elements for the next installment while wrapping up the self-contained story.
The success of these reboots and how well Abrams and team have cast the new Enterprise crew gives me a lot of faith that his take on the new Star Wars films will feel just as fresh and innovative The only bummer is that he probably won’t be able to helm more Trek movies due to his double duty on space epics.
2. American Hustle
David O. Russell is on a pretty phenomenal winning streak and seems to be cementing his status as a prolific and important filmmaker for years to come. After flirting with greatness and chaos over the first 10 years of his career (Three Kings, Flirting with Disaster, I Heart Huckabees), he also developed a reputation as a volatile and somewhat hostile personality which overshadowed his potential.
However, he seems to have mellowed out and his last 3 movies- The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle – have showed a huge jump forward in his ability to make great movies and get amazing performances out of his actors.
That brings me to Hustle, a hilarious and dramatic take on the 1970’s Abscam scandal where an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) uses two con men/women (Christian Bale & Amy Adams) to scam politicians and mobsters into bribery and corruption charges. Bale & Adams are simply amazing in their complex physical and emotional lead roles and the cast is filled out with another star turn by Jennifer Lawrence as Bale’s volatile wife, another strong turn by the ever improving Cooper, and a winning turn by Jeremy Renner as a politician willing to cross some lines to help his people.
The movie seems to get a little too wrapped up in its own plot in the third act but it’s hard to knock Russell for his ambitious endeavor. This movie in tone and spirit feels a lot like last year’s surprise winner Argo and given the right breaks, this one has the potential to be a major awards contender.
If you didn’t see this movie in the theatres, you definitely missed something special. I wasn’t able to see it in 3D and I probably missed something too. A visual and technical marvel about Sandra Bullock lost in space with and without George Clooney, this movie was a monster hit so I won’t recap the plot. It is a tight rope of tension and excitement for 90 straight minutes expertly directed by Alfonso Cuaron with some of the most amazing and complex shots you’ll see on the big screen.
The filming technique for this movie was incredibly tedious and technical so the riveting performance that Sandra Bullock gives in a role that asks her to sell real emotion along with ridiculously implausible action sequences is that much more impressive.
This is definitely a movie that will hold up over multiple viewings and will hopefully open new doors for the talented director.