31 December 2013

Top 10 Films of 2013

So here it is, my top 10 films of the year. This is probably the year I saw the most films, as you'll see below and I think I've got a pretty good range covered. The only rule for this list is that it had to have been released in UK cinemas in 2013. Whilst this means that some of the Oscar films from last year make the cut, it unfortunately means that I cannot include one of my favourite films of the year, Fruitvale Station, as it still hasn't received a UK release date. With that said, here are my top 10 films of 2013.
10. Pacific Rim - It may not be the deepest or smartest film of the year but watching Pacific Rim was the most fun I've had watching a film all year. You get a brilliant sense of scale and world-building from Guillermo Del Toro, the action scenes are incredible to watch and there's a sense that everyone involved in the film was having so much fun making it that this fun is reflected back on the audience.

9. Lincoln - This is a film that takes one of the most well-known events in American history and fills it with suspense. Spielberg's direction and Tony Kushner's incredible screenplay, in the hands of some of the best actors working today, especially Daniel-Day Lewis as Lincoln, make this film suspenseful, funny and thought provoking at the same time and makes for a great film.

8. The East - I found this to be a brilliant thriller. The way the film explores the mindset of environmental terrorists and why they commit their crimes is fascinating, the acting, especially from Brit Marling and Ellen Page, is excellent and the film is really intense and intelligent all the way through. The ending did leave a bit to be desired though.

7. The Kings of Summer - A great coming of age story in the vein of Stand By Me featuring great performances by Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias who all work incredibly well with each other. Really funny and heartfelt, just an overall good time.

6. Robot and Frank - I found this to be a really heartwarming film that the trailers completely mis-sold. Nowhere in the trailers is it indicated that Frank has dementia and that is what provides a lot of the emotional hook of the film. Frank Langella's performance as Frank is excellent and his chemistry with Peter Saarsgard (in voice only) helps provide a lot of the heart that makes Robot and Frank such a good film.

5. Django Unchained - Tarantino's most recent film, whilst not being the most realistic depiction of slavery (a complete understatement), at least fully acknowledges some of the horrors inflicted and provides a great sense of catharsis in seeing Django punish those who commit these crimes. Jamie Foxx is excellent as Django, along with Christoph Waltz as Dr Schultz but the standout is Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie who goes all in with the performance literally putting his blood into the scene. These factors, along with an incredible script, help make this my favourite Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction and earn it a spot on the list.

4. Gravity - In terms of a cinematic experience, nothing could top Gravity. On a purely technical level, this is the best made film of 2013 but it's not just the technical aspect that makes Gravity succeed. The script knows how to make the best use of the premise and doesn't overstay it's welcome whilst having some really great character development mixed in with the B-movie-esque dialogue and Sandra Bullock gives one of the best performances of the year as Dr Stone. If there was any film that needed to be seen in the cinema this year, it was Gravity.

3. Before Midnight - Having watched all of the Before films in quick succession, I can confidently say that this is my favourite of the series. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy just are Jesse and Celine, the way they interact with each other is incredibly believable, especially from when they are in the hotel together and the script they wrote with Richard Linklater is incredible. I'm not ashamed to admit that I came incredibly close to crying by the end of the film. Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have created one of the best film trilogies in cinematic history, up there with Toy Story and Lord of the Rings.

2. The World's End - A fitting closure to the Three Colours Cornetto trilogy. The best directed film out of the trilogy with the action scenes being a real highlight, Simon Pegg's performance as Gary King is incredible, really making you really sympathise with a character as terrible as Gary (in terms of him being written as a bad person), there's a lot of heart provided by Paddy Considine and Rosamund Pike and the film is consistently funny throughout.

1. Cloud Atlas - Simply put, this is one of the greatest films ever made. Just the fact that this film was made in the first place was incredible but the film itself is a masterpiece. The way that the Wachowski's and Tom Tykver adapted David Mitchell's book to the screen is incredible. The performances are excellent, the way all the different themes are linked together is incredible and the film looks incredible. Words cannot do justice to how brilliant Cloud Atlas is.
So there are my top 10 films of 2013. Since it's the end of the year, I've also decided to include my rankings of all the other films released this year, along with brief thoughts about the ones I haven't given full reviews to.

12. Side Effects - Very intelligent, gripping thriller from Steven Soderbergh, boosted by top-notch acting, especially from Jude Law and Rooney Mara.

14. Trance

15. The Act of Killing - Probably the hardest film to watch I've seen this year. An incredibly disturbing look into the mindset of those responsible for the execution of thousands of people in Indonesia. There were many points in the film where I had to pause before continuing because I was so disturbed. An incredible piece of documentary filmmaking and a great show of the power that film, with the members of the death squad represented feeling empathy for their victims for the first time by making the film.

16. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God - A powerful look at the abuse inside the Catholic Church full of shocking details about the extent of the cover-up, with the idea of telling the film from the point of view of the first publicly known set of victims being a stroke of genius.

23. Flight - A really compelling look into how alcoholism and drugs can destroy the life of someone with a career best performance from Denzel Washington.

24. Filth

26. No - Interesting look into the work done by the NO campaign in getting Pinochet out of power in Chile. The 4:3, VHS presentation of the film is a great tribute to the actual NO TV adverts and a great look into the origins of modern election campaigns.

29. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - A brilliant look at the way in which people from the Middle East were treated by America both in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and in the War on Terror with an incredibly central performance by Riz Ahmed, although knocked down by a pretty bad performance from Kate Hudson.

32. Side by Side - A really interesting look into the changing nature of film. Keanu Reeves was an inspired choice to narrate and all the different directors make their cases for or against digital really well.

33. Elysium

38. The Place Beyond The Pines - Whilst the first third of the film is fairly boring (mainly due to Ryan Gosling who I think is the most overrated actor working today), when Bradley Cooper turns up, the film gets really good, really fast, with this quality extending when Dane DeHaan turns up.

39. Good Vibrations - A really heartfelt look at the Irish Punk scene in the 1980s. Really funny and a great central performance by Richard Dormer, although Dylan Moran's appearance was a bit distracting.

40. Borrowed Time - A really touching, heart-felt film with great central performances from Phil Davis and Theo Barklem-Biggs.

41. Warm Bodies - A lot better than I thought it would be. Really sweet, funny and helped by Nicholas 
Hoult and Teressa Palmer having great chemistry with each other.

44. Bernie - A really funny, unbelivable true film. The use of the real townspeople of Carthage was a great move by Richard Linklater and Jack Black gives the best performance of his career as Bernie.

46. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

47. The Lone Ranger - As a piece of entertainment, this was a pretty good film. Granted, Johnny Depp is pretty terrible and incredibly offensive as Tonto, the plot is a bit too complicated for it's own good, it's a bit too dark, the framing story was pointless and Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper and Stephen Root are wasted but Armie Hammer is a great lead, Tom Wilkinson and William Fichtner are great villains, when it stops explaining itself the plot is really good and the action scenes are a lot of fun, especially with the use of practical effects over CGI.

48. Evil Dead - A really good update of the original film and the use of practical effects is excellent but the characters are really boring, the script needed some work and the whole idea of remaking The Evil Dead 
doesn't work post-Cabin in the Woods.

49. Stuck in Love - Whilst many points of the film feel incredibly cliched, the ending goes on a bit too long, Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly are a bit bland and Kristen Bell is completely wasted, when the film gets going, it's really sweet, with the highlights of the film being the scenes between Lily Collins and Logan Lerman due to the two of them having great chemistry with each other.

53. The Spirit of '45 - Great look at the policies of the Labour government in the 1940s. You can tell that this is a subject close to Ken Loach's heart, although it can get bogged down in sentimentality at times.

54. Mud - Fairly boring for most of the run time, helped by strong acting, especially an excellent performance by Matthew McConaughey, although Michael Shannon feels wasted.

55. Stoker - Feels like it's being surreal for the sake of being surreal. Nicole Kidman is pretty boring and some of the plot elements could have been done better but Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode are excellent.

56. Stories We Tell - Despite it being a really interesting story, I just couldn't get into this film. No idea why I just can't get invested in it.

57. The Bling Ring - Doesn't know whether or not it wants to be a condemnation of the people involved in the burglaries and as such the tone is all over the place and, in some places, it can be quite boring. That said, Emma Watson and Leslie Mann allow the film to have some great satirical elements.

58. 2 Guns - A really generic, predictable action film with generic action scenes, bland characters and a pretty bad script, but it's prevented from being terrible because Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are perfectly cast and have a great chemistry with each other.

59. Oblivion - Visually spectacular and incredibly well directed but the acting is mixed (Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko are good whilst Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are pretty bland) and the story is incredibly predictable and is way too derivative of other sci-fi films.

60. Byzantium - A very predictable story and some terribly written characters. Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley and Jonny Lee Miller don't get to use their talents, but all the plot elements surrounding Saoirse Ronan are handled really well because of how good Ronan's performance is.

61. The Look of Love - Steve Coogan is excellent and Chris Addison is brilliantly slimy but a lot of the plot elements feel really rushed and the appearances of Stephen Fry, David Walliams, Simon Bird, Matt Lucas, Miles Jupp and Dara O'Briain kept distracting me from the film.

62. World War Z - Not as bad as I thought it was going to be but not all that good. The tone of the film is incredibly inconsistent, the performances are fairly bland, with the exception of Peter Capaldi who makes anything better (plus his role in this is a bit prophetic for him being the 12th Doctor), the plot is incredibly predictable and if any of the characters had any sense, then the way to get around the zombies would have been figured out really early on.

64. Gangster Squad - Another incredibly predictable, boring action film. Sean Penn acts like he's in a different movie, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are really boring and can't do the 1950's style and the tone of the film varies wildly from scene to scene.

65. Jack The Giant Slayer - Just a really generic, predictable, worn-out fantasy film. Nicholas Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson act like they're in a completely different film (especially when they rip-off the whole character arcs from Aladdin) to Ewan McGregor, Eddie Marsan (who's completely wasted), Stanley Tucci and Ian McShane (who all act like they're in The Princess Bride) and Bill Nighy.

66. Welcome To The Punch - Despite the best efforts of James McAvoy and the solid direction and cinematography, this comes across as a very generic police thriller that wastes an incredibly talented cast and has one of the worst endings of the year.

67. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters - Not as fun as it wants to be. Filled with boring characters, CGI overkill and an incredibly predictable story.

68. A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman - I appreciate what the film is trying to do but it just doesn't work. The humour doesn't really work, it doesn't make good use of the Pythons and the clash of animation styles doesn't work for me, although it is cool hearing Graham Chapman's voice again.

69. Olympus Has Fallen - Despite well directed action scenes, the film is incredibly boring for most of the run time, not realising that this premise shouldn't be taken seriously (which is why White House Down is a lot better) and the villains are some of the most cliched and boring of the year. Plus the talents of Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo are wasted.

70. To The Wonder - Incredibly pretentious and boring. There are so many scenes with Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko doing generic rom-com stuff that I wouldn't expect from someone like Terrence Malik. Plus, the bits with Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem feel really pointless.

72. After Earth - Really dull film. Terrible acting from Will and Jaden Smith, a plot that makes absolutely no sense, bland direction by M. Night Shyamalan and a structure that feels more like a video game than a film make this a chore to sit through and there's only so much bad dialogue I can take in a film this boring.

73. Spring Breakers - Probably the most uncomfortable I've felt watching a film this year. It clearly wants to be a lot deeper than it is but it just gets distracted in showing more ways for the characters to get more depraved.

74. Fast and Furious 6 - Clearly wants to be a dumb fun action film but with a terrible script, worse acting, bad directing and action scenes that could have been fun without the knowledge that dozens of people were brutally killed in them, this is just a bad film. When I pay more attention to how much the filmmakers got wrong about London in general (e.g. Vauxhall Astra Diesels are not fast enough for the action scenes and ordinary policemen don't carry guns) and flaws in how the action scenes are staged (why is there a 50 mile long runway for the end action scene) I know that the intent to entertain me has failed. Plus, it's pretty bad that this is the last film Paul Walker made that was released in the cinemas, he is a good actor and the only one who looked like he cared about the film.

75. GI Joe: Retaliation - Incredibly stupid and poorly acted with a terrible script, story beats that come right out of nowhere and plain bad filmmaking. The only one who seems to be having any fun in the film is Jonathan Pryce and that cannot save the film.

76. A Good Day To Die Hard - The absolute low point of the Die Hard series. Bruce Willis just looks bored, the film completely fails at science, history and geography with all the Chernobyl stuff, the villains are completely one-dimensional with no personality and the action scenes are preposterous. This is a series that has gone from the main character being crippled by walking on glass to him going through 3 windows with massive drops and surviving each one with minimal damage. The only times the film has any personality are the scenes with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, giving the film a whole 1 minute of personality.

77. Pain and Gain - I thought that nothing this year could top A Good Day To Die Hard, then I watched Pain and Gain. The film wants to be a condemnation of people like Daniel Lugo but the incredibly racist, misogynist and homophobic tone of the film doesn't work, not aided by the terrible acting from all involved. I felt so sorry for Ed Harris for having to appear in this film. Not only is the tone of the film reprehensible but the actual filmmaking is abysmal, the slow-motion is dreadful and half the time I couldn't see what was going on. A story like this could have made a very compelling movie (just look at Bernie) but in the hands of Michael Bay this film is one of the most offensive films of the year, and not in the way Bay intended and I fully support the families of the victims of Lugo's crimes in real life because the film showed them to be complete dicks who deserved to die, which, according to the articles the film was based on, wasn't true. Just a completely atrocious film all around and I will be thankful if I never see it again.

Overall, I found 2013 to be an excellent year for films as a whole. Whilst some of the big summer films were pretty disappointing, there were a lot more good films that bad and for every film as bad as Pain and Gain that was released, films as incredible as Cloud Atlas were there to balance it out. Here's hoping that 2014 is just as good.

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