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The Best Films of the Year – A Unique Look at the Gems of 2013

December 29, 2013

Hello all. Mark here

The world has been inundated with top ten lists proclaiming the usual suspects of greatness. I agree with the lists and 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Rush, Her, Blue Jasmine, Prisoners, Stoker, Captain Phillips, The Hunt, American Hustle, Before Midnight, All is Lost, Dallas Buyers Club, Short Term 12, Frances Ha, Fruitvale Station, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, Blue is the Warmest Color and The Place Beyond the Pines are all wonderful films. However, I wanted to offer something new and different for your reading pleasure. Some of these films need a bigger audience while others are criminally underrated. The 12 films cover a broad spectrum and all offer something fresh, fun or beautiful.

Read. Comment. Enjoy!

1The Way, Way Back – The Way, Way Back is a wonderful film full of realistic three dimensional characters who become more layered as you rewatch the film. The love interests aren’t manic pixie women (Annasophia Robb is wonderful), no parent is perfect (Allison Janney is perfect) and the people who live like they are in a Hemingway novel have tons of problems (Rob Corddry is my hero).  There are things in life worth growing up for and the characters realize that. Also, Sam Rockwell is my hero.

The Way Way Back Sam Rockwell

2Mud – Director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter) has excelled at  creating soulful characters and insular stories. His characters are not motivated by greed or selfishness and thus their problems feel universal. The central characters deal with protecting their families, mental illness or growing up too fast.  His films pack a realistic punch, show off vivid geographical detail and close attention to characters. Stereotypes are non-existent and the focus on family is always strong. It also proves that a poster featuring a man grabbing something from his back doesn’t have to be bad.

Mud movie poster

3. The Spectacular Now – The Spectacular Now provides wonderful insights into relationships, growing up, divorce and fatherhood. You appreciate the story, like the characters and most importantly want to spend more time with them. The late great Roger Ebert had this to say about the movie:

Here is a lovely film about two high school seniors who look, speak and feel like real 18-year-old middle-American human beings. Do you have any idea how rare that is?

The Spectacular Now

4. Fast & Furious 6 – The FF series has survived and thrived due to a confident director, likable cast and total commitment to wonderful insanity. It has established its identity and embraced a unique charm. Where else will you see cars drive out of moving airplanes, 10 mile runways, a guy bigger than The Rock, Gina Carano losing to Michelle Rodriguez, a tank being destroyed by a sport car anchor and an F1 type vehicle modified to become a car flipping monster?

FF6 was the best blockbuster of the year and has evolved into dumb perfected.

Fast and the Furious 6 Paul Walker

5. Grabbers – Grabbers is fun, charming and rewatchable. It is a little Irish film that focuses on villagers who have to stay drunk to stay alive. The best thing about Grabbers is that it is immensely likable and doesn’t become a one-note shlock fest. It follows in the foot steps of Gremlins, Attack the Block and Tremors with its infusion of horror, comedy and oddness. You will cheer for the eventual drunk heroes as they battle ill-tempered aliens.

Grabbers alien

6. The Wolf of Wall Street – The Wolf of Wall Street is grandiose absurdity told by a director at the top of his game. It also features my favorite scene of the year. You will know it when you see it.

Wolf of Wall Street

7. World War Z – World War Z had everything going against it. The film suffered through reshoots, rewrites, delays, insanely fast zombies and an odd choice for director. However, it was the most pleasant surprise of the summer. What could have easily have been soul crushing is now tense, smart and lots of fun. The movie has a nice progression, feels confident in it’s execution and is refreshing in how human it is. I appreciate the underdog.

World War Z movie poster

8. The Worlds End –  The World’s End is an alive, sensory blasting blend of humor, surprises and rapid fire dialogue. The best part is that the quick cutting, friendship embracing genre mashups don’t seem old after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  TWE is a refreshing blast of creativity that feels familiar but never rehashed. It features an intense visual style that director Edgar Wright has perfected and then improved upon. Wright’s films are infused with genuine cinema love and that is why they’ve become cult classics that are critically adored (88% on RT including Scott Pilgrim). The World’s End is the perfect way to end a trilogy and blast off into other territory.

The Worlds End

9. Monsters U/FrozenFrozen and Monsters U take the familiar (nerds vs. jocks, princesses and curses) and make them fresh. I loved the ending of both films and they made for incredibly fun times. Gotta love Sven too.

Frozen Sven

10. Insidious 2 Insidious 2 is a nonstop dreadernaut (new word) of horror mastery.  It is frantic, wonderful and will certainly annoy many (37% RT) who don’t appreciate James Wan’s frantic journey into the Further. The film blends story and character in a way that makes you care for the nice family as an absolute jerk harasses them. The movie bounces around from abandoned hospitals, boarded up houses and hidden rooms in a nonlinear fashion that feels like a paranormal roller coaster on speed. It asks a lot of the audience yet is meant as pure fun. If you sit in the theater in pursuit of pretentiousness you could pick holes all day. Don’t do that. If you allow yourself to be transported into the Further you will have an amazing time. It also features the best cardigans of the year!

Patrick Wilson Insidious 2

11Europa Report – Europa Report is an engrossing science fiction film that focuses on sacrifice for the sake of knowledge. It doesn’t rely on jump scares, evil moon rocks or green men because the tension comes from the unknown. It is refreshingly earnest in its effort to tell a quality science fiction tale. It adroitly blends fact with fiction and builds towards a memorable finale that is earned and not forced.

I love love love the ending.

Europa Report movie poster

12. To the Wonder To the Wonder is a beautiful film. Terrence Malick is a visionary genius. Expect the unexpected. Also, it was the last film that Roger Ebert reviewed. 

to the wonder movie poster

Special Mentions

The Last Stand – Pure popcorn bliss. Also, Knoxville blows up a dude with a flare gun.

This is the End – Absurd bliss. Features some of the funniest moments you will see all year.

Philomena – Judi Dench nails her role as Philomena.

Warm BodiesSomehow the age old plot of girl meets zombie was incredibly cute.

John Dies at the End – Full of charm, wit and bonkers direction. 

Now You See Me The unpretentious film of the year.

Iron Man 3  – The Mandarin is the best villain of the year.

TranceDanny Boyle is my hero

Upstream Color – Shane Caruth is a fantastic voice in cinema.

Sightseers – Ben Wheatley sure can tell beautifully dark comedic stories.

Only God ForgivesWanna fight?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Victor De Leon permalink
    December 29, 2013 12:06 pm

    Nice to see Insidious 2, Europa Report, WWZ and Grabbers up there! Some good picks on your special mentions list, too! Looking forward to The Way Way Back. Haven’t seen it yet. Good list!

    • December 29, 2013 12:08 pm

      Thanks! I wanted to add some different flicks to the list. What movies did you like in the special mentions?

      • Victor De Leon permalink
        December 29, 2013 1:03 pm

        IM3, The Last Stand and This is the End. Loved those!

  2. December 29, 2013 1:19 pm

    Glad somebody else liked The Last Stand. It was so much fun.

  3. Mike permalink
    January 1, 2014 9:30 pm

    Haven’t seen most of these, but Grabbers was very good. Great to see an alien invasion thwarted with moonshine and a flare gun.


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