Tag Archives: 2013

The 50 Best Films of 2013 Part 5

So here it is, the final 10 films in my top 50 of 2013 and in this batch there are two from some of my favourite directors, a feature film debut that blew me away and a English language debut that had a similar impact. However the top spot is an unconventional choice to be sure but one I hope some people will agree with. Here are numbers 10 – 1.

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10. The Broken Circle Breakdown – This Dutch film isn’t the whimsical film you might imagine, it’s a very dark family drama with a deeply religious core. The film follows the love story of Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) and Elise (Veerle Baetens), two like minded souls who only differ on their belief in god. When their daughter gets cancer they both find their beliefs shifting as they seek to find answers to a situation without any. The heart and soul of The Broken Circle Breakdown is the films ability to make viewers understand the importance or at least the benefit of belief is. The film uses bluegrass and country music as a way of conveying emotion in a very real and unusual way as Didier and Elise perform as a way to get away from their problems and stay connected to each other. However this is a dark film, one with moments of joy and levity, but a dark twisted tale that picks you up and tosses you aside, leaving you with a hopefulness about the films outcome, an outcome that relies upon the belief the film gives you.

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9.Zero Dark Thirty – Released in January this Kathryn Bigelow directed thriller is a film of constant tension, the kind that at times you want to rip your own skin off. Not only does Bigelow manage to control the action in a way that it heightens every little paranoid aspect of your mind but she also has carefully edited the film so that the film is low on answers and high on questions. The film constantly leaves you questioning what is happening around you, a byproduct of the intelligence community the film is trying to depict. Jessica Chastain gives one of her finest performances to date as Mia, a brutally honest CIA analyst whose mission to find Bin Laden consumes her until there is nothing but a husk left. The almost 3 hour film never loses itself, it’s constantly manipulating the viewer to his breaking point. A worthy follow up to The Hurt Locker.

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8.Breathe In – This Drake Doremus directed family drama is a story of lives not lived and inadequacies that boil to the surface when a young woman integrates herself into another family. The film follows Keith (Guy Pearce) and Sophie (Felicity Jones) as they get wrapped up in an affair of intimacies when Sophie comes to stay with Keith and his supposedly happy family. The film gives a detailed portrait of regret in each of its forms from the youngs idea of experiences not taken to Keith’s middle age view that life isn’t over but if he doesn’t act soon it will be. Featuring a tour de force performance by Pearce and an excellent if brief supporting performance by Amy Ryan as Keith’s wife Megan, Breathe In is a dark story of the corrupting force of desire and how it can ruin a good thing. Keith and Sophie’s love affair may be fleeting and complicated but boy is it good to watch.

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7.Parkland – This JFK drama tells the story of the events in and around Parkland Hospital on the day Kennedy was assassinated and the days that followed. Filled with a plethora of big name actors from Paul Giamatti to Zac Efron as one of the doctors who worked on the president the whole film is slightly overstuffed but it’s brimming with real sentiment, an idea that if the same thing happened today the same instinctive loss would be felt. Not only is Giamatti excellent as the man who filmed the shooting and helped the police and Secret Service find Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong). The side story regarding Oswald’s brother Robert (James Badge Dale) is particularly effective as he struggles to maintain his family loyalty  and balance it with his patriotism. Dale is excellent and he grounds the films more out there storylines. Well edited and shot with an admirable sensitivity to the event despite some of the more unsavory moments such as the delusional ramblings of Harvey’s mother (Jacki Weaver), the film never forgets the driving force of this tale and neither do we.

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6. Stoker – Chan-Wook Park’s first English language film is just as surreal, violent and depraved as his Vengeance trilogy but at its core this is a twisted love story, one of dark impulses, twisted visuals and a lead performance so good you might think Mia Wasikowska is actually a sociopath. The film follows India (Wasikowska) as she comes to terms with her father’s death. However when a mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) arrives to live with her and her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) she begins to have strange feelings and urges she cannot control, ones that may consume her and her mother. Filmed in a very lavish style and working from a Black List script by Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller, Stoker is a stroke of genius, a tale of control when you don’t quite understand the difference between right and wrong. Kidman justifies India’s actions by being one of the worst movie mothers of all time, a self absorbed child in a womans body trying to put together the pieces that her husbands death threw apart. The whole film is constructed in a way that leaves you on edge, unsure of what to expect and what to understand, ultimately putting you in India’s shoes as she falls deeper into Charlie’s path and Goode makes an excellent manipulator. The film works so well because of its performances and Wasikowska has proved herself more than capable of carrying a film.

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5. Gravity – Lauded as the best film of the year by many, Gravity is a marvel of both modern technology and close, intimate storytelling, an odd mix by any standard. Gravity tells the harrowing story of Dr Ryan Stone, a first time astronaut stuck in space during a deadly debris storm, one that destroys the shuttle that should get her and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) back to Earth. Visually breathtaking with almost every scene being entirely CGI except for a few brief moments, Gravity keeps things real with a story that keeps this tale of survival deeply personal. Stone is an empathetic character, a victim of not only her surrounding but her past as she is forced to go through the Zero G ringer in the name of survival. Clooney’s charismatic persona fits nicely with Kowalsky, a career astronaut whose love of space makes him the perfect companion, especially considering the situation they find themselves in. Director Alfonso Cuarón manages to draw upon many different themes in vastly different ways to add a richness to the picture from the idea of rebirth to the grip religion or faith can have on someone in a life and death situation. Bullock is perfect and guides the viewer’s thoughts and fears through the film in a way no other actress could and the finale is without a doubt perfect. Both the films best popcorn movie and one of the best emotional dramas to boot.

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4. Cloud Atlas – There was a time last year when I thought this would be my Number 1, in fact it lasted until at least September. In fact when I heard the film was being made with the Wachowski siblings I just had to see it. I had read the book, a sprawling narrative set in different centuries and countries, telling vastly different stories, each about love and devotion to others and the idea that souls and lives can impact people across millennia. What I finally got was a breathtakingly beautiful film that used the book at a starting point as it toyed with the central premise and reconstructed the complex tale through themes instead of stories. From 18th century Hawaii to a post apocalyptic future where every person speaks a degenerated version of English, each section of the film adds to the grand narrative, the idea that everything matters, the good, the bad and everything in between. The films cast all play multiple roles to add to this idea of effects carrying over and actors like Tom Hanks, James D’Arcy and Ben Whishaw give terrific performances with a gay love affair between D’Arcy and Whishaw proving to be one of the films most powerful sequences. However the film relies quite heavily on the performance of Doona Bae in her first English language film and she delivers in a futuristic sequence that could only come from the minds of the Wachowski’s. The film is grand yet small, expensive yet cheap and most of all its absolutely outstanding.

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3. Short Term 12 – The Top 3 all have something in common, they are all relatively cheap indie dramas that tell small but important stories about life and the effects we have on the people around us, be it a family member, a lover or a child. The first of the 3 is first time feature director Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12, a tale about a care worker who runs a short term care facility for children without homes or kids who are in transition. The film follows Grace (Brie Larson), the head of Short Term 12 as she discovers she is pregnant, something that begins to open up old wounds as she tries to help new arrival Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) as well as many of the other kids at the centre. Cretton’s tale is one of repetition but not in a bad way. He plays with the idea that abuse and abandonment breed more of the same in the generation that follows as Grace struggles to get past her own parents. Co starring John Gallagher Jr as her lover and fellow care worker Mason, a fellow abandoned yet found child, Short Term 12 is a film of understated yet devastating performances. Gallagher is terrific, especially during a scene about halfway through the film but he doesn’t hold a candle to Larson and Dever who each deliver some of the best work of the year with Larson being a dark horse choice for an Oscar nomination. Cretton conveys these dark and depressing family stories in new and realistic ways including the personalization of a rap song by Marcus (Keith Stanfield), a 17 year old whose life has been nothing but care homes, someone who is so afraid to leave because he doesn’t know anything else. The film doesn’t set out to make you bawl your eyes out but it may just be one of the side effects.

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2. Before Midnight – It’s been 9 years since we last checked in on Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as they strolled around Paris for an afternoon as Jesse waited for his plane back to his wife and child. Before Midnight follows Jesse and Celine on a holiday in Greece as they prepare to leave and return to their idea of the real world as their personal issues start coming to the surface in a way that could ruin their once perfectly romantic union. Before Midnight is the 3rd instalment in the series but it doesn’t mean director Richard Linklater has lost what made the first two so involving. In fact chapter 3 is his best yet, a tale that isn’t just two people in playful courtship, it mixes real problems and emotions into the mix as Celine struggles with her desires to find fulfillment in her job as Jesse worries that his distance from his son makes him a bad father. Their clashes make the experience richer, more developed as we really get to see why we liked Jesse and Celine in the first place, warts and all. Both Hawke and Delpy’s ability to improvise adds realism to the story but Linklater is the real star as he brings not only the Greek countryside into the tale but he also juggles the films many themes and issues like a master. After 18 years it would be understandable that people might be bored of watching two people walk around a city discussing their lives and how they came to be where they are now but with Linklater at the helm I have no problem watching another Before film in 2022.

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1. What Maisie Knew – The best film of 2013 isn’t a big title, in fact it was barely released in cinemas over here in the UK. However that doesn’t mean it isn’t a marvel of a film with one of the best if not the best child performance in the last 5 years. What Maisie Knew is a modern day version of the novel of the same name by Henry James. The film tells the story of Maisie (Onata Aprile), a 6 year old child whose parents Beale (Steve Coogan) and Susanna (Julianne Moore) are separating and are using her against each other as the two new people in each of their lives are forced to stand by and watch it happen. Co-directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, this shocking tale of the destruction of a child’s sense of worth is a subtle story with many hidden layers with the direction perfectly hiding little hints at the films true meaning. The film relies heavily upon Aprile and she brings plenty to the table as she conveys emotion through her eyes in a unique way. However the film’s best aspect is how it messes with the idea of the conventional family, how it judges the worth of blood over devotion as it introduces two people more capable of taking care of her than her actual parents, be it Beale’s new wife Margo (Joanna Vanderham) or Susanna’s new squeeze Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard), each bring different ideas of family to the table. Surprisingly however, What Maisie Knew doesn’t make judgements, it treats its subjects fairly even if the viewer doesn’t think they deserve it, giving audiences a fuller picture. The film however is also shrouded in obscurity as everything is displayed from Maisie’s point of view as she doesn’t quite understand what is going on around her. The film is an exercise in acquiring self knowledge and Aprile makes Maisie’s self discovery exhilarating in a different kind of way making What Maisie Knew in my opinion the best film of 2013.

 

So there you have it, the top 10 films of the year. What did you think of this list? Did you enjoy reading it? Let me know in the comments.

The 50 Best Films of 2013 Part 4

Numbers 20 – 11 is where the first of my five star films emerges but before that point there are 8 other films from an Indie darling about self reliance, a film about a passionate lesbian love affair as well as the story of an elderly man not ready to give up his passion just yet. All in all it’s an odd bunch but full of films well worth your time. So here they are, numbers 20 – 11.

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20. Blue Is The Warmest Colour – Most of the press surrounding Blue is The Warmest Colour is about the explicit sex scenes in the film and while they are graphic and overly extended, there the worst part of this wonderfully moving French film. Starring Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos as lovers Emma and Adele, this almost three hour epic follows the relationship between these two and the ever changing nature of love, sexuality and life. Exarchopoulos is a revelation and Seydoux is more than capable but the films graphic moments do have a tendency to disconnect you from the story. Ultimately though the film paints a very real portrait and its hard not to get wrapped up in it.

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19. The First Time – Never released in cinemas, The First Time is the latest romantic comedy by In The Land of Women director Jon Kasdan and much like his directorial debut, The First Time is not what you might expect. The film follows Aubrey (Britt Robertson) and Dave (Dylan O’Brien) over a weekend as Dave approaches graduation and Aubrey continues down the same path. Kasdan writes two wonderfully original characters and ensures audiences will enjoy being around them. They are remarkably verbose for teenagers but their very personal struggles still flow through their psychobabble. Kasdan has proved himself a man who understands character and The First Time is full of it.

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18. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Ben Stiller’s most personal film in years, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, while a remake of a 1940s film, is a vivid tale of life and adventure and how sometimes life is the adventure. The film follows Walter (Stiller) as he heads on an adventure to change his life, brought about by the very real possibility he might lose his job. Co-starring Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt and Sean Penn, Stiller’s latest is a bold, bright and beautiful creation with some amazing visuals, a relatable tale and a lead who understands the nuances in the tale. Penn provides an interesting cameo on Walter’s journey but mostly this is Stiller’s show and he doesn’t let you down.

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17. The Kings of Summer – This little seen American indie feature may be an odd choice, especially this high on a list of best films of the year but at its heart, The Kings of Summer is about doing the unexpected, making it on your own with your own decisions and the film is so lovingly crafted I fell for it hook line and sinker. The story follows Joe (Nick Robertson) who leaves home and lives in the woods with his friends for the summer, much to the chagrin of his father Frank (Nick Offerman). Weaving a tale of self control and growing up, Robertson manages to make his whimsical experiment seem epic, an adventure for the ages as he gives Joe a sense of purpose. Not only that but the film’s comic timing is excellent and with some excellent cameos by Megan Mullally and Mary Lynn Rajskub and a career high supporting role in Offerman. The whole film is full of laughs right from the beginning and the transition from comedy to drama is handled naturally making for a surprisingly effective little drama.

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16. Jiro Dreams of Sushi – This documentary film follows Jiro Ono, the owner of a small Sushi restaurant in the Tokyo subway. The film shows his little operation and how chefs and critics all over the world have come to praise Jiro. It’s a film of marvels really, a tale of complete devotion to a job/ability that takes genuine talent and plenty of hard work. Jiro’s life is his food, his contribution to the world is how he changed and adapted the way Sushi is made and flavoured. The film treats the food as another one of the films many characters and shows a whole new side of the specialty. However Jiro Dreams of Sushi most of all is a tale of family, commitment and underestimating the people around you. By the end its easy to understand why Jiro’s restaurant is a 5 star restaurant but if you peek behind the curtain once more you may realise that Jiro isn’t really the hero of this piece.

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15. Django Unchained –  Quentin Tarantino’s over the top western is equal parts outlandish and playful. The cast of Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Dicaprio and others is outstanding as they enjoy the lengthy monologues and epic conversations conceived by Tarantino in his lifelike scripts. While his many eccentricities flood out in his direction, his script is a thing of beauty, filled with wondrous moments of extreme violence and softer, subtler moments that blow you away in other ways. However without Waltz and Dicaprio, Django would be a very different film and I for one am grateful for these two talented actors.

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14. The Impossible – Directed by The Orphanage’s Juan Antonio Bayona, The Impossible is a thing of beauty and horror, each displayed in the same shot throughout a gut wrenching film of disaster and recovery. Following a family of five that visited Thailand just in time for the Boxing Day tsunami, this true story follows their quest to reconnect with each other in a country they know little about. Featuring one of Naomi Watts’ best performances, The Impossible is an acting and directing triumph, its emotionally gripping tale really feels harrowing, tense and destructive because of some skilled direction. The script on the other hand is another matter with some truly awful, clunky dialogue. However the film is remarkably dialogue light making it almost a non issue as you get consumed by the wave that takes this family on a devastating journey.

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13. Saving Mr Banks – This Disney released film about the often contentious relationship between Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and PL Travers (Emma Thompson), the writer of the Mary Poppins series, is a soft and jolly little film that is much more than a simple biopic, its a tale of fathers and their children and the ways we can hate and love something at the same time, even if we don’t realise we are doing it. Thompson brings out the best in Travers, a introverted yet outspoken woman and Hanks has a good handle on the duality of Disney, the fun entertainer and the risk taking businessman. However the best parts are the ones where the two play off each other and the film really comes into its own in the final moments as Director John Lee Hancock brings together his tale of fathers to a crescendo of disappointment and release in a way that doesn’t forgive the actions of these two troubled personalities but it does justify them.

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12. All is Lost – All is Lost is an almost dialogue free film with only one character, a minimalist score and very little in terms of special effects or action. However it is a brilliant feature as it follows the life of a sailor (Robert Redford) on a solo sailing voyage who finds himself in a no win situation when his boat is hit by a floating shipping container, leaving him taking on water in the middle of the ocean.  Redford keeps you interested as adds credence to this man’s often futile attempts at finding safe harbour and rescue. Directed by J. C Chandor, the same man behind 2011’s Margin Call, its surprising to hear little to any spoken words and still be as connected to the people on screen. Much like Upstream Color, All is Lost builds a feeling of loss that permeates every aspect of the film making All is Lost a depressing but inspirational picture.

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11. Philomena – Judi Dench hasn’t won an Oscar since her supporting role in Shakespeare in Love but Philomena should put her back in the race as Philomena Lee, a real life Irish woman who went on a journey across the pond to find her long lost son with reporter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan). Co-written by Coogan and directed by Stephen Frears, Philomena is the story of everlasting faith, be it in god or science, every version of belief is shown in this picture and Coogan has crafted a story that doesn’t pass judgement, it merely presents the facts and shows the power of a simple story. Coogan is impressive as Sixsmith but Dench makes Philomena the films touchstone, a character of constant guilt and regret whose devotion to her faith is impressive and memorable.

Now that we’re close to the top 10, what do you think deserves to be in it? Do any of the films on this list deserve to be higher or lower? Let me know in the comments below.

The 50 Best Films of 2013 Part 3

 

Part 3 of this list varies from the latest Studio Ghibli film to a first time director’s raunchy starting piece. Not only that but this list has films by four well respected directors, each of them changing up their styles. Here are numbers 30 – 21.

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30. From Up On Poppy Hill – The most recent Studio Ghibli film is unlike their regular fare. It doesn’t have monsters or the supernatural, hell there are no heroes or villains. From Up On Poppy Hill is a pretty conventional drama about two students, both holding immense responsibilities as they both try to protect their school clubhouse from being torn down. It sounds juvenile but the film marries beautiful visuals with a story that is influenced by the Korean War and it turns this trivial struggle into something more important, more necessary. A little emotionally manipulative at times, this is some good Ghibli.

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29. 42 – This American baseball drama about African American baseball player Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is exactly what you think it is. A film about the first black player in Major League baseball and all the animosity and hatred that came with this honour. The film follows a set course, one that is easy to predict but through its many top notch performances, Jackie’s story comes to life. Director Brian Helgeland carefully controls the racism in the film to guide viewers and Boseman makes an excellent Jackie. However the real highlight is Harrison Ford as team manager Branch Rickey, a deeply principled man driven by more than money. He elevates the whole film to a biopic with guts and gravitas.

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28. Don Jon – Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut is a sordid affair. A film about the obsession of porn and its after effects is a much more sombre film than I expected it to be. The film follows Jon (Levitt), a bartender looking to move up but carry on with his obsession of chasing women and watching porn. His relationship with Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) makes his routine impossible. Featuring some great performances by Levitt, Julianne Moore and Tony Danza, Don Jon keeps you on your toes through a rather conventional romantic comedy in an interesting way and the end product feels acceptably grimy, unhinged and messy to make the whole film feel right.

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27. Frances Ha – Shot in black and white and directed by indie director Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha is the story of growing up in a city built on dreams, no matter how unachievable. The film  tells the story of Frances (Greta Gerwig) and her relationship with the Big Apple and her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Frances is a fascinating creation. She is equal parts frustrating, lovable and naive. She has a dream, one that keeps slipping through her fingers and watching her scramble, completely unsure of herself, into a new world where nothing makes sense is both thrilling and terrifying. Gerwig makes it easy to like Frances even though she might take a lot of patience and in the end you might even love her, just a little bit.

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26. Rush – Ron Howard brings his own touch to a subject he knows nothing about and the result is slightly magical. Rush is a wonderfully vivid and colourful film with some of the best racing direction in a long while. The films story about the rivalry between racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is a great jumping off point to display a world of constant risk, constant pushing of the limits. Both Hemsworth and Bruhl understand their characters, their flaws and imperfections shine through the tough exteriors these drivers had to develop to survive. These two men are fascinating creatures and the film’s final moments bring about the strongest material as the two finally face each other knowing everything and it’s well worth the wait.

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25. Flight – Robert Zemeckis hasn’t done a live action film in quite some time. In fact Flight is  his first live action film in 12 years. Flight shows that in all that time he didn’t miss a beat. Flight is a shocking, devastatingly real look at alcoholism and the crumbled lives that a drunk can help and hinder. The film follows pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a  semi functional alcoholic who on one of his routine flights encounters a malfunction and through his skills he manages to land the plane. However when the investigation begins he finds himself trapped between a lie and his soul. With one of the best performances by an actor in years, Flight is shown the way through Washington and he delivers in spades with a brave and gutsy act no one else could have pulled off.

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24. Lincoln – Steven Spielberg is well known for science fiction, dinosaurs, Tintin and the second world war to name but a few themes but his most personal film may just be Lincoln, a picture that looks at Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day Lewis) struggles to pass the 13th amendment of the US Constitution. Spielberg contains the action to the amendment despite the films many other themes. Day Lewis becomes Lincoln so absolutely that it would be hard to tell the difference between him or the real thing. Strong supporting roles by Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field and David Strathairn keep things rolling and a strong comedic role by James Spader provides some much needed levity to the sullen, wartime proceedings. All in all the film is a look into a man of principle but one who was more than willing to cheat the system if he had to.

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23. The Butler – Despite Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy making it’s way onto my Worst 25 of the year at number 20, his other 2013 release is nothing short of excellent. A White House drama from the perspective of one of the butlers is both a stark look into civil rights over the years and a moving family drama. The film follows Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) and his wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) and their struggles through a hostile America as they try to care for their two sons. Whitaker makes Cecil brim with unsaid hatred, an anger hidden beneath the calm service exterior he had built for years as Winfrey vice filled Gloria is a mess of conflicting emotions, each one used perfectly by Winfrey. Together they make a strong film better as they find the nuances in Danny Strong’s often whimsical script. It’s a look into a shocking time but the film itself and the people it represents is crafted with love and it shows.

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22.The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Peter Jackson’s second instalment in his Hobbit trilogy is a shocking improvement on its predecessor as it finally makes the exploits of Thorin (Richard Armitage), Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and co seem important. The first film felt like a playful kids film but The Desolation of Smaug turned up the tension and torment. With some excellent action sequences, a  new relationship to rival the tepid Aragorn Arwen material from the The Lord of the Rings and a new,  cunning villain in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug. Jackson has proved himself a dynamic storyteller and chapter 2 in this trilogy is a captivating action film that paves the way for an excellent and unconventional final act.

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21. Filth – I don’t think there is a film this year like Filth. The name is apt for a film thats story is comprised of sex, drugs, drinking, swearing and any other depraved and slightly taboo thing you can imagine. The film follows Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) as he tries to get the promotion he always wanted while dealing with his own twisted mind and sense of loyalty. McAvoy makes Bruce understandable, a mess of a man pushed forward by his own mental issues. However the film uses this to its advantage as it shows the twisted visuals that Bruce has in his head and most if not all of them are completely fantastic. The film has a sick sense of morality, something to be expected by a film based off an Irvine Welsh novel, and it never lets you go for the entire run as Bruce crumbles before you in the most playful way possible despite the horrific things that are happening to him and those around him.

Were there any films you hated on this list? Leave a comment and let me know.

The 50 Best Films of 2013 Part 2

Numbers 40-31 feature a modern day spin on Huckleberry Finn, an experimental sci-fi film from the Director of the equally trippy Primer and at least two big budget blockbusters to whet your whistle. Here is part 2 of my 50 Best films of 2013.

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40. Mr Morgan’s Last Love – This small budget family drama about a suicidal elderly man (Michael Caine) and the relationship he strikes up with lonely Pauline (Clemence Poesy). The film makes a compelling story of loners and lovers, one with all the victories and losses that come with such devotion. Caine and Poesy are excellent but a pointless cameo by Gillian Anderson almost derails proceedings. On the whole its a smart, funny and bittersweet affair that provides the kind of conflicted ending you never really knew you needed.

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39. Ender’s Game – This psychological thriller from director Gavin Hood is proof that sometimes films with a child cast can be surprising. Asa Butterfield stars as Ender, a genetically enhanced soldier in training for a war against aliens, one that has been coming for a long time. The film relies heavily on Butterfield and he doesn’t let you down. Filled with entertaining set pieces and more than enough twists and turns to warp proceedings, everyone comes out a little dirty in this picture and thats perfect because seeing the shades of grey infecting everyone is the best part of Ender’s Game and Harrison Ford still pulls off good grouch.

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38. Upstream Color – From director Shane Carruth, the mind warping director of Primer, comes Upstream Color, an experimental film about the circle of life and the effect it has on two ravaged souls. The film follows Kris (Amy Seimetz), a successful woman who is one day infected by a mysterious parasite. When she ends up being stripped of her free will and her cushy life she finds comfort with fellow victim Jeff (Carruth). The two end up on a journey that reveals the true nature of the parasite and the effects that the corruption of nature brings. Beautifully shot and displayed, Upstream Color is all about the viewer, the whole experience is different for everyone with a different message making it the ultimate marmite film but one well worth watching.

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37. Wreck It Ralph – The first of two animated films, this February released Disney feature was a wonderful mix of meta jokes, adventure and loners. John C Reilly makes an excellent lead as Ralph, a constantly rejected video game character who goes out in search of acceptance leaving everyone in his game vulnerable to being ‘unplugged’. With some excellent voice work by Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch, Ralph is given some good company as he searches for a place to call his own. Filled with plenty of subtle gaming jokes, Ralph is a film for everyone as it avoids the curse of the videogame film by never actually picking a game, instead choosing all of them.

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36. Star Trek : Into Darkness – JJ Abrams follow up to his world changing first instalment is more of a montage than a solo story as he embraces old school Star Trek history to tell the modern story of Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the chaos he brings. Unlike his first film, Abrams has crafted a fast paced, yet emotionally stunted thriller which is impressive on a visual and dramatic level but leaves many unanswered questions. Ultimately it belongs on this list because of Cumberbatch and Chris Pine whose back and forth make this whole thing worthwhile and a hell of a lot of fun.

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35. Thor: The Dark World – Of the two Marvel films this year, Thor was by far the best with a world spanning storyline, some excellent performances by Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and even Anthony Hopkins, as well as a story that brought about one of the best action set pieces of the year. This Sci-Fi epic really builds the world of Asgard while also distancing Thor from it in a very real and entertaining way. Not only does Hemsworth seem to be enjoying every little minute of his time as the demigod but the film plays to the casts strengths with most of the films run being devoted to the comedy elements. However the film really comes into its own during the physics bending finale, a set piece so unbelievable and twisted that it brings the film together. That and a healthy dollop of sarcasm by Kat Dennings and its off to the races.

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34. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – It’s been years since Alan has been on the television and yet he hasn’t missed a step in his transition from the little screen to the big one. Not only is the film funnier than most of the series shenanigans but this neatly plotted tale makes the best of Steve Coogan’s sardonic wit, the kind of humour Alan thrives on. The film keeps you laughing thanks to a few choice cameos, a great supporting turn by Colm Meaney and some outrageous behavior outlined by a smartly written and adventurous script.

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33. Mud – This Jeff Nichols directed story of American life next to the river isn’t just a tale of poverty and a different way of living, it’s the tale of community and the sense of belonging. The film follows two kids as they discover Mud (Matthew McConaughey) on an island just off the mainland. When they set about helping him reconnect with his love Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) things go awry. Nichols’ reimagining of the tale of Huckleberry Finn is a film that praises the lives built out on boat houses and swamp dwellings, the kind of lives filled with adventure and danger people crave. McConaughey shines as the titular antihero and supporting turns by Sam Shepherd and Michael Shannon really drive Nichols story home.

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32. Emperor – Starring Matthew Fox and Tommy Lee Jones, Emperor is the story of Bonner Fellers (Fox) and his assignment to discover if the Emperor of Japan should be tried for war crimes following the end of the 2nd world war. However the film follows Bonner’s past life in Japan with the woman he loved as the show pictures the two sides of Japan, the destroyed and what was once there. The visuals are beautiful and harrowing at the same time, Fox is on top form and Jones makes the films weaker moments shine with moral ambiguity. Overall its a beautifully poignant picture about love and forgiveness and the shame war brought two nations simultaneously.

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31. You’re Next – This B movie horror flick is as gruesome as slasher films come with some truly outrageous violence taking place. The constant disconnection of genres helps keep you off balance as a group of animal mask wearing psychopaths attack a family dinner where one of the guests is more than ready for them. Completely off its rocker, You’re Next is a surprising treat, a slasher film with a confused sense of right and wrong. The film constantly tries to make the proceedings more joyful as blood sprays everywhere. Emotionally confusing, this Adam Wingard directed film loves its control over its audience and Sharni Vinson is brilliant in it, well worth the creepy feeling the film leaves you with.

What do you think of part 2? See anything you have seen and hated? Let me know in the comments.

The 50 Best Films of 2013

Last year around this time I prophesied that 2013 would disappoint many moviegoers. I based this on the fact that 2012 was an excellent year for movies and Hollywood can rarely maintain the level it has been holding at. That being said, I am pleased to announce that 2013 has been without a doubt a terrific year in film and to prove it I increased the size of my best of list from 20 to 50 films. The first 10 on the list vary from a musical documentary to a modern day Shakespeare tale to the reimagining of an old classic. So with that out of the way, here are numbers 50 – 41.

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50. The Lone Ranger – Gore Verbinski’s action western is unlike any western you will see and thats a good thing. The pairing of Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp as the titular ranger John Reid and his less than faithful sidekick Tonto. This recreation of the classic show is clever, beautifully shot with some excellent action and has some of the best comic action beats this year. Verbinski strives for the same playful tone as his first Pirates of the Caribbean film and succeeds with limited problems.

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49. The World’s End – Edgar Wright’s final instalment in the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy is a mixed bag in comparison to its counterparts but as a stand alone picture its funny, original and light. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are still one of the finest British comedy pairings and Pegg gives one of his best performances. The film isn’t flawless with plenty of jokes that fail to hit their mark but there is more than enough in here to make it worth your while.

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48. A Haunting in Connecticut 2: The Ghosts of Georgia – This is the first of the two horror films to find a place on this list and while this horror sequel plays like a conventional ghost story its director Tom Elkins work with the films themes that raises it above the many scarers released this year. Performances by actors like Abigail Spencer and surprisingly Chad Michael Murray add some class to the proceedings as this spookfest proceeds at an enjoyably quick pace putting it one step ahead of films like Insidious Chapter 2 and The Conjuring.

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47. Machete Kills – I wasn’t a huge fan of Machete, it was a B movie trying to be mainstream which forced it to play two different sides confusing the whole picture. Machete Kills is more B movie, a spoof movie to rival the Naked Gun series with its rediculous villains, unkillable lead character and unnecessary but completely welcome celebrity cameos. From Charlie Sheen as the President to Mel Gibson as lead villain Voz, every character is used for comic relief. However the best part has to be Gibson who comes back to the public eye with one of his funniest performances, one that makes the last half of Machete Kills a wonderful blur of surreal comedy and ultra violence, an oddly intoxicating mix.

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46. Les Miserables – This Hugh Jackman starring adaptation of the famous musical of the same name is a complicated creature. For one every song is sung live and unaltered making some of the tunes used in the film genuinely bad. On the other hand the film has some wonderful performances from Jackman himself as well as Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Eddie Redmayne to list but a few. Director Tom Hooper overuse of close ups brings a certain disconnect to the film’s story but overall this is a powerful picture which takes chances.

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45. Bad Grandpa – This Jackass spinoff film uses the same kind of setups that Jackass made famous but interweaves a layered and funny story between its many extended set pieces. Johnny Knoxville has always been fantastic at this kind of cringe humour as he plays on the feelings and reactions of the real people he has surrounded himself with. In fact the film works so well because Knoxville plays so well off his faux grandson (Jackson Nicoll) as the two travel across the country together with hilarious results.

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44. Stuck In Love – Stuck In Love is a quaint and slow moving relationship drama about a family that has just adjusted to a new setting follows the split of parents William (Greg Kinnear) and Erica (Jennifer Connelly). What makes Stuck in Love good is it’s understanding of this family of dreamers and the one person in the family who doesn’t quite understand. This family of writers, idealists and romantics have lost their connection to the fantastic due to this familial shift. It’s a well written story with some excellent performances by Kinnear, Connelly as well as Lily Collins who drives the films most successful story element as she brings out the duality of her character perfectly.

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43. Much Ado About Nothing – Back when I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer I couldn’t imagine Joss Whedon crafting something like Much Ado About Nothing but now that I have seen it I understand that there is probably nobody who could have done it better. Shot in black and white and using many of his favourite actors, this adaptation of the Bard’s work is sweet, charming and even a little bit silly. Whedon’s grasp of the many character beats allows him to fit in some much needed physical comedy, something that lightens this sometimes complicated love story. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof work perfectly as the films lead duo with Denisof making light work of the proud yet self loathing Benedict and Acker dulls Beatrice’s self admiration to a dull hum instead of a full blown roar. The whole thing is simple and funny and unbelievably Whedonesque.

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42. The Rise – The first of four British films to grace the list, The Rise is a modern day heist movie about Harvey (Luke Treadaway) and the revenge he goes about trying to get from the man who framed him and put him away. Not only does the film track Harvey but the 3 friends that help him get his own back as they come to terms with the fact their lives in London, their home might just be coming to an end. The best aspect of this crime caper is the dialogue and the interactions between Harvey and his friends. They talk like real youths today as the face the disillusion that affects so many youngsters in a new and unexpected way. Treadaway is excellent and so is Iwan Rheon as best friend Dempsey, a person in need of adventure even if he didn’t know he needed it. The two lead a strong cast through a socially relevant Ocean’s Eleven-esque heist story that feels acceptably British.

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41. Muscle Shoals – This music documentary follows the rise of the FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama under the care of owner Rick Hall. Not only is the film ever so slightly tragic in its depiction of Hall’s life but it’s also the tale of the creation of some of the biggest names by a group of artists who would have never been considered important by anyone other than Hall. Considering the number of famed talking heads the film is crafted around it shows just how important these players are. Artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Etta James found hits through Hall’s studio, a creation of his love of music as well as the loss his early life had brought him. Moving and funny but most of all, a piece of musical history, Muscle Shoals isn’t life altering but it is revelatory.

What do you think would be your 50 – 41 picks? Let me know in the comments.

The Year in Review: The Top 10 TV Series of 2013 Part 2

The final 5 shows on this list vary from a deeply emotional religious drama to a modern day reimagining of a superhero story. Each series has gained a spot on this list because they have kept viewers attached to their screens in a way few other shows have managed. So without further ado here are the best 5 series of 2013.

5. The Good Wife – While I lost interest in The Good Wife during it’s 3rd season I recently returned for it’s 5th and I have not been disappointed. Following on from last seasons game changing finale, season 5 has shaken the core of the show in a way that has breathed new life into the show. This season’s ‘Hitting The Fan’ proved one of the best episodes of television and one the show will have a hard time living up to. However I will keep lapping up this terrific series any chance I get.

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4. Arrow – Not only did Arrow finish up it’s fantastic first season this year but it kickstarted it’s 2nd season with a gripping central mystery, some shocking twists and more than a few suprising guest stars. However what really made Arrow shine this year was how it fleshed out and challenged it’s core characters. Not only has the show grown past it’s procedural elements, the series has grown up and poses some decent anti hero questions of it’s audience. Easily the most accessable of the shows on this list, Arrow is a mature look at our superhero culture with some killer fight scenes and must watch storylines.

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3. Breaking Bad – By the time Breaking Bad ended it’s first batch of season 5 episodes, they had set up one hell of a final run and creator Vince Gilligan did not let audiences down at all. Tense and unexpected, Walter White’s drug oddessey came to a close with more than enough blood, mayhem and broken families to last viewers a lifetime. Bryan Cranston managed to turn the increasingly derranged White into the ultimate anti hero everyman  and it was good to see him go out on top, just one last time.

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2. Rectify – Ray McKinnon may not be a well known name but his new Sundance series Rectify should put him on the map as a master of the relationship drama. Set over the first few days of Daniel Holden’s (Aden Young) release from death row for the rape and murder of his then 16 year old girlfriend, Rectify takes it’s time in dissecting every little aspect of it’s characters lives, from the opinionated ramblings of Daniel’s sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer) to the tender religious beliefs of Tawney (Adelaide Clemens), Daniel’s sister in law. The series is rich in character and is filmed beautifully. The overhanging question of Daniel’s possible guilt only adds more depth to this story making me excited for the shows 2nd season in 2014.

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1. Boardwalk Empire – Some might have assumed but here it is, the best series on television right now is almost certainly this Martin Scorsese produced gem. Created by Terrence Winter and starring Steve Buscemi as Atlantic City bootlegger and all round criminal Nucky Thompson, the show unleashed it’s 4th season in September and it just happened to be the shows best yet. The addition of hypocritical mobster Dr Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) and the concentration on side character Chalky White (Michael K Williams) made the season flow with tension as the boardwalk started slipping from Nucky’s fingers and allies became enemies. Flawless television made better by some devestatingly good performances.

The Year in Review: The Top 10 TV Series of 2013 Part 1

I spent most of 2012 thinking that there wouldn’t be a year better than it for quality films and television and then 2013 came along and blew me out of the water with a wealth of new dramas from Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake to the US remake of The Bridge with Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir. Each crafted a dense crime plot and mixed in some subtle political commentary to keep things interesting while providing some spectacular visuals to feast your eyes on. That being said neither managed to crack the list proving that despite some truly great new dramas, there were but a few that proved too good to miss. Here are the first 5 shows on the list and why there were unforgettable.

10. Orphan Black – Science fiction has gotten a little dry, espeically on television and when Fringe finally closed up shop in January the list got even shorter. Orphan Black brought Sci-Fi back into the forefront with a story closer to reality with a fine grasp of the fantastical. The series follows Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), a grifter returning to her home to reconnect with the daughter she left with relatives years ago. However when she sees an exact replica of herself walk in front of a train she is put in danger as she must face off against clones, mysterious assassins and people from her complicated past. Maslany makes the show as she brings to life multiple versions of herself in a variety of different ways from original flavour Sarah to off the wall, bat shit insane Helena, every version of her is special. The series’ first 10 episode season is fast paced, smart and undeniably funny when it wants to be. Currently airing on BBC3 in England, this show will hook you from the start.

9. American Horror Story – Unlike most of the shows on this list American Horror Story both wrapped up its 2nd season in January of this year and it kick started its 3rd in October giving viewers more scares than they knew what to do with. However I will stick to the shows current run, a season filled with witchcraft, demons and some crazy voodoo. Starring Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates to name but a few, Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee) has crafted a season of intense showdowns and monstrous characters including that of Madame Lalaurie (Bates), a racist immortal landowner who was buried and left to rot until she finds herself dug up in modern day New Orleans. Filled with some snappy dialogue, a wealth of strange powers, this season has been cooking with gas right from the beginning and hopefully it won’t let up until January’s fast approaching finale.

8. The Blacklist – The Blacklist doesn’t so much reinvent the procedural crime drama as it does augment it. Starring James Spader as notorious terrorist Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, the series follows Red as he surrenders to the FBI and begins helping them aquire a series of dangerous criminals he has been tracking for years. Tense and fast paced, the show mixes together a complicated serialized story into a regular good guys vs evil story and mixes them together with a fun, unpredictable anti-hero played to perfection by Spader. The show recently finished its first run of episodes with a two parter reminiscent of Alias’ first season cliffhanger which only further complicated the shows dense mythology in a way that makes me excited for more.

7. Bob’s Burger – I wasn’t sure what to think of Bob’s Burgers when it first started in 2011 as it was unlike other animated shows with a much more risque yet oldly family friendly sense of humour. From the uncomfortably sexual ramblings of the 13 year old Tina to the camp ideals of middle child Gene, it’s a different kind of sitcom with a wealth of quirky and wonderful side characters. Every year I expect a drop in quality but the show only seems to get better and its recent season has been exceptional with the fantastic ‘Turkey In a Can’ episode making a mockery of Thanksgiving in a unique and puzzling way. While my go to animation used to be Archer, Bob has convinced me with its ever high quality and its obscure jokes and references.

6. The Originals – This Vampire Diaries spin off wasted no time in differentiating itself from the mothership with a darker tone, a wealth of new and more interesting characters and enough blood to make even Jigsaw happy. Starring Joseph Morgan as vampire werewolf hybrid Klaus, The Originals follows his exploits in New Orleans as he tries to regain his home from centuries old vampire Marcel, an old friend of his. Complicated by members of his own family, the shows story twists and turns always looking to surprise you in some way or another. Only 9 episodes into its first 22 episode season, The Originals holds plenty of promise and a cast that truly embrace the out there premise of the show. Rarely mindless and always entertaining, The Originals trumps The Vampire Diaries thanks to its fearless storytelling approach and ability to mess with the shows core dynamics in a way the dated Vampire Diaries rarely does anymore.