BEST MOVIES OF 2013

out of the furnace posterBEST MOVIES OF 2013

By

Michael Arruda

Here’s my list for the Top 10 Best Films that I saw in 2013.

For a more detailed list and a more explosive column, in which you’ll be able to find out what fellow author and movie critic L.L. Soares had to say about his best movies of the year, and what we had to say about each other’s picks, be sure to check out our comprehensive BEST OF 2013 column coming soon at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT at cinemaknifefight.com.

Before we get to my Top 10 List, here are a few movies that made it as Honorable Mentions.  They didn’t make my Top 10 list for the best films of the year, but they were pretty good nonetheless.

Honorable Mentions:

NOW YOU SEE ME – Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine in a fast moving energetic tale of one FBI agent’s quest to bring down a group of magicians who may or may not be pulling off bank heists.  Did they just do that, or was it an illusion?  A very entertaining, very clever movie, that’s ultimately a lot of fun, as long as you don’t think about it too much.

MAMA – Neat horror movie that I actually found creepy and scary.

THE HEAT – My favorite comedy of the year, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in a laugh-out-loud comedy that’s funny from start to finish.

WORLD WAR Z – It’s not THE WALKING DEAD, but this zombie thriller generates enough suspense to make it worth your while.

THE CONJURING – From the director of INSIDIOUS (2010) this was my favorite horror movie of the year.  I really enjoyed the husband and wife paranormal investigative team played by Patrick Wilson and Elena Verdugo.  Full of creepy images and a few good scares.

Okay, now on to the Top 10.  Here are my picks for the Top 10 Best Films that I saw in 2013:

10.  GRAVITY – Sandra Bullock as an astronaut stranded in space after a freak accident wipes out her ship and the rest of her crew.  Bullock is excellent, but the CGI effects are the real star of this one as this movie plays as if it were shot on location in space.  Things look that authentic.  The filmmakers also got the silence of space right.  When all hell breaks loose around Bullock, it occurs in a creepy silence.  Very neat.

Tight direction makes this one all the more claustrophobic.  When Bullock is fighting to preserve her oxygen, I found myself struggling for air as well.

9. THE GREAT GATSBY – Baz Lurmann’s flashy interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel features yet another topnotch performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, this time as Jay Gatsby.  Tobey Maguire is also well cast at Nick Carraway, as is Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan.

This version of THE GREAT GATSBY possesses more energy and pizazz than the stoic 1974 Robert Redford version, highlights the bawdiness of the 1920s with colorful flair, and really does a nice job getting to the heart of what’s behind one Jay Gatsby.  With a modern soundtrack, quick editing, and vibrant colorful photography in eye popping 3D, this GATSBY was built with modern audiences in mind.  I loved it.

8.  DON JON – Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s creative and off-beat tale of a man so obsessed with internet porn that it gets in the way of his relationships.  Main character Jon loves porn so much that he finds it more satisfying and rewarding than the real deal.

A thought-provoking movie, well-written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and featuring a strong cast, led by Gordon-Levitt himself in the lead, as well as Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza as his overbearing father, DON JON is that rare kind of movie that is so full of blunt honesty it’s embarrassingly funny.  And for a movie that spends a lot of time talking about porn, it really has a lot to say about the value of real relationships.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut.

7. DEAD MAN DOWN – Many people considered this a misfire, but I absolutely loved this dark tale of crime, murder, and revenge, directed by by Niels Arden Opley, the man who directed the original THE GIRLWITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009).

Starring Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace as a pair of lovers who start off as anything but, this adult tale of revenge and more revenge pushes all the right buttons, is full of intriguing characters who I cared about, contains first-rate dialogue, and tells a compelling story.  Dominic Cooper is also on hand to deliver yet another first-rate performance in a supporting role.

DEAD MAN DOWN is both an intense actioner that goes for the throat and a love story that is as sincere as it is offbeat.  I loved it.

6. AMERICAN HUSTLE-  Director David O. Russell’s critically acclaimed film about con artists and government scandals set in the 1970s featuring a powerhouse cast that includes Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner.  None of these five disappoint, as they all bring their “A” game to the table.  That being said, my favorite performance here probably belonged to Jennifer Lawrence, as her character’s over-the-top unpredictability was certainly the easiest to like.

My only complaint is that when you strip away the glitz and the style, you’re left with a story that is average at best, and way below the quality of the acting in this movie.  In short, the characters in this film deserve a better story.

It also didn’t fully capture for me the fear and anxiety that existed in the troubled decade of the 1970s.

However, it does contain a marvelously effective soundtrack, full of classic songs from the 1970s.

Not the grand slam I thought it was going to be, but still an amazing movie nonetheless.

5. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET –   Director Martin Scorsese pulls out all stops in this tale of greed, sex, drugs, and good times, based on the true story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort who was indicted in the 1990s for defrauding his investors.  It features a tremendous performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, a guy you wouldn’t want to know, yet you can’t stop watching him and the things he does in this movie.

It also features a great supporting cast, which includes Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Jean Dujardin, and Margot Robbie.  It paints an ugly picture of Wall Street, as Jordan Belfort is no role model, but perhaps that’s the point.

Great movie!

4. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL –   This was a film I had no interest in seeing, yet I loved it from start to finish.  From its opening scene in black and white, mirroring the style of the 1939 classic THE WIZARD OF OZ, to the colorful and extravagant world of Oz, filled with amazing special effects, I found this one to be a keeper.

James Franco is perfectly cast as the young magician and con- man Oscar Diggs who eventually becomes the Wizard of Oz, and he receives fine support from Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch, and Mila Kunis as Theodora, the wicked witch.

I thought the little China Girl was one of the more stunning CGI creations I’d seen in a long while.

3. IRON MAN 3 – This third film in the IRON MAN series gets nearly everything right and was by far my favorite superhero film of the year.

I found it nearly as good as the original IRON MAN movie, much better than the second, and much better than some of the other recent Marvel superhero movies.  The biggest reason for this is the presence of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.  He has made this role his own, and his Tony Stark is one of the more dynamic characters in the movies today.  He has played Stark four times now, and he has been excellent all four times.

I also really enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow here, as she had more screen time this time around as Stark’s love interest Pepper Potts,   I thought she and Downey really clicked in this movie, more so than in the previous films.

IRON MAN 3 joins the top ranks of other Marvel superhero movies, films which include THE AVENGERS (2012), the first IRON MAN movie in 2008, and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011),

Grand entertainment throughout.

2. ELYSIUM – This science fiction flick from writer/director Neill Blomkamp, the man who gave us DISTRICT 9 (2009), is a superior science fiction film that I liked even more than DISTRICT 9.

Its story of two different societies, the “haves” on the space station Elysium, and the “have nots” back on Earth really resonated, and the adventure of Matt Damon’s character Max who needs to reach Elysium in order to save his own life, but in turn ends up changing the entire world as they know it, is as compelling as they come.

This is a hard hitting edge-of-your seat science fiction thriller, a film that earns its “R” rating.  It also features a knock-out performance by Sharlto Copley, the same man who played the lead in DISTRICT 9, as one of the more relentless and brutal screen villains I’ve seen in a long time.

 

ELYSIUM is an adult science fiction thriller that will knock your socks off.  It’s not to be missed.

1. OUT OF THE FURNACE – This one tanked at the box office, but for me, it pressed all the right buttons.  I thought the cast was brilliant, led by Christian Bale as a man searching for his missing brother, and Woody Harrelson as the most brutal disturbing villain in a movie this year.  He and Sharlto Copely from ELYSIUM would make quite the pair.

Casey Affleck stands outs as Bale’s younger brother Rodney, and the strong cast also includes Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard.

OUT OF THE FURNACE is a very dark very grim movie, and that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much.  It kind of got lost in the blitz of movies that came out at Christmas, and was overshadowed by the huge hype surrounding films like AMERICAN HUSTLE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, but what I liked better about OUT OF THE FURNACE was what it had to say.  To me, its story resonated better than the tales told in AMERICAN HUSTLE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

 

Writer/director Scott Cooper’s story has a lot to say about American life in the first decade of the 21st century.  The dark things that happen in OUT OF THE FURNACE are a direct result of the conditions of our country during the past ten years.

OUT OF THE FURNACE is much more than a revenge film or an action film.  It’s a dark drama that takes its time telling its story.  It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller because the revenge plot takes a back seat to the bigger story here, which is, how these things have happened right here in our own country during the past decade.

OUT OF THE FURNACE was my favorite film of 2013.

Okay.  That wraps things up here.  I hope you enjoyed my picks for the Best Movies of 2013 and get a chance to see some of these movies.

To all my readers, thanks for reading this blog during 2013.  I’ll be writing more content right here— same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel— in 2014.  So, be sure to keep coming back, and if you like what you read, don’t forget to tell your friends.  Thanks!

Happy New Year everybody!

—Michael

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