My Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Well, it’s the end of the year and you know what that means. The lists of “Best of” or “Worst of” start to come out.  So of course, I have to put my list out there too!

Making these “Best of” lists is always hard.  Because no matter what’s on your list people will always disagree with where you put a movie.  So this year (like last year) I will put the movies in alphabetical order.  It’s simple and clean for the most part.  As usual I put the “Honorable Mentions” first and then put up my “Best/Favorite” movies of the year.

NOTE: This is MY list and in no way is official or meant to say your list is not good.  These are the movies that I enjoyed/liked/loved or thought where actually superior to others (I won’t say which ones are those)

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

John Dies at the End, The Kings of Summer, Mud, The East, Blue Jasmine, Fruitvale Station, The To Do List, Dallas Buyers Club, Short Term 12, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, Antiviral

 

Honorable Mentions:

2 Guns: Didn’t expect a lot coming from this even with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.  Turns out it was pretty fun with some cool action scenes and great chemistry between the two leads.

About Time: Being a fan of Richard Curtis’ Love Actually I was kind of excited to see what he would do for his “last romantic movie.” The thing that surprised me about the movie is that it wasn’t just a romantic comedy with a time travelling aspect to it but it’s what you do with that.

Closed Circuit: A great political thriller about a bombing in London with the CCTV cameras not being any good use for the case.  Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall give solid performance and the way everything comes together and goes down really shocked me.

Dead Man Down: A reunion between director Neils Arden Oplev and his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace was nice to see but it was Colin Farrell’s stoic performance in his very European feel movie about revenge that had me from the very start.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters: Tommy Wirkola’s took almost the same sensibility with this that he took with his hit Dead Snow.  The movie didn’t take itself too seriously and it worked.  I had a lot of fun with this movie and I think if people gave it another chance they would enjoy.

In A World: Directed and staring Lake Bell, the movie was a fun quirky look at how competitive Hollywood can be, just to do a voice over in a movie trailer.

Mama: Based on a short by the same name, producer Guillermo del Toro and short director Andres Muschietti came together to expand the short and give it a creepy/eerie mythology.  I liked the tone of the movie as it did fit a bit with the short and del Toro’s classic touch.

Oblivion: The movie could have been lost as a typical “sci-fi” movie but I found the movie to have a little more and with the score, it got to me enough to get here on the list.

Olympus Has Fallen: One of the two White House takeover movies and in my opinion the best of the two. Probably the reason I liked it the most was that it felt like an 90s action movie and knew what it was.

Out of the Furnace: A beautifully shot movie with a great story about brothers and what you will do for them.  Christian Bale does a great job in the movie but it’s Casey Affleck who steals the show as his brother.

Star Trek Into Darkness: I loved J.J. Abrams Star Trek and was excited to see what he would do in his second go around.  I know not a lot of people were crazy about the movie, even calling it the worst Star Trek movie ever (REALLY?) but I really liked it and Benedict Cumberbatch’s character reveal was still awesome to hear and see even if I already kind of knew.

Stoker: Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) made his American directorial debut this family drama thriller that is a bit of a slow burner and goes in directions you wouldn’t think would go.

The Croods: Didn’t know much about The Croods walking in and I have to say I enjoyed the hell out of it. Nicholas Cage’s father character totally fit him.

The Family: With nice nudges to Robert De Niro’s gangster movies, Luc Besson manages to pull together a good family action drama with a gangster twist of sorts.  But I think one of the highlights is John D’Leo

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Although I didn’t enjoy the whole movie as much as I did An Unexpected Journey, the sequel had it’s moments that I felt I could not let the movie pass without being on the list.  The River Barrel scene, Smaug and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel were the major highlights for me.

The Heat: I don’t think you could go wrong with Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig.  It also happened to be one of the movies that I laughed out loud in a theater.

The Last Stand: Another American directorial debut, this time by Kim Jee-Woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I Saw the Devil) bought back Arnold Schwarzenegger to the big screen.  Yes, the movie wasn’t perfect but the last third act was pretty funny.

The Lone Ranger: The movie does have some pitfalls but the movie really wasn’t as bad as people said it was.  The last action scene involving the train is fantastic.

The Place Beyond the Pines: This movie wasn’t like anything I thought it would be. The trailers give nothing away and it takes a turn you didn’t think I would. The movie was a bit on the long side for my taste and the last act wasn’t as good as the first two.

The Wolf of Wall Street:  A great and somewhat twisted story of the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, a real life former Stock Broker, who rose through the ranks his own way.  Martin and Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio prove they can do no wrong together.  Although the movie was a little long for my taste every minute tells a story.

This is the End: When the movie was first announced I didn’t really care too much about it but then I saw the movie and I took everything back.

Trance: Danny Boyle is pretty much always dependable and his psychological crime thriller makes you think until the very last minute on what the hell was really happening and even then you’re wondering what the hell was going on.

We’re the Millers: A little raunchy comedy never hurt anyone and with an unusual premise the movie actually kind of worked.  Although, the major flaws of the movie was Jason Sudeikis’ main character.

White House Down: The second White House takeover movie and one I wasn’t looking forward to.  One reason is that it was another White House takeover movie. The second was because I’m not the biggest Channing Tatum fan.  However, the movie was a good combination of humor and action so I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

World War Z: Very loosely based on Max Brooks’ popular zombie book, Brad Pitt stars in a race against time zombie survival movie.  Despite its behind-the-scenes problems the movie still managed not to be terrible.  Probably the standout of the movie was the Israel action sequence.

 

BEST/FAVORITE

12 Years a Slave: One of the most gripping, emotional, and character-centric movies of the year and it’s all a true story of Solomon Northup. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender give two of the best performances of the year and Paul Dano’s short supporting role is another highlight performance wise.

American Hustle:  Everyone gives great performances but probably the standout of the cast is Amy Adams.  Based on true events the movie has a good sense of the time period down to the music and clothing.  David O’ Russell knows how to get good performances out of his cast.

Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks gives a great performance as the title character that is kidnapped by Somali Pirates and does his best under the situation.  Props go to Barkhad Abdi for standing toe-to-toe with Hanks during those intense scenes.  But Hanks steals the show especially in the last act.

Evil Dead: Remaking a “cult-favorite” like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is sure to strike a chord with people, and that is exactly what this movie did.  However, I (and many others) were able to look past that and see the movie for what it was.  It wasn’t necessarily a direct remake and it didn’t try to tarnish the original that people all love.  At the end of the day the movie did its job and that is to scare me.

Fast & Furious 6: Everyone thought that topping Fast Five would be hard but Justin Lin’s last Fast & Furious movie sure made it harder to make that decision.  The action is pushed to another level and everything feels like a conclusion and a new way to begin the story.  If it isn’t the best Fast & Furious movie then it sure is a close second. And really, can you not like the long runway scene!

Frozen: I found myself struggling a little with animated movies this year.  As much as I liked seeing Monsters University this movie surely is the better movie and a strong one at that.  Disney (by themselves, not with Pixar) has been stepping up the game lately with their animation movies.  Frozen played a little with the genre but also felt like an old classic and I think that’s why I liked it so much.

G.I Joe: Retaliation: Let’s face it, Retaliation should have not worked after Rise of Cobra.  Yes, the first one had it’s moments but if you asked me back then if I wanted a sequel I would have said no.  However, add in the “franchise savior” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and make it feel realistic and you have me.  Besides, the ten minute mountain sequence was just awesome.

Gravity: Every now and then we get a movie that is truly an “experience movie” and Gravity is that movie this year.  However, we also have to add in the “How the hell did they do all that?”  Nevertheless, the movie is great to look at and with the combination of Alfonso Cuaron’s directing and Sandra Bullock’s great performance I was completely sucked in to what I was seeing on screen.

Iron Man 3: Say what you will about Iron Man 3.  Was it perfect? No, (but really is any movie) but was it better than Iron Man 2? Yes.  But of course all anyone can talk about was “The Mandarin Twist” which pissed everyone off.  Let’s face it, Marvel totally got us and I think that’s what pissed everyone off.  I personally loved it because it played with our expectations and gave us, whether intentional or not, one of the biggest moments this year.

Man of Steel: I, like everyone, had my doubts about Zack Snyder’s Superman movie.  But seeing the final product but away all those doubts.  Henry Cavill did a great job playing the man from two worlds and Russell Crowe’s Jor-El was better than I thought it would be too.  The standout for me was Antje Traue’s Faora-Ul.  Of course this movie also had it’s own “twist” which again, I didn’t mind but the purists out there seemed to forget that it was part of the, at least to me, beginning of who and what Superman will become later.

Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon took a break from his Marvel duties and filmed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play of the same name.  Filled with Whedon’s alumni the movie was set in modern times but still managed to work.  Drama-filled, funny and smart Whedon proved that he can work in all genres.

Pacific Rim: What’s not to like about giant robots fighting giant monsters! Next to the fact that everything looks fantastic

Prisoners: Hugh Jackman steals the show as he plays a father wanting his daughter back and takes matter into his own hands by taking the only person accused of it, who is played by Paul Dano.  Jake Gyllenhaal also gives a strong performance but it’s probably Melissa Leo who goes toe to toe with Jackman.

Rush:  A re-telling of the famous rivalry between Formula-One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  With great performances by leads Chris Hemsworth, standout Daniel Bruhl and Hans Zimmer’s score it was truly one of the best movies of the year.

The Conjuring: If this is James Wan’s last horror movie, it’s surely a good way to go.  Creepy, scary and based on actual events investigated by real life paranormal investigators The Warrens.

The Way Way Back: A great indie comedy with a good and real story about growing up. I knew nothing about it expect that it was getting good reviews and I agreed with them. Sam Rockwell is the best part of the movie and worth all the praise.

The Wolverine:  Basing it off one of the most popular Wolverine stories it’s finally a solo Wolverine movie that Wolverine fans wanted.  Hugh Jackman proves that Wolverine is his role and I feel sorry for the next guy that takes the role when Jackman finally steps aside.

The World’s End: The final installment of The Cornetto Trilogy isn’t probably entirely what people thought it would be but it was a somewhat fitting ending to it.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost do a switcheroo role wise with Pegg being the better of the two.

Thor: The Dark World:  Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston embrace their roles more this time around and the movie really ups the action this time around.  Needless to say this movie surprised the hell out of me.

You’re Next:  A combination to an old school horror and home invasion, You’re Next was one of my biggest surprises this year. Also a fine performance by Sharni Vinson playing the heroine.

Zero Dark Thirty: Besides all the buzz (or controversy depending on how you view it) around the movie, it still was a great movie about (how the tagline puts it) “The Greatest Manhunt in History).  Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke career shot straight up after this but another highlight from the movie is Mark Strong’s supporting role.

‘Fast & Furious 6’ Review

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Dir: Justin Lin

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Ludacris, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky and Gina Carano

Synopsis: Hobbs has Dom and Brian reassemble their crew in order to take down a mastermind who commands an organization of mercenary drivers across 12 countries. Payment? Full pardons for them all.

 

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always. If you want to comment feel free but please don’t spoil anything in the comment section.*

 

The tag line “All roads lead to this” was truly a great tag line for Fast & Furious 6. Faced with the task of trying to top Fast Five (which is easier said than done), Furious 6 (as the movie is titled in the opening credits) offers a more international feel and some mind-boggling car stunts even as its story strives to bring the characters full circle while also setting up future installments (which is currently being worked on). But does it actually do that? Yes, yes it does.

Furious 6 finds our favorite street racers and thieves (Diesel, Walker, Tyrese, Ludacris, Sung Kang, and Gal Gadot) having to team up with the man that tried to bring them down before Hobbs (Johnson). Hobbs brings them in to track down an even worse criminal: former British Special Forces soldier Owen Shaw (Evans), who is pulling off a series of auto-centric crimes that are more dangerous and thought-out than our good guys.

Hobbs mentally is like the old saying “it takes a thief to catch a thief.” But the only reason Hobbs has any leverage is the return of the presumably dead Letty (Rodriguez) and the fact that she is for whatever reason working for Shaw. The team agrees to work with Hobbs and his new partner Riley (Gina Carano) only if they get full pardons so they can return home to the U.S). Fast paced actions then ensues.

While many think the Fast and the Furious franchise is all about ridiculous car chases, stunts, and cheesy one-liners (although it sometimes is) one of the prime focuses is the family aspect, which will get to in a minute. However, Fast & Furious 6 primary focus is on the past and bringing the characters’ stories full circle. Letty’s not the only blast from the past here (I won’t say who else returns), but these callbacks should definitely please those who’ve been fans of the series since the beginning. That’s not to say Furious 6 doesn’t also have the future on its mind. Some characters’ arcs reach their conclusion, while big seeds are also planted for what might come next for the rest.

Of course the highlight of the franchise is the car scenes. Fast Five really made it hard for the filmmakers to make whatever set-pieces they had in this movie a bit tough to surpass. However they did succeed with some of the big chases like the tank sequence and the takedown of the plane. Even the first chase that introduces a new car that Shaw drives and we briefly see in the trailer is pretty damn impressive. Although I wouldn’t put it pass anybody that thinks the car chases get a little redundant. One sequence in particular is like that. There is of course humor in the movie which is always nice although some of the jokes fall a bit flat.

As for the cast, they all do a great job although after playing the characters for so long you would think they would. Diesel and Walker being the faces of the franchise still have the strong chemistry they had in the first movie. Although you really can say this movie is all about Diesel’s Dom and him trying to bring back Letty. Speaking of Letty, Rodriguez is nice to have back and is still tougher than she was before they “killed” her. Ludacris, Tyrese, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot all have their moments to shine and Jordana Brewster again doesn’t really have much to do, although this time it’s for a descent reason. Johnson of course shows off more of his muscles and with a future spin-off in the works I’m glad there stretching out his character more.

As for Luke Evans as Shaw, he is really a threat the team has never faced before. He’s not afraid for putting people at risk to get what he wants and isn’t afraid to expose somebody’s weakness so he can get ahead. Finally, director Justin Lin. Lin has already said he’s leaving the franchise due to being a bit burnt out and a fast production date for part seven. Lin has done an amazing job in the movie and has made us care about this characters. He made the family dynamic as important as the crazy car chases and has fleshed out this characters that may have been just one dimensional if another director was bought in.

All in all, who knew the Fast and the Furious franchise would have six movies under its belt and have been getting better as they continued. Does the movie have some over the top moments? Yes, a car comes out of a plane damn it! But, lets be realistic here, it’s an action movie. Would you really want it any other way?

Lastly, stay a little while after the first part of the credits. It’s a nice little surprise and totally worth it.

Fast & Furious 6

5 out of 5

Anticipated Movies of 2013 Part 2

Let’s continue the list starting from May to September

May

3rd: Iron Man 3

            The teaser really set the mood on what’s to come for the third entry in the Iron Man series. With the darker tone and the long gestured villain The Mandarin I think we’re all in for a great movie.

 

17th: Star Trek Into Darkness

            J.J Abrams did an awesome job with his Star Trek reboot that I fully trust him with whatever he does with the series. Now with Into Darkness the villain is being kept firmly under wraps but has been speculated to be Khan, Gary Mitchell, a combination of the two or a brand new villain like Nero from the first film. After seeing the first nine minutes I can fully say this is probably the movie I’m most excited for.

 

24th: The Fast and the Furious 6

            At the moment that I’m writing this there is no official plot synopsis. However, with the new cast of Luke Evans, Gina Carano and Joe Taslim (The Raid) and a possibly exciting story, I’m in.

 

 

June

7th: Much Ado About Nothing

A modern re-telling of the Shakespeare play with director Joss Whedon and many Whedon alumni part of the cast it seems like it’s going to be pretty good.

 

14th: Man of Steel

            Everybody seems to be excited for this one. Either because they want to see how good it is or how bad it is. I’m really on the fence about this one for a couple reasons. The trailer shows us that it will bring us a new tone of Superman that we’ve never seen before.

 

21st: World War Z

            Now this one may have some of you scratching your head. Fans of the book have been looking forward to this. However, some general audiences may not know of the behind the scenes cluster-fuck this has gone through (pretty interesting stuff if you want to look for it). So why did I put this on here? Well I don’t know how many of you reading know me personally but I end up enjoying A Lot movie movies then everybody. Good or bad I just want to see how this turns out.

 

28th: Kick-Ass 2

            A surprise hit back in 2010, Kick-Ass didn’t necessarily changed the comic book genre but it did get a following and made the comic book probably more noticeable. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait for this.

 

 

July

5th: The Lone Ranger, Despicable Me 2

Yes, I’m looking forward to Despicable Me 2. I didn’t watch the first one until last year and I really enjoyed it. As for Lone Ranger the trailers have really bought me around but I’m not sold on Depp and Tonto. Sorry Depp fans.

 

12th: Pacific Rim

            I’m a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro and when I heard about the idea of giant robots and monsters I knew he could be one of the few that pull that idea off. The trailer proved that and since then everybody has been talking about.

 

19th: R.I.P.D, The Conjuring

            I’ve heard of R.I.P.D for a while now and the concept of supernatural cops dealing with supernatural crimes seems pretty cool. As for The Conjuring, done by James Wan and based on real Ghost Hunters (not the SyFy Chanel guys) you know it’s going to be creepy.

 

26th: The Wolverine

            You can probably put this in the same category as Man of Steel in where it can be good or can be bad. Everything makes it look like it can be good, taking the popular Japanese arc from the comics and promising statements by director James Mangold and Wolverine himself Hugh Jackman, I think it can be good.

 

 

Aug

2nd: 300: Rise of an Empire, Red 2

            Although not really a sequel to Zack Snyder’s 300 it does take place during the events of the first and it’s also a standalone movie, taking place during another battle when the Persian’s attacked Greece. As for Red 2, I loved the first one and with another star studded cast I can’t wait.

 

9th: Elysium

            Neill Blomkamp surprised everyone with his original sci-fi film District 9 and everyone has been waiting for his follow-up. Now comes Elysium with Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and reuniting with District 9 star Sharlto Copley who’s playing the villain this time around. While District 9 dealt with racial issues Elysium well apparently deal with health care. But with sci-fi of course.

 

16th: 2 Guns

            An interesting casting partnership with Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington were they play a DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer who have been tasked with investigating one another find they have been set up by the mob.

           

30th: Insidious Chapter 2

            James Wan bought the creep factor with his surprise hit Insidious and I can’t wait to see what he does with part two

 

Sept

6th: Riddick

            Vin Diesel returns as everybody’s favorite killer Richard B. Riddick. The story has Riddick left for dead on a dangerous planet and people ready to collect their bounty. Diesel and returning director David Twohy have promised to go back to its darker tone from Pitch Black so you’ll see.

 

13th: I, Frankenstein

            Frankenstein’s creature (played by the always reliable Aaron Eckhart) finds himself caught in an all-out, centuries old war between two immortal clans. Directed by Stuart Beattie who directed the Australian film Tomorrow, When the War Began (highly recommend by the way) and wrote the Pirate of the Caribbean movies, Collateral, and 30 Days of Night. It seems like a cool concept and besides Eckhart the lovely Yvonne Strahovski and Bill Nighy will join him.

           

20th: Prisoners

            About a Boston man kidnapping the person he suspects is behind the disappearance of his young daughter and her best friend, sounds like a good revenge type thriller don’t you think? Then with a cast like Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo and Mario Bello, you really can’t complain.