Posted at 4 p.m., Nov. 26, 2013

 

Top 10 Best of the Year

'The Place Beyond the Pines'

With his second feature, Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”) continued his trend of creating sobering dramas that depicted realism over excitement. Depicting the lives of two families during the course of two generations, “The Place Beyond the Pines” focused on the thematic and oftentimes brutal nature of family entanglements and the consequence of actions and was beautifully acted by Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Dane DeHaan.

'Iron Man 3'

In the movie world a certain curse is attached to the third in a series. “Spider-man 3,” “Batman Forever,” “Superman 3” and “X-Men: The Last Stand” were considered the low points in their franchises and resulted in even the stalling of future movies or just produced worse sequels. So I did the most thanking to Jesus (Or Shiva, it was one of ‘em.) when “Iron Man 3” turned out to be not only a great summer blockbuster, a superior “threequel,” but also one of the best Marvel has ever offered. Delving deeper into the character Tony Stark and sweeping the expensive Persian rug from under him turned out to be a wise move for the filmmakers and launched Marvel’s Phase 2 in thrilling and interesting style. Too bad “Thor 2” kind of detoured that rocketing train a bit.

'Mud'

With a tone, style and cast of characters similar to a Mark Twain novel, “Mud” was at once a rousing love story and a unique coming-of-age picture. The story centered on one teenager (Ty Sheridan) as he figured out where his life was heading after he met a suspicious but charming drifter, Mud (Matthew McConaughey), and began to see relations between their two lives. With an air-tight script, focused story and career-reaffirming performance by McConaughey, “Mud” was an old-fashioned Southern drama and was a perfect example of precise and passionate filmmaking.

'Star Trek: Into Darkness'

As a “Star Wars” supporter, I’m not lying when I said I kind of hoped the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot would fail. But, despite all my hopes it would prove “Wars” the definitive sci-fi franchise, I was immediately won over by J.J. Abrams’ fresh and exciting revival. The sequel “Star Trek: Into Darkness”, may not seem as new and inventive, but it continued the franchise in a suitably dark fashion while still validating Abrams as one of the top new directors in town who was guaranteed to deliver epic sci-fi spectacle and Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan) as the actor to watch.

'Man of Steel'

While putting on my bulletproof vest, I can honestly say I enjoyed “Superman Returns.” The focus on the love story was admirable, but I can understand how that would cut into all the super-action needed. “Man of Steel” delivered where that movie could not, featuring the action and carnage to make a proper Superman movie work while steering it in a more dramatic and grounded style a la “The Dark Knight.” The critics would disagree with me on putting this on a Top 10 list, but despite some flaws I will stand by my opinion and say this is the Superman movie the people of the world need…mostly because he no longer wears those silly red tights. Really, it took about 70 years to realize those don’t look super-fetching.

'The Conjuring'

One of my greatest and darkest joys is making scaredy-cats sit down and watch a horrifying movie. Their shrieks and looks of terror on their faces truly bringing me joy. “The Conjuring” is a near-perfect horror movie that found a way around the modern cheap tricks and instead focused on mood, scenery and the overall horrifying mythos of the subject matter. Needless to say, it’s now my go-to movie to scare the crap out of a frightful friend. You know what? I’m re-reading what I wrote, and, yes, that all sounded terribly weird. But what am I gonna do? Delete it?

'The World’s End'

I’ve been watching English comedies before it was the hipster’s code to watch anything Monty Python has ever done. My mother can attest to my annoying all the town’s folk when I perfected my accent; hence, why I gravitated to the works of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who concluded their Cornetto Trilogy (including “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”) with the hilarious and action-packed “The World’s End.” This tale about five friends re-living a pub crawl gone awry, fused with an alien invasion flick, provided some of the more unique moments of the trilogy. But what’s most astounding amid the blue blood (It’s more like ink.) and kung-fu fight scenes, writers Pegg and Wright never forgot the pathos of companionship and brotherly love, bringing the trilogy to a suitably lovable and exciting conclusion.

'Prisoners'

Although it can be considered too dark for some, “Prisoners,” nevertheless, showed the high mark of when a filmmaker tries to channel David Fincher. Brutal, complex, powerfully acted, this picture presented a terrifyingly plausible situation of child abduction but left enough room for morality-based debates on exactly how far was too far when dealing with the situation. Mixing in some of the more chilling set pieces of any film this year made for a triumph from director Denis Villenveuve.

'Gravity'

Although it was specified at the beginning that these reviews were in no particular order, there was not even the slightest little crumb of doubt that “Gravity” was not only the best film of the year but also one of the best in the last decade. Without giving, well, anything away I will keep this brief. It was visually mind-boggling, utterly beautiful in its elegance, acted in the utmost definition of the word by Sandra Bullock and directed at an above-master level by Alfonso Cuaron. No cinematic experience has received a more genuine reaction from me in the theater…I guess that counts for something. Plus it was a simple answer to give when I tell people I’m afraid of space.

'Captain Phillips'

Paul Greengrass knows how to direct a scene. Starting off slowly and then gradually growing to nail-gnawing tension was just a thing he did in his sleep. If that were truly the case, “Captain Phillips” was the movie he most likely dreamed every night. An intense thrill-ride from start to finish while remembering to illustrate the dire needs of both Captain Phillps (Tom Hanks) and his captors this movie succeeded in sending the viewer through a loop, despite being a huge news story only a few years ago. Try not to get sea sickness…and I’m out. Boom.

 


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