The Top 10 Movies of 2013

2013 List - MoviesI saw 77 new releases this year, and I’ve been compiling a ranked spreadsheet of them as the year has gone on. Now that it is over, I am here to present my 2013 year in review at the movies. To the left of this text is the ranked list that you can view. For this post, however, I’ll  only be highlighting my top 10 favorite movies of 2013. These are my personal choices for the year and may likely not reflect the views or opinions of others.  The scores from the film’s review on HoF (if there is one) may not match exactly to the number by which they have been placed on my list, but opinions can change. I’ve given some serious thought to this list and how it was put together. With all of that being said, let us begin our list.

10. Rush

This movie is a thrill ride if there ever was one. Ron Howard has been around for a while, and even though he’s given us a lot of pretty bad movies (Grinch), he’s also given us some pretty great things too. This is one of the latter. Rush is an interesting character study that highlights the importance of rivalries, as well as what happens when the human will to win takes over and becomes your driving force in life. Not only is it just a complete thrill ride from beginning to end, but it was also a very visually stimulating experience. Be it quick cuts, the unique use of titles, or just the breakneck editing, Rush is certainly a film worth watching and has earned its spot in my top 10 for the year.

9. Captain Phillips

The second you find me a Tom Hanks movie where he isn’t fantastic, let me know. Because I don’t think there will be one for the rest of this man’s career. Even though it’s apparently factually inaccurate and can be one-sided, there’s no arguing that this film is both powerful and intense. The performances from Hanks and the pirates who take over the Maersk Alabama are incredible. But what sold me on this movie above anything else was its final few minutes. I don’t think there has been a more convincing few minutes of acting all year. Paul Greengrass’ direction is intense and above all, gripping. Well done.

8. The World’s End

Freakin’ Edgar Wright, man. That guy has yet to make a bad movie. This is no exception. As a huge fan of both Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, I was incredibly excited to see the third and final installment of the Cornetto Trilogy. And this movie was the perfect way to send it out. There’s something about the way that Edgar Wright directs his movies with intense speed and wit. It generally takes more than one viewing to catch every joke that’s thrown in to all of the scenes. When you couple that with brilliant thematic writing, it makes for a great time. The World’s End isn’t necessarily as good as Hot Fuzz, but it’s still a great movie.

7. The Way Way Back

Maybe I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories or I just love movies with characters that I completely and totally relate to. Because I loved this movie so much. The humor was spot on, entertaining, and had a great tone to it that just screamed “summer”. With Sam Rockwell’s best performance to date as well as a very hate-filled and conniving Steve Carrell (who also nailed his part), this was one of the better character-driven movies that were released this year. This is a film that a lot of people were unfortunately unaware existed. This needs to change. Please watch this if you get the chance.

6. Gravity

This is probably higher on a lot of other people’s lists, but this is my list so whatever. Gravity is by far the most visually and technically impressive movie that has ever been created. Sure, it may not deliver a powerhouse story that pulls at your heart and mind for years on end, but just the pure spectacle of this film is something that a lot of other movie’s cannot even come close to matching. It also has the best shot of the year to boot. If you didn’t see this in 3D in a theater, shame on you. If there’s any movie that begged to be seen in a cinema, it’s this one.

5. Philomena

This is another movie that was just kind of out there without anyone caring enough to go and see it. Which again, is another unfortunate reality of the current state of audiences. Be that as it may, Philomena was a movie I didn’t expect to love as much as I did. The sheer hope and playful naivety expressed through Judi Dench’s character makes for one of the more memorable and charming performances given this year. When coupled with Steve Coogan’s humor and sarcasm making appearances throughout the film, it makes for a great drama/comedy.

4. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese is the greatest director who ever lived. His awesome use of camera movements and storytelling remain unmatched today. Compared to his other works, this doesn’t really stand as tall. But it’s still one of the best movies to have been released this year. At a staggering and intimidating 3 hours in length, The Wolf of Wall Street is as great a comedy as it is a crime thriller, drama, and exercise in excess. While I can’t vouch for the likability of the main character, I can at least say that the film is so well acted and directed that it still deserves a viewing or two.

3. Nebraska

Again, maybe I just like movies I can relate to. I’ve never visited Nebraska or Montana or anything like that, but this movie perfectly encapsulated awkward family affairs. Bruce Dern gives us one of the most accurate depictions of an elderly senile man that’s confused and convinced by something that’s trying to trick him. Alongside him are Will Forte, his annoyed yet charmed son, and his wife played by June Squibb, who steals every scene she’s in with quick-witted dialogue and biting sarcasm. Nebraska is a film with the best-written characters that have been onscreen this year.

2. The Spectacular Now

What a fantastic movie. When it comes to teenage romance films, you need to approach it with caution. But I didn’t need to. The strongest point about this film by far is its subtlety.  I was worried that this was going to pull out all of the cliches and essentially bore me to death. What I watched, however, was a very realistic and articulated depiction of teenage love.  It draws emotion in a manner that isn’t too heavy-handed, but not so light that it becomes forgettable. As a bonus, there are a ton of long takes. Which is awesome.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis

Those Coen Brothers, man. If you have a script that has sarcasm, wit, and great characters, give it to these guys. These are some of the greatest people working in movies today. Think about it. Fargo. No Country. True Grit. The Big Lebowski. These guys are incredible.  Inside Llewyn Davis is not only the best movie of the year so far in my opinion, but also their best film to date. This is an excellent movie on a variety of factors. Its characters are fleshed out, likable, understandable, relatable, and entertaining. It’s also a film that does not shy away from the realities of things and instead is completely honest in the way it tells its story. There are a variety of messages and lessons here, and all of them hit home in the perfect way. For these reasons, Inside Llewyn Davis is my favorite film for 2013.

After watching 77 movies this year, these are the ones I feel deserve your attention and eyes. But that needn’t mean there aren’t other great ones in the year. You can see other films that almost made the cut in my ranked list at the top of this post. Thanks for reading, and let’s hope 2014 is even better.

jayaich

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Movie Review

Trailers are important. Because if your movie’s trailer is able to garner my attention and keep me watching for months after its initial release, you’ve sold a ticket. Guaranteed. This is the case of Ben Stiller’s latest directorial effort, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a remake (or rather, re-imagining) of both a James Thurber short story, as well as a 1947 Danny Kaye film. Like I said, the trailers were incredible, and in my mind, are the best trailers of the year. This made me have incredible hype and excitement. So how is the movie?

It’s okay. Needless to say, it isn’t as great as those trailers made it seem.

Walter Mitty is a rather socially awkward daydreamer and magazine employee who processes film negatives. When a company acquisition requires that the last issue be published, Walter finds himself missing the photo to be used for the cover. He sets out on a quest to find this photo.

It’s not a very convoluted plot, which I suppose works toward the film’s advantage. Nothing too incredible can be said regarding the performances or story here because in the spirit of total honesty, I have to say that they aren’t that impressive.

What I did love about this movie so much was how it was shot. This is a beautiful film to look at in every regard. From its wide shots with small subjects to its sweeping landscape shots across incredible mountainous regions, this is a visual treat. Not only this, but its use of transitions and title reveals is also both unique and interesting to watch. As someone who is all for breaking convention on the visual sense, this movie certainly takes that to heart. Thankfully it’s also consistent. A major worry that a lot of people had when the trailers came out was that the daydream sequences would take away from the story. Thankfully there were a lot less than there could have been, and this was beneficial to the story. Sidetracking too often into these fantastical sequences (1 of which is actually pretty awesome) would have been detrimental.

Like I said, there is nothing that incredible or noteworthy about this movie aside from how it looks. It’s vibrant and beautiful, but its content is either overdone or cliched. Stiller is an overly quirky yet charismatic protagonist, Kristen Wiig is the love interest who’s there to inspire him, Adam Scott is a rather over-the-top douchebag boss, and all of that. You know what’s coming. And it does. That gets boring.

This review seems short, and that’s because there wasn’t much to it. If you told me this back in July when I first saw the trailer, it would have surprised me entirely. The trailers are indeed the better part of this movie. It’s watchable, but forgettable to the nth degree.

Beautifully shot, but also forgettable and kind of cliche, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty gets a 7/10.

jayaich

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Upcoming Reviews for the Week of December 22nd to December 28th

The following films will be reviewed for the week of December 22nd to December 28th.

Friday, December 27th 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

“The film is an adaptation of James Thurber’s classic story of a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker (Kristen Wiig) are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.”

My Expectations: Those trailers back in July were fantastic. I hear the movie isn’t. We’ll see.

Saturday, December 28th 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

“Martin Scorsese reteams with Leonardo DiCaprio on this adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir surrounding his indulgent ride as a crooked banker made headlines in the 1990’s. Terrence Winter provides the screenplay. Jonah Hill and Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin co-star.”

My Expectations: Marty!

Stay tuned,

jayaich

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American Hustle – Movie Review

David O. Russell is a name that we’ve gotten very well-acquainted with over the past couple of years. He’s recently brought us The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, which are undeniably great films. This time it appears he has pooled from the casts of those two films and brought us his new 70’s heist film, American Hustle. This should be expected as he works almost exclusively with ensemble casts, and it obviously works to his advantage. It goes without saying that I expected this film be great, enjoyable, and a great time at the theater. I’m happy to report that such expectations were indeed met. American Hustle undeniably matches both the quality and caliber of Mr. Russell’s previous directorial efforts.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a con-man who, alongside his partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). They’re thrown into a world of the powerful and corrupt, focusing mostly on the works of Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a political advocate caught between the con-artists and Feds. All of their work could fall, however, given Irving’s wife’s (Jennifer Lawrence) involvement with the ordeal. If that sounds convoluted or otherwise poorly explained, I get it. Because explaining this film in a clear and easy manner is not a simple task. What I will instead do is tell you that it’s a film involving the complexities of corruption, conning, double-crossing, backstabbing, confusing, and above all, hustling people.

But like I said, even though it isn’t necessarily easily to explain, that doesn’t make this a terrible movie. Quite the opposite. It’s fantastic. From its direction to its performances to its score, this is a movie that demands both your attention and forces you to use that intellect of yours. What I’ll begin praising is the direction of this film. I’m not sure I can tack on a “recognizable” visual style onto Russell’s films yet, but it was very reminiscent of Scorsese. The constantly moving camera, the use of multiple pans and close-ups, cutaways, voice-overs, you name it. While I would usually call that an easy way out or an otherwise imitative way of doing things, it was different enough to call itself its own style. When you match that with the awesome use of the 70s lifestyle, be it the lavish hotel lobbies, the clothing, the cars, or even the music, it makes for a very entertaining visual treat.

What must be addressed next is the performances given. While I usually skim over the general consensus of what a film provides in regard to its actors, I feel like doing so here would be a disservice. Everybody is freaking fantastic here. Christian Bale is our lead man, and he is spot-on. We should all know by now how he commits to a role, especially given that here he gained 40 pounds. When it gets to the point that a very well-known and easily recognizable actor can disappear into a role, you know they’ve succeeded. He’s funny, staunch, commanding, and incredibly entertaining to watch in this film. Amy Adams also pulls off a great performance, essentially giving us three characters: her actual persona, her con persona, and who she is underneath both of those shades. She’s not necessarily the most complex character here, but she’s pretty close. Bradley Cooper is as eccentric and serious as ever, and gives us a both flawed and questionable character. You are never quite sure of his motives, but I guess that’s the point with every character here. Well done, sir. Jennifer Lawrence pretty much steals every scene she’s in. Her sarcasm and oddly-placed naivety to the things going on with the people she knows is pretty fun to watch. Jeremy Renner doesn’t necessarily stand out here but his presence is both convincing and necessary. He didn’t take away from the film or anything. One last major performance here worth noting is a Mr. Louis CK, who is both hilarious and believable as Cooper’s boss. I wouldn’t have expected that from him, but hey, the guy’s funny. That’s his job.

All-in-all, American Hustle is able to keep you gripped to its story. It does, however, sometimes seem to want to get a bit complex in regard to its use of double-crosses and questionable motives. This is a problem for the viewer who doesn’t like to pay attention to details. If you’re that viewer, I’d stay away. For those who are not however, it will keep your interest. This is a very well-earned feat given how little “action” takes place here. For a heist film to pull that off without firing gunshots or showing us grotesque violence is an accomplishment in and of itself, and is most likely rooted in how well established the characters were. This is a great piece of filmmaking across the board.

Very well directed, superbly acted, and an intriguing and fascinating heist film, American Hustle gets an 8.5/10.

jayaich

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – Movie Review

Let’s see if the unbelievably intense marketing for this movie pays off.

It’s hard to review comedies sometimes. Especially the ones that know they’re silly and just want to make you laugh at the ridiculous. You can’t necessarily hold a hugely critical perspective on these films because they themselves are sometimes trying to break convention and free themselves from the norm. This is one of those cases.

Adam McKay is back a mere 9 years later with a sequel to the 2004 comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. For what it’s worth, it made people laugh, and took its title as one of the most quotable movies to have ever been made. Does this movie pale in comparison? Not really.

But that doesn’t make it bad, right?

The 70’s have ended and Ron Burgundy has found himself in a rut once again. However, after being asked to join a first-of-its-kind 24 hour news network, he revives his once fallen news team and embarks on a new journey in news-delivering.

There are two things you need to realize if you’re planning on watching this. You must first realize that the original Anchorman was a movie that knew what it was: a dumb comedy. That’s something that this movie embraces even further. It doesn’t take itself all-too-seriously. It knows it can be ridiculous and get away with it, so it does. Oh, it does indeed. I’ll get to that later. The second thing is that if you’re looking for a clearly defined, completely sensical and undeniably realistic and intellectual story, you will not get that here. Let us continue.

As far as doing what it plans on doing (which is making you laugh), this film succeeds. It doesn’t always hit hard, but when it delivers, it delivers. That’s easily what most people are looking for in watching this film, and if that’s the case (which it should be), you’ll be satisfied in ways you probably cannot even fathom. The original cast including Ferrell, Carrell, Koechner, and Rudd, all of whom take up the majority of the film, revive their beloved (?) characters as if they’ve been around this entire time. They haven’t changed that much, so if you liked them last time, you’ll like them this time. No doubt. The newcomers are also welcome additions to the “story” playing out,  the most notable being Kristen Wiig, who gives a both hilarious and oftentimes uncomfortable performance as Brick Tamlin’s love interest. The cameos in this film are also pretty great, if not completely and totally random.

While the film knows it’s stupid, like I said earlier, I will give it a small bit of critique in that it’s relevant to the comedy. There are basically two different movies in this. The first 2/3 of the film is very similar to its predecessor, but the last third “escalates quickly” (wink, wink) into a rather surreal and madcap piece of cinema. It’s not a bad thing, per se, but it’s inconsistent. The movie doesn’t care though. It still makes you laugh.

There is a very subtle and effective underlying social commentary in this movie regarding news that rings true today. No longer is the important always paid attention to. We like to be told what we want, not what we need. As far as any “deep” meaning, though, there isn’t one.

I’ll put it this way. If you liked the last one, go see it. If not, you’ll be fine staying at home.

Comical and entertaining, albeit inconsistently silly, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues gets a 7/10.

jayaich

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Upcoming Reviews for the Week of December 15th to December 21st

After a long hiatus, let’s get back to business.

Wednesday, December 18th 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

“With the 70’s behind him, San Diego’s top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), returns to the news desk in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” Also back for more are Ron’s co-anchor and wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), man on the street Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) – All of whom won’t make it easy to stay classy…while taking the nation’s first 24-hour news channel by storm.”

My Expectations: I like the first one to a certain degree, and I hope this one can muster the same hype and enjoyability that the first one successfully had.

Trailer:

Friday, December 20th 2013

American Hustle (2013)

“A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, thepassionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.”

My Expectations: It’s the new David O’Russell movie. Need I say more?

Trailer:

Stay tuned,

jayaich

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Hill on Film – Hiatus (December 8th to December 13th)

I’ve been away for about a month now whilst trying to get end-of-semester things handled. This site is on an indefinite hiatus for the time being.

jayaich

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