Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Paul’s Best Of 2013

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2013 has come and gone, but will never be forgotten. This year was host to many wonderful movies that have stuck with me long after I saw them. Some of these movies were technologically impressive, while others wowed me with their characters and story and some were just plain awesome all around. While there were some disappointing or downright bad ones, every year is going to have their share of crap.

 

Overall, I felt this was a good year for film and one of the best in recent memory. Certainly the best of the 2010s so far. This year meant a lot to me because it was the year I finally began to review every movie I saw and I was able to share my thoughts and feelings with everyone who reads them. For that, I am eternally grateful to both my readers and filmmakers who bring us these works of art.

 

Now is the time for reflection and choosing which of the many films I saw this year stood out above all the others. Whether they stood out for being good, bad, funny, heartwarming or somewhere in between, these are the films that left a lasting impression on me.

 

This is the best (and worst) of 2013!

 

Most Technologically Impressive: “Gravity”

 

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This was a beautiful film for many reasons. The main one being how the film made you feel like you were in space alongside Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. The camera moves as if it is floating alongside them and, in typical Alfonso Cuaron fashion, it rarely cuts from a dramatic shot. I want to say that “Gravity” does this so effortlessly, but I know that it took hundreds of hours just to make a few frames look stunning. For that reason, “Gravity” is one of the most impressive movies in years.

 

Funniest Movie Of 2013: “The Wolf Of Wall Street”

 

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If there was one thing wrong with 2013, it was the shortage of good comedies. “This Is The End,” “Anchorman 2” were both unfunny and brainless and even “The World’s End” to a lesser extent wasn’t all that noteworthy compared to Edgar Wright’s other work. Hell, for a while the film that made me laugh consistently was “Iron Man 3.” You know its bad when superhero movies are funnier than most comedies.

 

Thank god for Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio for bringing the funny back in “The Wolf Of Wall Street.” The difference between what Scorsese did and what other filmmakers missed out on was having a certain charm to the characters. To either make us love the characters or hate them so much that we want to see everything go bad for them. “The Wolf Of Wall Street” creates the biggest assholes imaginable who feel they’re in their own little world and everyone else is lame and pathetic. That alone makes me want to laugh but the film takes it even further than that and shows every disgusting detail of their nasty lives. Throw in some great performances from Leo and Jonah Hill and you’ve got a recipe for one outstanding comedy.

 

Sleep Inducer: “Man Of Steel”

 

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013)

 

It seems like most people are split right down the middle on this movie. Some hate it, some love it. I still find it to be boring and bland. Acting that leaves a lot to be desired, a barebones story and writing that acts more like it wants Superman to be a dark, misunderstood hero when we already have Batman to do that for us. Very little to keep the audience interested, other than action sequences filmed in confuse-o-vision.

 

Most fun at the theater: “Pacific Rim”

 

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On the opposite end of “Man Of Steel,” we have a film that is consistently fun with some of the best action sequences between two giant creatures. Not only was the world of “Pacific Rim” familiar and refreshing, but how the film used its antagonists (the kaiju) made them more than just brainless bodies to beat up. The weight of each punch could be felt just through camera movements. For a film about giant robots beating up giant monsters, that is an impressive feat.

 

Film that needs to be watched again: “American Hustle”

 

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This film really does need at least two viewings to understand everything that happens. Preferably at least once with subtitles. Whether because of plot points traveling at super sonic speeds or Christian Bale’s mumbling, much of the film could go over peoples’ heads. But, there is still enough charm present to keep the audience interested, particularly in the performances of Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams. Even if you’re not interested in the plot, they’re always fun to watch. “American Hustle” deserves a second viewing just for Lawrence seducing Bale again.

 

So close, but not quite there: “Star Trek: Into Darkness”

 

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I haven’t had a chance to discuss this one yet, but “Star Trek: Into Darkness” was so very close to being a masterpiece that its kind of sad. It’s like watching a baseball game, and your team completely dominates for the first eight innings…only for them to completely screw it up in the ninth inning and lose the game. There was a moment where I felt that this one might top the best Star Trek film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan,” because the writing was excellent. Keeping up the mystery of who the villain is, making Kirk question his role as captain, an intriguing political scandal that is competent and well thought out and addressing the age-old question of whether Starfleet should be a military organization or a group of explorers. Then the last fifteen minutes of the film happen and the writing gets extremely lazy, ripping off lines from other Star Trek films, forced moments of conflict and deus-ex machina as an alien furball. It was inches away from being so good, which is why I’m so upset about it.

 

Most Forgettable: “Don Jon”

 

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Wait, I watched this movie? I completely forgot about it. This is due in large part to the predictable and by the books story. It is the plot of every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen and only rarely tries to say anything new. If it had been more about the parallels between watching porn and watching movies, then this could have a more noteworthy movie, yet the film barely touches on this and leaves much of the discussion untouched.  Other than that, I feel like I could predict every line of dialogue before it even happens.

 

Most Overrated Film Of 2013: “Inside Llewyn Davis”

 

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The Coen Brothers are often at their best when there is an air of optimism and hope for the future in their films. “Fargo” and “No Country For Old Men” stick out because of their main characters and their struggle throughout the film not affecting how they see the world and their joy within it. This is not the case with “Inside Llewyn Davis.” It is sad and pessimistic from the beginning and never lets go. The characters are assholes, the plot goes no where and does practically nothing and it doesn’t seem to understand the essence of folk singing. It just lacks the Coen Brothers charm that I’ve come to know and love, which is very disappointing.

 

Most Underrated Film Of 2013: “Prisoners”

 

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Most people seem to have forgotten about this film, which is upsetting. For quite a while, this was my favorite film of the year. It gives us a mystery that stands up to repeated viewings, has characters whose moral center is blurred and has a good pace that never feels too slow or too fast. If “Prisoners” isn’t intriguing for its mystery, then the characters who have to make tough choice will be there to keep you going.

 

Hardest Film To Watch: “This Is The End”

 

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While I didn’t feel like walking out of “This Is The End,” there were times where I turned around and wondered why the audience was laughing at most of the jokes. Ones that revolved around James Franco and Danny McBride arguing over a Playboy and a demon that has nothing to hide. The humor was forced, disrespectful, unbelievably crude and worst of all not funny. Just an all around bad time.

 

Biggest Disappointment: “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty”

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This is what I get for putting my hopes up, that this would turn out to be a simple yet effective movie. What could have been something insightful and touching turned into a film with way too many plot points and characters in it. The film lost track of what it wanted to be and instead told a story that we’ve all seen before and will see many more times. And that’s sad.

 

Best Performance Of 2013: TIE Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks” and Sam Rockwell as Owen in “The Way, Way Back”

 

SAVING MR. BANKS - TRAILER NO. 1 -- Pictured: Tom Hanks (Screengrab)

 

I wanted to widdle this down to just one performance, but I couldn’t bring myself to decide which performance I loved more. They’re both amazing jobs by Hanks and Rockwell and for very much the same reason: The two disappear when performing. When I see both of these actors in their respective movies, I don’t see Tom Hanks or Sam Rockwell, I see Walt Disney and Owen.

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Hanks captures the charm, wit and childlike wonder of Disney that all you need to do is look his smile and you believe that you’re watching the creator of Mickey Mouse. Owen, on the other hand, takes every opportunity to have fun with everything in life. He doesn’t let many things get him down, because he feels life is too short for that. Rockwell has enough unmatched charisma to pull something like that off. Both roles are different, yet have quite a bit in common. For that, they’re both the best.

 

Biggest “WTF” Moment Of 2013: The torture scenes in “Kick Ass 2”

 

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Sometimes there are points in movies where you just want to yell at the screen and question what the filmmakers were thinking when they put that in. The scene that made me want to do that more than any other comes from “Kick Ass 2,” where we see one of the main characters be brutally and vividly tortured and killed. The worst part of it was that the scene entirely unnecessary. The audience could have easily gotten the idea of what was happening by the other characters reacting to the news rather than showing every little detail. In the first “Kick Ass,” violence was used to show how brutal and disgusting this world was. In the sequel, violence is overdone and over stays its welcome.

 

Best Rediscovery of 2013: “The Lady Eve” (1941)

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Occasionally there seems to be a film or two which I re-watch for the first time in years, catch something that I missed the first time and end up falling in love with the movie. In 2013, that movie was “The Lady Eve,” starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda and directed by the wonderfully funny Preston Sturges. A romance that develops naturally, characters who change due to this charm but not so much so that they’re a whole new person. The comedy is always funny, whether verbal or slapstick and comes off without feeling forced. There is a logical train of thought and progression, yet at the same time logic is beyond this film because of how outrageous things can get. It just works on so many levels that it is now one of my favorite films.

 

Most Anticipated Movie Of 2014: “Godzilla”

 

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While I was initially hesitant to say anything good about the new Godzilla film, due to the director who has only ever worked on one independent film, the newest trailer has convinced me otherwise. Portraying Godzilla with more power and size than he has most other incarnations is a good way to go. Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Tyler-Johnson, Ken Watanabe and Elizabeth Olson has me convinced that I’ll at least be excited to see the film. Will it turn to be an excellent rebirth to the classic king of the monsters? Or will it turn out just like the terrible 1998 film? We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Worst Film Of 2013: “Elysium”

 

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This one was a toss-up between “Elysium” and “Anchorman 2” but I ultimately felt that the former was far more painful to watch. “Anchorman 2” was just bad, from start to finish. “Elysium” on the other hand was not just bad, but insulting. It failed because it felt that anyone who has enough money is a selfish douche-bag who doesn’t deserve what life has to offer. On top of that, the film is ugly. Much brown and unpleasant caricatures that they call “characters” and far too much shakey-cam to know what’s going on in any fight sequence. Not even Matt Damon’s performance could redeem the movie. None of this film seems to work.

 

And the Best Film Of 2013 is…

 

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“her”

 

This is the film which had the most real characters I’ve seen in a long time, with a relationship that blossoms so naturally that it is beautiful in its simplicity. The world in which “her” is set is stunning to observe with all the little touches, like their uses of video games and social media. Most importantly, even with all the heartbreak that occurs, the film ends a more somber and pleasing note: That no matter how advanced and sophisticated our technology may become, life is still ours for the taking. It is how we use the time we have on this earth that matters, and we all deserve to have joy in lifetime, even those with artificial intelligence.

 

This brings us to the end of what 2013 has to offer. While there were some low points, I still felt that the good outweighed the bad and gave us a year that I’ll look back at fondly. I hope that my reviews and thoughts also gave you a good perspective of 2013 and I am excited to do it again in 2014.

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