Wednesday, December 18, 2013

best of 2013: movies

And now it's time for my final "best of 2013" list: movies! I've added a few bonus bits after the top 10 as well. A few notes before I begin:
  • Not all of these were first released in 2013, but that's when I first saw them.
  • Aside from the first two, these aren't necessarily in order.
  • G-Vo, skip review #8.
  • And, as always, your mileage may vary.

1. Life of Pi: After a shipwreck, Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, and they must struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. An absolutely gorgeous and heartwrenching movie that definitely needed to be seen in the theater for the full impact; the 3D was astounding.

2. Seven Psychopaths: A screenwriter gets tangled up in his friends' bizarre dognapping scheme, but things turn nasty when they steal a gangster's shih tzu. The blackly funny script and excellent performances (especially from Sam Rockwell) made this an awesome surprise; I absolutely loved it. I came very close to naming this my favorite movie of the year, but gave the edge to Life of Pi because of its visuals.

3. Looper: In this sci-fi mindfuck, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, looking less dreamy than usual due to facial prosthetics) is a hitman who kills people sent from the future. But when a surprising person shows up for assassination, he has to figure out a plan. An extremely clever treat.

4. Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph is a video game villain who wants to be a good guy, so he ventures out of his own game into other ones in hopes of fulfilling that quest. But in the process, he unintentionally endangers the entire arcade. A funny valentine to retro gaming.

5. Argo: When Iranian militants storm the American embassy and take hostages, six people manage to escape and take refuge at the Canadian ambassador's home. Back in the US, a CIA agent (Ben Affleck, who also directed) concocts an outrageous plan: get them out of the country by pretending they're Canadians working on a film shoot. Astoundingly enough, this is based on a true story that was declassified by President Clinton in 1997. It won the 2013 Best Picture Oscar.

6. John Dies at the End: This movie is damn near impossible to describe. Basically, there's a new street drug called Soy Sauce that has some very strange side effects, but there's a whole lot more to it than that. I've seen some really weird movies in my time, and trust me, this is one of the weirdest. Destined to become a cult classic.

7. This Is the End: As a party rages at James Franco's house, the apocalypse hits, trapping lots of celebrities (all playing themselves) inside. The ending was a little off, but overall this was the funniest goddamn movie I've seen in a long time. Bonus points for Emma Watson swearing and a hysterical cameo I refuse to spoil.

8. Gravity: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is working on a space station when debris destroys it, sending her and fellow astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) adrift in space. With their oxygen rapidly declining, they have to try to get to another space station before it's too late. The story takes an unwelcome detour into Hokeytown at one point, but for the most part this is a great movie. It's almost unbearably tense at times, and the visuals are absolutely stunning. If you want to see this, I highly recommend catching it in the theater as I imagine it would lose a lot of impact on a smaller screen.

9. Kick-Ass 2: Dave Lizewski, the teenager who dresses up and fights crime under the name of Kick-Ass, is shocked when Mindy Macready, aka Hit Girl, hangs up her cape and starts living life as a normal high school girl. Dave finds a new group of heroes to hang out with, but when a supervillain called The Motherfucker starts wreaking havoc, it might be too much for them to handle. The first Kick-Ass movie is in my top ten of all time, but I tried to keep my expectations low because I knew there was no way this would be as good. And I was right, but it's still funny and action-packed, and Hit Girl is still freakin' awesome.

10. World War Z: After the zombie apocalypse hits, former UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) goes on a mission to determine the cause. Based on the excellent book by Max Brooks, it's seriously intense (I was white knuckling the arm of the couch during one particular scene) and highly entertaining.

MADE ME CRY (OR AT LEAST MIST UP): Looper, Life of Pi, Celeste & Jesse Forever, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Awakening, Wreck-It Ralph, End of Watch, Bully, Les Miserables, The Impossible, Pacific Rim, Gravity, Blackfish

MOST HORRIFYING SCENES: Pretty much all of Compliance; the creepy dude scoping out Mexican prostitutes in Whore's Glory; the home movies in Sinister; the nightmare fuel performance artist in Samsara; Pyramid Head's jailhouse chopping spree in Silent Hill: Revelation; the school bus bullying in Bully; when we first see the back of Naomi Watts' leg in The Impossible; the "L Is for Libido" and "X Is for XXL" segments in The ABCs of Death; the secret bedroom in The Call; the fabricant processing facility in Cloud Atlas; the extreme body modifications in American Mary; the tongue splitting in Evil Dead; the "talking head" in Trance; the achilles tendon severing in Maniac; the "clapping game" in The Conjuring; pretty much all of Blackfish

OVERRATED: Frankenweenie, The Master, Stoker, Spring Breakers  

UNDERRATED: Dredd, Cloud Atlas, The Call  

SEEN IN THE THEATER: Life of Pi, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim, Kick-Ass 2, Gravity