Tuesday 31 December 2013

Greatest Films of 2013

Twenty Twenty Thirteen

Okay, so here’s my top twenty movies list for the year. You won’t find too many blockbusters or huge budget projects in here... although you might notice a couple in my most disappointing five films of the year. As I did with my 2011 list, I’ve included a couple of films which haven’t been officially released yet in this country, but which have been somewhere... whether that’s because they’ve played on the festival circuit or because they’ve had a digital release in other countries and still not played over here. Entry number 13, for instance, is technically a 2012 film but a lot of countries, including our own and the US, have not had a release for this title yet, either at the cinema or on DVD... I can’t imagine another year will go by without it getting some kind of release over here though... hopefully theatrically.

As usual, my list is followed by my six most disappointing movies of 2013. This doesn’t mean I didn’t like the films or that they were in any way bad, although that does apply in a couple of entries. Just that they were... well... disappointing.

Anyway, for those of you who are interested, here are my favourite picks from 2013 in ascending order...

20. The Last Stand
This Arnold Schwarzenneger "come back" movie is very much an underrated gem, except by those who actually got to see it. I know a few people who did and who loved it as much as I did. It makes no pretensions... it’s a big, old 1950s style B-movie western masquerading as a modern action movie but, hey, I like those old movies! For my full review, click here.

19. Jack Reacher
Fortunately I haven’t read any of the Jack Reacher novels or I would be complaining like hell about this movie by now. I felt this was a really great little thriller and it retained the suspense and story of that genre, rather than just head down a pure action route. My full review can be found here.

18. World War Z
I was expecting to hate this film, especially due to it’s long and troubled production history and the fact that, although I’ve not read it, it would be a hard book to do properly and still appeal to the kind of audience needed for a commercial release. I also loved the fact that in the World Health Organisation scenes set in Wales near the end, Peter Capaldi turns up as one of the doctors and is therefore credited on the cast list as “Who Doctor”. Hmmm... that rings a bell somehow. Anyway, my review of this one can be found here.

17. Jeune & Jolie
This story of a teenage prostitute is refreshing in the lack of “camera eye judgement” with which it regards the central protagonist. Not as great as Ozon has got in the past but certainly a solid watch. Check out my full review here.

16. The East 
Not as documentary style as the trailers would have you believe, this movie is still quite gripping with characters who aren’t easy to decode, whatever their interests, in terms of their morality. Unfortunately it kinda clubs you over the head with the old “long spoons” religious parable but, still, a great little eco thriller. My review here.

15. Side Effects
This movie kinda takes you by surprise. What you think is going to be an exploration of the psychiatric institution turns out to be a variation on a classic film noir movie. I’m not going to tell you which one though, or it will give it away. My full review here.

14. Machete Kills!
This movie is not quite what I was expecting for the next part of the Machete series, but I did love the way that the director used the wake of Star Wars and the way the late 1970s bandwagon movies started off as one thing but then got pulled in a certain direction halfway through production, as a point of cinematic history worth plundering and parodying. This film did quite poorly but I’m hoping the DVD sales will be enough to ensure the future of the next movie in the series, Machete Kills Again In Space! My review of this here.

13. Dario Argento's Dracula 3D
This is not the best movie in the world, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from Dario Argento... bad script, bad acting, stupid clunky bit inserted where it makes no sense, beautiful music and gorgeous cinematography. In all these things it ticks the boxes for regular Argento fans who haven’t abandoned him (like me). Plus it has a giant grass hopper thing. Unbelievable. Since I wrote the review I have managed to watch the 3D version (which is also included on the 2D blu ray, for some reason) and the 3D on this one is quite spectacular. My review of this one is here.

12. Mama
What a great and, it has to be said, magical and enchanting little horror movie from Spain. There’s a twist, I personally believe, at the end which is very much dependent on how you decode the opening titles... which causes its own ambiguities and, you know, arguments. My review of this gothic delight is here.

11. Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters 
Absolutely brilliant action thriller which takes the old fairy tale as a starting point for the pre-credits, sequelises it during the opening, and then doesn’t stop delivering a kind of raw and dark version of a Tim Burton style of movie... but with added action and gore. Plus Jeremy Renner is cool in it and... it has Gemma Arterton. She’s a plus to any movie I reckon. My review can be found here.

10. Frances Ha
Beautiful black and white movie which recalls the kinds of Woody Allen movies I used to love as a teenager. The character is essentially on a downward spiral but she never seems to notice this and most of the movie is quite upbeat. My review here.

9. Stoker
I don’t remember a heck of a lot about this movie, other than it was absolutely gorgeous to look at and that I need to see it again. I should probably refresh my own memory of it by reading my full review of it here.

8. Jodorowsky’s Dune
Marvellous documentary movie which will probably get a release over here properly next year. It tells the story of Jodorowsky’s unmade project and is full of tales of the brilliant people collaborating in this venture, who were still not enough to get this film actually made. My full review is here.

7. The Conjuring
Scariest horror movie I’ve seen in years. It helps that all the human characters are all so likeable and people you wouldn’t mind hanging out with. Add to that mix a director who genuinely seems to understand the most effective syntax of a horror movie and you’re left with a truly scary movie which I reviewed here.

6. Blue Is The Warmest Colour 
This tale of lesbian love is based on a comic strip and, in some ways, goes to reenforce what I’ve been saying for years now. You can get away with talking about a lot more adult issues and sensitive issues in the world of comics than you ever can in the movies. This straddles the line and presents a compelling watch, although I suspect the original comics were tackling much more of the issues than are presented in this movie. My review here.

5. Gravity
This tale of disastrously unlucky Sandra Bullock floating around in space and trying to get back to Earth took me by surprise. It’s the modern equivalent of an old 1970s disaster movie, but it’s done very well. A review of this one can be found here.

4. Before Midnight.
The third part of Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s Before movies. You will be on the edge of your seat until the very end, to see how the two main protagonists end up at the finish. Hope they make another one in ten years or so. My review is here.

3. The World’s End
The third part of the so called “Cornetto trilogy”, following on from Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, is probably my favourite of the three. At least, it’s the most accessible on the first watch and, like the others, is also quite rewarding on repeat viewings, when little details you didn’t notice the first time around become apparent. My review of it is here.

2. The Strange Colour Of Your Body's Tears
From the directors of Amer comes another movie which, in almost any other year, would probably have stolen the top spot and, to be honest, my number 1 and 2 spots had a bit of a tussle in my head. This is colourful, surreal and, despite having the pretence of a narrative structure at the start of the film, will probably leave you just as baffled as when you went in. All these are good things. This should get either a cinema or DVD release in a few months time in the UK. My review of it is here.

1. Byzantium
Jordan is not one of my favourite directors but this elegant, gothic tale of the last two surviving female vampires being hunted down by the paternity which inadvertently spawned them is absolutely exquisite and, by the way, did I mention it has the lovely Gemma Arterton in it. You’re not going to want to miss this one. Blood and melancholic reflection by the seaside. My review is here.

Six Most Disappointing Films of 2013

And now we get to my big disappointments of 2013, again in ascending order of rubbishness...

6. Django Unchained. 
The first half of this movie is amazing. The second half is boring twaddle which doesn’t marry up well with all that preceded it. Go figure. My review here.

5. Passion
Brian De Palma’s new movie is a remake of a recent foreign film... which on its own is disappointing enough. However, it’s also very rich territory for him, in that the story is really suited to the kind of movies he used to make early on in the good part of his career... before rubbish like The Untouchables, Scarface and Bonfire Of The Vanities became part of his CV. It even has his old musical collaborator Pino Donaggio doing the score but, alas, the film is not what is should be. My review of it here.

4. 47 Ronin
I was kinda expecting this adaptation of the classic tale to be really bad as an adaptation. What I didn’t expect was for it to be quite bad on its own terms too. My review here.

3. White House Down
This second of this year’s “Die Hard At The White House” maybe would have seemed okayish, if it hadn’t been preceded by the excellent Olympus Has Fallen earlier in the year, which is far superior to this in pretty much all ways, as far as I’m concerned. My full review here.

 2. Oblivion
Oblivion was a high concept science fiction film which looks and feels absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately, the concept was already done quite recently at the movies and it’s an old 1950s short story concept anyway. Not worth the fuss... but it does look great. A review of this here. 

1. Man of Steel
This isn’t a bad movie. It is, however, a bad Superman movie. This is not what Superman is about, either conceptually or in terms of look. The first time this director has really let me down. He’s lost my trust now. Not looking forward to the sequel. My review here.

So there you go... my highs and lows of 2013. Post your own lists in my comments section so we can all have a read!

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