It’s Oscar time again, and that means its time for my top ten movies of the year.
- 10. The Place Beyond the Pines
- 9. The Way, Way Back
- 8. Inside Llewyn Davis
- 7. Rush
- 6. All is Lost
- 5. Gravity
- 4. The Wind Rises
- 3. The Wolf of Wall Street
- 2. Captain Phillips
- 1. Short Term 12
An epic sprawling story of how bad decisions have consequences that can affect future generations.
My favorite of the slew of the indie comedies that came out this summer. Sam Rockwell steals the show and it’s great to see Jim Rash pop up in a few scenes.
A fun and quirky story of just how much rejection one can take. Great acting all around and another notch in the Cohen Brothers belt.
My surprise film of the year. Manages to create suspense out of cars racing in circles while staying away from all the cliches of the sports genre.
Robert Redford gives a great nuanced performance of a man going through absolute hell to survive when his situation continues to go from bad to worse.
An intimate story of love and loss set in the most beautifully horrific setting one can imagine: space. An absolute visual spectable and unmatched technical achievement. Believe the hype.
A beautiful tale of the sacrifices it takes to achieve your dreams. My favorite Miyazaki film since Spirited Away in 2001.
Scorsese’s ballsiest directing gig also features DiCaprio’s best performance yet. The funniest scene of 2013 involves Leonardo crawling down a flight of stairs in a half paralyzed state. Raunchy and hilarious.
Tom Hanks gives my favorite acting performance this year in the most intense film of 2013. Hanks puts on a pure acting showcase as he delivers a gut wrenchingly exposed performance in the final scene.
A heartbreaking and superbly acted account of the inner workings of a foster care facility. Far better written and acted than all of the over exposed Oscar-bait this year *cough 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Nebraska* , Short Term 12 is my favorite movie of 2013.
Although people who loved the book will find much to love here – it really is a good movie – the potential impact is too soft for the epic it aspires to be.
-Kevin A. Ranson, Movie Crypt
About as good a film as you can squeeze out of a morally complex source work given today’s studio environment.
-Mark Keizer , Alt Film Guide
Decades in the making, Orsen Scott Card’s “unfilmable” novel has finally hit cinemas. The first screen adaptation of Ender’s Game: Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out.
The cinematic version of Ender’s Game is, for good reason, much more streamlined and less meandering than the novel. The backbone and structure of the book are still in tact, essentially with quick cuts between the major scenes and set pieces in place of the smoother transitions the book uses. Understandably, this is about the best the filmmakers could have done considering the massive scale and stakes of the book. There is only so much that can fit in a 115 minute run time and unfortunately a lot of the books charm and whimsy is lost in translation.
As far as portraying the central storyline from the novel as cinematic as possible, the film does a pretty remarkable job. Battles at the Battle School are fully realized and well done. The effects look great across the board, particularly in a recurring all-cgi dream/game sequence that Ender has. The alien race from the book is hidden from view until the very end of the film, which works great. The creature design is unique and incredibly interesting to look at. One relatively minor flaw is the mundaneness of the set design. Battle School and Command School seem like nothing more than endless mazes of intersecting generic hallways and rooms that are shiny and metallic in nature. A little variety to these environments could have gone a long way.
One of the major flaws inherent of adapting a book of this scope to the screen is a loss of detail. This is especially evident in Ender’s Game. All the meat is there but most of the connective tissue is missing. There is virtually zero time for tension, buildup, character development or the exploration of many of the relationships Ender has in the novel. It feels like story beat after story beat, checking each major plot point off until the film is over. What ended up on the screen is very well done, it’s just missing a lot of the little things that made the book great.
Fans of the book will find a lot to like, but it’s not the same experience as reading it for the first time. Those who are unfamiliar with the source material may get confused at times due to the lack of quick nature of the films plotting and lack of explanatory dialogue. The way the ending of the film is written is jarring and somewhat off-putting, being much too tonally different from the scenes immediately prior. Thus, the film finishes on a somewhat sour note.
Ender’s Game is a valiant attempt at adopting the unfilmable novel and is much better than many anticipated. However, a lot of the idiosyncrasies and quirks of the book are left out and do the film no favors. It’s still a solid sci-fi film and worth checking out, who knows when we’ll see another Ender film?
A magnificent thriller, and one of the most dumbfoundingly impressive technological feats in the 20 years since Jurassic Park put the world on notice about CGI.
–Tim Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy
[The] director’s last effort was another great science-fiction movie, “Children of Men,” which was borne of ideas. This one celebrates sensation. And it deserves to be one.
-Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner
to carry sound, No air pressure…No oxygen…
Believe the hype. Gravity, the first film from Alfonso Cuarón since 2006, is one of the best movie going experiences one can have. A total visual spectacle from start to finish, this film will have you holding your breath for entire minutes at a time. Gravity is an intimate story of love and loss set in the most beautifully horrific setting one can imagine: space.
This is a MUST-SEE for anyone with even a passing interest in film, and here’s why:
- A technical marvel and achievement unmatched in film
- Absolutely breathtaking cinematography and effects
- The closest anyone will ever come to actually being in space (outside of attending space camp, maybe?)
- Completely and utterly immersive, you will lose yourself watching this
- The camera hangs on every scene with a very limited amount of cuts, essentially long “tracking shots” in space
- Just as heartfelt and sincere as it is horrifying
- Oscar caliber acting from Bullock and Clooney
- Unquestionably THE best use of 3D we’ve seen in film-making to date
Take it from the master of visual effects technology himself:
“Gravity is the best space movie ever”
See it in 3D, on the biggest screen you can find.
Neill Blomkamp … keeps the action coherent and fills the plot with clever twists that make up for some of the insulting obviousness of the political allegory.
-Craig Seligman, Bloomberg
An exciting and visually stunning film, one which perhaps holds too much to a familiar path, but which is undeniably thrilling.
-John Lyus, HeyUGuys
There’s no coming back from this.
Elysium – Neill Blomkamp’s much anticipated follow-up to his 2009 sleeper hit District 9. The world has been wondering: Will Elysium meet the high expectations of matching the success of Blomkamp’s freshman effort?
The results are mixed, but mostly land on the positive side of things. Elysium is a fairly worthy successor, but thematically isn’t as strong of a film as District 9. Blomkamp is undeniably a talented film maker but it seems the studio may have interfered just a bit too much with his artistic vision on this one. A comparison of District 9’s modest $30 million budget to the $115 million production of Elysium proves that there was much more at stake here, and certain choices the film makes are catered to a mass audience appeal.
Minister Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is the Secretary of Defense on Elysium. Her job: to enforce the strict Earth immigration laws and protect the Elysium border at all costs. She is the commander of the Civil Cooperation Bureau, keeping Earth in line and its citizens in place. Her strict zero tolerance beliefs when it comes to Earth immigration isn’t shared by the bulk of the Elysium government, but she will do what it takes to protect Elysium from illegals.
Jodie Foster is terribly miscast in this role. The character is extremely one-note and we never completely find out her motivations for being as evil as she is. Why does she have this unadultered hatred for the citizens of Earth? We never learn her backstory and there is no character arc to be found. Foster deserves a lot better and had very little to work with here.
“Undocumented ships are approaching elysium airspace…shoot them down!”
Agent M Kruger (Sharlto Copley) is a crucial weapon and first line of defense in Secretary Delacourt’s arsenal to keep Elysium free of illegals. One of Elysium’s most important Earth-based sleeper agents, Kruger has untold human rights violations to his name and is a professional killer. His bloodlust is unmatched.
Kruger is one of the most outrageous and intense villains I have ever seen in a film. Copely holds nothing back and plays this character as a completely psychotic madman thirsty for blood. It’s pretty fantastic to watch his insane performance, especially during the final act of the movie when he is chasing down Damon’s character. It’s a spectacle to behold.
Damon is always outstanding in the action hero role and he does the same great work here. What makes this character even better are the biomedical implants he has surgically added: a neural transmitter and exoskeleton suit.
Like District 9, the story of Elysium has a very strong political allegory under the surface, although it’s much more heavy handed this time around. It’s painfully obvious how badly the film wants to make statements on border control and class discrimination but a little more subtlety would have been nice. District 9 was much more nuanced with its own metaphor for the South African apartheid, to greater effect.
Elysium is an incredibly fun science fiction film that falls a little flat when it comes to articulating it’s themes. The actors are all solid, aside for the terribly written evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil character played by Jodie Foster. Sharlto Copely is a standout as deranged mercenary Kruger, the film is almost worth seeing just for him. Visually, the film looks phenomenal. The environments are all beautifully imagined and the characters are designed flawlessly. Although the heavy-handed take on inequality issues weigh the film down a bit and detract from the cool and interesting visuals, Elysium is still one of the better films of the summer and a blast to watch.
As adventures in mechanised mayhem go, the picture does, of course, crush the Transformers franchise into iron filings.
-Donald Clarke, Irish Times
Is this going to give me enough of a story and enough characters to carry the amount of rocket-punching and monster-bashing that I want to see? The answer is yes.
-Widgett Walls, Needcoffee.com
“Something out there discovered us”
The year is 2013 when the first “Kaiju” attacks. (Literal Japanese translation of Kaiju: strange creature. Think Godzilla, Gamera or Mothra.) First just thought to be an earthquake in the middle of the ocean, a creature later emerged off the western United States coast, attacking and destroying the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, causing much destruction to city. Finally, it was killed by a nuclear bomb but the resulting carnage was devastating. This incident later became known as K-Day, the day the Earth went under attack.
The world prematurely took a collective sigh of relief, but the devastation had just begun. The next cities attacked were Manila and Kabo; the Kaiju started appearing in increasing frequency as traditional means of warfare had lesser and lesser affect. The top scientists on the planet began to brainstorm betters means of protection from the Kaiju. Inspired by robot and monster action figures, a prototype was created that would eventually become the Jaeger, Earth’s best hope for survival.
“There are things you can’t fight – acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way. But when you’re in a Jaeger you can finally fight the hurricane. You can win.”
Essentially a massively scaled suit of armor, Jaegers are a mobile exoskeleton weapon and the Pacific Rim’s first, last and only line of defense against the Kaiju. They were designed as giant humanoid mechs that could stand up to the Kaiju without resorting to nuclear weapons.
“The Yaeger program was born. Two pilots, our minds, our memories connected. Man and machine become one.”
Jaegers are simultaneously controlled by multiple pilots from inside the cockpit, located in the “head”. The pilots are equipped with a special armor plating, allowing them to connect with the machine itself. The minds of the pilots are also connected to each other through a “neural bridge” that allows them to control the movement of the Jaeger as a team.
By 2024, there were forty six confirmed Kaiju attacks on Earth, resulting in astounding Jaeger losses. It was speculated that the Kaiju were beginning to adapt and learn how to defeat the Jaegers easier and quicker, in both land and water. The frequency of Kaiju had begun to increase so quickly that the world began to fear and prepare for multiple breaches at once, known as the Double Event and Triple Event.
This is where the events of the film begin.
Most action films depict little about the setting and surrounding environments outside of the immediate story taking place. In Pacific Rim, the world building around the story is impeccable. The global effect of the chaos is shown as various countries around the planet try and fail to come up with solutions to stop the invasion. Kaiju religions spring up, organ harvesters sell body parts on the black market, the political and social ramifications of the tragic events are on full display here. It’s very refreshing for a film to broaden it’s scope outside of the main story arc.
The characters of Pacific Rim are all fun and incredibly likable, although they hit every cliché in the book. Clichés are cliché for a reason: they’re entertaining and they work. Here we have the American badboy rebel who disobeys orders, the hard-nosed but noble British leader who motivates with an epic speech, a small-statured but deadly Asian woman with a tragic past, etc. All by the book action characters, but incredibly enjoyable and fun to root for.
This film is an absolute blast. It far surpasses the disappointing sequels and superhero films we’ve had this summer. Pushing the meaning of the word “Blockbuster” to a new level, Pacific Rim breaks new ground in the action/science fiction genre and hopefully is just the start of a very exciting new franchise helmed by Guillermo Del Toro.
There’s plenty to like in Snyder’s hectic, rowdy film. But by the time we reach the bludgeoning excesses of the last half-hour it’s hard to shake the sense that this was an opportunity at least partially missed.
-Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
DC still has much to learn from rival Marvel in the filmmaking realm, but Man of Steel at least offers hope. Hope, and a slight headache
-Tyler Hanley, Palo Alto Weekly
Unfortunately, this film is a bit of a mess. Most of the individual scenes are fine by themselves, but there is an extremely jarring pacing between them. The film opens with an overlong sequence on Krypton explaining how baby Superman found his way to Earth. Not only is it a very confusing and abrupt way to begin, the events of what happened don’t entirely get explained until much later on.
The film cuts to various flashback sequences that break up the main storyline in somewhat awkward ways. All these flashbacks are excellent and really help flesh out Superman’s character, but when it comes to the the main plotlines that are driving the movie forward, they are real momentum killers.
General Zod is getting angry.
Speaking of the fight sequences, they are almost insane to the point of being incomprehensible. The complete utter destruction and mayhem these characters cause is fun to watch, but quickly becomes mind numbing after the third or fourth time a ripple effect from a sonic boom destroys a skyscraper.
Nope, no religious imagery here