Sunday, December 29, 2013

My 2013: The Honorable Mentions

It’s hard to make a Top 10 list.  There are a ton of movies that come out every year.  And there are a lot of ones I enjoy.  To limit it to just 10 is crazy, crushing and heartbreaking as I snip away films from a bigger list of one’s I loved from the year.  It’s not until a few years separated to we see a much clearer picture of what we really did like and enjoy.  What we ended up going back to more often. What maybe didn’t hold up.  So, with that in mind I think it’s fair to take a gander at these 12 films that just barely didn’t make the cut for my Top 10 list.  Each of these has a chance to move on up the rankings as the years go by.  Consider this 11-22 if you will.  I’m doing alphabetical here because I don’t have to rank these so I’m not going to.  And this can also serve as clues and hints to what my Top 10 will include.

12 Years A Slave

Yes, this is a great movie and everyone needs to see it.  The film is a powerful look back a man entrapped and put back into slavery after enjoying freedom.  12 Years is brutal, informative and hits you emotionally.  The thing with Steve McQueen films is, I get what I need from them once and I really have no desire to go back to it.  From a technical standpoint, I felt the film was kind of traditionally done.  Like the previous efforts Shame and Hunger, you get punched in the gut say “wow”, learn something and then you move on.  This is a great film and people need to see it, but for me and my personal Top 10 its coming up just short.

American Hustle

Another one that’s going to feature in a ton of Top 10 lists.  This was a good fun caper movie that I think was elevated to greatness purely based on its cast.  The story at hand seems like the type of con story we’ve seen done many times before, its to the detriment of its style and our performers bringing their A-game dressed in fun 70s garb that has us enjoying it on another level.  Amy Adams wins my vote for sexiest female role of 2013 and she might be the one thing I think of most when I look back to this movie.  I also thought Bradley Cooper sported another career best here.  Let’s be honest though, with the title of the film and knowing its about super con artists, you are already told something is amiss and kind of are expecting the film to unfold like it does in the finale, right?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

This series just keeps rocking.  I went into this one blind having not read the book and may have liked this film better than the first.  They continue to bring it.  I worry about the last film being split into 2 and maybe being stretched thin, but these first two films have left me with little reason to worry that they don’t know what they’re doing.  France Lawrence was a great choice as a replacement director.  Jennifer Lawrence continues to give great life to one of the greatest ongoing characters we have in cinema currently.  I’m excited to revisit this one when it comes to Blu-ray.

Iron Man 3

Here’s a film I went to, had an absolute blast and loved it.  Then, to my surprise found that aside from Scott Mendelson, my film critic peers weren’t that big on it.  I thought Shane Black’s script was brilliant and a perfect match for Tony Stark.  I really enjoyed the film focusing on him as a newly enlightened person having a hard time dealing with the fallout from the events of The Avengers.  While throwing a kid in the mix is usually an eye roller, Robert Downey Jr made it a strength of the film and gave it some real chemistry and humor where it otherwise wouldn’t have worked.  The film also sported an incredibly great plot twist that was the result of some brilliant marketing and pulled the rug out from under everyone.  I loved that this movie played with preconceived expectations based on source material and took liberties with changing some things up to play and surprise audiences and comic fans alike.  Although this turned into absolutely childish and stupid backlash because fanboys don’t like to be surprised and want everything to go according to a predetermined path and if it strays they hate it.  Also, I feel like following The Avengers, Marvel has really figured out how to make final act battles meaningful and spectacle and know how to finish their movies.  Sorry haters, Iron Man 3 was awesome!

The Lords Of Salem

I’ve seen this movie 3 times this year.  That means something.  Rob Zombie’s take on a Rosemary’s Baby tale by way of Dario Argento has somehow captivated me.  I fell in love immediately with the aesthetic of the film and think Rob proved he can do more than just some 70s grindhouse revivals.  The film was a very patient one and had the surprise of not being insanely vulgar.  It’s full of some really great makeup work and practical effects.  Plus, my teenage self was finally happy he got to see Sheri Moon Zombie with no clothes on.  This film is highly stylized and features some very iconic shots that will stick with you after seeing it.  While it’s not vulgar it still is a pretty harsh and movie with some cruel scenarios.  That disturbing feeling you’re getting from scenes?  That’s the movie working and doing its job.  There’s a much longer cut of this film out there, I know it, and you can tell just by watching it.  Hopefully this movie achieves some really great cult status over the years and we can be blessed with an extended cut of the film.  Of all the films released in 2013, this is the one I would want a longer cut of the most.

Pain & Gain

Blame December, as this movie sat in my Top 10 for most of the year.  Michael Bay was free of Transformers and reminded us all of why he can be a pretty damn good auteur in his own right.  This dark comedy was funny, thrilling and disturbing all at the same time.  It felt like Michael Bay doing his version of a Coen Bros caper movie.  Mark Wahlberg felt like he was playing a role meant for him and Dwayne Johnson absolutely knocked one out of the park.  I’d personally nominate him for a Best Supporting Actor award for this movie, but I don’t think its going to get very much awards attention.  Its kind of sad we got Michael Bay back for a brief moment, to embrace him again, only to have him run off and do another Transformers movie that makes us think of him in some sort of stereotypical “I hate Michael Bay” fashion.

Pacific Rim

This is what we all wanted the Transformers movies to be.  The film isn’t very deep, but it’s fully realized in its creatures and tech.  The battles were incredibly well thought out and shot and demanded you see it on the big screen. This really was the poster child for what a fun summer popcorn blockbuster should be.  Unfortunately, American audiences didn’t see this. But, thank you China, there’s the possibility of a sequel thanks to you guys.  The surprising think about this one is that it actually plays really well at home on Blu-ray as well.  Its insanely detailed too.  My friend Puff also says the 3D version is pretty stellar as well (He’s a very reliable source and I take his word for it easily). 

The Place Beyond The Pines

Another movie that was one of the year’s best in the first 6 months (don’t worry, my Top 10 will not be all movies that came out 4th qtr 2013, I take the whole year into account).  This was a really cool story that was in three parts, switching hands at many different spots.  I think this is the last time we’re going to let Ryan Gosling off the hook for playing the same damn guy in everything.  He’s great at that, but I want this year to be his retirement from that and to see him do something else.  This is a film that just really works and keeps you riveted and engaged even if it seems to start over and build up again 3 times.  I really loved seeing the different families from different perspectives.


This was a surprise.  I did not expect to be full invested and totally consumed by this one.  It kind of came and went in theaters and I didn’t see it til last week.  Holy crap was this one hell of a journey.  Maybe its because I’m a parent now that I felt more into this one, but I don’t think you got to be to be engulfed in it.  Jake Gylenhaal and Hugh Jackman are absolutely fantastic in this kidnapping mystery/thriller.  We are starting to get more movies like this now (a throwback to a lot of A pictures in the 90s).  My sister said it best that it’s a movie that “stays grounded, but occasionally its like ‘fuck it, it’s a movie, we can heighten reality a bit’”.  This film is insanely 2.5 hours, but moves through very fast never letting your attention drop.  It’s a terrific thriller and one you may have missed, so go ahead an fix that while you’re at it.


Rush is a movie I really had no interest in seeing after trailers and stuff.  I haven’t really cared for a Ron Howard movie in a really long time.  But, man, did he punch me in the face and say “shut up, stupid” with this movie.  I’m not a fan of racing, but I was for this movie.  This is an incredibly entertaining story of two rival racers taking completely opposite paths to success.  If Amy Adams wins sexiest female role of the year, then Chris Hemsworth takes the sexiest male role of the year with this one.  The dude is just…well…handsome.  Haha, he is also in 70s attire in this movie.  Girls, I dunno how you could look elsewhere with this guy gracing multiplexes.  This movie also features a scene that should be an easy nominee for “scene that most made me want to gag” in 2013. I’m referring to when Lauda got his lungs vacuumed.  Ick!  All in all, the film feature some fantastic drama, exciting races and showed us how damn scary and dangerous Formula 1 is.  Great movie!  Check it out!

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh’s little mystery thriller was an amusing little tale that reminded of a little Hitchcock thriller. I was surprised there wasn’t more buzz for this upon arrival.  Especially with how weak 2013 started out in terms of “best of the year” films.  Rooney Mara continues to dig herself out of the hole she started with me (the dreadful A Nightmare On Elm Street remake which she totally mailed in).  There were some nice twists, turns and surprises here as well as some really fantastic camera work that had me full in tune the entire time.  I knew better films would come out later in the year, but it was nice to see Soderbergh score a really good movie before his eventually retirement he keeps telling us about.

The Wolverine

Yep, no comic superhero films are going to make my Top 10.  Although this is one from 2013 that I’m sure I’ll be watching more often than a lot of the others.  Especially that incredible extended edition.  I really enjoyed the character work on this one, and the lack of having mutants with “mutant agendas” everywhere.  Plus, how refreshing is it that this movie doesn’t go super huge and also have a villain scheme that revolves around the end of the world?  I’m a big fan of side stories and really hope Jackman takes it on himself to do a follow up to this film (and bring Yukio back!).  Everyone dogged this movie once Aronofsky left, a couple terrible posters and some trailers started coming out.  I kept the faith though, as I knew those involved in the project weren’t going to let it fail.  It was nice that the film surprised everyone and we very well liked among the rankings of the summer movies.

That’s it for here, though it’s not over for Naptown Nerd’s countdown to 2014.  Tomorrow you’ll get a link to my Top 10, but come back December 31 as I list the Top 10 films I’m looking forward to in 2014!

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