Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Best Films of 2013


Comments: This one made it to my best of 2013 list because quite frankly it made me laugh hard, I mean, to me biblical prophecies is the stuff of fantasies, so to see a film that so blatantly makes fun of all that “judgment day” bullcrap just pushed my funny buttons to the max! It was also great to see so many comedians together in one film; I mean we get Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson which in my book makes this one a “super-comedy”. To top things off it has a slew of cameos that covers everything from Michael Cera to freaking Rihana. Simply hilarious!

Quote: “Your mama’s pussy was the canvas; your dad’s dick was the paintbrush. Boom! You’re the art.” 



Comments: Rob Zombie has always shown promise to me as a horror director, it’s not that his previous films are bad (far from it) it’s just that they always felt short of greatness. Still, I have to admit, the guy has amassed an impressive list of films under his resume, you could do worse than The Devils Rejects (2005) or Halloween (2007), which to me are solid horror films. We can now add The Lords of Salem, which to me is one of Zombie’s best to date. Like many of his cinematic outings, this Rob Zombie film pays homage to his horror heroes, while still infusing the film with his own rock and roll flavor. The Lords of Salem takes Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Sentinel (1977) and Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) puts them all in a blender and hits puree! On top of that, the visuals and the colors make it look like a Rob Zombie film filtered through the lens of Dario Argento and Ken Russell. Like most of Zombie’s films, The Lords of Salem isn’t perfect, but it is a colorful blend of satanic worship and rock and roll, a homage to horror films of old and quite possibly Rob Zombies best film to date; warts and all.

Quote: “Satan! Come to us! We are ready!”


Carrie (2013)

Comments: I was a bit hesitant to watch this version of Carrie because it’s a remake of one of the greatest horror films ever, so of course, I was worried it would be another shitty remake. Well, I’m happy to inform that it isn’t a shitty remake, in fact, it’s an excellent one! I loved this freaking movie! This version of Carrie is actually a bit stronger than its predecessor in many ways; it made more of an impact on me. Was it better than the original? I don’t know, I guess I’ll reserve my final judgment on that matter sometime down the road, but as of now all I can say is I really dug this version of Carrie. Why? Well, for one they explored the whole religious angle more extensively. The character of Margaret White as played by a terrifying Julian Moore explores the dangers of religious fanatism. Carries mother is is way crazier on this version of the film, she’s not just a religious fanatic, she’s a bonafide nut job! A character whose mind’s been twisted and destroyed by religion. She demonizes sex, so when Carrie begins to date, well, she makes Carries life a living hell. The film also explores the dangers of bullying a person and how it can drive the bullied person to extreme and violent ends. Another great thing the film has is that it benefits from modern special effects to up the ante on the whole telekinetic angle. Carrie’s powers on this one are really awesome! Finally, Chloe Grace Moretz really nailed the part and made me feel sympathy for Carrie, she was perfect for the role. If you hate remakes, let me emphasize that this is one of the good ones!

Quote: “The other kids, the think I’m weird. But I don’t wanna be, I wanna be normal. I have to try and be a whole person, before it’s too late.”      



Comments: Fast and the Furious is a franchise that has slowly but surely grown on me. I wasn’t expecting to end up loving these movies, but then again, they have evolved into a whole other thing. I mean, these movies started out being about street racing and have ended up turning into these huge bombastic action films! By now the characters are practically super heroes! This particular entry goes so over the top with its action sequences that we end up seeing a car jumping out of an exploding air plane! We got car chases with tanks! And if that isn’t enough you get The Rock kicking all sorts of ass! Point is, if you feel like watching a bunch of over the top action delivered with decent visual effects than this is the movie for you. Only downside is when Vin Diesel talks, everything else, freaking sweet!

Quote: “Somebody do something! I got a tank on my ass!”


Bad Grandpa (2013)

Comments: You know how Jackass movies are ultra gross? I’ve seen all of them all and I find them highly amusing, but damn, some of the stuff you see on those movies is just a little too gross for my taste, still, like a John Waters movie I’ve subjected myself to the Jackass films because I like to test my limits. So anyhow, I went into Bad Grandpa expecting something like this, instead I got a movie with an actual story. Now let me explain, this film follows that basic prank style thing where you set up a prank and play the prank out to an unsuspecting victim and film the whole thing, but the brilliant part is that the pranks flow within the context of an actual story about a Grandfather trying to take his grandson to his real dad. It’s a road trip movie between grandfather and grandson. The pranks are truly funny, and the story actually kind of endearing. Don’t worry, you still get you’re gross Jackass humor, but it doesn’t overpower the film. This was the funniest film of the year no doubt.

Quote: “What’s your stripper stage name?”


To the Wonder (2013)

Comments: I’m a huge fan of Terrence Malick films; I remember giving The Tree of Life (2011) a glowing review. Malick’s latest, To the Wonder, is similar to The Tree of Life in many ways. It focuses a lot in the beauty of life and the wonders of the world, I see To the Wonder as an ode to the beauty of nature and the world that we live in. I love how Malick focuses on these beautiful locations, places that exist in the world that you and I have probably never seen because we live in a concrete jungle. Rest assured, on this film you are going to see nature at its most amazing and visually dazzling. But in another interesting twist, Malick also finds beauty in regular things; it’s as if Malick knowing that real life is more amazing than any special effect decides to capture it all with his cameras. But amidst all that visual splendor, Malick also explores relationships. To the Wonder is really all about a couple, we meet them from those first moments when they are obsessed and very much in love with each other, to those moments when the relationship has died down and the love is fading away. On top of all that, through the character of a priest, Malick explores religious themes, like doubting the existence of god. A beautiful film, out of the whole year, it’s one of the most beautifully photographed. This is a film that depends on visuals rather than dialog, and it gets very existential, but if you are feeling like something that reminds you about the beauty of the world and the bitter sweetness of relationships, then this is the movie for you.  

Quote: “Life’s a dream, in a dream you can’t make mistakes, In a dream you can be whatever you want"



Comments: Rush is based on the real life story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two of the best Formula 1 racers in history. Now if you know this story then you know that it was James Hunt who was the people’s favorite; a cocky, self assured racer who would do anything to be number one, oh and the girls loved him too. On the other side of the tale we have Niki Lauda who was less flashy, less pompous, yet equally determined to win the race. And even though we see Chris Hemsworth face plastered all over the movies poster, to me this movie was really all about the Niki Lauda’s story. In fact, it is actor Daniel Bruhl (playing Lauda) who turns in the most compelling of the performances in the film; you go in feeling like you are going to see James Hunts story then you realize this film is really all about Lauda. Bruhls performance was so good that it garnered him an academy award nomination. Veteran director Ron Howard delivers a compelling film, brilliantly shot, that will make you want to battle through whatever you have to in order to get what you want. 

Quote: “A wise man can learn more from his enemies, than a fool from his friends”



Comments: This one was the surprise of the year for me; I guess I’d gotten so used to Stiller appearing in all those Night at the Museum movies, that I forgot he could deliver something with true heart and depth to it. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the story of a dreamer, a blue collar worker who suddenly decides to do something with his life, to take on an adventure. The fun part of the film is how we get to see Walter Mitty’s dreams, we see the worlds and fantasies that he escapes to, but even better is how even when he isn’t dreaming the movie is still interesting. Here Ben Stiller directs one of the best films in his directorial career which includes excellent films like Reality Bites (1994), The Cable Guy (1996) and Tropic Thunder (2008). This is a film that proves to us that Ben Stiller is just as good and funny in front of the cameras as he is behind them.  A highlight of 2013, don’t under estimate it.  

Quote: “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”



Comments: James Wan broke into the cinematic landscape with the trend setting, mother of all torture porn films; Saw (2004), and If you ask me, he’s just getting started. The Conjuring is the ultimate expression of Wan’s horror directing abilities, it’s a near perfect supernatural horror film. Truly spooky, truly horrifying and I don’t even believe in the supernatural! This film was a throwback to the 70’s in many ways; some of the shots, even the typography used for the title sequence screams 70’s. What Wan and crew did brilliantly here is take advantage of the real life story behind Ed and Lorraine Warren; a couple that’s lived out their lives “battling” the supernatural. If you ask me, the Warren’s and their crusade against demons is total bullshit, but Wan and crew take advantage of the mystique around their story, because Wan knows that just like a Quija board, putting these two real life “paranormal investigators” as the main characters of the story will make the audience crap in their pants even before they enter the theater. This movie is a real spook fest, even more so if you are a superstitious person or a believer of the supernatural. For the rest of us…it’s still spooky as hell! Highly recommend it, the best horror film of the year! No doubts about it!     

Quote: “We’ve been called ghost hunters, paranormal researchers, wackos..”


Only God Forgives (2013)

Comments: Depending who you ask, you either loved or hated Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011). I’m one of the ones who loved it; I dug how quiet it was and how violent it suddenly got; I loved the visual style of the film and the cool demeanor of its main character. And I truly dug that soundtrack! So of course I was looking forward to Only God Forgives; was it all I was expecting? Yes, and then some! Visually, as most of Refn’s movies, this one is an eye full. Refn really took his time in making this one a joy to behold; the colors are hypnotizing on this one. The story can sometimes get surreal and kind of out there, but that’s to be expected in a film that’s dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky. Essentially, this is a film that calls it’s villain Satan and the “good guy” is God…and the big deal is that eventually they will both face off, God vs. the Devil. Who will win? Can a man go up against god and kill him? Interesting conundrum eh? And one that lends itself to some trippy visuals no doubt, but honestly, though Refn dedicated this film to the genius of director Alejandro Jodorowsky, I feel this film owes a whole lot more to David Lynch. I guess that can mean either a good thing or a bad thing to some of you out there. Me, I love Lynch and Only God Forgives felt like a Lynch film, only more violent.; a film that no doubt should be watched on more than one occasion.

Quote: “An entertainer? And how many cocks can you entertain with that cute little cum-dumpster of yours?”



Comments:  Cool thing about Iron Man 3 is that Shane Black wrote and directed it. Now for those of you not in the know, Shane Black is the guy who wrote and created the Lethal Weapon movies, which is an awesome thing on its own right. He also wrote two bleak, acidic yet fun as hell action films from the 90’s: The Last Boy Scout (1991) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), both extremely underrated if you ask me. But bottom line with Shane Black is that he knows how to write characters that are beaten by life and have grown bitter, and he brings that bleakness and imperfection to the character of Tony Stark who in this film is trying to deal with the fact that he damn nearly died while rescuing the world in The Avengers (2012). Shane strips Tony Stark of what makes him super and leaves us with a film that truly explores who Tony Stark is, the man behind the suit. All this accompanied with some truly exhilarating action sequences! What’s not to like?! Well, some people didn’t feel the villain of the film, The Mandarin, was accurately portrayed, that’s about the only quarrel that some people had with Iron Man 3; I guess you can’t please everybody!    

Quote: “You can take away my suits, you can take away my home, but there’s one thing you can never take away from me, I am Iron Man!”


The Bling Ring (2013)

Comments: It seems that 2013 was the year of films based on real life stories. The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola’s take on the story about these teenagers from L.A. who took it upon themselves to break into the houses of celebrities whenever they were not home, to steal their expensive crap. The whole story feels like a commentary on celebrity obsessed society, but it’s also a story about these kids who are brought up in a consumerist society and well, how can I put it? “You breed crows and they’ll eat your eyes out” is what they say in my country. These are the little monsters that a materialistic society creates. Little brats who think they gotta have the latest fur coat or the most expensive Dolce Gabbana bullshit. It’s an interesting story, it reminded me of the ‘Uroboros’ a snake eating its own tail; these are empty bratty kids, feeding off empty bratty celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan; you kind of get to hate these silly teens who’s happiness is based on material things. My hats down to Sofia Coppola for putting a magnifying glass on that, society needs to look in the mirror and realize how stupid it is to care so much about the superficial. Also: great soundtrack on this movie; as is to be expected from a Sofia Coppola movie.     

Quote: “We’re in L.A., don’t be such a little bitch!”



Comments:  Harmony Korine is not a director who is known for making commercial films, in fact, he is the complete opposite, he’s as ’artsy-fartsy’ as they come. Ever seen Gummo (1997) or Mr. Lonely (2007)? Both movies are about as detached from a commercial blockbuster as a film could possibly be. Which is why Spring Breakers surprised me; the film is a strange breed that mixes a commercial aesthetic with the artsy fartsiness we’ve come to expect from Korine’s films. What’s commercial about it? Well, it’s got four girls running around in their bathing suits for practically the whole movie! Its color palette is extremely colorful (neon plays a huge part in the visuals) and it starts out with one big out of control spring break party! Same as Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (2013), Korine’s Spring Breakers is all about a hedonistic generation, a generation looking for the easy way to pleasure ville; all these kids care about is pleasure and fun, all the time! They want to live an eternal summer vacation and they want it now! Apart from being visually awesome by mixing documentary style filmmaking with a hallucinogenic color palette, the film has an outstanding performance from James Franco who plays a drug dealer known as ‘Alien’. I’m kind of disappointed to see his performance overlooked by the Academy. Spring Breakers is yet another film this year that focuses on the negative side of greed and the quintessential “American Dream”. This one comes highly recommended by me, I think most people overlooked this one because it looks like one of those stupid party movies with teenagers getting drunk and doing stupid things, and while the film does have a bit of that, it goes way further with its themes; don’t underestimate this one!     

Quote: “I’m as bad as they is. It’s just in our blood ya’ll and I love it. This is my dream. I made it come true, this is the fucking American Dream.”


Blue Jasmine (2013)

Comments: Woody Allen brings us a tale about a woman who used to be rich because her husband was rich, but what happens when her husband is caught by the F.B.I. for illegal activities? She is left with absolutely NOTHING that’s what happens! Now she must learn to cope with the fact that she is no longer a wealthy house wife. Kate Blanchett delivers one of the most powerful performances of the year, without a doubt, a heavy contender for Best Actress. It’s amazing to see this character struggling to accept the fact that she is no longer high class, especially when she has to go live with her sister, who is so very, very middle class. The film explores a female character that never bothered to make anything of herself, she simply depended on spending her husband’s money; when he leaves her, she is nothing. She then has to learn to start from the ground up and reinvent herself in order to survive. Can Jasmine learn to accept the fact that she is now for all intents and purposes poor? 

Quote: “Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.”


Fruitvale Station (2013)

Comments: Wow, this one gets a spot on my top films of 2013 because it really moved me. And again, 2013 was the year of movies based on real life events and well, damn, this one is really sad. It’s the story of a black 22 year old man named Oscar Grant, who is trying his best to change his life. He sells his last bit of weed; he wants to be a better father, a better son and better boyfriend. Basically, he realizes the kind of life he was leading was taking him down a dark path and so he’s taking the necessary steps in order to improve his life, for him and his family. But things are not that easy and well, racial tension makes things go sour for Oscar. This was a truly moving film for me because if there’s one thing I hate in this world is racial hatred and bigotry, especially when it comes from ignorant police men, those who are supposedly sworn to protect the citizens and uphold the law. I love it when films showcase the ugly side of humanity because they function as a mirror, let’s not be this way people! This film is a great example of how racial tensions still exist in our society, sadly. A must watch for those of you who enjoy films with a social conscience. Incredibly, this movie was completely ignored by the Academy…perhaps there’s some racial bigotry there as well?  


Quote: “I’m good, I’m good, I’m gonna be good”     



Comments: The Wolverine was a pleasant surprise, and a film I didn’t expect much from; I felt this way primarily because of how awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) was. In order for me to completely forget that awful mess, this new Wolverine movie had to reach orgasmic levels of coolness, and well, I gotta say director James Mangold completely delivered the goods! I mean, this is only the most popular character in the whole X-men roster, how come they never give the series a decent director? Somebody who can really, truly give fan boys what they want to see? So my hats down to James Mangold for achieving this! Finally, a good Wolverine movie! I recently re-watched it on home video and I confirmed it, this movie kicks ass. It feels like an important story in the life of this character, important things happen to Logan on this one! This isn’t just another run of the mill Wolverine movie, nope, on this one the very nature of Wolverine is put in peril. And we also get ninjas! How cool is that!? If you skipped this one thinking it sucks, you’re wrong, give it a go! You won’t be disappointed.  

Quote: “I’ll tell you what you twisted mutant bitch, why don’t you open these bracelets and we’ll see who’s made of what?”



Comments: I’m a huge fan of Neill Blomkamp’s Disctrict 9 (2009) because while it is a kick ass science fiction film with robots and spaceships and aliens, at the same time it comments on social issues, like racism and classism which as it turns out are also themes that are played out in his newest film, Elysium. You see this is a story of a working class hero named Max who because of a mistake while working in a factory ends up having only a few days left to live. In order to survive, he must travel to a huge spaceship that hovers close to earth called Elysium; you see; only the rich and powerful are able to live in this state of the art spaceship, the rest of humanity lives in a the hell hole known as earth. One of the benefits of living in Elysium is that they have these machines that can cure any decease, even death, so of course, Max has to get up there if he wants to live. The film aims its guns at classist issues, but also at medical attention and how poor people get less medical benefits simply because they can’t pay the high prices of medical insurance; which is a sad state of affairs. On top of all that, the film is an amazing sci-fi spectacle with amazing special effects and thrilling action sequences. Once again Neill Blomkamp delivers a sci-fi film with conscience and entertainment in mind.  

Quote: “Earth’s wealthiest inhabitants fled the planet to preserve their way of life”



Comments: Leave it to J.J. Abrahams to make Star Trek sexy! So yeah, that’s what caught everybody’s attention when these new Star Trek movies came out; but honestly, what’s best about them is that they are more action packed than ever. Weirdest part is how all these new actors can impersonate the old characters to perfection. I mean, Chris Pine channels William Shatner’s Kirk almost like he was possessed! Same goes for Zachary Quinto’s rendition of Mr. Spock, so even though these are younger actors playing old characters, you’ll still feel like you’re seeing the Kirk, Spock and Doc that you knew. This particular adventure has elements that were taken from the old Star Trek movies, mainly Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982), so this sequel plays out like a remake of that film. But don’t worry, it’s not a play by play remake, actually this film offers many original elements and action pieces to entertain and titillate the most hardcore Star Trek fans. Even non Trekkies will love these movies! Ever wanted to see the Enterprise roam the ocean floor? Ever wanted to know what it feels like to be inside of the Enterprise as it tumbles out of control through space? Look no further! It all happens on this movie, and as directed by J. J. Abrahams (who is currently hard at work on Star Wars Episode VII) it all transpires in the most thrilling and exciting way possible! This is in my opinion one of the best Star Trek movies ever made.   

Quote: “The enemy of my enemy, is my friend”



Comments: There was a lot of uncertainty in the air about this Superman movie. Same as The Wolverine, this superman film had to kick all sorts of ass in order to erase the boring ass memory of Superman Returns (2006). I’m not throwing hatred on Bryan Singer because the guy is a decent director, but Superman Returns just didn’t do it for me. It needed a little extra bang for my buck; which is probably the reason why Man of Steel has so much action and destruction in it. Zack Snyder wanted to make sure that you, the fans got what you came to see: Superman kicking ass. And we get tons of that! Good thing about this Superman movie is that we get a decent story along with the action and the destruction, that’s right my friends, Snyder filled this movie with enough destruction to overcompensate for what was missing in Superman Returns. But whatever, that’s what I wanted. I wanted buildings toppling over and super villains that are actually a threat! The effects are awesome, the cast is beyond superb! Michael Shannon as General Zod? Who’s the casting director? I gotta buy him or her  a drink! Henry Cavill as Superman is pitch perfect and Amy Adams as Louis? Just beautiful! I can’t help and wonder what Batman vs. Superman will be like! The possibilities boggle the mind!  

Quote: “You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world”



Comments: Without a doubt, the biggest special effects spectacle of the year! Guillermo del Toro was slated to direct The Hobbit films, but I guess the studio really wanted Peter Jackson for the job, so after having spent two years of his life in pre-production for The Hobbit and then being let go, Del Toro went on and did this bombastic and completely entertaining film about giant robots fighting giant monsters! Del Toro had been dying to make a huge summer blockbuster and well, here we have it, his first official blockbuster! What’s cool about Pacific Rim is that it is essentially a Godzilla movie, without Godzilla. I mean we have giant robots fighting giant monsters while ripping the city to shreds! The special effects are truly amazing and the way the film looks is simply candy to the eyes. While the ideas presented in Pacific Rim aren’t entirely original concepts, what the film does do is deliver these concepts in the best way they have ever been portrayed on film. Up to now, no one has made a better film about giant robots better than this one, so in that sense, Pacific Rim is a novelty. Can’t wait for the sequel, and I hope Del Toro directs again! The only thing left to wonder is if the new Godzilla (2014) film directed by Gareth Edwards will be better?   

Quote: “There are things you can’t fight, acts of god. You see a hurricane coming; you get out of the way. But when you are in a Jaeger, you can finally fight the hurricane, and you can win!”


Gravity (2013)

Comments: Before I’d seen The Wolf of Wall Street, it was Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity which had the spot of ‘Movie of the Year’, but sorry Cuaron, Scorsese beat you to the punch. Still, Gravity is a pretty amazing movie, especially on a technical level. I’m pretty sure that in terms of special effects, and perhaps even direction, it will be Gravity who takes home all the awards. Seeing the previews I kept asking myself how Cuaron would keep the film interesting, especially when we consider that the film takes place entirely in space and that it’s Sandra Bullock who carries the whole film. I personally don’t love Bullock as an actress, but here she does a great job. But let’s be real, the real stars of this film are the visual effects. For example, Cuaron directed the film in such a way that it feels like one whole continuous shot, with the camera free floating around the characters all the time.  I love films about space because as any Trekkie fan will attest, it truly is the final frontier, the undiscovered country. Space  holds so much mystery to it that a film that explores that great infinity out there in a realistic fashion can be both frightening and awe inspiring. Gravity is both.   

Quote: “The way I see it, there’s only two possible outcomes. Either I make it down there in one piece and I have one hell of a story to tell, or I burn up in the next ten minutes. Either way, whichever way, no harm no foul!”



Comments: Back in 2011, Scorsese made a magical film about films called Hugo (2011), a film I quickly gave the movie of the year spot to. I loved that freaking movie, and well, here we are, 2013 and leave it up to good old Martin Scorsese to deliver the movie of the year yet again! That’s right ladies and gents; The Wolf of Wall Street is the film of the year for me, why? Well, for starters it felt like a bucket of cold water was poured down my back, like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. This movie is cinematic cocaine! It goes fast and it never lets you go! Sure the main characters are all despicable scoundrels who don’t pay taxes and do every kind of drug known to man, but boy, they sure know how to have a rambunctious good time! Yes, this is a rags to riches story, but it is also a story about greed taking you down the road to perdition. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers an amazing performance along with Jonah Hill. Now I’ve always thought that DiCaprio is one of the best actors of his generation and once again he delivers the goods here playing Jordan Belfort, but it was Jonah Hill who really won me over with this movie. I hope they both win an Oscar for their respective performances, it’s a tough year to want the best actor award because Matthew McConaughey is really aiming his guns to win it with his performance in Dallas Buyers Club (2013), but we’ll see. I’d love for the Academy to finally give DiCaprio an Oscar, its long overdue wouldn’t you agree?  If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it, it’s an unforgettable crazy, drug infused ride! And it is also hilariously funny, which is why the film is categorized as a comedy. This movie is a hard ‘R’ so expect lot’s of nudity and profanity; trust me, you’ll feel like your mind was raped by Scorsese and I mean that in a good way! 

Quote: “Let me tell you something, there’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man and I’ve been a rich man, and I choose rich every fucking time!”


2 comments:

JamesD said...

You left out one,the 2013 remake of carrie.

Francisco Gonzalez said...

You know what? I totally agree! Im adding it cause actually did enjoy it!

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