30. The World's End
I was fully prepared to hate this with extreme prejudice, because I've had an ass-full of Simon Pegg & Co, but much to my surprise, I didn't. I went from "This is not so bad" to "I kinda like these guys, what the hell?" and ended up at "This was FUN! And GOOD!" Colour (!) me surprised! Just don't make me watch that shit-storm Paul again.
29. The Human Race
Watch out, we're heading into the tiny-horror-films-I-had-fun-with-and-feel-like-championing section. This one, apparently crowd-funded, concerns a very deadly race where a group of people are forced to compete or die. It's extremely bloody, it's got some very nasty moments, clever character interplay, and a few tricks up its sleeve along the way.
28. The Conjuring
In many ways The Conjuring is a very traditional film, but by golly it still worked. A good, old-fashioned horror movie, with some ice-cold chills that made me turn on all the lights. A rock-solid cast, gorgeous production design, I could go on. Can't wait to show this to friends and scare them to death.
This tiny horror film spins a tale from our fascination with social media, and concerns a terrible viral outbreak, as seen from the vantage point of a group of friends preparing for a New Year's Eve party. It gets progressively more nutty along the way, and even though the low budget is obvious at times, it holds up until the very end, which features one of the best WTF-moments in recent memory. Don't do iiiiiiiit! Nooooooo! Don't use the driiiiiiill!
Think Evil Groundhog Day, with youth offenders. But instead of coming off like a rip-off, this feels honest and fresh. We follow three inmates in a rehabilitation center who suddenly realize that they're reliving the same day over and over again. Is this a chance to redeem themselves, or go crazy and never have to suffer the consequences? Let's just say they chose different paths. Well-worth checking out! (But watch out, apparently some versions are not presented in the proper 2,35:1 widescreen aspect ratio.)
25. No One Lives
Can't say much about this. In my view, even the poster and DVD covers show too much (no, not the one I chose here). Suffice it to say, it's a slasher movie. There's a bunch of nasty killers. And if you watch it with a girl, she will crush every bone in your hand and burst your eardrums. Enjoy.
24. Tower Block
The residents in a condemned building come under fire from a sniper. With no help in sight the rapidly diminishing group of survivors must band together to outsmart this hidden foe. What are they putting in the water over there in the UK? They come up with some awesome shit! Including this brutal, shocking, and heartbreaking little thriller.
Roar Uthaug, the Norwegian director of Fritt Vilt (2006), uses his country's majestic nature as the backdrop for this perfect little gem, as simple as it is effective. Set in 1363, the story simply deals with a young woman trying to escape the band of killers who slaughtered her family. Gorgeous images, a bombastic score, solid visual effects, and just so freakin' cool.
22. The Purge
I'm not sure why everybody hated The Purge with such vitriol. It was a cool little high-concept film. It didn't make any promises it couldn't keep, and the fact that the characters sometimes behaved like idiots didn't bother me. That was almost the point. Also, I love Ethan Hawke. Besides, y'all better watch and learn. This WILL be America in 30 years.
I must admit I wasn't impressed the first time I saw this, but then I re-watched it with my buddy Dennis, and suddenly I enjoyed it a whole lot more. It doesn't measure up to the original, it doesn't have much of a story, or emotional impact, but it's still funny.
20. The Last Stand
If you thought his time as Governator had softened the old brute, you better think again. So the years have left their mark on good old Arnie's face, but he can still deliver those one-liners and his own sweet brand of justice, so who cares? The Last Stand was a return to form.
19. Sexy Evil Genius
It starts off a bit shaky, then picks up speed, and before you know it you're caught in Nikki's (Katee Sackhoff) web, much like every other character in the film. Most of the film is nothing more than a few people - Sackhoff, Michelle Trachtenberg, Seth Green, Harold Perrineau, and William Baldwin - sitting around a table trying to outsmart each other, and that's completely fine! You don't have to blow up the universe to rock my world.
18. Jack Reacher
Tom Cruise is a star. It's easy to forget that, because he's freakin' nuts. This thriller shows him from his best side, with a fantastic, cool setup, an intriguing story, and a pair of formidable villains. Unfortunately the finale is quite disappointing, but not enough to boot it from the list completely.
As luck would have it, we find another Tom Cruise film here. This one also has a few problems, but once you get used to them, you'll appreciate the film more and more. I know I did. Besides, ambitious science fiction films are few and far between. Add to that some flawless visual effects, and you've got a winner on your hands. With certain reservations.
Did it work all the way through? No. Was I still fascinated? Yup! Danny Boyle makes interesting movies, even if they don't always work. This mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma-impossible-puzzle-brain-teaser has so much cool stuff going for it that I have to surrender myself. I had to get past the first viewing to really enjoy it, though. Many others won't get that far.
And Rosario Dawson is nude. So there's that.
15. Wreck-It Ralph
Less funny than Despicable Me 2, but a more solid and heartfelt effort. This is a brilliant story, full of brilliant designs, and with some very effective voice-work from Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly. The dirty little secret of Wreck-It Ralph, seemingly a very boy-centric film, is that it's actually a princess film, it just takes a little while to get there. But regardless of gender, anyone can, and should, enjoy this animated gem.
This is based on a true story, but the film makes no attempt to conceal the fact that you shouldn't take this too seriously. I didn't, so I had a blast! Anthony Hopkins clearly enjoys portraying Alfred Hitchcock, Helen Mirren is wonderful as his wife Alma, and with Scarlett Johansson's gorgeous ass playing Janet Leigh we've already got more than we bargained for. A wonderfully cheeky and entertaining romp.
13. John Dies at the End
What? What? WHAT?! No, what the hell? But I.... It's.... And you... but?! How can....? Ah screw it, I'm in!
(Read the full review here)
I love submarine movies. I love Ed Harris. I miss David Duchovny. Despite a few flaws this gritty underwater thriller had me from moment one.
(Read the full review here)
11. Welcome to the Punch
It's SO good! It's so bloody good! Granted, this is little more than a theatrical representation of any random UK TV cop thriller, but the style and the commitment from the actors make all the difference. Plus, it's so gorgeous to look at! I'll watch James McAvoy and Mark Strong in anything, and Johnny Harris (of The Fades fame) is so bloody nasty here, it almost oozes from the screen. That title, however, I could do without.
10. The Impossible
It sounded like the worst Oscar-begging material ever, but The Impossible turned out to be a brutal, heartfelt, and surprisingly intimate story of survival. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are SO good, the effects are marvelous, and everything about the film just rings true. Not to be missed.
9. The Way Way Back
A sweet, tender coming-of-age film. Not much in this film relates to me on a personal level, and yet the emotional turmoil of our young hero is clear and present every step of the way. Part comedy, part drama, part romance, whatever genre the film touches base with it masters. And someone give Sam Rockwell a damn Oscar.
8. Evil Dead
It wasn't the best film experience of the year, but it was the most surprising. Although we all agreed that it could work on paper - taking what was essentially a big goof and turning it into something serious - we were all still surprised when the gambit payed off. What a brilliantly nasty little film!
7. Anna Karenina
Brilliantly inventive adaptation of the classic Tolstoy novel, which merges the cinema and the theater experience to mesmerizing effect. Keira Knightly and Aaron Taylor-Johnson creates sparks when they meet, and even thought the story doesn't have much effect on me, on an intellectual level, the characters and their plight came alive thanks to director Joe Wright's brilliant visuals.
A 2,5-hour movie about the search for a couple of missing children? Don't they deal with such a story in 40 minutes flat on every crime show on TV? They do, and Prisoners does take its time to tell the story, but it's immeasurably more rewarding to watch than the aforementioned TV shows. Not a minute too long.
5. World War Z
So what if third and second act should have switched places? So what if they re-shot 40 minutes of the end? At the end of the day I still had a blast with this big budget zombie film, which serves as a nice companion piece to a fun book, despite - or perhaps by virtue of - the fact that it completely ignores the original work. And Brad Pitt is dreamy.
4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This touching coming-of-age story simply did everything right. Logan Lerman was perfection in the lead, and Emma Watson is heartbreakingly good.
(Read the full review here)
I must admit that when I first saw Gravity I was a bit disappointed. The raving praises that came from the award circuit made promises the film couldn't keep.
Once the initial disappointment receded, the accomplishments of director Alfonso Cuarón came into focus. It IS a fantastic film. I stand by my original assessment - the story has little to no depth, and it's essentially a computer animated film - but it's still a visual treat and it's a kick-ass ride. I'm gonna re-watch this film so many times!
By all accounts Stoker should not work, and from what I can gather from other 2013-wrap-up lists that was indeed the case for many. I had zero expectations, when I sat down to watch it and I'm sure that helped. Directed by Korean mastermind Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), with such visual flourish that it'll make you cry. Stoker is without a doubt the most beautifully shot film of 2013. Every frame is infused with visual intrigue, and yet the characters and the plot always keeps us at an arms length, clouded in an ethereal air of mystery. Perfection.
I dare say that I'm a seasoned movie-watcher, so it's rare that I find a film that truly shocks me and makes me hold my breath. Parkland did. We all know the story about the assassination of JFK, the details about what happened on that day were new to me, however, the really shocking part was that this film made me feel the loss of JFK. It made me FEEL it. No film has done that before, not even watching the horrifying original Zapruder film had this effect on me.
And that's it! Now we can turn out attention to the Oscars. So, in two months time 2013 will finally be put to bed.