2013 in Cinema : The Top 5

I started this film blog in 2014 with the intention of consistently talking about lesser known films that I love, but at the end of each year I rank all of the films that I have seen at the cinema during the previous twelve months. Obviously currently working at a cinema means I can watch considerably more than I used to, and even though I am currently behind where I was this time last year (I had already seen 70 by this time last year, whereas I’m currently on 54 for 2017), I should still easily hit the 100 films mark again.

As I’m struggling to find films to review at the moment as not a lot of independent films are taking my interest enough to want to review them, I decided to look back on a few previous years to see what my top mainstream films from that year would be, and where better to start than from the year before I started this site.

Those who have read my site for a while will already know what my favourite film for 2013 is as I spoke about it in part one of my favourite films list, but the other places were very much up for grabs. As I only saw fourteen films during 2013 (something which took me just three weeks this year), I’ve decided to only have a top five.

I only saw 14 films in the whole of 2013, which says it all when you compare it to how many I watch now. Just for the record, the films that aren’t included in this top five are Star Trek Beyond, Hunger Games : Catching Fire, Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug, Anchorman 2, Elysium, Hangover 3, Purge, This is the End and The World’s End. For the record, the only one of those that I would have struggled to actually find any praise for is Hangover 3, which was particularly bad and would probably rank at the bottom of the list.

So here we go, the top five films I saw that in 2013.

5) You’re Next

Cast : Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Joe Swanberg, A.J Bowen, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton, Ti West, Am Seimez

Plot : Erin (Vinson) joins Crispian (Bowen) to his family reunion, but it soon becomes evident that this family has a few issues, especially as Crispian soon starts arguing with Paul (Moran) and Drake (Swanberg). The family continues to argue as Tariq (West) notices something odd out of the window, and is subsequently shot by an arrow when he goes to investigate. In the ensuing chaos Drake is also shot.

Several men in animal masks invade the house and start killing off the family members one by one, but Erin is far from defenceless and they soon realise this with much horror.

Why in this position? : I don’t often like horror films, and I think that there has only been one out and out horror film that I’ve included in my three top tens so far. I find them exceptionally boring, with dull and uninteresting characters. This certainly does not fit into this category and is everything I could want from a horror film.

It is has fleshed out and very developed characters, the relationships between them are well built and it makes you invested in them as characters. This is essential for horror films because otherwise it would just be a body count without having any meaning. The acting throughout is also great, especially in the scene in which Tariq is killed, and the family slowly come to the horrified realisation of what has happened.

“You’re Next” is about as rounded as you can get for a horror film in the modern era. It doesn’t use any/many cliches, and the fact is has arguably the strongest female character out of any film released during 2013 definitely helps its cause.

 

4) Thor : The Dark World

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Christopher Eccleston, Tim Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo

Plot : Thor (Hemsworth) is celebrating yet another victory in battle and he has earnt Odin’s (Hopkins) utmost respect, but it is obvious he is still missing Jane (Portman) after destroying the bifrost. Meanwhile Jane has found a mysterious portal and it transports her to a cave. In that cave is a mysterious red liquid that soon forces itself into her body, but also wakes up Malekith (Eccleston), a dark-elf who is determined to remove all light from the universe.

Thor must rely on his devious brother Loki (Hiddleston) if he is to stand any chance of saving the universe. Loki is reluctant to help after being imprisoned following the events of “The Avengers”, but soon becomes just as vengeful as Malekith kills Frigga (Russo).

Why in this position? : I’m a sucker for Norse mythology after they strangely taught it to us in primary school. This is potentially the reason why “Thor” is the only sub-franchise other than “Guardians of the Galaxy” that I enjoy from the MCU. Whilst “Thor : Dark World” is not as enjoyable as the first film, it is still a film that I can watch on a regular basis and enjoy.

“Thor” feels a lot different to most other films in the MCU and that is possibly why I enjoy it a lot. The rest of them feel very formulaic, but the character of Thor is constantly evolving and learning, plus he has the only credible Marvel villain to fight in the form of Loki, who is again played with ease by Tom Hiddleston.

It might not win a lot of plaudits and it may be the least interesting part of the MCU for some, but I like it. Whether it would be in my top five, or even top ten in any other year is highly doubtful, so it’ll be interesting to see where “Ragnarok” ranks when that comes out later in the year.

 

3) World War Z

Cast : Brad Pitt, Mirieille Enos, Fana Mokoena, Daniella Kertesz, Pierfrancesco Favino, Peter Capaldi and Ruth Negga

Plot : Jerry (Pitt) and Karin (Enos) are taking their daughters somewhere when all of a sudden the streets turn to chaos as people attack each other. Each person being attacked suddenly turns violent themselves. The family barely escapes into an apartment building and taken in by an hispanic family. Jerry receives calls from his old friend Thierry (Mokoena), who is Deputy Secretary General at the United Nations, and goes to a rescue helicopter on the roof, but not before again being attacked by a large group.

When they get on board a ship, Jerry is convinced to help out the U.N under the threat of his family being thrown off of the boat for being non-essential. He travels to South Korea after hearing a rumour that the virus start there, but this leads him to Israel. It turns out that even 100ft high walls can’t keep out the infected, and no matter where he goes Jerry is always being chased.

Why in this position? : “World War Z” was a great attempt at a zombie film and was one of the best made in recent years. I think this is definitely helped by the fact that it feels like a truly worldwide issue. Jerry goes to several locations that aren’t normally shown in films and are very far apart. He meets different cultures and beliefs, but no-one seems to truly know the source of the virus.

This is a rare example of a zombie film which I wouldn’t class as a horror film. It’s more like an action film, especially as most of it takes place during the day. The pacing is perfect throughout, with there never been a long gap between situations where Jerry has to escape a hoard, but more vitally is that most of them don’t last too long. There is a chance to develop him as a rounded character. The only problem is that he is the only character that is developed.

Whilst it might be faint praise, this is probably the best zombie film released at cinemas in the 21st century.

 

2) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Cast : Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn, Adrian Martinez and Patton Oswalt

Plot : Walter (Stiller) is a raw-photograph processor for Life magazine and he is attracted to Cheryl (Wiig), a new starter at his office. He is however prone to daydreaming and this doesn’t go unnoticed by Ted (Scott), another new face who announces he is there to start the process of downsizing the staff as the magazine moves online. He keeps Walter around initially after it turns out that prolifically acclaimed photographer Sean O’Connell (Penn) has sent an image that he wants to use on the final issue.

One problem is that Walter can’t find the image and believes it wasn’t sent. He decides to track it down as it would be a fitting end to his time at the magazine, but this means going abroad for the first time ever, and sees him travel to Iceland and Greenland….and several other locations in his mind.

Why in this position? “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” took a while to grow on me, taking several rewatches before I started to enjoy it. Had this list been written at the end of 2013, just as this film was released, then it would never have been my second favourite film of that year. I have no idea why I bought it on BluRay, probably just an impulse buy, but several years later I am glad I did.

As time has gone on I have come to appreciate so many aspects to this film, such as the coming-of-age story of a man around at the 40 mark, or that it has such a large scale for a relatively small film. I have been tempted on so many occasions to write a full on article about why this is a life-affirming and enjoyable use of nearly two hours of your time.

Stiller excels as Walter, bringing warmth and feeling to a genre that different from his usual efforts. Wiig is also the same as she plays a very straight character, with no sense of comedy at all. The film also introduced me to Adam Scott, who seems at home with his portrayal as the generally unlikeable, but completely understandable character of Ted.

With exceptional cinematography, and an unbelievable soundtrack from Jose Gonzalez, I can happily sit and watch this film at any point.

 

And finally, the best film I saw at the cinema in 2013………

1) Rush

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Pierfrancesco Favino

Plot : James Hunt (Hemsworth) is preparing for the 1970 Formula Three race at Crystal Palace when he lays eyes on Niki Lauda (Brühl) for the first time and they soon get into an argument after Hunt races in a dangerous manner, almost causing Lauda to crash. Lauda soon buys himself into Formula One and quickly establishes himself as a great driver. Hunt’s group decides to enter Formula One as well.

Hunt and Lauda renew their rivalry but Hesketh is no match for Lauda’s Ferrari. Hunt joins McLaren, a car that can make him competitive and the two, whilst respecting each other’s abilities, start a bitter rivalry for the title. Meanwhile, Hunt’s marriage has fallen apart and that, combined with bad luck, means Niki establishes a very early and seemingly dominating lead in the title race.

Niki marries his girlfriend just before the German Grand Prix is due to take place. The weather is terrible and the track already has a reputation for injuring people and taking lives. Niki calls a meeting to get the race postponed but Hunt rallies the room to vote for the race to go ahead. Lauda’s suspension breaks midway through the third lap and sends him crashing into the safety railing. Lauda has to be pulled from the burning wreckage and is taken to hospital.

Why my favourite film of 2013? : Rush is one of the most stylish and realistic sports films that I have ever seen, possibly only bettered by Moneyball. Rush is visually incredible on every single level, right down to the simple things, such as Niki Lauda’s overbite. Too many sports films based on historical events ignore the little things, such as not making the actors look like those that they are portraying, and if you see a picture of Daniel Brühl normally compared to how he looked in the film, you will be amazed. It is a truly incredible transformation that the film-makers have pulled off.

Brühl is incredible as the Austrian Lauda and it’s impossible not to be impressed by him. I first became aware of Brühl due to his appearance in “Inglorious Basterds” and his mesmerising portrayal of a seemingly well mannered young man who simply won’t take no for an answer. He brings a great level of sympathy to the character because although the character is a self confessed arsehole, you understand why he is how he is and Brühl plays it excellently.

Both Landa and Hunt are portrayed as exactly what they were, flawed human beings. Hunt, despite being a world class racing driver, struggles with the normalities of life and this costs him his marriage, and Landa refuses to accept anything less than perfection and doesn’t know how to do anything other than via the most simple to achieve it. For example, when he marries his girlfriend, it’s simply in a registry office, he doesn’t go with a full on wedding because it is simple. Even Landa’s home is as basic as it gets.

Hunt and Landa are the perfect antithesis to each other and the duel between them, and how it escalates from a mere professional rivalry to a more personal battle, is a great build, but even better is when Niki has had his rivalry and James’ reaction to it. James’ guilt about how he rallied the other racers to ignore Niki’s protests for a race to go ahead, and the subsequent accident, is the perfect character development.

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