Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top 10 Movies of 2013

2013 was another great year for movies. This list was harder to come up with than I thought. I realize that not everyone will agree with me, but that’s okay. We’re all entitled to our own opinions. Enjoy and I hope all of you have a wonderful New Year.

10. The Conjuring
·         I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to see this well directed horror movie that actually scared the crap out of me. Everything about it was creepy, and I mean that in a good way.

9. Pacific Rim
·         Never did I think this movie would make it onto my list. When I first saw the trailer I figured it was just going to be some Transformers rip-off. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Transformers wishes it was this cool. Guillermo del Toro delivers a strange but visually stunning sci fi action adventure. It has something for everyone- kick ass action scenes and for the ladies there’s Charlie Hunnam hehe.

8. Fast & Furious 6
·         Yes, I know these movies are dumb and have no real plot. But I don’t care- I love the hell out of them! Normally I can’t stand movies like this, but what makes Fast & Furious different are the characters. They’re all really interesting in their own way and the movie actually makes you care about them.

7. Captain Phillips
·         I’ve always been a big Tom Hanks fan. Here he delivers another Oscar worthy performance (although I don’t think he’s going to win it this year. More on that in a bit.) as the title character. It’s based on the true story (for the most part) of Captain Richard Phillips, who in 2009 found his ship being hijacked by Somali pirates. The leader of the pirates is played by actor Barkhad Abdi. From what I understand, he had never acted before this. Not that you can tell at all. His performance was so good it was scary. I’d love to see him get a Best Supporting Actor nomination. This movie had me on the edge of my seat and also nearly in tears, especially Tom Hanks’ performance in the last few minutes.

6. Dallas Buyers Club
·         Had a chance to see this back in October at the local film festival. It tells the true story of Ron Woodrow, a Texas bull rider who in I believe it was the mid-eighties was diagnosed with AIDS and given only 30 days to live. Refusing to accept this, he sets out to find alternative drugs/vitamins, going so far as to smuggle them in from other countries since the FDA wouldn’t approve them (even though these medications were perfectly safe). He ends up forming a “club” to help other AIDS individuals but instead of selling them the drugs themselves, he sells memberships and gives them access to all the drugs they need. Along the way he meets a transgender person named Rayon (who becomes his business partner), played brilliantly by Jared Leto. They might as well just give Jared an Oscar now he was that good. Heartbreaking, yet at times funny. Matthew McConaughey has really redeemed himself lately. I hope he continues to do more movies like this.

5. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
·         Another great movie I saw at the film festival. It’s about the life of the late Nelson Mandela, based on the book of the same name that he wrote himself. It’s spans most of Mandela’s life from the time he was a young lawyer and political activist, his 27 year imprisonment, right up until he becomes President of South Africa. He’s played by the amazing Idris Elba, who’s having a great year. While he doesn’t look like Nelson Mandela, he captures who he was so well that it doesn’t matter. In addition the movie has some gorgeous cinematography and a powerful musical score.

4. Star Trek into Darkness
·         I know this movie had a lot of flaws, especially in the last third, but I still loved it. Plenty of action, humor, and great characters. Benedict Cumberbatch really surprised me in this. He makes a great villain. Director JJ Abrams does a pretty good job here, although I really wish he would stop using those damn lens flares. While this wasn’t as good as the 2009 movie, it was still a lot of fun.

3. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
·         I just loved this movie so much. Peter Jackson is amazing. I liked how he developed the characters this time around especially the dwarfs. Kili was my favorite. While I wasn’t crazy about the higher frame rate, visually this movie was beautiful and the  action sequences were a lot of fun, especially the barrel scene. Smaug looked absolutely badass. The movie does end on a big cliffhanger though. I just wish we didn’t have to wait a whole year for the conclusion to these wonderful movies.

2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
·         A rare instance when the sequel is better than the first movie. I loved the story a bit more this time around. And thank god there was no shaky cam! Jennifer Lawrence is such a great actress. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Katniss. The arena looked amazing too. It’s a wonderfully made movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat and will probably make you shed a tear or two. If you liked Hunger Games, then you’ll love Catching Fire.

1. 12 Years a Slave
·         Some might think it an odd choice, but I just couldn't put this movie at anything but number one. While I admit, there were other movies that I enjoyed more (in the sense that I walked out of them feeling really happy and not seriously depressed like I did with this one), I can’t deny that 12 Years A Slave was the most well made movie this year. I've said it many times, Chiwetel Ejiofor is going to win the Best Actor Oscar for his incredible performance as Solomon Northrup, a free man from Upstate New York who was tricked, drugged, and sold into slavery. It’s an extremely brutal movie that had me turning my head away from the screen several times and wanting to shout, “Enough! I can’t take this anymore!” That’s the point though. It’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable and if you don’t there’s something seriously wrong with you. Steve McQueen deserves the Best Director Oscar this year for making this powerful, flawless movie. It really is well made- from the cinematography to the haunting musical score by Hans Zimmer. I walked out of 12 Years a Slave and found myself thinking about it for days afterward. Not many movies these days do that to me. And when one comes along that does, it deserves the number one spot on my list. It really needs to be seen by everyone, unless you have a weak heart or stomach. But for me it’s kind of like Schindler’s List, a cinematic masterpiece that’s so depressing you’ll only watch it once.

Monday, December 23, 2013

2014 Golden Globes: My Predictions

With the awards season fast approaching, I thought I’d give you my predictions for the Golden Globes. This is who I think WILL win, not necessarily who I WANT to win. Although, there are so many great nominees this year so it’s worked out pretty good. I’m just going to do the major categories and put in bold who I think will win. Enjoy ;)

Best Motion Picture (Drama):
12 Years A Slave
Captain Phillips

Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy):
American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Performance by an Actor (Drama):
Chiwetel Ejifor - 12 Years A Slave
Idris Elba - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford - All is Lost

Best Performance by an Actress (Drama):
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Judi Dench - Philomena
Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet - Labor Day

Best Performance by an Actress (Musical or Comedy):
Amy Adams - American Hustle
Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig - Francis Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Enough Said
Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

Best Performance by an Actor (Musical or Comedy):
Christian Bale - American Hustle
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Leonoardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix – Her

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence -American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years A Slave
Julia Roberts - August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:
Barkhad Abdi- Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl - Rush
Bradley Cooper - American Hustle
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years A Slave
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club

Best Director- Motion Picture:
Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen - 12 Years A Slave
Alexander Payne - Nebraska
David O’Russell - American Hustle

So there you have it. I’d love to hear what you guys think. I’m going to try and put together my top 10 favorite movies of 2013 list so be sure to keep an eye out for that within the next week.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (IMAX 3D)

This year has been filled with nerdgasms for me. So it's only fitting that my (most likely) last review of the year is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It's an amazing adventure that I actually think is better than An Unexpected Journey.

After a small scene which would've worked better had it been in the first movie, things pick up pretty much where they left off. Bilbo and the dwarfs continue on their quest to reclaim Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug (played by Benedict Cumberbatch through the use of motion capture). Along the way they encounter Orcs, Elves, creepy looking spiders, and much more.

Peter Jackson does an amazing job once again. He really makes you feel like you're in Middle Earth. Yes, the editing could've been a little tighter in certain scenes but it wasn't too bad. For me, those three hours just flew by. I easily could've sat in that theater for another three hours. The action scenes were well done, especially the barrel scene. It was just so much fun and looked incredible in 3D. The cinematography was gorgeous as well. The movie looks wonderful on an IMAX screen. The special effects were great for the most part. Although it was a bit much at times, mainly with the Orcs. I think practical effects would've been better in that case. But I trust Peter Jackson and think he knows what he's doing.

Martin Freeman is back as Bilbo. Surprisingly for being the title character, he really doesn't have as much screentime in this one. But the scenes he does have are really memorable. Especially his scenes with Smaug. Speaking of Smaug, how badass was he? Excellent job by Benedict Cumberbatch and the special effects team.

I really enjoyed Richard Armitage as Thorin. The way he was able to show such emotion simply with his eyes was amazing. I loved learning more about this fascinating character .

Luke Evans plays Bard, whom Bilbo and the dwarfs encounter in Laketown. I think he was a great choice and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of him in There & Back Again.

But my favorite characters were Kili (Aidan Turner), whom I must admit is pretty hot for a dwarf, and the Elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lily). Now I know Peter Jackson completely made up Tauriel for the movies and I'm okay with that. Lets face it, there is a lack of female characters in Middle Earth. So it's refreshing to she her character who completely fits into this world. She's smart and strong. It's great seeing her kick ass and save the day.

As some of you may have heard, there's a love triangle thrown in between Tauriel, Legolas (Orlando Bloom. It's so great seeing this character again and how he was before the events of LOTR) and another character that's a bit of a surprise. When I first heard about the love triangle I thought it was crazy and unnecessary. I have nothing against love triangles (although the Twilight movies seem to have ruined them for a lot of people). I think if done correctly they can be fun to watch play out. After seeing this movie, I'm totally okay with it. In fact I loved it. Yes, the dialog is extremely cheesy at times, but overall I thought the whole thing was really sweet.

Howard Shore once again provides a beautiful score that works perfectly with each scene.

I must warn you though, if you're not a fan of cliffhanger endings, boy does this movie have one. Probably one of the biggest cliffhangers I've seen a movie pull of recently. When it cut to black and the credits rolled, I literally was like, "What the hell? Nooooo!! It can't end now." Damn you Peter Jackson for making us wait a whole year for the last movie. Although I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.

The only complaint I really have has to do with the higher frames per second issue. In An Unexpected Journey I got use to it after awhile. But for some reason in this one it bothered my eyes in certain scenes. I don't know if it's the higher frame rate, maybe it wasn't set up right by the theater I was in, or it could be because I have astigmatism. Normally I don't have any issues watching 3D movies. Who knows. I'm definitely going to back and watch the movie again, but maybe this time in regular 3D or in 2D.

The Desolation of Smaug is a fun, action packed movie that I think everyone can enjoy. Especially if you're a big LOTR fan. Did The Hobbit need to be split up into three movies? Well, no. Are they as good as the LOTR trilogy? Of course not. But I still had a great time watching it.

My Rating: 9/10