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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Adventures in Movie Watching 2013


Well it's that time of the year again when I should be doing something more useful but here's a long list of the films that I enjoyed that were around cinemas this year..... 


50. Iron Man 3 - dir. Shane Black
C'mon, it was alright folks, surprised most people I talked to about it seemed indifferent to it.

49. Blue Is The Warmest Colour  - dir. Abdellatif Kechiche
Over-hyped but compelling viewing nonetheless, two leads deserve all the praise they're getting.

48. Star Trek Into Darkness - dir. JJ Abrams
A blockbuster I was not expecting to enjoy after being disappointed with the first one, I don't know if it was because it was a bit more fun than the first one or the addition of Cumberbatch, which is always helps.

47. Wreck-It Ralph - dir. Rich Moore
John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman and Disney in the same sentence was an intriguing enough concept to get my money and the film was actually a bit of fun, could have done with more jokes but hey...

46. The Way, Way Back - dir. Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Rites of passage movie about a boy who doesn't get on with his mother's boyfriend who becomes friends with the manager of the local waterpark. Liked it, but felt like I've seen Rockwell do this character too many times.

45. Chinese Puzzle (Casse-tête chinois) - dir. Cédric Klapisch
The third film in Cedric Klapisch's trilogy manages to be as good as the other two while the setting moves to New York and provides some nicely executed farcical setups.

44. Lore - dir. Cate Shortland
Beautifully shot film dealing with the loss of innocence and coming of age of the daughter of a Nazi soldier guiding her young brothers and sisters across Germany as World War Two comes to an end.

43. Short Term 12 - dir. Destin Cretton
Compelling account of a foster care worker as she deals with the kids and her own problems.

42. Rush - dir. Ron Howard
Enjoyable enough account of the great rivalry between Lauda and Hunt in Formula One that could have done with the same care going into the dialogue as went into the race sequences which were brilliantly shot.

41. The Hardy Bucks Movie - dir. Mike Cockayne
Thankfully something good came of Ireland going to Euro 2012, ncie to see an Irish film that balls out funny.

40. The Place Beyond The Pines - dir. Derek Cianfrance
Feels like three different movies in one, but it's an ambitious attempt ultimately worth watching

39. Django Unchained - dir. Quentin Tarantino
Overall a bit of a mess, but when it's good its very good, and lets face it no one does dialogue like Tarantino.

38. The Bitter Buddha - dir. Steven Feinartz
Documentary about comic's comic Eddie Pepitone as he deals with his life, sobriety, rage, fear, self doubt and his belatedly blossoming career.

37. The East - dir. Zal Batmanglij
Thriller about an anarchist group who get infiltrated by someone working undercover, very ably done and not as over earnest as it could have been.

36. The Wolverine - dir. James Mangold
Wolverine goes to Japan, and most of time its a great watch, ending is a bit weak but when you're in the franchise business that's usually the case.

35. John Dies At The End - dir. Don Coscarelli
The director of Bubba Ho-Tep returns with another genre-buster centered on a bunch of youths who take a drug called “soy sauce” which is actually a portal to seeing other dimensions (a gateway drug if you will) unfortunately some nasty creatures want to come over so it’s left to John and his mate Dave to stop the impending apocalypse. The film is framed by Dave telling his story to a reporter played by Giamatti, so by its very nature it’s off the wall and all over the place but its constant pace and shifts don’t put you off. The film is very funny, playful and charming and has some really fantastic dialogue and set pieces.


34. Blackfish - dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Well paced documentary about killer whales in captivity that posits the theory that places like Sea World where animals are cooped up and forced into doing tricks causes them to become aggressive towards and even kill their human trainers.

33. Only God Forgives - dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Not as good as I was hoping for but plenty in it to soak up, hardcore violence and karaoke have never fit more comfortably together.


32. The World's End - dir. Edgar Wright
Once this got going it was great fun, some very fine gags and special effects as well.

31. Arbitrage - dir. Nicholas Jarecki
Richard Gere is great at playing a bit of a shit and in this tightly wound thriller he plays a bit of a shit whose luxurious life as a very successful hedge fund manager comes under threat in more ways than one.

30. Frances Ha - dir. Noah Baumbach
Charming comedy about post college life, very funny and engaging and it has David Bowie's Modern Love over the end of it what more would you want?

29. Blue Jasmine - dir. Woody Allen
Great performances from Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin and most unexpectedly from Andrew Dice Clay, but still don't know why all "not-rich" people in Woody Allen films have to have the same Noo Yawk accents no matter where the film is set.

28. Before Midnight - dir. Richard Linklater
Great, uncomfortable end (well who knows?) to the trilogy, particularly loved the hotel scene which was both horrible and a joy to watch.

27. What Maisie Knew - dir. Scott McGehee, David Siegel
A breakup of a marriage as seen from the point of view of the seven year child is a surprisingly absorbing melodrama and also the first of three films on this list to feature Steve Coogan who shows himself to be a better actor with every new project he takes on.

26. Zero Dark Thirty - dir. Kathryn Bigelow
Manages to be tense and engaging even though we all know the ending and doesn't feel as long as it actually is.

25. Good Vibrations - dir. Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Feelgood chronicle of Terri Hooley who turns to the punk scene while Northern Ireland becomes more and more divided in the 70s and decides to set up a record store in order to get the bands music released and is simply a pure joy to watch.

24. This Is The End - dir. Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Could have been pure shite, but was actually hilarious and never feels too self indulgent even though it clearly is.

23. Captain Phillips - dir. Paul Greengrass
When Paul Greengrass, Billy Ray and Tom Hanks combine you know you're in safe hands and they don't disappoint, delivering a film that feels urgent throughout and leaves you with a very haunting ending where lesser filmmakers would have already rolled the credits.

Uniquely told comedy about a man struggling to come to terms with who he is, confused about gender roles and his sexuality, due mainly to his mother who treats him like the daughter she never had. Gallienne writes and directs this film based on his play and stars as both himself and his mother, so as I said it's unique.

21. Enough Said - dir. Nicole Holofcener
Beautifully crafted dramedy that could be grating if it wasnt for the combined skills of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini at its core.

20. The Broken Circle Breakdown - dir. Felix Van Groeningen
A Belgian film packed with Bluegrass music of all things, that has flashes of humour, real warmth and feels intimate while dealing with the big subjects of faith, love, life and death.

19. Philomena - dir. Stephen Frears
Funny, well written with real emotional depth, thankfully Dench's irish accent is quite good so you can get on with enjoying the movie.

18. West of Memphis - dir. Amy Berg 
Having never seen any of the documentaries that were made before about the West Memphis Three, I was completely enthralled and disgusted in equal measure by the unfortunately true story of three young men wrongly accused and then arrested for the murder of three children.

17. Side Effects - dir. Steven Soderbergh
What I thought was going to be a deep harsh look at the pharmacuetical industry actually turns out to be a finely wrought thriller that leaves you scratching your head trying to figure it all out before the final revelation. Jude Law excels as the psychiatrist at the centre of everything but the film belongs to Rooney Mara.

16. Nebraska - dir. Alexander Payne
Finely observed comedy from Alexander Payne about an old man who thinks he's won a million dollars but hasn't and his son who indulges him because the old man won't let it lie. A road movie with a quirky pace and plot and a peculiar look at Midwest America.

15. Safety Not Guaranteed - dir. Colin Trevorrow
Technically came out in December last year I know, but missed my cut off point for last year. Based on a real ad taken out by someone looking for someone to go time travelling with, this low budget indie deals with three magazine employees who set off to track down the person who took out the ad. Plaza and Duplass are their usual deadpan selves in a film that is genuinely funny and endearing.

14. Behind The Candelabra - dir, Steven Soderbergh
I must admit I don't really like biopics mainly down to almost all of them having to have the same structure, so it was a complete shock that I enjoyed this biopic of Liberace so much. Douglas is outstanding, as is Damon, and they both bring a real humanity to characters that are larger than life. Rob Lowe is also fantastic as a Hollywood plastic surgeon.

13. Ain't Them Bodies Saints - dir. David Lowery
Its plot maybe unoriginal, outlaw breaks out of prison to see to his wife and kid, but everything somehow manages to feel fresh mainly through great performances and beautiful direction and cinematography. 

12. Upstream Color - dir. Shane Carruth
Carruth delivers a sublime lesson in batshit in this sci-fi romance that has worms, pigs and flowers central to its "plot", looks and sounds amazing and had me enthralled throughout

11. Mud - dir. Jeff Nichols
Nichols' third film cements his reputation as a talented writer and director, McConnaughey stars as a criminal hiding out an island on the Mississippi who seems almost mythological to two boys who stumble across him and set about trying to reunite him with the love of his life.

10. In The House (Dans La Maison) - dir. François Ozon
Ozon had two films out this year but I much preferred this one with the always reliable Fabrice Luchini playing a bored teacher who becomes intrigued by a pupil's "What we did at the weekend" essay where he writes about another pupils family life and encourages him to continue writing more and of course farce ensues. A fun meditation on the nature of voyeurism, storytelling and narrative and the morals involved.

9. Le Week-end - dir. Roger Michell
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan play an older couple who attempt to recreate their honeymoon in Paris in order to rekindle their love for each other which has dwindled over the years. Funny, heartbreaking, crude and brilliantly funny in equal measure.

8. No - dir. Pablo Larraín
Gael Garcia Bernal as an ad-man who plays a major part in the No campaign against the Chilean dictator Pinochet's re-election. Again shot in old redundant video format and in 4:3 which means the fascinating real ads and archive footage can fit seamlessly with the rest of the film to great effect.

7. Robot & Frank - dir. Jake Schreier
A high concept light comedy that deals with an ageing cat-burglar, the brilliant Frank Langella, and a robot butler who while bought to look after him and keep himself safe and out of trouble, opens up the possibility of resuming his career.

6. A Hijacking (Kapringen) - dir. Tobias Lindholm
With the same basic premise as Captain Phillips (Somali pirates), the makers of Borgen take a different tack and juxtapose the negotiations involved in trying to free the prisoners for the least amount of money possible and the increasingly exasperated crew stuck onboard.

5. In A World... - dir. Lake Bell
A comedy written, starring and directed by Lake Bell, set in the male dominated world of Hollywood voiceovers is a massive bucketful of charm and great moments. Fred Melamed, a Woody Allen regular steals the show as the second best movie trailer voiceover artist ever.


4. The Kings of Summer - dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts
A teen annoyed with his family, particularly his dad, heads off with his friends in order to gain some independence and spend the summer in a treehouse they've built in the woods. Beautifully shot and crafted with some very very funny moments.

3. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - dir. Declan Lowney
No right to be as good or as funny as it is. The plot of a radio station held hostage with only Alan to save the day sounds absolutely horrendous, but thankfully everyone involved plays their part in one of the funniest-per-minute comedies in years.


2. Computer Chess - dir. Andrew Bujalski
An 80's period piece filmed using an old video format (good year for this kind of thing, see my number 8) centered around a competition of computer chess programmers squaring off against each other to see who has the best program. This film is amazing because it manages to be completely boring and surreal and hilarious all at the same time.

1. Stories We Tell - dir. Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley directs this film about her deceased mother, narrated by her father and dealing with a family rumour of infidelity due to the fact that Polley herself doesn't look anything like the rest of her family. Always absorbing, brilliantly structured and touching.