Sunday, January 5, 2014

Top 10 Films of 2013

2013 was a strange year in film. For me, May, June and July usually bring some heavy-hitters. This year? None. And the only reason why Star Trek Into Darkness (May) and Man of Steel (June) are on this list is because... It's a "Top 10", not a "Top 8". Almost everything from #1 to #8 are from September to December. Which is a shame, because in retrospect, it really was like the gold at the end of the rainbow. Except, this rainbow wasn't too lively in color. It mostly consisted of shit.

1. Escape Plan

I was fortunate enough to be satisfied with the final product of this film. First off, on paper, this film is FLAWLESS. Stallone? Schwarzenegger? Breaking out of a prison together? Could you choose a more perfect excuse for these guys to work together? But like I said, ON PAPER it was flawless. But then again, it's all in the execution. Luckily, it not only played as the film I wanted it to be, but it also was smarter than it needed to be. Like I said in my original review, it's not a genius film. But its actually a couple notches above being "dumb fun". You can read my review HERE.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

The disadvantage with films that I absolutely love coming out at the very end of the year is that I typically don't get to do full-on reviews since I like to recap the year as quick and drunk as possible. So the films that I already have written about get a paragraph and the link to the original review to avoid retreading the same water. I regret not spending the time writing 50 paragraphs about this film. Let me just dive in...

What a fucking movie. We can all collectively agree that Martin Scorsese is the most consistent American director working today. Is he my favorite director? No. A close second or third? Absolutely. Ironically enough, Scorsese's career is like a corpse's flat line. He's consistent, and rarely hits a total rough-patch. And if he does, it's almost so minor that it doesn't even show up on the screen. And most directors are like a living, breathing heart. It's up and it's down, it's up and it's down. Now, of course, consistency isn't always good. Look at Paul W.S. Anderson. He is consistently awful. But anyway, that's besides the point. The Wolf of Wall Street...

This film is so rich (much like any Scorsese film). I look at it as a combination of Goodfellas, Oliver Stone's Wall Street, and Miami Vice. It has the confidence and cuts of Goodfellas, the setting of Stone's Wall Street, and the physical appeal of Miami Vice. And of course the touch of Marty.

The film is 3 hours long, and I felt not a god damn second drag by. Like I said, the film is so sharp and confident that it just grabs you by the collar and takes you to wherever it's going. And it fucking goes to a fuck-ton of places.

Oh yeah, I guess I better give a little insight as to what the film is about. It's based off of the memoirs of the real-life Jordan Belfort who was a stockbroker on Wall Street, who made all of his money by defrauding his clients with fraudulent stocks.

The film is just full of excess. But none of it seems to be over-gratuitous. If this film was 100% fiction. Then this film could go down as possibly the most gratuitous film ever made. But the fact that this was a telling of a true-life story? I don't see how that makes it gratuitous. The film is fucking nuts. If they wanted to go with a title other than "The Wolf of Wall Street", I personally would go with something along the lines of "Stocks, Drugs and Rock N Roll". Unfortunately, that isn't an apt title due to "sex" missing from the title. Because almost half of the fucking film is sex or sex-related. How Scorsese achieved the R-rated is unthinkable. Let's see... The opening consists of cocaine being snorted from a prostitute's rectum/vagina, road head, and office gangbangs/orgies. And that's only the first 15 or 20 minutes. The rest of the film? Let's see... Airplane orgies, public masturbation, hotel orgies, elevator blowjobs, and the list goes on.

The other aspect that makes this film work so well is the humor. But that should come as no surprise to any lover of Marty. He manages to craft some of the funniest scenes without classifying his films as "comedies". And it's not different with "Wolf". This film is literally funnier than any comedy on this list. Almost every situation in this film makes you literally "LOL". As they would say on the internets, it brings the "LULZ".

Do I see why this film has divided critics? Yes. Do I understand why some people are so fucking uptight that they fart through their nose? No. But, fuck 'em, right?

3. Anchorman 2

Whether you like it or not, the first Anchorman is one of the most quoted films ever. Are most of the lines from the first film tired? Yes. But people still quote 'em to hell. So it only made sense to continue on with a sequel. Why it took so long? Who fucking knows. I know Adam McKay (director) and Will Ferrell were adamant about getting one green lit, but for one reason or another, Paramount kept stalling. Finally, they gave the go-ahead. And to be honest? I couldn't be happier.

I am not in love with the original Anchorman. I like it. And it still holds up, but around the time it came out (and years after), I never really cared for Will Ferrell. It wasn't until Step Brothers where his comedic chops really lined up for me (with the help of John C. Reilly, of course!). But I really liked Anchorman 2. Even more so than the first. The film went the typical Hollywood direction and made it bigger. But it actually worked in it's favor. Through all the big set-pieces came a lot of hilarious scenes. For instance, the RV scene. A tumbling RV with scorpions, bowling balls and hot grease flying around? It's just fucking stupid. And it worked.

The big boost this film had over the first was the casting. In this day and age of the internet, almost everything is spoiled (cameos, reveals, plot points, etc.). But there were some cameos that managed to steer clear out of my directions. I knew about Jim Carrey and Harrison Ford's cameos, but Will Smith and Liam Neeson? I had no idea. And it really made for a couple "fuck yeah!" moments.

One strange thing (good and bad) was what was sold to you in the trailers and ads. A lot of the jokes weren't in the final film, or were alternate versions of the jokes seen in the ads. Why is it good? Apparently, there are two alternate cuts where NO joke is the same. Literally, every joke and line is different. Why is it bad? A lot of people (myself included) were disappointed that they didn't see or hear the jokes that had been advertised. But I know once the Blu-ray comes out, the cut(s) will be available.

4. The World's End

This is a film I barely remember, but remembered that I loved. I.E.: I was fucking BOMBED. Before the film, I had done a bit of a bar crawl. I can't even tell you how much I drank that night. All I remember was that I laughed my ass off, and it took the next day to recollect what had actually happened in the film.

Edgar Wright is a director that I admire, but don't adore. I really like Shaun of the Dead, I wasn't big on Hot Fuzz (but need to give it a re-watch) and never even bothered with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. But The World's End is a homerun for me. He has a very good grasp on the films he makes, and I think that's great. Much like Scorsese and Tarantino, he knows how to cut and cut to music. It's quick, confident and effective as hell.

Moving on to the actual film. Obviously, the subject matter is a no-brainer for me. But it's the character-assignment that I love. It's usually Simon Pegg playing the brains and Nick Frost playing the goof. In The World's End, Frost is the voice of reason, and Pegg is not so much the goof, but the stupid asshole. And I thought that was a good turn-around for them.

5. Pain & Gain

This was one of the few films in the beginning of the year that I actually REALLY liked. Unlike most cinephiles, I love Michael Bay. I always looked at him as a B-movie film maker with a 200+ million dollar budget. And there are plenty of film makers that can spend 200+ million and make a completely forgettable film. For me, Bay doesn't do that. He always manages to entertain me. I've said it a thousand times, but he knows what the hell he is doing in terms of the technical aspect of film making. He may not know story at all, but he'll make those 4 words a page LOOK good. Pain & Gain is a different case, though...

For years, Bay has been trying to get this film off the ground. But robots have been running his life up until a couple years ago. And now, he finally made Pain & Gain. And it's his best movie since Armageddon. Much like The Wolf of Wall Street, this is based on a true story. The film centers around a Miami fitness trainer who wants to get rich quick. So he decides to kidnap and rob one of his undeservingly rich clients (with help from two other juicers). Naturally, all goes to hell, and they're stranded in the wreckage consisting of human limbs, crushed-craniums, women, dirty-money, and a fuck load of jail time. Situational, of course. I don't mean physically.

It's a hell of a ride. It's dark, unpredictable and most of all... Fun. Like I said, it's all based on a true story. And I actually read the original Miami New Times article the film was based off of, and I gotta' say the film may seem to fabricate and elevate situations that you didn't think could happen, but if anything, they watered it down. The shit that went down in Miami in 1995 was fucking insane. And the film did as much justice as possible without having people throwing their arms up in the theatre and leaving. Because what really happened truly was stranger than fiction.

6. Gravity

Maybe the festival circuit got the best of my brain, but I didn't find Gravity to be amazing. Every early review from every renowned festival was raving. And I just don't see how. I liked the film, but aside from the technical aspect, I can't see how it got such praise for it's storytelling. Good story? Yeah, but take away the technical achievements, it's just an okay film. I guess i just got burned by my expectations.

Don't get me wrong, Alfonso Curan is a great film maker, and every interview I've seen with him, he seems so genuine and down-plays his talent. Whereas guys like Tarantino want you to know how good they are. Curan is down to earth (no pun intended) with his discussions of film making. And I absolutely love that. And I almost feel bad for not liking Gravity as much as I wanted to. But then again, I don't. Why? Because the fucking movie made over 200+ million! Which is fucking great. A film as ambitious as it deserves it.

Anyway, I feel as if Im just justifying as to why I didn't like the film as much as I wanted. On to what I really liked about it. Kudos to the marketing department, first and foremost. Reason being, they sold NONE of the second half of the film in any of the trailers or TV spots. That is so incredibly rare nowadays. And it made the experience THAT much better. I forgot what it felt like to be surprised during a film.

Though, my one gripe that had NOTHING to do with expectations was the score. With a film like this, I almost wish there was no score. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more without a score. I feel it would have been more intense and engaging.

7. Machete Kills

Machete Kills isn't what it should have been. It could been a lot funnier, a lot more fun and a lot more cohesive. Unfortunately, it wasn't what it should have been, but I still did enjoy it. Though, Mel Gibson drives a Star Wars Land speeder. You can read my review HERE.

8. Grudge Match

The Italian Stallion vs. The Raging Bull. It's a shame the film isn't even nearly as good as either of the aforementioned characters' films. Here's a film that I felt could go either way, and couldn't be disappointed either way. From the trailers, I could tell it was going to be what I initially thought. Though, I did have hope that it would surprise me. Sadly, it didn't. But I know who is at fault for that. The Director.

When you get THEE two most iconic film boxing actors of all time in one film, you should probably get a seasoned dramatic director who knows comedy. Not a comedy director who thinks he knows drama. The guy who directed Grudge Match is the same man behind The Nutty Professor II. It's a shame because both talents involved (Stallone & DeNiro) really trained hard for the film, and it's almost all thrown away due to a generic tread-along in direction. And I'm not going to knock the director in a lack of interest. I'm sure he wanted to make a great film, but I don't think he was ever really capable of doing so.

I didn't hate the film, I just wish it was much better. I was entertained, and hell, I even laughed at parts. Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart were funny enough to pair together, and Kim Basinger was a nice addition to the cast. But I gotta' say the best casting that wasn't Stallone or DeNiro was John Bernthal as DeNiro's son. Not only does he look like his son, but he also has that DeNiro attitude.

The fight. Definitely the best part of the movie. But not all that it could be. The whole movie (much like any Rocky film) leads up to the fight. This fight should have been fucking great. But it was just too damn choppy. And that may be to favor DeNiro. Because if you have seen Rocky Balboa, you know that Stallone can give and take a hit in a shot, without a cut to "sell" it. Now, that was Stallone at 59 years old, and this is him at 66. But this is also DeNiro at 70. And I give DeNiro an immense amount of credit for doing all of this at his age. And that is how I know he actually really cared about this project. Because for years, he's been so damn lazy and tired with his roles. I don't think I've seen him physically prepare for a role this much since Cape Fear. And speaking of physicality, Im hearing a lot of people talking about Stallone's size, saying he's smaller than usual. It's intended. He's supposed to match the weight of a light heavyweight boxer, which is 168 pounds. Stallone is on record saying that he hasn't weighed that since 1983. And if you do a comparison of him in Rocky Balboa (2006) and Grudge Match (2013). Holy shit.

9. Star Trek Into Darkness

All my sobriety bled out on both the Stallone movies on this list. You can read my review HERE.

10. Man of Steel

I hate Zack Snyder. I hate Superman. I liked Man of Steel. Figure that one out. Too drunk to do so myself.
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