Thursday, January 2, 2014

Favorite films of 2013 soon will give way to 2014 newbies

It's just the second day of 2014 and already TV ads for the first movies of the new year are running rampant.
Until they do open later this month -- and, just in case anyone really is eagerly awaiting the appearance of "The Legend of Hercules," "Ride Along" and/or "I,Frankenstein" -- please be content with one man's listing of his favorite films of 2013.

 
Lawrence and Adams both stop traffic in "American Hustle."
"American Hustle" --  The David O. Russell Players strike again, this time tackling their auteur's humorously distinctive take on the Abscam mess of the early-'80s. Oscar noms all-around, please.

"August: Osage County" -- A marvelously assembled ensemble cast, an absorbingly adapted Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and one very dysfunctional Oklahoma family.

"Before Midnight" -- One final (maybe?) brilliant take on a relationship that so nicely developed for Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater in two movies "Before." 

"Blue Jasmine" -- Writing takes center stage again, with Woody Allen getting an Oscar-winning performance from Cate Blanchett as a woman on the verge, and then some. (Yes, I did say "winning." Skip the fuss and just give it to her now.)

"Captain Phillips" -- Somali pirates really captured the title character and his merchant vessel in 2009. Director and former documentary filmmaker Paul Greengrass puts us into the middle of it all and a great movie-going experience.

"The Conjuring" -- Easily the scariest, spookiest film of this or any other year. And, it doesn't need blood and guts to succeed. Can't wait for the sequel, but none of this could possibly be true, could it?

"Fruitvale Station" -- Speaking of truth, few knew about this chilling, Oakland-based New Year's Eve incident in 2008. Now, thanks to first-time feature director Ryan Coogler and a thrilling performance by Michael B. Jordan, we'll likely never forget it.

"The Place Beyond the Pines" -- The most underrated (and maybe most under seen) film of 2013 is an epic good-evil, father-son tale starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. Find it now on DVD.

"Philomena" -- The ever-funny Steve Coogan (who co-wrote) and the always totally fab Judi Dench offer the year's most memorable road film. Based on still one more true story, it makes you laugh, cry and everything in between,
Leo DiCaprio enjoys tour de force work as "The Wolf of Wall Street."
"The Wolf of Wall Street" -- It's simply too fascinating to watch Martin Scorsese inspire his real-life-based bad boys and girls to work and play and carouse and steal and over-indulge for a mind-boggling three hours. The message must be in how easy it all looks.

A dozen more worth seeing -- "About Time," "All is Lost," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Disconnect." "Enough Said," "42," "Gravity," "Her," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Nebraska," Saving Mr. Banks," "12 Years a Slave."

A dozen hours we'll never get back -- "After Earth," "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," "The Counselor," "A Good Day to Die Hard," "Evil Dead," "The Heat." 

Performers of the year -- Amy Adams ("American Hustle," "Her," "Man of Steel"); Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Great Gatsby," "The Wolf of Wall Street"); Tom Hanks ("Captain Phillips," "Saving Mr. Banks"); Brie Larsen ("Don Jon," "Short Term 12," "The Spectacular Now"), Jennifer Lawrence ("American Hustle," "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire") Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club," "Mud," "The Wolf of Wall Street").

TV stars become movie stars -- Julia-Louis Dreyfus ("Enough Said") and Will Forte ("Nebraska").

But what the hell were they thinking? -- Kristen Wiig ("Anchorman 2," "Girl Most Likely," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty") and Bruce Willis ("G.I. Joe: Retaliation," "A Good Day to Die Hard," "Red 2").

Movie scene of the year -- The fantastical barrel chase in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." The 15-minute action sequence is brilliantly executed in every way.

Who knows? Maybe "The Legend of Hercules" can top any of it.

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