Monday, 23 December 2013

Ben's Top 20 Movies of 2013

Here we are, the item on top of your Christmas list; my end-of-year top 20! No spiel this time round, we're gonna go straight into it...

20) FILTH - sordid, schizophrenic, seedy and completely bonkers. Rounds off a strong year for Mr McAvoy.
19) KICK-ASS 2 - darkly entertaining, crammed with action and so well paced, you'll wonder where the two hours went.  
18) FROZEN - pleasant festive fun with a refreshingly subversive script.

Olaf the snowman in Frozen disney movie
17) CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 - Cutesy and colourful for the little'uns but not too dumb for the parents. Look out for the strawberry!
16) HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE - Tense action and fantastic performances from Oscar-winning actors, this franchise has something to offer every cinemagoer.
15) SIDE BY SIDE -  Extremely valuable informational doc that explores the digital vs film argument. A cinephile's wet dream.
14) THE KINGS OF SUMMER - An easy-to-digest and gorgeously photographed dramedy that will appeal to the young at heart and the nostalgic.

Kings of Summer lads being lads

Bruce Dern as  old man  in Nebraska

In Bruce Dern, Alexander Payne has found the perfect actor to explore his earnestly-written story of family, old age and mental illness. And Will Forte, a comedian known more for his slapstick work on Saturday Night Live, also turns in an authentic performance as Dern's on-screen son.

Nebraska is a beautiful movie experience, rich with emotion, warmth and sincerity. And it's ruddy well funny too. If this doesn't get an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, I'll walk all the way to Hollywood (or maybe just moan a little online).

The Movie 43 of the horror genre (but actually good), V/H/S 2 ups the ante on the previous effort, delivering 10x more depravity, 10x more entertainment and a lot more production.

This type of movie isn't everyone's cup of tea but for this zombie enthusiast and horror hound, V/H/S 2 was pretty much everything I wanted it to be. 2013 has been a diabolical year for horror movies so it was nice to stumble across this late one November evening.

And the award for most criminally under-seen and under-appreciated movie of 2013 goes to Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch's Prince Avalanche, a simple tale of two unlikely men bonding in the American outback.

Almost poetic in its non-linear presentation, Prince Avalanche isn't your typical Rudd vehicle but this charming character piece reminds us all that he's not just a one-trick funnyman. And director David Gordon Green slightly redeems himself for Your Highness (but not quite).

Gravity is a true cinematic spectacle and a phenomenal technical accomplishment. Let us not forget Sandra Bullock also for her one-woman acting masterclass.

And it's a downright scary film too. Although not marketed as a horror movie, Cuaron employs numerous techniques from the genre to get his audience on the edge of their seat. No aliens, no villains, just great movie-making.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director, Shane Black, was put on Earth to write Robert Downey Jnr killer movie dialogue and that's exactly what he does with Iron Man 3.

But Sir Ben Kingsley makes the biggest splash as the Mandarin, a truly unforgettable antagonist and my personal favourite movie villain of 2013. Iron Man 2 might've been a disappointment but this third installment proves that with a fresh approach, a franchise can be rejuvenated.

With his first feature-length, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has crafted a charming, vibrant, funny and tender film. It's actually pretty annoying how talented this dude is but I digress...

Don Jon is a hilarious male take on the classic rom-com formula with a few more boobs thrown in for good measure. Special mention also goes to Julianne Moore who, despite her age (53!!?) is still sexy as hell.

Barrel hiding scene in Desolation of Smaug dwarves

Back to Middle Earth we return as Bilbo and his dwarven companions continue their journey to the Misty Mountain. If I'm honest, I preferred Unexpected Journey as this second installment does suffer from pacing issues and the occasional moment of over-indulgence.

But... BUT, there's still over two-hours of fantastically acted, choreographed and shot action. The barrel-riding battle scene is definitely one of my favourite movie moments of the year, delivering frenetic action, tension and humour.  And Martin Freeman really becomes Bilbo, nailing all of the loveable character's mannerisms.

Riding in at number 6 is Quentin Tarantino and his colourful take on slavery. And I know what you're thinking; "this was released in 2012, you know nothing John Snow" but this actually hit UK cinemas in January! Although Django Unchained is an authentic homage to Westerns, it also feels contemporary and fresh, not least because of QT's signature bloody style.

Django Unchained is filled with superb, morally ambiguous performances but the stand out has to be Di Caprio who has fun playing against his 'good guy' typecast as the wicked Calvin Candie. And he still didn't win an Oscar...

A couple of South Korean directors tried their hand at Hollywood movie-making in 2013. One of them was Park Chan-wook, the masterful director of Old Boy (amongst other equally fantastic movies).

One constant throughout Park's career is an eye for cinematography and precise framing. Stoker doesn't disappoint in this respect. It's THE most aesthetically pleasing movie of the year. Every shot could be looked at as a singular photograph.

But Stoker isn't just a pretty face. This movie will get under your skin with its crazy, otherworldly atmosphere and incestuous love triangle. Stoker is Park's first venture outside of South Korea and hopefully not his last.

Sex, drugs and Formula One; Rush delights with its acting, humanist story and exhilarating cinematography. Daniel Bruhl steals the show however as he literally becomes Niki Lauda. Academy recognition is surely a possibility for a man that has been consistently impressive.

Believe me, I have zero interest in cars, let alone ones that can go 200mph, but the writing, performances and direction are so strong, so engaging, your initial trepidations will go out the window. And that readers, is the sign of a fantastic movie.

What would you do if you are certain of a person's guilt but there's no physical evidence to prove they committed the crime? Would you take the law into your own hands? What if that person's crime was the abduction and possible murder of your only daughter? What would you be willing to do in order to gain a confession?

Prisoners is more than just a film - it's a conversation-starter, a debate to be had around your offices' coffee machine. Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman all deliver exhausting and multi-dimensional performances that have proved divisive amongst cinemagoers due to the grey area of the law they all inhabit.
Prisoners is a must see movie and one of the best whodunnits? in recent memory. The initially intimidating 153 minute run-time absolutely breezes by, there's not one superfluous scene or flabby moment of dialogue.

Ryan Gosling has had a strange year. In between the artificial disappointment of Gangster Squad and the downright absurdity of Only God Forgives, he starred in Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines, a meditation on family, legacy and consequences.

Long takes and naturalism are the order of the day with many of the films climactic scenes shot in one smooth take - most notably Gosling's bank heist scenes, which have a raw, visceral impact. And Cianfrance cleverly evokes the spirit, thoughts and personalities of his characters just through framing and direction.

For me, The Place Beyond the Pines has been unfairly overlooked this year. Many criticised its length and three-act structure but when your writing and performances are this strong, you can structure your film however you like! Cianfrance's movie resonated with me like no other movie of 2013.

Aaaaaaaaaaand my favourite movie of 2013 is...

Yep, I'm not kidding. I saw 81 new release movies in 2013 but none of them connected with me in the special way that Wreck-It Ralph did. I almost feel like this film was made FOR ME, it was that perfect.

Wreck-It Ralph is all about the details. The arcade machines are connected to a giant extension cable, which acts as a train station for the characters to 'game jump'. And homeless characters like Q*Bert, who's machine was disconnected, gather round begging for donations. And any film that mocks Call of Duty is always going to rank highly with me.

Truth is - Wreck-It Ralph made me feel like a kid again, from the 8-bit Walt Disney Studio ident at the start, right through to the poop jokes, that I'd usually sneer at. And Vanellope may well be my favourite female Disney creation (it's a close fight between her and Boo from Monster's Inc).

And that brings a curtain down on 2013 and another year of writing reviews down here in my basement!

If you want to share your own Top 10/20 2013 lists, I'd love to read them in the comments below. Or perhaps you just want to call me an idiot. You can do that too! 


  1. I wish I had seen as many movies this year to make a list :(

    I'm really glad you had Side by Side on there. One of my professors showed it to us a few semesters ago. I really enjoyed the different views everyone had. I also liked that you had Stoker near the top - I think it's totally under-rated.

    I'm also horrified at some of your choices, but like always - agree to disagree. Haha. Interesting list and can't wait to read more of your reviews.


    1. Hey Cristina :)

      Which picks are horrifying? I think I know... haha!

      MORE PEOPLE NEED TO SEE STOKER DAMMIT. If atleast one person watches it because I put it on here, I'll be happy.

    2. Maybe "horrified" was too strong a word. Just really surprised at your top two. I was really disappointed (except with Gosling's performance) with "Pines" and I have failed to see what everyone loves about "Wreck-It Ralph." Is it a video game thing?

  2. I would add: Fruitvale Station, Mud, In a World, 20 Feet from Stardom, American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, A Hijacking, 12 Years a Slave, and Dallas Buyers Club

    1. A lot of those are 2014 releases in the UK :(

      Eagerly awaiting American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club especially.

  3. A lot of my top films are in your top 20, just in a slightly different order. Prisoners was the shock for me this year as I've never been a massive fan of psychological thrillers (because I'm a scaredy cat) but it was very well written and cast.

    1. LEAH!

      You must now deliver your Top 10 (or 20 if you want?). And psychological thrillers are the best, you wuss.

    2. BEN!
      Ooo, I shall do that now. And I know that now- 2013 (and you) have taught me the error of my ways.

  4. I have a top 8. It's been tough and to be honest, it's changed every time I tried to write it out. So I'll write them in order but as soon as I write them, I'll regret it.
    So number 1 would be Prisoners (all of the cast were amazing, especially Paul Dano who barely said a word)
    2- Frozen (a punny Disney ice fest)
    3- Desolation of Smaug(ypoos)
    4- Django Unchained (AMAZING SOUNDTRACK)
    5- Catching Fire (better than the first one- a lot more going on)
    6- Filth (trippy and amazing acting from James McAvoy)
    7- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (much better than the trailer made it out to be. Actually my favourite role that Ben Stiller has ever played. Not his cheesy self)
    8- Gravity (absolutely beautiful to look at)

    I would also like to point out that I thoroughly enjoyed This Is The End (even though I don't particularly like any of the cast), Philomena (who doesn't love the Dench) and About Time (standard Richard Curtis rom com magic). They don't go in my top 10 because they just can't compete with the ones I've put in my top 8, in my opinion.

    1. You should upload this to!

      And great choices. Everyone was slagging Walter Mitty off pre-release but I've actually heard it's good. Also, Prisoners and Frozen couldn't be anymore opposite if they tried, eclectic mixture.

    2. I'm an eclectic kind of gal, what can I say.
      And Walter Mitty's problem is that it's been hyped up as the wrong style of film. The advert makes it look like it's going to be some standard Ben Stiller being funny film when actually it's very real. The acting isn't silly and when it is, it's for the right reasons. I definitely recommend it.

    3. And by the way, it's

  5. I LOL'd so hard at your "you know nothing Jon Snow" reference to Django Unchained. I just imagined the grumpy cat in the Ygritte snow-jacket... (google it) haha. I liked your list though. Glad to see Wreck-It Ralph top the rest of the mofo's, even if I saw it in 2012 :)

  6. "The Place Beyond the Pines" is so underrated. Bradley Cooper's storyline could've used a bit more work but I liked it!


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