Saturday, January 11, 2014


2013 was an interesting year for movies.  I went to the movies 30 times this year (several repeat viewings).  Overall there weren’t tons of stellar movies, but there were many good-decent movies.  I thought compiling the list would be easier than it was until I had seven choices and then had six movies left for the final three spots.  The Top 4 choices also kept shuffling around over and over. 

 Below I’ll give a brief summary of my Top 10 favorite movies from this year and then recap some of the various other offerings I saw.  Reminder that my Top 10 is solely based on movies I saw at the theatre and I kept it to original movies only and not retro movies or repeat viewings from previous years (i.e. Jurassic Park 3D or Avengers)
Sorry Khan haters.  This is the best movie of 2013 and one of the strongest Trek films ever.

1. Star Trek Into Darkness – For me, this was the best movie of the year.  I loved the storyline which stayed faithful to changes that have taken place in the Star Trek universe timelines thanks to the events in the 2009 Star Trek reboot.  There’s two outstanding villains and at a key point in the movie when a villain reveal was made (on opening weekend) a startled audience member loudly said, “OH-MY-GOD!” which had my brother and I in tears.  The movie is frenetic in a good way and by the time things end you're glad to see Kirk in the captain's chair and the crew settling in for their five year mission.  I couldn't be happier with this franchise.  Boldy going on and on!  Best time I had at one movie all year.

"Giant robot, use your lasers!"
2. Pacific Rim – This was the movie I expected to me my #1 movie of the year.  It was a good movie but not as great as I had hoped.  I wanted an epic but instead was treated to a solid action movie.  Seeing it in IMAX 3D added quite a bit to the experience as well.  My wife (always a fan of giant monsters) needed to be dragged to the first showing but then willingly went back for a second viewing (something she rarely does at the theatre).  The movie delivers some excellent giant monsters vs. giant robots battles but then suffers by delivering far too much of Charlie Day’s annoying comic relief character.  I hope there’s a sequel that makes the needed improvements to epic level.

"More like Ass Kicked." - Big Daddy (Kick Ass)
3. Kick Ass 2 – Speaking of sequels that made improvements.  I loved Kick Ass 2!  This sequel amps things up nicely and develops the characters of Kick Ass and Hit Girl in believable ways all while presenting a stronger cadre of villains with a great deal of violence and humor spread throughout.  While I missed Nicholas Cage’s Adam West-style hero from the original, I did not miss the out of place rocket pack used in the original’s ending.  The climax of this movie is very fun and believable and makes me eager to see if a Kick Ass 3 will ever be seen.

4. Man of Steel – People seem to be all up in arms about the amount of damage done by the attacking Kryptonians in Man of Steel.  My reply – If Superman hadn’t been on Earth to stop them, and then the entire planet would be destroyed, so feel lucky that the damage was as small as it was.  The other whining point of people is that Superman does in fact kill someone in this movie.  Fine, if you go back and watch the ending to Superman 2 (which people seem to conveniently forget) you’ll see Superman crush General Zod’s hand before tossing him against an ice wall and watching him sink into the frigid arctic waters to his death.  In comparison, a neck snap isn’t all that bad.  Those points aside, this is a good (if not epic) origin story for Superman.  I loved all the flashbacks to growing up in Smallville and how his parents molded him into the hero he becomes.  The fights in the last hour may seem a bit long, but after the bore fest that was the previous movie Superman Returns, I think the producers were afraid to not deliver enough action.  I liked the movie and am excited to see if the DC Universe can successfully build off of it.
"You are my son." - Kevin Costner

5. The Wolf of Wall Street – This movie is taking some serious knocks from it’s over use of the F-word, to its 3 hour run time, to the fact that the unrepentant Wall Street thieves basically go unpunished.  Upon seeing the movie I felt similarly, however in researching some of the back-story I saw that in essence this is what happened in real life…they were not fittingly punished.  So what remains is a long movie of 80’s greed.  But make no mistake; there are some laugh out loud hilarious moments in this movie.  The Quaalude scene alone is worth the price of admission. Of all the Scorsese-DiCaprio collaborations, I think I enjoyed this one the most.

6. Riddick – Thank God this movie was made!  I love the character of Riddick.  I was a huge fan of Pitch Black but felt like the ending to Chronicles of Riddick left the character in an odd role that I did not accept at all.  This movie corrects that mistake in the first ten minutes and then gives us an entertaining sci-fi desolate world monster movie on top of it.  I had a fun time seeing this and was thrilled that even if they never make another Riddick movie, the mistakes of the second entry were rectified so I can actual enjoy the entire trilogy as it currently exists.

7. Fast & Furious 6 – Wow more Vin Diesel!  I looked back my list from 2011 and was stunned that Fast Five did not make the Top 10 for that year.  Big mistake on my part!  Fast Five is a better movie than F&F 6, but this one is still damn fun.  Very fast paced with some real stakes in play, and so much fun that I was even able to accept “The Jump” moment, and an ending that had me very pumped up for Part 7.  Sadly Paul Walker’s death in real-life may have shrouded the series for me, so this may be the final entry I watch since I enjoyed the brotherly bonding between Toretto and O’Connor the most in this series.

Let's toss some midgets!
8. Gravity – Gravity is the kind of movie that will lose a great deal on a TV screen and will eventually have people saying, “What was the big deal?”  To understand the big deal you had to experience this on an IMAX screen.  While the heavy on symbolism story of “rebirth” didn’t always impress me, the visuals did.  I’ve never seen an outer space movie like this one and it kept my eyes glued to the screen the entire time.

9. The Wolverine – I’m not a fan of the X-Men movies.  I loved X-Men First Class and hated all the rest.  I didn’t expect much from Wolverine but I had a hell of a lot of fun watching it.  The movie is quite serious with the out of place killing machine character trying to fit into Japanese societal drama.  When there is action, it is justly deserved.  The battle atop the bullet train was great (but not as good as Tom Cruise’ in the original Mission Impossible) and there’s also a neat scene where Wolverine has to perform self surgery on his heart.  The biggest stumbling point for this movie is in the climax which seems very routine and comic-booky considering the mostly adult drama we’d been presented with for the previous two hours.

10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – This was the final movie I saw for the 2013 season.  I had not read the book so I went into the movie knowing nothing.  For the second film in a trilogy (quadrilogy) I felt they did a nice job of raising the stakes and building a larger scaled universe.  The game scenes were intense and did not feel repetitive from the first movie.  I’ll need to read the book and Mockingjay before I tackle the next movie in the fall of 2014.

And the rest of the movies I saw this year that missed out of Top 10 status…

Thank you for saving this series!
*Enter the Dragon (retro midnight movie) – I love going to these summer midnight movies in my area.  There’s always great crowds and it’s my only chance to see movies of my youth on the big screen.  This Bruce Lee classic was a hell of a fun time to watch in a crowded theatre.

*Escape from New York (retro midnight movie) – One of the seminal movies from my cable-watching youth.  Escape from New York stands alongside The Road Warrior and Excalibur as R-rated movies that I watched repeatedly growing up.  To finally have the chance to see this movie on the big screen…a smile was plastered across my face the entire time.  One of the all time sci-fi antihero best movies!

*Oz the Great and Powerful – I enjoyed this movie more than I expected.  Sam Raimi played fair as far as connecting this to the original Wizard of Oz; however Mila Kunis was badly miscast as the Wicked Witch and not frightening enough.

*G.I. Joe: Retaliation – I am not a G.I. Joe fan but my brother is.  He tolerates seeing the Fast and the Furious movies with me and this is the trade-off.  The martial arts moments with Snake Eyes were fun but I don’t feel there was much fan loyalty connecting this movie to the original one, and poor Channing Tatum.

*Evil Dead – I loved the pure violence on display in this movie.  It was nice to see very little CGI and mostly practical effects.  It was a tense gross out, but lacked any sense of fun or legitimate scares.  This was a missed opportunity for sparking a new franchise.

*Jurassic Park 3D – I just saw Jurassic Park a year ago at a midnight movie, and it’s playing pretty much 24-7 in our house because it is Mrs. Jumper’s favorite movie of all time.  So this year she dragged me back to see this in 3D on IMAX.  Still totally worth it!

I will miss you Paul Walker.
*Iron Man 3 – This was a nice improvement from Iron Man 2 (which I feel is the weakest of all the Marvel movies) but there were plenty of areas that could have been improved.  I’m in the minority of people who enjoyed The Mandarin twist, but all the action at the end felt like there was no real danger in play, mere spectacle.

*This is the End – There are many laugh out loud moments in this movie!  I love that each of the leads plays extreme caricatures of themselves amped up to ‘11’.  If My Top 10 list was Top 11…this would have the final spot.

*World War Z – I’m not a fan of Max Brooks highly praised book.  It was OK but not the game-changer that so many people praise when they’re not boring me to death with examples of George Romero’s “social commentary” in his zombie movies.  Zombies are what they are, the end.  This movie could have been a blast, but they missed the mark by focusing too much on one character (Brad Pitt) when they could have gone with an old school disaster flick style movie and a bunch of B-list actors in various roles.  I enjoyed the scenes in Jerusalem and on the plane, and found the ending dull and anti-climatic.

*Despicable Me 2 – My wife loves all the Pixar and animated movies.  I try to avoid them whenever possible.  The two Despicable Me movies are the easiest ones for me to sit through.  It was fun.

*The Conjuring – There’s an awesome creep factor to this movie.  The set-up is dynamite and it doesn’t resort to cheap jump moments.  The first 2/3 of the movie were A+ material but the ending felt a but over-inflated and “been there done that”.  I love the cast though and enjoyed reading about some of the real-life cases of The Warrens, so I hope they make a sequel.

*Machete Kills – I was a huge fan of the original Machete movie.  I felt Robert Rodriguez perfectly captured the grind house-action feel.  This one though goes way off into left field and turns everything into so much of a joke that you can’t really take anything seriously.  One of the bigger disappoints for me in 2013.

*Thor the Dark World – The original Thor movie was OK.  I’m not the biggest Thor fan but I did enjoy Loki.  What I didn’t like was Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings.  Sadly both of them return for the sequel, albeit in smaller roles.  Loki is given stronger dialogue and scenes and he dominates this movie to great effect.  I hope the third movie is simply scenes with Thor and Loki because when those two share screen time I am glued to every minute.  This movie was a nice improvement from the first Thor, but the Dark Elves were dull villains, so there’s still plenty of room to improve.

*Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – I’m not a huge fan of Will Ferrell’s original Anchorman movie.  It was OK.  I’m a bigger fan of his work in Step Brothers or Talladega Nights.  Comedy is a tricky genre though because what causes one person to laugh causes another person to grumble “that was stupid”.  There are some solid gut-busting moments in this movie.  They had me with the opening two minutes and I enjoyed the entire movie.  This was a nice step up from the original one.

Overall 2013 was a decent year.  While some movies left me disappointed, I didn’t thoroughly hate any of them.  My money was well spent and even though there are not too many offerings that will make their way into my permanent collection, it was an enjoyable time at the movies and based on early previews I don’t see as much in 2014 to make me think it will top 2013 for total offerings.

Chronologically my visits to movie theatres in 2013…

Oz the Great and Powerful
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Evil Dead
Jurassic Park 3D
Iron Man 3
Star Trek Into Darkness
Enter the Dragon (retro midnight viewing)
Fast & Furious 6
This is the End
Man of Steel
World War Z
Despicable Me 2
Pacific Rim
Escape from New York (retro midnight viewing)
The Conjuring
The Wolverine
Kick Ass 2
Machete Kills
THOR MARATHON: Thor, Avengers, and Thor the Dark World
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Hunger Game: Catching Fire

See you at the movies in 2014 and remember to save me the aisle seat.

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