Ten Favourites of 2013

About Time

abouttime

Released – November 1st

Box Office – $15 million North America/$68 million Worldwide

‘About Time’ is and should be the biggest surprise on this list. A Sci-Fi time travel film disguised as a romantic comedy, this film is quite possibly the best rom-com I have ever seen. What should not be a surprise is that a quirky British comedy rated highly with me. There really are days when I think I should be British.

The key to this film was a quiet but wonderful turn by Bill Nighy as the father of the main character. Utilized twice as a plot device to both introduce the key plot element but then to also further along the film later on, Nighy’s charm breathed life into what could have otherwise been a flat character, and allows him to hold ‘About Time’ together in the end.

While allowing the viewer an opportunity to think about what they themselves would do if in a similar situation, ‘About Time’ manages to avoid the usual trappings of a “normal” time travel film. Staying away from the usual tropes of survival or riches, ‘About Time’ creates a nice change of pace from the average film.

Captain Phillips

captphillips

Released – October 11th

Box Office – $105 million North America/$109 million Worldwide

My biggest issue with “Captain Phillips’ has been spending the past couple of days figuring out how Tom Hanks did not get another Best Actor nomination for the 86th Academy Awards. He is this film. We all know just what an exceptional actor Hanks is, but for the first time in almost twenty years, he truly shows it off in this film. Hanks is once again worth the price of admission to a film again.

What that doesn’t actually tell you though is just how wonderful ‘Captain Phillips is as a whole. Director Paul Greengrass crafts a film that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire run time, despite the fact that you know pretty much how the film is going to end. That is always an exceptional feat to pull off.

Another amazing aspect that really helped ‘Captain Phillips’ be a strong film was the performance put forth by Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the band of pirates. Abdi manages the rare feat of actually stealing scenes against Hanks and it is no wonder that the was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Frozen

frozen

Released – November 22

Box Office – $336 Million North America/$426 million Worldwide

‘Frozen’ continues the return of Disney to the top of the animation mountain. Having been supplanted by Pixar and DreamWorks, Disney has returned to form with recent hits ‘Tangled’ and ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ and ‘Frozen’ makes it a trifecta of all-around amazing films. Featuring a tour-de-force return to the hapharzardly abandoned fairy tale princess sub-genre that is Disney’s animated calling card, this film offers something for everyone.

Two straight years running and three of the last four years, Disney has produced what I would consider to be the best animated film of each year by offering films that out-Pixar Pixar while also bringing in both sexes with films that steal DreamWorks thunder. From jokes for all to amazing Oscar quality songs that are catchy, ‘Frozen’ is everything that you would expect from the House of Mouse and more, breaking down barriers as it goes.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

hobbit

Released – December 13th

Box Office – $249 million North America/$585 million Worldwide

Peter Jackson took what could be considered some unwarranted criticism from last year’s ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ for trying to meld a children’s book with his cinematic version of Middle Earth.  However, what Jackson managed to do was to make an even finer quality return to Tolkien’s world with ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’.

The most amazing aspect of the second Hobbit film is the dragon, Smaug, himself. When you finally see something come to life that you have long imagined from your childhood, you may get a little concerned about it. Well, in the end, Jackson and company pull off a wonderfully looking Smaug, and one that is key to this film. The other aspect, aside from the look, that sets Smaug apart is the voice work done by Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch’s voice is now how I will read Smaug’s lines whenever I read the book in the future.

While still suffering a little from the middle film syndrome, ‘Smaug’ is still a rambunctious ride and does its job perfectly of delivering our characters to the third act to come with this December’s finale, ‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’.

Iron Man 3

im3

Released – May 3rd

Box Office – $409 million North America/$806 million Worldwide

The first film that Disney and Marvel have released in their post-Avengers world did not fail to deliver. Showcasing everything we have come to expect from Marvel Studios in general and Robert Downey Jr. in particular, ‘Iron Man 3’ was a great way to launch Marvel’s Phase Two much like ‘Iron Man’ did for what became Phase One.

While presenting a seeming end to the arc of Tony Stark, and to the franchise in general should RDJ not come back, ‘Iron Man 3’ did so with a bang. Featuring one of the visually best action scenes of 2013, this film further entrenched Iron Man as a character to be reckoned with at the box office, right up there with Batman and James Bond.

‘Iron Man 3’ also showed that Marvel will not rest on its laurels in Phase Two, but will work to push the envelope further, by making us all ask the question: “What will become of Iron Man moving forward?”

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

mitty

Released – December 25th

Box Office – $55 million North America/$105 million Worldwide

‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ spoke to me very much on a personal level. That it did so was a great change of pace from the normal kind of films that I watch, or even other films that some would consider similar to this one. It spoke to me as I myself have at times been lost in thought and what ifs and doubts, very much something that afflicts the main character in this film.

That the opening act of the film, while showcasing those moments, was a little slow and dodgy is something that is easy to overcome once the film starts picking up in the second and third acts. While at times it can seem that the real world adventures of Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty are even more day dreamish than his day dream adventures, the fact that it shows that once you take a chance you don’t know where you will end up highlights how amazing that can be in life.

Star Trek Into Darkness

stid

Released – May 16th

Box Office – $228 million North America/$238 million Worldwide

Paramount Pictures has been in the same boat as Universal Pictures lately, struggling to create new franchises that will allow it to continue to be profitable in this day and age. What Paramount does have though is a sure fire bet for North American audiences, and that is J.J. Abrams’ rebooted ‘Star Trek’ films.  The action levels have never been higher in Trek films, and in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’  they also added more of the political air back to the franchise as well.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and all have done an amazing job on not only bringing “Star Trek’ into the 21st Century but also of making these characters their own with their own unique voices, which was something that no one could have been sure would have happened when creating a new timeline to tell new stories of Kirk, Spock et al. While putting a new twist on a story many are familiar with, they also managed to tell a story that was full of humour, action and also some easter eggs for fans of the original television series as well.

This is the End

theend

Released – May 12th

Box Office – $101 million North America/$24 million Worldwide

Only one true comedy made it to this list in 2013, and it might surprise most that it was ‘This is the End’. Featuring characterizations of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, along with others, the film parodies the reactions of movie stars to an apparent apocalyptic event.

The film is rude, crude, offensive and everything you would expect from a tongue-in-cheek take on their own lives, and as a result was the funniest film I saw in 2013.  ‘This is the End’ is also the first film I have ever seen in theatres where people got up and left due to being offended by it, and if possible, this made it all the more hilarious to me.

Near the end of the film it loses a little bit of steam as it tries to actually finish off telling a story, but for the most part, this film doesn’t take itself serious and neither should you.

White House Down

whitehousedown

Released – June 28th

Box Office – $73 million North America/$132 million Worldwide

As I stated in my previous “Most Disappointing of 2013″ article, ‘A Good Day to Die Hard” was out-Die Harded by a couple of films last year. The best of those films was ‘White House Down’, featuring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and James Woods, which was a rollicking action film that stood out above the rest for me.

Channing Tatum channels the best John McClane for the 21st Century that we have seen so far, and plays well off of both Jamie Foxx’s President and James Woods’ villain. There are some that will tell that based off of the box office results of ‘White House Down’ that Tatum cannot carry an action film, but that is simply not the case at all. What killed this film was its release date, nothing more.

Coming out after the failed ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ and the also quite decent and also quite similar ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, ‘White House Down’ suffered from viewer fatigue at the box office, but you should do yourself a favour and check this one out. From director Roland Emmerich, this film was the best of the three.

Rush

rush

Released – September 20th

Box Office – $26 million North America/$63 million Worldwide

Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’ was the best film that I saw in the theatres during 2013 and I cannot wait to own it when it comes out in a couple of weeks. Featuring Chris Hemsworth from ‘Thor’ and relative newcomer, to mainstream audiences for the most part, Daniel Bruhl, ‘Rush’ tells the story of the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda and its culminatin during the 1975 Formula One season.

Using a blend of CGI and practical effects, Howard crafted a wonderful film that left an exhilarating feeling throughout. The use of actual historical racing cars was a major part of making this possible. This film is more than just the two main actors, as the cars are also the stars that make this the best film of the year.

Showing off a more dramatic side than though possible, Hemsworth give a performance that makes it possible to believe that he could Academy Awards in the future. However, the real breakthrough of ‘Rush’ is Bruhl who shows off a wide range of emotions as Niki Lauda who suffers through a horrific crash during the 1975 German Grand Prix. Bruhl steals the screen every time we see him, and his resulting nomination for a 2014 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor was well warranted.

I will say this as a late addition. The fact that ‘Rush’ was completely shut out of the 86th Academy Awards with zero nominations does not accurately reflect the strongest film of 2013.

Advertisements

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

mitty

You may not expect a film about a day dreamer to be one of the strongest films of the year, but that is exactly what we have with ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’. This film is a perfect representation of the kind of film that I would have passed on just a couple of years ago, and it makes me wonder how many just how many other wonderful films I have missed as a result.

Directed by and starring Ben Stiller as the titular character, ‘Walter Mitty’ was a great chAracter study in what can be lost in a persons life when they are forced into growing up sooner than expected.  This is something that has universal appeal across much of the populace.

I will say that the first act could have been tightened up a bit.  I get what they were trying to do with the day dreaming sequences, they just could have tightened them up a bit.  They seemed a little too long and risked taking you completely out of the film before it got to the good spots.

However, once ‘Walter Mitty’ moves into the second act and the main character starts coming out of his shell, this is when the film really picks up steam.  Most people can relate to dreaming about taking chances and heading off into the open now knowing what to expect, and that is exactly what the majority of this film presents to you.

A stronger first act would have made the climax of the film all the more powerful, but in the end it doesn’t detract too much from the final product and this is easily one of the strongest films of the year.  The locales, the differing characters and one of the most powerful endings of the year make ‘Walter Mitty’ a must see, and in the words of my wonderful fiancee, a first day must buy.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Fall 2013 Season – Part Two

I don’t know if it is due from just getting older and as a result being more open to films beyond raunchy comedies and big-budget popcorn flicks, or if my tastes are changing, or if I am actively seeking out more types of films and being open to them, but with each passing year I manage to find additional levels of enjoyment from award caliber fare later in the calendar year.

As a result of this, the following article is full of eleven different award season fodder that under normal circumstances, will be on my viewing list before the end of January, and this list contains only one film that I know for sure would have made my list just two to three years ago.

This is also a sign for movie audiences everywhere on two different fronts.  First off, more big name directors and big name actors and actresses are willing to do smaller, character driven films that have enough entertainment value for the general masses.  Secondly, bigger metroplexes in more markets, and even smaller cities, are willing to bring these films in knowing that it will draw audiences to increase profits.  These two things lead off into numerous films on this list.

The ten films that follow are the larger films that are already garnering award buzz, be it for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor or Best Actress awards, and these are the eleven films that most people will have the opportunity to see before the Golden Globes are held in January.

Rush – September 27

rush

The only film on this list that I will 100% see, ‘Rush’ tells the story of the famed 1976 Formula One season and the race for the title between Englishman James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda and the horrific crash that Lauda suffered during the German Grand Prix of that season.

Directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, ‘Rush’ seems poised to push Hemsworth beyond his role as Thor and into the light as an actor to deal with moving forward.

Gravity – October 4

gravity

Initially put forth as a true 3D event film, in the same vein as last year’s ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Gravity’ may be one of Hollywood’s last gasps to sell a film as must see in the format that has been shunned for the most part in North America this year.  From director Alfonso Cuaron, ‘Gravity’ appears to tell the story of astronauts being stranded in space.

In order to get the best feel for the film, many people are avoiding watching trailers and TV spots featuring stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney floating away in space, and as a result of not furthering plot points in these scenes, the average theatre goer may wind up passing on this film, but much like ‘Life of Pi’, it could be a mistake waiting to happen to pass on it.

Captain Phillips – October 11

captphillips

Tom Hanks was one of the most bankable actors of the mid to late 1990’s, and with back-to-back Best Actor Oscar wins for ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ and two further nominations for ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Cast Away’, Hanks practically owned Hollywood at the turn of the millennium.  While his time since than has been more miss than hit, it appears that ‘Captain Phillips’ may be a turning back the clock so to speak.

Based on a true story, a running theme in this years films that are chasing the award’s season, ‘Captain Phillips’ will feature a defiant Hanks in a bit of an isolationist role, something right in his wheelhouse, and we may end up seeing a sixth career Best Actor nod from this film.

The Fifth Estate – October 18

fifthestate

Featuring one of the hottest names in films today, Benedict Cumberbatch, ‘The Fifth Estate’ tells the story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his exploits in becoming one of the most infamous men in the world.  Featuring Daniel Bruhl in his second appearance on this list as Assange’s right-hand man and author of the book that the film itself is being partly based on.

That being said, due to the nature of the film and the fact that is based around a whistle-blower, it may wind up not being able to live up to its own hype, and a quick look at the current Rotten Tomatoes score for the film seems to back up that line of thinking.

12 Years a Slave – October 18

12years

If there is a film that could be considered a heavy runaway contender for most awards this season, ’12 Years a Slave’ would be sure to be that film.  Based on the real-life re-tellings of Solomon Northup, ’12 Years a Slave’ tells the story of a freeman kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South before the Civil War.

Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, and a slew of name actors in other roles, such as Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt, ’12 Years a Slave’ sure seems to be the go-to film for critics ahead of its limited release in mid-October.  Whether that steam continues for average theatre goers or not, this film is sure setup to win hearts and trophies.

The Wolf of Wall Street – November 15

wolf

Another year, another highly anticipated film that might finally give Leonardo DiCaprio his sought after Oscar.  That is what ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ carries with it this year.  While the film also features actors like Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, expect DiCaprio to be the centre of attention of the marketing for this film, especially considering it is directed by Martin Scorsese, and the history between the two.

Whether or not this film can finally get DiCaprio the long elusive Oscar for Best Actor will be one of the key drivers and selling points moving forward, especially if it is having a healthy run in the theatres when nominations begin to be announced.

The Monuments Men – December 18

monuments

I am a sucker for war movies, and ‘The Monuments Men’ seems to be right up that alley, yet with a nice twist to separate it from the pack.  Set during World War II, this film features a group of allies trying to preserve works of art and other culturally relevant items from the hands of Hitler and the Nazis.

Based on true events, ‘The Monuments Men’ will be another testament to the wide range of great actors in Hollywood today, with the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman putting on the fatigues to fight an important cause during the war years.

Inside Llewyn Davis – December 20

llewyn

The latest film from the Coen Brothers, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, features another star-studded cast in a film built around the 1960’s folk music scene.  Featuring the talents of Oscar Davis, John Goodman, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is bound to be one of the harder to predict how it will do.

The reason for that is that it could be a quieter film due to the plot and the store, but the film also managed to win the Grand Prix award at Cannes this year, and that could cancel out the other aspects of the film.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – December 25

mitty

It appears that ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is Ben Stiller’s attempt to enter the serious part of his career.  As director and lead actor of the film, Stiller is definitely trying to show off that he has some real acting ability, and judging by the trailer that was released for the film, it will be hard to argue that he isn’t pulling it off.

While a story of a daydreamer has been done before, specifically a film of the same name all the way back 1947, a serious tone to the film could be quite the interesting take in the Christmas time period that Hollywood loves for serious award contenders.

American Hustle – December 25

hustle

Last year’s ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ from director David O. Russell was one of my favourite films of 2012, and Russell is back with ‘American Hustle’ this year.  Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and two of Russel’s favourites in Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who  both received Oscar nomination for ‘Playbook’ last year, ‘American Hustle’ takes a look at greed and corruption in 1970’s America.

‘Playbook’ was the first film since 1981 to garner nominations in all four acting categories at the Oscar’s, and with the cast present in ‘American Hustle’, there is no reason to think it can’t duplicate the feat, and a repeat of ‘Playbook’s big five nominations is quite possible as well.

There are definitely more films that will be considered as award season contenders, but this is just a quick list of the ones that most people will end up having come to their theatres this fall and holiday season.  Leading up to the Golden Globes and the Oscar’s, anyone of these ten films could become a front runner.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.