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The Best Movies of 2013: #20 – #1

January 31, 2014

Congratulations, my players and playerettes! You finally made it, the big day has finally arrived! For those just tuning in, here’s what you’ve been missing:

Day 1: #85 – #66
Day 2: #66 – #51
Day 3: #50 – #36
Day 4: #35 – #21

Now that that’s out of the way, what do you say we get down to it?

20. Cutie and the Boxer
Those awesome opening credits. The unexpected weight of Ushio’s drunken, emotional breakdown. There’s just a lot to like about this gorgeous, honest, complex portrait of two aging, starving artists as they come into their own. Didn’t hit me right away, but it’s been lingering like a mother ever since.

19. V/H/S/2 (Full Review)
In light of its (mostly) disappointing predecessor, I can’t stress enough what an improvement this was every single way. Love what these guys are doing and, holy hell, that segment by Gareth Evans featuring the charming gent up yonder? That was something else.

18. Blackfish
Yup. SeaWorld is the worst. Awesome to see a doc create such a real-world impact like this.

17. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
As one of the six people people on Earth who actually liked the last one, this made for three awfully well-spent hours. Still pales in comparison to the book (because of course), but I just love coming back to Middle-Earth like this. That is far and away one of the nerdiest sentences I’ve ever written.

16. Stories We Tell
Proof that some of life’s most interesting stories are the ones we call our own. Big ups to Sarah Polley for sharing this with the world and to her family for making it happen. Takes guts.

15. Man of Steel (Full Review)
Fully aware that I’m in the minority here, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one. As a big fan Supes, it’s been far too long since he got his due on the silver screen. Can’t say the criticisms aren’t warranted as things do get a bit overkill there, but, for me, the shortcomings were easy to overlook. Consider this my mulligan for the year.

14. This is the End (Full Review)
I can’t remember the last movie that had me laughing this hard from the beginning to end. ‘Tis is a special, beautiful thing.

13. 12 Years a Slave
Isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said. There’s no shortage of good reasons for why it’s probably gonna win Best Picture.

12. The Gatekeepers (Full Review)
As sobering as it was enlightening. Glad I watched it, deserves to be seen.

11. American Hustle
Nothing against his last few gigs, but this was David O. Russell’s best movie since Three Kings. First time in a long time where I couldn’t venture a guess as to how the story would play out and it wound up playing out wonderfully. Bonus points for the best trailer of the year.

10. Gravity

9. You’re Next (Full Review)
For a year that had its fair share of noteworthy horror movies, this was the one that did everything right. Great sense of humor given everything that goes down, just the kind of heroine that this industry (let alone genre) needs and some very memorable villains sporting some very memorable getups. Just a total blast all around that breathed some serious life into a tired formula.

8. This is Martin Bonner
As understated as can be, there isn’t much that actually happens and I’m guessing you haven’t heard of it. BUT, I’ve always said that my favorite kind of movies are the ones about real people with real problems, and This is Martin Bonner is one of the great examples. Such a satisfying, simple, moving story that got so very much out of very little with ease. If only we had more movies that didn’t insist on over-complicating things.

7. Muscle Shoals
One of the best rock docs that I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. One of those rare things that renews your faith in the magic of music.

6. The History of Future Folk (Full Review)
Folks, I’ve been championing this movie all damn year and I’m not gonna stop ’til your granny’s running down the street with a bucket on her head yelling “Hondo!” I can’t imagine how anyone who gives this a shot wouldn’t be just as enthusiastic. The History of Future Folk is everything that’s great about going to the movies all at once and it is a sure thing for anyone looking to watch anything. For the love of god, do yourself a favor and watch this immediately. Granny can thank me later.

5. Dallas Buyers Club
One of the year’s best scripts, two of the year’s best characters and two of the year’s best performances to boot. This one was firing on all cylinders, folks, and I could not get enough of it. What a freakin’ year for Matthew McConaughey, huh?

4. Mud (Full Review)
Seriously though, what a freakin’ year for Matthew McConaughey. 2013 had its fair share of coming-of-agers, none of which came close to everything great about Mud. The cast, script, the story – everything, especially those kid actors. Reason No. 3 why Jeff Nichols continues to be one of the best film makers out there (see Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter for reasons No. 1 & 2).

3. The Act of Killing
The banality of evil is a jaw-dropping thing to behold. Unbelievable in nearly every sense of the word; the most important thing cut to film last year.

2. Before Midnight (Full Review)
Best trilogy ever? Best trilogy ever. I’ve already rambled enough about this one, but, believe me, I could keep going.

1. her
Knew this would be my No. 1 within the first five minutes. The one movie last year that truly reminded me why I love movies, that movies are so much more than mere escapism, that movies are art. One of those movies that’s so significant and true to who we are, where we are and where we’re going as a people that they should probably just preserve it in the National Film Registry already. I know, some seriously high praise going on up in here, but even if you don’t agree, even if you find it stupid, depressing or funny in the all the wrong places, it’s so rare to find a movie that invites those kinds of responses. So many feels with this movie. This is one that society will remember.

And that’ll do it, folks. Hope you enjoyed this year’s rundown, and even if you didn’t, feel free to let me have it.

Until next time, stay groovy, y’all.

The Best Movies of 2013: #35 – #21

January 30, 2014

Getting to the home stretch here, folks. For those who need of a refresher:

Day 1: #85 – #66
Day 2: #66 – #51
Day 3: #50 – #36

Now, onto the good stuff.

35. The World’s End
Unexpected in both good ways and bad; one that I liked a lot more in the moment. Still, even as the weakest entry in the Blood & Ice Cream trilogy, Edgar Wright continues to have no equal. Something tells me time will be kind to this one. Looking forward to a second viewing.

34. Somm
For something that could have been as snooty and esoteric as it sounds, this was one wildly engaging doc with one satisfying payoff. Isn’t it just awesome to see someone master something, anything in life?

33. Lore (Full Review)
Not the kind of WWII/Holocaust movie I ever expected to see, let alone expect it to be this affecting in turn.

32. No (Full Review)
A fascinating story with a fascinating protagonist, one that’s just as pertinent today as it was back then.

31. Spring Breakers (Full Review)
It’s been almost a year now and I still have absolutely no idea where to rank or how to feel about this movie. Definitely made an impression though, that much is certain. So, yeah. I’m just gonna leave this here. Talk amongst yourselves.

30. The Conjuring
Seriously. Fuck that doll. I couldn’t even look at the screen during the first half-hour of this movie I was so utterly, helplessly scared. The clapping game? Not having it. Whatsoever. While it wasn’t quite as terrifying from that point forward, I haven’t been this spooked by a movie since The Orphanage.

29. Behind the Candelabra
For someone who never really piqued me interest beforehand, little did I know how taken I would be with this story of his life. What a weird, touching romance, and that ending was a keeper.

28. Side Effects (Full Review)
During what was easily the worst moviegoing period of last year, this was nothing short of a gift from the gods of celluloid. Totally unexpected and just another reason why Steven Soderbergh can’t leave us.

27. Upstream Color (Full Review)
Certainly original; certainly unlike anything else I saw last year or ever, for that matter. Shane Carruth should really make more movies.

26. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Did a bang-up job of clearing some things up. Not a pretty picture any way you paint it.

25. Nebraska
Wasn’t too crazy about it for the first half-hour, but it just kept getting better and better. Never underestimate the power of simplicity when telling a story. Write that one down, kids.

24. Room 237 (Full Review)
What a freakin’ trip. I think the fact that I’m still wondering about Kubrick staging the moon landing kinda says it all.

23. Iron Man 3 (Full Review)
Shane Black and RDJ should really do this more often.

22. Call me Kuchu
Heartbreaking. Mind-boggling. Required viewing regardless of your familiarity with the subject matter. Uganda needs to get its shit together, stat.

21. Sightseers
Totally warped, absolutely hilarious, right up my alley.

Alright, boys and girls. Just one more day to go. Until then, you stay groovy.

The Best Movies of 2013: #50 – #36

January 29, 2014

Welcome back, sports fans! Once again, if this is all coming as news:

Day 1: #85 – #66
Day 2: #65 – #51

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s keep this gravy train rolling.

50. Frances Ha
A bit too white and “hipstery” for my taste, but Greta Gerwig rocks, man. That woman rocks hard.

49. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Liked it for a lot of the same reasons as I did the last one, so points for consistency. Seriously though, it’s ridiculous how good this series is in comparison to all the coattail riders out there. Serenity now.

48. Oz, the Great and Powerful (Full Review)
The last thing the world needs is another fairy-tale adaptation, but, what can I say? I’m a sucker for Sam Raimi.

47. Bridegroom
Some straight people, man. Homeys need to get their act together. Sad stuff.

46. Ain’t in it for my Health: A Film about Levon Helm
Gotta say, it was pretty sad seeing how bitter he was about some of his former bandmates after all these years. Then again, I’ve never been broke or been screwed out of royalties. Anyhow, Levon was the man and this was just further proof. Not for nothing, but watching him cover “Atlantic City” was one of the best scenes of the whole damn year.

45. A Band Called Death (Full Review)
As surprisingly heartfelt as it was kickass. What a great band name, what a great family.

44. War Witch
Harrowing, important stuff that became even more so upon learning how terribly accurate it is.

43. The Way Way Back (Full Review)
Would have been higher if Steve Carrell hadn’t been such a huge dick, but if we could get more Duncans in our coming-of-agers, that would just be grand. And, as always, much love to Sam Rockwell, especially DANCIN’ SAM ROCKWELL!

42. Pacific Rim (Full Review)
Since anime is awesome, so, therefore, is this. Way more fun than I was expecting it to be.

41. Sound City (Full Review)
If this doesn’t make you want to start a band, I don’t know what will.

40. Blue Caprice
I always have trouble with movies that are based on real-life people who, you know, murdered a lot of real-life people. Kinda seems in bad taste, right? With that said, this was one truly haunting portrait. Isaiah Washington deserves more credit than he got.

39. Prisoners
For a movie where none of the characters really grew or changed, this sucker did a bang-up job of grabbing my attention and not letting go. That Hugh Jackman sure likes to yell, huh?

38. Blancanieves
Like I said, enough with the fairy-tale adaptations. But if you’re going to do it, bully to you for doing it as a silent film starring six bullfighting dwarves.

37. Gimme the Loot
I love these kinds of movies. Low-budget stuff driven by snappy, genuine dialogue and true-to-life characters that are just plain fun to be around. More of this, please.

36. The Great Gatsby (Full Review)
Granted, anything would have been better than the Robert Redford version, but after dreading this movie’s arrival for good couple years, color me impressed by the way it turned out. Honestly, I wish more adaptations would have the guts to do what this did rather than stick to the source material like they (almost) always do.

And that’s it for Day 3, folks! See you back here tomorrow for the next 15. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

The Best Movies of 2013: #65 – #51

January 28, 2014

Alrighty then! 22 down, 65 to go. For those just joining us, here’s what you missed:

Day 1: #85 – #66

Now, where were we…?

65. Resolution
Intriguing premise that went off in a really weird direction for some reason.

64. From Up on Poppy Hill
Probably the only time I’ll ever say this, but it would have been better if it hadn’t been anime.

63. Trance
It’s no Shallow Grave, but it was fun to see Danny Boyle do a throwback for once.

62. Mama (Full Review)
Eerie stuff that, surprisingly, didn’t keep shooting itself in the foot like I totally expected it to.

61. Stoker
Some really great direction and use of inference here, just wish the characters hadn’t felt so damn stiff.

60. Warm Bodies (Full Review)
For a genre that’s starting to wear out its welcome, this right here was a welcome change of pace.

59. The Place Beyond the Pines (Full Review)
Still find myself thinking about this one every now and again, although it’s amazing how one weak character can really take the wind out of a movie.

58. Welcome to Pine Hill (Full Review)
Understated to the point where it hardly even felt like a movie, which is a good thing. Just wish there was a bit more closure to tie it all together.

57. Electrick Children (Full Review)
Mormons, music and Billy Zane. Not a bad formula, folks.

56. Drug War
A solid, gun-toting cop thriller. Easily the lamest review of this entire list, but that about sums it up for me.

55. Star Trek Into Darkness (Full Review)
Lackluster ending, overly familiar and it’s certainly no Star Trek, but it was a fun two hours all the same.

54. Inside Llewyn Davis
Great music, great cast, can’t argue that it had a lot of things going for it. So why’s it sitting at No. 54? Let me put it this way: you know how your impression of Catcher in the Rye changes when you read at different periods of your life? That’s kinda where I’m at with Llewyn Davis. Story, characters and humor just didn’t resonate like I was hoping they would. Doesn’t mean it’s not deserving of praise, doesn’t mean I won’t be revisiting it in a few years.

53. Evil Dead (Full Review)
Does kinda fall apart towards the end, but, man, was this a good ol’ time at the theater.

52. The Silence
As chilling as it is encompassing, even in respect to its title. Quite the downer though.

51. Europa Report
Thanks to Gravity, it was destined to be overshadowed. And while it’s certainly no Gravity, it was darn good for what it was. Bonus points for Sharlto Copley’s performance. Dude needed this one after that bearded nonsense in Elysium.

And that’ll do it for Day 2, folks. Catch you on the flipside. Word to your mother.

The Best Movies of 2013: #86 – #66

January 27, 2014

Hey, everybody! Long time no blog.

Apologies for the sudden four-month absence around these parts. Work’s been hella busier and I’ve been shifting my creative juices to brave new frontiers as of late. More on that later.

Didn’t manage to break triple digits this time and I also missed out on a handful of keepers (eg: Captain Phillips, Short Term 12, Battle of the Year). Nevertheless, 86 is a crap ton of movies and it’s time I gave ’em their due. So without further ado, let’s get this party started.

86. Sharknado
Was really hoping for one of those “so bad it’s good” situations, but hope can be a funny thing.

85. A Good Day to Die Hard (Full Review)
That’ll do, Bruce. That’ll do.

84. The Last Stand (Full Review)
If it hadn’t been by one of my favorite directors these days – the same guy who gave us this and this –  I’m guessing I wouldn’t have been such an utter buzzkill. Seriously though, check those movies if you haven’t already.

83. The Bling Ring (Full Review)
Great opening credits, but all press is good press for the little assholes that inspired this.

82. The Kings of Summer
A crowd favorite that just didn’t do it for me. Tried way too hard for its own good.

81. Admission (Full Review)
White people, right?

80. Jack the Giant Slayer (Full Review)
Big fan of everyone involved here, just not sure why there were involved.

79. Elysium (Full Review)
Not a fan.

78. Grabbers
So much potential, could have been a blast, never managed to capitalize on either fronts.

77. Oblivion (Full Review)
Eye candy can only do so much to save a Frankenscript like this.

76. The Bitter Buddha (Full Review)
Still not sure how I feel about this guy.

75. Epic (Full Review)
Just another Pixar knockoff with Pitbull and Beyonce, which is fine. Little brother dug it and that’s all I was really hoping for.

74. World War Z (Full Review)
Just another zombie movie that could have been so much more.

73. Venus and Serena
Theirs is a story worthy of film and it does make some astute points about how male and female athletes are viewed in the public eye. Still, seems like a random, anticlimactic time to share their story with the world.

72. Prince Avalanche
Felt like I was watching the artsiest locker-r0om conversation ever cut to film. Killer ‘stache on Rudd, though.

71. To the Wonder (Full Review)
Points for appearances and doing something different. Could have used some more focus, though.

70. Future Weather
Never really clicked with me, bummed it didn’t.

69. The Wolf of Wall Street
Don’t get me wrong; it’s incredibly well-made, liked it a lot more than I expected to and it’s one of Leo’s best performances. But the fact remains: fuck Jordan Belfort. People like Belfort shouldn’t be rewarded for doing what they did, especially with an Oscar-nominated movie that paints him as a hero of sorts, a hero that douchebags far and wide will celebrate and idolize like he’s Tony Montana. Could have afforded to lose an hour, too. Alright, stepping off the soapbox…

68. It’s a Disaster (Full Review)
Inspired premise that never really caught its stride until the final scene. Great final scene though.

67. Only God Forgives
Actually kinda dug it until those last 15 minutes. No coming back from that.

66. The Spectacular Now
Pretty misleading title, huh?

Alright, sports fans. See you tomorrow for the next 15.

Best Movie Ever: Episode 14 – Turning it up to 11

September 20, 2013

Well hey there, everybody! Welcome back to another glorious episode of Best Movie Ever!

In case you haven’t noticed, pickin’s have been kinda slim at the theaters the last couple weeks. So in honor of the release of One Direction: This is Us, Sean and I figured we’d run down our picks for the Best Rockumentary/Music Film Ever! Oh yes, it’s a keeper alright, and we even take some time to get all insightful on yo’ asses with our thoughts on the state of cinema through the eyes of Joss Whedon.

Not sure why, but I also sound like a ghost from time to time and say “like” like crazy this episode. Classic Aiden.

Anywho, there ya’ have it, folks. So without further ado, click that banner up there and listen away!

You’re Next (2013)

September 13, 2013

8/10 Animal Houses

More of this, please.

You’re Next is about an Australian gal who drives out to the country for her boyfriend’s family reunion. Everyone’s there and, as expected, no one’s getting along. They try to play nice for the sake of their parents, but things come to a head during the first family dinner. Brothers are yelling, parents are upset and one of the new boyfriends gets an arrow between his eyes. Once everyone realizes that Tariq’s been assassinated, it puts things into perspective right quick. Panic sets in and they batten down the hatches, but as this family tree gets shorter and shorter, this charming girl from a land down under becomes their best hope for survival.

First, it was The Strangers. Then, it was The Purge. Going off that synopsis, it might not sound like You’re Next is doing much to distance itself from such a disappointing lot. Going off that synopsis, it’s another home invasion movie starring dudes in creepy masks. Under someone else’s direction, you’d probably be right and this vicious cycle of mediocrity would continue on. But thanks to Adam Wingard, it’s good be wrong.

If you haven’t been introduced, Adam Wingard is part of this budding horror collective of sorts that’s been giving us winners like The House of the Devil and V/H/S/2 as of late. While his contribution to the latter wasn’t exactly the standout of the bunch (not enough demon births), it was a solid 15 minutes and a fitting precursor to what he brings to You’re Next.

Now, if there’s anything I’ve learned from The Cabin in the Woods and all the folks that I recommended it to last year, it’s that horror comedies aren’t for everyone. It makes me sad, but I get it. Sometimes, when all you want to do is have the crap scared out of you and into your knickers, running gags from start to end can really kill the mood. Even at its best, it can be a hard balance to strike and an even harder one to sell. So if there’s anything I can say to dissuade you bloodthirsty boys and girls from writing this off as a sheep in wolf’s clothing, it’s that You’re Next is a horror movie, no doubt about it.

As I already mentioned and likely didn’t need to, a lot of people bite it in this movie. Oh it’s gnarly alright, but not just because of how these siblings get offed (though that’s certainly a key factor). Usually in situations like these, the people that die are horny-ass teens too stupid to live. The kicker here is that everyone’s family, so when one of their crew dies, it makes for one hell of a ripple effect.

Pretty ballsy move to go down this road, but that’s why the humor works as well as it does. Trust me, watching this family break down as their sibling/child/significant other bleeds out in the foyer is no laughing matter. It’s some pretty heavy shit. It’s not like Wingard cues up the Benny Hill song every time someone gets an ax to the noggin, but if the laughs weren’t there to lighten the mood, this would be a pretty depressing affair. Rest assured, it’s still quite suspenseful and it’s certainly quite brutal. The laughs aren’t here to screw that up, but they sure work wonders to keep the mellows from harshing.

Speaking of dead relatives, another big bonus is that these characters aren’t stupid. The reasons they keep on dying an’t because they always go into That Room when they really shouldn’t go into That Room. Death becomes them because they’re either in panic mode (an understandable reaction) or the bad guys are one step ahead of them. Not only does this make their demises that much more of a bummer, but it saves my eyes having to roll back into my brain. Rough as it may be, using family members as sitting ducks is a surprisingly effective way to make minor characters matter.

But that’s not even the best part. The best part is the one character here who isn’t a sitting duck.

See that ax-toting Australian badass down there? That’s Erin, and someone ought to give Wingard a high-thirty for not making her a dude. Get Sharni Vinson in on that action for playing her, too. She’s cool under pressure, she’s got skills to the kill the Bills (just go with it) and, best of all, she doesn’t need some douchebag guy to protect her. It’s the first time since maybe Scream that I’ve seen a woman beat the marrow out of her would-be killer like this, which is both phenomenal and disappointing. Man, I am such a sucker for strong, confident, smart women in any walk of life, and film is a world that could always use more.

As for the aforementioned would-be killers, how great are those get-ups? Those things speak for themselves. Love it.

You’re Next is just a really fun movie to play along with. It was fun to keep guessing who was masterminding it all, to jump and laugh at all the same parts with everyone else in the theater. It was a beautiful thing, really, which is something given how gory it tends to be.

If you’re the kind of person who sleeps with one eye open and a gun under your pillow, then I imagine You’re Next will be the scariest goddamn thing you’ve ever seen. If you’re more in the market for big scares and cheap thrills, you might be better off with something like The Conjuring. Not that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, it did make me yell “JESUS!” once. But the reason my wife and I had such freaking blast with this movie isn’t because of all the times that it goosed us. You’re Next is a blast because I was plugging my ears from one scene to the next, because I didn’t have to yell at the people on the screen, because I was quoting it and chuckling on the whole drive home.

It’s a new-school take on old-school horror that does a lot of things well and isn’t frustrating in the slightest. May not sound like much, but believe you me, it’s one of the best horror movies I’ll see all year.

Hell of a time.

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