2013 movies: the sublime and the ridiculous

ANOTHER year over, another long list of movies (121 to be exact) to sift through and pick out the best and the worst. 

This list may seem a little strange because some of the films came out in 2012, but I didn’t get to them until they got a DVD release, so bear with me.

THE BEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR . . .

Life Of Pi

Yann Martel’s impressive parable on spirituality became a visually-stunning journey that put the audience in the boat with shipwrecked Pi and a man-eating tiger. Director Ang Lee deserved every award he got for this masterpiece and showed that maybe 3D isn’t such a waste of time and money after all.

Moonrise Kingdom

No one makes movies like Wes Anderson and as a result, this film was unlike anything else. A sweet yet strange childhood romance story, told with Anderson’s typically quirky deadpan method, it also featured one of the best ensemble casts of the year.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild

There’s something mythic about this incredible story of a six-year-old girl called Hushpuppy who is forced to fend for herself as a storm approaches her home in a Louisiana bayou. Quvenzhané Wallis’ performance as Hushpuppy is nothing short of remarkable.

Django Unchained

Tarantino’s “spaghetti southern” blasted on to the screen in a barrage of blood and n-words, making for an audacious, confronting yet entertaining ride. Jamie Foxx is great, but Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio steal the show.

Ruby Sparks

Zoe Kazan starred in and wrote this intriguing rom-com about an author’s fictional character coming to life. Wonderfully surprising and charming, but with a welcome dark edge, this was a little-seen and under-rated gem.

The Impossible

This account of the Boxing Day tsunami was harrowing and terrifying viewing. Watching Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor trying to get their family back together in the wake of one of the worst natural disasters ever seen was one of the more emotionally draining cinematic experiences of the year.

Robot and Frank

A sweet little sci-fi about the bond between a retired jewel thief (Frank Langella) and his new robot, who go on a crime spree. Exploring the nature of memory and vitality, this is an amiable comedy driven by great performances from Langella (and the robot). 

Pitch Perfect

This one took me by surprise — I wasn’t expecting a college movie about a capella groups to be so funny or entertaining. Rebel Wilson’s never been funnier, Anna Kendrick is a great leading lady and the music is pretty damn good too.

The Intouchables

Not only is this odd-couple bromance a touching story about the budding relationship between a rich quadriplegic (Francois Cluzet) and a slowly reforming criminal (Omar Sy), but it’s also hilarious. Cluzet and Sy are great and the true-life tale is told with incredible heart and warmth.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

JJ Abrams confirmed the Star Wars legacy is in good hands with the second of his young Star Trek adventures making sure once again that he’s got a great grip on balancing huge CG spectacle with the important character moments.

The Company You Keep

Robert Redford goes back to the paranoia of All The President’s Men as a man whose activist past comes back to haunt him. Stellar cast, with assured direction from Redford, who also stars, making it a welcome return to the screen for the veteran leading man.

This Is The End

Hilarious apocalypse comedy that makes the most of the talents of its cast — playing fictionalised versions of themselves — and their willingness to laugh at themselves. Easily one of the funniest films of the year.

Paranorman

Brilliant zombie horror movie for kids. The stop-animation is excellent, as is the voice work, and it’s refreshing to see such a smart and spooky film aimed at young people. Would make for a great double feature with last year’s Frankenweenie.

The World’s End

The other hilarious apocalypse comedy of the year. Shaun Pegg and co complete their Cornetto Trilogy by digging deeper, making a smarter and more layered film than the previous entries.

The Paperboy

Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, David Oyelowo, John Cusack and Nicole Kidman give outstanding performances in this unnerving slice of Southern Gothic about two journalists asked to look into an old murder case. 

Rush

Ron Howard’s take on the rivalry between Formula One stars Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is riveting and exhilarating, but its masterstroke is making you care about two very unlikeable characters, played with effortless style by Brühl and Hemsworth.

Prisoners

Gripping and devastating suburban thriller about two missing girls and the effect their disappearance has on their parents. Hugh Jackman is phenomenal as one of the fathers wandering into a moral grey zone that the film casts an unflinching eye over. 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

An improvement on the first film, led by Jennifer Lawrence’s butt-kicking performance as Katniss Everdeen. The increasing darkness in the tone is welcome and matched by good performances all round and an air of revolution in the action.

American Hustle

Lawrence again, joined by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Bradley Cooper to form a terrific ensemble in this strangely funny tale of a pair of con artists roped into helping the FBI catch politicians taking bribes. Thoroughly entertaining.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Peter Jackson delivers yet again, taking us back to Middle Earth for the second last time. Ticks all the boxes you expect, including the one that says “cool dragon”. 

AND THE WORST . . .

The Counselor

A BORING and frustrating mess filled with dire dialogue. A film about a bunch of people you don’t like doing things you don’t understand for reasons you don’t care about.

Killing Them Softly

Infuriatingly dull talkfest about thieves ripping off a poker game that’s interesting for about two minutes and totally wastes Brad Pitt’s talents.

Safe Haven

So-so romance that suddenly loses its mind with the dumbest twist in the history of movies.

A Good Day To Die Hard

Bruce Willis sullies the good name of John McClane with this forgettable Russian adventure.

Identity Thief

Unfunny comedy that felt contrived and tired.

Alex Cross

Truly dire attempt to revive James Patterson’s detective/psychologist for the big screen.

Man Of Steel

Superman lands with a thud in this misfire that climaxes with a numbing barrage of destruction.

Pacific Rim

Some of the worst acting this year comes from this puzzling robots-vs-monsters mess.

One Direction: This Is Us

Pure propaganda passed off as a deep insight into the boy band phenomena.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Someone forgot to put jokes in this dud, despite getting Steve Carell and Jim Carrey on board.

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