As the holidays come to an end and a new year begins it’s time to look back at a year that had con artists winning critics’ and audiences’ praises, astronauts lost in space, pirates going after a hard-working captain, and a terrifying haunting scaring the movie-going public right out of their seats. So here it is, my choices for the Top Ten Best Films of 2013 that had both audiences and critics cheering and applauding as the credits rolled.
10. THIS IS THE END – Starring James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jay Baruchel
Spending the End of Days trapped in James Franco’s new house in L.A. with earthquakes, hellfire, and a very upset Emma Watson wielding an ax demanding food and water, This Is The End had the most laugh-out-loud moments in a comedy this year (as well as quite a few surprise cameos).
9. 12 YEARS A SLAVE – Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch
Based on a shocking true story of a free black man who’s kidnapped from New York and sold into slavery down in the South, 12 Years a Slave captures the horrors of slavery and has two stand-out performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, the enslaved free man who struggles not just to survive but to hold onto his dignity, and Michael Fassbender as the malicious plantation and slave owner. Both are worthy of Oscar consideration.
8. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB – Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner
One of the most impressive things about Dallas Buyers Club is how both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto disappear into their roles and are almost unrecognizable. They are sure to be recognized with Oscar nominations in 2014 for their performances in this dramatic film which tells the true story of cowboy Ron Woodroof, a heterosexual man who in 1985 contracted the HIV virus and found a way to get around the established medical experts to get dying AIDS patients the drugs they needed to help fight the disease. Dallas Buyers Club also captures wonderfully the fear and prejudice that most of the public had about the disease in a time when many were dying from it and no one was sure how to treat it.
7. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG – Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom
The second installment of The Hobbit trilogy is filled with fast action, solid performances and hands-down the best CGI dragon to ever grace the big screen. Still not in the same league as the Lord of the Rings films, this Hobbit movie is every bit the adventure Mr. Bilbo Baggins was told to expect if he joined the Dwarves quest.
6. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE – Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson
A sequel that outshines and outdoes the original film in every way with its strong performances, wonderful set designs, and bigger, faster more suspenseful action scenes.
5. AMERICAN HUSTLE – Starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams
A quirky, original comedy/drama with two stand-out performances by Christian Bale and Amy Adams playing con artists who end up working for the FBI while trying to stay out of prison. This is the film to beat at the Oscars this year.
4. THE CONJURING – Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Lili Taylor
Finally, a horror film with first rate scares! The Conjuring‘s a chilling, nerve-racking, terrifying movie that is destined to rank near the top of the list of scariest films of all time, right up there with such horror greats as The Shining and The Exorcist.
3. GRAVITY – Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
Flawlessly directed by Alfonso Cuaron and featuring Sandra Bullock’s best performance since The Blind Side, this roller-coaster, science fiction thriller about two astronauts stranded in space with no communication to Earth and a limited amount of oxygen is one of the best films of the year and is also groundbreaking movie-making with its stunning use of 3D. It’s a visually breathtaking piece of movie magic.
2. SHORT TERM 12 – Starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr. and Frantz Turner
Short Term 12 is a powerful and touching film that never feels false. Brie Larson delivers a fantastic breakthrough performance as Grace, a 20-something counselor at a foster care facility dealing with some of the toughest cases of her career. This small independent film had both critics and audiences mesmerized.
1. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS – Starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi
Riveting and masterfully directed by Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips is a compelling film with the best performance by Tom Hanks since Saving Private Ryan. The last scene in the movie is incredibly moving and perhaps the finest piece of acting Hanks has ever delivered on screen. It’s without a doubt the Best Picture of the year.
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Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
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