Well, it's a few days late, but so many great movies came out on Christmas that it was a race to see them all.
This year was a surprising list. I didn't know my favorites until I sat down to type this, and it was still hard even then. As always, I can't say these were the best movies of the year, simply because I haven't seen everything, but they were my favorites of what I did see.
10. This Is the End - Like a super-dirty Ghostbusters, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This Is The End was a great supernatural comedy, which managed to merge solid laughs without sacrificing the original sci-fi concept. Playing themselves and mocking their public images was a great idea, and the movie made me laugh all the way to its final dance scene in Heaven.
9. American Hustle-David O. Russel is such a solid filmmaker, with his last 2 movies garnering Oscar nominations, and Oscar awards for their lead actors (Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale). Here, the principle actors of both films come together for a classicheist movie. Everyone gives a stellar performance, particularly Christian Bale and his unbelievable weight gain, and Amy Adams and her cleavage in their 1970’s glory. Add in terrific costume design and a couple of great cameos, and “American Hustle” is a smart, fun movie.
8. Pain and Gain- “Pain and Gain” was truly the most surprising movie I saw this year. Michael Bay channeled his best imitation of the Coen brothers and put together a truly fascinating crime story that was so unbelievable, the movie itself had to remind you at one point that yes, this is still a true story. And The Rock, well The Rock makes everything better. I’d like to campaign to have him play a dwarf in the final Hobbit movie and hopefully save that mess.
7. Iron man 3- Iron Man 3 was not at all what I expected and I loved it for it. After the massive spectacle of The Avengers, writer/ director Shane Black instead went small, telling the very personal story of Tony Stark losing it all, and rebuilding from scratch. Guy Pierce and Ben Kingsley made for great villains, and both Rhodey and Pepper got their moments to shine. I particularly enjoyed Pepper saving the day at the end. It served as a nice bookend to the Iron Man trilogy and a nice place to leave the character for his inevitable return in the next Avengers film.
6. Saving Mr Banks- One of things I enjoyed about “Saving Mr. Banks” was the realistic, Un-Disney-ish portrayal of true life events, even when they were at their most heartbreaking and tragic. Emma Thompson was fantastic playing P.L. Travers, a woman who you should greatly dislike, but instead have great sympathy for as you slowly learn her story. Tom Hanks, America’s favorite actor, is of course wonderful as America’s favorite storyteller, Walt Disney. In fact, the entire cast is fairly amazing, from Paul Giamatti’s humble limo driver, to BJ Noval and Jason Schwartzman as the Sherman Brothers. I’ve actually never seen Mary Poppins, but when you witness the creation of the icon music and imagery, you can’t help but get swept up in it, singing along and shedding a tear. Its simply the story of a movie being made, but you can't help but feel the gravity of the culminations of events that brought them all there, and the triumph of success. And any movie that features a trip to 1960’s Disneyland is OK in my book.
5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-The Hunger Game movies (and books) are smart, fast-paced and intense. The entire world they set up is incredibly original and makes you want to know of its implied history. Jennifer Lawrence is incredibly engaging as Katniss and a great role models for young girls. You can’t help but put yourself in her shoes, contemplating your next move, knuckles clenched tight the entire time. "How am I going to light this fire AND carry Peeta? How am I going to kill these trained assassins AND carry Peeta?" Catching Fire, while a return to the games of the first film and the middle chapter of the entire saga, still feels original and complete, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
4. Frozen-Frozen was the type of movie I had longed for Disney animation to make again. It brought me back to the pre-Pixar days, when Disney animation was king, with movies like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. It had great characters, an interesting and twisty plot and dazzlingly visuals that were of the caliber of the world’s most famous animation studio. It brought me back to the animated movies of my youth and reminded me why I enjoyed them so much in the first place.
3. About Time-I enjoyed “Love Actually”, and expected another charming movie from Richard Curtis about a guy and girl falling in love, but this time with the added element of time travel. And that was there on the surface, but at its heart About Time is really the story of a father and his son, and holy crap, it killed me. If you are a son who loves his Dad, I defy you not to break down a little on more than one instance. I'm not sure everyone will have the reaction I did, but the story Curtis was telling connected with me in a big way. Near the film's end, Bill Nighy makes a request of his son that just tore me up and left me thinking about the beautiful relationship they shared for days after seeing it.
2. Gravity- Gravity isn’t so much a movie as it was a thrill ride, like a theme park attraction on screen. The plot is fairly simplistic; a tale of survival following a tragic accident in space, but it was truly one of the most intense movies I’ve ever seen. I found myself yelling “Grab it. GRAB IT! GRAB IT!!!” for 90 minutes straight as Sandra Bullock struggled to live. The sweeping, continuous opening shot that weaved through the space station was remarkable, and after I left the theater I had felt like I had lived through an experience, rather than had just simply saw a movie. Its one of very few movies that I can say was made to be seen in 3D, and the experience blew me away.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street- I love that not only is Martin Scorsese still at the top of his game and as relevant a director as he ever has been, but is continually changing things up. His last major film was essentially a (well done) children’s film, while The Wolf of Wall Street is basically a very black comedy. In fact, it may have been the funniest movie of the year. DiCaprio is great as always, being equal parts charming and equal parts one of the worst human beings you’ve ever seen. But Jonah Hill may be the best part about the film. I have no doubt he will win an Oscar some day. The film is about horrible people doing horrible things, with little to no redemption at its core. So the overall message may be questionable, but the unbelievable, yet true story is so fun to watch on its toboggan ride straight to Hell, I love every minute of all 3 hours of it.