I can’t believe it’s been a year since I first started writing movie reviews for Cloture Club! I have thoroughly enjoyed going to movie screenings, writing reviews, and interviewing filmmakers that come through DC! As this year comes to a close, I felt it was only right that I compile a list of the very best/worst in the world of Hollywood. This has been one of the best years for film in over a decade, so it was especially hard for me to compile a “best of” list. That being said, after seeing over 170 films released this year, below are my picks for the year’s best films (I had to go with my top 15 because this was such a strong year), worst films, most overrated and underrated films, and best performances. What were some of your favorites/least favorites this year? Make sure to keep reading Cloture Club for opportunities to win tickets to movie screenings in 2014! [hr]
15) Drinking Buddies
This little movie, starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston, is not only one of my favorite movies of the year, it’s also one of the most underrated. It’s funny, has some great twists from the typical romantic comedy, and also has heart. Plus, how can you not love a movie that takes place partly at a brewery? I have never wanted to drink a beer with my friends as much as I did after watching Drinking Buddies.
Beautifully shot and beautifully acted, Her is an incredibly original (at times heartbreaking) film that showcases where technology may lead in the near future. Scarlett Johansson’s voice acting is superb and it’s unfortunate that the Golden Globes chose not to give her the nomination she deserves. This in-depth character study is like nothing else you will see this year, and that is why it is on my “best of” list (and will also be the reason it is nominated for so many awards this season.)
13) About Time
About Time, starring Domhnhall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams, is the kind of movie you will buy at full price when it comes out on DVD and regardless of the fact that you already own it, will still watch every time you catch it on TV. Maybe it’s the likeable actors, or maybe it’s the sweet story. Either way, this movie will stick with you the second you leave the theater, and will hopefully, at least for a moment, make you appreciate the little moments in life.
12) Warm Bodies
Creating a new genre, the zom-com, Warm Bodies proves that you don’t need horror and gore in order to create a great zombie film. R (Nicholas Hoult) allows the audience to see the world through the zombie’s eyes. We are privy to his thoughts thanks to a hilarious tongue-in-cheek inner-monologue that explains the difficulties of zombie life: constant slouching, grunts instead of words, brain eating… you know, normal problems. Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult have fantastic chemistry, and I love the twist this film gives to the typical zombie film. I could watch this movie over and over and not get sick of it.
One of the best Disney films in years, Frozen is a brilliant animated movie that harkens back to the musical-based classics of the early 1990s. What I love most about this film is that it focuses on the love between sisters instead of the love between a guy and a princess. Plus, there’s the added bonus that Kristen Bell AND Idina Menzel provide their voices for the film. Girl power is the theme of this movie, and I’m always okay with that.
10) Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers is not the type of movie you are probably expecting. Just because its main characters are former Disney stars and James Franco in a crazy costume, this film is no cheesy Spring Break movie. It is a raw, intelligent statement about the issues constantly facing teenagers in today’s society. Between the fantastic camera work, awesome visuals and insane character development, this film was one of my biggest movie surprises of the year.
9) The Way, Way Back
From the writers of The Descendants, The Way, Way Back was the indie hit of the summer. This film is an incredibly charming coming-of-age story with a perfect blend of humor, heart, and the cringe-worthy moments you unfortunately remember from your adolescence. The jokes are funny and the sentimental moments are actually incredibly touching. It was definitely my favorite film this summer and I can totally see it developing a cult following in the years to come.
8) 12 Years A Slave
Usually, a criteria for my “best film” picks is re-watchability. However, 12 Years A Slave is so brutal, I don’t know I would be able to watch it again. Regardless, based on the historically accurate (yet gut-wrenching) plot, masterful acting, and exceptional directing by Steve McQueen, it is undeniable that this film is one of the best of the year and will resonate with audiences for generations.
7) The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now, written by Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter (500 Days of Summer), is hands down one of the best coming-of-age stories of the past decade. In fact, it is very reminiscent of John Hughes’ popular teenage-centered films of the 1980s. This movie not only has an all-star cast, but also has a fantastic script and an ending that most wouldn’t expect from most teenage dramedies. While the trailer for this film makes it look like an angst-filled love story, it is actually so much more than that. It is the story of young people trying to come to terms with their impending future.
6) The Great Gatsby
While some have taken issue with Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of this American classic, I absolutely loved The Great Gatsby. Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast as Gatsby (as is Carey Mulligan as Daisy), and only Luhrmann’s over-the-top style could bring this film about excess to the big screen with this kind of bang. The visuals are remarkable and the soundtrack is still playing in my car on repeat. I have already watched my Blu-Ray more times than I care to admit, yet I’m still not sick of it. Not to mention, the giant reveal of DiCaprio’s Gatsby is one of my favorite movie scenes this year.
5) Short Term 12
I love being blown away by an unexpected movie. This year’s most surprising award goes to Short Term 12. Based on a short story of the same name, this film is a little movie that I demand everyone rent the second it is released. Everyone knows about the bigger blockbusters on this list, but few know about this little gem. The performances (by mostly unknown actors) are extraordinary and the storyline is incredibly endearing. I hope Short Term 12 gets a huge surge in views when it comes out on DVD. Psst: Brie Larson deserves an Oscar nod for her performance.
4) The Wolf Of Wall Street
Although The Wolf of Wall Street clocks in with a run time of three hours, it is so entertaining, you would never know it. The film is a riotous look at greed, excess and corruption on Wall Street, in a package that is hard to look away. Between the fantastic performances (Leo has never been better), unbelievable storyline, and debaucherous action, The Wolf Of Wall Street is not a movie to be missed.
3) American Hustle
With the best ensemble cast of the year (featuring Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence), it would be impossible for me to leave American Hustle out of my top 3. Not only is the acting top-notch, but the storyline is intriguing (and funny), the soundtrack is nostalgic and matches the tone of the film perfectly, and the costumes and set design are fun. If I were to create a formula that would churn out a perfect movie, American Hustle would follow it to a T.
Gravity is a game-changing film for our generation. I always hear stories of people seeing Star Wars and being amazed by the technology; Gravity is that film for me. From now on, we will judge movies based on BG (before Gravity) and AG (after Gravity). The CGI, Alfonso Cuaron’s direction, and Sandra Bullock’s acting make this film stand out amongst the rest. Gravity made me excited to see what surprises Hollywood has in store for us in 2014.
1) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Before you get yourself in a huff that this is my “best” movie of the year, I want you to know that I realize this isn’t the BEST film of the year, but it is my favorite. First, the tears I shed while sitting in the theater from the sheer awesomeness of this movie cannot be ignored. Second, I am a diehard fan of The Hunger Games and Jennifer Lawrence. Third, I am a huge fan of any movies that feature a girl kicking major ass. Fourth, how can you beat a movie that has a solid story, nonstop action, a fantastic cast, and Jennifer Lawrence? You can’t.
*Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order): 20 Feet From Stardom, Blackfish, The Bling Ring, The Conjuring, Fruitvale Station, The Heat, Man of Steel, Much Ado About Nothing, Nebraska, Philomena, The Place Beyond The Pines, Prisoners, Saving Mr. Banks, Star Trek: Into Darkness, What Maisie Knew, You’re Next
10) Movie 43
Although I love Kate Winslet, and it pains me to give a movie she is associated with a negative review, I would not be being honest with myself (or you) if I did not include Movie 43 in my “worst of” list. While Winslet and Hugh Jackman’s sketch at the beginning of the movie was genuinely funny (and the best part of the film), it all goes down hill from there. No wonder none of the actors promoted the film.
9) Broken City
Yawn. This was one of the first movies I ever reviewed for Cloture Club. Thankfully I didn’t let its incredible dullness turn me off from writing movie reviews for the rest of the year.
8) The Counselor
While this may not be one of the WORST films of the year, I put it on my list because it’s the most disappointing. I had been looking forward to this movie since I first saw the trailer and even with an extraordinary cast and director, The Counselor was boring, unnecessarily confusing, and not a film I ever want to see again.
7) Runner, Runner
First of all, I can’t stand Justin Timberlake’s constant overacting (though I am a super fan of his music). Too bad this is the movie in which I decided to give him a second chance. Unfortunately for its stars, Runner, Runner is the poor man’s version of Rounders. Also, what the hell was Ben Affleck doing taking a role in this film?
6) The Host
I love Saoirse Ronan and think she’s extremely talented. However, The Host is terrible. Maybe I just can’t stomach Stephanie Meyers’ ridiculous books/screenplays, but this was one version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers I never want to see again.
As Jeff Bridges put it, “I was underwhelmed.” This is actually an extreme understatement for what I thought after I finished watching R.I.P.D. As much as it tries, this film is nowhere close to Men in Black. It mostly left me wondering, “How did this film get made?!”
4) A Good Day To Die Hard
Please stop ruining what was once a good thing, Bruce Willis. In A Good Day To Die Hard, the jokes are stale, the storyline and action are as ridiculous as ever and I am once again reminded why I stopped looking forward to Bruce Willis movies, especially those with Die Hard in the title.
3) After Earth
I think After Earth is the biggest fail of the year. Will Smith thought this film was going to be so popular, it would create an empire (sequels, video games, comic books, etc…). Let’s be real, with the terrible CGI, ridiculous accents and awful storyline, all it created was a head ache for viewers and an easy target for movie critics like myself. This is not the movie M. Night Shyamalan wanted for his big comeback.
2) The Big Wedding
How did the movie studio/filmmaker get all of these wonderful actors to agree to participate in such a terrible movie? Maybe they just wanted to work together, but why make us all suffer through this crap? The Big Wedding is painfully unfunny and borderline offensive throughout every scene. Not to mention, it’s completely predictable and I don’t understand why the screenwriter decided to go for an R rating. I haven’t cringed so much in a movie this year as I did in The Big Wedding. Did the actors read the script beforehand?
1) Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
In my entire life, I have never stopped watching a movie before it was over. Mortal Instruments almost made me break that streak. I was so bored throughout the entire film, it made my experience at the movies painful. I won’t lie; I usually love films geared towards teenagers, but this was too much for even me. The fact that the studio is in talks for making a sequel gives me nightmares.
Most Overrated Film- All Is Lost
From the acting to the storyline, All Is Lost is the definition of “overrated” this season. This is the same story I have seen countless times on The Discovery Channel’s show I Shouldn’t Be Alive; a man’s ship sinks and he must try to survive on a life raft. There is nothing new to this story, and there isn’t even a volleyball named Wilson! Although the film’s star (actually, he’s the only character in the movie), Robert Redford, is getting buzz for an Oscar, I think that is completely unfounded. He was just okay in the movie and nothing out of the ordinary… especially in such a crowded race.
Most Underrated Film- You’re Next
This film JUST missed the cut for my best movies of 2013. Not your average horror movie, You’re Next does a great job blending humor, horror genre tropes, and downright scariness. Like I’ve said before, I am also always a sucker for a kick ass female character, and in You’re Next, Erin (Sharni Venson) reminds me of the heroines of the late 70’s (think Ripley from Alien and Laurie from Halloween). I cannot say more nice things about this movie. Whenever someone asks me for movie suggestions, this is always at the top of the list.
Best Performances of 2013
*My picks for the very best of the year are highlighted in blue!
Christian Bale- Out of the Furnace and American Hustle
Bruce Dern- Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio- The Wolf Of Wall Street
Chiewtel Ejiofor- 12 Years A Slave
Tom Hanks- Captain Phillips
Oscar Isaac- Inside Llewyn Davis
Hugh Jackman- Prisoners
Michael B. Jordan- Fruitvale Station
Matthew McConaughey- Dallas Buyer’s Club
Joaquin Phoenix- Her
Amy Adams- American Hustle
Cate Blanchett- Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock- Gravity
Judi Dench- Philomena
Brie Larson- Short Term 12
Jennifer Lawrence- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Julia Roberts- August Osage County
Meryl Streep- August Osage County
Emma Thompson- Saving Mr. Banks
Shailene Woodley- The Spectacular Now
Best Supporting Actor
Daniel Bruhl- Rush
Bradley Cooper- American Hustle
Paul Dano- Prisoners
Leonardo DiCaprio- The Great Gatsby
Michael Fassbender- 12 Years A Slave
Ben Foster- Lone Survivor
James Franco- Spring Breakers
Jonah Hill- The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto- Dallas Buyer’s Club
Sam Rockwell- The Way, Way Back
Best Supporting Actress
Scarlett Johnasson- Her
Jennifer Lawrence- American Hustle
Jena Malone- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Margo Martindale- August Osage County
Lupita N’yongo- 12 Years A Slave
Sarah Paulson- 12 Years A Slave
Margot Robbie- The Wolf Of Wall Street
Octavia Spencer- Fruitvale Station
June Squibb- Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey- The Butler