July 3, 2013

2013, the First Half: My Favorite Movies

While there have been a lot of movies I have liked this year, I cannot say I have seen a whole lot that cry out to me as potential classics. Still. There are a number of movies that I will gladly sit down and watch over and over. There are also a few that completely caught me off guard. Movies I was not expecting to like as much as I did. I think that is something that we movie lovers always hope for, discovering that over achieving movie, the one that surprises is with its excellence. Hopefully, I will see more of these as we head into the second half of the year.

10. Gangster Squad, The Purge, World War Z. Yes, l admit that this is a little not of a cheat, but these three movies are equally entertaining and it was hard to pick between them for who would appear as the anchor of this list. Gangster Squad is gleefully violent, heavily stylized, and not realistic. It has comedic undertones. Does not take itself too seriously and is just a lot of fun. The Purge is a surprisingly effective violent thriller that uses a concept that, while absurd in a realistic sense, works on a conceptual level that helps raise it above what you would expect. Then there is World War Z, a movie I was very pleasantly surprised by. After all the stories of the troubled production and the rewrites, I expected a really poor film. I found a very entertaining zombie/disaster movie that builds some nice tension, offers up some good ideas, and Brad Pitt is an effective lead. All three are good for different reasons and wort spending a little time with.

9. Go Goa Gone. Here is a movie that completely caught me off guard. All I knew going in was that it was a Bollywood film, that's it. What I found was an atypical Indian production. It still had the expected cultural and some stylistic differences, but it was shorter than usual and had no musical numbers. Beyond that, the movie turned out to be a pretty clever zomcom. Yes, that's right, a zombie comedy that works. It is just a lot of fun from start to finish and while not exactly the greatest of zombie files, there is something fresh and energetic about this movie that really got to me.

8. Dead Man Down. This is a stylishly made film. It presents interesting characters who have gone through a lot and are unable to find their way out except through each other. It is definitely worth seeing, just don't expect much from the plot, this movie is all about the lead characters, their damages, their desires, their needs. A well made straight forward tale of revenge.

7. Spring Breakers. This is a crazy movie that makes little narrative sense. It is filled with moments that I criticize in other movies that actually work in this context. It is the moments where a simple conversation could change the course of events, a slight injection of logic where none was previously. If logic was employed by our intrepid Breakers, it is likely that nothing at all would have happened. So, I guess we should be thankful for a writer who fails, purposefully, to give our protagonists logic. Take in the experience, watch as it takes you down the rabbit hole. Follow these girls over the rainbow to a world that tantalizes them with the idea of self discovery, but that promise is a lie. It is a uniquely modern Grindhouse flick that should be celebrated. Also, color me completely caught off guard by this movie.

6. Mama. This is not a straight up scary movie, it is more of a tragedy. The movie is surprisingly sad and completely not what I was expecting. It is a tale that has a seriously creepy vibe, but is able to let the sadness and tragedy come through. There are some interesting risks taken, including a certain moment near the beginning, as well as in its ending. It is not your typical happy Hollywood ending, there is a certain amount of joy to it, but it also takes a chance with the tragic aspects. It is nice to see a ghost story that can appeal to a wide audience and still feel fresh and take some chances. It is a bit of a roller coaster that will leave you drained.

5. Much Ado About Nothing. Here is another movie that surprised me. I had even considered not seeing it in theaters, I am glad I did. Joss Whedon adapts and directs this Shakespeare play with an eye to the present. He retains the old English but dresses everything on the present. It is a touch Stacey, but overall very effective and involving to the point I forgot they were using the Shakespeare style line delivery. This is a very good film.

4. This is the End. One of the funniest films I have seen in some time. This had me laughing from start to finish. It is kind of like the the geek version of Grown Ups. A bunch of friends getting together to have fun and make a movie, the difference being this is actually good. It is a movie that amplifies personalities, plays against type. Examines the effects of stardom, and acts as an excuse for some of the more over the top stuff you are likely to see this year in a theater. See this and laugh, then repeat.

3. Star Trek Into Darkness. This movie comes out firing on all cylinders. It gives us some great characters, some interesting new wrinkles, and kept me emotionally involved all the way through the climax. I loved the dawning realization I had as it played out before my eyes, wondering why I didn't see it sooner, happy for the ability of the production to keep secrets, and just how good pop filmmaking can be. That is what this is, it is pop filmmaking, a movie that is easy to watch for the entertainment value, but still rich enough to offer more should you want to look for it. It does what the best of classic Trek did, entertain while being a thought provoking reflection on the world of the present.

2. Evil Dead. Evil Dead delivers. I was hooked in right from the start. The movie takes a little time to ramp things up, but when they do, they really do. The possessions kick in and they do all they can to promise they will all be dead by dawn. There is some great effects work. The film looks great, besides the effects work the cinematography is a cut above the rest, and the score helps complete the eerie mood. The performances are solid. What it really comes down to is a movie that gets it right. It has an understanding of the history it is stepping into, knows that it needs to change things up, and most importantly knows it must be genuine in its efforts. There is nothing Hollywood about this. It may have more money and whatnot behind it than the original, but it doesn't feel churned out of the machine. It feels rather accomplished for a first time director. Fede Alvarez demonstrates a sure hand, guiding us through this journey through the pages of Evil Dead.

1. Lords of Salem. The movie feels like Kubrick, Argento, and Fulci got tossed in a blender and then filtered through Rob Zombie's intestinal tract. There is something about it that I just loved. It is sensical nonsense, it is a visual journey that will leave scratching your head. Love it or hate it, it is unapologetic, vulgar, grimy, and does not care what you think. It is a movie that made me think about how movies like this are not made anymore, at least not for theaters. It is a movie that does not care what the mainstream audience thinks, It does not cater to popular tendencies, it plays by its own rules, make it up as it goes along. The Lords of Salem plays into Lucio Fulci's idea of pure cinema that is not constrained by traditional narrative. What's not to like? Writer/director Rob Zombie lets out a different side of his cinematic persona. It is not a gore fest (although it does have some blood), it is more cinematic, carefully crafted, and just more classic in look. He put away the white trash and started moving in some different and interesting directions.

I recognize I am likely the only person to have a few of these movies as high as I do. Fortunately, it is my opinion and these are the movies that rose to the top for me. Hopefully you like them too, or at least willing to give them a chance. Here's looking to the next six months at the movies!

Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment