Top 10 Films of 2013

Another year has gone by, and what a year of movies it was. A lot of franchise movies and big blockbuster hits in the summer, but also some niches films that really shone. Here’s my top 10 picks of the movies of 2013.

10. Fast and the Furious 6

The latest instalment of the Fast and the Furious franchise is my number 10 pick; it’s fast-paced, action-packed, but is also personal and family orientated with the reintroduction of Michelle Rodriguez’s character. The ending left the movie series in a fantastic place, still riding high at box offices, and bringing in Jason Statham as the next villain. However, due to the tragic and untimely death of Paul Walker fans have to wait a little longer for Fast 7 and this will remain Walker’s last completed movie for the franchise.

9. Prisoners

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this crime drama which sees the kidnapping of two children on a Thanksgiving weekend. This is a brilliant psychological drama in which Jackman’s character Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands kidnapping and torturing a man whom he believes is involved in the kidnappings. The film presents a man who blurs the lines of what is right and what is wrong, and the audience is forced to question the moral correctness of what is happening. A tense and gripping drama.

8. Much Ado About Nothing

So during post production of Marvel’s big comic book movie collaboration Avengers Assemble, what does Joss Whedon do? Oh he shoots a black and white movie in his own home helped by his alumni cast members from his shows. After a year, it finally made it to selected theatres and it was such a treat – Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as Beatrice and Benedict were a great match for each other, and it was lovely to see that chemistry resurrect itself from the days of Angel. The black and white look of the film gives the film an edge and just makes it all the more beautiful. Long may the genius of Joss Whedon live.

7. Frozen

The only animated movie on this list, it sneaked in with its December release, but this was such a joyous and fun-filled Disney film I couldn’t leave it off. It centres around two sisters, who have been living mostly separate lives despite living and growing up together. Elsa (Idina Menzel) has magical powers and through her parents well-meant but certainly wrong advice she locks herself away from her younger sister Anna. When Elsa unleashes a winter on her kingdom, it is up to her sister to save her. It’s a truly delightful film, with a brilliant soundtrack including the stand out ‘Let It Go’ sung by Menzel and a twist that will certainly shock you (heck it did for me!)

6. Thor 2: The Dark World

Marvel’s second film in its Phase 2 plan, the sequel for its Asgardian God Thor reunites Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Marvel’s secret weapon Tom Hiddleston in a film that is certainly better than its first outing. The brotherly banter between Thor and Loki is one of the high points of the film, with Hemsworth and Hiddleston’s chemistry shining through.

5. Gravity

The Oscar nominated film took the box office by storm at the back end of last year. This 90 minute thrill ride was both visually beautiful and thematically, exploring the notions of life, death and also rebirth. It fully deserves the attention its getting and is so worth a watch.

4. Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

The middle film in the Hobbit trilogy helmed again by Peter Jackson is action-packed, adventurous and flows a lot better than the first outing. I was never bored during this film, something that I felt at times during the first Hobbit film. Martin Freeman again flourishes as Bilbo, and with the addition of Evangeline Lily, Luke Evans and the return of Orlando Bloom as Legolas the film takes off and becomes a blockbuster of a movie.

3. Star Trek: Into Darkness

The much awaited sequel to JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek found its way into cinemas last May and what a treat it ended up being – like many things Abrams does it was shrouded in secrecy, but that didn’t stop fans speculating about villain Benedict Cumberbatch’s role in the movie (if you want to find out whether he is in fact Khan, go check out the movie). It was an adrenaline ride and definitely one of the early hits of the summer.

2. Iron Man 3

The third (and possibly final) stand alone Iron Man film probably saved the best until last, with more laughs, but also more humanity and anguish for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark who spends much of this film still dealing with the aftermath of the battle of New York from Avengers Assemble. Iron Man 3 kicked off Marvel’s Phase 2 campaign and was a banker in terms of money, but a risk with Shane Black stepping in to direct. However, it took off like a rocket, and the ending felt like a nice closed chapter point for the character.

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

After looking at everything I’d seen that had came out in 2013, the second instalment of The Hunger Games, clinched everything; it was a blockbuster movie that had blockbuster performances, a fantastic pace, and a disquieting theme.  When I walked out the cinema I wanted to turn around and watch it all again (which I did a week later). Even though it does verge on the over-running borders, the action and the tension is ramped up through every scene and all the elements come together to make this my number 1 film of last year.

 

Peeta: You have to live. For them.

Katniss: What about you?

Peeta: Nobody needs me.

Katniss: I do. I need you.

Star Trek Into Darkness

*****PLEASE NOTE THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS – Continue at your peril******

 

star-trek-2-into-darkness-poster-404x600

So, better late than never….

Let me start by saying that despite all my relative geekiness, one fandom I’ve never really been interested in joining is Star Trek, or as their affectionately know ‘The Trekkies’. I recognise the faces of many of the characters and probably could even tell you some of the actor’s names but I’ve never sat and watched a full episode of any Star Trek series or any of the previous films.

This all changed when J.J. Abrams took the director’s chair and rebooted the franchise, seemingly taking the Star Trek franchise from nerdy to sexy and cool all in one fell swoop. True I actually only saw the first movie that came out in 2009, the night before going to see Into Darkness, but that’s beside the point – I was still full of anticipation!

So as I walked in the cinema feeling the excitement and the adrenaline that most fans had experienced over an 18 month period, it’s fair to say I didn’t want to be disappointed – I wasn’t. If the first film was about how Kirk got to be the Captain, this film was certainly about how he kept it and actually earned the right to sit in the chair. The relationship between Captain Kirk and our favourite Vulcan, Spock, is again at the heart of the film and this film certainly cements it even further. The chemistry between Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto is lovely to watch on screen and they brilliantly capture the opposite natures of their respective characters.

The film opens with drama, as Zulu and Kirk racing through an alien planet and Spock being lowered into a ready to erupt Volcano. From this point onwards the story moves along quickly, with the attack on Starfleet by John Harrison (later revealed to be old nemesis Khan, played deliciously by Benedict Cumberbatch) the real catalyst in the movie, with the death of Admiral Pike a result of the attack. I really loved Admiral Pike –he was certainly like a surrogate father figure to Kirk, discovering him in that bar and giving him the opportunity to join Starfleet. As soon as the film started really, I knew he has to die but I so wish it didn’t have to happen. However, Pine did an excellent job conveying the hurt and anguish of losing him, and certainly justified Kirk’s revenge-fuelled mission to go after Cumberbatch’s character across the stars.

Now, speaking of Benedict Cumberbatch – where do I start? Benedict Cumberbatch – where do I start with him! He is simply excellent at playing the villain of the piece; cool, calculating, sinister, and manipulative. He does it with a style and swagger and with a voice that is beginning to be iconic. At times in the movie, you begin to wonder whether he is a evil guy at all. His reveal as Khan is not over-done, as it easily could have been, especially when it had been rumoured for so long.  For me, he stole the show with bucket loads of self assurance and a stillness that at times was frightening even without dialogue.

However it isn’t just Cumberbatch – the entire cast put in stellar performances, making it a fantastic ensemble piece. Chris Pine develops Kirk into a Captain – a man of leadership and strength, making hard decisions and being smart about them. Zach Quinto also grows into his role as Spock even more, showing facets of his character that we hadn’t seen before. The scene where he is explaining to Uhura why he chooses not to feel emotion and the moment where he undoubtedly feels emotion when Kirk is trapped in the radiation unit are emotionally stunning and certainly brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat. Again the comedic aspects are brought by Scotty and Bones played by Simon Pegg and Karl Urban respectively, with Zoe Saldana, Antonio Yelchin and John Cho also back and at their best. With an ensemble cast it’s easy for characters to be lost, however that doesn’t happen here – it’s full of individual personalities and there’s a sense of care and love that definitely signifies that they are a family on the ship.

Now even though I was daft enough to semi-fall for the fact they had killed Kirk, I quickly snapped out of it because even J.J Abrams wouldn’t kill of the main protagonist of a huge franchise such as Star Trek (but there was a tear). The ending certainly left it open with Khan literally chilling in his freeze chamber. And the end warp also left the series to have another film although it did leave me smiling as it seemed all was content with the Enterprise crew. However the niggling that the end of this movie was very much like the end of the first one made it feel very repetitive to me, especially as I had seen the first literally 24 hours earlier. I also think it could have done with an extra 10 minutes, as the end felt a little rushed to me.

All in all, this film was a fantastic follow-up to Abrams re-boot and is a good end chapter note for the beginnings of the Enterprise crew….for now.

With J.J. Abrahams moving on to fry bigger fish (well the franchise at least has the word “Star” included) there’s no telling what his involvement will be with Star Trek 3, rumoured to be coming out around 2016. Whether it’ll be him at the helm (unlikely due to Star Wars VII) or whether someone else will take over the reins is something that will be interesting to hear.

However it isn’t just his schedule that is a headache and a half – Chris Pine’s turn as Jack Ryan is set to come out this year and if that does well at the box office they may choose to do a sequel, which will only make him more in-demand than ever. Add to that if they choose to bring back Khan, Cumberbatch is fast becoming hot property within the business and so may well be a busy beaver himself. Who knows and only time can tell – for now live long and prosper:

 

Kirk: Let me explain what’s happening here. YOU are a criminal! I watched you murder innocent men and women, I was authorised to END you. And the ONLY reason why you are still alive is because I am allowing it. So, shut your mouth! (Star Trek Into Darkness)