Brendan Campbell’s Top 10 Films of 2013

Top Ten 2013 Final

Compiling a list of my top ten movies each year is something I always look forward to doing. It’s a great way to say goodbye to one year and welcome another, all while showcasing ten films that I thought stood out over the past 12 months. It’s also something that always comes down to the wire because studios just love releasing all their Oscar bait just days before we submit our Top Ten lists, so it’s always fun to see what makes the final cut once the theaters clear and the popcorn settles.

While certain critically acclaimed films have made the cut, there are also a few slots filled by movies that weren’t as well received, but ones that I simply enjoyed more for one reason or another. It’s a list of personal preferences and movies I found to be the most entertaining and enjoyable of 2013, and I’m fully aware that not everyone will agree with them. Hell, some may think I’m just downright crazy – and I’m completely okay with that.

Before we get started there’s one movie that didn’t make the cut that deserves to be sought out and viewed by those reading. This was a year where the “Coming of Age” tale really had a strong showing with films like The Way, Way Back and Kings of Summer; however, the one that stood out the most to me was Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan. Mud is a heartfelt story about life and love that can be passed down for generations and shouldn’t be missed.

Now let’s delve into the main event! My top 10 films of 2013…

10. The World’s End This is a movie that caught me off-guard, mainly because I was expecting another comedic masterpiece like its counterparts Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and it ended up not being nearly as funny as either of them. While it may not loads of laughs on its side, what The World’s End does have is a lot of heart.

This is a movie about five 40-something friends (the Five Musketeers!) returning to their hometown in order to complete a pub-crawl that they were unsuccessful in finishing back in their teens. While the film starts off a bit slower than its predecessors (the three films are referred to as the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy), have faith in stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who also wrote the film) as it really picks up once the boys are back in town, proving itself to be a movie that will only get better upon repeat viewings.

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9. Oblivion I’m a big fan of science fiction films, and an even bigger fan of ones that are able to surprise me. Oblivion (which is based off the graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski) did just that, continuing the hit streak that Tom Cruise has been on as of late. This is a movie where the viewer is rewarded for knowing little to nothing about the film going in. The more you’re aware of in terms of plot and character, the less likely you are to be fully engaged in the story.

The visuals are magnificent and the soundtrack by M83 is outstanding, all of which help take Oblivion to the next level. Cruise once again proves why he’s still the best leading man in Hollywood, even at 51 years young. Here’s looking forward to seeing him take on the genre once again this June in Edge of Tomorrow!

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8. Gravity Here’s a film that’s a technical marvel and an absolutely gorgeous event to witness on the big screen. Director Alfonso Cuaron (who also co-write the film) really nailed the feeling of isolation and terror in space, all while filling the screen with stunning images that really set the bar for future astronaut-centric films.

From a story perspective I found the film to be somewhat less appealing; however, I came down with a sudden head cold pretty much moments before the film started. That may sound weird, and it was, as I just felt a bit tired before leaving but thought nothing of it; however, for those like me who become fully engrossed in movies, the cloudiness in my head caused me to be pulled out of the film almost entirely. For that reason I wasn’t able to feel any tension whatsoever, and it definitely hindered my experience of a film that relies on the viewer drifting through space right alongside stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

That said, the film was still stunning to look at and I do wish I had been 100% upon my initial viewing, as it likely would’ve landed higher on my list. Unfortunately that’s the kind of feeling you can usually only capture the first time out. While I don’t see this one taking home Best Picture (though a nomination is all but guaranteed), it’s almost just as certain to nab a few of the top honours in the technical department to which it’s fully deserving.

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7. You’re Next I’m a huge fan of home invasion horror films and I absolutely blown away by You’re Next. The film is written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard and is really just a beautifully savage horror film that’s filled with scares, laughs and shocking moments that are all wrapped up in a perfectly paced package.

The film has actually been circulating since 2011 but it finally had its North American theatrical release in August 2013. This is one of the best horror movies of the past decade (at the very least) and is a lot of fun from start to finish. Horror fans, if you missed out on this one theatrically then make sure to attend this dinner party when it’s released this January – it’s to die for.

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6. Before Midnight I’ve been a fan of the “Before” series since watching the first film (Before Sunrise) back in the late ‘90s. The first film hit home for me and it’s such a unique and superbly executed choice to revisit these same two characters every nine years to see where life has taken them.

In 2004 we learned in Before Sunset that Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) never met up after their initial meeting, and Jesse got married and found himself staying in a loveless marriage only for the sake of his son, all while longing for the love of his life to return. While on a book tour the two do reunite and we learn in Before Midnight (again, nine years later) that Jesse divorced his wife, had twins with Celine and that he barely sees his son.

What’s so great about growing up with these characters is that writers Richard Linklater (who also directs the films), Hawke and Delpy are true to life and don’t just settle for the perfect fairytale ending. In fact, while the other two films were about falling in love, Before Midnight focuses more about the struggles of staying in love with someone, and the give and take that relationships need in order to survive. Those looking for a flick filled with loving conversation and sappy moments may not be happy with the direction this installment takes; however, this trio once again knock it out of the park and test the limits of these characters without holding back. Here’s to seeing where they are another nine years from now!

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5. Pacific RimI can tell you one thing: I’m incredibly jealous that co-writer/director Guillermo Del Toro got to spend years playing with giant robots and massive monsters all while being paid to do so. Pacific Rim was some of the most fun I had at the theater all year!

This is a movie that I’ll be watching time and time again for years to come without ever tiring of it, and that was clear to me after my first viewing. Sure there’s plenty that’s silly or even facepalm worthy (I’m looking at you late-to-the-party hidden-arm sword!); however, that’s all brushed aside with such ease just due to how damn fun this movie is to watch! It’s badass robots vs. some of the coolest monsters ever to grace the silver screen; do I really need to say more?

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4. 12 Years a Slave Steve McQueen has a unique gift that allows him to tell stories that others would usually shy away from in a way that’s powerful, shocking and thought provoking. Two years ago his film about a sex addict made my top ten list, and he’s done it again this year with the incredible adaptation of the book “12 Years a Slave.”

This is a movie that’s not easy to watch, and McQueen holds certain scenes longer than most directors would dare, making audiences feel uneasy at times and truly showcasing the brutality that took place in the southern states of America during the time of slavery. The true story of Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped from the North and sold into slavery down South, is unbelievably tragic, as is almost everything that happens over the course of the film. That said, the human spirit and determination to regain his freedom is incredibly inspiring – especially under such dire circumstances.

Look for many involved to be in the mix for Academy Awards, as Chiwetel Ejiofor is brilliant, and Michael Fassbender is once again deserving of a nod that he was snubbed for in McQueen’s previously mentioned Shame. 12 Years a Slave is an easy front-runner for Best Picture, and rightfully so. McQueen is three for three and I – along with the rest of Hollywood – can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

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3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Ben Stiller is an incredibly talented director, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is without question his crowning achievement in that department to date. Stiller has taken the script by Steve Conrad (which was based off the short story by James Thurber) and brought it to life in a beautifully seamless way that this type of story needed to be told in.

Walter Mitty (played by Stiller) is a guy who “zones out” all the time, living life through his wild imagination. While the film’s message of living life instead of letting it pass you by comes ringing through loud and clear, it’s the intermixed moments inside Walter’s imagination that will have you laughing out loud. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the “feel good” film of the year, and also one of the funniest and most inspirational as well.

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2. Iron Man 3 Ah, Shane Black, you sure know how to make awesome movies. The writer/director of one of my favourite films Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang took on his biggest project to date this year in Iron Man 3 – the first Marvel movie to come out since the worldwide blockbuster The Avengers. Needless to say expectations were high, and Black did not fail to deliver!

What I loved best about Iron Man 3 was the fact that Black allowed Tony Stark to take center stage over the Iron Man suit and Robert Downey Jr. absolutely nailed it. He hammered it right through the wood…whatever that means. He was just brilliant, earning every dollar that he’s paid to bring the billionaire philanthropist to life. His scenes with Ty Simpkins (a boy who befriends Stark during one of his darkest hours) are both heartfelt and hilarious; while his scenes alongside Don Cheadle in the latter half of the film are pure buddy-comedy genius – which is right up Black’s alley!

Now I always try to go into a movie with low to zero expectations in order to give it a fair shake right out of the gate; however, with a movie like Iron Man 3 you can’t help but go in expecting something mind-blowing because that’s what Marvel has been delivering time and time again since 2008 (which is always an incredible achievement when you stop and think about how much they’ve done in such a short amount of time). Luckily the film was in masterful hands, and one can only hope that this isn’t the last Iron Man film that RDJ stars in, nor the last that Black is involved with.

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1. American Hustle I love a good conman movie, and American Hustle is just that. This has classic written all over it and it’s the film I believe will walk away with the Oscar for Best Picture when all is said and done. Co-writer/director David O. Russell follows up the brilliant Silver Linings Playbook with a crime dramedy filled with memorable characters played flawlessly by an extremely talented cast.

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K. have the type of chemistry that director’s dream of, with every scene coming to life in its own unique way regardless of who’s onscreen. Like 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle is sure to fill up the nomination list once the Academy Awards are announced. Lawrence once again proves she’s one of the best actresses in Hollywood today, stealing pretty much every scene she’s in; and Bale is superb as conman Irving Rosenfeld. Still, any and all would be worthy of a nod, as the witty back and forth they have with one another at all times is really what keeps this film so engrossing from the moment we meet Rosenfeld gluing down his comb over.

American Hustle is the type of filmmaking perfection that will only become more popular as the years pass by. It’s my choice for best film of 2013, and it still has me curious about the ice fishing story!

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