The Top 15 Movies I Reviewed in 2016

List by Derrick Carter

2016 has been a crazy year both on film and in real life. I’ve reviewed just under 200 movies in the course of the last twelve months and for the most part, have fared pretty well in catching cool new flicks as well as crossing many revered classics off my cinephile “shame list.” As a result, my focus in 2016 wasn’t necessarily on catching every new film that graced the big screen and I instead went off whatever the hell I felt like watching/reviewing. Though I didn’t get as many reviews up during 2016 as I have in previous years (for a myriad of reasons), I do feel that For the Love of Celluloid sort of matured over the past twelve months and deeply appreciate the support of anyone who bothers to read my little movie blog.

Apologies if I briefly bore you with a technicality, but my year-end lists will now focus on first time watches in the course of the year and not specifically releases from the year. Without further ado, here are my fifteen favorite first time watches from 2016…

Honorable Mentions: If I hadn’t previously seen RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE SHINING, and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE before 2016, then they all would have easily made this list. ANTHROPOID, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, ZOOTOPIA, SAUSAGE PARTY, THE NICE GUYS, THE HANDMAIDEN and TRAIN TO BUSAN were all stand-out movies in this rather mixed bag cinematic year. SPIRITED AWAY, UNITED 93, and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY also barely scraped by in missing this list. So, what did make the list?…

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15. LADY SNOWBLOOD: Before getting into how much I love this movie, this film deserves some context. A local cinema pub runs monthly Kung Fu Movie Nights here and a buddy of mine occasionally drags me to them. I’m not a big martial arts aficionado and most of the movies I’ve seen at this pub have been entertaining and undeniably stupid. However, LADY SNOWBLOOD blew me out of the water. This was more than just a martial arts flick being shown in a cinema pub, but rather a beautiful, bloody revenge tale that carefully unwound its plot and sold its bad-ass heroine as someone to root for as she sliced and diced her way to vengeance. Featuring geysers of blood, gorgeous visuals, and a calculated delivery of fun, LADY SNOWBLOOD may likely go down as my favorite martial arts flick of all-time!

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14. THE INVITATION: Easily the best horror film that I saw this year, THE INVITATION is brilliant in planting the viewer on the edge of their seat for 100 minutes. The premise is simple. A man goes to a suspiciously casual dinner party held by his ex-wife. Through the course of seemingly mundane actions and a possibly paranoid protagonist, we are taken on a tense ride of two terrifying possibilities. This film does a fantastic job of keeping the viewer flip-flopping on their stance and trying to figure out the dark mystery behind the plot, which fully unleashes itself in a truly frightening third act. Don’t watch the trailer. Don’t read any long plot synopsis. If you want to be scared and appreciate a classy Hitchcockian sense of unease, then definitely go into this film as blind as possible!

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13. DREDD: When DREDD came out in 2012, I quickly wrote it off as a RAID rip-off in spite of the comic book source material. Having finally watched the film four years later, I realize just how wrong I was. Though it may resemble THE RAID on the surface, DREDD could not be any more different. This ultraviolent, highly entertaining and fully loaded sci-fi action extravaganza had me laughing and cheering from start to finish. The film doesn’t present its action in a gritty, heavily edited, shaky-cam style as attention to detail and beautiful lenses have been used to portray the gory chaos. I really hope that DREDD 2 eventually becomes a reality, because this needs to be a franchise!

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12. DOCTOR STRANGE: The Marvel Cinematic Universe has now been running for nine years and fourteen films. Though none of its installments have failed to entertain me (some far more than others), I wouldn’t call any of them perfect entertainment…until now. Telling the most inventive origin story thus far in the Marvel universe and simultaneously functioning as a mystical adventure, DOCTOR STRANGE is easily the best MCU movie yet! The acting is stellar, making the main character’s transformation from selfish jerk to courageous hero all the better as a result. The effects are mindblowing (not to sound cliché) and deliver some of the most memorable sequences to hit the big screen in quite some time. It’s like a magical acid trip had a baby with a superhero movie and I loved every second of it!

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11. THE BREAKFAST CLUB: Yes, I know. I hadn’t seen this movie before and was only pressured into watching it by a co-worker who kept bugging me about it. After finally caving in, I discovered why this John Hughes classic has so many fans and is widely considered to be one of the best films to come out of the 80’s. Revolving around five fleshed-out characters and skewing teenage clique stereotypes (that still exist to this day), THE BREAKFAST CLUB is equally funny as it is insightful. The film is a perfect balance of comedy and drama, resulting in an emotionally involving and beautiful story about how people are alike in spite of their differences. Maybe, in a world that’s so divided by differences and labels, we should all just kick back, watch this movie and remember that we can get along. I’ll never forget about this movie. Get it? That’s a reference to the song that plays during the end credits. Whatever, let’s move on…

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10. THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY: Yes, I know this is technically a miniseries, but you know what? This is my list and I don’t care. THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON is better than damn near every true-crime film I’ve seen in my lifetime. Featuring a bevy of great acting talent and more than guaranteed to push a few buttons on every viewer, this 10-part miniseries stays true to the facts and relives the “trial of the century” in painstaking detail. I was addicted to this show when it aired earlier this year and have since binge-watched it as a complete cinematic experience. When paired with ESPN’s excellent five-part documentary O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA, there isn’t much left to be examined about the O.J. Simpson case. If you are the least bit intrigued by true crime, then PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON is a must-see!

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9. DEADPOOL: Though this year had more than its fair share of disappointing superhero flicks, 2016 still managed to deliver two spectacular comic book movies. I loved DOCTOR STRANGE, but DEADPOOL might just be one of my favorite superhero movies of all-time (next to the DARK KNIGHT trilogy). This rowdy X-MEN spinoff did everything in its power to be entertaining as hell and milked the R rating for everything it was worth. Because of DEADPOOL’s massive success as an R-rated money-maker, I truly hope that more studios will realize older audiences will pay to see great R-rated movies on the big screen too. Not everything needs to be accessible to younger viewers and every demographic, DEADPOOL was refreshingly bonkers and the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD!

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8. ON THE WATERFRONT: Another title that I crossed off my shame list this year, ON THE WATERFRONT never seemed that appealing to me. Sure, I had seen Marlon Brando’s contender speech out of context and heard the basic premise, but none of it sounded particularly special. This movie isn’t about a corrupt union and poorly-treated dock workers though, instead it’s a story about broken souls and a long walk to redemption. Marlon Brando’s performance is breathtaking as he disappears into the role of a tough guy with a soft heart. This film progresses naturally and doesn’t cheat out on its dangerous stakes, resulting in some very tense moments. The final minutes are unbelievably emotional as a simple dockside walk becomes a test of willpower and ultimately sums up the entire film. ON THE WATERFRONT is an emotional, brilliantly acted, and spectacularly written piece of art that deeply moved me!

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7. ANIMAL HOUSE: Here’s another movie I crossed off my shame list during 2016. I had never seen ANIMAL HOUSE before, though I was well aware of its reputation. No hyperbole, this film changed the face of movie comedies and opened the door for crass humor to hit the big screen in gross-out fashion. This movie has plenty of hilarious scenes and quotes, but taken within the film’s context, they become ten times funnier. The dark sense of humor in areas had me cackling while the many sex jokes easily contributed to the likes of AMERICAN PIE and SUPERBAD further down the line. Also, John Belushi was a comedic tour-de-force to be reckoned with. With jokes about sex, death, horses, chainsaws, beer, racial differences, impressions of zits, and much more, ANIMAL HOUSE truly is one of the greatest and wildest comedies of all-time!

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6. TRAINING DAY: Though it was released fifteen years ago, TRAINING DAY still seems frighteningly relevant in today’s world. Showcasing a dark underbelly of corrupt cops and street gangs, this film takes place in the space of 24 hours and sunk its hooks into me from start to finish. Ethan Hawke is a naïve protagonist (that’s kind of the point of the story) and we are forced to follow in his footsteps as he stands alongside one of my new favorite cinematic villains. Denzel Washington’s character is a beast and delivers one of the greatest movie monologues (for my money) of all-time in Detective Alonzo Harris’s street-side closing speech. Grim, gritty, and suspenseful the whole way through, TRAINING DAY is one of my new favorite movies!

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5. ARRIVAL: A beautifully crafted and mature piece of science fiction, ARRIVAL’s true brilliance didn’t fully hit me until the closing credits began to roll. This film takes the alien invaders trope and spins in a mature, realistic direction. Though this has already been done in films like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and CONTACT, I guarantee that it hasn’t been executed in the complex and thought-provoking manner that ARRIVAL delivers. Seemingly innocuous scenes take on whole new meanings when you realize the story’s true nature. The ending also guarantees that you won’t be able to watch this film in the same way upon a second viewing, much like Christopher Nolan’s THE PRESTIGE becomes a completely different movie once you’ve been wowed the first time around. ARRIVAL is a science fiction masterpiece and continues director Denis Villeneuve’s winning streak.

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4. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: Despite stemming from a book that’s required in many classrooms and existing for decades as a beloved classic that’s cherished by countless film fans, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD somehow never made its way across my eyeballs before 2016. However, I now count it among the most emotional dramas that I’ve ever seen. This film tackles hard-hitting issues through the innocent eyes of a child in a coming-of-age tale crossed with a courtroom drama. Gregory Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch is outstanding and the rest of the cast put in stellar work as well. This profoundly powerful film deeply moved me and left me on the verge of tears with its beautiful conclusion. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a masterpiece!

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3. THE REVENANT: The film that finally won Leo an Academy Award, THE REVENANT is an amazing cinematic feat that was created by both madness and brilliance. Did Leo look like he just puked when biting into a buffalo liver? That’s because he did. Do these cast members look like they’re freezing their asses off? That’s because they are. Does it seem like these are real locations? That’s because the director shot in natural light and proceeded to put his cast and crew through a hellish outdoor shooting experience. Production accomplishments aside, THE REVENANT remains a riveting tale of revenge and survival in harsher than harsh circumstances. This film is a gritty, unforgiving, and awe-inspiring piece of cinematic art that has blown me away twice at this point and will continue to do so many times in the future. Also, this movie may have given me a fear of bears too.

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2. THE LOBSTER: The best love story I’ve seen all year belongs to a twisted dystopian dark comedy about a guy who’s forced to choose between finding a romantic partner or being turned into an animal. Sound weird? Oh boy, it is! Besides being strange all the way around, THE LOBSTER is also a wonderfully unique flick that’s equal parts charming and disturbing. This cinematic world felt like Terry Gilliam made a movie with David Lynch. The feelings this film gave me are almost impossible to properly describe as there really hasn’t been anything like it before. It’s a romance like no other and if you have a penchant for weird arthouse cinema, then I highly suggest that you watch THE LOBSTER at your earliest convenience…preferably with a significant other who’s also into awesome cinematic oddities.

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1. HIGH-RISE: So if you thought THE LOBSTER was an odd choice for this list, then brace yourself because I can see people flat-out hating my number-one pick. HIGH-RISE is one of the few movies to be adapted from the work of British science fiction author J.G. Ballard. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because David Cronenberg adapted his work into twisted romantic thriller CRASH. That’s the level we’re at here, folks. HIGH-RISE is a grim, darkly hilarious and disturbing tale about a high society that devolves into a bloody class war in the space of a forty-floor apartment building…and I absolutely friggin’ adored this film! I’ve watched it four times within the space of the year and plan on revisiting it many more times in the future. The stylish visuals, colorful characters, twisted story arcs, oddball humor mixed with darkly disturbing content, a suffocating atmosphere, and shocking social commentary blew me out of the water. I love this movie so much that I actually listened to the DVD commentary. It’s the first film to make me do that in years! Though it’s definitely not for everyone (see THE LOBSTER’s divisiveness and crank it up to 11), HIGH-RISE is my favorite movie of 2016 and makes me hope for more big screen adaptations of Ballard’s work.

2016 was a pretty insane year in a lot of different ways. Many movies disappointed me in the theater, but I still saw plenty of good and great films. I also crossed many titles of my cinephile “shame list,” though I still have many more to eventually get through. Here’s hoping for an even better 2017!

THE REVENANT (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 36 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Frontier Combat and Violence including Gory Images, a Sexual Assault, Language and brief Nudity

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Directed by: Alejandro G. Inarritu

Written by: Mark L. Smith & Alejandro G. Inarritu

(based on the novel THE REVENANT by Michael Punke)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter & Forrest Goodluck

Just give Leo the Academy Award already! After so many nominations and disappearing into various characters for the past decade (some of them based on real people), the once-pretty-boy-turned-serious-performer has shown on numerous occasions that he’s one of the most talented actors of our time. Case in the point, THE REVENANT. Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu (the guy who won some awards for BIRDMAN), REVENANT is the based on the true story of fur-trapper Hugh Glass. Though details have obviously been added and excised from Glass’s life to make for a more exciting and poetic story, THE REVENANT is a brutal work of beauty and vengeance. There’s so much to praise about this film that I’ll briefly jump into the plot and then tell you why I feel this movie is amazing.

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In 1823 Louisiana territory, Hugh Glass and his fellow fur trappers have been ambushed by a violent tribe of Ree Indians. In an effort to stay alive as long as possible, the group trek out on foot through dangerous mountain terrain. Among the group, tensions rise between Glass and fellow trapper Fitzgerald over Glass’s son (who’s of Native American descent). After Glass is ferociously attacked by a bear, Fitzgerald leaves him for dead and kills Glass’s son to cover up his deed. This was bad move for Fitzgerald because Glass is not dead and becomes driven by revenge to stay alive. Braving the harsh elements, wild life, sinister fellow travelers and more, Hugh Glass slowly but surely makes his way across a long perilous journey to find Fitzgerald.

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Utilizing the same cinematographer from BIRDMAN, REVENANT does not have the appearance of being one long continuous take. This being said, there are lots of lengthy tracking shots throughout the film. I simply could not tell where any editing had been made in spots (or how the hell they pulled some of these scenes off). The camera is constantly moving, but never to a degree that resembles shaky cam. In a ballsy move, blood, snow, and breath occasionally make their way onto the lens to give us a more intimate feeling of realism in what we’re watching. Inarritu is a stylistic genius, but there was a streak of astounding madness that also made its way into the film.

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In an effort to keep things as real as possible, the film was mostly (if not entirely) shot in real light and it looks absolutely stunning. The wild, thickly wooded, and snow-laden locations are beautiful to behold in an otherwise bleaker-than-bleak tale of revenge. Apparently, shooting this film was a hellish experience for the cast and crew. I’d believe it because they all look like they’re halfway ready to freeze to death or faint from exhaustion in numerous shots. Leo especially goes above and beyond the call of duty in performing a lot of real feats on camera (eating raw bison liver, nearly getting hypothermia in a freezing river, etc.) to bring a convincing performance to the screen. It all works, because he disappears into the role of Glass. Not once, during this entire film, did I ever believe I was merely watching another performance from Leo. Instead, it felt like I was watching a real person braving harrowing conditions and a horrible streak of bad luck in order to survive. DiCaprio is that convincing.

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Leo isn’t the only stellar performance as Tom Hardy is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get this rough, vicious, and thoroughly hateable Fitzgerald in his stead. Using a thick accent and intimidating body language, Hardy is unrecognizable. His scenes contrasted with DiCaprio’s survival sequences make for an exciting journey as we know that both men will eventually meet again and the results will be far from pleasant. Domhnall Gleeson (continuing a stellar track record for 2015) also pops up as the well-to-do hunting captain of the party, while young Will Poulter delivers the best performance of his career thus far as Jim Bridger (the naïve trapper left to guard Glass with Fitzgerald).

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It should be no surprise at all to say that THE REVENANT is a brutal and bleak story. The bear attack is incredibly tense and had everyone in the audience squirming in their seats. The long sequences in which Glass narrowly escapes from Ree arrows as well as bullets from French trappers are insanely suspenseful and masterfully executed. A fight scene in the final third is among one of the roughest (in a good way) and most cringe-inducing that I’ve seen on film. I was actively wincing when an axe or knife got plunged into one the men going at it. For all of its brutality, the film is incredibly beautiful as well. These moments come through artsy dream sequences showing Glass reconciling with his lost son and dead wife, but the quiet stretches of the film are profound as well. THE REVENANT is a movie that says more through its dialogue-free scenes than most films say with all the words in the world. A fierce, unforgiving, and masterfully crafted triumph, THE REVENANT is one of the best modern Westerns in existence.

Grade: A+

GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 47 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Intense Strong Violence, Sexuality/Nudity and Language

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Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian & Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Liam Neeson, Jim Broadbent, Henry Thomas, Brendan Gleeson, Gary Lewis, John C. Reilly & Stephen Graham

Martin Scorsese is one of my favorite directors. That’s part of the reason this film comes off as underwhelming. There are makings of a great movie in GANGS OF NEW YORK, but things eventually disappoint in a last hour that feels totally separated from the solid first two acts. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards in the year of release (including Best Picture, Director and Actor), GANGS seems like it was tampered with a lot in its production stages from (mostly likely) the studio and (least likely) the screenwriters. Though there are fantastic qualities about it, GANGS OF NEW YORK is a slight disappointment when you consider it’s from Scorsese.

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The film begins in 1846, a bloody battle between the Natives (born New Yorkers) and the Dead Rabbits (an Irish Immigrant gang) takes place in the snow-covered Five Points of Manhattan. This bout of hand-to-hand combat leaves the Natives victorious and a priest bleeding to death on the ground. The priest’s son witnesses the whole affair and vows revenge on his father’s killer, a greasy maniac called Bill the Butcher. 16 years pass and the priest’s son has grown up into a young man named Amsterdam. Returning to New York from an orphanage, Amsterdam gets in deep with Bill’s gang and enacts a slow revenge. However, Bill is clever and remains highly dangerous. Amsterdam’s plot gets more complicated as things go along as New York’s political background is changing, inciting many outraged citizens.

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Leonardo DiCaprio worked his way from the pretty boy in TITANIC to a phenomenal actor in THE DEPARTED. GANGS OF NEW YORK was taking place when he was going through this transformation. He’s solid enough in the role, but his character is a blank slate. Cameron Diaz plays his love interest in the form of a thieving Irishwoman and her accent is a bit appalling. Besides being unable to pull off her would-be accent, she just seems miscast. Other familiar faces pop up in Jim Broadbent as the actual historical figure Boss Tweed, Liam Neeson is Amsterdam’s father, and Brendan Gleeson shows up for a few quick scenes. Another good character is John C. Reilly as a dirty cop who takes bribes from Bill’s Natives. Speaking of which, if there’s one reason to watch GANGS OF NEW YORK, it would be Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher. He demolishes every other performer as the best villain to ever grace a Scorsese film. Day-Lewis also shows an emotional side to his character and doesn’t make him a total monster, but remains a frightening bad guy regardless.

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GANGS OF NEW YORK also has tons of atmosphere. Cinematography is slick and the sets are fantastic. It feels like you’re watching a piece of history unfold in front of your eyes. Some of the political corruption, set around the main story, did actually happen. Thus adding an interesting layer onto the film for history buffs who might be intrigued to check out more information on New York Draft Riots. Scenes between DiCaprio and Day-Lewis are fantastic, especially one discussion that packs a powerhouse of emotion for both of their characters. The violence itself is unflinching and arguably bloodier than Scorsese’s other work. GOODFELLAS and CASINO may have spurts of gun fire and beatings, but they didn’t have a central villain talented in the art of meat-carving as a side job. You can see where that might lend to the violence.

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The film works phenomenally as a simple revenge story until a certain point. Politics and historical context floods its way into the almost Shakespearean tale of revenge and derails the ending entirely. Certain choices seem odd, given everything seen in characters up to that point. The final conflict is disappointing in how rushed it is. Things almost come off as more of an obligation than an actual conclusion. One might argue that the ending of GANGS OF NEW YORK wastes the viewer’s time invested in the two hours before that decline.

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GANGS OF NEW YORK is just okay. It seems like a lot of potential faded by the shrug-inducing ending. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance is the sole reason that you might want to check this film out. He’s amazing as Bill the Butcher! Everything else ranges from great to disappointing. Leo was good in his role, but the character is a blank slate. He’s a guy who wants revenge and loves Cameron Diaz (with a bad Irish accent), but I can’t describe a discernable trait that makes him a good character. The atmosphere and sets are impressive, but this is one of Martin Scorsese’s lesser efforts. Slightly recommended, if you want to see Daniel Day-Lewis scare the hell out of you as an awesome villain.

Grade: B-

Derrick Carter’s Top 10 Films of 2013

List by Derrick Carter

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Trance, Ender’s Game, Simon Killer, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Rush, Captain Phillips, Stoker, and Side Effects

10. Dallas Buyers Club

10. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB: This film may not be entirely true to the events that it’s based on, but DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is the kind of the movie that makes you re-evaluate just how you’re living your life once the end credits have begun to roll. Matthew McCounaghey and Jared Leto give two of the most heartfelt performances of the year. It’s not a movie that you’ll want to watch on repeat (mainly due to the fact that it’s a film about a man fighting an incurable disease and the war the FDA launches on him), but it’s certainly a powerful one. This is a movie that drained me emotionally by the end of the film, because I was feeling the same frustration at the injustice of how the characters were being treated. Excellent film and I’ll be surprised if both Leto and McCounaghey don’t get Oscar nods.

9. Maniac

9. MANIAC: 2013 was a fantastic year for cinema, but it was a bit of a pathetic year for the horror genre. The best wide-released horror flick was YOU’RE NEXT (which is missing from this list and isn’t even in my Honorable Mentions). There’s always independent and foreign horror to satiate the need to be frightened. MANIAC is a remake that outdoes the original in every conceivable way, whilst also adding the element of seeing the entire film literally through the eyes of a serial killer. What could have wound up being a cheap gimmick becomes a wholly disturbing and chilling experience that will leave you struggling to get a good night’s sleep for a long time after.

8. Place Beyond The Pines

8. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES: There are gripping stories, moments that shock you, and conclusions that leave you emotionally devastated. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES contains all of the above in a narrative that could be seen as almost an anthology format. It’s a story that follows three different characters that are forever shaped by the choices of someone else. Tragedy is one of the most accurate words I can pick when describing this film. Also, it should be noted that the final moments of the film (fueled with a haunting score) had me crying like the first time I saw AMERICAN HISTORY X.

7. Frozen

7. FROZEN: It seems like ever since Disney switched to the computer animation format, they lost the spark of what made their former efforts so magical. Gone were the musical numbers. The sense of timeless fairy tales seemed to be replaced with potty humor and pop-culture references. Recent films like TANGLED and PRINCESS AND THE FROG tried to recapture that flame that gave Disney films like THE LION KING and BEAUTY & THE BEAST. Somehow, against all odds, FROZEN winds up being the best Disney film in about two full decades. The songs are catchy and have stuck with me since my viewing experience. The script also gives memorable characters, while mocking certain Disney clichés and delivering a timeless, wonderful tale. FROZEN is truly something special!

6. American Hustle

6. AMERICAN HUSTLE: Capturing the essence of the 70’s from set designs, costumes, a very cool soundtrack, and Bradley Cooper’s unforgettable perm, AMERICAN HUSTLE told an intense and very entertaining crime story without ever delving into the ultra-violence that the subgenre usually contains. It was a bold move on the part of David O. Russell, but he’s crafted a fantastic film that let the A-list cast run loose and wild to my delight. This is a movie about people double-crossing each other and by the time everything begins hitting the fan, it’s unlikely that you guessed much of what was in store for you as a viewer (including one very neat cameo).

5. Gravity

5. GRAVITY: You can’t get much more epic than the setting of space itself and that’s exactly the canvas that director/writer Alfonso Cuaron (who held off on directing this film until technology was advanced enough to get across his vision) uses for this tale of survival. It’s spectacle, but cinema comes in many forms. It’s not all about important statements, human drama, character studies, or entertainment. Sometimes, a film just needs to be a ride and this is what GRAVITY was. A huge roller-coaster of a movie and I enjoyed it as such. It’s been a tad overhyped at this point, but GRAVITY still remains on my top 10 of 2013!

4. Worlds End

4. THE WORLD’S END: The final part of the “Cornetto” trilogy (also consisting of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ) is my favorite of the comedic trifecta. Some human drama is thrown into this sci-fi comedy which makes for some unexpectedly emotional moments (much like in SHAUN), which in turn make the laughs that much more heartier. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright have closed off their so-called trilogy in grand style and though it’s sad to see it come to a close, I can’t imagine a better way to conclude the so-called Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy. Jokes are brilliantly set up in advance and the chemistry between the cast is so convincing and enjoyable to watch that you may even forget there are robots that show up later on (I certainly did).

3. Prisoners

3. PRISONERS: Few movies have ever made me as uncomfortable as this one did. I was uneasy for the entire running time and for good reason, PRISONERS quietly builds suspense and keeps itself one step ahead of the audience. It’s unflinching in its violence, but also shows restraint when it needs to. Some of the more shocking moments in the film come as to what’s implied rather to what’s shoved into the viewer’s face. This script was supposedly passed around from many directors and tons of different casting choices. The end result is so flawless that it makes one wonder if how it even would have stood a chance with anybody else involved. Heartbreaking, intense and concluding in the most provocative way possible. PRISONERS is the best thriller I’ve seen since Fincher’s GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

2. Wolf Of Wall Street

2. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET: Give Leo the award. Just give Leo the award already! The man is proving himself to be a chameleon of acting (in the same way Gary Oldman is). In THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Leonardo DiCaprio skillfully slips into the skin of drug addicted, sex addicted, all-around rich scumbag Jordan Belfort. Far from an unpleasant watch, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is easily the most entertaining film I’ve seen in all of 2013. I haven’t laughed harder at a movie all year (the scene involving Leo and Jonah Hill high on Quaaludes is one of the funniest movie scenes I’ve ever seen in my life). The three-hour running time seems to rush right past, showing the best pacing I’ve seen in a movie this length. Overall, just see it. I loved this movie and it’s one that I plan on buying the moment it hits home video!

1. 12 Years A Slave

1. 12 YEARS A SLAVE: It’s pretty surprising that there’s never been a proper film depicting the horrors of slavery until 2013 (ROOTS doesn’t count). This is a heartbreaking movie that tore my emotions apart and had myself (along with a sold-out movie theater) crying heavily during multiple points in the film. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the kind of film that you never forget once you’ve seen it. It will stick with you and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes required viewing during History classes for its unflinchingly realistic look on the dark stain in American history. The acting from everyone is top-notch, as is every single aspect with this film. I can’t say that I enjoyed this movie at all, because it’s not made to be enjoyed. It does show one man’s struggle to retain his humanity and survive a 12-year-long period in slavery. Hard to watch, but ultimately rewarding in many ways, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a masterpiece through and through!

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 3 hours

MPAA Rating: R for Sequences of Strong Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity, Drug Use and Language throughout, and for some Violence

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Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Terence Winter

(based on the book THE WOLF OF WALL STREET by Jordan Belfort)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner & Jon Favreau

Martin Scorsese is 71 years old. Let that sink in. In a time where most veteran filmmakers feel so content to play it safe or have taken a long fall from grace (cough, Francis Ford Coppola, cough), Scorsese has pumped out amazing movie after amazing movie. With the combination of his 90’s mafia classics (GOODFELLAS and CASINO) he seemed to have perfected a style in how to tell a story about real-life criminals. Even with his later films THE DEPARTED (a crime masterpiece) and HUGO (one of the best family films in the past decade), Scorsese never seemed to falter or lose his talent. Everybody has a few flops, but Scorsese’s amazing hits more than make up for some of his lesser work. Martin Scorsese has delivered a combination of dark comedy and white-collar crime that is nothing short of a masterpiece with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

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This film is based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, a corrupt jerk who pulled off one of the most infamous money laundering schemes in the history of Wall Street. We open with a 26-year-old Belfort making his way into the titular Wall Street as a stockbroker. He quickly acquires the verbal tools of the trade and just as quickly finds himself out of a job due to Black Monday (a day when stock markets around the world crashed). Discovering the world of penny-stocks (loser companies in which the stock broker makes 50% commission), Jordan creates his own firm of an abandoned auto-body shop that blossoms into a full-fledged money-making machine. The film chronicles everything from Jordan’s humble self-made beginnings to his downfall in crime, drugs, and sex addiction. Instead of painting a bleak picture from the get-go, Scorsese delivers an impressively hilarious dark comedy that makes the three-hour running time fly by.

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WOLF OF WALL STREET is crude and very explicit. We do see many of Jordan’s sins which range from sniffing cocaine off a hooker’s breasts to abusing Quaaludes achieving such an extreme high that he encounters a “cerebral palsy” phase. This is a movie about a scumbag in every sense of the word. So why is it so amazingly entertaining all the way through? Well, we’ve seen plenty of other scumbags ranging from mobsters (Henry Hill in GOODFELLAS) to serial killers (Patrick Bateman in AMERICAN PSYCHO) and Jordan Belfort is far from the depths of evil that those characters were. Told in a certain style, nearly any story can be made hilarious and enjoyable to watch. This is the magic Scorsese injects into THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. It could have been a dark brooding downfall crime drama, of which we’ve seen so many, but WOLF is a frantically exciting and engaging. It’s by far the most entertaining movie I sat through in all of 2013!

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A director is only as good as his cast and it certainly helps that every single performance rings true to what was required of the cast. Jonah Hill’s character is a perverted lunatic who has no problem devouring a co-worker’s goldfish or marrying his attractive cousin, let alone introducing Jordan to a variety of new drugs that will forever make him an addict. Matthew McConaughey also is a foul-mouthed presence in the film for the first 30 minutes (which winds up being a sixth of the film’s total running time), but marks some memorable scenes.

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Of course, the real standout is Leonardo DiCaprio. This man has long distanced himself from being just a pretty-boy actor and really deserves the Oscar for best actor. He simply disappears into the skin of Jordan Belfort, frequently breaking the fourth wall to address the viewer (much like Henry Hill did in the courtroom scene in GOODFELLAS). He also proves himself to have a knack for comedy in this film, one scene of which had me in tears from laughing so hard. Leo owns the real-life character of Jordan Belfort and makes every second count of the 180 minutes on-screen.

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I could gush and gush for hours about how much I loved THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, but I’ll let the film speak for itself from here on out. If you’re a fan of Scorsese, you’ll absolutely love it. If you want proof that Leonardo DiCaprio can act his ass off, then prepare to be schooled. If you simply want to be entertained by one of the funniest dark-comedies in years, then you won’t be disappointed. This is one of my new favorite movies!

Grade: A+

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