The Top 15 Movies I Reviewed in 2017!

List by Derrick Carter

Throughout the course of 2017, I posted 206 movie reviews on this blog. Though about a quarter of those were rewatches (covering the SAW and CHILD’S PLAY franchises before their latest installments, and also paying tribute to the passing of genre legend George A. Romero), I managed to catch plenty of fresh new films, forgotten flicks, and classics that I simply hadn’t gotten around to watching. As with last year, 2017’s “Best of” list will cover movies that I watched for the first time in my life. This means that old and new films are on the table, regardless of what year they came out. If a film was new to me and I loved it, then I’m including it with my favorite films that I watched in 2017!

Before I get into my 15 favorite films that I reviewed this year, there are some honorable mentions. I had previously seen THE EXORCIST, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE THING, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and ALIENS before this year. Otherwise, they would be on this list. As far as first-time watches, I truly enjoyed the groundbreaking drama MOONLIGHT and adored the 80s throwback STRANGER THINGS. Concerning new horror films, THE EYES OF MY MOTHER seriously disturbed me, THE VOID was a phenomenal Lovecraftian nightmare, and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS was one hell of a zombie film! WONDER WOMAN also wound up as my second-favorite superhero film of 2017. As for indie thrillers, WIND RIVER was a gripping ride and GOOD TIME was a neon-lit throwback to Martin Scorsese’s early work.

Now, without further ado, onto my top 15 favorite films that I reviewed during 2017…

15. MY FRIEND DAHMER: Most serial killer films focus on chilling murders of their subjects, but MY FRIEND DAHMER is not like most serial killer films. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, MY FRIEND DAHMER is a chilling drama that chronicles the pre-murderous life of Jeffrey Dahmer and examines him as a high school weirdo. By somewhat “humanizing” this psycho, the film doesn’t attempt to elicit sympathy towards its titular cannibal killer and instead shines a light on the fact that people we went to high school might very well turn into monsters seen in news headlines. Though there isn’t a single (human) murder to be found, MY FRIEND DAHMER joins the ranks among the best films about real-life serial killers (MONSTER, ZODIAC, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, and THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS).

14. FOUR LIONS: The idea of tackling Islamic terrorism through a darkly comic lens might sound completely misguided on paper, but FOUR LIONS is the best comedy that I sat through all year! The film follows four idiotic would-be terrorists as they attempt to execute a devastating attack, but constantly fumble over their own stupidity and reveal themselves to be bumbling morons. In my opinion, painting Islamic terrorists in this ridiculous light strips some of the power away from them in a similar way to what Charlie Chaplin did to Hitler in THE GREAT DICTATOR or what Rogen/Franco did to Kim Jong-Un with THE INTERVIEW. If you’re down for dark comedy and don’t mind totally offensive punchlines, you should give FOUR LIONS a watch in the near future!

13. HARD BOILED: Last year, LADY SNOWBLOOD wound up being one of my favorite movie-going experiences as I saw it in a packed cinema pub screening. This year, that cinema pub moviegoing experience belongs to HARD BOILED. This shoot ’em up actioner is over-the-top to the point of being ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome! Each gun fight plays out like a carefully choreographed dance and the film features one of the most jaw-dropping single take sequences that I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. Though it relies on a few cop movie clichés, it utilizes these in a loving way that makes the familiar material seem fresh. If you’re into action films and you haven’t seen HARD BOILED, then you need to remedy that immediately!

12. T2 TRAINSPOTTING: In all honesty, I didn’t know what exactly to expect from a sequel to TRAINSPOTTING. I love that film and I know that novelist Irvine Welsh wrote a follow-up novel, but I didn’t know how that might translate into a cinematic sequel. Over two decades after its predecessor’s release, T2 TRAINSPOTTING serves as an amazing companion piece to the original. Using the same cast and experimental visual style (albeit through a much more polished lens), TRAINSPOTTING 2 delivers stellar performances and naturally follows the lives of the four ne’er do wells from the previous film. If you loved the first film, then you’ll probably love this one too. For a full experience, it’s best to watch both of them back-to-back in the space of a single night!

11. NORTH BY NORTHWEST: This may be blasphemy for a cinephile, but I actually haven’t seen many Alfred Hitchcock films. I love PSYCHO, THE BIRDS, and DIAL M FOR MURDER, but the rest of his filmography is basically a mystery to my movie-craving eyes. My first viewing of NORTH BY NORTHWEST took place in the best possible environment (a packed movie theater) and I was blown away by how thrilling this film is. This is basically a James Bond film before Bond ever hit the screen. Cary Grant serves as a charismatic leading man who’s on the run for a murder he didn’t commit. Over the space of his death-defying adventure, we gets lots of suspense, action, and unexpected plot twists. I was on the edge of my seat for this entire film and walked away extremely satisfied. If the rest of Hitchcock’s filmography is anywhere near this great, then I’m in for a real treat as I continue to watch his work.

10. I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE: Blending a Coen brothers style of humor with indie thriller sensibilities, I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE might just be the most underseen and underrated film of 2017! This movie won an audience award at Sundance and then went directly to Netflix, where some people talked about for a couple of weeks and then it just kind of seemed to vanish out of the public eye. This is a vigilante thriller that’s believable in how inept real-life wannabe vigilantes might be and frequently dishes out shocking spurts of graphic violence. This might be the best Coen brothers film that the Coen brothers never made and I can’t wait to see what first-time director/writer Macon Blair cooks up next!

9. BABY DRIVER: What can I say? Edgar Wright consistently makes great films. BABY DRIVER is a passion project that Wright had in the works for years. In a similar fashion to how George Miller carefully planned out every scene, shot, and effect in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, Wright constantly lets the viewer know that they’re in the hands of a visionary storyteller. This stylish crime tale about a getaway driver who (ironically enough) wants to get away from his criminal lifestyle is loaded with colorful characters, hilarious humor, and adrenaline-pumping action that’s synced up to one of the best damn soundtracks you’ll hear all year. I gushed over this movie back in June and I am still gushing about it now. If you want a joy ride of pure fun, BABY DRIVER will satisfy your cinematic craving!

8. THE DISASTER ARTIST: Never in a million years did I think that anything to do with Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it’s-good THE ROOM would ever wind up on any “Best of” list. Yet, here we are. James Franco lovingly adapts the nonfiction book about the creation of THE ROOM to the big screen in a way that’s not only hilarious, but also genuinely touching. THE DISASTER ARTIST doesn’t take the easy route of being a goofy comedy about a loser who fails so spectacularly that he kind of succeeds. Instead, this film takes a more complicated drama-comedy approach and shows us the more serious side of oddball Tommy Wiseau…and his strange friendship with would-be aspiring actor Greg Sestero. THE DISASTER ARTIST is a moving must-see for ROOM fans and cinephiles who just love great movies in general.

7. BLADE RUNNER 2049: I’m saying it right now, BLADE RUNNER 2049 is one of the best sequels to ever hit the silver screen. Over three decades after its predecessor’s debut, BLADE RUNNER 2049 recaptures the bleak sci-fi/noir spark that made the original into the cult classic that it is today. 2049’s cast all deliver amazing performances across the board, with supporting actors making the biggest impressions in their small minutes of screen time and Ryan Gosling serving as a fascinating new antihero. Besides delivering a complex mystery that unpredictably shifts directions as it goes along, 2049 also has one of the most beautiful romantic subplots in years and it features a literal “one-dimensional” character. For those who were bummed out by this film’s disappointing box office returns, remember that the first BLADE RUNNER was a box office flop and is now considered to be one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time. A similar classic status will undoubtedly follow BLADE RUNNER 2049 in future years!

6. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES: Seven years ago, if you had told me that a PLANET OF THE APES prequel trilogy would be one of the best cinematic trilogies ever, I would have laughed in your face. It turns out that’s exactly the case though. 2014’s DAWN drastically improved upon the minor flaws of 2011’s RISE, but 2017’s WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is stellar storytelling from beginning to end. Themes of revenge, survival, and forgiveness are examined throughout the film’s ever-changing plot. Performance wise, WAR fully shapes out intelligent ape Caesar (played wonderfully by Andy Serkis) as animal protagonist who’s more compelling than most human protagonists in films and also introduces Woody Harrelson as a monstrous villain who we want to see die in the most painful way possible. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES was the best possible way to conclude the APES prequel trilogy and is one of the best summer blockbusters I’ve ever sat through!

5. IRREVERSIBLE: I originally heard about Gaspar Noe’s rape-revenge drama from a podcast in 2008, but hadn’t bothered to give it a look until earlier this year. Though not strictly a horror film by any means, IRREVERSIBLE is a terrifying cinematic experience as events are told backwards. Unlike other linear rape-revenge stories, we see the revenge come first and travel backwards through the moments that eventually lead up to the violent act of justice. As the film plays out in reverse (ironic considering its title), we put pieces of this depressing puzzle together for ourselves and this already tragic event becomes even more tragic with each new revelation. This isn’t a film for the faint-hearted and it’s about as bleak as they come, but IRREVERSIBLE is an uncompromising masterpiece that deserves to be seen by anybody who loves the serious artistic side of cinema!

4. LOGAN: There will never be a better Wolverine than Hugh Jackman. I’m saying that right now. Over a decade has been spent watching Jackman in the role of this weaponized mutant, so LOGAN serves as a suitable final chapter for Jackman’s reluctant do-gooder. The future X-MEN films have a tough act to follow, because LOGAN is a special kind of superhero story. Relationships between the small cast of characters drives the emotional core of this film forward, whilst the R rating finally delivers something that X-MEN fans have wanted to see since 2000: a bad-ass Wolverine slicing and dicing his way through bad guys. This film also has shades of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD crossed with a comic book story that’s about as unconventional as they come. Now that Disney is in talks to own the X-MEN franchise, we likely won’t see another film like LOGAN coming from this mutant-based series. LOGAN is a one-of-a-kind superhero film and one of the best comic book movies ever made!

3. EYES WIDE SHUT: Stanley Kubrick’s final film is an underrated masterpiece about the way in which people delude themselves into believing that they’re happy…and also there’s a creepy sex cult involved too. The entire film has a dream-like atmosphere as we watch the main character (Tom Cruise) venture through a single night odyssey that explores the sexual possibilities of cheating on his wife. Kubrick masterfully shows the dire consequences that might result from following our instinctual desires, whilst also putting us into the place of Cruise’s character. This is especially true of the ending which offers two distinct possibilities: one of them is easy and comforting…and the other one is ambiguous and dangerous. Whatever you might think of it or how you might interpret it, EYES WIDE SHUT is sure to keep you talking about it long after it’s over.

2. YOUR NAME: Eat your heart out Studio Ghibli! YOUR NAME just might be one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever sat through. This film has gorgeous animation from beginning to end, while also delivering an entrancing tale of emotions and body-swapping. It’s initial set-up sounds like the anime equivalent of FREAKY FRIDAY, but drastically becomes something far more charming and moving as its complex plot moves along. This might be one of the strangest love stories ever put to the screen, but its emotional resonance is undeniable! The characters are all built up to the point where the viewer feels for their struggles and deeply cares about them. This makes the film’s final third into a very suspenseful and gripping ride. Also, the climax is utterly perfect. YOUR NAME is a masterpiece and deserves every bit of praise it has received so far (and will continue to receive)!

1. MOTHER!: Much like my favorite film of 2016 (HIGH-RISE), I know that there will be people who loathe and downright detest MOTHER! Some will hate it for its sheer artsy nightmare-logic style and others will despise its controversial message, but I adored every single frame of this fucked-up little ditty. The film follows a woman and her husband in an isolated countryside house. After a strange couple pop in and just decide to stay, their lives are shifted in horrifying ways. I can’t get too into details, because it would spoil some of the film’s nasty surprises and metaphorical madness. I will say that MOTHER! is my favorite horror film of the 2010s so far and one of the ballsiest films to ever receive a nationwide theatrical release. People either really love this film or totally hate it. There isn’t much middle ground to be found and you will likely walk away with a very strong opinion about it. One of the film’s trailers promised that “you’ll never forget where you were the first time you saw MOTHER!” and that statement is completely accurate. I’ve been thinking about this unforgettable horror film since its release and I can’t wait to dive into it again and again in future years to come!

Well, 2017 was a wild year for me…both on this site and in my personal life. I’m currently in the process of moving, so reviews will resume sometime in January! I plan to keep this little movie blog rolling, with plenty of reviews (both old and new) being pumped out on a mostly regular basis! A huge “thank you” to anyone who’s read this blog at all during the past year or any new readers who are discovering it for the first time. There was plenty to love in the world of film during 2017 and here’s to a just as great (if not better) 2018!

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 44 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, some Sexuality, Nudity and Language

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Written by: Hampton Fancher & Michael Green

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista & Jared Leto

In 1982, Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER bombed at the box office and polarized critics. Throughout the following years/decades, the film drew greater appreciation, gained a strong cult following, and is now widely considered to be one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. If anyone were to helm a sequel, they would certainly have their work cut out for them and would need to be among the top tier of modern filmmakers. Thank God that long-awaited sequel BLADE RUNNER 2049 (released 35 years after its predecessor) has master director Denis Villeneuve (ARRIVAL, SICARIO, and PRISONERS) as its guiding source. To put it bluntly, BLADE RUNNER 2049 is one of the best sequels to ever hit the silver screen.

Set thirty years after the events of the previous film, 2049 follows blade runner K (Ryan Gosling) as he goes about his daily job of “retiring” (code for killing) older replicants (bioengineered robots). When he’s not at work, K spends his free time with his holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas). However, K’s depressingly simple existence is about to get a lot more complicated as his latest job unearths evidence that a replicant child has been born. This was thought to be impossible and seems like an “abomination” of nature, so K is instructed to “retire” the replicant child and uncovers a deeper mystery that takes him to dangerous places, puts him in the sights of the evil Wallace Corporation, and brings back a blast from the past.

BLADE RUNNER 2049’s marketing is deceptive in that it paints this film as an action-packed sequel that has Harrison Ford playing sidekick for a majority of the screen time and sees Jared Leto as the main villain. However, the film is far more subtle than that and has occasional spurts of action…very much in the same vein of the 1982 sci-fi noir. It’s also worth noting that Jared Leto only has about 2-3 scenes and yet makes the most of every second that he’s on screen. The real threat comes from Sylvia Hoeks’s psycho replicant Luv. She’s scary as hell. Also, Harrison Ford’s Deckard doesn’t pop up until the film is over halfway over, but his presence is a strong point in the film’s complicated, super bleak plot.

Ryan Gosling is a fantastic leading man in the role of protagonist K. This blade runner is very much a replicant (while Deckard’s identity was merely an ambiguous idea at the end of the original) and struggles with his “soulless” existence. Gosling’s K is a depressed robot-killer who undergoes a transformation over the course of the film’s storyline, in a similar way to Harrison Ford’s Deckard in the first film. However, BLADE RUNNER 2049 differs in many respects and takes place during a whole new chapter of this neon-lit, robot-inhabited future.

One of the more twisted elements of this future setting is embodied by K’s holographic girlfriend Joi, played the gorgeous and extremely talented Ana de Armas. Even though she’s a literal two-dimensional character, Armas is fully fleshed out as Joi and is (pardon the pun) a joy to watch on the screen. The romantic chemistry between a robot detective and his holographic girlfriend is one of the most fascinating, emotional, and surprisingly believable things that I’ve seen on the big screen all year. Gosling and Armas have palpable on-screen chemistry and they share tons of scenes together throughout the running time. There’s also suspense built as we pray that nothing will tear their bond apart.

BLADE RUNNER 2049’s storyline is intelligently told in a deliberately paced manner that feeds the viewer small chunks of information and turns their eyes towards strange clues, but doesn’t ever talk down to them by spoon-feeding massive details in a giant exposition dump. Instead, conversations between characters feel entirely natural and director Denis Villeneuve shows us lots of things rather than simply telling us. Some of the BLADE RUNNER 2049’s most powerful scenes don’t have a bit of spoken dialogue and that’s something truly special to behold. It’s also worth noting that Hans Zimmerman’s score is fantastic and noticeably seems to have a bit of Nine Inch Nails influence thrown into it.

2049’s spectacle is impressive as hell. The blending of computer generated imagery with heavily detailed sets is seamless. I couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. The neon-lit, orange-dusted, and watery-colored locations all built their own atmospheres (from eerily creepy to just plain cool). The 2049 future was the most creative and believable cinematic setting that I’ve witnessed since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD‘s apocalyptic world. It felt like I was whisked away to another place while I was watching BLADE RUNNER 2049 and when I finally exited the theater, nearly three hours had flown by without my knowledge of them passing. You lose yourself in this film’s spectacular visuals and engrossing plot; and those are two of cinema’s most beautiful qualities.

With fantastic performances (from old cast members and new), smart storytelling, amazing visuals and effects, and a purely cinematic vision, BLADE RUNNER 2049 is easily one of the best sequels to ever hit the silver screen. This follow-up brilliantly connects to the classic predecessor, while also serving as its own original story. I can’t think of a single complaint that I had with this science-fiction noir. I cannot wait until I am able to watch the double feature of BLADE RUNNER and BLADE RUNNER 2049, because these films fit together like two pieces of a giant movie puzzle. BLADE RUNNER 2049 is easily one of the best films of 2017, one of the best sequels ever made, and one of my favorite science-fiction films in years!

Grade: A+

THE NICE GUYS (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, Sexuality, Nudity, Language and brief Drug Use

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Directed by: Shane Black

Written by: Shane Black & Anthony Bagarozzi

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Murielle Telio, Keith David, Kim Basinger & Beau Knapp

If you only read the synopsis for THE NICE GUYS, it sounds like a dark crime-thriller. You’d be wrong in this assumption though, because this movie is written and directed by Shane Black. He’s the guy behind movies like LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT and KISS KISS BANG BANG. In short, Shane Black seems to have a knack for making action clichés feel fresh, creating great characters, and incorporating lots of laughs into otherwise tense plots. THE NICE GUYS combines a neo-noir thriller and a buddy cop comedy into one hugely entertaining creation. Driven by a compelling mystery, riding on the shoulders of strong characters, and boosted by a 70’s atmosphere, THE NICE GUYS is a blast!

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Los Angeles, 1977. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is an enforcer, willing to beat anyone to a pulp…as long as he’s being paid to do so. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is an inept private investigator, who isn’t above scamming his clients and getting drunk in the morning. Healy and March cross paths due to a strange girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). What begins as a simple missing person case quickly escalates into a conspiracy connected to a porn star’s mysterious death and murderous criminals. Soon enough, Healy and March are working together, dodging bullets, screwing up, and trying their best to get to the bottom of a complicated, dangerous mystery.

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THE NICE GUYS masterfully balances two very different genres. The film’s mood frequently shifts between laugh-out-loud hilarious to tense thriller territory, but never once feels like a mess. This multi-genre tone may sound difficult to execute, but Shane Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi make it look easy. Lots of laughs come from the undeniably witty dialogue, but there are over-the-top visual jokes too (e.g. a cigarette smoking bee). These moments are utterly ridiculous, but never seem to distract from the danger at hand. When this story gets dark, it gets downright bleak. This screenplay packs in a lot of surprises and one twist left me stunned for a solid five minutes.

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Besides having an excellent script, THE NICE GUYS also showcases one of the best actor pairings in recent memory. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have great chemistry and play off each other in ways that feel completely natural. Each brings their own sense of comedic timing to the mix, but both are able to balance seriousness in their characters. March is a bumbling jerk with a drinking problem, but has genuine goodness in him and cares deeply for his daughter. Crowe is a hardened guy trying to do the right thing, but occasionally does very bad things along the way. NICE GUYS doesn’t pretty up these characters’ flaws or make light of them, which makes the serious moments work and the many humorous moments even more amusing.

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THE NICE GUYS follows the structure of a buddy cop comedy, but purposely goes out of its way to not follow the typical conventions of that formula. On a side note, there’s something to be said for a film that includes a child sidekick and does so in a way that’s not annoying in the slightest. This character is Holly, March’s daughter, and is played to perfection by Angourie Rice. Holly is able to see the goodness in both of these men and doesn’t hesitate to point out their problems. As a result, teenage Rice manages to steal a few scenes away from Gosling and Crowe.

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There is one exception to the story’s mostly non-conventional nature and that comes with a bit of revealing exposition. A couple of obvious clues give away surprises before they’ve fully been revealed. Every audience member might not immediately catch onto to these telegraphed bits, but one scene seems a bit too heavy-handed in laying them out for the viewer. However, THE NICE GUYS more than makes up for this with some of the most unlikable villains that I’ve seen in a long time. I was rooting for these bad guys to get seriously hurt as tense confrontations played out and the movie doesn’t disappoint in bloodletting as the comeuppances are beyond satisfying in their over-the-top violence.

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The 70’s atmosphere and great soundtrack are merely icing on the cake. THE NICE GUYS juggles multiple genres, rides on well-developed characters, and is bound to get you laughing. It’s simultaneously hilarious and suspenseful, which are two words that you don’t often hear in describing one film. The chemistry between Gosling and Crowe is perfect! I sincerely hope that we get to spend even more time with them in a potential sequel. If you want a mystery that doesn’t skimp on the suspense and a comedy that will keep you laughing from start to finish, THE NICE GUYS lives up to its title in being nice…and then some!

Grade: A

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!

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