So 2013 comes to a close, we saw the return of Superman to the big screen, Vin Diesel catch Michelle Rodriguez in mid-air and enough blood spilt in Evil Dead to make those elevator doors in The Shining look like a drippy faucet. With the year coming to an end FilmJuice Editor Alex Moss takes a look at ten of the best the year had to offer.
Iron Man 3
Topping Avengers was always going to be a mammoth task but Marvel at least matched it by another out-of-left-field director selection. Shane Black, who in no small part helped resurrect Robert Downey Jr’s career with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, brought his trademark quips to a film that stripped Tony Stark bare and left us reeling with delight. Throw in some of the best set-pieces of the year and a healthy dose of comedy – who can forget Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin – and Iron Man 3 was proof that the superhero craze is very far from over.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour
Taking home all the accolades at this year’s Cannes Film Festival doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a film worthy of your time. But Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a delicate, intimate and often heartbreaking love story. From the moment we witness protagonist Adèle’s sexual awakening the film is utterly captivating, helped no end by a star making turn from youngster Adèle Exarchopoulos and a brilliant supporting performance from Léa Seydoux. Yes, some of the sex scenes feel like little more than titillation, and often out of character, but the true turn-on is the chemistry between the two leads; so hot you’ll need sun block.
Great things were always expected of Chan-wook Park’s – he behind Oldboy, Thirst and Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance – English debut and he certainly didn’t fail to deliver. Stoker is a seething caldron of coming of age venom and daddy issues. Nicole Kidman as the vampish mother and Matthew Goode as the reptilian uncle are wonderfully creepy while Mia Wasikowska travels this gothic fairy tale with wide-eyed wonder that hides a disturbing inner demon. Perhaps the most surprising thing is Stoker comes from the pen of former Prison Break star Wentworth Miller. On this form his follow-up will be eagerly anticipated.
Gravity is the kind of film that reminds us why we must never let cinema die, for it is the very definition of cinematic experience. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are both on captivating form but it’s Alfonso Cuarón’s visuals which truly dazzle. Given it’s almost all created in a computer the images are worthy of The National Geographic and once the action kicks in, which is all of five minutes into the film, it never lets up and has you grabbing and clawing at your seat as debris flies at you from all directions. If you only see one film in cinemas this year, make it Gravity.
One of those films that come the end you feel like you need a good lie down, Captain Phillips is a nail-biting thriller from beginning to end. Paul Greengrass captures the claustrophobic nature of being aboard a ship to perfection while Tom Hanks is typically mesmerizing. Huge accolades should also be given to newcomer Barkhad Abdi who sculpts his pirate Muse into something engaging and refreshingly sympathetic. In other hands this could have been formulaic Hollywood military porn, instead it’s a riveting, often harrowing, account of a true story.
Ron Howard returns to his best form with this true story of the rivalry between Formula One drivers Nikki Lauder and James Hunt. Played with ying and yang perfection by Daniel Brühl as the methodical and often despised Lauder and Liam Hemsworth as the arrogant playboy Hunt, Rush perfectly captures the drama, politics and sheer breathtaking power of driving in F1. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport itself there’s enough character and plot here to burn rubber.
Only God Forgives
One of the most divisive films of the year, Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to his über cool Drive is a dark, disturbing and nightmarish descent into hell. Ryan Gosling glides through the film, an almost mute avenging angel while Vithaya Pansringram is a foreboding presence as the god-like policeman. It’s a deeply unsettling film with an oppressive aesthetic but rarely is a film so immersive and compelling.
There’s normally one documentary in a year that dazzles beyond what you thought possible in the genre. Blackfish is this year’s entry and it’s hands down the most jaw-dropping film of the year. Charting the life of the Killer Whale Tilikum, Gabriela Cowperthwaite pulls no punches with a detailed and frankly scathing indictment of SeaWorld’s treatment of its whales and the lies they spin to the trainers and public. If you manage to watch it without at least five moments of genuine gasp you’re probably related to Captain Ahab. Seek it out and then swear blind you’ll never visit another SeaWorld EVER AGAIN.
That man Tarantino did it again, this time in the Western genre by conjuring a madcap, comic book style look at one slave’s mission of revenge. The violence was brutal, blood spraying indulgence, the characters typically larger than life but more than anything Tarantino captured an important, often denied and forgotten in cinema, period of American history. Throw in stunning performances from Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and the always-sublime Christoph Waltz and Django was nothing short of cinematic nirvana.
Often crass, always funny and intentionally offensive at times, Filth more than lived up to its source material and title. It’s been too long since Danny Boyle brought Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting to eye-popping life but Jon S. Baird matches Boyle’s Welsh adaptation by forcing us to genuinely invest in protagonist Bruce. In another actor’s hands Bruce could have been a deplorable and repugnant oaf but in James McAvoy’s he’s disarmingly charming. But Filth’s greatest achievement is finding an emotional core that means repeat viewing of the film is a must.
Rush is available on DVD / Blu-ray from 17th January 2014.