Top 20 of the Year (#5-1)

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You’ve seen the first fifteen films, now let’s get into the top 5 movies of 2013.

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5. Star Trek Into Darkness

This movie would have had to be a pretty big miss for it to not make this list. Contrary to what the people who complain about everything think, this was an amazing movie. I mean, really, what’s not to like about it. It looks gorgeous, has an amazing cast who provide excellent character moments and the action is as impressive as the top action movies that came out this year.
I do agree that the mystery of who Benedict Cumberbatch was playing was completely unnecessary. Perhaps stating before hand, in the advertising, that Cumberbatch was playing Star Trek’s biggest villain would have benefited the overall box office and would have also provided one less thing for people to complain about. Even with all of that, I thought Khan was nothing short of spectacular in the film. Yeah Ricardo Montalban was of Hispanic origin playing an Indian, and Cumberbatch is British, but if you can look past that minor issue then there’s no way his character will not work you.
Khan has such an intimidating presence, a strong voice and speech pattern, but what sets him apart from the original is the way he is able to display his physicality. In Khan’s original appearance, way back in ‘Space Seed,’ Khan and Kirk share blows and engage in a not so spectacular fight. Even though Khan has the advantage for most of the fight, Kirk pretty much goes toe to toe with him. In this film, Khan sets himself apart physically from Kirk and everyone around him. The scene where Kirk throws punch after punch at Khan with Khan barely even flinching is the best example in the film of what sets this Khan apart from the original.
More exploration of other worlds would be great, but it feels like we’re building to that. The sequel promises the beginning of the five-year mission, and the sooner Kirk and company get to deep space, the better. I want things to get uncomfortable and scary. The Enterprise crew want to explore the unknown but as far as what’s actually out there, well they have no idea. Anything can happen to these people and on this ‘exploration mission’ and that is really exciting.
What has also been set up in this film is the war with the Klingons. I feel like that confrontation is necessary, but I hope that it doesn’t take place on Earth. It would be cool if it was a space battle somewhere near Klingon space. JJ Abrams has moved on to Star Wars and the announcement of a new director for the following film should be announced soon. I hope things don’t change too much, at least not with the tone of these films. I hope the new director has a unique vision but also I hope that he gets what Star Trek is all about.
These new Trek films suggest that things are meant to happen and even if things don’t happen exactly as they did in previous timelines, there’s really no escaping certain things. Star Trek fan or not, these films are something special to watch and you don’t need any previous knowledge to enjoy these new films. Start off with the 2009 Star Trek, and follow it up with this one and you’ll be good to go. The pressure is on for the next director, but regardless of what happens in the next film, Star Trek Into Darkness is a great film and one of my favorites of the year.

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4. About Time

I did not think that the trailers were horrible for this film the way some people have suggested. I did find they were misleading. Were the trailers suggested a cliché romantic comedy, this really was something more special. The actors in the film aren’t too recognizable with the exception of Rachael McAdams, who once again is involved in a time-travel film (her third). So rather than just saying names of actors who might confuse some I’ll try to get into this film without naming all the actors in the film.
Early in the film, the main character finds out from his father that he has the ability to time travel. The character, named Tim Lake, doesn’t attempt to alter human history or do anything too crazy. He mostly focuses on the small things in his life. He believes in love above all, and so without hesitation that’s what he first sets out to attain. I loved how changing one small thing would alter another. He first meets McAdams at a restaurant where you eat with all of the lights off. The two characters hit it off right away, they exchange phone numbers and are destined to start something special.
A small issue forces him to go back in time to fix something that went wrong, but when he does go back, it turns out that the dinner with McAdams no longer took place. Instead she met somebody else at a party, and those two become a couple. The idea of little things like this happening is an idea that I found fascinating. He cheats a bit as he goes back once again, this time to that party, ensures that McAdams never meets that other man and goes home with him. Instead, he interjects himself into her life, they become a couple and never look back. About Time is a great film about love, but it’s more than just your average love story.
Throughout the film we also see the strong bond between Tim and his father. Their relationship really is the backbone of the film and provides many great moments between the two. It’s not a huge spoiler to say that eventually his father will pass away. The way we see the two share wonderful and sad moments such as saying goodbye to each other and spending one more day together really helps the film go from that generic love story to a story about love and life.
The time travel isn’t really huge in this film, it instead helps us explore things about the human condition. The highlight of the film for me, even though there was so many great ones between Tim and his father as well as Tim and his wife, was such a small moment in the overall scheme of things. Tim goes through a day in his life, an average one. There is stress and doubts among other things, but then he gets to the end of the day. From there Tim goes back to the beginning of the same day and this time he can enjoy all of those little things without the stress, fears and doubts. Tim now knows that things will be okay, and that everyone once in a while you should just stop and enjoy all the little things life brings. Sometimes even though you know how or even that things will end, life (and movies) is still all about the journey.

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3. Her
This film has Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with his operating system. If you can look past that initial premise, you will discover the sweetest film of the year. Technology continues to expand by the day so to me the events in this film don’t seem too far off. We are already at the point where that technology has taken over the way we live our lives so the thought of people falling in love with that technology isn’t an idea that’s too hard to swallow. The film is set sometime in the near future, but it could also take place today and it would absolutely still work.
Joaquin Phoenix sure has played crazy a lot lately so seeing his character in this film was such a great reminder of how vulnerable and sympathetic the man could still be. Phoenix plays Theodore, an average man who writes beautiful hand-written letters for a living. Just from the letters he writes, you can tell that he is great at what he does and he is a romantic. The letters are pure poetry; such beautiful writing that make you wish were actually published. The reason Theodore is still in such a sad place is because he is coming off a divorce. One day Phoenix decides to get an operating system, and suddenly his life is turned around.
Samantha is not just a voice coming out of a phone. She is a real life character, unique in so many ways and one that continues to evolve and adapt not only to Theodore but to everyone she is able to encounter. This is a beautiful, yet crowded time as you can see when Theodore travels to the beach with Samantha. Director Spike Jonze, Joaquin Phoenix and even Scarlett Johansen, who voices Samantha, all make you believe in this story. Samantha provides an end to the loneliness and even if there is no physical representation to her, isn’t life all about companionship?
The flashbacks to the marriage between Phoenix and his ex-wife, played by Rooney Mara, are also some of the best parts of the film. Even if things ended up in destruction and Mara tears Phoenix a new one, at one time they were beautiful. The flashbacks show such a sweet side to both characters and again allow us to see how much a romantic Phoenix is. We don’t really get a reason for why it ended so badly, except for the fact that we know his ex-wife was really uptight and ‘unable to enjoy life.’ I didn’t see her character as a bad person at all, I just felt like splitting up was the right choice for them to make.
As Samantha begins to outgrow him, Theodore begins to wonder if the problems in relationship all come from him. It forces him to deal with what he expects from the women he has relationships. It reminded me a bit of Ruby Sparks and how we place unfair expectations of women, instead of just letting them be themselves.
What else can I say about Her? While there were moments of phone sex among other things, it wasn’t there for no reason at all. It all gave us a look at the person Theodore was. This was absolutely the sweetest and most wonderful movie of the year. At the end of the day, we are all fighting that loneliness. Does it really matter where the answer to that loneliness comes from? I took from this film that women or advanced technology, if you find someone that gets you, don’t let anyone discourage you from that happiness.

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2. Catching Fire

Catching Fire takes everything that made The Hunger Games so great and builds off that, creating such a wonderful surprise. It’s no surprise that this was a good film, the surprise is how great of a movie this was. This is a blockbuster film that feels so small and personal. The franchise is huge and it ranks as one of the top grossing films of the year, it’s able to disguise itself. When you pull back the layers, you see that the film is so much more than that. As the film finished, I wanted to see more immediately.
Mockingjay, especially part 1, has a lot to live up to and it is going to be so tough for it to top this one. The Hunger Games had a dark and gritty feel to it, dealing with themes of poverty and revolution. The topic of overthrowing a government wasn’t going to be a light one so right out the gate the film struck the right tone. Catching Fire never forgets this. The film gets even darken and grittier than the first one and underneath it all there is that glimmer of hope.
Katniss Everdeen has become a symbol of hope. She will lead this revolution whether she is dead or alive. If she dies by any means, she suddenly becomes a martyr. Katniss doesn’t want to lead people into battle and be responsible for so much death. It’s such a huge task to suddenly become this symbol of hope. The hunger games has left Katniss damaged. She witnessed little kids be killed, forced by the government to fight to the death. Katniss has some serious PTSD much like she should. It was an extremely tragic thing to have to go through and it’s not something you can just shake off.
The president of Pan-Em wants Katniss dead but he also does not want her to become a martyr. People have began to fight back. The government will not just stand by and so they go out of their way to set some examples by killing citizens left and right. It’s all so realistic so a bit hard to watch at times. I was so impressed by the chances the talent took with this film. They could have played it so safe, just sat back and collected their money, but they aspired to so much more.
The answer to the president’s dilemma comes in the form of the 75th year anniversary of the hunger games. In this edition, past winners will compete against each other. Yes, this prevents the massacre of little kids, but it’s no less brutal and savage.
Much like the first Hunger Games, the film takes its time getting to the actual games. We see so many personal character moments and scenes that seem to be setting up for the next film. This middle installment relay does resemble The Empire Strikes Back in several ways. You have the obvious one dealing with rebellion and finally fighting back, things are darker this time around, much like things got grimmer from A New Hope to Empire. The biggest way the film resembled each other however were how things ended. Empire really has no ending, it’s one chapter in a bigger story as things set themselves up for the next film. The same thing happens with Catching Fire.
The film ends out of nowhere after such an adrenaline rush and all you’re left with is a bunch of questions that you won’t get the answer to until the next film. It seems cruel and unfair.
I don’t think that the talent involved can top what they did with this amazing film. I really do hope I am proven wrong and Mockingjay succeeds much like this one did. Don’t let it fool you, Catching Fire is no generic blockbuster. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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1. Before Midnight

I will always choose these small films, filled with so much dialogue, over the superheroes and explosions. I can relate to these films on a much more personal level. These ‘Before’ films are such small films that hardly anyone has heard of, and yet I think it just may best trilogy of all-time. Really think about the top trilogies, most of them have at least one so-so film. These films have no weak spots whatsoever. Each film is just as good as the other and you can argue that the films, much like the actors, just get better with age.
I think it’s such a crazy thing that these films even exist. There is a nine year period between each film and the characters go from about age 23 in the first to 41 in this one. If Before Sunrise was the fairytale, Before Midnight is what happens after happily ever after. In their relationship, there is no good or bad person. Both characters are sometimes wrong and they are sometimes right. These are flawed people and this is real life.
I smile so much at these films. The middle installment, Before Sunset, is my favorite hands down. I relate to it so much and there is so much beauty in that film. This is also a beautiful film, but in a different way. It is not easy in anyway. If you’re looking for that beauty in this film, listen in on Jesse as gives his thoughts on what he wants his next book to be. It’s very much like the opening of Before Sunset where he describes his idea for a book taking place during a pop song. Jesse has such a gift for articulating his thoughts and ideas about what he wants to write. I desire to read these books, and it’s such a shame that they only exist in the universe presented in these films.
You want more beauty? Join in the lunch Celine and Jesse have, surrounded by friends as they discuss life, sex and a woman’s expectations. I know a movie with non-stop dialogue is not for everyone, but personally I love no other type of film more. Celine and Jesse have discussed everything in these three films, you think they would have no more to talk about. I refuse to see Celine as a bitter and angry, older woman who just exists to nag at Jesse. That hopeless romantic is still there, except now that she has her prince, she’s settled down into a certain comfort zone.
The film ends with the fight in the hotel room, and it’s as an uncomfortable scene as I’ve seen in any film, ever. It hits so close because it is so real. Couples fight like this, like it’s the end of the world, all the time. They’re on the verge of having sex, then they’re on the verge on breaking up. It’s all so familiar, and yet it’s also something that they’ve probably gotten used to. Both say horrible mean things to the point where it seems there is no going back, and yet with the way these two love each other, how could they just let the other person walk away?
There’s the recurring discussion of time-travel, and they get to the point where it seems like there is no going back. Like I said though, how could they just let each other go? I hold these three films near and dear to my heart. If you know someone yearning for true love stories, do them the biggest favor in the world and direct them towards this amazing trilogy. You probably do have to watch the first two films to fall in love with this one, but it is well worth the investment. Much like Celine did to Jesse way back in that first film on the train, you should give this movie a chance. Hell, it’s the best movie of the year.

#20-16:
https://straightedgeisbeautiful.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/top-20-films-of-the-year-20-16/
#15-11:
https://straightedgeisbeautiful.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/top-20-films-of-2013-15-11/
#10-6:
https://straightedgeisbeautiful.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/top-20-films-of-the-year-10-6/

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