The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top 10 of 2013

Oh, how time flies for....well, me. It feels like I was just working on my top 10 list for 2012, but here we sit. Here's the top 10 movies I saw in 2013. No, it's not necessarily the most classic or well-made films, but the ones I enjoyed the most overall. And as I pointed out last year, these are movies I saw during the 2013 calendar year, not just movies released in 2013. If you're looking for the full review, click on the individual movie titles.

10. End of Watch (2012)
Within the police/cop genre, there's the buddy cop movie. This 2012 entry from Los Angeles specialist and director Jon Ayer is a step (or two or three) above the familiar, even typical genre entry. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are perfectly cast as two young officers in L.A., patrolling their beat, living their lives and trying to survive. A really good movie is made a near-classic because of the camaraderie, the perfect chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Pena.

9. Prime Cut (1972)
I thought I was getting one type of movie and got another. A film that defies any one genre description, blending an oddball love story with that of a mob enforcer (Lee Marvin) sent to investigate a low-level mobster named Mary Ann (played to perfection by Gene Hackman) for overstepping his bounds. Violent, artsy, funny and an incredibly stylish quasi-noir with European touches. An underrated gem from the 1970s, and not your typical 70s crime thriller.

8. Moon (2009)

I debated putting this one in the top 10 because it's so similar to another entry down the list a couple movies. It came down to something simple. I loved this movie. Sam Rockwell plays Sam, an employee for a huge corporation in the near future working on the Moon, his extended tour of duty about to run out so he can return to Earth. His time winding down, he begins to notice some odd things all around him. Kevin Spacey provides his voice talents in this well-written, well-executed science fiction story that plays like a throwback to the sci-fi films of the 1960s and 1970s.

7. Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)
By 1965, the roadshow epic was becoming a thing of the past. I love those huge, sprawling films with casts of thousands and crazy visuals. This one doesn't feature a ton of star power, but that ends up being a good thing. We get a ton of great character actors working together as an ensemble, American, British, French, German and so many other nationalities working against each other to win an aerial race in 1910. A lot of fun, some great aerial sequences, and a roadshow epic that deserves more of a reputation.

6. Oblivion (2013)
What a science fiction film should be. There was very little I didn't love about this sci-fi entry from 2013, Tom Cruise playing Jack Harper, a technician working in the future to help preserve and guard a scorched Earth that is now almost entirely inhabitable. Is he really alone in his mission or do Earth's remains and ruins have a surprise in store for him? An incredible visual movie to watch, an unsettling, uncomfortable story that builds tension like crazy, a very solid performance from Tom Cruise and an eerie, almost trance-like score from M83 frontman Anthony Gonzales. A great sci-fi film.

5. The Way, Way Back (2013)
Coming of age stories can be a dime a dozen, but when handled the right way? We get movies like this, a seamless blend of drama and comedy and a story that is familiar but never in a bad way. Young Duncan (Liam James) is on vacation with his mom (Toni Collette) and her boyfriend (Steve Carell) at the boyfriend's oceanfront cottage, but Duncan is at that awkward teen stage where he feels like he doesn't fit in at all. Felt like a throwback to similar movies from the 1980s, Sam Rockwell delivering a scene-stealing performance as Owen, the owner of an old water park who befriends Duncan. Can't recommend this one enough.

4. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
The 1950s were the age of so many science fiction classics and near-classics. This is one of the all-time greats, scary, unsettling, smart and timely. Released in the time of the Red Scare and McCarthyism, this horror/sci-fi film from tough guy director Don Siegel hits all the right notes. Kevin McCarthy's doctor returns home from a short vacation to find all his friends and acquaintances slightly different from what he remembered. What exactly is going on? The twists and revelations work with some great 'Gotcha!' moments and an even better ending, originally intended to be slightly darker.

3. The Gunfighter (1950)
A western from director Henry King and star Gregory Peck, this classic deserves to be recognized as one of the all-time best westerns. Ahead of its time, it was released in a western era when good guys still wore white and bad guys wore black. One of the first westerns to really analyze what it meant to be a wild west gunfighter and all the stigmas attached to it. If you're the fastest gun around, someone else no doubt wants to prove he's faster. Peck delivers another in a long line of memorable performances with a story that plays out almost like a stage-based play. Incredibly tense from the get-go, it builds more and more tension as it draws closer to the uncomfortably real finale.

2. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
A movie that makes the top 2 because in terms of stupidly fun pure entertainment, this movie from director Justin Lin has few rivals. Car chases and action galore with a loaded cast that includes Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Gina Carano, Luke Evans and Sung Kang. The Fast and Furious franchise has changed a lot from its original street racing roots, but for the better. These are fun, exciting movies meant to be eaten with a gigantic tub of popcorn and a big old pop. Star Walker died in Nov. 2013, but I'll be curious to see where the franchise goes with its seventh entry.

1. The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)
A movie that strived to be something more and achieved it on so many levels. A story of fathers and sons, how one decision can alter the lives of countless people in the blink of an eye. Director Derek Cianfrance’s film relies on a non-linear story that defies a conventional storytelling device, and you know what? It works because it is legitimately good, but also because it is trying for something out of the ordinary. Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Rose Byrne, Mahershala Ali and Ben Mendelsohn rounding out quite the cast. Especially worth mentioning is composer Mike Patton’s beautiful, trance-like score. I can’t recommend it enough. Even knowing the quasi-twists, it holds up exceptionally well on repeat viewings.

What movies didn't make it? There were some tough choices for the year's best. Here's the closest ones in no particular order.
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
This is the End (2013)
Life of Pi (2012)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Angels in the Outfield (1951)
The Thieves (2012)
Murder By Death (1976)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)
42 (2013)

Onto 2014!


  1. Well, you won't see too many lists with Fast and Furious 6 next to The Gunfighter! Nice job Tim. Somehow I missed Place Beyond the Pines when it was in theaters.

  2. Haha thanks! I've always said the most recent Fast/Furious movies are the best because they're pure entertainment, pretty perfect popcorn movies. As for The Gunfighter, loved it!