The Best of 2013: The First Five

After a long time scratching off titles and adding new ones all last year, I've decided upon my top 10. There are a few movies I've yet to see that could very well end up in my honorable mentions list, but I think the Top 10 here is my final statement for the year. As much as sequels dominated the box office in 2013, only two of them ended up in my top 10 compared to the 6 that are in the top 10 of 2013's box office. Which is awesome - there's been a healthy amount of original titles and a lot of them have been quality viewing. There were quite a few surprises as well - 3 of the top 10 weren't even on my most anticipated (4 if you're going by my original list).

The biggest thing that struck me this year was the theme of relationships - whether romantically or of the best friend variety. A lot of my favorite films dealt with deeply personal and troubled relationships. There were also a lot of great action and science fiction fare. Not surprising, coming from me, but I think there were a lot of reasons to love 2013 in film. Now on to the first five!

Throwing away the notion that the first is always the better, Catching Fire (along with the book) ups the ante significantly for the the Hunger Games' two winners, Katniss and Peeta. Instead of re-hashing the same ground and shoving a ham-fisted love triangle down our throats, the movie instead captures the anxiety of a revolution stirring and the inevitable soul-crushing hammer of the Capital's punishment: All the past survivors ("winners") are subjected to their own Hunger Games. And it's highly entertaining! The movie doesn't skip a beat and the actual arena was smartly put to great use more so this time around then the previous film. Plus there's some outstanding performances from Jena Malone as Johanna Mason and Jeffrey Wright as Beetee. Jennifer Lawrence does a fantastic job capturing Katniss's reluctance to be "normal" and her determination to survive. A really well-paced and beautifully shot film that makes you feel every thrilling moment, Catching Fire was one of 2013's best.

The writing duo of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants) team up once again to provide a fun and entertaining coming-of-age tale. Liam James plays Duncan, a fairly shy teenager who's stuck at his mom's asshole boyfriend's summer cabin. But Sam Rockwell's Owen saves the day by taking Duncan under his wing. And slowly but surely, Duncan finds out a lot about himself. There's a lot of laughs and just plain fun in this movie. Rockwell is superb (when is he not?) as the misfit Owen and Steve Carell plays an excellent jerk. Things unravel for Duncan at the end, but the lessons he's learned over the summer lead him and his mom into a much brighter future. The Way Way Back isn't reinventing anything, but it perfectly captures that one summer that everyone remembers when they were a kid. The film smartly places itself outside of any time and place and will probably find itself on lots of best of lists in years to come.

Although another coming of age story, The Spectacular Now is a lot more intimate and a lot more somber. While ultimately uplifting, The Spectacular Now focuses on perennial party guy and a laughing joke amongst his peers, Sutter, and his emotional journey to growing up. The first 5 or 10 minutes immediately put you off to Sutter. But once he meets Aimee, things start to change and you're immediately hooked into how Sutter ticks. He's a carefree spirit but a complete mess of an alcoholic. All fueled by his alcoholic father's absence. The story is at once heartbreaking and joyful. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller deliver performances worthy of awards here - Aimee isn't exactly awkward, she just chooses who to open up to. She's a more solid and in control person who can't help but fall in love with Sutter. There's so many great moments in this movie - including a superb performance by Kyle Chandler as Sutter's dad. It's a very realistic and grounded movie that will have you thinking about the characters long after the credits.

The final installment of the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy (yes it's a thing!) - The World's End is a fireball of running gags, parodies, beer and endless amounts of shout-outs to a genre that often takes itself too seriously sometimes. But at its heart, The World's End is about best friends and trying to capture the magic we all shared in our youth as the world seemed like our oyster. Probably the most character rich of all three movies, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright manage to work in a moving tale of lost friendship amidst all the robot/alien carnage. And it's hella funny too. The attention to detail is stunning - from the pubs' names directly relating to events in the film to the quick, punch-like jabs of dialogue between all five friends. Not just content to be a send up of the sci-fi genre, The World's End manages to make room for itself among one of the better science fiction movies in the past 20 years.

At once a homage to all the giant monster movies and creating something entirely unique, Guillermo del Toro has once again delivered a thrilling and jaw dropping classic. The giant robots are on display full force and simply stunning to look at. The movie begs to be seen on a giant theater - the monsters and robots envelope the whole screen - the film is on a massive scale. Aside from the badassness of everything on screen, there is a decent story, too! Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi are fantastic as the soldiers who pilot the behemoths. Our only hope is that del Toro gets to visit this world again despite the ho-hum box office tickets. This movie will definitely find a much bigger audience over time as the years go by, no doubt.

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