2013

The following is a comprehensive list of every film I’ve seen that debuted in the year 2013 in a U.S. theater, or if not released in the U.S., then released in 2013 in its home country. My favorite 20 films are ranked, while the remaining are in approximate order according to overall feelings and lasting impressions. Films near the top are worth watching, while films near the bottom are not worth your time. Those movies seen in the middle portion are worth filtering through and watching, depending if it peaks your specific interest in the film, whether because it has a favorite director, actor, or interesting plot. A good rule of thumb: if it’s below the middle of the unranked section, then it probably isn’t worth watching.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis

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really hard picking a favorite film from this year, but this film left me speechless at so many points. such powerful emotion built into the writing and acting, but still strong in the Coen bros style, which I think can mostly be the opposite of true emotion. perfect mix of emotional music, visuals and writing, yet doesn’t come off as cheesy. this film is just amazing to me overall; it helps that this is right up my alley in terms of genre and style. but seriously this is a must watch and one of the best of the decade. dark realism at its finest.

2. Gravity

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incredible production value and great script too. seems mostly realistic and not cheesy. definitely worth the watch and i think considering how much hype this has had, most people have seen it anyway. but if you haven’t, then this is one of those revolutionary films in terms of production quality. Cuaron is such a good director, and i think he will be remembered as one of those that sets the bar for certain cinematic features or qualities.

3. Mud

IMDb
love this director. you must check out his filmography and watch all his films. dark drama with many moments of realism and philosophy of life, without coming off as pretentious. personally this is one of those directors that i look up to and admire. his films are sad and emotional, yet feel a lot like real life. he takes advantage of great acting too, usually led by Michael Shannon.

4. Fruitvale Station

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very special film to me because i grew up in the Bay Area when the event this movie is based off happened, and i remember the media circus that eventually happened regarding it. this is a wonderful adaptation of the actual events and must be watched by anyone who admires a good realistic drama or any other indie arthouse type film. don’t watch the trailer or read up on the subject matter, just watch the film.

5. Dallas Buyers Club

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very good film on a very powerful subject that most people don’t too seriously. great acting and great writing and just a great overall film. absolutely must watch.

6. The Wolf of Wall Street

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Scorsese can’t miss as a director and filmmaker. this is no exception to that, as he gets the best of his actors in this comedy drama thriller about the early fat cats of Wall Street a couple decades ago. very enjoyable and exciting if you can tolerate the abundance of profanity and nudity.

7. Short Term 12

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one of my favorites from this year. very good emotional indie drama about children in short term foster care. must watch. some seriously good writing and directing, with some breakout role acting. highly recommended.

8. The Hunt

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love this film a lot. the anxiety and tension built up from such a simple and initially unexciting topic is incredible to me and i can’t stop praising the filmmaker. must watch if you don’t mind subtitles.

9. Before Midnight

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awesome addition to the Before trilogy. apparently there could be more of these “Before” films, so not sure if to call it a trilogy, but right now it is one. definitely Linklater’s most critically acclaimed film, this series is an absolute must watch if you appreciate indie filmmaking even just a tiny bit. start with “Before Sunrise”, and if you enjoy it, watch the rest of the series.

10. Her

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great film, but i think it was a little overhyped when it first came out. great acting in an original screenplay with many unique visuals that you won’t ever see in any other film. must watch because its unique and original, but for the most part i found this a little boring and too out there. some parts were pretentious and some were cliche.

11. 12 Years A Slave

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not even Steve McQueen’s best film, but definitely one of the best of the year. surefire Oscar contender, with a great cast and even better direction. without a doubt, one of the must-watch films from this year, but wasn’t exactly the most original film. good stuff either way.

12. Captain Phillips

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not the only film this year about Somali pirates, but potentially the best one. the other one (A Hijacking; see below) is more indie arthouse with less action. both are great and worth the watch. this has one of the better Tom Hanks performances i’ve seen in a while, so i gotta say that really blew me away.

13. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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loved this film. great story with some really humorous moments and some really emotional moments, where you can’t help but root for the main character. might come off as a little cliche, but i don’t think that means it doesn’t accomplish what it tries to. it definitely hit me right in the feels. beautiful cinematography makes me wanna move to Greenland too.

14. The Past

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great followup to the Oscar winning “A Separation” from 2011. this wasn’t as good but was just as powerful. although directed by Persian director Asghar Farhadi, this is set in France and is in French, so does not feel like an Iranian film, other than the high stress and tension filled drama that ensues. must watch indie arthouse.

15. The World’s End

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Edgar Wright is such an amazing comedy director, but he manages to pack in some good metaphors about life in this one. still so many laughs to be had in this film, but i just felt like everyone about this came together beautifully and i highly recommend this and every other film from this director. must watch.

16. Blue is the Warmest Color

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very very good French film about growing up and adolescent sexuality. very graphic, but is surprisingly tasteful. the passion and emotion exhibited by the main actors is definitely experienced by the audience, and the end result is a powerful tale of love and loss, with eventual maturity and growth. highly recommended if you can handle nudity.

17. A Hijacking

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potentially a better film about Somali pirates than the more hyped “Captain Phillips”, this is a European take on the same subject, with much more indie structure and feel. not as “exciting” but definitely more artistic and realistic. either watch both of these films or neither, because they are both worth your time equally, but for different reasons.

18. The Place Beyond the Pines

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one of my favorite new directors, Cianfrance brings another Gosling indie drama with some amazing visuals and cinematography, as well as beautiful direction of story and writing. not to mention great acting. it kind of loses focus at times, but i think the overall product is something very special and shows a lot of promise for Cianfrance as a filmmaker.

19. Rush

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pretty good film about F1 racing and the battle between two of the top drivers of this era. similar to documentary “Senna” but not as good, and obviously fictionalized at times. still worth the watch obviously.

20. Lore

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beautifully shot film about a German family of kids and no parents who must travel without food or money to get to their grandmother’s house during World War II. great acting and writing and quite perfect in every other regard. some may find it dull at times and a little too arthouse but this is really well produced in my opinion.

Prisoners

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hauntingly beautiful story about a child kidnapped and a father’s fight for him. artistic yet exciting and wonderfully done. great director and great acting. overall just a good drama, but not as jaw dropping as a film on such a simple story would be.

Philomena

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just the right combo of drama and comedy. fun and enjoyable for the whole family. not the most original film though.

Nebraska

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funny and shot in a unique way. Payne’s style is strong in this one, and if you liked his previous films, then you’ll surely love this one too.

The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now
adolescent indie love story. was really good, and i loved the style and acting. great watch.

American Hustle

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typical Hollywood crime thriller with all the bells and whistles. nothing wrong with this film other than its been done before and will surely be done again. obviously worth the watch but nothing to write home about.

What Maisie Knew

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very arthouse indie drama about a girl who goes through parental woes. unique and well done with good writing and acting. felt a little unrealistic and distant at times, but overall very good.

Blue Jasmine

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at this point, anything Woody Allen does is gonna be good. how can he go wrong? this comedy drama is no exception and is filled with his wonderfully humorous style, this time set in San Francisco.

Kon-Tiki

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artsy Norwegian film about a man who sets out and travels on a raft in the ocean. considering how boring you can imagine this to be, it was actually very good and well done. thoroughly entertained.

Side Effects

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wonderful and unexpectedly awesome at times. one of Soderbergh’s better films as of late. would recommend to most people, especially those who love a modern thriller.

The Wind Rises

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another amazing animated drama from Japanese icon Miyazaki. such a wonderful story and beautifully done with little to no cliches. great for all ages.

The Kings of Summer

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extremely enjoyable indie comedy with a dash of teenage drama. a coming of age story about growing up and dealing all the problems of adolescence.

Drinking Buddies

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enjoyable indie comedy about a group of adult friends who work at a brewery. story about love and social struggles. for such a simple idea, its extremely well done and well written and acted. loved every minute of it, and would rate it much higher if the premise of the story had actual substance, but still a fun watch with a surprising amount of bleakness underlying the surface.

In The House

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very creative French film about a teacher mentoring his student, while also living vicariously through his writing. wonderful acting and writing and just great overall. would recommend.

The Butler

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cliche but not bad. good acting and story and would make most simple film viewers grab the box of tissues. warms the heart and enjoyable as a guilty pleasure though.

Trance

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very interesting story, and although a tad complex, a great idea and good attempt at it. would recommend, but i’m not sure all will enjoy its over-complexity.

Lone Survivor

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i love Explosions in the Sky, who did the soundtrack, and i still believe Peter Berg is a decent director, despite some of his failures as a director. kind of a feel good wartime film with good moments and funny moments and sad/scary moments. much suspense in this one, but definitely some cliche moments.

Out of the Furnace

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felt like it lacked a lot, but absolutely had some scenes that blew me away. great acting by Christian Bale, although i might be biased as a fan of his. decent overall, could have been way better though. i fear it was the writing and directing that lacked here, or maybe just the idea just wasn’t substantial enough.

Blancanieves

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modern retelling of Snow White. surprisingly creative and well done. one of those films you will always remember little bits about. great imagery and costumes and the story just flows wonderfully. not perfect though, and some might not be able to get past the subtitles.

The Way, Way Back

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another coming of age adolescent story about social relationships and growing up. some great acting and writing, but overall just a story we’ve seen before. worth the watch if you like the young adult indie comedy drama genre though.

In A World…

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great idea for a film, and a nice directorial debut for Lake Bell, more known for her acting. everything comes together nicely, but nothing really “wow”‘d me.

A Cube of Sugar

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a lovely Persian movie about a close knit family preparing for an upcoming weekend wedding. not as exciting as you might imagine but a lot of family values displayed, as most Persian movies seem to discuss. mostly a standard humorous drama but some overarching themes and symbolism that could be appreciated.

Enough Said

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one of the last few films James Gandolfini appeared in. this is actually very well done and nicely written. not cliche at all and feels very down to earth and real. great acting and the key here is how it was produced. no cheesy one liners or shots here.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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just another Hobbit movie. not a Lord of the Rings movie. you already know what to expect.

About Time

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British drama with a bit of fantasy in the story. kinda heart warming and cute, but somewhat cliche also. very nice and simple overall story.

Frozen

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ok this was good, but seriously everyone overhyped it. Disney knows how to make animated film, and always has. but stop acting like this even compares to some of the Pixar greats. wonderful kids story, but for adults, this doesn’t compare to “Up” and “Toy Story”.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

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good modern version of Star Trek. i haven’t seen enough older generation Star Trek to give this a good review, so i’ll just say it was a good action fantasy film about space. that’s it.

Like Someone in Love

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Iranian director Kiarostami goes to Japan to shoot this wonderful drama. very well done and holds the viewer in. masterful director, but above average film.

The Angels’ Share

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love these English dramas. great story, great acting, great writing, just great. felt like it was missing something at times, so don’t feel like this compares to some of the more powerful dramas from this year, but good overall story and ending. wonderfully done.

All is Lost

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starring pretty much only Robert Redford, this story about a man lost at sea who refuses to give up is actually pretty entertaining. can be boring for some, but if you can appreciate arthouse, you will enjoy this.

Spring Breakers

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incredibly satirical film that i think most people will never understand. the premise, characters and writing are all exaggerated to emphasize the stereotypes. i think it does a decent job of this, and deserves more credit than it gets, but sometimes i couldn’t tell if it was being satirical or just plain stupid. very interesting watch though.

War Witch

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arthouse film nominated for best Foreign Film at Oscars. set in Africa, this has a lot of good storytelling and acting and i think many would enjoy this. highly recommended.

Fast & Furious 6

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can’t go wrong with a Fast and Furious film. so fun to watch, but not worth the film analysis. just grab the popcorn and enjoy the ride.

The Conjuring

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very good for a horror film, but horror to me is not a genre to be held in the same regard as some of the other less superficial genres. it doesn’t take very much to achieve a scary feel and scary moments, so i don’t think most horror films deserve high praise compared to non-horror films. i will say this deserves high praise compared to other horror films though. achieved scares not only through gimmicky things like loud sounds, but also through suspense and story buildup. not bad at all.

Raanjhanaa

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pretty good Bollywood drama romance film about a small town boy and big city girl. not exactly original, but still well done.

Stuck in Love

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good acting with good amounts of emotion. some quality life lessons and a proper film for the family. typical ending with connecting storylines and characters. films like this have been done many times before but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy them, right?

Man of Steel

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too much hype surrounding this that i think it fell short upon the first watch. after a second watch, i may enjoy it more, but overall the action was pushed too far and the story was lacking too much in terms of showcasing his background.

This is the End

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i enjoyed all the celebrity cameos and funny moments, but many felt this was typical Hollywood trash. i think it was better than typical, but at the end of the day, it is just another Seth Rogen comedy. it had some laughs and some good production value.

You’re Next

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gruesome horror film with a seemingly predictable plot, but has its fair share of twists. kept me entertained throughout and i rarely felt bored with it, but wouldn’t necessarily say this is anything special of a film. some decent production value.

Disconnect

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good during the viewing, but i think this may be extremely forgettable. some good moments but overall the plot isn’t as well “connected” hehe. probably worth the watch though.

No

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love the way this was shot, and i think the story has lasting power. very unique production and Bernal is one of my favorite actors. Larrain is a class director too. would recommend.

The Great Beauty

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very meta arthouse indie Italian film with great writing and acting if you like the genre, but can be a stereotypical boring artsy movie with subtitles if you can’t stand films like that. very unique and creative with some great dialogue on philosophy and life.

Sightseers

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very fresh feeling British indie comedy drama. has the feel of a drama with the plot of a horror comedy. definitely unique and worth a watch if you like new and interesting things, but expect to have your emotions tested in a weird way.

Iron Man 3

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just another superhero film. nothing really amazing about this, even compared to other superhero films. Shane Black is definitely one of the better action directors though.

42

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loved this and love baseball, but not the most original of ideas. good execution of the idea though, and had some memorable moments.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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a decent followup to the cult classic comedy, this does justice to the characters and story. its not a must watch, but its definitely a good comedy and a fun way to spend 2 hours.

Saving Mr. Banks

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mostly forgettable but some nice moments. perfect for the family, good for most simple film lovers. don’t expect much with this one though.

The Terror Live

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Korean film about a live handling of a terrorist/hostage situation. basically the Korean version of Taking of Pelham 123, but darker and less predictable. some good moments and decent acting. camerawork was a little try-hard and dysfunctional.

Oblivion

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cool visuals and music. unique idea but not the best execution. not sure if i’d watch it again, but not necessarily bad.

Monsters University

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pretty good continuation of the Monsters Inc brand and story. i like the direction they went with this story, and i think the overall product is good, but still doesn’t compare to most top tier animated films that come out each year.

New World

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exciting scenes just as any action crime thriller would have, but overall there is nothing too special about this. worth the watch if you already like Korean action films about gangsters and whatnot, but don’t expect a life-changing film here.

Don Jon

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progressive idea for a film, even for 2014, but surprisingly good execution and in good taste (sort of). there’s plenty of nudity, so beware of that, and maybe don’t watch with the kids. great comedy and story for mature adults though.

Warm Bodies

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kind of enjoyed this story about zombies. surprised they were able to make a film about zombies and actually add a little heart and soul into it. would recommend to the simple viewer, but this isn’t gonna “wow” many cinephiles.

Frances Ha

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indie awkward-comedy from Noah Baumbach. kind of pretentious and the characters are a bit too much for me, but overall an enjoyable film considering the genre.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

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slightly over the top Japanese action comedy thriller which has strong satirical themes, but still stays true to an action comedy. good acting for what it is trying to achieve and nice flow. overall, this isn’t my type of film in terms of genre and style, but i can see some loving this type of thing so i would definitely recommend it to certain people, especially those who love Japanese action films or satirical crime comedies.

Elysium

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not too different from any of the other scifi action dramas that Hollywood has been producing this past decade. not bad at all, just didn’t leave a lasting impression with me.

Drug War

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Chinese action drama with some great visuals but a cliche story. good execution though. recommend to anyone who likes the genre already.

A Touch of Sin

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decent Chinese film about different storylines involving violence and other sinful acts. a little scattered, but good idea and pretty good execution. some violence and drama, has an arthouse feel to it, but mostly just a standard drama. i felt bored with it at times, but you may love it.

Blue Caprice

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similar feel to “The Iceman” above, but not as good. started wonderfully and had the potential to be one of the best of the year, but goes nowhere slowly and ends abruptly. unsure what to think of this, but overall i was definitely unimpressed with the end result. great cinematography though.

August: Osage County

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some very memorable moments here, and some Oscar worthy acting, especially by Streep. overall a decent flick, and i would say this is perfect for older couples, but the dialogue and language may be overly crude for some. brings up some very important topics for small town dysfunctional families.

World War Z

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mixed feelings about this, but i definitely appreciated the acting and some of the scenes were top tier. apparently this wasn’t a good adaptation of the book, but i try not to judge films by how they compare to the book. i compare films to other films.

Behind the Candelabra

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typical biopic. great acting by Michael Douglas and decent acting by Matt Damon. seemingly covers a very important relationship in the life of Liberace, but told from the point of view of Liberace’s lover, instead of Liberace himself, so not sure about the accuracy of the story. pretty good as a film, yet probably won’t leave me with many thoughts after viewing.

The Iceman

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interesting biographical film about serial killer Richard Kuklinski. decent overall but there are better. on the same level as “Kill the Irishman” from a few years prior.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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definitely not as good as the original, and whatever was good about this was essentially taken from the first one. to someone who has never read the books, i felt a little confused as to the circumstances of the hunger games, but i guess that’s not the fault of the movie, just the book.

The Wolverine

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somewhere in the middle of the ranking of all X-Men films so far. not as good as “X-Men: First Class”, better than “X-Men: The Last Stand” and similar in quality, action, comedy and drama as the others. An interesting addition to the series, but it really doesn’t add very much to the overall storyline for The Wolverine. if you don’t watch this, you aren’t missing very much in the series, but it is a fun sidetrack.

Pacific Rim

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typical action scifi film. not sure what would separate this from others, although there were some great visuals and decent story. writing was cliche though.

The Bling Ring

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the film is almost as conceited as the characters. glimmers of greatness, but not enough to overcome the pretentiousness.

Stoker

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was expecting more from such a renowned Korean director but not his best work. i guess that’s what happens when you leave your home country and make a film in Hollywood.

Pain & Gain

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actually thought this was very enjoyable, but it’s still a Michael Bay film. fun to watch for sure.

Much Ado About Nothing

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yet another modern retelling of Shakespeare. the difference here is that the writing has been kept in old English to add that sort of Shakespearean charm. not sure if it works for me.

Now You See Me

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typical mystery thriller. i loved the last 30 minutes, but definitely cliche and been done before.

We Are What We Are

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artistic horror mystery drama with little flash. tells story of an old fashioned family with an unusual cannibalistic ritual. simple story and writing with some decent acting, but overall felt dry and unworthy of a watch. was bored throughout the beginning and the end came rather abruptly. not terrible, but i wouldn’t watch again.

Clear History

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HBO film written by Larry David and friends. wonderful comedy and a little bit of satire but overall is lacking what a big screen film may usually have.

Shadow Dancer

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dry and slow and lacking. not bad, just not very memorable.

Prince Avalanche

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love that Explosions in the Sky did the soundtrack, but other than that, there isn’t much about this film that would make me want to recommend it. truly indie flick with some artistic visuals, but a story that really doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t make me feel anything for the characters. writing is underwhelming and mostly forgettable.

Thor: The Dark World

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just another Thor film.

Labor Day

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a mostly forgettable, well directed, decently directed drama. the story seems original, but the theme and feel have been done many times. this is a story that can be appreciated by many simple film viewers but won’t leave you begging for more and won’t leave you with any questions. just a well told predictable story but worth watching if you’re only looking for a family film.

We’re the Millers

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somewhat funny and entertaining, nothing special in terms of filmmaking though.

The East

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nothing special. looked like it could be good in the beginning but took the road too often traveled by most of Hollywood.

The Croods

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typical modern animated film made for kids, with adult friendly aspects. nothing too special, generic motivational message and cute characters, not unlike any other recent animated film. doesn’t go above and beyond, but doesn’t necessarily fall short in terms of entertainment value.

To The Wonder

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if you’ve seen a Terrence Malick film before, or you are familiar with his style, then you know what to expect with a new film from him. this is very similar style to Tree of Life or any other of his previous films. if you aren’t familiar with Malick, he has a very artsy and philosophical style that is almost like “visual poetry”. more about the imagery than the substance. some consider this perfection, some consider it pretentious, some don’t consider it even filmmaking, but rather some other form of visual art. i just consider it uber arthouse, and i don’t prefer it but i can respect it. everyone should watch one Malick film in their lives, but this probably isn’t the best one to start with. the use of monologues and natural sounds to replace dialogue is very interesting. i just dont think many people are able to follow this one through and not get bored. i know i couldn’t.

Kick-Ass 2

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it’s a sequel, what do you expect?

The Internship

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funny at times. nothing more than a vince vaughn comedy though.

Upstream Color

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try-hard arthouse. pretentious screenplay. not enjoyable.

The Great Gatsby

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what a colossal let down. could have been amazing if it wasn’t so grandiose.

2 Guns

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cliche. it’s been done. move on.

The Hangover III

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i laughed. i enjoyed it. it wasn’t very good though. call it a guilty pleasure.

Gangster Squad

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i enjoyed it just as i would enjoy any other hollywood crime action period piece. shame it didn’t have any spunk to it.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

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average comedy with some humor and semi-likable characters. nothing too special.

Jobs

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this is the closest goddamn thing you will ever see to a film script being written directly from a wikipedia article. it’s like cheating on your homework but being paid lots of money to do so!

Bad Grandpa

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everything funny is in the trailer. just watch that.

Identity Thief

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when is hollywood going to stop making these pointless comedies?

Grown Ups 2

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nothing quite like an adam sandler comedy. and they seem to be getting raunchier and more inappropriate over time… not that i’m complaining.

Only God Forgives

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maybe it is because this was one of my most hyped films from 2013, or maybe it’s because this was one of the most pretentious films from this year, but either way this deserves the top spot for worst film of 2013. maybe i’ll rewatch it one day and enjoy it… maybe not.


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