6) The One Movie I Know I'm Going To Regret Leaving Off of My Top 10 List This Year:
Tim Hall: Gravity. I'm still debating if I should add it or not.
David Wangberg: I had to make a list of 12, just so I could mention Only God Forgives and Captain Phillips.
Tom Santilli: It’s got to be American Hustle, probably. I liked the film – loved its second-half – but for me it wasn’t a complete film. And I feel slightly outside the reaches of Jennifer Lawrence’s tractor beam…she could literally walk in frame, take a dump and walk off, and critics would praise her bravery and limitless talents as if she were the second-coming of Jason Roestel, or Jesus Christ. She is without a doubt a massive talent with an undoubtedly bright future in the biz, but she actually tested my patience in this film, slightly. I’m sure I’ll regret it later, because when I think of the story, and especially Christian Bale’s performance, it seems like it should have been one of my favorite movies of the year…it just wasn’t.
Chris Sawin: Probably Pacific Rim. Guillermo Del Toro's latest was originally in my top 10, but Inside Llewyn Davis just stole its spot on the list. While it does leave me feeling a bit torn my appreciation for Inside Llewyn Davis continues to grow the more I simply just ponder the sole viewing I've had for the film. I can't imagine how much I'll love it the next time I actually watch it.
Brian Zitzelman: 12 Years a Slave is a strong movie by a director I admire. I like to think I can have a film hyped up to me and still love it; many of my top 10 movies fit that standard. That said, there’s a chance that the hoopla around this movie may have snuck into my head and kept me from fully falling. Or it’s just a really good movie.
Jason Roestel: I left Her off of my Top 10 list, but that won't haunt me nearly as bad as leaving off Evil Dead. I'm sorry Evil Dead.
Glenn Percival: Gravity - Yes, it's one of the most visually stunning movies ever made, but the story just didn't grab me the way that it probably should have. I'm not sure what it is about this movie that stopped me from liking it more, and I'm sure that I'll be rightfully lambasted for this choice. It just wasn't for me though.
Jorge Carreon: I’m going to go back to Warm Bodies. Sure it's a genre film hybrid, but this clever take on Romeo & Juliet was also one of the most heartfelt romances seen this year. I felt more for these characters than the cold fish school of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Runner-up: The utterly charming About Time. No one saw it, but it was tailor made for repeat viewings it is THAT good.
Nick Tiffany:I already do regret leaving Much Ado About Nothing off of my Top 10 list. I saw this film before Summer and fell madly in love with it. It was shot in 12 days at director Joss Whedon's house and the actors only had around 2 weeks to prepare. They all give amazing performances, primarily the wonderful Amy Acker and awesome Alexis Denisof, and they're so much fun to watch. Whedon assembled his team from his television shows and movies and filmed it all in Black and White. Shakespeare would be proud to see his romantic/comedy adapted so well, as it's easily one of the best films this year.
Erik Samdahl: I have no regrets. Ever.
Ruben Rosario: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy give us a third peek at the lives of Celine and Jesse in Before Midnight, but those awkward final few seconds knocked it off the list for me. Watch carefully; the perfect cut-off point – Celine looking disapprovingly at Jesse – takes place about 30 seconds before the final fade out. Warts and all, it's still a phenomenal piece, and one well worth showering with praise.
7) If The Academy of Arts and Sciences Gave an Award for Best Ensemble Cast it Would Go To:
Tim Hall: American Hustle. Everyone in that movie was great. Even Louis C.K was awesome with his short screen time.
David Wangberg: 12 Years a Slave or American Hustle would easily win.
Tom Santilli: It’s got to be August: Osage County. Streep, Roberts, Cooper, Lewis, Mulroney, Cumberbatch, Martindale, the list goes on and on. It’s a film that requires a strong ensemble and it is, in fact, a movie that should be the definition of what an ensemble is. Each character gets moments to shine and rise to the surface, before dissipating into the background. Each holds their own beautifully. There have been other strong ensemble performances this year, but none so perfectly balanced.
Chris Sawin: Really leaning towards American Hustle here. I feel like that film should win an award for something other than anything the Academy gives awards for. Best hair maybe, especially Bale's comb-over. The cast is so amusing as a whole though. It's difficult to ignore.
Brian Zitzelman: Not sure about would, but my should is Inside Llewyn Davis. There are a lot of characters in the Coens’ latest that resonate, even if most have little in the way of screentime. A fine job by the casting director, the cast and all involved.
Jason Roestel: If I named another movie other than American Hustle it would be because the cast David Russell grabbed for American Hustle is so good, supporting players and all, that the choice is too obvious. Momma Roestel didn't raise no hipster - I'll go with American Hustle.
Glenn Percival: Anchorman 2 - I know I know. I can't help it though, I loved this cast, and I love when a group can effectively improvise as much as they do in these movies. I'm a huge fan of Will Ferrell and company here, but I can't help but give kudos to Steve Carell for stealing so many scenes. No, it wasn't as good as the first one, but it came closer than I expected. It takes more than many people realize for a group of actors to gel this effectively, and it shows scene after scene.
Jorge Carreon: Without question, the cast of American Hustle. That is how you cast a movie.
Nick Tiffany: If the Academy of Arts and Sciences gave an award for Best Ensemble, it'd either go to one of the three following films. My top pick would be The Wolf of Wall Street, as we get the best performances to date from Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, as well as tremendous performances from Matthew McConaughey and Margot Robbie. I'd also have American Hustle as a top pick, as the acting in that film is nothing short of brilliant. Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner give their best work, Amy Adams and Christian Bale another fantastic role to their resume, and Jeniffer Lawrence lets loose and has some fun. My last pick would be the cast of August: Osage County, as everyone in that film is batsh*t crazy. Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Margo Martindale, Jullianne Nicholson, and Chris Cooper are all full of outrageous scene-stealing moments.
Erik Samdahl: The cast of August: Osage County. I mean… holy crap.
Ruben Rosario: American Hustle, hands down. The four main players – Bale! Adams! Renner! Lawrence! – are swell in it, but this movie's secret weapon is the terrific supporting cast David O. Russell has rustled up, down to the tiniest bit role. Talk about a well-oiled laugh-generating machine!
8) Who Won't Get Nominated for An Oscar This Year, But Deserves To:
Tim Hall: In all seriousness James Franco for Spring Breakers. He's so cartoonish in the film people might overlook how amazing he was.
David Wangberg: Ryan Gosling for The Place Beyond the Pines. Heck, anybody from that film will most likely not get nominated, and it’s sad that not many are talking about it.
Tom Santilli: If you’ve never heard of a film called Ginger & Rosa, you’re not alone. But Elle Fanning gives the year’s best female performance in it. It’s a shame it’s on no one’s radar whatsoever. Shailene Woodley should also get nominated for The Spectacular Now, but odds are she won’t. And one of the best films of the year, Mud, features not only an award-worthy turn from Matthew McConaughey, but also incredibly strong work from Ray McKinnon. And critics be damned: Al Pacino is the best he’s been in years as a gangster closing in on retirement in Stand Up Guys. The list goes on and on, but I’ll stop it by mentioning Eva Mendes’s best work ever in The Place Beyond the Pines, Harrison Ford in 42, Olivia Wilde in Drinking Buddies, Stanley Tucci in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and how about Nick Offerman in The Kings of Summer?
Chris Sawin: Mads Mikkelsen for The Hunt. Not only is the film exceptional and manages to knock you on your ass, but Mikkelsen shows fantastic emotional range and his performance as a father just trying to persevere and overcome the hell he's currently being put through is absolutely magnificent.
Brian Zitzelman: There’s always a ton of these, yet the one that rings out to me currently is Hayao Miyazaki for The Wind Rises. Why animated directors never getting any love, even in an era where the format is more respected, remains a mystery. Miyazaki, with his last picture, has made another gem that is completely and lovingly all his.
Jason Roestel: Woody Harrelson for his performance in Out of the Furnace and Kristin Scott Thomas for her work in Only God Forgives. If they gave out Academy Awards for Scariest Scumbags these two would take the haul home - no question.
Glenn Percival: Guillermo Del Toro for Pacific Rim - I love this movie! I realize that it's a summer "popcorn flick" but I don't care. Del Toro put so much care into the monsters and how they moved, and the detail in the sets and overall visuals took the "standard monster movie" genre to new heights. I grew up with the standard fare of Godzilla, Mothra, and Gamera series', so to see something like that but finally with a huge budget behind it was truly sweet. The cities were so incredibly detailed, and just the scope alone finally realized what those early Kaiju films attempted to display when the technology just wasn't there. I wish I could list this movie in more categories honestly, but hey, it's a summer epic, not Anna Karenina.
Jorge Carreon: Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station for reasons you will read in the next section on the Greatest Film Nobody Saw.
Nick Tiffany: I feel as if Oscar Isaac and Scarlett Johansson won't be nominated for an Oscar this year and that really upsets me. As Llewyn Davis, Isaac pulls you along through his terrible life and tries to make it big in the folk scene. He can sing so well and his songs are amazing, but Folk music just isn't happening and Isaac's reactions and emotions because of that fact are spectacular. As far as Johansson goes, she's not getting nominated because "all she's using is her voice" in Spike Jonze's, Her. However, her voice-work alone, makes that movie phenomenal. If you close your eyes, it sounds like she's there and you'll find yourself growing attached to an Operating System. It's kind of weird, but what she's able to do with her voice isn't.
Erik Samdahl: Miles Teller of The Spectacular Now was phenomenal, but no one is talking about him.
Ruben Rosario: Denis O'Hare as Jon, the God-fearing, ne'er-do-well, arts-and-crafts weirdo in C.O.G. The character actor invigoratingly breathes to life that most head-scratching of conundrums: a charismatic fundamentalist. It's a shame this confidently rendered adaptation of David Sedaris' short story did not find the audience it so richly deserved.
9) Greatest Film Nobody Saw:
Tim Hall: Short Term 12. Easily one of my favorite films in a very long time.
David Wangberg: There are many on my best of list that I have only seen a few bring up in conversation, and it’s a shame. A Band Called Death, Trance, and Mud are just three films this year that deserve more attention, dagnabit.
Tom Santilli: Mud. It’s early 2013 release didn’t do it any favors, but had this gem of a film been released in the Fall, it would most definitely resonate better with critics and audience alike. It would be hard to leave off year-end lists, but sadly it seems too many either missed it, or have forgotten about it given the current frenzy of Oscar whores. I’ll add Frances Ha into that same category.
Chris Sawin: I've been pushing Johnnie To's Drug War pretty hard a good part of the year. It's one of the few films I watched twice before reviewing this year. Upstream Color is kind of brilliant, but takes a bit too much pride in being so complex. Very shocked to see In the House not getting more love, too.
Brian Zitzelman: Beyond the Hills was a terrific, tense feature by the amazing Romanian director Cristian Mungiu. This commentary on the divides love can create and its clash due to religion is a mix of scary and moving, not to mention perfectly acted.
Jason Roestel: This is easy... The Counselor and About Time. Two of the best movies of 2013 - at opposing poles of the subject spectrum - and both were criminally overlooked. And I realize that Twilight took whatever energy most of us had to buy a ticket to another vampire movie and sucked it dry, but Neil Jordan's Byzantium was terrific.
Glenn Percival: Probably Nebraska - Now, I say "probably" because even I haven't been able to see this yet. Bruce Dern is already one of my favorite actors, and the rest of the cast isn't too shabby either. I'm pretty certain that I will truly love this film when I finally get a chance to see it, and I hope that more are able to find it wherever possible.
Jorge Carreon: Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station was a defiant statement on race in this country. Director Ryan Coogler opted to keep his narrative streamlined and the emotional bombast to a minimum to essay a devastating chronicle of racial profiling that occurred at a BART Station outside San Francisco in 2009. No liberal guilt here, it is a bold work that features some of the year’s most natural and authentic acting on screen.
Nick Tiffany: So, I'd definitely go with the film Trance and I'm going to argue that only critics saw it. The film is really trippy and forces you to think. With an incredible score, the world of hypnosis is explored and you're taken deeper down the rabbit hole. Danny Boyle has a filming technique that is incredibly unique and unparalleled in the industry today and his camera angles only help emphasize that. The film looks stunning (so does Rosario Dawson) and with the help of James McAvoy, all the chips fall in the right places. I really loved Trance and I just wish that more people could see it and that less critics would hate on it.
Erik Samdahl: I haven’t seen a lot of films I would truly call a “hidden gem,” but one that comes to mind is The Hunt.
Ruben Rosario: Tabu, Portuguese director/co-screenwriter Miguel Gomes' Chinese box of a movie, opened without much fanfare way back at the beginning of the year in several markets, but it didn't quite become the arthouse hit it should have been. It's a shame, really. This multi-generational meditation on memory, racism and the legacy of colonialism began as a shrewdly observant portrait of present-day Portugal before abruptly shifting gears halfway through and transporting viewers to mid-20th Century Africa. In an inspired stroke, Gomes shoots the film's latter half as a silent film, with a character's voiceover narration providing all-knowing commentary. Truly one of a kind.
10) Biggest Letdown:
Tim Hall: Gangster Squad for me. I was hoping for an epic film. The cast is amazing but it just fell short in every way possible.
David Wangberg: After seeing Tom Hanks give a brilliant performance in Captain Phillips, he turns around and gives a generic one in the overrated Saving Mr. Banks. What could have been a good story about the making of Mary Poppins turns into a disjointed mess.
Tom Santilli: Yeah, that’s right Roestel. I’m coming after one of your favs of the year. No question, the biggest letdown of the year for me was Man of Steel. Let’s get right to why: Superman is not a dark character. Man of Steel was an exercise of studio executives applying the Batman Begins mold to a character who doesn’t fit that criteria. Superman is a boy scout. He is good. He is pure. But hey, the whole dark thing worked with Batman, so why not make Superman a dark, brooding killer! That’s not Superman. Sorry, it’s just not. Beyond the treatment of the iconic super-hero, the movie was just not great…and I so wanted it to be great. They may never get him right, but the way to go “right” with Superman is to embrace his wholesomeness, honor his goody-two-shoes intentions and show him as unapologetically good. “But that would be lame!”cried fanboys everywhere. Yeah? Well then Superman isn’t for you. Go watch Batman Begins.
Chris Sawin: Star Trek: Into Darkness. I don't think it hit me quite as hard as die hard fans of the franchise and the fact I saw it way after it was in theaters probably softened the blow a bit, but I had a lot of fun with the first film. This one was just a mess. Enjoyed the performances of Benedict Cumberbatch and Simon Pegg, but everything else in the film was just a lot of running and Kirk being a conceited ass. Khan was completely wasted and the first hour of the film was practically unbearable.
Brian Zitzelman: Gravity is a movie whose admiration I get. I just happen to find that its overzealous score strangles the tension it tries to ring, while the brief shades of back-story into the central character’s life lead to a treacly last act. I respect the technical elements of Cuaron’s picture; doesn’t mean I like the storytelling.
Jason Roestel: I'm with Sawin, Star Trek Into Darkness was the most deflating experience I had at the movies last year. My Trek love was burning so hard and so bright during the screening, (go back and check, Into Darkness was my Most Wanted movie of 2013) but then it all went wrong somehow. I felt like that sportsman who went to Deliverance back in 1972 because he grew up shooting bows and rafting with his father. And then Ned Beatty gets stripped and sexually assaulted in the most garish manner possible, by a squealing redneck of all things.... I feel like that guy. But replace Ricardo Montalban's Khan with Ned Beatty. Or is that the other way around? In this case, does it even matter..?
Glenn Percival: This is the End - To be fair, I had lower expectations, and the first half hour or so (up until the morning after the Rapture) was actually really funny most of the time. After that though, Danny Mcbride's over-the-top antics were the only thing that kept me from stopping the movie. For me Seth Rogan and his stable of posers has really gotten stale to me (except for Craig Robinson and the aforementioned Mcbride.) Honestly, they should have just ended the movie after the hilarious party.
Jorge Carreon: The comedy China Syndrome known as The Hangover Part III, The Internship, We’re the Millers and Anchorman 2. Witness some of our best comic talents hit the screen to make sure NONE of us are having the fun they only seem to be having with each other.
Nick Tiffany: Lee Daniels' The Butler was probably the biggest letdown for me. The film had an amazing premise and an all-star cast, so I only assumed that it would be pretty great. Early reports showed that people liked it and I went into the film expecting to watch this amazing tale of a butler who helped our nation. Instead, I got to see: Forest Whitaker serve some people and talk once to each President, David Oyelwo as a made up son who found himself at every Civil Rights event (Forest Gump much?), Oprah slap the butler, John Cusack give his worst Nixon impersonation, and Lenny Kravitz be awesome. 95% of this film is made up and half of the acting is dreadful. It's really frustrating that people are actually considering this film to be nominated for Best Picture and Forest Whitaker for Best Actor, because neither are anywhere close to the best.
Erik Samdahl: No question. A Good Day to Die Hard.
Ruben Rosario: Zackie, darling, you know I'm awfully fond of ya. You're enthusiastic about what you do, your movies have got visual panache up the wazoo, and you're kinda easy on the eyes. Which is why the soul-crushing, leaden, videogame aesthetic that plagues Man of Steel really bothered me. I wasn't crazy about your portrayal of Krypton as a third-rate Pandora with an unpleasant yellowish/brown palette, but once on Earth, there was plenty to admire about the way you depicted Kal-El's upbringing – Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Ma and Pa Kent, in particular, were inspired bits of casting. And then the whole militaristic, is-he-a-friend-of-Earthlings storyline took over, culminating in the most disturbing display of destruction porn we've seen in a summer tentpole since Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I was expecting better from you, and this is coming from someone who dug Sucker Punch. (Psst, don't tell anyone.)