“American Hustle” (Columbia Pictures)
Directed by David O. Russell
There is this wonderful, romantic scene early in the movie showing how Sydney and Irving meet over a mutual love of Duke Ellington. The chemistry between Bale and Adams is off the charts and it is a scene that shows the true core of this story. Beneath all the con games, elaborate scheming, and outrageous humor—“American Hustle” is a love story. It is the best film of the year.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio team up for their best collaboration yet—an irreverent, spot-on, high-octane, hilarious, hold-nothing-back “Goodfellas” style dramatic insider’s view into the world of a notorious (and legendary, for those who worked in this business) Wall Street firm. This is the best piece of pure, uncensored adult entertainment to come out of Hollywood in decades. A masterpiece.
“Elyisum” (Tri-Star Pictures)
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Neill Blomkamp proves he is the real deal with this sensational follow-up to his debut masterpiece “District 9” (2009). His ability to create visually dazzling, kinetic science fiction films blending smash-mouth action scenes with great characters is staggering. And yeah, his movies are about something—and that is a good thing dear critics—reminiscent of the days of George Romero, John Carpenter, and Paul Verhoeven. Speaking of Verhoeven; forget about the tired, CGI looking, toned-down, diluted, bland “Robocop” remake due out soon. “Elysium” is the new “Robocop” we have been waiting for.
“Gravity” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
“Gravity” is a two character drama about a somewhat routine space shuttle mission where something happens and propels the characters—Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney)—on a suspenseful journey where the tension and danger mount with every second. This movie is absolutely riveting. Every scene, every line of dialogue, every frame in this film matter. This is tight, focused storytelling at its best.
“12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Directed by Steve McQueen
A harrowing—and at times relentlessly brutal and depressing—true story about the horrors of America’s past as experienced by a free man abducted from a free life and sold into slavery. I admit I wish there had been a little more emotional “Roots” style sweep to the story, but the power of this film in undeniable. Chiwetel Ejiofor is astonishing—the best performance of the year by an actor.
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Bottom line: ““The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is a rousing, colorful, immensely entertaining, spectacular epic fantasy that resonates from start to finish. The two hours and forty-one minute running time flew by and I left the theater longing for more.
“The Family” (Relativity Media)
Directed by Luc Besson
Robert De Niro hasn’t been this good in a comedy since 1988’s “Midnight Run”. Tommy Lee Jones is terrific, Michelle Pfeiffer is an absolute joy, and Dianna Agron (from “Glee) is going to be a major star.
“To the Wonder” (Magnolia Pictures)
Directed by Terrence Malick
A true art film—a bold, beautiful, confounding, poetic, non-linear love story told in symbolic terms with stunning imagery. This experimental piece of cinema is one of two films on my list starring Rachel McAdams.
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
“Frozen” recaptures some of that Disney magic from the early 1990s resurgence and “For the First Time in Forever” is the best animated movie song not written by Alan Menken since “The Lion King”.
“Passion” (Canal +, E Films)
Directed by Brian De Palma
“Passion” is a wild, entertaining, visual delight with solid performances, masterful camera work, and a sensational musical score.