To be completely honest, I spent most of 2013 watching older films. Yet as much as I wanted to see great films like 12 Years a Slave and The Act of Killing, I instead saw crap like Man of Steel. I am ashamed. I’ll probably end up seeing more of the big titles into 2014, but I want to be fare and include my favorite 2013 films that I actually saw in 2013. But, I did see some that I really enjoyed and am here to list them.
Everyone else’s list on Write and Sleep is going to be definitely more learned and filled with your typical Oscar fare. So, it is good to know that I am an action junkie and that will mostly determine what was the best for me. I also write an action blog titled Better Clear On Out the Back and if you’d love to get more of my action opinions, please flock on over there. But for all of 2013, this is what I loved the most!
10. V/H/S/2 (dir. Adam Wingard, Gareth Evans, Eduardo Sanchez, Greg Hale, and Jason Eisner) – This sequel to the horror anthology V/H/S was my favorite horror film of the year. It’s packed with four really great horror shorts. The Safe Haven segment from Gareth Evans needs to be seen to be believed honestly. The entirety of V/H/S/2 showed how good short films should be made. With inventive first person camera techniques and some haunting imagery, this is a horror film not to be forgotten. Check out my review here.
9. The Man of Tai Chi (dir. Keanu Reeves) – While Americans only had one Keanu Reeves action flick to watch this holiday, Reeve’s true action film came out in the mid summer. A Chinese/American co-production, this film blends elements of Enter the Dragon, Wu Xia, and Fight Club into one beautifully rendered homage to all things martial arts. It also features choreography by the great Yuen Woo Ping. Newcomer Tiger Chen makes for a nice lead and Reeves does a fine job as the villain. Highly recommended and hardly seen or talked about by anyone.
8. A Company Man (dir. Sang Yoon Lim) – My favorite home video distributors, Well Go USA, are always reliable when it comes to bringing great asian action to the states. A Company Man is one of the greats that they brought this year. A great assassin film with surprisingly beautiful drama and romance mixed in as well. The final shootout is one of the best I have ever seen, it’s first rate stuff. Great Korean action film that doesn’t become about revenge until the very end.
7. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (dir. Jay Olivia) – This and its first part have since been combined into one film, but part 2 was released DTV this January. Sorry Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck, but this already was the Batman vs. Superman showdown for me. Beautifully animated and voiced, this conclusion to the epic Frank Miller Batman story is jam packed with great action and dark visuals. Check out my review here.
6. Only God Forgives (dir. Nicholas Winding Refn) – Refn has become one of my favorite directors to watch out for each time he releases a new film. His newest Ryan Gosling film is a true arthouse film through and through. Surrealistic, dream like, and ultra violent, this is a very compelling revenge drama. It is extremely violent and pulls no punches. Backed by another amazing synthesized Cliff Martinez score, this film will not soon leave your head. Check out my review here.
5. Rewind This! (dir. Josh Johnson) – This was a really fun documentary that covers many topics that I am passionate about in the film industry. It shows off people’s unique VHS collections, covers the pros and cons of Netflix, and documents the rise and fall of VHS tapes as well. It’s a great watch and taught me a lot about a video format craze I was born into in 1992. The love for VHS is about as popular as the love for vinyl records.
4. Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuaron) – Okay here is your typical Oscar choice for the list. Gravity was a first rate thriller that truly captures the viewer like no other. It was the true horror film of the year, showing us a very vulnerable Sandra Bullock in a truly terrifying situation. Backed by an intense score that undercuts every single scene and groundbreaking special effects, Gravity is a film that could only be made effectively in today’s CG heavy world.
3. Drug War (dir. Johnnie To) – Both one of my favorite Chinese and action directors working today, Johnnie To is a masterful story teller. Drug War is an incredible cop thriller that tells an entire story of greed, deception, and crime for an hour and 10 minutes. And than blows your balls off with a whopping 20 minute shootout. If that’s not a build up film than I don’t know what is. It’s more thrilling than any other crime thriller I saw all year and features a memorable performance by Louis Koo and many others.
2. The Wolverine: Extended Cut (dir. James Mangold) – James Mangold finally got to tackle the most coveted of all Wolverine story lines: the Frank Miller/Chris Claremont 80’s mini-series. In its extended form, The Wolverine is an incredible action film that is packed to the brim with violent action, bad ass imagery, and a cool story too. Easily the best superhero film I saw all year as well. Hugh Jackman solidifies himself as an action icon with this performance too.
1. The Place Beyond the Pines (dir. Derek Cianfrance) – I rented this movie with my girlfriend because we love Ryan Gosling and enjoyed the other film by this actor/director duo, Blue Valentine. I had seen no trailers or anything else besides the posters for this film. I assumed that it was going to be about Ryan as a bank robber and Bradley Cooper as a cop chasing him down. Was I wrong or what? This film is absolutely incredible. Further discussing its narrative structure would be a spoiler. Just see this flick. It is filled with first rate performances and some of the best family drama I have ever seen in a film. Ryan Gosling continues to be one of my favorite actors working today. His choice to star in challenging films such as this and Only God Forgives shows that he knows how to pick his projects well.