Another year at the movies is done and dusted and this year I saw a slightly below average 33 films at the cinema (thanks Reading and the JAFFA club).
Overall I think the quality was a little below average as well - I had 13 score an 8/10 or more (no 10s this years) and another seven score 7/10 or more - but it did pick up towards the end. I also had a frighteningly lowest ever score awarded in 2013.
So here's the top 5 of 2013:
1. Trance (9/10)
With not a huge expectation this film blew me away. Starring James McAvoy as Simon, an art dealer, who has misplaced a stolen painting after suffering a blow to the head in the process of stealing it. He is forced to undergo hypnotherapy by his cohorts and therapist Elizabeth (an excellent Rosario Dawson) becomes entangled in the mess. You have to really pay attention and, having now seen it twice, I'm still not sure you can pick what's going on even when you know. I left the cinema a little exhilarated after seeing this and since then has been the benchmark for the year.
2. The Spectacular Now (9/10)
Not a major release, I came across this one a little by chance but I'm glad I did. It helped that it's a little in the vein of last year's top film The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and, like Perks, has an engaging lead actor. I'd never heard of Miles Teller before but he played teenager Sutter Keely who parties his way through life always intoxicated and taking little responsibility - and he was mesmerising. The morning after one of his benders he meets Amiee (Shailene Woodley), the 'nice girl' who nobody really knows or likes, and his world is rocked. Also like Perks this doesn't sound awesome as a summary but it is all in the charm of the actors and the characters. Loved it.
3. Prisoners (9/10)
It was great to see Hugh Jackman not playing a superhero and if Prisoners is any guide he should play less of them and more 'real people'. Jackman is Keller Dover, a small town father whose world is shaken when his daughter Anna and her friend Joy are abducted. Frustrated by what he sees as the assigned detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) not doing his job Keller takes it upon himself to find the missing children. He drags Joy's father Franklin (Terrence Howard) into it when the police fail to detain the prime suspect, a mentally disabled man Alex (Paul Dano) and the lengths he goes to reach scary heights. This was a gripping film, much better than the trailer made it look, and even at over two and a half hours it didn't feel too long. That's the sign of a very good movie.
4. Rush (9/10)
Yes it is a car racing movie but one that completely surprised me. Though it looked good in the trailer the story of the rivalry between 1970s Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruel) was riveting. I must admit I wasn't aware of the story behind it so that contributed to the pleasant surprise and it is definitely not all about car racing - there's a human tale here about how far you would go to win. Hemsworth was pretty good but Bruel was awesome as Lauda, a man so bent on being the best he almost kills himself. The racing scenes are superb and, given it is a Ron Howard film, you wouldn't expect less. A must see if you haven't already.
5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (8.5/10)
A sequel that was better than the original. While I found the book a little hard to get into the movie is much more engaging, though still a little slow to kick off. Now that they are winners of the Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) become targets of the Capital. Their rebellion in forcing the Capital to declare them winners by not killing themselves as seen an uprising brewing in the Districts and it is something President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is hell bent on controlling. A new game maker (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is brought in and all the living winners of the games are thrown back into the arena in an effort to kill off their 'species'. Now I have to read Mockingjay, the final book, in preparation for the next film which, frustratingly, has been cut in half. Thanks Harry Potter and Twilight!
Honourable mentions: Lincoln, Gravity, Fast & Furious 6 (who would have thought the franchise could get better!), Star Trek Into Darkness, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise did a good job even though he looks nothing like Reacher)!
Surprise of the year: We're The Millers. Totally inappropriate but very, very funny and I loved the bloopers at the end as well (particularly the Friends one).
Flop of the year: Only God Forgives. Setting a new low with a 1/10 (largely out of sympathy for Ryan Gosling who I quite like) I can't believe how bad this was. I almost walked out but suffered through to the end. Can't believe the same team behind the awesome Drive could make something so boring.
Movies I wanted to like more: The Place Beyond The Pines had everything going for it cast and story wise but it just didn't quite gel; American Hustle was really hyped and it did have some very good bits but felt very long and again didn't quite come together for mine.
Other thoughts: Man Of Steel came close to ruining Superman and the fact they are doing a Vs Batman movie next (and dragging Wonder Woman into it as well) isn't encouraging for either franchise. Hansel & Gretel was awful as well and Disney is doing its best to damage the Pixar name by releasing pedestrian movies like Monsters University and Planes (they weren't bad just not up to standard).
So that's it. What will 2014 hold? Looking forward to Captain America's next outing and I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way.
See you at the movies!