Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2013

(Updated January 26, 2013)

One of my favorite activities every January is to start anticipating the movies I want to see in the new year. It’s always tough to narrow it down to just 10, but I took the 25 or so that have been on my mind here and there as I’ve heard about them, and narrowed it down to these. I’m sure this list will change slightly as movies get pushed to 2014, or trailers come out that disappoint. Or simply new films come on to my radar that I missed or didn’t know about. But regardless, as of the first day of 2013, here are the 10 movies I can’t wait to see this year.

10. The Place Beyond the Pines

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After repeated viewings and continually increasing appreciation for Blue Valentine (2010), I’ve been highly anticipating writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s next feature film. With Ryan Gosling starring again and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt bringing his extraordinary eye to the visuals of this film, The Place Beyond the Pines has all the right ingredients to be a small independent masterpiece of cinema.

9. At Any Price

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The story and actors Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid are what have me anxiously awaiting this small indie that premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year. It’s gotten mixed reviews form the festival circuit, but I’m still hopeful and very interested.

8. Mud

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Mud was on my list for Most Anticipated Movies of Fall 2012, but it didn’t get released, so here it is on this year’s list. It now has an official release date scheduled for April. While I didn’t fall head-over-heels in love with Take Shelter (2011), I did like it and I really appreciate the filmmaking and style of writer/director Jeff Nichols. Combined with Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan from The Tree of Life (2011) and an intriguing story, this one looks like it could be the right fit for me.

7. All Is Lost

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After writer/director J.C. Chandor’s perfect feature film debut with Margin Call (2011), my #1 movie of 2011, whatever project he created next was going to be highly anticipated by me. With Robert Redford starring in this interesting story idea, it’s definitely on this list for 2013. I just hope the film gets released this year and I don’t have to wait until 2014!

6. The Wolf of Wall Street

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I just mentioned how I loved Margin Call (2011), so it should be no surprise that this financial thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprioJonah Hill, and Matthew McConaughey, is high on my list for this new year.

5. Twelve Years a Slave

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This is just an amazing combination of artistic and creative filmmaking forces combined with an intriguing and potentially controversial subject matter. Just like Shame (2011), writer/director Steve McQueen’s incredible and fantastic dark look at the modern male sex psyche. Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender…what an incredible pairing of actors. Throw in Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Dano for what could be a fantasy five of acting talent. And once again, cinematographer Sean Bobbitt and McQueen are working together to create what I’m sure will be stunning visuals. I simply can’t wait to see what comes out of this collaboration.

4. To The Wonder

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I have a love-hate relationship with writer/director Terrence Malick…probably like most cinephiles. I always HIGHLY anticipate with GINORMOUS expectations every single project his name gets attached to from the very moment of conception. Then I see the film and it’s not exactly what I expected. I’m kind of disappointed. Then I ponder it for awhile. I try to figure out its pandora’s box like puzzle of a narrative and its deeper meaning. I struggle with the fact that he doesn’t use as much dialog as I wanted. I Admire it’s incredible visuals, music, editing, production design, and craftsmanlike details. And I gradually fall more and more in love with it until I can’t wait for his next creation. I predict the same for To The Wonder, starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem. The first peak at the trailer didn’t inspire me enough…and yet now it does. The mixed reviews from the Cannes Film Festival disappointed me…but I’m ignoring them. The news that there’s even less dialog and structure than The Tree of Life (2011) scared me…and yet I remember how much I now love that film and its focus on feelings. So here I am again, despite all of the negativity, highly anticipating the release of another Malick Masterpiece. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. And yet I write that with a smile on my face!

3. The Counselor

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All I need is “A Ridley Scott Film” and I’m in. Simply one of my Top 10 directors of all time. And just like director Steve McQueen, Scott has chosen to pair Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in this curious Cormac McCarthy scripted story. And with Javier Bardem attached as well, I just can’t wait to see what happens.

2. The Monuments Men

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George Clooney writing and directing with this tagline: “In a race against time, a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renown works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them.” Starring Matt Damon, Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, Bill Murray, and John Goodman. Unless Clooney takes this in a very comedic direction like Ocean’s Eleven (2001), this has the potential of being an absolutely incredible WWII drama. It’s kind of like Saving Private Ryan (1998) meets Raider of the Lost Ark (1981). With 007 thrown in. Who wouldn’t be HIGHLY anticipating this film?

1. Man of Steel

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When I first heard that director Zach Snyder was going to reboot the Superman franchise after the miserable failure that was Superman Returns (2006), I sighed a big groan of “Uggghhhh!”. I was not ready for another butchering of the beloved man of steel series so soon. While I loved his graphic novel approach to ancient history in 300 (2006), I did not want another fanboy comic-book style version of a super hero story brought to the screen. I wanted a realistic and serious dramatic look at Clark Kent via Christopher Nolan’s style for the recent Dark Knight Trilogy, mixed with a bit of what Alfred Gough and Miles Millar brought to the table via Tom Welling and John Schneider in the Smallville TV series (at least in its early seasons). While I adore the original Superman movies with Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman, they do feel awfully campy and light 30 years later, even though they have a serious & dark dramatic edge as well.

But news of the casting of British actor Henry Cavill gave me my first ray of hope that this reboot effort could work out under Snyder’s vision. Cavill just seemed like the perfect pick for Superman to me. Combined with a story written by David S. Goyer, the casting of Diane Lane as Clark’s earthly mother Martha Kent, Kevin Costner as Clark’s earthly father Jonathan Kent, and Russell Crowe as Clark’s Kryptonian father Jor-El, and things were magically coming together the way I wanted them to. And to top it all off, the story was bringing back my favorite Superman enemy, General Zod, played by the fantastic Michael Shannon.

But even with all of these positives on paper, we’ve seen this kind of scenario fail so many times. The first teaser trailer really got me believing though. And now the first full trailer has me completely believing that Man of Steel could be what I’m looking for. Both trailers  focus on the emotional character and development of Clark Kent into Superman, much to the chagrin it seems of today’s young fanboys. But for me, as a middle-aged fanboy, this is what I want paired with what will surely be incredible action and fight scenes. I want to get into the conflicted feelings of Clark that are most certainly a part of how he becomes the alien super hero that we call out for in times of need. Director Richard Donner touched on this in his original Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) especially.

Man of Steel is still nearly 6 months away and my expectations are now sky high, so we’ll see what happens. But the 12-year old boy within the 39-year old adult me is really hoping that Man of Steel puts Superman back on top, which will be hard to do considering The Dark Knight Trilogy put Batman there very solidly. After completely loving Christopher Nolan’s close to his Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises (2012), that film is now my #1 super hero movie of all time, beating out Superman and Superman II which reigned supreme for over 30 years.

Other Movies I Considered for this Top 10:

2013 looks to be a pretty spectacular year for film. The potential is there as you can see in the 10 movies above. In addition to these 10 that made my list, there were another 15 or so that were very close contenders:

The Green Blade Rises
Star Trek Into Darkness
Parkland
The Great Gatsby
Elysium
Runner Runner
Captain Phillips
Labor Day
Ender’s Game
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Jack Ryan
The Company You Keep
Nymphomaniac
The East
The Zero Thereom
Kill Your Darlings
Jobs
After Earth

And there are ALWAYS the big and small movies that completely take us all by surprise. Personally, I can’t wait to dig in to 2013 at the cinema.

Charlie St. Cloud

MOVIE RATING:  3.5 stars (B)

Sometimes you have to steer clear of the crowd, and with Charlie St. Cloud (2010), that’s what I have to do. While both moviegoers and film critics generally panned this movie, I think they missed the mark on this one. While it may not be edgy or completely original, both its star Zac Efron and the film try to go places that so few movies dare to. To some degree, Charlie St. Cloud is like Field of Dreams (1989). You have to buy into it’s nearly ludicrous concept of the story being told in both the real world and in another world, namely purgatory or some other realm where the spirits of dead people come to life. I’m not really giving anything away because the concept is right there in the trailer and early on in the movie.

Director Burr Steers had a challenging job bringing this story to the screen, but I think he assembled a good cast and a good team to execute his vision. It’s been awhile since we’ve since Kim Basinger on screen in anything significant. Her role as Charlie’s mother is slight, but I enjoyed what little we got of her. Augustus Prew plays a fun sidekick character, and I liked Charlie Tahan as the younger St. Cloud brother, Sam. Rounding out the supporting cast is Donal Logue and Ray Liotta, two under utilized actors. I’m not really a fan of Amanda Crew as Charlie’s love interest, Tess, but she does what she needs to.

Yes, the movie is a bit of a soap opera at times. And yes, it’s predictable at times. And yes, Efron over acts at times. But somehow I was able to get past all of that and connect with the heart of the story and its characters and the message they deliver. The cinematography is stunning, the production design beautiful, and overall, this is a story and world I liked visiting. You might just like it too if you give it a chance.

 

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Check out details on this film and its Blu-ray presentation at Blu-ray.com.

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Top 10 Movies of 2006

2006 brought a really interesting mix of movies, both big and small, covering a mix of genres. Some of these movies I’ve watched over and over multiple times, enjoying them more and more on each subsequent viewing, like Little Miss Sunshine and The Last Kiss. I own most of these movies on blu-ray and like to revisit them in regular rotation, escaping in to the worlds they so nicely create.

10.  Apocalypto  (4 stars)

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9.  Inside Man  (4 stars)

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8.  Notes on a Scandal  (4 stars)

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7.  Little Miss Sunshine  (4 stars)

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6.  Blood Diamond  (4 stars)

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5.  300  (4.5 stars)

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4.  The Last Kiss  (4.5 stars)

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3. The Departed  (4.5 stars)

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2.  United 93  (5 stars)

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1.  The Prestige  (5 stars)

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It’s a tough choice between The Prestige and United 93 for my #1 movie of 2006. Both films completely envelop you in their worlds and connect with you on so many levels. It wouldn’t surprise me if these two go back and forth for the title now and then. United 93 is by far the best film about the September 11 attacks on America still to this day. It’s absolutely riveting and chilling every time, even though you know exactly what’s going to happen. British writer/director Paul Greengrass did something no American dared do, tell the story of 9-11 so that we can cathartically heal from it and understand it on a realistic level from many points of view and not just from the “Let’s go kill them there terrorists” George Bush line of thinking. That being said, The Prestige is another Christopher Nolan film that so justly shows why Nolan is simply one of the best working directors today. In the hiatus between his first two Batman movies, he popped out this magical mystery thriller with Bruce Wayne himself, Christian Bale. The cinematography, production design, acting, sound, music, editing, and every other possible facet of filmmaking is on gorgeous craftsmanlike display in The Prestige. And much like Inception, Nolan leaves us with a huge question mark at the end of The Prestige that sinks in to your psyche and never quite gets out. And each time you watch it, you get caught up in it again. The magic of Nolan is that he somehow keeps making fantastic films time after a time. He’s a real magician himself.

Safety Not Guaranteed

MOVIE RATING:  4 stars (B+)

What a surprise of a movie!! It’s just awesome when you go into a theater for a film with no expectations for it to be as good as it ends up being. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) is one of those rare theatrical treats. It just blew my mind at how fun and heartfelt it was considering its humble roots. It’s a real testament to the power and potential of indie filmmaking in this day and age when the democratization of filmmaking is better than its ever been. Jus as the poster promises, if you liked Little Miss Sunshine (2006), then you’ll probably dig this one. Not because the stories are similar, but because they’re both filled with quirky and interesting characters that are on personal journeys.

Written by Derek Connolly and directed by Colin Trevorrow, Safety Not Guaranteed is the first feature film for both. And they really hit a home run (or at least a triple) with this one. The writing is superb with realistic dramatic dialog paired with great comedic punches. I laughed, I cried and really connected with the story on an emotional level. And of course that’s in large part due to the phenomenal acting from Mark Duplass, Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, and Karan Soni. The chemistry and camaraderie is just spectacular among these actors. They pulled off a story that in the hands of lesser actors, could go wrong really quickly.

With beautiful cinematography, good production design, solid editing and music that helps emphasize the story without overpowering it, Safety Not Guaranteed is guaranteed to take you away into a story that’s both believable and unbelievable. I really don’t want to say anymore because most of the fun of this film is knowing nothing going in. So I’ll leave my review at that.

 

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Check out details on this film and its Blu-ray presentation at Blu-ray.com.

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We Bought A Zoo

  

MOVIE RATING:  3.5 stars (B)

With Jerry Maguire (1996) and Almost Famous (2000) at the top of his filmography, most cinephiles eagerly awaited director Cameron Crowe’s latest movie We Bought A Zoo (2011), especially since his last feature film was the rather disappointing Elizabethtown (2005) six years ago. And by snagging both Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson as his lead actors, Crowe had two big plusses going for him right off the bat. I had reasonable expectations for Zoo, but after seeing the trailer and the PG rating, I wasn’t really sure what I was gonna get. In the end, I got a very good, heartfelt and funny, family film. It worked for me despite it’s many flaws. For 2 hours, I managed to escape into a world that feels like a modern take on the Disney classic Swiss Family Robinson (1960), which I fell in love with as a kid and still enjoy watching from time to time as an adult.

Zoo definitely has its “problems” cinematically: it’s predictable, contrived, and pretty saccharin sweet in its almost fairytale like qualities. And yet I really love it somehow. There’s just something about it’s simple story, cute kids and animals, and personal growth “life lessons” vibe that when paired with Crowe’s great taste in music, Damon’s lead acting performance, the supporting cast, and good editing, it comes together and works on a level greater than its parts. Cameron Crowe came through once again with something uniquely his own. I drank the Zoo elixir and got the Zoo buzz.

 

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Check out details on this film and its Blu-ray presentation at Blu-ray.com.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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MOVIE RATING:  4 stars (B+)

Being that I’m 50% Swedish and that I’ve visited Sweden 3 times in my life so far (with a 4th coming in 2015), I’m always interested in movies from the homeland. Whether it’s movies set in Sweden, filmed in Sweden, about Swedes, starring Swedes, or made by Swedes. Combine that with one of my favorite directors of all time, David Fincher, and one could easily say I had “MASSIVE” expectations for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011). As my #1 Most Anticipated Movie of Fall 2011, director David Fincher’s english-language remake of the Swedish film had a lot to live up to. And it kind of didn’t initially. When I first saw the movie in the theater late last year, I was a bit disappointed. It just wasn’t exactly what I expected. I thought it lacked the extremely sharp and intelligent writing and feel of The Social Network (2010), Se7en (1995), and Fight Club (1999). Of course the acting, production design, cinematography, editing, sound, and music are all stellar and as good as any of Fincher’s finest films. But the story just didn’t grab me like those three masterpieces at first. I now see I was a bit too harsh on it. So I’ve upgraded my initial rating of 3.5 stars to 4 stars.

Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård and the rest of the supporting cast give absolutely wonderful performances. The casting was spot on. Yorick van Wageningen was an incredible discovery as the man that tortures and rapes Lisbeth Salander. As with every Fincher film, the production design is so perfectly detailed and brought to life that I felt completely like I was in Sweden (as I remember it from my trips), down to the details of the open-faced sandwiches. Donald Graham Burt is a master Production Designer, and that’s evidenced by his incredible filmography. Of course Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score is hypnotizing, surprisingly appropriate, and flat out original. I don’t know how these guys come up with their music, and how Fincher and his editing team incorporate these pieces so well, but they did it again after nailing it on The Social Network (2010).

I really can’t say enough about how beautiful and perfect the cinematography is by Jeff Cronenweth and his team. Shot entirely on Red digital cinema cameras, mostly the Red Epic, TGWTDT reminds us all why film is basically dead as the primary medium for making movies today. With the Red Epic and Arri Alexa digital cinema cameras, the imagery and dynamic range that can be captured in various lighting conditions is simply the best its ever been in the digital age. And Cronenweth really knows how to use his Red tools. You can take just about any and every frame from the movie (all 227,520 of them), and look at it as a piece of still art work.

The editing team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall provided a technically perfect edit that seamlessly marriages dialog, visuals, sound effects, music, and graphics, but I do think TGWTDT suffers from a pacing problem in its storytelling sometimes. It stalls and lags at times, causing me to lose interest. Whether that’s an issue of writing within the screenplay from screenwriter Steven Zaillian, or an editing issue, I’m not totally sure. I haven’t seen the original Swedish movie or read the original Stieg Larsson novel, so it’s hard to say if it’s in the translation from Swedish to English, or from book to film, or if it’s just David Fincher’s style. I do think the pacing is less of an issue on repeated viewings when one knows what’s going to happen and where its going. But that’s true of most movies. Regardless, I do think this was a very successful remake of a foreign language film that brought an original approach to the material and a new style and feel to it to appeal to an American audience. I actually hope they do remake the other 2 films in the trilogy.

 

The teaser trailer below absolutely blew me away when I first saw it. Trent Reznor’s remake of the classic Led Zeppelin tune “Immigrant Song” was just so freaking fantastic paired with the slick imagery and fast editing, that it propelled TGWTDT to the top of my most anticipated movies list. Next to the trailer for The Tree of Life (2011), this was one of the best movie trailers last year, or any year.

 

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Check out details on this film and its Blu-ray presentation at Blu-ray.com.

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Top 10 Movies of 2007

2007 was a year that many movie lovers consider one of the best of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Mainly because of There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men, the two epic Americana movies that battled it out for Best Picture at the Oscars. While I cheered for No Country For Old Men to win back in the Spring of 2008, I now believe There Will Be Blood is the much better film and the one that should have won Best Picture. But regardless, both are great movies that I own on blu-ray and appreciate much more now, 5 years later, than I did back in 2007.

10.  The Invisible  (4 stars)

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9.  Elizabeth: The Golden Age  (4 stars)

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8.  Dan In Real Life  (4 stars)

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7.  Gone Baby Gone  (4 stars)

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6.  Into the Wild  (4 stars)

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5.  No Country For Old Men  (4 stars)

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4.  Fracture  (4 stars)

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3.  The Bourne Ultimatum  (5 stars)

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2.  There Will Be Blood  (5 stars)

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1.  Sunshine  (5 stars)

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I’ve really come around on P.T. Anderson’s groundbreaking film There Will Be Blood. While I appreciated it and liked it on first viewing, it’s taken the last 5 years and 2 additional viewings to really fall in love with it. If I had made this Top 10 list at this time last year, There Will Be Blood wouldn’t have even made it on the list, but now it’s sky rocketed into #2 after my purchase of it on blu-ray and subsequent third viewing. Part of my wants it to be #1 because it’s the more respected and cinematic choice, but if you ask me which movie I want to watch more, There Will Be Blood or Sunshine, most times, I’d pick Sunshine. Danny Boyle just created such an incredible “world” on the Icarus spacecraft and the one-way trip to blow-up the sun is just such a thrilling concept, that it touched the geek in me. Not to mention the audio and visual elements of the movie are simply spectacular! So for now, Sunshine remains my #1 movie of 2007.