CK’s Top 10 Films of 2013 – pt. 2

#5: The Place Beyond the Pines

This movie almost looks as gorgeous as I do...

This movie almost looks as gorgeous as I do…

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Genre: Drama

The Place Beyond the Pines is a sweeping crime drama told from both sides of the law across two generations. Pretty boy Gosling plays a stunt motorcyclist who turns to bank robbery so that he can provide for his son. Bradley Cooper plays the “heroic” cop who rises through the ranks whilst struggling with his own demons and proves that he too is an actor we can take seriously. So far the story probably sounds pretty familiar but to elaborate any further would “spoil” your experience.
The Place Beyond the Pines takes you on a thrilling emotional journey and is arguably the sexiest looking film of the year. If you enjoy crime dramas like The Town (2010), The Departed (2006), and/or Heat (1995) then you should most defs check this shit – even if you don’t find Ryan Gosling attractive.

#4: You’re Next

I killed your family, like a fox!

I killed your family, like a fox!

Director: Adam Wingard
Genre: Horror

The horror of the year is a comic one, much like last year’s Cabin in the Woods but not as experimental or ambitious. You’re Next sees a wealthy family reuniting at some vacation house. The festivities are spoiled when a bunch of strangers disguised in animal masks crash the party with crossbows and the intent to kill! This is one of those movies you clap and cheer in. You know those films that keep surprising you WHILST giving you exactly what you’re expecting? You’re Next is a ballsy, gruesome horror with a sharp sense of humour and a massive adrenaline shot.
And to chuck a massive cherry on top of an already decadent cake, our very own Sharni Vinson kicks absolute fuckin’ arse in this movie! Seeing a female Aussie steal the limelight in an awesome American film really gets me going… 

#3: Star Trek – Into Darkness

"Live long and suffer!"

“Live long and suffer!”

Director: J.J. Abrams

Man that J.J. Abrams knows how to make a blockbuster! Star Trek: Into Darkness may have a shitty title and isn’t quite as amazing as its predecessor, Star Trek (2009)but when sequels are this good my faith in the Hollywood system is momentarily restored.
If you didn’t like the previous film don’t bother with this one. PS. What’s wrong with you?
Otherwise, how can anyone resist such a loveable ensemble cast, exciting story, mouth watering special effects, and emotionally manipulative music? I’ll tell you how. If you’re a massive cynic with a heart of stone. Shame on you!

#2: Upstream Color

I'm no scientist but that shit looks cray!

I’m no scientist but that shit looks cray!

Director: Shane Carruth

Some folks are enchanted by this film, others are confused by it, but many are both! Upstream Color may be the most challenging and unique film of the year and it really is a thing of beauty.
So, what is this…thing? Upstream Color can be described as a sci-fi drama about two people who start to mirror each other’s behaviour after being infected by a strange parasite. To be honest, any attempt to describe the plot does it a disservice.
This film doesn’t have a complex plot like director Shane Carruth’s previous effort, Primer, which was an extremely technical and mind-bending story about time travel. What makes Upstream Color so disorientating, and fascinating, is the peculiar way in which the film is directed and the story is told. There aren’t any characters who conveniently deliver us all the exposition we need to fully grasp the story, the camera often focuses on strange or unrelated subjects during dialogue driven scenes, and there’s lots of extreme close ups of shit growing. I’ve probably put a lot of people to sleep already! Upstream Color obviously isn’t for everyone but if you open your mind and stop worrying about plot you just might discover a new experience in cinema.

#1: The World’s End

Drink your beer and don't look so suspicious!

Alright, we can have our beers but let’s try not to look like fuckin’ weirdos while we’re at it!

Director: Edgar Wright

The team that brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz finish off their Cornetto Trilogy with a bang. 20 years ago a group of teenagers attempted an epic 12 pub crawl but didn’t manage to make it to the end. In the present day these friends reunite to try again but this time their attempt coincides with an alien invasion!
The World’s End may not be the best of the trilogy but it’s certainly the most ambitious. A lot of fans may be put off by how different The World’s End is from its predecessors but I reckon Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg made some bold decisions with this one. Their ability to mix hilarity with familiar yet moving storytelling has always been spot on and they explore darker and richer territory in The World’s End.
I’m such a fan of this team’s work that I deemed The World’s End the film of the year after my initial viewing of it. Upon second viewing, however, I was amazed, but not surprised, by the meticulousness of each shot and line of dialogue. Every scene is so thematically and comically rich it gives me nerdgasms just thinking about it.
Genre comedies, funny films with stories you can take seriously, are my most beloved type of film and Wright and Pegg have been the true masters of the genre for the last ten years. Thank God for The World’s End!

Fitting that the end of this Top 10 should be The World’s End but as much as this year hasn’t been a great film year, there are still lots of other films I liked a lot. Here are 3 such films…

Django Unchained, This is the End, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing


CK’s Top 10 Films of 2013 – pt. 1

2013 was a pretty shitty time for cinema but every year has its gems and, of course, I didn’t get round to seeing every film I should have.
For that reason I can’t rate films such as Captain Phillips, Mud, Blue Jasmine, or Francis Ha.
Also, I’m Australian which means some of my most anticipated films of 2013 have not yet been released here. Due to such international intrigue, the following films will have to compete in my 2014 lineup…
Her, The Wolf of Wall Street, Blue is the Warmest Colour, 12 Years a Slave and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Taking into consideration all of the above bullshit, here are my Top 10 Films of 2013 (well, at least films #10-#6 for now)…

#10: John Dies at the End

Damn, I really wanted to "meat" her...

Damn, I really wanted to “meat” her…

Don Coscarelli
Genre: Comedy/Horror

There’s no easy way to describe this riot of a film. Writer/Director, Coscarelli, of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep fame, adapts the surreal, dark comic novel of the same name and presents us with the stoner film of the year.
The story can be vaguely described as a twisted tale about a young man who recounts a series of bizarre and unbelievable events to a reporter, played by Paul Giamatti, and there’s a monster made of pieces of frozen meat!
Bear in mind that John Dies at the End is a small film and with that you won’t be getting Guillermo Del Toro quality CGI, but this is a perfect example of ambitious story-telling and inventive filmmaking triumphing over big budgets.
Watch this film if you wanna see some crazy shit and have a good time!

 #9: Magic Magic

I speak Chilean now, bitch!

I speak Chilean now, bitch!

Director: Sebastián Silva
Genre: Drama/Thriller

Another limited release of 2013, Magic Magic is a beautifully shot Chilean-American indie psychological thriller. We follow Alicia, a young, timid woman played mesmerisingly by Juno Temple, into the South of Chile for what is meant to be a holiday but what begins as an awkward fish-out-of-water drama slowly but magically evolves into a demented psychological trip. A remarkably unique and challenging indie-drama filled with seamlessly naturalistic dialogue and plenty of “WTF” moments; Magic Magic is essential viewing for those who desire a break from the mainstream. Hell, it’s even worth the watch just to see Michael Cera speak Chilean! The film also showcases how well Cera can perform in a drama, and now I shall watch what the future holds for him with great interest.

#8: Only God Forgives

"I don't need no mirror to tell me how good I look."

“I don’t need no mirror to tell me how good I look.”

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Most people hated this film, but I hate most people. Nah, Only God Forgives is a trying film and I can certainly see how it turned people off. If you’re looking for a dense story with twists and turns then this film isn’t for you, in fact, what are you doing watching a Refn film at all? Remember Drive? That was one of my favourite films of 2011 but it wasn’t on account of its plot. Refn’s films, at least his later works, tend to be all about atmosphere and Only God Forgives is dripping with it. Refn’s directorial flare and Gosling’s stoic performance and boyish good looks were a dynamite combination in Drive and this time round Refn jacks the atmosphere up to 11 and builds Gosling’s character up only to be broken, therefore shitting on our expectations. There’s not a whole lot of dialogue in Only God Forgives and for that reason people shrug it off as having no story, but if you allow yourself to be consumed by the film’s deliciously nightmarish atmosphere you just might find yourself on the dark, surreal journey that I didn’t want to return from once the film was over. If you think you could be seduced by sexy cinematography, hyper-stylised lighting and sublime soundscapes then dive into the macabre wonderland of Refn’s latest effort, otherwise watch Captain Phillips or something else that’ll probably get an Oscar or two.

#7: Prisoners

Can I come too?

Can I come too?

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Genre: Thriller

Phwoar! There’s nothing quite like a well executed mainstream procedural thriller. Hugh Jackman’s kids get kidnapped and Jake Gyllenhaal is the detective assigned to crack the case. A clear suspect, creepy Paul Dano, is identified but there’s no substantial evidence to keep him in custody. Enraged by all this bureaucracy, Hugh Jackman goes rogue and starts doing questionable shit to find his daughters. If I haven’t sold you on the premise already it’s probably ‘cos you’re sick of mainstream thrillers being shit. Well, this one isn’t, it’s actually great. The script is tight, the film is beautifully directed and the cast are electric, particularly Hugh Jackman in his most serious role to date. Like I said, there’s nothing like a good thriller, and Prisoners is the undisputed mainstream thriller of the year, probably even the last 3 years!

#6: Pain & Gain

Let's get a protein shake.

Let’s get a protein shake.

Director: Michael Bay
Black Comedy

If Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines is the morally questionable yet musically irresistible song of the year, then Pain & Gain is the same for the films of 2013.
Pain & Gain hilariously depicts the outrageous, real life, exploits of 3 body builders who kidnap a corrupt franchise owner to benefit from his wealth.
You really have to be in on the joke, or at least open to appreciating the film’s superficial irony, to enjoy this movie. Despite being based on a true story, the film’s bubble-gum-pop visuals and dark sense of humour would make one think otherwise. I guess that’s where the controversy comes into play. Is it morally insensitive to indulge in the hilarity of these strange and brutal circumstances if they are, in fact, real life events? That’s for you to ponder and not for me to answer.
To exacerbate matters, Pain & Gain is directed by none other than Michael Bay! If you’re a Bay hater, never fear, this film stands out from the rest of his work as being “the arty one”. If, on the other hand, you’re a fan then it’s time to get excited about what is definitely the best Michael Bay film since The Rock (1996)!

#94: The Untouchables

Do not fuck with us.

“Do not fuck with us.”

Director: Brian De Palma
Year: 1987
Genre: Drama

Based on the real life hunt for Al Capone in the prohibition era of the early 1930’s, The Untouchables is a hard-hitting crime drama disguised as an old-school crime caper. From the opening credits, with its camp-TV serial style titles and Ennio Morricone’s stunning, upbeat score, you’ll know you’re in for a fresh and exhilarating 2 hours.

At a first glance, De Palma’s film comes across as a family friendly cops and robbers caper. Early on in the film we are presented with a sickeningly innocent scene of a little girl’s mundane exchange with the man behind the counter at a cafe. When the girl notices a stranger leave his briefcase behind and exclaims, “Mr, you forgot your briefcase!”, we realise that there’s something deviously different about this film. Oh, that’s right. It’s De Palma! A director who is known for bathing his audience in onscreen violence. The next time we are presented with an oddly innocent scene is when our protagonist, Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is at home with his wife, Catherine (Patricia Clarkson), and the interaction between them is laughably sweet and conservative. Now, it’s apparent that De Palma is taking the “innocent” image of 1930’s cinema and spitting in its face by contrasting Eliot’s squarish personality with Capone’s barbaric nature and loading the film with tragic violence.

De Palma’s “clean on the outside, dirty on the inside” style is what makes The Untouchables stand out from other gang films and the main reason why it’s so damn slick and entertaining. The film’s old-fashioned soppiness keeps your emotional side nice and tender so that when the unmerciful violence intrudes your blood-thirsty side and your ‘Bo-Peep’ side are at war with each other. A more gritty and naturalistic film would have your heart hardened leaving you somewhat cold towards any emotional tipping points.

Kevin Costner is perfectly cast as Chicago’s clean-cut, by-the-book prohibition agent, Eliot Ness, and big, bad Robbie De Niro was born to play the infamous gang-lord, Al Capone. The real star of the film though is Sean Connery in his Academy Award winning role as Jimmy Malone, an Irish-American police officer on the brink of retirement. Connery, you scene stealer. Wait, there’s more! The Untouchables is one hell of a rich film. It’s filled with costumes designed by Georgio Armani, luscious 30’s era production design, a tight screenplay by David Mamet, an amazing score by Ennio Morricone and loads of iconic sequences.

What else do you want? Go stop some bootleggers!

#83: Stand By Me


It shrinks?

Director: Rob Reiner
Year: 1986
Genre: Drama

There was no shortage of coming of age dramas and childhood adventure stories in the 80’s and Stand By Me is the best of both worlds.

Based on a Stephen King novella, The BodyStand By Me revolves around four young boys who get a lead on the whereabouts of a missing body and embark on an expedition to retrieve it and claim the reward. The four lead actors of this heart-leaping coming of age adventure have got to be the most memorable preadolescent ensemble cast to date. Each one of these lads portray rather polarising characters yet all four of them are deeply identifiable. It probably helps that I’m a male myself but I daresay these characters are relatable despite their gender.

We view the narrative through the eyes of Gordie (Will Wheaton), the puny and insecure story-teller. Gordie’s best friend Chris (River Phoenix) is the alpha-male of the group who comes from a family of criminals and carries the burden of their bad reputation. Phoenix is electrifying in one of his first roles; it’s his and Wheaton’s naturalistic performances that keep the film’s heart beating.
Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell are the character actors who add colour to the group, they’re the cherries on top, the pepper in the sauce depending on what course you’re up to.
Feldman plays the eccentric and possibly the most disturbed individual of the bunch being the son of a troubled war veteran. The ‘Ringo’ of the group is Vern, the tubby one who everyone laughs at. Vern was Jerry O’Connell’s very first film role, and probably his best, and he presents an absolutely adorable, hilarious and sympathetic character. It’s funny that O’Connell is now known for playing more boyish/jockey roles, a stark contrast from his debut effort. Did his experience playing Vern perhaps scare him into becoming the type of person that he would usually be bullied by?

Everyone’s so quick to grow up they forget about the magic of being a kid, especially since we haven’t seen a great all child cast since this film…
Super 8 (2011) is the only film I can think of with such a cast and that movie is a love-letter to E.T. (1982) and Stand By Me. Childhood is one of the more fascinating walks of life to explore on film and since the early 90’s most films with a child cast have been mindless entertainment featuring annoying little shits who are often more one dimensional than Jason Statham.

Stand By Me shows us how children seem to be able to make fantastic situations out of reality. Well, why can’t grown ups do the same without being ridiculed? Watch Stand By Me to fuel your dreams.

#88: Dancer in the Dark

“Mmm, I love air-vents…”

Lars Von Trier
Year: 2000
Genre: Drama

I often neglect realistic films, as in dramas with little stylistic blemishes or other-worldly elements. Sometimes events occur that end up with me sitting down to watch such a film, and to my surprise I am quite taken by it. Having said that, most of the Drama films I like tend to incorporate fantastical and/or surreal elements to spice things up. Lars Von Trier is a director who often takes harsh visions of reality and turns them into something grand. Dogville (2003) is his commentary on America in the form of an epic tale set amongst a minimal backdrop of chalk outlines, and in Melancholia (2011) Von Trier presents a family falling apart at a wedding the day before the world’s end. Dancer in the Dark is the first Von Trier film I ever saw and, to this day, my favourite.

Dancer in the Dark sees Iceland’s diva, Bjork, playing a poverty stricken woman, Selma, who is gradually going blind. She works hard at a factory to save enough money to prevent her young son from becoming blind himself. Unfortunately the selfish needs of the local townspeople create grave complications for Selma’s already troubled life. The outlandish element of this film comes from the musical dream sequences Selma slips into to escape the terrors of reality.

Bjork is magnificent as Selma. Her foreign and quirky child-like qualities accentuate Selma’s innocence and help make her the loveable character that she is. Bjork also lends her talents to the film’s wonderful soundtrack, which was incidentally released as her fifth studio album.

Dancer in the Dark is one of the saddest films I have ever seen. I just find it deeply upsetting to watch Selma being treated so horribly by every character she meets. However, Selma’s dream sequences, with their hyper-real explosions of colour and Bjork’s gorgeous songs, are a true delight and help alleviate the density of this drama. Due to the film’s surreal nature, one may question where Selma’s reality fits in with ours, which perhaps suggests that the film isn’t as distressing as I’ve made it out to be. Nevertheless, the wonderful musical sequences, the Dogme style in which the rest of the film is shot, and the cast’s subdued/naturalistic performances are all blended seamlessly together by maniac Lars Von Trier to create a totally gripping and unique film.  If you get the opportunity to watch this gem, you’re in for an emotional challenge and a truly rich experience. Indulge!