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
Genre:
Sci-Fi

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
Genre:
Sci-FI

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
Genre:
Comedy

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

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#84: Avatar

avatar3

Don’t be fooled by her blueish good looks…

Director: James Cameron
Year: 2009
Genre: Sci-Fi

I feel a little embarrassed including Avatar in this list. It can be tough justifying the integrity of top grossing films because generally the more money a film makes, the more it compromises on its more edgy or challenging aspects. Avatar, being the highest grossing film of all time, is not exempt from such treatment. Before its release, all the geeks out there were expecting an explosively unique Sci-Fi story, instead we got a re-telling of Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest (1992) and Pocahontis (1995) with a sci-fi outfit. I guess I’m embarrassed because, like a lot of Avatar haters, I see right through the film’s story and can recognise its many flaws yet I’m as captivated as fuck.

Avatar is the most visually stimulating cinematic experience I’ve ever had. It boasts the most impressive and seamless CGI to date. The world Cameron created, the planet of Pandora, is jaw dropping and luscious, and the 3D is gob-smacking. I’m not usually a fan of 3D, or CGI for that matter, but whatever Cameron did here paved the way for the future – strange that no other films have utilised this technology since? The depth that Cameron’s 3D created was so new that I physically felt sensations in my eyes. It was a whole new way of viewing the moving image.
Unfortunately the only way to take advantage of this experience is in the cinema – 3D TV technology is not yet up to speed. I’ve watched the film in 2D on DVD and it’s still impressive. I was worried that without its stunning 3D the CGI would suffer, but thankfully it still holds up.

The visuals aren’t the only thing worth a damn in this film. If you leave your cynicism in carbon-freeze and open up your heart you may find yourself as captivated as I was. Despite its flaws, the direction and performances were effective enough that I got caught up in the story regardless and found myself getting teary in the emotional and climatic parts. It was a shame though that Avatar wasn’t as much of a sci-fi as it should have been. ***SPOILER ALERT*** The film’s biggest let down is that the whole idea of having an “avatar” isn’t really explored at all. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) uses a Na’vi (they’re the natives of Pandora) avatar, that is, he walks around in a Na’vi body, to infiltrate the world of the Na’vi. Cool, right? Despite his avatar,the Na’vi know that he’s a human from the get go! What a missed opportunity for challenging character developments and unique plot points. Fuck me, and the movie’s CALLED Avatar. That’d be your $237,000,000 budget talking – can’t take any risks with that budget! The film is fuckin’ solid though. A lot of the best stories are old and familiar ones anyway. As long as they’re executed masterfully, the audience is your bitch – and Cameron is quite the maestro.

Don’t be expecting any complex sci-fi concepts and you’ll be in for a visual spectacle and an exhilarating adventure. If you haven’t already seen it you won’t be able to have the same overwhelming experience I had until the film gets a cinematic re-release. Don’t worry, they’ll surely do one in conjunction with the sequel which promises to be all the more orgasmic!

#90: The Fly (1986)

“I’m all flemmy.”


Director:
David Cronenberg
Year: 1986
Genre: Sci-Fi

We’ve seen how well transporters work in the year 2258 – beautifully demonstrated in Star Trek when Scotty beams multiple beings into a space ship traveling at warp speed. Now we have the privilege of seeing how transporters worked back in the year I was born, the year 1986. Seth Brundle, played by my favourite Jeff – Jeff Goldblum – invents the world’s first transporter in The Fly; arguably the best remake of all time.

I have not had the privilege of seeing the original 1958 film, but this 1986 remake is unique in that it is directed by one of my favourite Davids; David Cronenberg. Cronenberg’s films stand out because they are genre films, usually sci-fi’s or thrillers, that do not lend themselves to typical blockbuster tropes. Cronenberg often tackles fantastical concepts, i.e. a scientist accidentally fuses his molecular structure with a fly, but explores them within the confines of one character . Rather than being introduced to a new world and seeing how the characters interact with it, a Cronenberg film will challenge us to identify with a character who undergoes a strange transformation and/or evolution, whether it be physical or philosophical. Being a remake and a great box-office success, The Fly is Cronenberg’s most accessible film, making it the perfect selection for those who are interested in pursuing the director’s filmography.

The Fly has had a great influence on me as a sci-fi fan and a writer. The gradual, biological transformation of Seth Brundle fascinates me because it addresses two ideas which I very strongly identify with: fear of disease and playing God. The horror fan in me also gets a tickle; The Fly happens to be an iconic “body horror” film – thanks to the grotesque special effects used to bring Seth’s transformation to life. The 80’s was the pinnacle of hands-on special effects and Body Horror films. These days CGI is used to make things look too perfect. Gore and actors who need to be physically manipulated, for whatever reason, always look best when make up is used because it is really there, which means it looks more realistic. CGI may be able to achieve details that make up can’t, but the jilted movements that occur from the limitations of hands-on effects can be scarier than a seamlessly moving computer generated image. Watch Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell and tell me which sequences gross you out more; the ones that use CGI, or the ones that use hands on effects and make up. Of course you’d choose the latter because green liquid coming out of a dead woman’s mouth is inherently more disgusting than a computer generated eye flying through the air. If you are interested in seeing how horror effects were done in the 80’s then you have another reason to watch The Fly.

If a scientific exploration through one man’s body and dazzling, gross-out special effects aren’t enough candy for your show-bag, keep it open, because the career defining performance by Jeff Goldblum is enough to fill a show-bag all by itself! As much as you are watching special effects physically transform Seth’s body, you are also watching big, bad Jeff himself transform his character from a geeky scientist into the world’s #1 bad boy. Jeff is equally compelling at both ends of his character’s evolution. In the adorable nerd we meet at the beginning of the film, we see why Jeff has made a career out of playing eccentrics. The cold, confidence Seth develops later on in the film is equally unnerving and arousing…

Basically, WATCH THIS FILM!

#97: Star Trek (2009)

I’M Spock now, bitch!


Director:
J.J. Abrams
Year: 2009
Genre: Sci-Fi

We have arrived in the future. Well, 2009 is technically the past, but if you have embarked on this Top 100 journey, starting with Mad Max in 1979, you have jumped forward 30 years in cinema history. The setting of the film in question is so far into the future (2258) that no one living today will ever know its wonders, or will they? Ladies and gentlemen, ranking at #99, welcome on board J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, a film that I believe sets the benchmark for 21st century blockbusters.

Although I am quite fond of the Star Trek series, I am by no means a “fan”, let alone a Trekkie. I have only seen a handful of TV episodes from the original 1966 series and three of the earlier films, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Generations (1994). Whilst I have liked all of those installments, particularly The Wrath of Khan, I much prefer Abrams’ reboot. Apparently this makes me less of a Star Trek fan because the new Star Trek uses more action and emotion to compensate for a lack of moral challenges and sci-fi philosophy. I’m more of a Star WARS fan anyway, so bring on the melodrama, I’m a sucker for that shit. Abrams’ film makes me happy because both times I saw it I literally cried with joy and that’s what blockbuster adventures should do. Well, maybe not make you cry – not everybody’s a pussy like me – but a great blockbuster film should genuinely fill you with excitement.

Abrams’ film manages to appeal to a new, young and sexy audience while remaining faithful to the original series. Star Trek (2009) is an origin story that explores how the characters from the original series end up in the crew. For many Trekkies perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of this reboot is, due to it being a prequel, the characters must be younger and therefore recast! I was worried myself before the film came out, especially for Kirk’s character. I’m actually quite a fan of William “The Shat” Shatner, he’s a knock out star personality, Star Trek aside, and who the fuck is Chris Pine anyway? Turns out the kid’s got spirit, he is really charismatic as the young Captain and convincing as someone who would one day grow up to be The Shat. Abrams did an outstanding job re-casting the whole crew. Zachary Quinto is mesmerizing as young Spock. His ability to communicate with facial expression alone is spellbinding, and of all the new cast members he is the one who resembles the most physical likeness to his predecessor. Check him out in the still above; uncanny, if not a little more bad-ass in this incarnation. Fans of the original should rejoice in the fact that Leonard Nimoy himself reprises his role as Quinto’s future self – nerdgasm! Big bonuses, Winona Ryder plays Spock’s mother and Scotty is played by a true Trekkie in his own right, Simon Pegg!

Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are careful not to disturb the canon of the original series and preceding films by introducing a parallel universe which creates two timelines in the series’ canon. This is quite a clever concept; it means that the same characters can appear in new Star Trek movies without shitting on the continuity of the previous shows and films.

What I like most about this film is the chemistry between the characters – reminiscent of the love-hate relationship between Luke, Han and Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, or even the cast of the Indiana Jones series. There’s nothing like a dynamite combination of tight scripting, stylish direction and stand out performances to create a delicious character dynamic. Chuck in an exciting sci-fi plot, mouth watering action sequences and top of the line special effects, of which Abrams is a master, and you have yourself an orgasm.

It’s easy for a cynic to pick apart this film to a molecular level, but if you’re young at heart like I am then you’re in for a slice of cherry pie…with cream.