Best of 2013: Film


1. Gravity

More than just the sum of its parts – it’s a sensory experience, crafted with the attention to detail that only director Alfonso Cuarón could pull off. It’s a cinematic conceptual piece that not only indulged critical interest but also captured attention with an unparalleled hype engine. It’s an Oscar contender for technical expertise and for Sandra Bullock’s knockout performance as a lone surviving astronaut stranded in the cold void of outer space.

This is one of the most stunning visual treats of the year and one of the most unforgettable thrill rides in recent memory. Richard Roeper – Chicago Sun-Times

2. The Way Way Back

The coming-of-age drama is a universally retold story with the help of an all-star cast (Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, AnnaSophia Rob) about a socially inept child searching for his place in the world.  In a year of slim pickings, it’s one of the few gems to rise out of 2013.

The Way Way Back gets it wittily, thrillingly right. It turns the familiar into something bracingly fresh and funny. It makes you laugh, then breaks your heart. Peter Travers – Rolling Stone

3. The Wolf of Wall Street

Opening locally this month, Martin Scorsese’s epic tale of narcissism and debauchery based on the true story of stock broking swindler Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) may be one of the acclaimed director’s greatest achievements yet. Devilishly funny and extraordinarily executed, this may finally be the film that clinches the ever-elusive Best Actor statuette for DiCaprio.

4. Captain Phillips

Creative liberties not withstanding, the true life tale of Captain Phillips – the skipper of a cargo vessel that comes under attack by Somali pirates – is yet another superb edge-of-your seat thriller by Paul Greengrass that never lets the audience relax until it dictates such a course. Thrillers are a dime a dozen and with its excellent pace and another Oscar-worthy performance by Tom Hanks, Captain Philips is taking the awards season hostage.

Paul Greengrass creates an aura of urgency so compelling, so rooted in detail, that we temporarily forget what we know and hold our breaths for two-plus hours of tightening suspense. Ty Burr – Boston Globe

5. Enough Said

Few filmmakers can claim to make a romantic comedy that defies genre stereotypes and clichés, but director Nicole Holofcener has created such a film that captures the trials of a mature relationship to an uncanny realism while retaining the charming cues of a romance and tongue-in-cheek humour. As one of the final performances of the late James Gandolfini, this is the sort of role that may earn him a posthumous Oscar nod.

For all of us who've been waiting way too long for a smart, funny, snappy romantic comedy for grown-ups – here it is. Moira MacDonald – Seattle Times

6. Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen’s latest film takes a different approach to his typical brand of humour, this time following the trials of Jasmine – a woman who after losing her husband and his stolen fortune finds herself suffering a perpetual nervous breakdown. Moving and simultaneously distressing, Cate Blanchett’s performance as the neurotic Jasmine places her as a certain front runner for Best Actress at the 86th Academy Awards.

Blanchett in Blue Jasmine is beyond brilliant, beyond analysis. This is jaw-dropping work, what we go to the movies hoping to see, and we do. Every few years. Mick La Salle – San Francisco Chronicle

7. Warm Bodies

Hollywood has been struck by zombie fever, and with a line-up of overhyped action-horrors and flimsy b-grade drek, Warm Bodies is a beacon of creativity and freshness. Characterised by its offbeat humour and charming characters, it’s a romcom zombie flick that works at reigniting the stagnating zombie genre with a rare light-hearted approach that breathes life into a worn-out concept.

Warm Bodies not only brings in some fresh blood, but has brains to spare. Stephen Whitty – Newark Star-Ledger

8. Before Midnight

The best movie you haven’t seen, Richard Linklater’s satisfying conclusion to his "Before" trilogy was never intended for mainstream consumption. With pitch-perfect performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, along with Linklater’s iconic style of filmmaking, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Before Midnight basking in the award spotlight – if only for a few technical nominations.

A film that feels so authentic it's like overhearing a conversation you're not sure you should be hearing. Cary Darling – Dallas Morning News

9. Wreck-It Ralph

Following up on the success of Disney’s Tangled would never be easy, but as masters of the animated genre, Wreck-It Ralph turned out to be their freshest offering in decades. Blending multiple genres with the nostalgia of video games, Wreck-It Ralph is a memorable offering from Disney that proves, if anything, that an old dog need not only settle for fairytale romances and spontaneous sing-alongs.

10. About Time

The perfect date movie is a bold statement that perfectly describes About Time. A fusion of dry British humour, American romance, and the nifty concept of time-travel makes this unconventional romcom starring Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson not only a winner for the public but a breath of fresh air for those with discerning taste and a soft spot for overindulgent sentimentality.

For all its glutinous cuteness, damn if About Time doesn't sneak up and sock you in the tear ducts. I tried not to fall for it. I failed. Kyle Smith – New York Post


1. Despicable Me 2

The highest grossing film of the year delivered on the same brand of humour that made the original such a hit success – this time with a secret agent twist and even more loveable minions. An enjoyable film for the whole family but more so for the fans, Despicable Me 2 is more of the same, and for some, more of the same is all that could be hoped for.

If you're looking for quality prepackaged, predigested Hollywood family fun this summer, you could do a lot worse than Despicable Me 2.  Tirdad Derakhshani – Philadelphia Inquirer

2. Fast & Furious 6

Another entry in the immensely popular Fast and Furious series (and the final Fast outing for the late Paul Walker), Fast 6 offers an overabundance of eye candy for both genders with a sugar coating of bombastic action sequences; over-the-top stunts; the longest airport runway in history, and a tank tearing up the highways of Spain – with an explosive line-up like that, engaging plots and characters are simply an afterthought.

Ludicrous, but undeniably fun and surprisingly affectionate, this is really all you could ask of a car crash movie, and more. Tom Charity –

3. Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr. returns for his final flight as Iron Man in Marvel’s smash-hit franchise and it’s a series best. Top-class humour and unparalleled action with some not-too-subtle 007 undertones made Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 the most entertaining superhero flick since last year’s Avengers and a perfect ending for the trilogy – until the inevitable Iron Man 4, of course.

It sharply fuses the humour and heart of the earlier films with a satisfyingly heavy-metal strength – and a darkness that's more than earned. Joe Neumaier – New York Daily News

4. The Smurfs 2

The original film was the most successful film of 2011 at the South Africa box office, and after parents were left in a migraine-induced blur of cutesiness, one can presume that children had a tougher time convincing their folks a second time around. Both were critically slammed, but to those that cannot resist, The Smurfs 2 didn’t smurf around with its formula – for better or worse (but mostly worse).

5. Man of Steel

Starring British beefcake Henry Cavill as the titular Man of Steel, and mentored by twin Robin Hood fathers Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner, director Zack Snyder found a recipe for success with his moody reboot of the Superman franchise. With public and critical reception notably disparate, the success of the film financially came at the betrayal of Superman’s many defining qualities, such as hope, and even the slightest inkling of old-fashioned fun.

Every opportunity for humour, compassion or plausible responses to otherworldly phenomena is buried beneath product placements and CGI special effects. Joe Williams – St Louis Post-Dispatch

6. Grown Ups 2

At this point, Adam Sandler seems intent on outdoing the awfulness of the Razzie scooping Jack and Jill. Grown Ups 2 doesn’t mine the depths of the comedic cesspool, but it does pierce the sewage line. The film is so trite and inconsequential, it thankfully spares the careers of the many talents involved, including Steve Buscemi and Salma Hayek … Shaquille O’Neal’s career is beyond rescue.

In the first five minutes, a deer walks into the star's bedroom and urinates on his face. It's all downhill from there. Matt Patches – Time Out New York

7. After Earth

M Night Shyamalan’s name isn’t worth much critically (not since 2002’s Signs) and with a laundry list of titles that have earned consecutively poorer reception, the only twist is that he’s still directing. After Earth was riddled with plot holes and absurd dialogue, but the father/son duo of Will and Jayden Smith sent South African audiences in their droves to see this sci-fi tale of survival on an abandoned and seemingly uninhabitable planet Earth.

Even with his charismatic dad in his earpiece calling the shots, Jaden can't turn himself into a movie star by sheer force of Will. Dana Stevens – Slate

8. The Great Gatsby

Never one to shy away from a visual spectacle, Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald classic may not have captured the essence of the cautionary tale, but in sheer sensory splendour, it is simply beyond comparison. With some stellar performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Carrie Mulligan, The Great Gatsby – like a fine Scotch – is smooth to the taste but overindulgence is ill-advised.

The Great Gatsby"is a cool movie, in both the positive and negative sense. You may certainly be impressed, but you may not be moved. Tom Long – Detroit News 29

9. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

It may have arrived before his passing, but no tribute to the late great Nelson Mandela could be more affecting than this visual memoir. Starring Idris Elba as the famed former statesman, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is as the title suggests – a personal look at the life and times of the South African icon. The film is by no means perfect, but as a biopic, Mandela is a testament to the heroism of a flawed hero, whose aggression was tempered by his years in isolation.

Idris Elba gives a towering performance, a Mandela for the ages. Scott Foundas – Variety

10. Khumba

In a year populated by mediocre South African movies, Khumba stands as an example of the talent that exists within our borders. Whereas Triggerfish Studios’ previous film fell short of expectations, Khumba marched to the beat of its own drum and found its audience through uniquely told South African folklore and hit its mark locally, carrying a sense of hope for an industry in its infancy.


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