My Top Movies of 2013

It’s that time of the year again, when I pretend like I have a blog about movies when in fact all I use it for is to keep track of my top 10 movies for a given year.

So as 2013 has come to a close, I’ve reached 102 movies watched in theatres, an almost 50% decline from 2012, but that was an aim of mine to “cut down” on movies, that being said however I feel like I watched almost all the movies I wanted to watch in 2013, except for perhaps “Mud”, “Blue Jasmine” and “Spectacular Now” which could have made this list? I didn’t watch nearly as many documentaries as I liked, though. Something I could work on this year.

So here are ten I painstakingly singled out from my list as my “Top Ten” but there are at least another 5 more that could be easily substituted for any of these movies from #3 – #10!  OK screw it, I’m including 2 extra movies…because it bugs me that I can’t include all I want to on a top 10. I also thought to include clips from movies vs images or trailers just because it was more fun to “research” them. Hence why this is coming in nearly a week after I started writing this blog post, I get so easily distracted on Youtube.

12. A Hijacking

While “Captain Phillips” starring Tom Hanks is getting a lot of good buzz (it is a great thriller) my “Somalian pirate hijacking” movie of the year award goes to the Norwegian flick “A Hijacking” which plays the long game when it comes to dealing with the issue of the hijacking and the ensuing negotiations. Despite not being an in your face thriller with guns and a Navy SEAL team, this movie has all the elements of a fantastic thriller, and makes you care a lot more about all characters involved bot on board the ship and those far away working out a resolution. The great work put in by the cast certainly goes a long way in ensuring that this is as good a hostage negotiating movie as you would ever see. I’ve been lucky enough to watch quite a two epic Norwegian movies in 2013 and “A Hijacking” just beats out “Kon Tiki” to land on the final spot of this list.

11. Her

So it’s pretty safe to say that if you’re attracted to women, you’re likely going to walk out of this movie in love with Scarlett Johansson’s voice. Heck even if you’re in to guys you might love her. And Joaquin Phoenix (who I’m not a big fan of) pulls out a fantastic performance where he’s acting off of a voice for the majority of the movie. This is such an original story set in a not too distant future that’s beautifully carved out by Spike Jonze to every intricate detail that’s both hilarious and probably the one movie on this list that’s bound to spark the most interesting discussions walking out of the movie theatre.

10. Rush

I was a little wary a Hollywood-ization of a Formula 1 story might be all big explosions and silly effects, although there certainly were a lot of CGI race scenes they didn’t distract from the story of the Lauda vs. Hunt. By far Chris Hemsworth’s best acting I’ve seen along with Daniel Brühl doing a great job as Lauda. As a big fan of F1 racing there might have been a little bias towards Rush landing on this list, but at the same time I would challenge anyone to watch this movie and not get a thrill out of it! Along with Moneyball, definitely the best sporting movie to come out in recent years.

9. The Place Beyond the Pines

While most of this movies’ marketing revolves around Ryan Gosling’s character this movie is a lot more than that, it actually showcases three plotlines all connected to each other via one pivotal scene (of which Goslings’ is one) and deals with the consequences of ones actions. Great acting by not only a strong leading cast but supporting pieces such as Ray Liotta, Rose Byrn, Eva Mendes,  and a couple of young actors all make this one of the better crime dramas I’ve seen in a while!

8. 12 Years A Slave (I just realised if this was #12 on my list it would look something like “12. 12 Years A Slave” Anyways….)

Oh man, the feels walking out of this movie were certainly strong! The first movie I walked out of in 2013 thinking “Well that’s going on my top 3 for sure” (little did I know the end of the year I would have in cinemas). Like McQueen’s earlier “Hunger” and “Shame”, this was such a difficult movie to watch. He certainly knows how to cast them, with impeccable heart melting performance by Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o to counter Fassbender and Dano’s blood boiling performances. Thoroughly deserves the People’s Choice Award that it nabbed back at tiff 2013, I would not be surprised one bit to see this movie go a long long way in awards season (mainly because it is pretty obvious that McQueen definitely did not make this movie to be Oscar bait).

7. Nebraska

Such a simple well told beautiful father-son road trip movie that’s very watchable thanks to Alexander Payne taking the reins starring Will Forte and introducing me properly to Bruce Dern who I’m very happy to see is getting quite a lot of recognition for this role. Much like Winter’s Bone did before it, Nebraska displays a side to America, I would much rather not like to spend time in, but the whole setting of a population of people still stuck in time being farmers plays really well here. There’s some fabulous writing that also went in to this movie that is seen clearly in scenes like the one I’ve shared above.

6. Blue is the Warmest Colour

It took a while for me to watch this movie, at a run time of 3 hours it wasn’t everyday I had time to devote to this which I knew would be a pretty heavy movie, and as a sucker for a properly done love story I really enjoyed its ups and downs and how no short cuts were taken to chronicle this love story between these two girls. Which means that it is slow at times, so perhaps wouldn’t be the first movie on my top 10 I would jump at for a re-watch. The performances by both Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos were very well deserved in winning the Palme d’Or and unlike Nebraska, this movie basks in lots of colour with blue being visible throughout the film as sort of an easter egg, which was a lot of fun to keep an eye out for. Most people talk about the pretty explicit sex scenes so I thought I’d include a video of real lesbians reacting to the sex scenes just for fun. So click here if you want to check that out.

5. American Hustle

There goes David O. Russell again, giving us a great movie with a whole bunch of not only clever characters, but ones that are incredibly enjoyable to watch on screen. It’s basically a white-collar criminal movie thriller with Bale as a scam artist and you just know that the whole movie is building up to a climax of a twist, the story moves along at great pace and sporting a fun soundtrack to go along with it.

4. Saving Mr. Banks

So probably another slightly biased entry since I love, Disney, Mary Poppins and also Tom Hanks, but Saving Mr. Banks was a lot more than all that, it’s really two movies in one, one starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson with the other starring Colin Firth, and if both stories had come out as independent movies I would have enjoyed them greatly, but the meshing of the two here ended up giving the final movie a great touch and sure tugs at them heart strings the right way. It also doesn’t hurt that the movie is also in no short supply of the songs we all love from Mary Poppins!

3. The Wolf of Wall Street

Well a big in your face movie that was incredible to watch. Scorsese delivers another gem but the highlight by far was Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Jordan Belfort, possibly the best leading role in my opinion of 2013, some of the scenes he does here are just fantastic. Scorsese also incorporates songs in a manner that really marks the scene as memorable (think of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” from The Departed), one such example that really jumps out at me is a rendition of “Mrs Robinson”. Watching a ruthlessly funny movie about people doing disgusting things sure made the nearly 3 hour run time run out too soon!

2. Inside Llewyn Davis

Thanks to this movie I’ve been listening to a whole bunch of folk music for a few weeks now, such a craftily done movie by the Coen Brothers about the folk music scene in New York before the Dylan era. The feel and aesthetics of the 60s as done by the Coen brothers is just beautiful to look at and you really get the feeling of being right at that specific moment in time. The movie also feature numerous full songs right in the movie itself which I don’t think happens too often these days, at least not without cutting in to another scene with the music in the background, you really believe the Oscar Isaac is straight from the early 60s with Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake leading a cast of talented side acts to Isaac’s Daivs with of course the cat being the animal performance of the year for me! 🙂

1. Short Term 12

I was lucky enough to catch this in it’s short theatre run, Brie Larson leads a very strong cast of young actors playing troubled teenagers in a foster care home. This movie is packed with ingredients that bring out strong emotions out of the viewer, it’s not a pretty movie by any means but it so beautifully gives us a glimpse in to a tough side of society we don’t get to see too often in film. This movie has definitely earned all the recognition it has received so far but also deserves a whole lot more. Here’s to hoping it gets another run in theatres so more people get to experience it!


My Favourite 2012 Movies

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It was too much of a challenge for me to pick a top 10 for 2012, and as a result I came up with a separate list for documentaries and fictional movies. It was tough to differentiate between the two forms considering documentaries are a whole different experience than watching a fictional movie. For e.g. a movie about a group of super heroes fighting to save a part of Manhattan can hardly be held to the same level as the issues of victims of rape in the US armed forces. As a result I have these two lists, now just keep in mind these are my favourite and not those I consider to have been the very best movies of 2012. But I do believe Samsara holds the #1 overall spot, especially given the fact that I watched it in 4K (4 times the resolution of 1080p) resolutoin at the tiff Bell Lightbox and gave me the best viewing experience of any movie.

(I have also yet to watch Amour and Zero Dark Thirty, two films that have potential on having made this list but yet to get a proper release in Toronto)

My Favourite Documentaries of 2012:
1. Samsara
2. Stories We Tell
3. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
4. Chasing Ice
5. The Imposter
6. The Central Park Five
7. Casting By
8. The Invisible War

My Favourite Fictional Films of 2012:
1. Cloud Atlas
2. The Cabin in the Woods
3. The Impossible
4. The Avengers
5. Argo
6. Rust and Bone
7. Moonrise Kingdom
8.  Les Miserables
9.  Looper
10. Lincoln

And some on the “Honorable Mention” list: Life of Pi, Django Unchained, We Need to Talk About Kevin, No, Silver Linings Playbook

My 2012 Movie Watching Stats

I kept a track of all my movies watched in 2012 along with the date, cost, location and who I watched it with. I enjoy going back and checking stats and here are just a few things I bothered to play around with and showcase in graphic form. 

First of all my average cost of a movie was only $4.94. This low number is mainly due to the fact that 77/150 movies I watched were free of cost thanks to film festivals, scene points and free screening invites. So while I did watch a whole bunch of movies, the costs incurred were not as horrible as they could have been. 


Film Review: ‘This Is Not a Film’ highlights Iranian filmmaker’s talents while under house arrest

I caught this “film” at tiff 2011 and highly recommend you watch it if you get the chance.

Independent Ethos

It’s a marvel what one learns about filmmaking while watching the anti-film This is Not a Film. In 2010, acclaimed Iranian director Jafar Panahi was confined to his condo in Tehran under house arrest as part of his punishment for intending to make a film deemed subversive by the state. During his house arrest, he decided to turn on a camera and just record, all the while trying to deny he was even making a film. He reportedly had This Is Not a Film smuggled out of the country on a flash drive hidden inside a cake delivered to the 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it had its world premiere in 2011. The result offers a raw, insightful glimpse inside the mind of a creative genius.

This is Not a Film is so enlightening into the craft of filmmaking, it feels tragic that the government of Iran has denied…

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Day 202 – Hulk Smash May the Fourth.

It’s May the 4th today and as any Star Wars fans probably knows, it’s “Star Wars Day!”  (Get it..cause “May the fouth” and “May the force”??

BUT as big a fan as I am, today is more Avengers Day than Star Wars. Hence my Hulk about to go Undertaker and tombstone by Threepio.

Yes, that’s right today The Avengers one of my most anticipated movies of not just 2012 but since 2008 when Marvel became their own movie studio (although back then the dream of a full fledged Avengers movie was but a far away geek dream). So 4 franchises, 5 films and lots of post-credit Sam Jacksons later we have Marvel’s Avengers or Avengers Assemble for my UK readers (because I’m sure you guys exist). And after a week of watching nothing but amazing documentaries thanks to hotdocs, this is about as far away as I could get from that genre!

Caught the midnight show at Scotiabank Cinema here in Toronto and thanks to our reserved seating at Cineplex Ultra AVX (or as some call it “perfection”) we had no need to get there at 8 for a midnight release. Had to patiently wait through long concession line ups with people in full avengers costumes for a blockbuster that’s what summer movie watching is all about. And this being the first in what will be a string of midnight releases for me made me realise again what a joy watching a midnight release with die hard fans is like. Cheering after each trailer (very loud ones for The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus) and also applauds, whoops and more cheering after each “moment” or witty remark made by any of the characters.

This could very well be my favourite super hero movie, not the best by any means, but the most fun I’ve had in a CGI-riddled movie since the first Transformers or ever perhaps.

It took a while for action to get going, they had to go through some typical Marvel stuff where the “good guys” would have to fight each other and the Hulk (this is what happens when the main adversories is too weak to put up a fight or have to wait till the climax of the movie to reveal themselves). No complains though as Thor vs Iron Man vs Captain was funny and entertaining to watch. This movie (as everyone seems to agree) gets the Hulk right and that’s thanks to Mark Ruffalo and the use of motion capture to potray “the other guy”. I’m a big fan of Tom Hiddleston who plays evil-adopted-brother-of-Thor Loki and his scenes were as much a delight to watch as it was to see Robert Downey Jr doing his thing.

The final battle scene more than makes up for the few scenes in the middle of the movie that bascially saw the Avengers come together, realise they suck as a team before realising they actually can band together to fight evil. We’re treated to amazing action sequences in “one shot” leap frogging from hero to hero (either in tandem or solo) as they fight evil flying chariots of a “powerful army” that seems to be very easy to dispose of. All the scenes featuring the Hulk were huge fan favourites and the scene mid credits sets up the sequel(s) which appear like they are going to feature a lot more space and “death” and stuff . Would be very interesting to see how that plays out since apart from Thor, every other movie has been very grounded in this Avengers cinema-verse.

Overall a fantastic blockbuster worth the wait!!

Favourite Movie Trailers

Trailers are the largest component to a film’s marketing campaign in this day and age of youtube and other streaming websites. The internet is flooded with similar lists, but you can never have too much of a good thing right? The trailer for one of my most eagerly anticipated movies of the year “Prometheus” actually inspired me to create this blog post.

Like many of you, I’m someone that “cannot afford” to miss the trailers before the start of a new movie. Some of my friends who I frequent the cinemas with know I tend to actually stay away from trailers for some movies I want to experience in a completely spoiler free environment such as Avatar and the upcoming Dark Knight Rises. With Avatar, I know the moments of seeing the floating mountains or the Na’vi outside the context of the movie (and in 2D) would definitely have lessened the experience for me. And I’m hoping the same goes for Dark Knight.

Unfortunately a lot of studios opt to include spoiler heavy trailers or include the best joke or the money shot of a movie (e.g. the “Kraken” from the “Clash of the Titans” trailer which had almost as much screen time in the trailer as it did in the movie). But then you have trailers like the one for Hugo last year and The Cabin in the Woods which hold the true plot of the film cleverly cloaked.

So my list below are the 15 trailers that I got me most excited for the chance to watch said movie as soon as humanely possible! Mind you, it’s never easy to come up with such lists and I know I would have more that pop in to my head that I wish I included here. Unfortunately, trailers for a lot of good dramas tend not to illicit the same feelings of anticipation as the ones for a big blockbuster do, so I hope you keep that in mind along with the fact that not all the movies advertised below are ones I consider “good”. Trailers are elevated to the next level by fantastic soundtracks, and all these trailers share some amazing accompanying music and songs.

Let me know if you feel like I should have included some others.


The Watchmen – Full of mysterious “superheroes”, great visuals and one of the best songs accompanying a trailer made this a must watch movie for me through a graphic novel I previously had no knowledge about.

Black Swan – I had heard so much about this movie even before it’s release, and this trailer like many of Aronofsky’s other work is splendidly, nail clipping-ly delivered. This along with is trailer for Requiem for a Dream and Pi is proof that Aronofsky know’s the perfect music to accompany his very unique style of film making.

Alien – The trailer for Prometheus that inspired me to post this blog borrows heavily from this trailer, no surprise given that it’s a prequel. But a great set up, where you’re not shown any “money shot” from the movie but gives the viewer the impression that they are in store for not only one of the best horror movies of all time, but one of the best sci fi ones as well.

Cloverfield – Motion sickness galore! But a movie from J.J.Abrams back when Lost was THE thing to watch on TV, the head of lady Liberty and a massive viral online marketing campaign meant that even without a great trailer, everyone was talking about Cloverfield.

The Social Network – Again a haunting song sets up a brilliant trailer for something everyone (well everyone that would be reading this at least) uses. Facebook has been an integral part of me since first year of university and when I first saw this trailer there was all kinds of familiarity tugging at me (like “hey I comment on pictures too!”). And I’m just thankful that the movie lived up to this great trailer.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – David Fincher seems to know how to handle songs for his trailers, first the Social Network and now this with one of the most exhilirating songs in a trailer I’ve experienced, I had not read the books or watched the Swedish films, but simply based on this trailer I could believe the international hype that is “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.

Paranormal Activity – So I’m not really a fan of audience shots integrated in to the trailer, but boy does it work for this movie. I realise that this is not a great trailer and is made to Even the snippets of quotes taken from reviews work in this case! This trailer took this movie from being a 0 in to one of the most talked about movies of the latter half of 2008.

Transformers – A staple cartoon and toy series from my childhood, this trailer gave me the first ever shot of a “real life” car transforming and it was amazing! The thought of seeing a car chase in the highway where the cars turn to robots and fight half way to all out fights breaking out in the middle of a city makes this pure CGI summer movie bashing, with a very easy to excite fan base this trailer became a big hit very quickly.

The Strangers – This trailer scared the hell out of me the first time I saw it, that’s all the reason it needs to be on this list! The movie however…a little different story. This trailer unfortunately does reduce the in movie effect of certain scenes.

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol – Yes a pretty stereotypical action movie trailer but this is a fantastic trailer for the movie. A classic theme mixed in with a very upbeat Eminem song with a running Tom Cruise and a scene with the world’s tallest building that’s never been seen before makes this a fun 2.5 minutes.

Casino Royale – A reinvention of a classic franchise with a whole new look Bond, one for the modern times that definitely gets down and dirty with his blond (gasp!) hair!! The trailer works and thankfully so did the movie…in a very big way.

Star Trek – I’ve always been a Star Wars fan, this trailer made me want to be a Star Trek fan as well. I can give it no higher compliment. (As a bonus, the video below links to one long video comprising of multiple trailers for the movie)

Spiderman (2001) – This particular trailer was not really broadcasted as it featured the World Trade Center buildings and the people behind the movie opted to skip this trailer and scene from the movie. But it’s a mini bank robbery scene with the final bits of this teaser being spectacular and bringing something to the screen that had not been seen before, a superhero movie that had massive potential. The movie that started the whole trend of superhero movies that we see going on today.

The Avengers – I had to. No other movie can boast the fact that it has 4 other movies made to set it up, this trailer brings together some big name characters, and every time it came on in theatres people would cheer. It caters perfectly to it’s target audience and that’s exactly what a trailer can hope to accomplish.

The Hobbit – To finish this off, here’s a front runner for being the biggest movie of the year (which is saying a lot in the year of the Avengers and Dark Knight Rises). This trailer brings us back to Middle Earth and it’s as beautiful as we remember it. The trailer is bookended with familiar faces and introduces us to the newest “fellowship”. It’s a great way to reintroduce us to Tolkien’s world and I must admit it is the familiarity and current excitment that lands The Hobbit in this list.

Day 149 – George R. R. Martin

Today was the big event when I was able to attend an “In Conversation With” series put on by tiff featuring George R. R. Martin followed by a Q&A session and a book signing. An event just over 2 hours that also featured a surprise reading by George of his upcoming book “The Winds of Winter“. It was my first time at a reading and it was simply stunning, if only he would narrate his own books but that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

I bought a new copy of “A Dance with Dragons” and got my friend’s copy of “Warriors 1” signed by George. He is such a fantastic guy, I’d watched a few of his interviews online and have his Google Authors talk series appearance along embedded below if you have an hour to kill. He is incredibly knowledgeable and smart with all things fantasy and a genuinly nice guy who you can say enjoys his time with fans and encouraged all of us to visit conventions (particularly Wizard World cons) so we can talk football and party till the early hours with him!

It was a fantastic event, it filled out the tiff Bell Lightbox‘s biggest theatre, the only negative being the moderator (some woman from HBO Canada who aparently does a lot of celeb interviews). But in my experiences, it’s not very easy to find a moderator that’s a joy to listen to as well.

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Day 148 – Game of Thrones

I joined up with a few friends to check out the Game of Thrones exhibit at the tiff Bell Lightbox being put on by HBO Canada and Movie Network. It was not very impressive, but I would definitely recommend it to any fan of the show or books given the fact that admission is free. You see banners, costumes, some weaponary and a dragon egg along with the severed head of a certain character to go with the many pictures from the first season. The highlight of the exhibit is of course getting your picture taken on the throne. The pictures they took and posted on facebook are unfortunately of a low quality so that’s a little annoying.

Another informative and well put together exhibit by the fine folk at tiff.


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My Top 10 2011 Movies

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So, 2011 was a good movie year for me with me stringing together 137 movies in theatres (47 of them I was lucky enough to watch for free). That count was certainly helped by the fact that in 9 days of tiff I managed to squeeze in 20 movies.

Below is a quick countdown of the 10 films I enjoyed the most that were given a release in some theatre in Toronto. Following my top 10 list I’ve also listed a few movies that I thought were worth a mention

10) X-Men: First Class – A highly entertaining and well thought out prequel to Bryan Singer’s X-Men.

9) Midnight in Paris– The movie that surprised me the most in terms of content, and what a pleasent surprise it was to realise the layout of the movie and it’s always fun to watch Owen Wilson talk.

8) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – After coming to terms with the fact that the film versions will never live up the books I would have to agree that a movie that predominantly deals with a final battle it was well paced out and beautifully done.

7) Shame – Michael Fassbender is fast becoming the next big thing for me and this movie really showed me his acting chops, and features a captivating scene featuring Carey Mulligan singing Sinatra’s “New York”

6) The Artist – Hollywood has fallen in love with this movie for showcasing a different era where movies and their stars led far more romantic lives. This movie falls on my list for being different, beautifully crafted and boasting that authentic feel primarily thanks to casting a couple of leads that are unkowns in hollywood and play their roles fantastically.

5) The Devil’s Double – I walked out of this movie really hoping that Dominic Cooper would get some Oscar buzz (which he doesn’t appear to have succeeded in generating), his performance lifts this film the way Daniel Day Lewis’s and Natalie Portman’s performances lift up There will be Blood and Black Swan respectively. I also enjoy this movie for the fact that it does not half ass the story and allocates enough time for us to go through the ups and downs of Latif.

4) Another Earth – Despite the presence of Martha Marcy May Marlene this year, Another Earth takes my self made award of being “The Winter’s Bone of 2011” in being shot with a low budget featuring great acting and the hint of science fiction makes this a winner that caters to a lot of what I like seeing in a movie.

3) Take Shelter – Michael Shannon gives another stellar performance in this movie that’s equal parts brilliant and horrific.

2) Senna – I knew the basic facts of Ayrton Senna’s racing career but this doucmentary composed entirely of footage from the late 80s to early 90s plays out as the best if not one of the best sports movies I’ve ever seen. Chronicling his epic battles with rivals and showcasing his death defying driving skills. Highly entertaining even if you know nothing about F1.

1) Hugo – Despite boring me at the start of the movie, it really picked up for me after 20 or 30 minutes. Once I realised it’s a romantic look back at the start of the moving picture’s introduction to audiences and early movie making it won me over. It’s also the best looking movie I’d seen all year even with it’s 3D effects, supported by a great ensemble and fine acting (ironically Asa Butterfield who plays Hugo does leave me wanting a bit more) Hugo really stuck with me and it took me a few days to fully appreciate it and realise that I did in fact love it.

Need to Mention:

Moneyball, The Ides of March, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Incendies, Starbuck

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