This list is a lot late, but I still wanted to see a few more films before making my list. I still have a lot to go, but I’m pleased with the current Top 20 I have at the moment. I might do an article later in the year with an unofficial updated list, just to show how what films might have made the cut if I’d seen them before making the list. Without further ado, here’s my Top 20… I was going to have the whole list displayed in pictures, but the formatting was off for the first half so only the Top 10 are displayed with pictures.
Released: March 14, 2014. Directed by: Scott Waugh. Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots. Runtime: 132 min.
Need for Speed (based on the popular gaming franchise) is about as conventional as these crime actioners come. Since the game franchise of the same name doesn’t really have a storyline, and is just racing during dynamic gameplay – the writers come up with a mediocre story for it. It isn’t anything special, written by first-time writer George Gatins. His brother John Gatins (Coach Carter, Flight) worked on the story, but it’s a shame he isn’t the screenwriter. His resumé shows he’s stronger.
The film follows Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), a street racer and mechanic who spends two years in prison for GTA and manslaughter, the latter is a crime of which he is innocent. Left to take the blame by wealthy business associate Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper in an underwhelming turn), Tobey jumps parole and travels to California in order to take part in a legendary underground race called the De Leon, with clearing his name and revenge in mind.
Being the slime Dino is, he places a bounty on Marshall’s head to prevent him from taking part in the race. As you can tell, he doesn’t play fair. Why would anyone want to be in business with him in the first place? At the beginning of the movie, he brings a business opportunity to Tobey and co., that, if they can refurbish a Ford Mustang largely from scratch, they’ll get 25% of the $2+ million pay day. Marshall’s motivations for this business endeavour is to save his late father’s auto repairs shop. At least the main character’s motivations are clear and well-established.
Sometimes we don’t get that privilege from other action movies, so at least we get a likable protagonist in Tobey. Also on his list of motivations are vengeance for the death of his friend, and beating Dino on the race track in the De Leon. It looks like all conflicts are solved on the race track, at least that’s what these racing flicks want us to think. (I’ll need my driver’s license to ever solve conflicts, and until then, I’ll always lose!) I think Tobey is likable because he cares about others and he puts them ahead of himself. Aaron Paul portrays him with subtle fierceness and kindness shown towards his co-star. He’s a natural actor and an appealing lead.
Joining him on the trek is Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots), the assistant of the man who bought the Ford Mustang for $2.7 million dollars two years ago. She’s going along on the trek because her boss doesn’t want an ex-con in the car on his own, yet he will lend the expensive car to him in the first place. It must have been in the contract that if the seller ever needs to use the car because he just really needs it, the buyer must lend that party the car, as long as the assistant can tag along. Yeah, makes sense…
Julia’s phobias allow Tobey to be his comforting self. She’s not always a damsel as she holds her own in this actioner by driving the car away from antagonists in a scene or two. She’s also a character that shows women can know some things about cars. Poots is a charming actress, so the chemistry between her and Paul is strong, even though their characters are practically strangers.
This is mostly a road trip movie where cops chase ’em (enabling a police chase aspect from Hot Pursuit to present itself) and they run into many obstacles along the way, like people trying to collect the bounty. At least they’re usually in a fast car. There is a cool sequence where they gas up without stopping. They also defy gravity along the way, maybe not as much as Fast & Furious 6, but there’s one scene where you’re just going to question the plausibility of it. At least it looks cool. Jack of all trades director Scott Waugh (director of Act of Valor, he’s much more experienced in stunt-work, with 41 credits to his name) directs the races well. The visuals of the film are pretty good; there’s a limited amount of CGI used, so that’s nice. The fact that there’s not a lot of CGI makes it more apparent that the 3-D version is just a disposable money grab. Please see this in 2-D, because it’s too dark and sometimes ugly in 3-D.
The film keeps the revenge theme throughout with generic plotting and lots of comic relief (much of which is found in Scott Mescudi’s character), so it’s consistent tonally. Michael Keaton has fun portraying Monarch, the energetic host of the De Leon. The finale is that race with a few distracting aspects but it’s a cool all-or-nothing race for pink slips nonetheless. It takes a while for the film to get to this race. (The film clocks in at 132 minutes; trims on the beginning could cut this down to 120 minutes, because it takes about 25 minutes to actually get into the plot.) The finale’s one of the best parts of the film, so most will think it’s worth the wait, at least those who have a tolerance for mildly fun time-passers.
2013 has been a decent year for movies, and it’s improving in both quality, and in regards of box office earnings. And I think it can only get better from here, at least in terms of quality. So far, I’ve seen 36 movies that have been released in 2013, and I’ve missed quite a few as well. Here is my post for the best and worst of 2013 so far. There is a top 10 list, and a bottom five list, and I will post my “Most anticipated movies of Second Half of the Year List” sooner than later. Here’s what I thought of what 2013 has had to offer so far…
First, the top 10. I have listed the title and the original score in brackets. I’ve decided not to include little blurbs from each review, because that just might become tedious to read with so many titles. If you want to read my thoughts, click on the link to my review. (Note: You might notice that some scores are lower than others, but higher on the list – but that’s because they’ve grown on me since I’ve seen them, and are better than other movies in terms of quality.)
Here was my Top 12 Most Anticipated Movies of the First Half of the Year: 1. Monsters University; 2. The Place Beyond the Pines; 3. Identity Thief; 4. Oz the Great and Powerful; 5. Gangster Squad; 6. 42; 7. Now You See Me; 8. Fast & Furious 6; 9. Man of Steel;10. Oblivion; 11. The Purge: 12. Mud.
5 of my 12 most anticipated movies made the Top 10, and 6 made my top 15. “Oz the Great and Powerful” was only slightly satisfying. “Identity Thief”, and “Oblivion” were mildly disappointing. “Gangster Squad” was quite disappointing because it could have potentially been an Oscar contender, but it ended up not knowing if it wanted to be serious or just silly. It was a lightly entertaining gangster movie, apparently much like “The Untouchables”. I’d put “The Hangover Part III” in my Top 15 Anticipated of the First Half, so that is the biggest disappointment of the year because it just wasn’t funny. The third biggest disappointment would be “The Purge”, and the second would be “Man of Steel”.
The best surprise of the year definitely has to be “This is the End”, even if I was quite excited for it. I knew it was going to be good, but not that good, and especially not movie of the year worthy. Out of the films I wasn’t anticipating at all, “World War Z” was probably the nicest surprise.
These are the movies I missed, but will be checking out. I’ve only included the ones I could envision myself either popping into the DVD player, watching online, or going out to the theater and watching: A Good Day to Die Hard, Aftershock, Antiviral, Before Midnight, Berberian Sound Studio, The Bling Ring, Byzantium, The Call, Dark Skies, Dead Man Down, The East, Frances Ha, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Ginger & Rosa, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Host, The Iceman, The Internship, The Kings of Summer, The Lords of Salem, Maniac, Much Ado About Nothing, Quartet, Room 237, The Sapphires, Side Effects, Song for Marion, Stand Up Guys, Stoker, To the Wonder, Trance, Upside Down, Upstream Color, Violet & Daisy, Welcome to the Punch, White House Down.
And finally, here are some statistics:
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Average Score: 72.55
My Average Score: 69.22
IMDb Average Score: 66.05
Rotten Tomatoes Critics Average Score: 56.55
So there you have it… What’s your favourite movie of the year so far, and your least favourite? I won’t put a poll because there are just too many titles, so let me know in the comments!
Despicable Me is one of those universally loved movies. It’s charming, entertaining, heartfelt, and hilarious. Since Monsters University showed that families are willing to spend good amounts of money on animated flicks, Despicable Me 2 is in great condition. And, families might have held out on that – to wait for this. Movies similar to this open to $42.52 million. Despicable Me opened to $56.39 million. There is only three years between the original and this sequel, and that’s great in the animated realm – considering the movies take so long to make. (And there’s a Minions movie coming out December 2014! Woo-hoo! I love those little guys. It’s funny to think that they weren’t made into big henchmen because the studio didn’t have enough funding.) This is one of my most anticipated movies of the year – if not the most anticipated – so to say I’m excited would be an understatement. DM2 has scheduling to its advantage, because Monsters University came out 12 days ago, and that’s almost its only main competition. There’s also the PG-13 rated The Lone Ranger for family audiences and Western movies fans – but I’m not sure how many families will choose that over this. While I don’t think this will exactly manage $100 million in its first 5-day frame, I think it will get close to it; so I’m predicting a $98.3 million opening.
The other main film debuting this weekend is The Lone Ranger, a Western starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger; and it is from the creators and director of Pirates of the Caribbean. I think Johnny Depp will give a very similar performance to that of Cap’n Jack Sparrow – but it’ll still be entertaining, nonetheless. I don’t have many expectations for the movie – so hopefully it’ll surprise me. And hopefully it’s decent, too, because the last Pirates disappointed the hell outta me. Movies similar to this open to $43.27 million. I think the scheduling will really screw this up, though. I think this could be a decent money-maker, but the reported $250-million budget is a bit insane. And whoever thought Disney would ever earn that money back is very insane. It doesn’t seem to use a whole lot of CGI, so a good chunk of that must went to Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski. Anyway, I’m predicting $51.7 million for its first five-day frame. I think it’s more than likely Disney will be crying about this one for awhile.
Here’s how I see the top 10 1.Despicable Me 2: $76, 300, 000 (5-day: $98.3 million) 2.The Lone Ranger: $35, 700, 000 (5-day: $51.7 million)
3. Monsters University: $24, 075, 000 (my review)
4. The Heat: $23, 600, 000 (my review)
5. World War Z: $15, 050, 000 (my review)
6. White House Down: $13, 475, 000
7. Man of Steel: $10, 625, 000 (my review)
8. This is the End: $5, 600, 000 (my review)
9. Now You See Me: $3, 950, 000 (my review)
10. Fast & Furious 6: $1, 850, 000 (my review)
Comedy movies have performing fairly well so far this year. A few bombed (Movie 43), a few opened to expectations (This is the End), and a few impressed (Identity Thief). Now, it’s time to see how the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy buddy comedy will perform. I think it will out-do Identity Thief, but not by a huge amount. It seems extremely vulgar, but funny. This is going up against White House Down and the competition of World War Z, and Monsters University in their second weekends. This and WHD are in a real battle of the sexes. I’m looking forward to seeing this, and movies similar to this open to an average $24.68 million. Melissa McCarthy is pretty popular, as well. I’m indifferent about her; I like on her on TV’s Mike and Molly, but I’m not a huge fan of the kind-of role she plays in Bridesmaids: dirty and vulgar. I don’t hate that role, because it’s good once or twice, but I think it’s going to become tiring very quickly. I think the role could be gold, however, matched up with Sandra Bullock. And director Paul Fieg. I think this could find some great success this weekend, mostly because there aren’t many other films targeting females in the market right now (and so many are for men), so I’m predicting it at $41.9 million.
White House Down looks pretty good, but it’s as if we’ve already seen it earlier this year with Olympus Has Fallen. That movie earned $30.37 million in its opening weekend, so this really should gross more than that surprise hit, with bigger stars and director. I also think the advertising campaign is kind-of brilliant, in the way that they only portray the villain as a familiar voice. I think it really adds to the mystery of it all. Movies similar to this open to $31.25 million. Channing Tatum has an average opening of $22.6 million. Jamie Foxx has an average opening of $19.2 million. Roland Emmerich, the director, has an average opening of $39.15 million, which I think is the ideal ballpark for this. His movies are almost always lots of fun (even though one of his more serious pictures, Anonymous, was very boring). In this weekend’s battle of the sexes, I think this actioner will lose to The Heat and earn $40.3 million. The two movies might just be going head to head all weekend.
1. Monsters University [review]: $44, 900, 000 2.The Heat: $41, 900, 000 3.White House Down: $40, 300, 000
4. World War Z [review]: $28, 160, 000
5. Man of Steel [review]: $23, 600, 000
6. This is the End [review]: $8, 500, 000
7. Now You See Me [review]: $5, 300, 000
8. Fast & Furious 6 [review]: $3, 345, 000
9. The Purge [review]: $2, 400, 000
10. The Internship: $2, 100, 000
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo
Runtime: 115 min
The summer of 2013 hasn’t been an incredible season for originality thus far. There have been sequels (Fast & Furious 6, Iron Man 3, et cetera), book adaptations (The Great Gatsby), and not-so subtle rip-offs of better movies (Peeples). The time for pure originality has finally come with Now You See Me.
This follows an FBI agent and an Interpol detective who track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.
NYSM is unlike anything else you’ve seen this year. You might think of this as Ocean’s Eleven with magic, especially if you watch them back to back. This is still a truly fun movie that feels fresh. There’s concepts of justice that are explored well. This works as a great show of showmanship, and as a great bank heist caper.
Its originality is easily admirable; it really is one of 2013’s most original films. For such a fun movie, it is also thought-provoking. It’s intriguing throughout, and often unpredictable. You’ll love every one of these characters, because they are all charismatic. The team of illusionists, called the Four Horsemen, are true entertainers. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is the classic magician who knows all the best card tricks, and he’s very smooth with his words. Eisenberg’s sarcastic wit and arrogance fits the role. Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is a mentalist, who could read your thoughts. He’s one of the funniest characters. Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is an escape artist, and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is a pickpocket. This crew really knows how to sell tickets. If you thought you’d really like to attend a live showing of The Ellen DeGeneres Show because you might receive free electronics; imagine attending one of these and receiving large sums of money. (Count me in!)
The FBI agent hot on their tail is Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), who’s also a hot-head and isn’t an expert at maintaining his resolve. That’s an appropriate character for a guy who portrays The Hulk, isn’t it? Morgan Freeman portrays Thaddeus Bradley, a former magician who now makes money by showing audiences how other magicians pull off their illusions. Mélanie Laurent plays the Interpol agent who teams up with Ruffalo. Michael Caine is the big man who gave the Four Horsemen their attraction at his hotel. Common is also there, just because he seems to show up in every movie. As you can see, the cast is one of the year’s finest ensembles.
The story and the cast are the movie’s strongest aspects. It’s endlessly entertaining and admirably unpredictable. The story wants you to believe in magic, and embrace the wonder of watching an illusion on-stage. It’s the mystery of magic; the wonder, that makes it so special. One usually doesn’t know how the trick is done, and that’s a problem for the movie… It shows how some of the tricks are done. Many might not like this aspect because some like to remain in the dark about the illusion; and it just extinguishes some of the magic of it all. The best tricks are the ones we are in the dark about. The movie’s visuals are very cool. The impressive visuals might just leave you with a look of awe, just like you might be attending the Four Horsemen’s show in Vegas. The direction is only decent. Of course the movie is flawed, so don’t look too closely. It’s fun on the surface, and thought-provoking underneath, but it’s shaky because it gives away some of the tricks.
Regarding movies that deal with magic, this is definitely better than The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. It’s an entertaining thriller that comes together in the end and answers most of the questions. Some questions go unanswered, but I think that’s just the point – like every good magic trick, we don’t need to know how every little thing is done. It leaves one or two things in the dark; but that’s precisely what helps this movie linger in the mind. This has a great and original premise and it has more than a few surprises up its sleeve. It’s compelling, clever, funny, thrilling, memorable, and most importantly; pretty damn magical.
After Earth might do pretty well this weekend, but it also might suffer under the shadows of summer blockbusters. Those who see it will be seeing it for Will Smith, I’d think. No one’s going to say “I’m seeing this for M. Night Shymalan because he’s been on a real hot streak.” The story isn’t intriguing, but the creatures are pretty cool-looking. Oblivion opened to $37.04 million, so I’ll be going with a prediction around that number. Will Smith isn’t quite a big of a star as Cruise right now, mostly because Smith only made his way back to the acting game last year with MIB3 after a four-year hiatus, which he took after 2008’s Seven Pounds. Smith has an average opening of $37.7 million, and this will gross right around there, I’d think. Shyamalan’s average opening gross is $36.68 million. Movies similar to After Earth open at an average $46.97 million, but I think this will earn right around Super 8‘s $35.45 million or Oblivion‘s $37.04 million. My prediction for this is $34.3 million.
Now You See Me looks really, really intriguing, and I’m excited for it. I hope it doesn’t disappoint. (I might have to lower my expectations a little.) The cast is great; it includes Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, and Mark Ruffalo. I think this won’t gross as much as I’d want it to, but I think it can manage at least $20 million. It might have a hard time battling off with the big titans of the summer, though. It looks like it’ll amaze with its cool showmanship. Jesse Eisenberg’s average opening is at $21.21 million, and I think this will open right around that or a little above it. Morgan Freeman’s average opening gross is $27.25 million, and Woody Harrelson’s is $20.33 million. This makes me think of The Prestige (which grossed $14.8 million in its opening). My prediction is $24.7 million. I think this will stand out as one of summer’s most original features, and, to quote Morgan Freeman from the trailer, I really think this is “going to amaze.”