Here we go again. 8 years after Iron Man kick started a blockbuster movie franchise that’s now 13 films in, Captain America: Civil War is less of an event movie than it is “a very special episode” of an ongoing serial or rather the cinematic equivalent of binge-watching a handsomely budgeted TV show in the span of 2.5 hours for all the positives and negatives that entails. After being thoroughly impressed with the last Captain America-centric movie helmed by Joe & Anthony Russo and penned by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Winter Soldier), this latest installment is less concerned with pushing these films forward the way that one did and more so with keeping things on brand. Despite a strong central concept and thesis, by focusing on “hitting its marks” with little fuss or any guts to do anything but color within the lines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) playbook, Civil War isn’t necessarily a great Marvel movie so much as it is the “Platonic Ideal” of a Marvel movie. It’s the best of MCU and the worst all at once.
American computer-animation studio giant Pixar has returned to form with another entry to the pantheon of great coming of age films. Inside Out is a film about the dawn of maturity. Most of the movie takes place in small moments in early adolescence. I would even go so far to say that Inside Out does that “small moments that define us” better than Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Inside Out is much clearer about how the things that make us erupt out of childhood and into the world of adolescence come. It’s clever enough to know that what makes us grow up is coming to terms with the complexity of our memories and experiences. This is Pixar’s most clever movie since both the Toy Story trilogy wrapped and Ratatouille.
Avengers: Age of Ultron, is the 11th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe®, the 2nd big Marvel team-up helmed by beloved nerd auteur Joss Whedon where Earth’s Mightiest Heroes™ must band together, squabble with each other, party together, argue and also save the world from a deadly threat unleashed by themselves. Apparently, The Avengers’ goal was for the world not to need them anymore, but it seems like the world will always need the Avengers as long as the Avengers are around. Which is kind of a metaphor for how this multi-billion dollar franchise of interconnected films has become. 11 films into this series have had their ups (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and downs (Thor: The Dark World) but mostly a lot of it has begun to feel middling (Guardians of the Galaxy). You can really feel the bubble that has been the Marvel superhero films begin to burst, if not strain with this iteration that provides a solid and entertaining time at best, but at worst seems like a 2 & ½ hour teaser for over 9 upcoming films. These films have essentially become their own marketing vehicles. However, there is an impressive spectacle on display here in the ways only a big Hollywood movie can provide, not to mention a fun character playhouse that only a theater-junkie like Whedon can provide when not pulled by the requirements of the ever-insular Marvel movie lore.
It takes a special type of magic to take something familiar and transform it into something extraordinary. And that is precisely what Kenneth Branagh did with his live-action adaptation of Disney’s Cinderella. To use a metaphor: the fabric of the story remains familiar, but with re-tailoring, it becomes something new and beautiful. This is exactly the Cinderella you know , no twists or turns: from the fairy godmother all the way down to the chubby mouse friends of Cinderella, the glass slippers, the handsome prince and all of the known story beats remain the same. However, this is all elevated by Kenneth Branagh’s direction and Chris Weitz’s sharply written script.. Branagh is know for lavish theatrical experiences that elevate expectations and Weitz is known for young adult fiction and film and together the interpretation they make of the fairy tale feels very much current, smart and timeless all at once.
Maybe “best” is a bit much, but there was certainly a noticeable abundance of acclaimed films in 2013, and more so than others.
At the end of every year and the beginning of the next everyone from serious critics to the random passerby begins to form a “top list” of the movies they had seen. It is a celebration of the merits of the films we enjoy and a means of people to have fun comparing and contrasting each experience they had at the movies. It’s not so much that these lists are some deep evaluation, but rather an entertaining way to group the stuff we like. While MY list summarizes my thoughts on SOME of the best films of the year, I will indeed be going more in-depth on most of these as we head towards award season, and when “spoilers” generally won’t be an issue.
So here are 10 movies (in no particular order) that HELPED make the case for 2013 as a strong year for films: