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J.D.'s Favorite Movies of 2013

Whenever I do one of these year-end wrap-up articles, I'm always struck with just how many freaking movies I see in a year. Of course, that number has dwindled slightly over the years. There was a time when I went nearly every week, sometimes twice. This year, I only got a chance to see 29 in the theater. I know, totally lazy.

Anyway, I didn't really go to a bunch of Oscar-caliber movies, since I rarely go to see that kind of film in the theater anyway. To me the big screen is for spectacle, and to justify the ever increasing price tag of going into a movie (even a matinee) it has to be important to me on a nerd level, too. That said, I feel I have more than enough to come up with a list of my favorites for the year. I've reviewed almost all of them, and you can find those reviews linked to each title.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - I may not agree with Peter Jackson's choice to extend the Hobbit into three films, but at least this one was a lot of fun. It was exciting, better paced than The Hobbit, and pretty funny throughout, and it also had one of the best realized CGI monsters I've ever seen. Seriously, Smaug is worth the price of admission alone. Although from what I understand, the scenes pissed off quite a few of the book fans due to how Bilbo interacts with him. I probably should get around to reading the bloody books at some point... shouldn't I?

Warm Bodies - To put it plainly, I loved this film. It was quirky and romantic and funny. The leads had chemistry, and it was a concept I hadn't seen before. There may be better zombie movies and better romantic comedies, but it didn't matter because I thought this film just worked. Sometimes a movie just hits you the right way.

Oz: The Great and Powerful - I loved the Wizard of Oz as a child. I've even read several of the books. Yet even though I love Oz, I had absolutely no expectations going into this film. Honestly, I thought to myself, how could this ever measure up? To my delight, this was like visiting an old friend you hadn't seen in years (which is partially true because I haven't read the books or seen the 1939 movie in well over a decade). The visuals were stunning, and built on the look and style of the original film. The performances were all pretty good, but mostly it was the supporting characters that blew me away. Especially the Little China Doll. I missed the music, but while I was watching I didn't care.

Byzantium - This is about as far a departure from Oz as you can get. This is a dark, bloody, adult, and slightly misogynistic film about two women who just happen to be vampires. It's beautifully shot by the director who did Interview With The Vampire, and stars Gemma Arterton (who starred in the wonderfully campy Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters earlier this year) and Saoirse Ronan (who led the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's other book, The Host) managed to drive the slow burn plot along well enough to keep me engaged the entire time. Also, the vampire mythology was unique and interesting.

Much Ado About Nothing (reviewed by Sunbunny) - I didn't get a chance to see this one in the theater, and I'm sorely disappointed that I didn't. It was marvelous. Amy Acker was fabulous, hell, the entire cast was. Even on a shoestring budget this was a brilliant version of a play that's been done to death. Now, if only we could get all my favorite Joss Whedon actors playing all my favorite Joss Whendon characters in a super meta home movie like this one.

... and my favorite film of the year is?

Gravity - I can't say enough how much I loved this movie. It hit every note just about perfectly. Acting, directing, sound, editing, effects... you name it, this film delivered. I pretty much glowed about it in my review, but this is without a doubt my favorite film of the year.

Honorable Mention:

Pacific Rim - Although I wouldn't call this film one of my favorites of the year, it was original and a blast to watch. It was like a big budget B-Movie combined with a real life Anime. I'm not sure if it would have the same impact on the small screen, but it is definitely one cool ride.


Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Host - None of these films turned out to be very good. In the end they were just pointless grabs for cash, banking on the remaining embers of Twilight mania. I can never understand why studios push out product without thinking seriously about how to make it good. If there are compelling characters, good writing and acting, logical and thought out plotting and interesting action, the movie will be good. You can't be successful in any movie series without those fundamentals. In all three of these examples at least one of those elements was sorely lacking.

Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Star Trek Into Darkness - Speaking of some of those fundamentals being missing... sigh. I think Thor was my favorite of these sequels. Still, I did like them all, and I thought they all had some brilliant moments of dialogue and effects. Unfortunately their flaws brought each down a few pegs.

Man of Steel - I so wanted this not to suck. And in a lot of ways it didn't. But it could've been SOOO much better. I truly hope the next installment is an improvement.

Overall I think this was a decent year of films. There were some hits and misses, but I'm not sure how well this year will be remembered for its movies. Of course only movie geeks like me keep track of release years and compare them.

Here's to a New Year with a bunch of great stuff like these films... maybe; Robocop, Monuments Men, The Lego Movie, 300: Rise of an Empire, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (it's Michael Bay so I'm not expecting much), Divergent, Noah, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow, and Transformers: Age of Extinction (also Michael Bay... damn), and that's just the first half of the year!

I wish you all a Happy Holidays!


  1. Much Ado ftw! I don't see many movies in theaters because I always feel like, if I'm not sure I'm going to love the movie, it's a waste of $20. The only ones from your list I've seen (besides Much Ado) are Iron Man 3 (on DVD...), Thor: The Dark World and Man of Steel. I'm not a big superhero person, and, as such, none of them blew me away. In fact I only saw Man of Steel so I could goggle at Henry Cavill for two hours. Damn that man is attractive. I'd say Thor was my favorite of the bunch. It was the best written and there were two gorgeous men to goggle at.

  2. I am ashamed to admit how many times I went to the cinema this year. That would be a grand total of once, and then only because my mom dragged me with her. Even more embarrassing is the fact that I have two Netflix envelopes sitting by my DVD player. They have been sitting there since May.

    I do, however, love your reviews, J.D. I read them all and always get a great sense of what the movie was like.

    Maybe one of my resolutions for 2014 will be to see more movies and less television...

  3. I haven't seen that many movies at the cinema this year, but I have enjoyed all the ones I did, although Man of Steel and Into Darkness could've been better.

  4. I don't get to the movie theatre much but I am now going to watch your recommendations at home. I am hoping to see the second Hobbit movie over the holiday break. Thanks for your reviews and this round-up!

  5. Warm Bodies is the sweetest zombie story ever. I believe it is the 1st and only time I'll ever utter "aww" over a zombie scene (when R hugs M after losing Julie).


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