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Top 10 films of 2013

It is somewhat apt that my recent update, the Top 10 films of 2013, be updated on 10/01 but its more pure coincidence then anything greater (of course it is - Ed.) In any case, enjoy reading my Top 10 films of 2013 below.

It has been some time since the blog has been updated. For avid readers of Honeyman-On, I apologise. With that said, let's run through the 10 best movies that have entertained this blog's own creator throughout 2013.

10 - Wreck-It-Ralph

In what can only be deemed a love letter to gamers around the world, Wreck-it-Ralph celebrates all that is great about video gaming and its nostalgia whilst telling a moving tale of titular character Ralph, sick of being the in-game villain and wanting to change his life by leaving the game (shocking).

Gamers will recognise the famous faces from gaming history that show up through the film's story such as Sonic, M.Bison, Qbert and Robotnik to name a few. Popular game genres are touched on with the introduction of the film's major characters such as FPS, platforming and kart racing. 

The animation is gorgeous throughout and although the story staggers a little in the mid-section Wreck-It-Ralph is a movie that can be enjoyed by gaming fans or general animation lovers alike.

9 - Django Unchained

Released right at the start of 2013, Quentin Tarantino's latest foray into cinema saw a German dentist and sure shot team-up with a liberated and vengeful slave in Django Unchained, a combination of revenge story, black humour and unsettlingly twisted movie detailed the horrors of the high era of American balck slavery.

In a return to form for Tarantino since Kill Bill vols. 1 & 2, the story of Django (played by the ever versatile Jamie Foxx) unravels as he is freed by Christopher Waltz's Dr. King Schultz in the film's introduction, after which we follow this unexpected duo as they make tracks to rescuing Django's love Brundhilde whilst executing several lawless and highly racist white criminals and slave owners along the way.

The performances by the above are nothing short of exceptional with genuine chemistry between the two throughout the film. Leonardo DiCaprio's turn as estate and wretched slave owner Calvin Candie is exquisitely delivered too and creates some very interesting and tense moments between the three later in the film.

If there's one thing that can be said of Django it is for certain an interesting and very Tarantino take on both the Western and revenge genres, uniquely melding the two with additional touches from the renowned film director himself.

8 - Man of Steel

What happens when you allow the director of films such as 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch to take directorial duties on the latest in the long-running franchise of perhaps DC Comics' most famous hero, Superman? Well you get Man of Steel from Summer 2013.

Zack Snyder and his team do a quality job of covering the origins story of Kal-El like never before as we spend the first 30 minutes of the film on Krypton from the point leading up to his birth and consequent jettisoning off into space before his homeworld explodes into millions of charmed fragments forever. 

It definitely allows MoS to feel unique of both the original Superman and Superman Returns as never before have we born such witness to the habitat, environment, creatures and technology of Krypton on film like we do here. It lays the foundation for Snyder to display his respect for the history and identity of Superman and I feel allows him to bring to the screen through his own directorial flare, well-crafted CG and a substantial budget that series fans have long desired for.

A recurring theme in this Top 10 is the quality casting of actors in these entries and MoS is no exception. Henry Cavill was pretty much waiting to play the part of Kal-El, Amy Adams gives an interesting portrayal and take on Lois Lane, Russell Crowe plays the character of Jor-El with correct levels of authority and wisdom, Michael Shannon captures what makes Zod so charismatic and powerful as a villain whilst adding fantastic layers to the character and an extended supporting cast do their best to not be slouches here either (only the likes of Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne, Harry Lennix et al.)

Although MoS has gone on to be yet another divisive entry in the world of The Last Son of Krypton the film's box office has proven that audiences have not only turned out to see and enjoyed the latest entry in the ongoing franchise but we are due for more interesting stories with the Man of Steel continuing next year with the upcoming and tentatively titled Batman vs Superman.

7 - The Conjuring

Although there was a reasonable temptation to place this higher in the list it just goes to show how good the quality of the films in this Top 10 are as a whole. Even so, The Conjuring happily belongs here as director James Wan shows once again why he is not only a great horror movie director (when he chooses to be) but how horror films can be genuinely frightening and chilling in equal measure.

Perhaps the film's mid-70s setting is partially to thank for helping to set the overall mood The Conjuring builds upon from our initial introduction to paranormal investigation couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The period is well captured as we learn of a case the two investigate regarding a potential haunting that is present at a family's farmhouse in the film.

In typical James Wan style cue several smart uses of sound and music throughout the film as the tension and fear builds for the audience with plenty of creaking cellar doors, crashes in other rooms, hands clapping from the darkness, presences in the shadows and of course at least one creepy possessed doll present during the film's run time. 

Seeing this in the cinema certainly hightened the tension felt in The Conjuring and comparisons made with The Exorcist through the subject matter of possession being dealt with in both films is a fair one to make. Definitely a film to see with the lights turned off and the sound turned up high!

6 - Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Perhaps one of the longest awaited sequel this century. Nine years hasn't passed by quickly but it doesn't appear to have made the staff and cast of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues any wearier as Ron Burgandy and his trustworthy news team return to the airwaves of a brand new 24-hour news channel straight out of NYC.

The humour from director Adam McKay and actors Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd et al. flows like wine here with the level of uniqueness and outrageousness that the first film captured so well. Familiar faces return with new ones that complement the brand of humour that the series is renowned for together with somewhat random elements of humour that somehow fit into the almost unreal world of Ron Burgandy.

The film does a grand job of bringing a good amount of sentimentality to the story too as Ron endeavours to balance his commitment to having beautiful salon hair and being a worthy husband and father to his newsanchor wife (played by Christina Applegate) and child.

It again harks back to the fall and rise of Ron and viewers may feel Anchorman 2 rides too firmly on the coattails of its predecessor 'like a wild tiger in the night' or something equally ludicrous. Thankfully the film homages the original to the correct degree whilst crafting its own identity and at the same time will please fans with the numerous cameos that are present in the film (everyone that is worthwhile in Hollywood and/or comedy must have said 'pick me' when the script for this was in the works).

Its really more of Ron Burgandy and his cohorts up to more antics in their surreal take on the news world of the late 70s - early 80s and if there's anything we can do, its God bless America for that.

5 - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The continuation of the film trilogy of one of J.R.R.Tolkein's greatest novels continued in cinemas this past December with the second of the three epics, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Somehow director Peter Jackson must have truly listened to detractors of this film's predecessor, An Unexpected Journey, as the pacing of Frodo, Gandalf and their trusted dwarvish company's journey is a much more efficient and satisfying affair here. Little to no time is wasted on introductions and meandering around to pad out the film's run time; the story continues swiftly as we follow our party to the Lonely Mountain in efforts to reclaim the riches therein from the impressive and shrewd dragon, Smaug.

Production is once again superb and proves to be a genuine viewing treat in 3D (and even more vibrant in the newer 48 HFR screenings also on offer). Costumes, vistas and locations all look superb as do the CG-generated creatures in the film such as Azog, a certain necromancer and especially when Frodo has his very dangerous encounter with Smaug in lair covered in mountains of gold. The production staff on The Desolation of Smaug can very happily take home the Oscars, Emmys and BAFTAs for all their hard work here.

The returning cast of Frodo, Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield are joined by the likes of Elfen king Thranduil (Lee Pace), Legolas (Orlando Bloom),  Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and the trustworthy and helpful oarsman Bard (Luke Evans). Although some additions to the cast were made to flesh out the content and relationships in the film they fit reasonably well into the overall setting and are likely to not displease neither dedicated fans of the novel and/or film alike.

Action is no slouch either with some excellent set pieces present in the movie, especially an extended journey via barrels through rapids from the Elfen city of Mirkwood that captures some impressive battling between its fair share of 'ninja' elves, dwarves and filthy orcs.

The Desolation of Smaug has restored some faith in this viewer for how the conclusion to this trilogy will turn out when There and Back Again is released this December. A brief special mention has to be given to SPOILERS for his excellent voicing of the grand and proud dragon Smaug as he perfectly conveys the mood and grandioseness of the wyrm that lies in the heaps of gold of the Lonely Mountain.

4 - Gravity

The poster above says much of how this film ever so capably managed to grip, hold and maintain my attention literally from its beginning to when the credits began to role. Alfonso Cuarón's latest film which deals with a disaster that befalls two very unlucky astronauts in Sandra Bullock and George Clooney encompasses the dictionary definition of tension as of November 2013 onwards.

Where to begin with Gravity? Perhaps 'the' best use of 3D since the much-lauded film Avatar by James Cameron? Maybe the photography and direction throughout the film which not only captures some amazing views of outer space and planet Earth but also some very unique continuous shots that can claim the title of being firsts for the medium?

Does attention need to be paid towards the movie's sound design which captures the mood of every scene accurately and beautifully as the audience is placed into the scene via either lack of sound in space (no vacuum, naturally), the impact of space debris on metallic surfaces or the minimalist soundtrack that compliments the mood at any given time in the film perfectly? Or should we direct our attentions to the pitch perfect performances of Ms. Bullock and Mr. Clooney herein as they remind us why they are not only some of the most respectable actors in their profession but also how you can so easily forget you are watching people act in a film and become engrossed in the experience?

Honestly, a combination of all the elements helped greatly to make Gravity more than just a film; it became an experience. That is not an honour many films enjoy at all but Cuarón and his team achieved something incredibly special with this film. They were entirely capable of taking the audience not only into the film's world wholly but making you believe you were there as a viewer. A fantastic work of film that is rarely achieved in modern cinema and I will be not be totally surprised if Gravity turns out to be a future classic in the making.

3 - Stoker

This film came out of nowhere for me. A highly recommended film by a close friend, Stoker is Korean director Park Chan-Wook's first foray into crafting a film specifically for a Western viewing audience. As first efforts go here we have an impressive offering.

From a script penned no less than former lead star of Prison Break, Wentworth Miller, comes a tale of a family that is very much 'other' in several respects. Perhaps the masterstroke of Stoker is how even though we have respectable and well-known actors involved (Mia Wasokowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman to drop names) the material they get to work with is anything but your typical drama-cum-thriller of a film.

Chan-Wook and his production team shows here how combining the correct elements with brilliant execution and an experienced auteur's hand can not only result in a highly original film in themes and appearance but also transcend traditional genre boundaries (the mark of various great works).

So not only is the film's content challenging, unique and engaging for its audience but the use of colours, music and symbolism throughout the film all add additional layers either explicitly or discreetly to create a highly creative film that one hopes will be talked about at length for its content and how the messages within can be interpreted in various different ways.

No surprise those things are typical of great works art that engage the viewer whilst refusing to hold their hands too much. Very unique, somewhat disturbing and very welcoming in my Top 10. A great start in Western film for Chan-Wook and Stoker makes me look forward greatly to this director's future film projects.

2 - Pacific Rim

And so it was that readers to the number of 0 were surprised that the above entry would make my Top 10 for 2013. Although this film didn't come onto my radar until last year rolled around, reading about the plot, concept, characters, creatures and director involved did much to raise my interest in what turned out to be one of last year's unashamedly largest (literally) Summer blockbuster movies.

Guillermo Del Toro has been well documented in showing his appreciation for older Japanese giant monster and robot films/series and this comes through in droves with Pacific Rim. Everything from the appearance of the Yaegers (the film's human-operated mechs) to the kaiju (the skyscraper tall creatures emerging from an immense fissure deep on the Pacific Ocean floor) to the locations and pilot suits looks distinct and fantastic.

Anyone with knowledge of Del Toro will be aware of the director's filmography with entries such as Hellboy, Blade II and Pan's Labyrinth showcasing the director and his production team's dedication to practical effects, make-up and a meticulous attention to detail throughout. Pacific Rim continues this trend and showed viewers what Del Toro could achieve with a budget of $190m in the giant robot genre.

The film's quality however doesn't rest solely in the visuals. Although the story is a reasonably straightforward 'save the human race from the invaders' tale and the characters somewhat stock and stereotypical they are serviceable to the movie's ongoing plot.

Of further interest are the film's concepts such as 'mind drifiting' which sees the dual pilots of the Jaegers share their thoughts in order to control their mech's movement and actions but also allows a dip into the past memories of these pilots, providing insightful and interesting levels of backstory for the characters involved. Scientists attempting to perform the same procedure with the kaiju via brain samples captured from past battles is another concept that results in some interesting paths for Pacific Rim's story to progress down.

Perhaps the success of Pacific Rim lies in how it makes any grown man who ever dreamed of piloting some form of mech in a real battle with giant alien creatures as a child revert back to that age again, at least whilst watching this movie. It may not succeed greatly in the areas of characterisation and carry a high quality script but for pure escapism and glee at seeing the action unveil on screen, Pacific Rim thwarted the competition for this viewer in 2013.

So, films #10 - #2 have been covered in the rundown of the Top 10 best films of 2013. What could possibly rise above the aforementioned movies such as Man of Steel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Gravity and Stoker? What film has been able to achieve the coveted #1 position in my Top 10 films of 2013? Unsurprisingly, see below:

1 - Prisoners

How can a director and his crew tackle a thriller right? How can they re-establish the benchmark for how a movie that leads the audience forward, keeping them guessing whilst not resorting to cheap resolutions or Deus Ex Machina as a means of tying up unresolved loose ends and plot threads? How can well-known be pushed to give performances that allow us to re-evaluate the credibility of said actors, perhaps in a greater manner as they push their skills and abilities into new and pleasing areas with their performances? Director Denis Villenueve and his latest film from 2013, Prisoners, shows us how.

The story of child abduction and how it affects the families and officials involved is in itself not a new concept but with Prisoners the execution of the story together with the performances of the actors involved by no less than Hugh Jackman as troubled and Catholic father Keller Dover (thrilling), Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki (complex) and Paul Dano as the retarded adult and suspected kidnapper Alex Jones (always interesting) is nothing short of perhaps their best to date. The supporting cast are also fantastic with Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo all put through their paces, providing powerful performances as the events unfold through the film.

The setting of the Thanksgiving holidays in the weather wrapped outer surburbian Pennsylvanian town are ideal for the overall tone of Prisoners, adding to the feelings of dread and tension that permeate the movie. At times amid a downpour, within a mild snowstorm or along the streets where thick snow has settled among the suburbs, the film utilises the differing weather conditions perfectly to reflect the mood and tone of the film throughout its run.

The twists in the film are satisfying and aid the film's overall pacing which for a picture with a 153 minute runtime never feels overly long or drawn out and compliments the story well. Script writer Aaron Guzikowski can win an award for writing a creative and riveting script that translated to screen beautifully and brought new potential out of the film's most renowned actors here. The payoff in Prisoners is equally as satisfying and although you will have to watch to see how the end pans out you will most certainly not be short changed with what could be the thriller of the last decade.

Whether Villeneuve, Jackman, Gyllenhaal, Dano, Leo et al. will receive any awards for their work here will be left to the judges at the various award ceremonies. For this film fan they can happily receive my award for being the #1 in my Top 10 films of 2013. That the film left such a lasting impression on me together with being a truly riveting and satisfying viewing experience all ties into why it owns the top spot in my rundown.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed my coverage of the Top 10 films of 2013. If you enjoyed this article, or if you have any comments or opinions you would like to express regarding the film choices and my opinions on them then feel free to either post them down below in the Comments section, or give me some feedback on my Facebook page or via my Twitter flow.

N.B Look forward to my special mentions of 2013 which will be up in the next few days.

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