The year in film: Best & worst of 2013

By Andrew J. Concatelli - ReminderNews Assistant Editor
Connecticut - posted Tue., Dec. 31, 2013
Tom Hanks stars in ‘Captain Phillips,’ a highlight of the year in film. Columbia Pictures, 2013. - Contributed Photo

Calling any movie definitively “the best of the year” is impossible, because taste is subjective. Instead, I present my own personal favorites (and least favorites), knowing there may be many disagreements.


It was truly a fantastic year for films, so narrowing a list down to my top 10 favorites was not easy. In fact, I failed at the mission, so here are numbers 11 through 15: “Dallas Buyers Club” featured an impressive performance by Matthew McConaughey, who transformed body and spirit for the film. “Rush” has a breakthrough role for Daniel Bruhl, as a complex race car driver with a nasty attitude. “Philomena” made me see Judi Dench in a new light – as a regular person with an emotional family history. “Star Trek Into Darkness” gave the sci-fi franchise some retro cool with a moody twist, and “Monsters University” came close to the charm of its classic predecessor.

10. “Warm Bodies” – A clever zombie love story with a surprisingly sweet and hip tone. The sarcastic narration by the protagonist gives it some zing.

9. “The Way, Way Back” – This coming-of-age comedy-drama should have been this year’s “Little Miss Sunshine,” but never quite caught on this summer.

8. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” – This is how you do a middle chapter of a series; It’s the action-packed “Empire Strikes Back” of this generation.

7. “Don Jon” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and starred in the most uniquely modern and edgy romantic comedy you’ve ever seen.

6. “This is the End” – The most fun I had at the movies this year. The wildly original, filthy and outrageously funny apocalyptic comedy is filled with stars playing “themselves,” and has to be seen to be believed.

5. “Before Midnight” – Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have played these characters three times over 18 years, showing the kinds of connections and cracks that real relationships go through. It’s emotional whiplash – in a good way.

4. “The Spectacular Now” – This gently soulful story about two teens dealing with serious issues like love and addiction feels very authentic, and nails the angst of the age. An under-seen gem.

3. “12 Years a Slave” – The story of a black musician kidnapped and sold into slavery is both a powerfully scary history lesson and an intense look at the human spirit (with superb acting).

2. “Gravity” – In the best use of 3-D I’ve ever seen on film, director Alfonso Cuarón puts you in space alongside Sandra Bullock for a dizzying, thrilling ride you will not soon forget.

1. “Captain Phillips” – The pulse-pounding suspense created here is miraculous, given you already know the ending. Tom Hanks simply astounds.



And now, to present my list of the 10 films I reviewed this year that I hope never to see again:

Just missing this unenviable list is Baz Lurhmann’s fever dream version of “The Great Gatsby.” I love the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and Leonardo DiCaprio is growing on me as he matures, but an anachronistic Jay-Z-filled soundtrack and an all-green-screen 1920s New York City combined to make an over-stylized nightmare.

10. “Man of Steel” – This re-boot of Superman meant well, and Henry Cavill looks the part, but the magic just was not there. (Nevertheless, the sequel is on its way!)

9. “The Hangover Part III” – The guys returned to Vegas for another formulaic and raunchy romp, but probably should have stayed home.

8. “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” – The alleged “comedy” starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey as magicians kept repeating one joke – and it was never funny.

7. “A Good Day to Die Hard” – Bruce Willis is back as John McClane! In Russia! With his son! And they yell a lot! And EVERYTHING explodes! Ridiculous slow-mo violence at its worst.

6. “Jack the Giant Slayer” – As my review’s headline said at the time, it was “Fee Fi Fo-rgettable.” And that’s honestly all I remember about this movie.

5. “Identity Thief” – A very mean-spirited and cruel film. For better fun with Melissa McCarthy, see “The Heat” instead.

4. TIE: “The Family,” “Stand-Up Guys” and “Gangster Squad” – Rare misfires from the power-house trio of legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Sean Penn, respectively.

3. “The Lone Ranger” – Director Gore Verbinski’s manic action is the definition of “overblown,” and Johnny Depp’s “native” accent bordered on offensive.

2. “After Earth” – Speaking of accents, why do Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden talk so strangely as they bond over broken legs, plot holes and bad effects in this sci-fi disaster?

1. “The Counselor” – It wasted a tremendous cast (Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz) on a bleak, bonkers, disgusting and indecipherable story. My sister came with me to see this one, and I’m still apologizing to her for it. Sorry!

Read full movie reviews at Send comments and your own list of favorite films of the year to

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