Year in Review: 15 Great Films You May Have Missed in 2013

by     Posted 216 days ago

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Every year, there are plenty of great films, but some fall through the cracks and others are overshadowed.   While we’ll have our Top 10 of the year lists near the end of 2013, we wanted to share with you some movies that may have slipped past your attention.  There are films like these on our Top 10 lists as well, but we didn’t want to be redundant, and we wanted to bring attention to more films.  These movies either had too limited of a release or they were dismissed because they looked bad or the premise was deemed too cheesy.  Whatever the reason, they have the potential to be a cult classic in the making or at least a movie you’ll probably be sharing with your friends.

Hit the jump for Matt, Dave, Adam, and Brendan’s choices for great movies you may have missed this year.

You’re Next (my review from the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival)

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The common thread through my selections is that they all played at film festivals.  Film festivals are great.  They’re also regional and expensive, and when my fellow critics and I go to festivals and see great movies, we hope they’ll eventually reach the wide audience that couldn’t attend.  You’re Next spent a long time in festival hiatus.  It premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, played Fantastic Fest to great acclaim (there was a painting of one of the killers on the exterior wall of the South Lamar Drafthouse), and then You’re Next went silent in order to organize a marketing push.  The home invasion horror-thriller resurfaced at SXSW 2013 before building up to an August 2013 release.  It was a long road that unfortunately ended in whimper, but like my other choices, I believe movie will find its audience eventually.  It might even play better at home.  Just make sure you watch it with the lights off, the doors locked, and away from the windows. — MG

The Kings of Summer (formerly titled Toy’s House)

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This film could have been made twenty years ago and worked just as well.  There’s a timeless quality of three adolescents running away and trying to live off the land, although they discover that while the shelter is possible, survival requires at least some Boston Market.  Every guy who watches this movie should see at least a little of themselves in the main characters whether it’s fighting over a girl or being the weird third wheel.  Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts never hits a false note, and the performances are terrific, particularly from Moises Arias and Nick Offerman. — MG

Bad Milo (my review from SXSW back when the film was called Milo)

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Between this, In a World…, and the final season of Eastbound & Down, Ken Marino had a great year.  Granted, not many people watched any of these, but he’s a consistently terrific actor, and I hope he’ll breakthrough to a larger audience one day.  Bad Milo gave him a lead role, and it’s a special kind of actor who can convincingly play against a colon demon puppet.  Additionally, director and co-writer Jacob Vaughn‘s decision to go practical helped make the flick feel like a cruder, more juvenile, R-rated Gremlins. — MG

A.C.O.D.  (my review from Sundance)

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Although it was a light-hearted comedy with plenty of great actors, A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce) failed to really catch on.  Granted, it’s tough for any smaller film to really standout during the summer, and the title could have been a bit of a detriment.  It didn’t help that the poster was so bad even star Adam Scott mocked it.  The film itself is a solid flick, and Scott once again proves he can absolutely carry movie.  If this ever lands on Netflix Instant, I can see it landing in people’s queues.  If you add it to yours, watch it A.S.A.P. — MG

Drinking Buddies

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I had never seen a Joe Swanberg movie until Drinking Buddies, and if the rest of his work hadn’t been thoroughly trashed by people I trust, this film would have led me to check out the rest of his filmography.  As it stands, the people who dislike Swanbergs films like Drinking Buddies, and I like it too.  It has a loose, lived-in feel without falling into mumblecore traps.  The film nails the platonic relationship between two people that can be disrupted if one of them becomes single.  All of the lead actors turn in strong work, but the standout is Olivia Wilde who gives one of the best performances of her career.  She plays her character, Kate, with a mess of insecurities and posturing, but without irritatingly “cute” neuroses.  Coupled with her brief role in Her, it’s incredibly rewarding to see Wilde continue to grow as an actress, and I can’t wait to see her in more roles that take advantage of her talent. — MG

20 Feet from Stardom

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2013 has been a great year for documentaries, but one that’s been flying a bit under the radar is 20 Feet from Stardom.  The film puts a spotlight on backup singers and their role in some of the most iconic songs of all time.  It’s hands-down one of the most entertaining films of the year, but it’s also surprising.  The film reveals that many famous vocal riffs throughout the years (including The Rolling Stones’  “Gimme Shelter”) were sung by the same small group of incredibly talented backup singers, and it also explores why many of these women never went on to find success as solo singers. – AC

Mud

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The “McConaissance” is in full swing, and while Matthew McConaughey is currently garnering well-deserved awards attention for his lead role in Dallas Buyers Club, he’s also pretty great as the title character in director Jeff Nichols’ drama Mud.  The film has an almost fairy tale-esque quality as it takes place in rural Arkansas and revolves around two young boys who discover a mysterious man on the run while exploring the Arkansas River.  McConaughey turns in great work as the aforementioned Mud, but the young Tye Sheridan more than holds his own as the film’s lead character.  The film is a tad on the long side, but it’s definitely worth your time. – AC

Prince Avalanche

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Paul Rudd will soon be bandying about in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Ant-Man, but the versatile actor went very, very small for David Gordon Green’s drama Prince Avalanche.  The entire film has a total of two main characters and one supporting character, as Rudd and Emile Hirsch share the majority of the film’s screentime alone.  The two play workers who are spending their summer repainting traffic lines in the middle of a country highway, and it’s a wonderful little character piece.  The pic got a lost a bit in the shuffle of other major releases in August, but I highly suggest giving this funny, sweet, and thought-provoking movie a shot. – AC

Stoker

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What an odd film this is.  Director Park Chan-wook—who most know as the filmmaker behind the South Korean revenge thriller Oldboy—made his English-language debut earlier this year with Stoker, a horror film under the guise of a family drama.  The pic is in the vein of an Alfred Hitchcock suspense thriller, but it’s a decidedly artful piece of work.  The pace and structure might have been off-putting to some, but it’s a wholly involving film that includes fantastic performances from its three leads: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode.  Wasikowska is wonderfully chilly as a young girl who, after her father’s funeral, strikes up a friendship with her mysterious Uncle Charlie (Goode), and Kidman is swell as the domineering matriarch.  Give it a watch and soak it all in. - AC

To the Wonder

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Coming off the majesty that is The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s latest film, To the Wonder, fell rather short for many critics.  Though it’s not a slam dunk like the filmmaker’s 2010 effort, To the Wonder is a fascinating portrait of love, infidelity, and mistakes that plays more like a tone poem rather than a feature film.  Yes, there’s a lot of twirling, but Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and the relationship journey between the core duo—played by Olga Kurylenko and an almost dialogue-less Ben Affleck—is told in a unique way. If you weren’t crazy about the more esoteric nature of Tree of Life odds are To the Wonder isn’t for you, but if you’re a fan of Malick’s work I’d urge you to at least give this one a chance. – AC

Snitch

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Although Dwayne Johnson was all over the place this year, his most subtle performance appeared in the little-seen Snitch.   From writer-director Ric Roman Waugh comes this tale of a father going undercover for the DEA in exchange for his being released from prison for a wrongful drug charge.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Sounds like just another brainless actioner with Johnson knocking people through walls.”  Couldn’t be further from the truth.  While it does eventually rely on action-heavy sequences, Snitch actually takes Johnson super-hero status down a notch.  One scene in particular sets him up as the expected one man ass-kicking machine, but quickly knocks him back to Earth bloodied and bruised.  It’s not a perfect film, but it’s an interesting role for Johnson that also acts as commentary for the backwards legal system in the U.S.  Barry Pepper, Susan Sarandon, Jon Bernthal and Michael K. Williams also star.  Read my review here. – DT

Epic

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One of the few animated stand-outs this year, Chris Wedge’s Epic never managed to take advantage of its impressive star power.  Featuring Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Aziz Ansari, Colin Farrell, Chris O’Dowd, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Christoph Waltz and Beyoncé Knowles, Epic only just out-earned its budget domestically and did a bit better worldwide.   It centers on a teenager (Seyfried) struggling to reconnect with her estranged father (Sudeikis) when she finds herself magically shrunken to walk amongst the magical Leafmen, whose very existence her father has spent his life trying to prove.  Though the movie features lots of goofy humor aimed at the kids in the audiences, there are some amazing action sequences that take place between the protectors of life and the harbingers of death and decay.  It’s a wonderfully magical film, and a FernGully: The Last Rain Forest for a new generation. - DT

The Last Stand

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If you missed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen, you’re not alone; lots of folks missed Kim Jee-woon’s American film debut with The Last Stand.  That’s a shame since this was one of those old-fashioned action flicks that is all about the popcorn.  Schwarzenegger shows a little bit of rust in the movie, but the supporting cast (including Jaimie Alexander, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Luis Guzman, Peter Stormare and Zach Gilford) round the movie out with humor, heart and a hail of bullets.  The premise, while goofy, boils down into a simple stand-off between the good guys and bad guys.  It’s a helluva lot of fun to watch the fireworks go off in the third act, so give this one a second chance. – DT

Beautiful Creatures

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Feeling burned out on YA romance novel adaptations?  It seems that the Twilight-fatigue of audiences sapped the strength of other movies marketed in the same vein.  Beautiful Creatures, adapted from the novel by authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, shares some elements of the paranormal romance but the movie was a wholly different experience.  A star-crossed love story told in a lavish Southern Gothic style, Beautiful Creatures has another unique thing going for it: the fact that it’s seen through the eyes of the male protagonist, Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich).  While it’s not perfect by any means, it’s visually striking and different enough to stand apart from films that appear similar on the surface.  It’s worth a watch just to see Jeremy Irons chew his way through the beautiful scenery. – DT

Gimme the Loot

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Gimme the Loot is funny, sweet, and occasionally insightful at a brisk 81 minutes, which is more than you can ask for in a debut feature.   Writer/director Adam Leon previously worked as a production assistant on Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending and Melinda and Melinda, and you can see the connection in the way Leon revels in the New York summer setting and his taste for farce.  But the two leads—a pair of black teen graffiti writers from the Bronx—break the comparison.  Newcomer Ty Hickson is charming as Malcolm, but Tashiana Washington is a revelation as his tagging partner Sophia, especially when you compare Washington’s baggy-shirt tomboy character to her glamorous red carpet presence.  After making the festival rounds in 2012, Leon won the “Someone to Watch Award” at the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards before Gimme the Loot was released in a handful of theaters last spring.  Indeed, I look forward to Leon’s next project, and likewise hope Washington doesn’t slip through the cracks. — BB




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