Saturday, January 18, 2014

12 Years a Slave

I wanted to make sure I saw this film before it won the Academy Award for Best Picture (which I'm fairly certain it will). This movie has received a ton of critical praise over the last few months, and for good reason, as I'm about to explain. Having said that, I am not someone who enjoys or even consumes a lot of biopics in my movie-viewing. That's not to say that I cannot appreciate them for what they are, but it also presents certain problems when attempting to critically analyze a film like 12 Years a Slave. I see movies through a different lens than most moviegoers probably do, as I tend to critique each moment of a film twice; at the time I see it during the film as well as after the film has concluded. At the risk of sounding negative on this film, let me first assure you that this film is unequivocally tremendous, which doesn't necessarily mean that I thought it was perfect.

In 1841, Solomon Northup was a free negro who lived in Saratoga Springs, New York with his wife and two kids, working as a carpenter and a fiddler. After his wife departed on a business trip, however, Solomon was offered a job by a pair of apparently high-minded individuals before they showed their true natures by betraying Solomon and handing him over to slave-traders. Waking up in shackles and being kept in a basement several blocks from the nation's capital, Solomon was beaten every time he tried to explain that he was actually a free man. He was soon told that in order to survive he had to repress his memories and hide his knowledge of who he really was. Shortly thereafter he and a small group of similarly deceived people were transported to New Orleans, beginning his torturous twelve-year experience as a slave.

This movie is incredibly uncomfortable to watch, as I feel it needs to be. It establishes this tone right from the get-go as we see a side to slavery that isn't always thought about (and that is particularly horrifying to all in Solomon's position). Never before has a film so realistically depicted the tragedy and the day-to-day depravity that was slavery. It's a brutal, terrible thing to witness, but doing so is a small discomfort compared to the great lesson in history as well as the unparalleled cinematic perspective it offers. There's no way a film like this can be enjoyed for its entertainment value as it's more of a work of art than mindless escapism. And in that regard, it is truly a masterpiece.

Solomon's story is unthinkable, which makes it that much more powerful to watch this true story reenacted. Easily some of the best actors in the business are doing what is sure to be their best work to date in this film, whether they're playing sympathetic, conflicted, or downright deplorable. Chiwetel Ejiofor was absolutely astounding as Solomon, perfecting the quiet moments with as much precision as his emotional pinnacles. If he doesn't win the Oscar, it will certainly be a shame in my book (though I haven't seen Dallas Buyer's Club to judge Matthew McConaughey's performance, who is his biggest competition). 

Possibly even more impressive still is Michael Fassbender's fearless portrayal of the most evil slave owner imaginable. The misguided justifications he employs for his heinous crimes are possibly the most terrible thing about the character as he brutally attempts to break each of the people he regards as his "property". He plays an incredibly convincing antagonist, which is surely why he's nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.

Though she doesn't have much to work with, Lupita Nyongo does a good job of selling her inner turmoil. As the object of her slave master's desire, she knows she can do nothing to improve her position other than to give in to her master's wishes. However, her master is extremely jealous and violent, often lashing out in anger based solely on his suspicions and wild accusations. It's heartbreaking to see, and one particularly intense and devastating scene will probably stick with viewers forever.

This film also has the benefit of being scored by one of the greatest composers in the industry, Hans Zimmer. His haunting piece of music entitled "Solomon" captures the loss and sorrow of the man many came to know as Platt throughout his days as a slave. Zimmer also overcomes the audience with a dark, penetrating sound that highlights the cruel, nihilistic actions of evil men in an equally dark time of human history.

I've given this movie a whole lot of compliments that it completely deserves, so you're probably wondering why I didn't go with a four star rating. Though I seriously debated that myself, there were a few problems I found with the film that kept me from really feeling Solomon's plight (his separation from his family). Though I might be straying into nit-picking territory here, I honestly have to say that this film would have connected a little more with me on an emotional level if I had seen Solomon together with his family for a little longer before his abduction. To establish his home life in a mere scene or two sort of gives short shrift to the family that was taken from him and lessens some of the weight of the film's climax in my opinion. I also wish the movie had told me a little more about Patsey, as her character felt a little underserved by the story (other than the great performance).

Despite my few qualms with the film, this is a masterful historical piece with brilliant performances and top-notch film-making. It's a hard movie to watch, and therefore might not be something everyone will want to consume. Having said that, it's impossible to discount the insightful and at times horrendous glimpses of human behavior given in this film. Don't go to this movie if you aren't prepared for a depressing experience, but the education you receive will surely be worth the temporary discomfort. I give Twelve Years a Slave the strongest possible three and half stars.

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE is rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Most Anticipated Films of 2014

With so many big-budget hopefuls competing for the box office crown this year, I figured I would throw together a list of the films I am looking forward to most in 2014. Keep in mind this isn't necessarily a list of films that I think will be the best or the highest grossing, but rather movies I can't wait to see in the coming year. Given there are so many, I'm going to do the trendy thing and include a top 14 for the year instead of the usual 10.

Honorable Mention:   The LEGO Movie  (2/7/2014)
When I first heard they were making a "LEGO" movie I thought it was a stupid idea. Perhaps it still is, but the trailers have actually won me over in spite of my preconceived notions. The LEGO Movie boasts a pretty impressive cast of comedic actors and seems clever enough to appeal to both adults and kids. I'm managing my expectations, but part of me thinks this could be the break-out animation comedy of the year.

#14   Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles  (8/8/2014)
After the steep decline of the original live action TMNT adaptations, it has been a long road to a reboot for the heroes in a half-shell. With the polarizing Michael Bay (you'll notice the new Transformers film isn't on this list) serving as producer of this long-awaited return for the turtles, opinions are already mixed for most fans of the franchise. I for one have loved the ninja turtles since I was a kid, so for pure nostalgia alone I have to include this one on the list (even though my expectations aren't incredibly high).

#13   Maleficent  (5/30/2014)
Fairy tale adaptations are tricky and seem to go one of two ways in recent years. Either it's a raging commercial success (Alice in Wonderland, Oz the Great and Powerful) or it's an utter box office bomb (Jack the Giant Slayer). With a promising teaser trailer and the perfect casting choice in Angelina Jolie, this movie has a lot going for it that could lead to box office dominance. Not much is known about the story itself (though since it's based on a fairy tale there's only so much they can deviate), but hopefully the finished product can end up living up to its potential.

#12   The Monuments Men  (2/7/2014)
It's fairly well-known that this movie should have been an Oscar contender during the past year if it weren't for production delays that cost it its prime release date at the end of 2013. Now it's poised for release during the doldrums of the notoriously weak part of movie season, which should serve in this film's favor. Given that there are a gaggle of high-profile stars in a historical drama with plenty of comedic appeal (based on the trailer), I predict this one will clean up during the slow month of February.

#11   Muppets Most Wanted  (3/21/2014)
If anyone's read my top ten list from 2011, they'll know that I thoroughly enjoyed the first(ish) Muppet film starring Jason Segal and Amy Adams. When I heard there would be a sequel starring comedy geniuses like Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey, I knew this was going to be on my "most anticipated" list. Already the marketing for this film has employed some of the self-deprecating cleverness that the previous film brought to the table, and one can only hope that the film itself will live up to the hype.

#10   Godzilla  (5/16/2014)
After the disaster that was the 1998 Roland Emmerich film of the same name, Warner Brothers hopes to infuse new life into the famous lizard's legacy with 2014's Godzilla. I've been a huge fan of Godzilla since I was a kid, reading books in elementary school about the monster as well as the (horrible, in retrospect) cartoon featuring the titular monster's little brother, Godzuki. All that cutesy stuff is clearly gone with this film, however, and with a teaser trailer that hints at a darker, more serious tale, as well as a faithful adaptation of the character design and sound effects of the original Gojira, I can't help feeling pretty excited for this somewhat risky blockbuster hopeful. Plus it stars Bryan Cranston, which is always a plus.

#9   The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1  (11/21/2014)
Based on my glowing reaction to the last film, it may be surprising to some that the follow-up to the hugely successful Catching Fire is so low on my list. While I can honestly say that I still think this movie will be great, my pre-knowledge of the source material and the fact that it's the first in a two-part story limits my excitement for the final product. That being said, I'm sure it will be incredible to see District 13 come to life as the uprising really gets underway in this first film. It'll make a ton of money and I'm sure to be there opening weekend.

#8   The Amazing Spider-Man 2  (5/2/2014)
While I liked the first Spider-Man film it did suffer from its close proximity to the original Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire in the lead. There were a lot of things I enjoyed, like the new interpretation of the character by Andrew Garfield as well as the updated visual effects, but a lot of that first film felt slightly inferior. Despite these misgivings I instantly was won over after seeing the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Promising an escalation of super-villains to Avengers proportions, this sequel to the 2012 film could be the start of something massive. For sheer ambition alone this film gets a place on this list, and I can only hope director Marc Webb can pull off all of the amazing things this film is promising. 

#7   Transcendence  (4/18/2014)
As a huge fan of a certain producer of this film and of sci-fi films in general, this one was obviously on my radar. Coming off of a 5-film collaboration with Christopher Nolan as his director of photography, Wally Pfister takes over directing duties for this Johnny Depp starring mind-bender about a dying man transferring his consciousness into a computer. The premise is intriguing and the cast is absolutely phenomenal (Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, among many others). If all goes according to plan, this could be the surprise hit of the year and a great start to Pfister's future career as a director. 

#6 **tied**  How to Train Your Dragon 2  (6/13/2014)
Coming at the peak of cinema's obsession with 3D, 2010's How to Train Your Dragon was an immersive, visceral experience with moments of humor and heart-tugging emotion (helped immeasurably by the tremendous Oscar-nominated score by John Powell). When DreamWorks announced their plan to release a sequel in 2014, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. These kinds of animated sequels rarely pan out (see Monsters University), but the trailer as well as Powell's return make this one of my must-see films of the year. Hopefully the returning talent can create something equally as entertaining this time around.

#6 **tied**  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes  (7/11/2014)
I know this is the second tie I've allowed in the last two weeks of posts (see my best of 2013 list for my last tie), but I had to make a judge's ruling on this one. I feel equally as strong about the story, visuals, performances, and the score as I did for HTTYD (as its inclusion on my best of 2011 list will attest). The difference was the serious tone and the connection to a classic sci-fi franchise like Planet of the Apes. Even though this film is primarily in different creative hands, the new talent involved as well as the promising teaser trailer make me confident that this will be a worthy follow-up to the terrific Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Hopefully this will make an appearance on my best of 2014 list.

#5   Captain America: The Winter Soldier  (4/4/2014)
Though it wasn't my favorite of the Marvel movies leading up to The Avengers, I still greatly enjoyed the original Captain America: The First Avenger for what it was. Chris Evans did a great job portraying a sincerely heroic character that isn't always easy to pull off these days. With The Winter Soldier, however, Steve Rogers seems to be a little jaded after all the terrible things he's seen in this modern era. Promising to be a political thriller and with enormous action set pieces, this continuation of Marvel's "Phase 2" could potentially end up as the best Marvel film to date.

#4   The Hobbit: There and Back Again  (12/17/2014)
Coming off a killer cliff-hanger that ended The Desolation of Smaug, I am extremely excited for this year's culmination of all things Tolkein in this final installment of The Hobbit series. There and Back Again might not be the most action-packed of titles, but rest assured this could easily end up being the best of the trilogy. Fire and death will rain down upon the poor city of Dale, while armies of orcs assemble at the seemingly abandoned fortress of Dol Guldur for an all-out assault (hinting at a certain Battle of Five Armies). I cannot wait for this film, which also is supposed to tie in the events of the Hobbit films with the much loved Lord of the Rings trilogy. Let's hope this will leave the world of Middle Earth on the high note it deserves. 

#3   Guardians of the Galaxy  (8/1/2014)
This might seem like a strange choice for those not following the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they wouldn't necessarily be wrong. Indeed, Marvel is taking an enormous gamble by investing huge sums of money for such a little-known property as Guardians of the Galaxy. However it is the innate strangeness of it that excites me so much about this film. It's poised to be unlike anything we've ever seen before, and that can only be a refreshing experience for most moviegoers. I doubt everyone is going to love this film, but I for one cannot wait to find out what Marvel has cooked up in this odd-ball space epic. Expect a trailer with the upcoming release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

#2   X-Men: Days of Future Past  (5/23/2014)
Speaking of trailers, perhaps none of 2014's newly released trailers excited me quite as much as X-Men: Days of Future Past. I'm a pretty huge fan of the X-Men films and was excited for director Bryan Singer to finally return to the franchise where he revolutionized the modern comic-book movie back in 2000. With most of the cast from his original X-Men films returning (in small roles, most likely) as well as the entire cast of the excellent X-Men: First Class, this instantly became a film I can not miss. Even when actors like Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender are finding enormous critical acclaim with Oscar nominations and wins, they still find time in their surely busy schedules to return for an X-Men film (which is definitely an encouraging sign). This is another big gamble for 20th Century Fox, but from what I've seen so far it looks to have paid off. Can't wait for May 23!

#1   Interstellar  (11/7/2014)
Was there any doubt? As a HUGE fan of Christopher Nolan (see my reviews of Inception and The Dark Knight Rises for more on that) I've been following this project since it was first taken over by Nolan after his Batman trilogy ended. With a stellar (pun intended) cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, a mind-blowing concept, and an intriguing teaser trailer, this project has looked better and better the more I've learned about it. Almost all of Nolan's frequent collaborators such as composer Hans Zimmer are on board, all but guaranteeing the quality we've come to expect from Christopher Nolan films. Based on real-life theories regarding wormholes and time travel by theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, and written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan (The Prestige, The Dark Knight and TV's Person of Interest), this has all the ingredients to become one of the best science fiction movies ever made. Seriously.

*That wraps it up for my list! What movies are you guys looking forward to this year? Let me know in the comments section below and tell me why you're excited for it! Also, don't forget to like us on Facebook!

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Here is yet another time where my review is coming a little bit late in the game. 2013 hasn't been a terrific year for animated movies. The Croods was terrible, Monsters University was very lackluster, and Despicable Me 2 was good, but not great. After so much positive word-of-mouth and so many box office dollars brought in, I had to see if Frozen could finally break that trend. Surprisingly, I didn't hear a lot about this film until probably a month or two prior to its release, and even then the trailer failed to excite me very much. Only my incessant following of awards rumors gave me the slightest indication that Frozen would be worth seeing. 

Anna takes special pleasure in waking up her sister Elsa to make a snowman, but her excitement grows when Elsa's gift to generate snow transforms the ball room into a winter wonderland. However, as they play Elsa accidentally strikes Anna with her magic in a misguided attempt to catch her fall, and their parents immediately take extreme precautionary measures to protect both girls. Over the years Anna cannot play with Elsa anymore, and all the memories of her sister's gift have been taken away in order to preserve her life. However, on the day of Elsa's coronation a love-struck and naive Anna inadvertently brings out her sister's powers in front of their subjects, leading to her banishment and an eternal winter spreading over the kingdom of Arendelle. Not one to give up, Anna treks through the snow to not only save her freezing people, but also her guarded sister from a frigid self-imposed isolation before all hope is lost.

This film completely took me by surprise, particularly because part of me was expecting a watered-down version of Tangled. Instead, this ended up being one of the best and infectiously entertaining films of the entire year and one of Disney's better efforts. I couldn't help but be drawn in by the beautiful animation and the likable characters. What pushed this film over the edge for me, however, was the music. The songs were powerful, inspirational, and even heartbreaking at times, incredibly performed by Idina Menzel (Wicked) and Kristen Bell (who I had no idea was so musically talented). This song alone makes this movie a must-see.

As I said, the trailer for Frozen makes it look like a film primarily focused on entertaining children without much humor or character development that would appeal to all ages. I even went into this movie expecting the film to get a three star rating, which I always try to avoid doing. I was therefore surprised to find that Disney actually went to great efforts to make a film that everyone could enjoy (as the enormous box office receipts can attest). Even some of the sillier characters like the reindeer Sven and the magical snowman Olaf were far more amusing than I was expecting.

About halfway through the film, however, I thought I knew exactly where this film was going and was a little disappointed by my expectations. I started to lose investment in the story at this point, thinking that the creative potential this film had started out with in the first half was being squandered for a more stereotypical Disney-fied third act. Thankfully, the film threw me through a loop with its brilliant subversion of probably every audience member's expectations. The character of Anna is a great update on the average Disney princess (with a few exceptions), as she ultimately is the one who shows her strength instead of merely being saved.

In short, Frozen is a tremendous family film with a powerful and unique message that is definitely worth investing in emotionally (not that you'll be able to help it). It sets a new precedent for the power as well as the ultimate meaning of true love in a Disney film, and the incredible music and captivating visuals makes this not only the best animated film of the year (there's no doubt it will win the Oscar for Best Animated Film) but one of the best films of the year period. I was totally charmed by this film, and I give it a solid four stars.

FROZEN is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best Films of 2013

Well, it's that time of year again. 2013 is drawing to a close and I'm now obligated to formulate a list of my top ten films of the year. Some years this is a pretty simple task (see 2012 list), but that is not the case here. Just like last year there are some pretty major releases that I haven't caught up on that would most likely make this list (Saving Mr. Banks, Nebraska, Twelve Years a Slave, etc.). The following top ten list is only from films I've seen, so sorry if one of those isn't mentioned. Over the past twelve months I have seen over thirty films released since last January, very few of which were against my will and most of which (about twenty-two) I ended up liking to varying degrees. With that in mind, I'm going to start out with some films that I enjoyed but didn't quite make it into my top 10.

** Honorable Mentions**

The World's End

The funniest movie of the year has to at least get a mention. With some of the best British comedic talent available, this film capped off the cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) in terrifically clever fashion. Though it can be a bit crude at times, The World's End does a great job riffing on popular sci-fi elements while also telling a surprisingly nuanced story about the characters' reactions to maturity and adulthood. It's not for the faint of heart, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film and it certainly will reward repeat viewings.

A pleasant surprise coming in the usually disappointing month of March, Oz the Great and Powerful did a good job of setting up another adventure in the land we all know so well. Sam Raimi's focus on the internal conflict of the title character really brings this crowd-pleasing blockbuster to a slightly higher level.

While shooting a little below its potential, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty uses independent-film creativity to great effect with the aid of a budget rarely afforded such creations. Its message is pure (if not a little too straight-forward) and the likable performance of Ben Stiller makes this film about self-discovery worth the journey.

Quite an increase in quality after X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hugh Jackman and company are able to redeem the clawed X-Men with The Wolverine. Taking the invincible character and finding a way to make him vulnerable, this story brings a more tactile approach to the fantastical premise than its disappointing predecessor. It may be my bias for the setting, but The Wolverine is one of the year's best superhero films.

I can't tell you how tempted I was to put this one in my top ten. Taking a fairly original premise and giving it the ultimate blockbuster treatment, Guillermo del Toro creates an immersive and adrenaline-fueled world in Pacific Rim. I feel bad for all the people who weren't able to see this film on an IMAX screen. Some may say the story isn't great, but this is one time where the magnificent visuals are all that matters.

Top Ten Films of 2013

#10   Mud
This is a film that kind of snuck up on me. Were it not for Matthew McConaughey's involvement in Christopher Nolan's next film, I might not have seen this in theaters. Mud is a personal story much more about love than most people would think. McConaughey gives a stellar performance and the cinematography captures the scenery in remarkable fashion. I had to put this one on my list for the performances, the characters and the care the director put into each frame of this film.

#9   42
I'm a sucker for baseball films (MoneyballThe Natural, etc.), and I've always liked hearing about Jackie Robinson. Add to that Harrison Ford's involvement, and you can bet I was there opening weekend for 42. Thankfully, this film does justice to the man by honoring his enormous contribution to the civil rights movement as well as for the game of baseball. It's very moving to see these real-life events about an American hero, and I appreciate the respectful way he was depicted by Chadwick Boseman.

#8   Thor: The Dark World
Having thoroughly enjoyed the first Thor film, I was pleased to see that Marvel was stepping further into its "Phase 2" in a good direction. Playing heavily to the strengths of its cast, this film balances humor, action, and suspense in equal measure, even daring to take some risks unprecedented in the Marvel cinematic universe. It's a vast improvement over the previous Marvel entry, and I can only hope that this year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier can keep the momentum going for Marvel (spoiler alert: it will).

#7   Rush
I caught up to this one pretty late, so much so that I haven't even had time to write a formal review. Rush is a film about race car drivers, but it has much deeper messages being expressed. The antagonistic relationship between the two rivals is perfectly played by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, and the unfolding of their respective stories are fascinating to see. It is an R-rated film, but purely for throw-away moments that add nothing to the plot. It's really a good film, and if you're averse to R-ratings then this film would be a fairly easy one to clearplay.

#6 (tied)  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
While I really enjoyed the first film in the Hobbit series, I knew the second one was going to raise the stakes. Indeed, The Desolation of Smaug is an edge-of-your-seat kind of movie with spectacular action sequences and some of the best visual effects ever put on the big screen. With the tension rising and terrible danger imminent, Bilbo and his friends must face the titular dragon without the help of Gandalf. Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely kills it as Smaug, whose voice and facial expressions will send chills down your spine. I seriously cannot wait for next year's grand finale, There and Back Again.

#6 (tied)   Captain Phillips 
Perhaps the most intense movie I have ever seen (though another film on this list competes for that prize), Captain Phillips is a gripping experience. Based on the well-publicized true story, the film puts you as much in the moment as possible. Paul Greengrass (director of the Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatum) has a knack for capturing realism and pulse-pounding suspense. The main performance by Tom Hanks is worthy of all the acclaim it will receive in the coming months. Fair warning, however, once this movie kicks off (about ten minutes into its two and a half hour running time) it never hits the breaks until credits roll.

Though it isn't necessarily the best film of the year, Star Trek Into Darkness was perhaps the most entertaining. Building character development from the first film, it takes the crew of the Enterprise to a dark place indeed as they face off against the wonderfully frightening John Harrison. The visuals are remarkable and the performances are all top-notch, particularly Benedict Cumberbatch as Harrison. I consider this to be not only an incredibly fun movie, but the best Star Trek film to date. Though the series will definitely miss director JJ Abrams, I can't wait to see the film he's doing next.

#4   Frozen
As I mentioned in my review, this movie completely caught me off guard. The trailers don't do this film justice, and the characters, visuals, and (most of all) the music make this one of the better Disney outings in years.  It takes a very thoughtful approach and subverts audience expectations for these kinds of stories in the climax. Easily the best family film of the year and a must-see for fans of Disney animation at its best. While the story isn't necessarily groundbreaking as a whole, it's the overwhelming feeling of this movie that totally charmed me when I finally got around to seeing it.

There's something extremely satisfying about a film franchise that goes to great lengths to reward its audience. Adding an enormous amount to its budget, the latest film in The Hunger Games series has not only outstripped its predecessor in every way, but its also an improvement over its source material. The performances are all terrific, and Jennifer Lawrence is emerging as one of the best actors in the business. I'm encouraged to know that Francis Lawrence will return to direct the next two films in the series, which based on his work here, is only a good thing for Mockingjay fans.

This may be the most controversial choice on my entire list. Despite the strong box office receipts, Man of Steel has polarized the viewing population. You can read my full review for my complete thoughts, but suffice it to say that I remain a strong supporter of this film. Its visuals are some of the best I've ever seen, the score is phenomenal, and the story is inspirational while introducing new (and oddly relevant) ideas into the Superman mythos. I really considered putting this film at the number one spot, and will watch it again and again. That it will be completely ignored by the Academy for its technical achievements is a crime, but I unabashedly say that Man of Steel is one of the best films of the year and the best Superman film to date.

#1   Gravity
While my previous selection might elicit some backlash, this may be the safest choice on my entire top ten list. One of the best reviewed films of the year, it's tempting to demote it a few spots just to buck the trend. However, having seen this film in glorious IMAX 3D, I cannot deny the technical wizardry at work in this soon-to-be Oscar winning film. Gravity gives audiences the closest experience they will ever have to be in space, and Sandra Bullock's performance sells every second of it. The story itself is a rather simple one, but I couldn't help but connect with the fight for survival even while questioning whether it was even worth the effort. It's a tremendous achievement and I won't blame any Academy members for selecting Gravity.

Agree with my top ten list? Let me know in the comments which movies were your favorite from last year!

**Bonus Round**

Top Ten Scores of 2013

Anybody who knows me well could tell you that I really enjoy movie sores. I think they can be incredibly inspiring as well as entertaining. While this is just as subjective as any of my reviews or lists, here are my ten favorite scores for 2013 (I'll let the music do the talking).

#10   Thor: The Dark World - Brian Tyler

#9   The Book Thief - John Williams

#8   Saving Mr. Banks - Thomas Newman

#7   Captain Phillips - Henry Jackman

#6   Rush - Hans Zimmer

#5   Oblivion - M83

#4   Pacific Rim - Ramin Djawadi

#3   Star Trek Into Darkness - Michael Giacchino

#2   Gravity - Steven Price

#1   Man of Steel - Hans Zimmer

2013 Star-Ratings

Warm Bodies  -------------------------------------------------------------------->

Safe Haven   --------------------------------------------------------------------->

Snitch   ---------------------------------------------------------------------------->

Jack the Giant Slayer   --------------------------------------------------------> 

Oz the Great and Powerful    ------------------------------------------------>

The Croods   -------------------------------------------------------------------->

42  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------->

Oblivion   ------------------------------------------------------------------------->

Iron Man 3   ---------------------------------------------------------------------->

Mud   ------------------------------------------------------------------------------>

The Great Gatsby  ------------------------------------------------------------->

Star Trek Into Darkness  ----------------------------------------------------->

After Earth  ---------------------------------------------------------------------->

Now You See Me  ------------------------------------------------------------->

Man of Steel   ------------------------------------------------------------------->

Monsters University   ---------------------------------------------------------->

World War Z     ------------------------------------------------------------------>

Despicable Me 2   -------------------------------------------------------------->

The Lone Ranger   ------------------------------------------------------------->

Pacific Rim     -------------------------------------------------------------------->

The Wolverine ------------------------------------------------------------------->

Blue Jasmine  -------------------------------------------------------------------->

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters  ------------------------------------------->

About Time   ---------------------------------------------------------------------->

Rush   ------------------------------------------------------------------------------>

Gravity    --------------------------------------------------------------------------->

Captain Phillips   ----------------------------------------------------------------->

12 Years a Slave   --------------------------------------------------------------->

Thor: The Dark World   --------------------------------------------------------->

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire   --------------------------------------->

Nebraska   ----------------------------------------------------------------------->

Delivery Man   ------------------------------------------------------------------->

Frozen   --------------------------------------------------------------------------->

Saving Mr. Banks   ------------------------------------------------------------->

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug   ----------------------------------->

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues   ------------------------------------>

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty   --------------------------------------------->