David Vicari's Best and Worst of 2013

00:00 February 23, 2014
By: David Vicari
[Courtesy of Paramount Pictures]

10. Her -
A writer (Joaquin Phoenix) romances his computer's new operating system (voice of Scarlett Johansson) in Spike Jonze's smart meditation on loneliness and the disconnection of human interaction.
9. The Way Way Back - Here's a feel good comedy/drama of a shy 14-year-old boy (Liam James) experiencing a life changing summer vacation when he is befriended by a manager (Sam Rockwell effectively channeling Bill Murray) of a water park.
8. Don Jon - Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes a very impressive feature directorial debut with this sharp comedy-drama about a New Jersey stud so obsessed with porn that it skews his expectations about real life intimacy and relationships.
7. Enough Said - A divorced woman (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) begins a relationship with a client's ex-husband (James Gandolfini) in Nicole Holofcener's thoughtful romantic comedy. This is a bittersweet affair as it's one of the final, and best, performances by Gandolfini.
6. 12 Years a Slave - True story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. This is raw, intense, emotional and sometimes not easy to watch. At the center is a shattering performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor. I dare you not to shed a tear at the movie's final scenes.
5. Nebraska - Father and son (Bruce Dern and Will Forte) take a road trip to claim a sweepstakes prize in director Alexander Payne's often funny odyssey of a son getting to know his dad. Dern is phenomenal in a quiet, effective performance, and the black and white photography is simply gorgeous.
4. Philomena - Steve Coogan and Judi Dench star in this riveting mystery about a weathered political journalist helping a woman trying to find her now adult son, who had been adopted away by nuns when he was a child. And Stephen Frears' film is not without a welcome sense of humor.
3. Dallas Buyers Club - True story of an HIV-positive homophobe (Matthew McConaughey) who finds himself smuggling alternative drugs for combating AIDS into the U.S. Compassionate and heartbreaking with flawless performances by McConaughey and Jared Leto.
2. Gravity - Sandra Bullock stars as a medical engineer left adrift in outer space after a catastrophic accident and must figure out a way to make it back to Earth in this brilliantly conceived nail-bitter.
And my favorite movie of 2013...
1. Before Midnight - The first time in Before Sunrise, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) met as strangers, the second time, in Before Sunset, they met as old friends and, now, the third is a complicated union, as they are a couple with kids. Director Richard Linklater's third talk fest between these two characters is thoughtful, witty and adult.
Honorable Mentions - American Hustle, August: Osage County, Captain Phillips, Iron Man 3, Side Effects, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Spectacular Now and The Wolf of Wall Street.

10. Gangster Squad - Sean Penn sleepwalks through a performance as gangster Mickey Cohen in this lame Untouchables wannabe.
9. Identity Thief - Poor vehicle for Melissa McCarthy as a thoroughly obnoxious, and apparently indestructible, character who steals Jason Bateman's identity and goes on a spending spree with his credit cards.
8. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters - Here's a prime example of what is wrong with mainstream fantasy and horror movies today - cardboard characters slathered in CGI action.
7. A Good Day to Die Hard - It's time to put this series to bed. This fifth go around in the Die Hard franchise is an ineffectual action film with father and son (Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney) bonding over slaughtering evil Russians.
6. Red 2 - Geriatric spies return in this weary and unwanted sequel.
5. The Lords of Salem - Director Rob Zombie's dull homage to Roman Polanski thrillers like Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant. Nothing much happens, but we do get images of masturbating priests and crucified babies because, you know, that's all evil and stuff.
4. Aftershock - A massive earthquake hits Chile in this nihilistic torture porn disaster movie.
3. Kick Ass 2 - Forced, poorly written sequel to the irreverent comic book hero spoof is incredibly dumb and nauseatingly violent.
2. Movie 43 - A collection of skits with a big name cast tries too hard to be offensively funny. Instead it comes off as grotesque, mean and humorless. Those involved should really be ashamed to have been a part of this string of toilet jokes that will probably only entertain demented 13-year-olds.
1. Pain and Gain - Director Michael Bay takes a true story about three psychopathic body builders and wrongheadedly attempts to turn them into lovable antiheroes. It's truly troubling that someone thought this loud, gory, overbearing movie could pass for summer entertainment.

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