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article imageReview: Top 10 films of 2013 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 5, 2014 in Entertainment
The latter half of December was characteristically heavy with new releases that were destined to impress, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some winners earlier in the year.
10. Rush
While Days of Thunder mostly romanticized NASCAR before transforming the movie into an actual love story, this film repeatedly underlines the dangers of racing and remains focused on one of the '70s most famous rivalries. (Though it does give a nod to its predecessor with the inclusion of “Gimme Some Lovin’” on the soundtrack.) British playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and straight shooter Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) held a deep distaste for one another both on and off the track, but it was that merciless competition that pushed them both to be better. Director Ron Howard finds a suitable balance between the thrilling races and the spiky drama. Hemsworth is very convincing as the tomcat who also knows his way around a race track and Brühl is exceptional as the over-achieving German who makes up for personality with brains.
Untitled
D Films
9. The Attack
Terrorism is a complicated subject matter, especially when the filmmaker attempts to show an unbiased view of the act from the perspective of someone linked to the extremist. Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman) had no idea his wife intended to murder a café full of people. But when he discovers she was the bomber, he will not rest until he finds answers. The emotions conveyed in this film range from elation and admiration to outrage and disgust. Telling the story from the point of view of a Palestinian who built a successful life in Israel allows it to unfold without judgment while providing a comprehensive look at the varying attitudes in play.
A scene from  Inside Llewyn Davis
A scene from 'Inside Llewyn Davis'
Mongrel Media
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) may not be the most likeable character, but his journey in search of musical success is compelling. The Coen brothers’ films continuously feature exceptional music selections, but this may be their most noteworthy collection since they introduced audiences to the Soggy Bottom Boys. Their presentation of Davis’ performances brings audiences into the smoky, dark rooms that housed the best and undiscovered folk singers of the ‘60s. Isaac plays the compositions himself, which are enthralling. In addition, the band of characters he encounters on his tour provide a variety of colour.
A scene from  Much Ado About Nothing
A scene from 'Much Ado About Nothing'
Entertainment One
7. Much Ado About Nothing
William Shakespeare’s work has endured for centuries, but in its original text it can seem inaccessible to many. Enter the unstoppable Joss Whedon. Assembling a cast of familiar faces from the Whedonverse, he produces an engaging and enjoyable rendition of one of the bard’s most perplexing comedies without modifying the dialogue. Instead he directs the talented actors to effectively deliver the script so it’s both vibrant and comprehensible. The on-screen reunion of Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker benefits from their unyielding chemistry. Maintaining simplicity in the sets and costumes, the black-and-white picture simply adds character to an already charming film.
Joaquin Phoenix in  Her
Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her'
Warner Brothers Pictures
6. Her
Innovation is a peculiar thing in tales of romance. Though the circumstances may change, the general boy-meets-girl narrative remains the same. This is one of the few stories to significantly alter the familiar plotline. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) – a sophisticated operating system. This is as modern as a love story can get. Phoenix is delightful as a man rediscovering the world that he had so effectively shunned. Johansson arguably turns in the best performance of her career, winning over Theodore and audiences with just her sultry voice.
Leonardo DiCaprio in  The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Wolf of Wall Street'
Paramount Pictures
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
The rise and fall of Wall Street executives is longer as popular a subject as it was in recent years, but who doesn't want to see director Martin Scorsese take on the greed and corruption that plagues the financial district. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) wanted it all and he was willing to sell his soul to get it. Ultimately pulling in nearly $1 million per week, his story is built on a foundation of lies and confidence – and hookers and blow. DiCaprio portrays Belfort's unyielding ambition with effortless panache and his thirst for self-destruction with a total lack of ego. Scorsese dives deep into Belfort's dark history and splashes the most depraved across the screen with his signature style and precision.
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in  Dallas Buyer s Club
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in 'Dallas Buyer's Club'
Remstar Films
4. Dallas Buyer's Club
This film can be described in one word: commitment. Matthew McConaughey finally decided to return to acting with his shirt on and he's once again become a cinematic force. Dropping nearly 50 pounds, he portrays Ron Woodruff, a homophobic rodeo cowboy infected with HIV who challenges the health care system and accessibility to alternative medical treatments. He still exudes his signature Southern charm, but there are many more layers to his personality. Jared Leto plays Rayon, a sassy transsexual who becomes Ron’s partner in crime. Both men excel, but Leto often stands above McConaughey. Ron isn’t always likeable, but Rayon has a constant hold on the audience.
A scene from  Gravity
A scene from 'Gravity'
Warner Bros. Entertainment
3. Gravity
One had to wonder what could be compelling about watching an astronaut float around in space for 90 minutes, but it's undoubtedly one of the most intense movies of the year. Viewed on the IMAX's massive screen, the audience is swallowed by the vast emptiness of space, allowing them to inevitably empathize with Sandra Bullock's character's plight. Director Alfonso Cuarón has had a varied career, but his understanding of humanity shines through all of his films. This movie is not only a technical accomplishment, but also a new level of achievement for Bullock. And George Clooney puts his typical happy-go-lucky persona to excellent use.
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in  12 Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in '12 Years a Slave'
20th Century Fox
2. 12 Years a Slave
This is probably one of the best narratives about U.S. slavery since Roots. Solomon Northup's (Chiwetel Ejiofor) kidnapping and sale in the South weaves a tremendous tale of brutality, oppression and survival. Like many of this year's best, it runs more than two hours but every minute is profound. The cast of A-list actors bring everything to the picture with several fearlessly taking on the notorious roles of slave owners and proprietors; Michael Fassbender receives particular recognition in this capacity. But the film could not have made nearly as strong an impression without the outstanding talent of Ejiofor. Director Steve McQueen is skilled at telling intricate, emotional stories by drawing audiences into the events rather than manipulating their feelings with editing and music.
Ben Stiller in  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller in 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'
Twentieth Century Fox Film
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
This film was the perfect holiday release offering something for everyone. It's funny, adventurous, a little romantic, and offers some dramatic self-discovery. Ben Stiller is captivating as a man who only lived in his dreams until a work mishap presents an opportunity for him to realize his fantasies of world travel and excitement. Doubling as director, Stiller doesn't miss a beat whether it be action, comedy or sentiment. The narrative is somewhat more complex than is typical, but it all interconnects well. In addition, the amazing locales and fantastic journey – both real and imaginary – hooks the viewer through to the end.
Honourable mention to The Way, Way Back and A Royal Affair, two of the year’s most underrated films.
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