The semester has finished, and the anxiety of having to prepare film papers on post-9/11 cinema and comparing Truffaut to Hitchcock has finally subsided. As a member of the Class of 2013, I can now begin to branch out into the world for all it has to offer. While I’ll admit I can’t name a week where I didn’t make it to the theater once, I would love to be there more often, and now is the time. With June marking our halfway point into the year and the beginning of major summer blockbusters, here are a couple of my “Top 3″ lists to start the year.
Top 3 Films I Didn’t Get To See But Still Want to See:
Mud (Jeff Nichols) – I’ve heard that director Jeff Nichols has made nothing but solid films from Shotgun Stories to Take Shelter. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen either of them and haven’t got a chance to check out his latest film, Mud, yet. Last time I checked. it holds roughly in the mid-90 percentile on the Tomatometer, just like all of Nichols’ past films. I tried to get tickets for a showing at the Atlanta Film Festival a couple of weeks back, but they all sold out within the first couple of weeks of the announcement of its screening (at $30 for its opening night fee, I wasn’t really that disappointed). For some reason, star Matthew McConaughey reminds me of Sawyer from Lost, and who didn’t love Sawyer? Yeah, I didn’t love him either.
Upstream Color (Shane Carruth) – After taking an 8-year hiatus (during which he was looking for proper funding), Shane Carruth steps behind the camera again with another experimental science fiction film. I’m still unsure of what the hell happened in Primer, but I know I loved it. As someone who isn’t a true science-fiction fan, I still loved Primer. Carruth brings so many original ideas to the big screen, and it kept me entertained every time. It was no surprised when I heard that he helped Rian Johnson, director of Looper, write the script. Upstream Color premiered at Sundance early this year, and the reviews have been nothing short of outstanding. Upstream Color is actually available already for purchase at your local Best Buy on Blu-ray for $20.
Trance (Danny Boyle) – I haven’t read much about it review-wise, and it fell in-between the cracks towards the beginning stages of the year for me. Yet Boyle’s resume speaks for itself and I don’t expect anything different from his latest movie.
Top 3 Films That Come Out Later This Year That I Want To See:
Only God Forgives (Nicolas Refn) –If you know me, you know how much I loved Drive. It might have been one of the most entertaining films of 2012. Refn and Ryan Gosling reunite to tell the story of a criminal who must scavenge through the underworld of Bangkok to find out who killed his brother. I can tell you two things that that are really cool about this film: 1. Ryan Gosling’s character has an actual name, and 2. Cliff Martinez is back doing the musical score for the movie and I can only hope it’s as good as Drive‘s. Few soundtracks have the replay value that Drive has for me. Refn also directed Bronson, another cult classic staring Tom Hardy that I would recommend checking out.
Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron) – I already admitted to not being a major sci-fi watcher, and this shouldn’t be taken as a badge of honor if I name your sci-fi movie as something I want to see, but Cuaron’s cinematography alone will bring me into the theatre for this one. I still show my less-film-inclined friends the 5-6 minute long takes that Cuaron set up for the film. Set to be released later this fall, Gravity pairs George Clooney and Sandra Bullock up in space as astronauts on a damaged spaceship that leaves them stranded with no communication with Earth.
Captain Philips (Paul Greengrass).
Top 3 Films That Just Weren’t That Good:
The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann) – While it was definitely imaginative in the visual department, it fell flat on its face in every other department. I’m still scratching my head over the soundtrack and the casting of Tobey Maguire, but even if you take those away you still have a horrible movie. I’m sorry to burst the bubble of all of those who enjoyed it, but there just no real substance. The beauty of the literary novel is how you emotionally sided with these characters despite knowing their flaws and seeing their American dream turned into a tragedy; in the film’s depiction, I just saw rich people screaming about a bunch of first world problems. The novel leaves your imagination to interpret events while the film tells you what to think.
Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski) – Another visually awe-inspiring movie with very little substance was Kosinski’s Oblivion. I do admit there was a couple of plot aspects that were enjoyable and interesting, but Kosinski barrowed a lot of Matrix-ish type of sci-fi to tell his story. I will tell you that M83 did an outstanding job with the soundtrack. The transition from radio to film is difficult, but they seemed to have mastered it on this attempt.
To The Wonder (Terrence Malik) – Malik’s follow up to The Tree of Life is another tough one to watch. He definitely proves that while you can have beautiful visual aesthetics, emotional ties have to be created to keep the story alive. Here, there is an obvious disconnect between filmmaker and audience.
Top 3 Films I Didn’t Think Were Going To Be Good, But Turned Out OK:
Fast & Furious 6 (Justin Lin) – In it’s 6th, (really 7th) edition, The Fast and Furious has never been better. I can’t think of any 6th movie of a franchise that isn’t James Bond or Star Trek that could do so well. It’s over the top, unrealistic, and overdone at times, but that’s not the point. At its heart, it’s an extreme action film that keeps you on the edge of your seat from the first scenes that recap the first six movies until the last scene that sets up for another great story line (spoiler, stay until after the credits). It also has a great core of actors. Not saying these are Academy Award winners, but they work together well as a team. It’s shocking me how much I actually liked the movie. I’m definitely a fan of the series, but this one had it all. Lin has created a franchise that could easily last another 4-5 years, which is still very weird for me to type out but possible. At the end of the day, this is the summer blockbuster that everyone is looking for and I definitely recommend it.
Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine) – Seriously, this movie just wasn’t OK, it was pretty damn good. I don’t know who else could include a Brittney Spears drug induced solo from James Franco and have scenes with the well-known rapper Gucci Mane, but Korine does it and does it well. The film ends up becoming a cultural critique and almost an awakening to American superficial pop culture. The use of bright lights and repetitive dialogue will have, “Sprinngggg Breaaakkk” stuck in your head for a very long, long time.
Pain and Gain (Michael Bay) – I should have already said that for all of these movies in these categories, I would definitely recommend at least a singular viewing. But with that on the table now, that’s how I feel about Pain and Gain. It’s entertaining, but also extremely shallow. If you ever check it out, just think – “How far would you go to live the life you always dreamed about?” Another look at the American dream, and the most shocking part is that it is loosely based on a true story.
Top 3 Films Halfway Through 2013:
The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance) – Wow is about all I can say for this movie. Cianfrance does so many things right here that I don’t know where to begin. I’ve already written a blog post on what I thought of the movie, so check it out a couple of posts back and I’ll save you a double dose of the same information I already shared. I definitely recommend this movie, though.
Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh) – I read about this movie being compared to a lot of Hitchcock-type films, which I agree with, but the real success of this movie is the neo-noir undertones throughout the 2nd half. I liked it a heck of a lot. Definitely go see it.
Iron Man 3 (Shane Black) – Yes, I am extremely tired of the superhero genre that keeps getting piled on from year to year, but Iron Man 3 is the best of the bunch so far. I liked it probably so much because I really was disappointed in Iron Man 2.
I’m writing this at the end of May, so don’t get upset if you had a movie that you thought I should include. Also, I’m a broke college student – there are only so movies I can attend.
Ryan is a part-time contributor to The Reelist and a senior at Kennesaw State outside of Atlanta. You can follow him at @iOnlyWearNike.