2013 Films in Review

2013 was another record-breaking year in film as advances in technology/special effects blended with great acting, filmmaking, and stuntwork, especially in big-budget blockbusters where audiences flocked to maximize their personal entertainment budgets. Superhero films were big again and included Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, and Man of Steel while World War Z was an amazing box office success with a PG-13 rating and reshot ending and Warm Bodies put a comic spin on the “undead”/zombie genre.

The Fast and Furious franchise succeeded yet again with their sixth installment then, unfortunately, suffered the loss of star Paul Walker as filming of the seventh installment was set to resume. Oz the Great and Powerful put James Franco into superstardom as the classic Wizard of Oz got a special re-release in theaters along with Top Gun and Jurassic Park.

Earth took a downturn in theaters in the trio of After Earth, Elysium, and Oblivion then Sandra Bullock and George Clooney headlined the amazing Gravity in 3D from the Cuaron father-son filmmaking team. Bullock also succeeded with the R-rated cop buddy comedy The Heat and will likely battle Cate Blanchett (Blue Valentine) for Oscar Best Actress honors. Bullock’s Heat co-star Melissa McCarthey (TV’s Mike & Molly) also succeeded with the comedy Identity Theft co-starring with Jason Bateman. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts teamed up for August: Osage County as female roles grew in quality and prominence.

The comedy genre had limited success with others like Last Vegas, We’re the Millers, The Internship, and Hangover 3 while less successful comedies included Peeples, Delivery Man, and the baffling Movie 43. The downturn did help the quality international comedy Instructions Not Included find a wide audience and big-name comedians added heartfelt drama into their latest films – Tina Fey in Admission and Steve Carell in The Way Way Back. Carell’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Now You See Me put themes of magic in the forefront at cinemas while simple concept titles in thrillers were common with The Call, The Purge, The Fifth Estate, Broken City, Prisoners, and The Conjuring.

Star power helped biopics like Lee Daniel’s The Butler (Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams) and Saving Mr. Banks (Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson) while films about the late Nelson Mandela included Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Winnie Mandela. Tom Hanks and Robert Redford returned to familiar heroic form in Captain Phillips and All is Lost while documentaries included Stories We Tell, Penguins 3D and Jerusalem narrated by rising star Benedict Cumberbatch. Romances included About Time, Safe Haven, The Big Wedding, Baggage Claim, I’m in Love with a Church Girl and Enough Said where Julia Louis-Dreyfus starred with James Gandolfini in one of his last films before he passed away.

Award-winning, talent filmmakers also took to the theaters with The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese), American Hustle (David O. Russell), Nebraska (Alexander Payne), Side Effects/Liberace (Steven Soderbergh), and Her (Spike Jonze). Michael Fassbender (X-Men First Class, Prometheus) starred in 12 Years a Slave, a definite film award frontrunner that stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as a kidnapped free man Solomon Northup forced into slavery in the 1840s. Other quality dramas included Home Run, Unstoppable, The Ultimate Life, Fruitvale Station, Mud, and Philomena starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.

Sequels included several second installments this year including Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, Smurfs 2, Grown Ups 2, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Thor Dark World, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Best Man Holiday, Despicable Me 2, Star Trek Into Darkness, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the new comedy Anchorman 2 starring Will Ferrell. Other sequels included A Good Day to Die Hard, the spoof Scary Movie 5, and Before Midnight, which completed the trilogy of a special couple played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

The science fiction (sci-fi)/fantasy film genre stayed relatively strong with Pacific Rim, Ender’s Game, Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Beautiful Creatures, Dark Skies, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Upside Down while action fans feasted on The Lone Ranger, 47 Ronin, Gangster Squad, Lone Survivor, Snitch, Parker, and 2 Guns, starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington as federal agents who team up to take down a drug cartel. Two similar Presidential thrillers (White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen) battled at the box office while the action films Jack the Giant Slayer and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters altered classic tales in their plots.

Double threat acting talents included Helen Mirren (RED 2 and Monsters University), Ryan Reynolds (Turbo and RIPD), and a returning Arnold Schwarzenegger (Last Stand, Escape Plan). Triple threats and more included stalwart stars like Harrison Ford (42, Paranoia, Ender’s Game) and Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head, Escape Plan, and the boxing comedy Grudge Match).

Graphic violence in film was a hot topic. Even star power could not help these violent films find a large audience – Machete, Counselor, Oldboy, Only God Forgives, Trance, Family, and Welcome to the Punch, which had some negative residual effects on quality films like Out of the Furnace and Homefront that had violent themes.

Animated films were plentiful and largely successful and included Monsters University, The Croods, Frozen, Epic, Disney’s Planes, and Escape From Planet Earth. Famous film adaptations included Romeo & Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, The Book Thief, and The Great Gatsby while music-themed films included Grace Unplugged, Unfinished Song, Black Nativity, The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Justin Bieber’s Believe and the documentary One Direction: This is Us. Christmas holiday films included Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas and The Christmas Candle.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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