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Brian White’s Top 5 Films of 2013 So Far…And A Quick Look Ahead

Movies TNI’ve never really wrote a piece like this before on the site so early in the year as its usually something I step aside and graciously hand the reigns over to our “Godfather” of theatrical movie reviews, Mr. Aaron Neuwirth, to cover.  However, most recently I’ve become very concerned after I compiled and examined the top five films I have liked so far in the calendar year of 2013.  It’s a little bit upsetting to me given the merit of said films in the public eye.  And yes I know, usually the first quarter of the year is reserved for stinker films, bad horror and action films alike that could not get a summer tentpole or end of year holiday date, but come on Hollywood.  How do these films get made?  Seriously!  I guess you can say I have become a bit unnerved and perturbed after some of my biggest hopes of the year have either disappointed me, Man of Steel, or have seriously been flops and disasters, sans hesitation The Hangover Part III and Lords of Salem, which instantly come to mind.  So I thought it would be kind of fun to write up a little mid year piece to collect my thoughts and write about the five films I truly enjoyed the first half of this year and what I’m really looking forward to in the rest of 2013.  Will you join me?

So like I said above, I usually defer editorials like this to Aaron Neuwirth to cover here and on his blog, but I just couldn’t resist the chance to have some fun flexing my writing muscles.  You see, when it comes to movie reviews there’s really no one else’s opinion I value and trust more than Aaron’s.  He’s been with me through the thick and thin over the years and while we won’t agree with everything, he’s usually spot on with my tastes and immediately knows whether I’ll like something or not.  It’s a great pleasure to have someone like that in life on your side.  I have seen him grow from a novice writer to a man that truly knows everything about what makes an effective movie tick and even better, he has the uncanny ability to explicably explain and fashion his savvy thoughts coherently in writing.  And while I may not get out to every screening like Aaron usually does, I have been taking on a hell of a lot more since my move down to Austin, TX this year.  So rest assured when I say this, I may not have seen all the artsy and limited releases Aaron has thus far this year, but I have seen a heartier amount thus far this year compared to last.  And while we all have our own tastes, that’s what makes posts like this so fun.  It’s called controversy.  Or you can call it debate.  I just call it a good old time.  So as Aaron kindly said to me in my Best of 2012 post, “what I really love is that it’s YOUR list and you are honest about it.  Sure no one else is going to have The Woman in Black on their list, but dammit, you do, and good for you.”  Truly, that’s all I care about in life…having fun in my craft and being honest with myself.  And because I believe strongly in the freedom of speech, you too can have your say in the comment field below.  See ya down there!

First off, let’s mow through the films that disappointed me the most this year.  I’m not sure what I was thinking even after reading the novel of the same name, but for some reason I seem to be a glutton for punishment as I talked myself into see Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem on opening night after missing two chances the previous month to see it at SXSW.  I know Brandon Peters and I have had many late night debates about this title, but I beg you on my hands and knees stay as far away from this film as possible.  When people get up as the movie is still playing out during the initial end credits scroll, double flick the screen off and proclaim it’s the worst f#$%ing movie ever, you know you saw something really bad.  In fact, I cringed in my seat the whole entire runtime.  I could not believe the abomination of crap I saw playing out in front of me.  I have only walked out of one film theatrically in my life and I did not want my second to be a Rob Zombie film, a man I look up to with the utmost of respect.  But even my self proclaimed love for the man can’t salvage enough merit to stop me from saying this was one of the worst films I have ever seen and like the witches of the past that burned in Salem, I hope the same thing happens to the truckloads of DVDs and Blu-rays that get delivered to the retail stores.  That’s how much I hated it.

Second up…The Hangover Part III.  It’s official people.  For all you complainers out there who constantly ranted that Part II was nothing more than a rehashed Part I, which it admittedly was, you got your wish.  Are you happy?!  You got a completely different movie.  You got a flaming pile of sh1t.  The only reason my score was as high as it was is because of the characters.  I watched it for all the characters that I fell in love with over the previous two installments, but even I can’t bring myself to say this is a good film…because it’s NOT.  Like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter the year before, you go in with a winning formula…how do you mess that up?!  Please!  Tell me.  I wonder how many of the people who complained about Part II felt about this one?  Did they even give it a chance?  I know a few people who did and I hope they ate all their bad words about the second entry because given another chance, The Hangover Part II really is a rowdy good time with the Wolf Pack we all still love, hopefully, from the first film.  If you want more punishment, you can find my complete review of The Hangover Part III here.

That’s about it.  I’m going to stop here while I’m ahead.  There were a few more like Bullet to the Head, Texas Chainsaw 3D and Mama, which I really disliked, but really…what could I expect?  They were all released in the first quarter of the year.  One could almost say they were set up for failure, huh?  And while I was a bit let down and not the biggest fan of the superhero pics this year, Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel, things could have been a lot worst (aka Ghost Rider) for them and all wasn’t a total waste.  There are things I love about each of them and hey, there’s always Thor: The Dark World coming up this November to pick up the slack, right?  I thought so.  So without further ado, let’s move on to the real reason we are here…Brian’s favorite films of 2013 thus far!

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Honorable Mention – No list would be complete without a nod to a finalist that almost made the cut, but just missed it in the efforts of exercising constraints, right?  That’s what I thought.  And this mid years Honorable Mention Award goes to…

Movie Star TrekHonorable Mention: Star Trek Into Darkness

While I’m not a huge Star Trek fan of the past, there’s no denying a sci-fi action, a$$-kicking good time at the theater…and that’s exactly what this film delivers on.  The 2009 gang we all loved is back again for another mischievous and sometimes comical romp through space.  It’s a refreshed tale of a familiar Star Trek nemesis of the past incarnation of the series.  I can see where old school fans of the series could be divided or even completely rebuffed, but for a newbie like me…Star Trek Into Darkness was a perfect way to kick off and deliver the summer goods as sadly Iron Man 3 just didn’t do it for me.   Make no mistake, the stakes are greater here and Spock is meaner.  I love it!  If interested, make sure to check out my full review of Star Trek Into Darkness here.  And yes, I’ll admit it.  The geek in me is secretly looking forward to what kind of magic J.J. Abrams can create within Star Wars: Episode VII.  Aren’t you?

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Movie Summer5. The Kings of Summer 

It seems anything Cleveland native, producer Tyler Davidson touches turns to gold.  Since first talking to him about Compliance over a year ago there’s no denying the fact that the man chooses his projects wisely.  His films may not see the widest of national releases, but both my writing partner, Bob Graziosi, and I agree the man is building quite the reputable resume and before we know it…he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood.  You see, Tyler doesn’t get behind the flicks that exist merely to just get your money (Texas Chainsaw 3D, Dark Skies, etc…), he attaches himself to screenplays that have heart, integrity and above all else…quality and values, two terms Hollywood really doesn’t care about nowadays.  So needless to say, this quirky, but charming coming of age story, which was filmed practically in my former back yard in Ohio, really is something special to take in and to me it kind of feels like a fusion of Superbad, Stand By Me and okay…just a tad of Goonies.  What’s so bad about those three film comparisons?  Absolutely nothing!  Check out my full theatrical review of The Kings of Summer over here.

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Movie Gatsby4. The Great Gatsby

While I may not remember everything about the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel I read in high school, there’s no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t as beautiful, moving and visually stunning as what Baz Luhrmann put up on the silver screen.  Now don’t get me wrong, this movie is NOT for everyone.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you don’t like Baz’s Moulin Rouge, don’t even visit here.  Fortunately for me, Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite films ever so I took in all the majesty that The Great Gatsby afforded and had to offer me as a participating audience member.  Even my dislike of actress Carey Mulligan can’t keep me away from multiple repeat viewings of this flick once released on the Blu-ray format.  Like Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby is part love story and part spectacular, spectacular!  And if you got a chance to check this out theatrically in 3-D, then you know that presentation was also “spectacular.”  Makes me wonder how Moulin Rouge may have looked in the format, but I digress.  All-stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire round out the cast.  And we all know, Leonardo makes the most of every role he gets and more importantly…makes it his own.  My full writeup of The Great Gatsby can be viewed here.

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Movie Furious 63. Fast & Furious 6 

I’ll admit, until the fifth outing, I wasn’t much of a fan of the F&F franchise.  For some reason, I always loved the third installment, but I never got into parts one, two and four…until now.  However, entries five and six made me appreciate this franchise for what it is…thrilling, high octane non-sensical summer entertainment.  In my opinion, Fast Five broke down walls in this franchise and opened doors to bigger and bolder adventures.  It introduced something that wasn’t very prevalent in the earlier outings…stronger character development.  I don’t know about you all (my Austin accent is starting to come out), but I actually started to care for Paul Walker and Vin Diesel’s onscreen characters and relationships.  And this time around, they amped the stakes and doubled the craziness and action and even managed to bring things full circle as they now have caught up to the F&F timeline as to how the films play out in the respective order: 1,2,4,5,6 and then 3.  Part 7 is setup during the ending credits sequence.  So in essence, the next installment is brilliantly primed and all ready to go.  And just to make sure my first trip to see this wasn’t a fluke, I went back for a second dose at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin and enjoyed myself even more than the first helping I had, although that may have had something to do with the incredible heartburn I had caused by this Icee the first time I saw it.  Either way…Fast & Furious 6 is another positive leap forward in the franchise and a fun/wild time all the way around.  Just when you think things are over, they’re not.  Check out Aaron Neuwirth’s theatrical review of the film here.

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Movie WWZ2. World War Z 

After hearing about all the rewrites, the reshoots and the fact that 6 different writers worked on this debacle, I walked in expecting one hell of a train wreck of a movie.  However, I walked out of the theater with a huge a$$ smile on my face, spanning from ear-to-ear.  I hadn’t been that excited about a film in long time.  It felt great as the euphoria of the screening increased the levels of serotonin in my brain.  And that’s always a good thing!  Finally, someone got a zombie movie right.  The action sequences were outstanding and the fast moving plot was tension filled.  To me, it felt like I was watching the heart pounding 24 hours of Season 5 of the hit Fox TV show 24 in a zombie flick.  Brad Pitt’s character, deprived of pretty much all character flaws (note that may not necessarily be a good thing in all cases), is as close as the confidence-laden Jack Bauer action figure we are ever going to achieve on the big screen.  He just always knew the right thing to do and when you are battling a world-wide zombie apocalypse is that necessarily a bad trait?  LOL.  Well, to each their own I guess.  But I enjoyed the hell out of this one.  Four days later and I was back in the theater for a second helping enjoying it even more after finishing up a quick read of the film’s screenplay and recently diving into the novel of the same name by Max Brooks (thanks Shawn), which coincidentally is nothing like the movie at all (just an FYI).  Sure the third act can be described as a screeching halt from what came before and can be considered a game changer, but seriously…would you really want this to end any other way?  I’ll leave you with that.  And if you like what you have heard thus far, make sure you check out my full review over here.

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Movie Oblivion1. Oblivion

If it wasn’t for the intervention of fate and the kindness of Aaron Neuwirth, I would have never known what I would have been missing out on here.  You see, I was in the Los Angeles area by fluke on a business trip and I received a text from Aaron asking if I wanted to go to a Universal press-only screening of Oblivion.  While I had no interest in the film, I couldn’t pass up the chance to attend this in Los Angeles and meet all the other critics, like Scott Mendelson, on the local Hollywood scene that I can’t wait to be part of one fine day.  Expecting nothing more than a shallow, pointless sci-fi trip in IMAX I was instantly transported to a world in Oblivion that I genuinely cared about.  It was visually stunning and beautiful despite the depictions of our Earth nearly destroyed and being harvested for all remaining resources.  The cinematography is literally out of this world (no pun intended).  I haven’t been this impressed since last year’s Prometheus.  And then there’s the love story (actually stories) going on with one hell of a clever twist as to how things really don’t appear as they seem to all parties involved.  Many complain that the plot may be a bit too shallow, contain too few action sequences to sustain its inflated runtime and that the film borrows heavily from every other sci-fi adventures that has come before, mainly Moon.  But that’s just it.  There are no original ideas anymore.  And the plot devices Oblivion borrows from in sci-fi movies of the past are of all the “right kind.”  So I’m kind of in the minority here with my love of this Tom Crusie/Morgan Freeman vehicle, but I’m proud to be unique and happy to stand up and defend the title that means so much to me…at least so far this year.  Like the previous two titles, for good measures, I took in Oblivion twice in IMAX and got goosebumps each time.  M83’s score is simply riveting and captivating.   This one’s going to be a force to be reckoned with on the Blu-ray format.  Let’s just see how well it holds up for me throughout the remainder of the year.  There’s six more months of movie magic to happen.  Let’s get cracking!  They aren’t as generous as a review I would have written, but in the meantime make sure to check out Aaron’s review here and Scott’s over here.

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What’s interesting about creating lists like this above at the mid point in the calendar year is the fact that it will give me a benchmark and a chance to reflect at the end of the year on how my tastes may have fluctuated or in some cases, remained consistent.  Either way, it should be an interesting next six months.  And speaking of the next six months, here’s a list of films below that the fanboy in me is looking forward to the most in the remainder of 2013 (I remain skeptical about Pacific Rim), although I’m sure a few others will sneak in due to word of mouth as the year plays out.  I don’t know about you, but I can live without a Paranormal Activity 5 (although it’s already a known reality that we’re getting one on October 25th).  Let me know what you think in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

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The Conjuring (July 19th)

The Wolverine (July 26th)

Elysium (August 9th)

Kick-Ass 2 (August 16th)

Insidious Chapter 2 (September 13th)

Don Jon (September 27th)

Machete Kills (October 4th)

Carrie (October 18th)

Thor: The Dark World (November 8th)

The Wolf of Wall Street (November 15th)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (December 13th)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (December 20th)

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

4 Responses to “Brian White’s Top 5 Films of 2013 So Far…And A Quick Look Ahead”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I did a ‘find’ to see how many times you mentioned my name: 10.

    Why don’t you just make out with me already 😉

    Kidding, a fine list Brian, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed many of these films that are mostly about escapism and fun – things movies can do well.

    My top 5 (offhand) – Before Midnight, The Place Beyond the Pines, Spring Breakers, Fast and Furious 6, This Is The End

    Honorable Mentions: Mud, Evil Dead, Stoker

  2. Brian White

    Ha ha! You know I love you, Aaron…most of the time 😉
    Glad to see you rank F&F6 so high too!
    I have yet to see Mud or Spring Breakers yet (tackling SB’s this week on iTunes!)

  3. Shawn Inman

    How does Star Trek merely get an “honorable mention”? It was terrific! For shame…

    And yeah, I think you’re right to be skeptical of Pacific Rim. It looks like it’s going to be awful.

  4. Sean Ferguson

    “when it comes to movie reviews there’s really no one else’s opinion I value and trust more than Aaron’s.”

    What are the rest of us chopped liver? Why don’t you two get a room already!