Movie Review: The top 20 films of 2013 - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Terry's Take

Movie Review: The top 20 films of 2013

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2013 was a very good year for movies. Below you'll find my twenty favorite films of the year:


THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is an exciting and powerful drama. It's well acted and well shot, and it has a lot to say about how a sudden decision can become a person's legacy. Two fathers (Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper) make bad decisions that do lasting damage to the lives of their sons.
Available on DVD and Blu Ray and streaming on Amazon.com



PHILOMENA is based on the true story of an elderly Irish woman who went searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years before. The movie is touching and funny, wise and unforgettable, one of the most satisfying movies of the year.Judi Dench makes Philomena a fully human character whose good nature puts most of us to shame. Watching her story is an uplifting experience.
Still showing at Kahala Mall



GRAVITY is a simple, well acted, very powerful story about an astronaut's (Sandra Bullock) struggle to survive after a disastrous accident in outer space. But director Alfonso Cuaron increases the intensity of the gripping story with some of the most dazzling 3-D cinematography I've ever seen. When the movie was over, I felt wrung out but also exhilarated and grateful to be alive.
Available on video, Feb. 25, 2014

THE SPECTACULAR NOW is an honest, heartfelt, and wonderfully acted story of first love. The couple is a fun loving, popular boy (Miles Teller) and a shy, serious girl (Shailene Woodley, George Clooney's older daughter in THE DESCENDANTS).
It was written by the same two screenwriters who penned "500 DAYS OF SUMMER."
At first the romance between these two high school seniors seems unlikely, but in short order, it completely changes both of their lives.  
Available on video, Jan. 14, 2014



THE WAY WAY BACK is a crowd pleasing coming-of-age movie about a fourteen year old boy (Liam James) who's forced to spend the summer at the be
 house of his mother's obnoxious boyfriend. It's funny; it's touching; and it's got a terrific cast.  The trailer and the clips released for use on television don't do justice to the wonderful mix of humor, sweetness and drama that make THE WAY WAY BACK so satisfying. It'll leave you with a smile on your face and a lump in your throat. (with a standout performance from Sam Rockwell as the boy's mentor)
Available on DVD and Blu Ray and streaming on Amazon.com

12 YEARS A SLAVE  is based on the book of the same name by Solomon Northup, a free black man in the state of New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841.  
This powerful movie makes the audience experience the dehumanizing ordeal of slavery in vivid, often harrowing detail. It's far and away the best movie about slavery in America that I've ever seen. Chiwetel Ejiofor will surely earn an Oscar nomination for his gritty performance as a free man who is drugged, wakes up in chains and then is beaten when he insists he is a free man.
Available on video, March 4, 2014

NEBRASKA is director Alexander Payne's follow-up to THE DESCENDANTS, his hit film set in Hawaii, NEBRASKA is also a comedy-drama, this one shot in the state where he grew up. It's a bittersweet film about a cranky, delusional old man and the adult son who tries to help him. Actor Bruce Dern will probably get an Oscar nomination for his convincing performance as the stubborn old coot who believes he's won a million dollars in one of those hokey magazine subscription sweepstakes. Shot in beautiful shades of black and white, NEBRASKA will strike a melancholic chord with anyone who's ever had to deal with an aging, unknowable parent.
Still showing at Kahala Mall, available on video in February or March of 2014

AMERICAN HUSTLE is director David O. Russell's highly entertaining screwball comedy about small time east coast hustlers in 1978. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence headline a talented cast of characters who con each other and sometimes even themselves. Part of the fun is trying to figure out who's conning who.
Still in local theaters

THE GREAT GATSBY: I didn't expect to like THE GREAT GATSBY because I'd read so much negative press about the razzle dazzle treatment given to the movie by Australian director Baz Luhrmann. But his movie really does capture the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wistful, tragic novel.  DiCaprio's charismatic performance really gets to  the essence of Jay Gatsby, a flawed man and ever hopeful dreamer. And through his story, this fine movie reminds us of our deepest longings.
Available on DVD and Blu Ray and streaming on Amazon.com



MUD: Matthew McConaughey gives an Oscar worthy performance in MUD, a strong southern drama about the nature of love.  His character's actual name is Mud, a desperate romantic, hiding out on an island in the Mississippi after killing a man who beat up the woman he's loved for his whole life. But the main characters in this rich coming-of-age story are two14 year old Arkansas boys who decide to help the luckless fugitive.  MUD is really about the limitations of love, as Ellis (one of the boys) comes to learn that no matter how intense it feels, "love" can  sometimes be a painfully misguided obsession.
Available on DVD and Blu RAy and streaming on Amazon.com

FRANCES HA is a delightful comedy/drama about a 27 year old woman who's not quite ready to be an adult. Featuring a breakout performance from Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the script with director Noah Baumbach, this charming black and white movie gives us a unique main character who's both endearing and maddening. But she's almost guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
Now streaming on Netflix

The new movie, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, is latest work from Joel and Ethan Coen, the filmmaking brothers who gave us FARGO and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It's a really good film about a fairly unlikable guy. The movie is dark comedy-drama that takes us back to the music scene of Manhattan's Greenwich Village in the year 1961. It's essentially a character study of a struggling folk singer who refuses to compromise and keeps shooting himself in the foot. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is beautifully made and very well acted, but audiences must be willing to sympathize with its melancholy antihero which isn't hard because who doesn't understand what it's like to sometimes be your own worst enemy? I also really enjoyed the film's dark humor and dreamlike pace plus the soulful music produced by T Bone Burnett.
Still showing at Kahala Mall

PRISONERS: Hugh Jackman and Jake Gwyllenhall star in PRISONERS, a dark, compelling, very well acted thriller about the abduction of two little girls.The movie is exciting, suspenseful, even harrowing; and it keeps surprising you right up to the end. PRISONERS delivers excitement and dread in equal measure. The movie is a little too long, but the moral dilemma it presents plus a terrific plot, great cinematography and Oscar caliber acting make PRISONERS one of the better movies I saw in 2013.
Available on DVD and Blu Ray and streaming on Amazon.com

DON JON is a funny and insightful romantic comedy about the relationship between a guy who watches too much pornography and a girl who watches too many romantic Hollywood movies. In addition to starring with Scarlett Johansson in DON JON, Joseph Gordon-Levitt also wrote and directed this wonderfully entertaining and provocative little movie. And Julianne Moore turns up as an older woman who helps educate the young man. "If you wanna lose yourself in sex, you have to lose yourself in another person," she tells him. "It's a two way thing."
Available on DVD and BLU RAY and streaming on Amazon.com

The late middle age characters in "ENOUGH SAID have let go of most their romantic fantasies long ago. James Gandolfini as Albert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva meet first at a party. Both are divorced, and each is the parent of a daughter who's about to head off to college. This very funny, bittersweet comedy-drama from writer-director Nicole Holofcener is all the more touching because it's the next to the last performance of late, great James Gandolfini whose character here is both strong and sensitive, the most balanced of all the adults in the film.
Available on DVD and Blu Ray and streaming on Amazon.com


Matthew McConaughey gives one of the best performances of the year in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, a drama based on the true story of a Texas cowboy who took treatment into his own hands after being diagnosed with HIV in 1985. In addition to the amazing performances of the two lead actors (McConaughey and Jared Leto as a transsexual), what I really liked about this movie is how it avoids sentimentality and it doesn't whitewash Ron or turn him into some kind of hero.
Available on video, Feb. 2, 2014

Woody Allen's BLUE JASMINE is a good movie with a great, Oscar worthy performance by Cate Blanchett who stars as a Park Avenue wife who's reduced to poverty when it turns out her rich wall street husband is a con man and a crook. BLUE JASMINE is not a comedy. It's more like a tragedy with small touches of almost painful humor. The movie made me cringe a lot--it's hard to watch a woman coming undone. So although watching BLUE JASMINE is an unsettling experience, I'm glad I saw it, because Cate Blanchett has created a character I will never forget.
Available on DVD and Blu Ray and streaming on Amazon.com

SHORT TERM 12: Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton got his start in community television on Maui before going on to film school in California.  Now, in this thirties, the filmmaker has created SHORT TERM 12, a touching, well acted drama about kids in a foster care group home and the young staff members who try to help them.  The film is  based on the actual experience of the director who worked in institutional foster care for two years after he graduated from college. And whatt makes it special  are its realistic characters and the emotional honesty of its well written story. SHORT TERM 12 is about coming to terms with the bad things that have happened in your life.
Available on video, Jan. 14, 2014

Robert Redford is the only actor in ALL IS LOST, the harrowing story of a man who struggles to survive after his yacht is damaged far out on the open ocean. Redford's performance is amazing. I really felt like I was suffering along with him. It's a bold experiment to make a movie with just one actor and almost no dialogue, but it works. I was mesmerized.
Available on video, Feb. 11, 2014

HER: Joaquin Phoenix stars in this highly original movie set in the near future when a lonely man falls in love with the advanced operating system in his new computer. (It helps that Scarlett Johansson is the voice of that system.) The film is  a funny, touching comedy-drama about what love is and what it means to be human. Written and directed by Spike Jonze who directed BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION.
Opens at Kahala Mall on January 10, 2014