Having completely missed the timing of the best of lists, I’m just getting around to writing lists of things I liked last year. If you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments!
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Lizard-y Benedict Cumberbatch
Only a die-hard Jackson fan would argue that the first Hobbit takes forever to be an engaging adventure. Maybe it’s the unnecessary introduction with Frodo or the whole debate around HFR, but whatever disappointments came with the first journey back to the Shire, Hobbit 2 wastes no time in being better. Much better. The entire barrel sequence fizzles with an energy that the first one lacked, as the camera whizzes between action and laughs. Okay, it’s overly long and lacks a definitive ending, but it finally feels like the return to Middle Earth that I had craved a year ago.
The Evil Dead remake would have got a pass if it wasn’t awful. The original trilogy is nigh on flawless so the fact this ‘re-imagining’ was very good made the Evil Dead nerd in me incredibly happy. A lot of credit has to go to Fede Alvarez, who manages to capture a disturbing tone that finds the right balance of horror and humour without comprising on either.
Another film on this list that is overlong – did anyone appreciate the very indulgent QT cameo? – but Tarantino’s slavery epic is also packed with plenty of incredible moments that few filmmakers would even attempt. Finding enough humour in what is very grisly subject material – the KKK scene is audacious at the very least – Django feels like Tarantino firing on full cylinders.
Gravity is probably the best advert for what 3D can do in the right hands since Avatar (and Jackass 3D. Seriously, that film made the most of it). But unlike James Cameron’s previous film, Gravity was a satisfying film with or without it’s technical effects. A lot of this is down to Alfonso Cuaron’s deliberate pace, letting us marvel at the serenity of space before ripping us out of the comfort zone, the free floating camera gathering pace at just the right moments, as witnessed in the incredible shot that pushes itself as close to Sandra Bullock’s face as humanely possible. For me, nothing was better as a visual spectacle in 2013.
The World’s End
By far and away the most fun I had in a cinema in 2013 – barring getting an earful after telling someone to turn their phone off during The Conjuring – was Edgar Wright’s concluding of the Cornetto saga. Full of incredible little details that should be picked apart for years to come, it gave a distinctly different flavour of the humour we expected, mixing hilarious exchanges – “I still haven’t heard a better suggestion than smashy smashy egg men” – and an unexpected dramatic heft. While it tended to split more people down the middle than Shaun and Hot Fuzz, The World’s End both surprised and satisfied me, rounding off the almost perfect comedy trilogy.