My Favorite Movies of 2013

As promised last week, the month of Best-of lists has dawned on us. After starting out with my favorite books of 2013 last week, I’m looking at my preferred movies of the year today.

In the movie industry, the trend of releasing comic book and YA adaptations as well as sequels continued with original movies taking a back seat. I mostly watch American movies, so my list will focus heavily on films produced in the US. Unlike with my booklist, this list will only feature movies released in 2013. So, let’s get to it!

I’ve written about my favorite movie of the year, The Spectacular Now, at great length before, mostly in my recap of the Zurich Film Festival. It is a real, charming and well-made coming-of-age movie. The Spectacular Now is being released on DVD and iTunes on January 14, 2014 in the US. The European release date remains unknown. I’m definitely looking forward to rewatching the story of Sutter and Aimee.

At the beginning of year, Don Jon and The Way, Way Back were two of the movies I really wanted to see. They did not disappoint. The directional debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a wonderful and unconventional romantic comedy with great actors. “The Way, Way Back” shows the awkwardness of being young and how to deal with adversity, insecurity and change.

One of the biggest surprises of the year was Now You See Me, a highly entertaining heist movie featuring magicians and illusionists. It’s fast-paced, stylish and occasionally a bit far-fetched. But unlike other movies released this year, it is also very innovative and refreshing. The cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco as illusionists, Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent as detectives as well as Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. They do a fantastic job. Of course one can balk at some of the unrealistic ideas, but all in all, Now You See Me embodies everything a movie should be.

Gravity, the most successful original movie of the year, is a visual masterpiece. Alfonso Cuarón manages to create a haunting sense of dread and despair with his sweeping shots of the vast universe. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney do a good job in this drama, but the star of the movie is the presentation of outer space. Paired with an extremely effective soundtrack including the use of silence, the visual brilliance of the piece shines through at all times. If this movie is still out in cinemas near you, you should try and catch it on the big screen!

As far as the aforementioned adaptations and sequels go, I thoroughly enjoyed the second instalment of the Hunger Games series, Catching Fire. My in-depth review can be found in this post. I also enjoyed Star Trek: Into Darkness due to the chemistry between its leads Chris Pine and Zachary as well as the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as their enemy.

Honorable mentions go to two movies I haven’t been able to catch yet, but which I’m looking forward to watching.. The new Coen brothers movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, has earned great reviews. The story of the young folk singer played by Oscar Isaac, who is desperately trying to make in New York, sounds intriguing and early reviews have been positive.

And last but not least is The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. I’ll only be able to see the movie this Sunday, but my friends at the Uncanny Bookclub have released a whole bunch of posts about the second part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. Check them out here! Trusting their judgement, I’m pretty sure I’m going enjoy the second part even more than the first one, which I loved.

I’m excited about the movies 2014 will bring. Studios have lined up another batch of YA adaptations (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars) and sequels (The Avengers 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). But there’s also going to be a new Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), David O. Russell (American Hustle) and Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel) movie coming out. Hopefully, we’ll also see new and exciting filmmakers enter the scene with original screenplays.

So, what were your favorite movies of the year? Which ones are you looking forward to on DVD? And which movies were among your disappointments?

Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Please also like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

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Miscellaneous News about Gaming, TV and Movies

Today’s post will touch upon some of the news in the entertainment industry that have excited me in the last few days and weeks.

We’ll start off with the important gaming news:

Warlords of Draenor announced

My favorite MMORPG, World of Warcraft, just announced its next expansion: Warlords of Draenor. Without wanting to spoil too much, the story will feature an element of time travel and bring back some of the most interesting characters of the Warcraft Universe, with arcs going back to Warcraft 2 being revisited and maybe altered forever. Added to the new story and the new continent to be discovered, there will be modernized character models and a raised level cap. I’m looking forward to the new expansion, because Blizzard has an excellent track record of adapting its games and it has breathed new life into the almost 10-year old MMO.

Next Gen is here… well almost

The Next Generation consoles have launched in North America and will soon be spreading to Europe and also Switzerland. I have no plans on getting a new console for the moment because they’re still extremely expensive and bound to be plagued by bugs at the start. Also, the set of games are not yet that appealing to me. It will be interesting to see how many of the multimedia function the XBox One offers in the US will make it over the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, I’m doubtful that any of it will make its way into European living rooms until late 2014. The Playstation 4 is cheaper and as an owner of its predecessor, I might give a shot as soon as the first PS4-only hits have come out.

Doctor Who Anniversary

This Saturday, BBC is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its cult show “Doctor Who” with the day of the doctor, a special episode featuring some very interesting special guests. While I have only seen one season of the Doctor, the series is an integral part of today’s pop culture and has influenced so many shows and books out there. Being on air for 50 years (with one or the other break) is a major accomplishment and will be rightfully celebrated. It runs on BBC One and BBC One HD at 20:50 CET

Catching Fire

Also happening this week is the Switzerland release of the second Hunger Games movie: Catching Fire. I missed the hype the first time around, but after reading the book over the summer (my review), I’m excited this time around. The stunning Jennifer Lawrence will reprise her role as Katniss Everdeen and is joined by an all-star cast including (but not limited to) one of my teenage favorites in Jena Malone (Donnie Darko), Academy Award Winner Philip Seymour Hoffman and Woody Harrelson. I hope the movies lives up to its role models.

There are other interesting movies set to be released in the next week, with the new Woody Allen movie “Blue Jasmine” opening in Switzerland tomorrow as well. “The Hobbit – Desolation of Smaug” is only three weeks away as well. Winter is a great time for the movies, even though the summer blockbuster season is more important for the studios.

Don Jon

And to end the post, a short recap of Joseph Gordon-Levitts wonderfully funny movie, Don Jon. I saw the movie a week ago after waiting for it for much of the calendar year and it didn’t disappoint. Being a big fan of its writer, director and star, I walked in with high expectations. Don Jon is a movie about a New Jersey playboy with a porn addiction, who falls for a perfect 10 (played by Scarlett Johannson). Of course, his problem doesn’t sit well with the dream girl. Mr. Gordon-Levitt delivers an unpredictable story with wonderful shots, interesting characters and funny dialogue. Scarlett Johannson looks amazing and plays an amazingly superficial character, while Tony Danza and Brie Larson shine as members of Don Jon’s family. The appearance of Julianne Moore leads the movie on the right track to its fitting ending. All in all, the movie is definitely among my favorites this year.

Okay, that’s it from me for the week. Back this Friday with the overdue 24th chapter of “An Elusive Hero”. Have a great Wednesday and please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

Zurich Film Festival Preview

This Monday is a big day for two reasons. Firstly, the new university semester has started and that means I’m back in school until around Christmas. The campus is full of wide-eyed first-year students clutching their cellphones nervously looking for the right rooms and trying to get a grip of our widespread university. Also, the beginning of the new semester is always similar to New Year’s Day as the gym was much fuller than during the holidays with many students trying to follow their resolutions for the school year. But my adventures at my university (I only had one class today) are not what I want to talk about today.

Instead I want to focus on the next event bringing glamour to the city I live in: The ninth Zurich International Film Festival running from September 26 to October 6. If you’re planning on catching a glimpse of Hollywood and other world-class filmmaking in Switzerland, you should definitely head over to the official website to find out which movies are playing and how to get tickets for them. What can you expect?

Photo source: Official Zurich Film Festival Press photos.

Photo: Official ZFF Festival Press Photos

Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on foreign and independent films, so I can only talk about the films I’ve either heard about or I’m going to try to catch during the two-week festival. But first, the logistics: The movies will be screened in various cinemas throughout the city, with the Corso at the Bellevue and the cinemas at the Sihl City taking prominent roles. Movies are split into various sections: International Feature Film, International Documentary Film, German Language Feature Film as well as Documentary Film Germany/Austria/Switzerland, Gala Premieres and Special Screenings. Finishing off the line-up are Brazilian movies, movies for kids and screenings of past classics.

Among the ten competitors for the International Feature Film category, the only film I’m familiar with is the drama “Fruitvale Station” whose main actor Michael B. Jordan received brilliant reviews in the American Press. The movies follows a fateful day in the life of 22-year old Oscar, whose resolutions to make himself a better man coincide with a homicide in Oakland’s Fruitvale Station. But reading through the descriptions, there are other films that seem interesting to me. “Parkland” follows the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy exactly 50 years ago and features an impressive cast including Jacki Weaver, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton and former Disney superstar Zac Efron. “Puppy Love” is a French movie about a shy teenage girl who finds an unlikely friend and might make my already extensive list of great coming-of-age movies even longer. “Traumland” on the other hand is a multicultural drama set in Zurich itself surrounding the 18-year old Mia, a Bulgarian prostitute trying to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. This year’s competition will be very intriguing and with some of the stars and directors making an appearance at the festival, you should have a look now.

The Gala Premieres feature all almost all of the movies I’ve been desperately waiting for. If you’ve followed my Twitter feed (which you should!), you would have seen how I’ve been longing for these movies to come to Switzerland all summer long. The most prominent movie is probably “Don Jon”, the first movie written and directed by Hollywood A-Lister Joseph Gordon-Levitt and starring him with Scarlett Johansson as the female lead. The comedy about a young man finding the one while battling this porn addiction is intriguing to say the least. “The Way, Way back” has some high profile actors such as Steve Carell billed, but it is a sweet coming-of-age story similar to the vein of “Adventureland” starring Jesse Eisenberg and pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart. Instead of the theme park, the location is the local swimming pool.

The Spectacular Now movie poster Photo: IMDB

The Spectacular Now movie poster
Photo: IMDB

But the movie I’m most excited about is “The Spectacular Now”. The movie is (what else?) a coming-of-age story about high school golden boy Sutter trying to get his life on track after being dumped by his girlfriend and with graduation looming. It is written by the immensely talented Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, the creative minds behind the wonderful romantic comedy”500 days of summer” (starring the aforementioned Joseph Gordon-Levitt) Both of them are also responsible for the screenplay of one of my favorite books “The Fault in Our Stars“, so naturally I’m eager to follow all of their work. Reviews for “The Spectacular Now” have been, well, spectacular with the movie having a 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

But maybe I’m the only one really excited about those movies. For everyone else, there are some higher profile movies showing for the first time in Switzerland. “Diana” attempts to portray the life of the iconic British princess (and according to reviews fails). “Gravity”, the new Alfonso Cuaron picture, impressed with some breathtaking trailers from outer space and features George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Other movies featuring prominent Academy Award Winners include “The Immigrant” (Marion Cotillard), “Liberace” (Michael Douglas, Matt Damon) and “The Railway Man” (Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman).

Hugh Jackman Photo: Official ZFF Press Photos

Hugh Jackman
Photo: Official ZFF Press Photos

A special mention also goes out to “Prisoners” starring Hugh Jackman. The actor best known for his portrayal of Wolverine is the biggest name at the festival and will be in Zurich on September 28 to receive the Golden Icon Award for this year. He is sure to draw a big crowd, but if you’re lucky and show up early enough, you might catch a glimpse of one of Hollywood’s most charismatic stars. The Career Achievement Award goes to producers from the British Working Title Films, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, responsible for films such as Notting Hill, The Big Lebowski, Les Miserables or Rush (premiering at the ZFF).

I hope I was able to give you a short preview of the festival. If you want to know more about the films in general, head over to their website and check it out for a more comprehensive overview! Let me know if you have any other recommendations for me!

As always, please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert